Thursday, October 1, 2015

Forum wrap-up

Winners: Chris Bell out the gate knew his details, knew his programs, and was very personable. Sylvester Turner also kept his base happy, and in particular kept bringing questions of equity and access for the whole city to the fore.

King burnished his fiscally-conservative-curmudgeon badge. If that's your thing.

Losers: McVey was out of his depth. Also Ben Hall for not even showing up (though apparently it was due to some kind of medical event, so that gets a pass).

The rest: they all convinced me they want the job more than they want to do the job. That goes double for Adrian Garcia.

Live blogging the Houston Parks, Bikes, and Waterways Mayoral Forum

19:38 Improve Houston's cooperation with other entities to improve quality of life? Bell: we are a progressive city, and are ready to start acting like the fourth/third largest city, if we keep vision for green space. Costello: we rely a lot on philanthropic community. We need to pursue grants and other sources. Garcia: mayor's office and city government focuses on brick-and-mortar issues, but needs vision. See Discovery Green: that was just parking lots. Mentions goal zero. King: 1.8 million people in the unincorporated part of Harris County. County government is not set up to serve these people in an urban setting. Similar problems with bantustans like Bellaire. McVey commits to a sustainable plan for development. We need federal and state funds to close jurisdictional gaps. Turner: equity. Congratulates Parks Dept, and the forward looking programs like 2020.

19:31 Maintenance: King harks back to finances. McVey: fix waste in government. Wants to hire efficiency constants to see how to squeeze savings and rebuild the structure. Turner cites his budget-balancing at the state level. Bell wants to take medians out of Parks and Rec. Costello agrees. Debunks the "three times as expensive" figure. Garcia wants to find efficiencies. Money is already allocated for complete streets.

19:18 Connectivity: Costello is looking to get power lines underground. Complete Streets is not really workable, but ought to be merged with bike plan, separate bikes from cars. Wants public education about bike rights and responsibilities. Garcia: we want a network effect. Create canopies so people can walk: transit-oriented development. All about ensuring a financial commitment: pay for it by reforming pensions. King: a complete street costs three times what a regular street costs, a light rail line costs 2.5 billion dollars. McVey estimates 6-8 billion to bury the lines. The new master plan is a good start. But it didn't include how to pay for any of it. Turner: you can't talk about complete streets without complete neighborhoods. Walkability. Car culture segregates the city into haves and have-nots. Bell jokes that we should air-condition the bike lanes. More seriously, wants to split streets management out into a separate department. Potholes are a serious problem. Bike lanes: we need to enforce the three foot law, and make an example of some scofflaw drivers.

19:12 Public health and safety ordinance. Garcia wants an anti-idling ordinance but only voluntary plastic bag programs. King notes air quality is about older diesel vehicles. For water quality, the city is way out of compliance with Clean Water Act. McVey thinks idling trucks are just a mobility problem, wants to keep trucks out of the city and keeping them on the Grand Parkway, even if that means letting them use it for free. Turner likes a plastic bag ban and wants aggressive action on particulates, wants multimodal transportation. Also light rail from Missouri City. Bell wants to discuss water, wants a Bayou Conservation Corps. Costello wants recycling expanded to multifamily, small business etc. Stormwater is a problem, mentions technical fixes like better pavement materials.

19:05 How to fund the Parks and Recreation Department? King: we're going deeper and deeper into debt over pensions. McVey wants to tear down the silos that city departments live in. Turner notes that the new parks are financed by the management district, and reiterates the need to modify the cap. Bell thinks the cap is irresponsible. When it comes to parks, wants to use technology to track maintenance levels to work smarter. Costello identifies core services/competencies in public departments. Garcia wants to look at management districts and... tergs? I think he's using an acronym, but I don't know which one.

18:58 How to address and pay for immediate parks/infrastructure plan. McVey seems oddly focused on "rooftops" as synechdoche for tax base. Also wants government to be more efficient. Turner mentions state funding for local parks. Wants to modify the revenue cap. Bell wants to repeal the revenue cap. Also wants public-private partnerships. Costello thinks congestion mitigation funding can go to bike infrastructure. Garcia thinks we need to look at the models that have been successful. King says we can't get rid of the revenue cap, we need to get control of expenses, and right-size the public payroll.

18:52 Walkability and access: Turner brings up low-income families and widespread access rather than focusing on destination parks. Bell wants to focus on repairing sidewalk. Also supports pocket parks, mentions Baldwin Park near my house. Costello thinks bike trails are "really" walking trails. Wants a grid of walk/bike trails dovetailing into Bayou 2020. Garcia wants private-public partnerships. His angle is economic development. King thinks the linear parks project has to be the backbone of any plan, but wants to use vacant and delinquent land for neighborhood parks. McVey is focused on a general plan and business development.

18:50 Regarding billboards: All candidates support keeping the ban, though McVey mentions evacuation infrastructure.

Steve Costello is a board member of Memorial Park Conservancy, a runner, and to be honest doesn't bike in the city.

Chris Bell wants to discuss a program to make our young people "Bayou Keepers".

Sylvester Turner knows parks and green space are not fluff issues: they mean money and quality of life. If we can build stadiums, we can build park infrastructure.

Marty McVey wants to talk about revenue, smart growth, economic development. Parks are related somehow.

18:40 Bill King wants to talk about finance and deficits.

Garcia gets first intro, reprises his background and doesn't mention parks.

18:38 The meeting opens with a disruption by a fringe candidate who wasn't invited to the panel.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On Live Updates

Dear Houston Metro:

If you promise "real-time estimated arrival information"...
... and line X runs every 30 minutes, with scheduled stops at intersection Y at 7:56, 8:26, 8:56, 9:26, and 9:56...
... and line X originates at a station ten minutes away from intersection Y...
... and I arrive at intersection Y at 7:47...
... and I wait at intersection Y until 8:10, at which time I send a text to the arrival information service...
... and the bus is actually four minutes away...
... and the next departure from the originating station is at 8:16...
... then it represents an EPIC fail on your part to respond with the following estimated arrival information:
X/W: 8:26/RT; 8:56/RT; 9:26/SC; 9:56/SC

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rein In Blood

Dear Bernie Sanders campaign staff:

You generally do a good job of letting anything embarrassing or pants-on-head go out on your email blasts. But please, for the love of Kang and Kodos, watch out for well-known usage errors:

"Rein in" is a horse metaphor, not a king metaphor.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Live-blogging the Houston Bernie Sanders rally

20:27 Sanders brings up racism, and one person starts shouting "Black Lives Matter". Some congratulatory throat-clearing about electing Obama and color of their character. Then name-checks Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice. Calls for police to be held accountable, to be "part of their community, not oppressors in the community".

20:17 "All of us have a moral responsibility to ensure that the planet we leave our children and grandchildren is habitable."

20:06 Overturn Citizens United.

20:04 Wall Street, To Big To Fail, Glass-Steagall, break up the big banks.

20:01 Calls for 13 million infrastructure jobs.

19:53 Pivot to "family values": legally guaranteed paid medical and family leave, paid sick leave, length of work weeks, paid vacation.

"Forcing women to return to work five days after childbirth is the opposite of a family value."

19:50 Sanders calls current minimum wage a "starvation wage" and calls for $15/hour. "It is not a radical idea in America that if a person works 40 hours a week then they should not be in poverty." Calls on men to fix the gender wage gap.

19:46 Unemployment, underemployment, and youth unemployment (17-25). Breaks down stats by race. "We are turning our backs on an entire generation. And if you think this is unrelated to the millions in prison, you would be mistaken."

19:43 "This campaign us singlehandedly sending a message to the billionaire class, and that message is, you can't have it all. You cannot combine to ship jobs to China when millions here need work."

19:38 Apparently the issue portion of the speech starts now. Go figure. First up: income inequality.

19:37 "I want you to tell your working class Republican friends and coworkers about the Republican budget. Ask them about cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Ask them about cuts to Pell grants. Ask them about WIC. Ask them about outsourcing jobs. And then ask them about tax cuts for the top two-tenths of a percent."

19:34 "I have taken in virtually every powerful special interest in this country, and many if them hate my guts."

19:31 "Fifty state strategy". "You cannot be a national political party, claiming to represent working families, and leave untouched half the states in the nation."

19:28 "People ask me, why on earth are you coming to Texas? My answer: I do know that this is a conservative, Republican state, and that's exactly why I'm here."

19:27 Sanders takes the stage.

19:25 Cummings hit labor, TPP, environment hard.

19:15 Claude Cummings vice president of the Communication Workers of America, gives introduction.

* All quotes are paraphrases.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Weekend Photography

Had a chance to do some shooting last weekend. Some friends-of-friends had a crawfish boil out on the old family farm, and my friend and I took a walk around the back side of the property. I haven't seen her shots, but may update this post and add them later if she wants me to.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

[E]valuation is nontrivial

You know how when you're in a debate with a smart person, and the debate wants to fragment -- you need some kind of tree structure to keep track of all the threads that the two of you have brought up, because some of them are irrelevant to the main point but still intriguing, and some of them neither of you are sure whether they'll be crucial or just trivial, and sometime what was irrelevant turns into its own fun conversation/debate?

Except usually you can't do all of this, because the debate is taking place in a linear format like blog (or, worse, Facebook) comment threads?

I had a moment feeling a little like that today when reading Massimo Pigliucci's report from the American Philosophical Association meeting in Philadelphia where he relates sitting through a panel stocked with followers of Ayn Rand. In general, this is an exercise not worth the investment of time, since no one except Objectivists takes Objectivist philosophy seriously. (Not least because Objectivist philosophers don't take any non-Objectivist philosophy seriously, and it's pretty bootless to try to have an academic discourse that way.)