New candidates in HD-138 election

new candidate HD-138

New candidates file for the HD-138 election. Since state Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) announced he won’t be seeking another term challengers have come out of the woodwork.

Multiple Democrats and Republicans have filed to run for the open seat. In 2018, Bohac won reelection by less than 50 votes

In the last few weeks, Republican tax advisor and president of the Harris County Department of Education’s Board of Trustees Josh Flynn filed paperwork to run in HD-138. Flynn is one of the new candidates to file for the HD-138 election.

Flynn might be joined in the Republican primary by Claver T. Kamau-Imani, a radio host and pastor. Kamau-Imani is already endorsed by Texas Right to Life.

Additionally, Republican precinct chair Lacey M. Hull has filed paperwork to appear on the ballot. Hull is fairly well-known in conservative circles. She campaigned for state Reps. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) and Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park). 

Hull also block-walked for Erin Swanson, who lost a 2018 race for Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 2. 

Although Campaign finance records show that Hull has given small contributions to a number of right-wing candidates since 2015, it was her 2017 testimony on House Bill 2249 that made a conservative darling. 

Bohac’s decision not to seek reelection next year gives Democrats a good opportunity to pick up his West Houston district.

If the Democrats’ new candidates for the HD-138 election can win it would move them one seat closer to flipping the State House.

Currently, the Dems need 10 seats to flip the House — nine if they can hold onto HD-100, a solidly blue district represented by Eric Johnson until he decided to run for mayor of Dallas.

Even before Bohac announced his retirement from public office he’d drawn two Democratic challengers —Akilah Bacy and Josh Wallenstein. In April Adam Milasincic, Bohac’s 2018 opponent, announced that he won’t be running again and threw his support behind Bacy.

Bohac is the latest in a long line of Texas Republicans to announce a decision to resign or not seek reelection. So far, six of Texas’ Republican congressmen and three additional GOP  state representatives will join Bohac on the political sidelines.

Since the filing period for the 2020 primaries doesn’t open until November, the next few weeks could bring more retirement announcements.

Gov. Abbott fights Austin homeless population

Austin homeless

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues his war with the Austin homeless population.

The public feud is yet another battle in the ongoing war between state and municipal governments. Recently, the standoff between Abbott and the Austin homeless population has reached a new level of animosity.

For months, Gov. Abbott has been vocal in his opposition to the City of Austin’s leadership and recently implemented homelessness policies, a practice that’s led to a public spat between him and municipal decision-makers in the state’s capital city.

It all started when Austin’s city council decided to relax the camping restrictions for those experiencing homelessness. Previous ordinances made it illegal to sit, camp, or lie down in public, but new regulations made blocking pathways the only ticketable offense. The city council also decriminalized non-aggressive panhandling. 

The new rules went into effect July 1st, 2019, despite Abbott’s earlier tweet threatening that the state would come in and overrule local ordinances that allowed camping on city streets. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and city council members stand beside the passed ordinance, stating that all Austin residents deserve assistance and benefits

The war of words was reignited this weekend when Abbott retweeted a video in which a man throws signs at cars in Downtown Austin as an example of the city’s failed policies. But the video was recorded in 2018 before laws had changed, which Mayor Steve Adler pointed out in a tweet reply.

This started another circus of back and forth political jabs, some added below.   

Advocates worry that the real subject of concern, the Austin homeless population, is forgotten in these public debates, which become more about winning political points and less about solving the problem.

In the case of the video in question, the man in the video is not homeless, according to his family. The man’s representative, Attorney Krista Chacona, spoke with CBS Austin regarding the contents of the video. She said the return of the video is re-traumatizing as her client “suffers from mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities.” 

Chacona also said that mental health resources need to be addressed. “It is a real problem because you can’t be stable on the street.” She goes on to say that having meds on the street maybe just as dangerous as not having them, as they subject people to assault, theft, or other types of harm. Chacona calls on the state to provide more resources local entities can utilize. 

Ultimately, people need help. It comes down to protecting the citizens, which also includes the people who are hurting others. Those in the homeless crisis deserve respect and attention. Whether or not you agree with how that is being tackled, the root causes of homelessness should be the targets of discussion. If we’re going to claim to offer assistance as a state, we need to really make mental health a priority for Texas. 

Texas Proposition 2: $200 mil in bonds for water

If passed, Proposition 2 would allow the Texas Water Development Board to issue up to $200 million in general obligation bonds to help the state’s Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP).

The EDAP program is currently funded with G.O. bonds, however, whenever the Texas State Legislature wants to issue more bonds for the program Texas’ voters have to approve a  constitutional amendment.

Texas’ Proposition 2 would allow the TWDB to continually issue bonds without voter approval, as long as the outstanding principal of the bonds doesn’t exceed $200 million. If the TWDB wants to issue more than $200 million the agency will have to seek an additional constitutional amendment.

The ballot measure would require the bonds to be used for developing the water supply and sewer service in areas considered economically distressed, primarily the Rio Grande Valley.

The authors of the proposed amendment’s enabling legislation, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) and state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D- El Paso), consider the proposition crucial to providing water and wastewater services to the colonias along the border. 

Advocates for the amendment argue that socioeconomic factors should not determine access to safe water. 

Opponents have said that Texas’ Proposition 2 will create another constitutionally dedicated fund instead of requiring the legislature to pay for infrastructure improvements from the state’s general revenue.

Since it’s inception in 1989, EDAP has cost the taxpayers about $500 million. The initial bond creating the program authorized $250 million for the program.EDAP received an additional $250 million in general obligation bonds In 2007. 

By June 2019 EDAP had exhausted all of its bond capacity, according to the Texas Senate Research Center. 

Proposition 2 would also allow the TWDB to supplement its bond authority with other financial resources available to the agency.

The amendment’s enabling legislation also encourages the TWDB to explore public-private partnerships to maximize the effectiveness of the bonds.

Although some of the state’s largest newspapers have recommended voting for Texas’ Proposition 2,  the proposed amendment has drawn opposition from some high profile conservatives

Traffic fines won’t replace property taxes

Property taxes, mones, taxes

By Jef Rouner

It’s clear that traffic fines won’t replace property taxes when it comes to the day-to-day operation of most Texas cities.

Since the Texas Legislature passed SB 2 earlier this year, questions have circulated about how local governments will cover their operating expenses.

Municipalities in Texas are being financially hamstrung by the legislature. This year, state representatives passed bills designed to limit the amount of money that cities can bring in with property and other taxes.

The passage of Senate Bill 2 means that starting in 2020, counties and cities would be unable to levy more than a 3.5 percent (down from 8 percent) property tax increase without taking it to the voters first.

Property tax reform good for homeowners, bad for cities

According to Moody’s Investor Service, the bill is unlikely to save homeowners much money but will “hurt local governments substantially.” Because Texas cities have relatively high debt burdens, Moody’s postulates that an economic slowdown could have a serious effect.

The property tax reform is already projected to cost Texas cities serious cash. Austin projects a budget shortfall of $52.6 million by 2023-24. Dallas would need $25.1 million more if the law took effect this year, and El Paso would need $7 million.

Cities might be able to shore up those losses with traffic fines and court costs. It’s obvious that traffic fines won’t replace property taxes because that avenue is blocked by the state.

Texas has already prohibited red light cameras. Many cheered when the law passed, but the cameras generated a significant profit for cities.

Houston made $15 million in profit from its red-light camera program. Dallas made around $3 million. Roughly half of the revenue generated by the red light cameras went to the state coffers.

Traffic fines aren’t like they used to be

While it’s true that some towns in Texas are addicted to traffic fines as a way to pay bills, larger cities with more elaborate social services and expenditures can’t make ends meet that way, due to a cap on the amount of money cities can keep from the fines they collect. 

When KUT looked at a “typical” speeding ticket in Texas, the state kept around 75 percent of the fees generated. In some cases, primarily the “consolidated” and “state traffic” fees, the state kept 90 percent or more.

Even with those caps in place, small towns can use the revenue to survive. The larger cities offer substantially more public services to the people who live there and thus have larger budget needs.

Even if the cities were to increase fines for traffic citations to try and compensate for the property tax reform losses, the state would still have its boot on their throats. 

Property tax reform is a popular Republican initiative that plays well with landlords and homeowners, but the negligible savings they are projected to bring in will have dire consequences on city budgets in ways that no reasonable amount of speeding tickets will fix.

World Series helps Houston’s bottom line

World series, money, Houston, economy

It’s no secret that baseball is good for business. The Astros returning home to Houston for game six of the World Series is expected to boost Houston’s bottom line by $6-$9 million. 

The ‘Stros come back to the Bayou City with a 3-2 lead over the Washington Nationals. 

After fighting their way back from a 0-2 slump, the Astros homecoming is good news for both baseball fans and Houston businesses. 

The more games played in Houston, the bigger the economic boost for the city.

Greater Houston partnership economist, Patrick Jankowski, projects each game will contribute between $6 million and $9 million to the city’s economy. If the series goes to the full seven games, the economic impact could be between $24 and $36 million. 

While traveling fans of either team do provide some of the economic boost the city receives from the World Series, the larger share of economic benefit comes from local Houstonians taking Ubers, eating out at restaurants, and staying in hotels or Airbnbs. 

Houston Airbnb hosts have prepared for nearly 5,500 guests this series, most of which are booked from Texas residents wanting to spend their time near Minute Maid Park for the festivities. 

Chad Love, a manager at Houston’s Kirby Ice House, told the Houston Chronicle nail-biters are good for business. People will stick around the bar for close games, while a blowout means people leave early.  

The Astros 2019 World Series has seen an even bigger economic boom than the 2017 World Series when Houston was still in the early process of recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Since Houston’s economy has gained momentum, and fans have more money in their pockets to spend on tickets, food, drinks, and a place to stay. 

“It’s wonderful hosting the World Series because it gives us an opportunity to show businesses and people outside of Houston what a great place this is,” Jankowski said. “It gives an image of a winning team, a winning season and enthusiastic sports fans. Houston needs images like that —not the images we saw with Tropical Depression Imelda”.