05/20/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LAYING OUT STRATEGIC ANGLES ON THE NEXT HEIGHTS BOOZE BATTLE Strategists “. . . Flooding? Really? There are no tracts of land any grocer could realistically acquire that are not already paved over for commercial spots. Nobody is going to open a liquor store in the middle of a residential section where there will be no traffic — there’s plenty of storefront space near by. The proposed change won’t impact bars and restaurants. . . . [The backers] are advocating for a policy change with respect to a policy that impacts their business. How else would you propose they do it other than hiring a law firm and PR firm to help them navigate the rather obscure laws that govern this thing?” [Heightsresident, commenting on H-E-B Would Like To Plant a Store in a Wetter Heights Dry ZoneIllustration: Lulu

05/18/16 3:45pm

H-E-B Bellaire Market, 5130 Cedar St., Bellaire, Texas

The semi-shrouded Houston Heights Beverage Coalition released a statement today filling in some details on the group’s plan to legalize take-home beer and wine sales in the Heights’ dry zone. The initiative was floated quietly on Cinco de Mayo by way of 109-word newspaper legal notice; the group’s longer press release clarifies that it will try to collect around 1,500 signatures in 60 days to call a special election for residents of the no-longer-a-city of Houston Heights. That election wouldn’t change the zone’s ban on liquor sales (or the need for a private-club-workaround for folks intent on selling it anyway), but would allow grocery stores to get in on the alcoholic action.

Coalition chair Steve Reilley tells the Houston Press‘s Phaedra Cook that H-E-B supports the measure — adding that the chain is probably going to move into the area if the change passes. Reilley also says that other grocery chains are involved with the coalition, but doesn’t tell Cook which ones.

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Taking Names
05/12/16 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: EXCAVATING ELECTION PROCEDURES IN THE LOST CITY OF HOUSTON HEIGHTS Map of Heights Dry Area“OK, here’s where things get complicated. The current Alcoholic Beverage Code and Texas election law only provide for the possibility of holding a local option election in a county, municipality or JP precinct. It is therefore not clear that the application for a petition can be accepted as written, since the ‘area formerly known as the city of Houston Heights’ is none of those things. To complicate matters further, if the application were re-submitted as covering Harris County Precinct 1 (which covers the entirety of the dry area), it may still not resolve the matter. Current law essentially says that, for the purposes of local option elections, the vote of a justice precinct doesn’t prevail over the vote of a city, independent of date of election. So the 1918 prohibition election would trump the 2016 local option election. There’s a reasonable reading of this that indicates the only way to allow alcohol sales in the dry Heights is a local option election for the entire city of Houston. Since petitions require a number of signatures exceeding 25 percent of the votes cast in the last general election, the petitioners would need many more signatures than there are actual residents of the affected area. Good luck with that.” [Angostura, commenting on Somebody’s Trying to Legalize Beer and Wine Sales in the Heights Dry Zone] Map of Heights Dry Zone: HoustonHeights.org

05/11/16 3:30pm

TABC regional headquarters in Heights Medical Tower, 427 West 20th Street, Suite 600 Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A group called the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition PAC is hoping to bring about a vote on allowing beer and wine sales in the technically dry section of the Houston Heights. The group published a notice on May 5th announcing an application to the city to start collecting the petition signatures required to get the measure on a local option ballot.

Here’s the text of the required public notice:

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Watering Down the Dry Laws
04/06/16 3:45pm

Go ahead and play around with the map above (created by activist Kris Banks), showing the precinct-by-precinct outcome across Harris County for last month’s Republican presidential primaries. Shades of red show the spots won by Cruz (most of them, though a lighter shade indicates less solid support). Precincts won by Rubio show up in shades of blue (mostly clustered on the west side of the Inner Loop), while Trump support is marked in gold (mostly northeast and south of Downtown, as well as strung out along the Westpark Tollway); a few Carson precincts show up in green.

January Advisors’s Jeff Reichmann recently took a look at Banks’s election maps, which include results from both parties’s primaries and a starkly geographically-split down-ballot race for the Democratic district attorney nomination. You can click on each precinct to get its number and a breakdown of the results. Here’s how things looked for the Democrats, with the Sanders precincts in green spangling a field of Clinton blue:

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Drawing It Out
12/02/15 2:30pm

HOUSTON’S NEXT MAYOR CARES ABOUT YOUR MESSED-UP SIDEWALK Broken Sidewalk, Boulevard Oaks, HoustonSylvester Turner likes TxDOT’s plan to reroute I-45 around the east side of Downtown. Bill King has given up on riding his bike in the city because he feels it’s too dangerous. But both runoff candidates for mayor agree: Water quality is Houston’s most pressing environmental issue, and the city should shoulder more responsibility for fixing sidewalks. At least that’s what they wrote in response to a series of questions about the city’s built and natural environment submitted to them by the Rice Design Alliance’s Cite magazine. [OffCite] Photo: Flickr user bpawlik

11/05/13 10:00am

The reader who sends this photo from this morning’s commute — on I-45 North near Canino — says it appears workers were “just putting up” this “Save the Dome” sign from OurAstrodome.org on the billboard this morning. “I drive by there every day and I don’t remember seeing it [before today],” the reader reports. The campaign ad in support of Harris County Proposition 2 on today’s ballot — which will determine the fate of the Astrodome — is visible going northbound on the freeway. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

02/20/13 3:15pm

What’s the state of Houston? It’s right here: Fake is the New Real’s Neil Freeman redrew the 50 states, dividing them into parcels of about 6.2 million people so as to distribute electoral college votes more equally. The Lone Star State, this hypothetical map shows, has to be broken up. You’ve got Big Thicket in the middle, with Trinity, comprising Dallas and Fort Worth, tucked inside. Chinati expands up to El Paso along the Rio Grande. And you knew it had to be true: Houston stands alone.

You can see the new 50 states after the jump:

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11/15/12 1:35pm

Extracted from a national map by datavisualization wiz John Nelson, here’s a map of Texas showing where votes for Romney and Obama came from, plotted point by point, by county. Using data from the Politico website, Nelson plotted a red dot for every 100 Romney votes and a light blue dot for every 100 Obama votes. Clumped purple masses fill the counties that envelop the state’s major metropolises.

Nelson tells future-fan website io9 that more typical red-blue political maps accentuate geographically large but population-light areas. “This method avoids the geo-social visual bias of large geographic areas having small populations overwhelming the overall picture. In this way both the relative volume and geographic distribution are apparent, as well as the partisan proportions throughout,” Nelson wrote of his national map, pictured here:

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11/06/12 2:18pm

A LITTLE ELECTION DAY MUD-SLINGING IN SPRING A $58 million bond measure to reimburse developer DR Horton for utility and road construction on 400 soon-to-be-developed acres just south of The Woodlands and east of Gosling Rd. is expected to pass in today’s election by a mere 2 votes. The couple expected to account for the winning margin just moved into the area in a trailer they’ve parked in a clearing. And, yeah, they’ll be the only people allowed to vote on the measure. Does this sound like a strange picture in an elective democracy? It’s the normal course of events for establishing municipal utility districts on empty land. 659 MUDs are currently active in the Houston area; since 2009, 88 new ones have been established statewide. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Willow and Spring Creeks: Northampton MUD

10/22/12 4:26pm

Here’s the kind of campaign true fans of demolition can get behind: That’s Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker in the driver’s seat, about to trash a balcony at the Winfield I Condominiums at 10110 Forum West Dr., near the intersection of the Southwest Fwy. and Beltway 8. In taking the ceremonial first whack at a derelict complex, the city’s honorary demolisher-in-chief is campaigning in favor of a city bond issue on the November ballot that would generate $15 million to remove “blighted properties” like the Winfield. Though Proposition E is listed as a measure for housing bonds, the mayor’s office notes, the funds would “all go toward demolishing dangerous and abandoned buildings to make way for future affordable housing.”

Photo: Jessica Michan

08/06/12 12:39pm

Yep, that’s a bike-gear-sporting State Sen. Rodney Ellis, 2 city council members, and both bearded and cleanshaven versions of model Lauren Bush’s brother — Pierce Bush — talking up the idea of building more parks by more Houston bayous in this promotional video for an organization called Parks By You. What are they and their smiling costars so earnestly upbeat about? A $160 million bond initiative on the November ballot that would take a big step toward implementing the Houston Parks Board’s Bayou Greenways Project — a proposal to add green spaces and linear parks with concrete hike-and-bike trails along 100 miles of Houston bayous. The bond issue would help pay for improvements to more than a dozen existing parks and connect trails along 7 bayous in the city.

The overall vision (not all of which, apparently, is included in the bond measure) would transform Houston’s park map from this:

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09/07/11 9:03am

ACCOUNTING FOR ALL THOSE OVERZEALOUS DICK SIGN POSTERS Political consultant and bandit-sign monitor Greg Wythe digs into campaign filings to assess a recent claim by at-large city council candidate Eric Dick — that many of the ubiquitous and often illegally posted signs advertising his candidacy throughout Houston are the work of “overzealous volunteers.” Wythe’s findings: At a sign distribution meeting held at the Captain Benny’s at 10896 Northwest Fwy. just south of 34th St. in mid-May, Dick’s campaign shelled out a whopping $22.36 to feed the overzealous crowd. But payments to a company hired to distribute the campaign’s signs amount to more than $5,000. [Greg’s Opinion; background; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Empty Lot Primary

06/17/11 1:06pm

YOU’RE STILL ON CORNER CAMERA Red-light cameras “continue to monitor intersections,” says Mayor Parker — even though no traffic tickets from the machines are currently being issued. Her comments came in response to a ruling this morning by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes that declared last November’s referendum ending the red-light-camera program invalid. The city charter limits the time during which a city ordinance may be repealed; according to Judge Hughes’s ruling, the referendum simply came too late. “Enforcing traffic signals by cameras may be good policy, or it may be bad policy. . . . The court simply must enforce the rules for making policy choices by charter amendment or referendum,” the Judge writes. “Those who favor repeal will react that this distinction is a legal technicality. In some sense, all law is a technicality.” [Office of the Mayor; ruling (PDF); more info; previously on Swamplot]

11/15/10 12:11pm

RED LIGHT CAMERAS NO LONGER RECORDING As of 10 this morning, all 70 traffic-intersection cameras have been turned off. Proposition 3, which would have allowed the cameras to continue to snap photos of red-light runners, was defeated by Houston voters 2 weeks ago. “City officials said they have $25 million in uncollected fines from citations that were issued. [Mayor] Parker said the city plans to aggressively go after those violators. City officials have not said when the cameras will be removed from the intersections.” [Click2Houston]