Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Sunday, October 01, 2017


Playing the percentages again

by Tom Sullivan

Houston remains flooded following Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 31, 2017. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.

"Houston is the state’s beating heart," writes Christopher Hooks in the Texas Observer. It is the fourth largest city in the United States, and the largest in Texas, at roughly 2.3 million. Unlike hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Houston is not struggling. It is the state's economic powerhouse.

Yet, the sitting president's underwhelming response to the disaster in Puerto Rico must look familiar to Houston's Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner. Despite having Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and top Patrick allies such as Senator Paul Bettencourt living in the flooded Houston area, Turner has seen the same lack of urgency on hurricane recovery efforts from lawmakers in Austin.

Turner faces overseeing months or years of cleanup. Neighborhood streets are lined with sodden, rotting furniture, and ruined appliances. The situation is made worse by cleanup contractors leaving for better rates in Florida for Hurricane Irma cleanup.

Nearly a month after Harvey struck Houston, Houston's police chief called on the state legislature to support its largest city:

"Nobody's going to come and rebuild the city of Houston for free. Unless someone has a magic pill that we can just give somebody and say, 'You will build this for free, you will fix it for free,' it's got to be paid," Chief Art Acevedo said Saturday. "Maybe in the long term they can look at either the property tax or a one-cent sales tax for three years. For me, the Legislature – we shouldn't put it all on poor Sylvester Turner. The Legislature needs to step up."
But helping cities aids people who tend to vote Democrat. It does not matter that Republicans have firm control of state government. Pockets of resistance must be subdued. Hurricane Harvey laid Houston lower than any preemption legislation cooked up in Austin by Abbott. Now Houston is struggling. What's the rush?

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Turner had asked that the state (fittingly) tap its over $10 billion Rainy Day Fund to aid Houston's recovery. On Monday, Turner told the Texas Tribune that lack of immediate state funding might force him to push for a property tax increase to bring in an additional $50 million to pay for immediate cleanup efforts. Houston's recovery will ultimately take billions in federal dollars.

Hooks writes in the Texas Observer:

When Turner’s hand was forced and the tax bump was proposed, state officials had two options: Reassure Houstonians about the forthcoming availability of state money, or let Turner, the Democratic mayor of a city Republicans are increasingly struggling to contest, twist in the wind.

You know which one they chose.
Bettencourt announced he opposes provisions allowing cities to raise taxes more easily after disasters as well as using state money for Houston's recovery. Houston should be “using the funds that are already there to avoid a tax increase.” Abbott told reporters, Turner “has all the money that he needs.” He wouldn't touch the Rainy Day Fund until the 2018 session.

Hooks continues:
Bettencourt and Abbott are doing what state lawmakers frequently do now — putting political pressure on local governments to draw attention away from what the state is doing and gather ammo for future internecine battles in Austin. (All last session, Bettencourt was at war with local officials over property tax policy.) The difference now is that he’s doing it right after Texas’ largest city had its legs shot out from under it, at a time when you might hope Houston-area lawmakers would not only refrain from taking potshots at Turner, but find ways to affirmatively help him. But, hey, it’s just business as usual: Everything good in Texas is to the credit of the brave boys and girls of the Lege, and everything bad is the fault of county commissioners courts, city councils and school boards.

Aren’t the different layers of government supposed to work together? In Texas, they generally do not. I’ve talked to many local officials, including Republicans in deep-red counties, who can’t for the life of them get a call returned from their GOP state representative or senator. Even big-city mayors sometimes get the stiff arm, and lawmakers seem to take pleasure in nullifying or canceling popular city ordinances, sometimes because of lobby money but sometimes, it seems, simply out of spite.
But by Friday afternoon, with the news dominated by images of devastation in Puerto Rico and a press conference in which San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz angrily condemned the paucity and tardiness of federal help, Texas Governor Greg Abbott appeared at Houston City Hall with a $50 million check for Sylvester Turner.

Hooks concludes:
... we have a state government that sees its largest generators of economic activity — the six metropolitan areas in which more than half of the state lives — as some kind of threat, either because of their values or the demographic and political threat they represent to the Republican Party. You might hope Harvey would temper that, but don’t hold your breath.
It is why Houston's story and Puerto Rico's are not unique. It is why Republicans balked at providing disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, a blue state (with a Republican governor, even). And why Houston and Puerto Rico, economic clout or no, are low priorities. It is why the sitting president's cronies are actively undermining Obamacare: engineering its collapse so they can blame it on Democrats. It is why, as Chris Hayes observed, Republicans "use policy as a mechanism by which to reduce the political power of people" who oppose them. The delay in aid to Houston might hurt some Republican voters, sure, but as with photo ID laws, Republican leaders are playing percentages, sacrificing thousands of supporters, potentially, as acceptable casualties. They are less concerned where more Democrats will be harmed in the end, and the party's longer-term prospects with them.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.