Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Sunday

Hard to believe, it's Superbowl again. One thing I've learned; regular season I carefully study scores, stats, injuries, etc before making my "investments": Once two teams have made it to The Game, throw all that out. To cut to the chase, at a Pittsburgh spread of 7 and 47, I like Arizona and I like the under. I anticipate a good game, and a close one. This year we have a "hot" post-season team as underdog with just the right offensive weapons to test the No. 1 defense in the league. The Cards' Warner is very good at a quick release, move the yard markers, mid-range passing game. If Pittsburgh starts getting sacks, my theory of the game goes south. Enjoy, and don't forget the guacamole. According to the avocado growers' group, Americans will consume enough green dip to fill the football field 9 ft. deep. Wonder who used what method to arrive at that number?

The city is discussing two things I encourage interest in. Sidewalks are one. I missed the public hearing at the Convention center, but others will be held. In the meantime, comments are invited on the city's website look for sidewalk survey. I hope we can find a middle course that gets us sidewalks where we need them without pricing people out of their homes. I live on a three block long, 40 ft. wide street, low volume local traffic. One of my neighbors puts a basketball goal at curbside; kids have a good surface to dribble on and only have to break up the game every 15 minutes or so to let a car go by. Plenty of room for pedestrians and bikes and the low number of cars to co-exist without danger. Right around the corner is Bell St. one of the projects already in work, though on the far side of the river from me. I've tried it once, I don't advise anyone to try walking Bell St., that could be an exercise in "the quick and the dead".

At any rate, put in your two cents worth now. Don't wait until an assessment bill hits the mailbox, it will be too late. There are lots of options: surely some neighborhoods only need a sidewalk down one side of the street, do the lucky homeowners on one side get to pay the full tab, or should their "walkless" neighbors chip in? How do we provide for low income homes where the owners (or less directly renters) could be looking at the difference between "we're making it" or not, we need some way of stretching that out affordably, perhaps some income-based assistance.

Speaking of public input, I believe Council is considering doing some annual polling, an attempt to take the pulse of the electorate. I like it in general. We need some better way of measuring what the citizenry considers important than "Who's making the most noise right now". This is a problem common to any representative body allocating funds and projects. It is easier to get a highly involved group of those benefiting from a project to pack a meeting and make noise than it is to get a good read of everyone paying for it. The less-interested payers might resent the marginal impact on their taxes, but not so much they take off work and attend a Council meeting.

We might find that the school district would be interested in cooperating in such a poll. As I told one SAISD Board member last week, had SAISD done enough polling to realize the voters' commitment to neighborhood schools over economies of scale, the '07 bond might have looked enough like the more recent one to have passed instead of failing 2 to 1. The history of the school bond demonstrates the limitations of getting any "committee" small enough to actually conduct business still be large enough to represent the entire electorate. Without getting mired down in details, the size of the first bond's defeat demonstrates how wrong they got it. Additionally, that defeat in my opinion, prejudiced many voters against the successful bond. Prop One passed narrowly, Prop Two failing by 500-some votes. I heard all too often from "NO" voters who assumed Bond II was just Bond I with the deck chairs rearranged.

In my New Year's Day article I discussed the high comedic value of Illinois Gov. Blagojevich. Alas, he predictably was drummed out. His successor, Pat Quinn is a bit of a maverick, but I doubt he will provide near the comedy content of Blago. In that article I posed a double trivia question: going back to the last time we had a Prez and VP be serving Senators, it was JFK and LBJ; Who were their appointed replacements?

Easy one first, JFK arranged to have his old college roomie appointed, one Benjamin Smith. His primary job was to keep the seat warm until JFKs brother Teddy was old enough to run, which he did. Smith's subsequent political career consisted of two terms as Gloucester Selectman (think city council). Smith obediently stepped aside for Teddy, who is still there. Smith had a successful business career, cardboard boxes of all things, passing away in '95. Google him by name, I got pages of other William Smiths before I got to the right one.

More interesting is LBJ's appointed replacement, one William Arvis (Dollar Bill) Blakeley. I actually bumped into an older fellow who knew this one, he remembered Blakeley. In replacing LBJ Blakeley was accepting his SECOND Senate appointment! His first, Jan 15 1957 was to replace Gov. Price Daniels. Blakeley did not run against Ralph Yarborough in the special election, but then did run against incumbent Yarborough in '58, the next regular Senate election. Texas, unlike Mass. provides for a special election at the next open date. In his '58 run, Blakeley was supported by LBJ and what was then the segregationist wing of the Democrat Party. Yarborough had the support of Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. Rayburn is widely regarded as LBJ's mentor, but on this issue, at that time, they parted company, and Rayburn had the most IOUs. Note: Yarborough was our last "plurality" Senator, winning with less than 50% in the special election. Texas changed the law to require a run-off and majority win, something we still don't do for Governor.

"Dollar Bill" was again appointed to replace LBJ, Jan. 3, 1961. This one lasted six months. July of
that year, the Democrats were still "eating their young" over segregation and opposition to this new Yankee President Kennedy. Republican John Tower managed 50.6%, winning without a run-off by 10,443 votes and becoming the first Republican to oust an incumbent Democrat Senator in Texas in 80 years.

Blakeley was actually a fascinating figure, one of the many people who help keep students of Texas history from dying of boredom. Worth $300 million in 1956, money-wise he was the T. Boone Pickens of his day, adjusted for inflation. Oil, hotels, real estate, name it, if it made money, "Dollar Bill" was in it. An "Eisenhower Democrat", he was one of the many Democrats of that era who twenty years later would be calling themselves "Republican", but until Tower won, that wasn't a realistic option in Texas in the 50s.

See you next time, better get started on that guacamole if it's gonna be chilled by game time.