For his efforts, he received standing ovations before AND after his talk and question/answer session. That is pretty rare with this group, known as much for challenging speakers as applauding them. Don’t believe me? Make the trip to the Spaghetti Warehouse next Thursday at noon when Harris County Dept. of Education Trustee Roy Morales is featured. Heh.
Judge Emmett addressed a wide range of issues and then took about a half hour of questions from the overflow crowd. His message about the upcoming election was very positive, predicting a county-wide Republican sweep because there are far more Republican signs on his morning walk in West U than Democratic ones. Hey, it’s probably as good a method as most local polling. But seriously, and I agree with him, there seems to be an enthusiasm gap in Harris County between the D’s and R’s, and most of us are betting that that gap turns into far more straight R votes than straight D. One of the questioners challenged him on the enthusiasm level, saying he was disappointed that Ted Cruz wasn’t on the air bringing excitement to the base – the questioner thought that Cruz should be making up for the lack of presidential interest in the race. Interesting point.
One of the things that Judge Emmett is trying to do with the Victory centers, in addition to turning out the vote this cycle, is to identify Republican voters. He told the crowd that the huge turnout in the Democratic primary in 2008 allowed the Democratic party to easily identify their voters and they were able to target them more efficiently. He hopes to continue the effort after the election – far more voters vote Republican in the general election than in the primary and if we can identify who those voters are, we can maximize Republican efforts in the future.
After recapping the current election cycle, Judge Emmett implored the club to support Republican legislators in the upcoming session. He stated, accurately, that there are many funding problems that need to be addressed, specifically the Texas Department of Transportation. If their funding isn’t restructured, they will be out of funds to build new roads in two years – in essence, they will be filling potholes but not addressing future transportation needs. And in public education, we need to support Sen. Dan Patrick as he grapples with special interests and media that are not friendly (to say the least) to Republican efforts to keep their budget under control. He also noted that mental health issues have been put “out of sight, out of mind” and turned over to the criminal justice system, increasing costs. He suggested that by addressing that issue, we could save a lot of taxpayer money in the criminal justice system.
On METRO, Judge Emmett was unusually candid, saying that their vision and at grade light rail just wasn’t working and that they must look at alternatives to their current plans, mentioning increased Bus Rapid Transit, as well as using current rail lines for commuter rail, augmenting that with bus service. It is hard for me to understand why METRO has ignored his expertise in transportation issues but ignore it they have. Of course, they’ve ignored everyone else that disagreed with their frivolous spending on light rail, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Judge Emmett is the unusual politician that isn’t afraid to talk about public investment in infrastructure. I say unusual because Republican primaries have become a race to see who can cut the most, in most cases without any idea of what they are talking about. Judge Emmett warned that if we neglect to invest in upgrading our ports and major highways, the Texas Miracle could become the Texas Stagnation. There is a lot of wisdom in that comment but the libertarian influence on the Republican Party in the primaries makes this a very difficult mine field.
On the Astrodome – heh, nothing new here. Look, that monstrosity needs to be demolished and it needed to be done yesterday. But Judge Emmett thinks there is one more plan possibly out there to save it and favors letting voters decide because there is so much outstanding debt on it. I say that it won’t be cheaper to demolish it tomorrow than it is today, and our Commissioner’s Court needs to have the stones to make that call.
All in all, it was a very good way to hear the county judge speak to specific issues, fellowship with like minded Republicans, and have a good meal under $10. Beats a sharp stick in the eye. If you are in the downtown Houston area on Thursdays at noon, do yourself a favor and drop by.
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