DA Candidates on Weed: Talking Points Over Data Points

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Photo by United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons

Though marijuana possession remains a jailable crime in Harris County, the law of the land is shifting toward leniency for offenders. Both contenders in the November race for Harris County District Attorney have presented alternatives to convicting those caught with pot.

DA incumbent Devon Anderson and challenger Kim Ogg agree that the old ways need to change, but they clash on how much. The confusion likely stems from the fact neither candidate has the numbers to back her plan. One lacks a cost-savings analysis, and the other has provided practically useless estimates.

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Food Trucks and Restaurants Bump Against Grease, Drugs and Empty Chairs

Photo by Susan Du
Food truck operators packed city hall for the right to feed the hungry hordes of the downtown and med center.

Let's make Houston a more walkable city, even if people are walking on their way to tacos. Or so went the thinking for dozens who showed up to Wednesday's council committee meeting in support of relaxing regulations for food trucks.

The issues on the line: whether food trucks are allowed to serve in the medical center and downtown areas; whether food trucks need to set up at least 60 feet away from each other and whether they can operate within 100 feet of chairs and tables.

The camps: food truck owners, who swarmed the public comment session, versus the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, which claims brick and mortar eateries are losing business unfairly to the trendy mobile competition.

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Congress Votes to End War on Medical Marijuana

Photo by Hammerin Man via flickr

Medical marijuana patients, rejoice. The federal government is no longer in fear of your (state-legal) reefer.

Late last night, Congress voted to essentially end the federal war on medical marijuana by approving a measure that prohibits the Department of Justice -- which includes the DEA, by the way -- from spending federal funds to fight state laws on medical cannabis. This means that if a state has legalized medical marijuana, the medical marijuana dispensaries are no longer subject to the threat of raids by the federal government, and patients and providers are no longer subject to arrest.

"It's becoming clearer and clearer that marijuana prohibition's days are numbered," says Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, who has been lobbying for support of the measure since 2003.

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Houston "Biketivist" Targets Motorists Violating Passing Law

Photo by Camilo Smith
Dan Morgan is battling unsavory drivers with a flag and a pole.
You can call Dan Morgan a biketivist, but don't call him a bike vigilante, which is how he was referred to in a recent news report.

He's just trying to raise awareness for his fellow bicyclists who prefer to move around the city on two wheels instead of four. Armed with a flag that sticks out three feet from his bike, he's something of an inspiration to serious riders all around Houston.

Morgan, who has been supporting the local bike community for years, has repeatedly taken his mission to city hall, and last week showed off his three-foot flags to Mayor Annise Parker and City Council. The space requirement was made into law in the last year after numerous accidents involving bicycles and cars, and even several bicyclists' deaths. All of which really hits home for Morgan.

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Living on the Edge: Why Is Intexticated Driving the Thing in Texas?

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

Photo by Steven Damron
Chances are fifty-fifty you do this, too.
Drivers in Texas who tempt fate by texting and driving are likely to be nonwhite and educated. At least that's what the data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute bears out.

The study, released today and reported on by the Texas Tribune, surveyed 3,000 drivers and showed that nearly half of us have texted while operating a motor vehicle.

The researchers found that 76 percent of drivers said they had talked on a cellphone while driving at least once in the previous month, with 24 percent acknowledging that they did so regularly. Forty-four percent of respondents said they had read or typed texts or emails while driving, and 18.5 percent said they had looked at Facebook or other websites while driving.

For those of you checking Facebook while you drive with your kid in the back seat, we hate you. But we know so many people enjoy the fact that an occasional check of your phone, or a quickie reply on your cell, is a guilty pleasure in Houston. Others might consider it a cool point for living in a state (one of the seven remaining) without a driver-wide ban on texting from behind the wheel.

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Taxi Owner Goes Undercover, Files Papers Against Lyft and Uber

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

Photo by Alfredo Mendez
Remember, this is what a Lyft car looks like.
Citations seem to be part of doing business, and breaking into a new market, for the app-based ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. They're finding out that elbowing their way into Houston's livery space for the past month doesn't come cheap. (Remember, Lyft is the one with the pink mustache on the grill, and Uber is the other one.)

Neither organization is allowed to operate like it wants to in this city, just yet. There's this little thing called Chapter 46 and an amendment to for-hire requirements that's working its way through city council. An Uber spokesperson tells us that they're looking to eliminate a 30-minute wait requirement, as well as a minimum fair requirement for catching rides. Right now, both services operate without charging riders. But that might not really be the case according to testimony heard in city hall.

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Men Who Allegedly Held More Than 100 Locked in Houston Home Went Before Judge This Week

Photo by Makaristos
Five face charges in stash house smuggling case in Houston.
When Houston police pulled over a red Mustang last week they found a couple of guns and a number of papers that HPD spokesperson John Cannon said showed some illegal activity.

Soon after police, who were investigating a possible hostage-taking, made the decision to enter a residence on Alameda Schoo Road. What they found shocked them.

It was a typical immigrant smuggling stash house situation: boarded up windows, doors that locked from the inside, men in their underclothes and without shoes. What was atypical, said Cannon, was the amount of people smooshed inside the location. There were 115 people inside the house, all allegedly held against there will by at least five men who, according to court papers, threatened men and women with guns, a taser and a wooden paddle.

The people trapped inside the home told police that they had paid to cross into the U.S. but were being held until families paid transportation fees. This week, those five men accused of holding those folks, stood before a district judge on charges of extortion and smuggling.

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Some Things to Consider as Zipcar Expands in Houston

Photo by Compas
Zipcar wants to get all up in Houston.
Hey, need a ride-share?

The City of Houston has used Zipcar's technology of electronically loaning and reserving cars for a little more than year. A total of 13 city departments use this technology which promotes clean air and has city employees whipping around in electric and hybrid vehicles.
How sporty is the Nissan Leaf EV, actually?

Rice University's had the service for about three years and used it to find weekend rides to nerdy ragers. The imprint expanded this week to include Houston citywide. Well, not really that "wide" since most of the non-Rice rental locations are near downtown and midtown. So, what's not to like? You get to rent a Japanese or European car for somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 an hour and around $75 or so a day. If you're slumming, you can opt for a Ford Focus or something like that.

And in a you-better-have-a-car town like Houston, who needs a pay-as-go ride-sharing service anyway? Before you chain up your fixed gear bike and take a last swig of that Starbuck's latte and sign up for a Zipcar account, let's look at some reason not to even bother using this service. (You'll thank us later.)

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Missouri City Bank Robbery Suspect Grabs Loot, Gets Away on Kiddie Bike

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

Missouri City cops are investigating a recent bank robbery.
At first, cops must've thought it was some kind of prank. A guy walks into a bank on Wednesday afternoon, asks for some money and walks out. His getaway car, though? A little kiddie bike.

Maybe drugs were involved, who knows. But this guy committed a federal crime in broad daylight and then pedals off (standing up, because he obviously can't fit on that small seat, what with his knees all in his face) with a sack of cash. Bet cops can't wait to catch this character.

It's a good thing no one was hurt. As a statement from the FBI press office in Houston tells it, the guy walked into the Amegy Bank of Texas at 5820 Highway 6 in Missouri City around 2 p.m., approached the counter and pulled out a gun and demanded cash.

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Southwest Introducing Nonstop to Washington, D.C., Reagan National Airport

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

I pity the fool who hails my cab!
Beginning the first week of August, if you need a flight to DC, it just got a little easier. Southwest Airlines is launching nonstop flight service between Hobby Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, according to a release. Recently, the airline began nonstop service to Pittsburgh (yay?) and Charlotte (yee haw?), and it will begin nonstop flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport in June.

Let me just say that while I personally hate to fly, if I am going to go somewhere, I absolutely want to go nonstop. Layovers suck and a nonstop means one less takeoff and landing. They can sometimes be a necessity, but when it comes to flying to large airports around the country, there's no good reason to have layovers unless you either love airport lounges or absolutely must save every penny you have because that extra $20 you saved having a layover in Little Rock for four hours was so TOTALLY worth it, right?

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