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The Houston Zoo and Funding Rail: Tuesday’s Show (May 19, 2015)

On Monday, Houston METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia and U.S. Congressman John Culberson held a press conference to announce the beginning of discussions to find regional transportation solutions together. That announcement was surprising to some, as twice now Rep. Culberson — a member of the House Appropriations Committee — inserted a provision into a transportation, housing and […]

On Monday, Houston METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia and U.S. Congressman John Culberson held a press conference to announce the beginning of discussions to find regional transportation solutions together. That announcement was surprising to some, as twice now Rep. Culberson — a member of the House Appropriations Committee — inserted a provision into a transportation, housing and urban development bill that specifically required no Federal Transit Administration money could be used to fund a rail project METRO wants to build along Richmond Avenue. Culberson says he’s now willing to allow METRO to ask for money for rail development along Richmond, provided voters specifically approve it. Is this a change of heart, or political gamesmanship? Or a bit of both?

On this edition of Houston Matters, we ask Rep. Culberson why he’s opposed the project in the past, and why he’s now offering this caveat. We also learn more about the politics behind funding projects like this from Abby Livingston, the Texas Tribune’s Washington Bureau Chief, and Bob Stein, Professor of Political Science at Rice University.

Also this hour: The state’s energy market underwent deregulation in 2002. The idea was to break up monopolies, provide for competition, and, in doing so, drive down consumer costs while ensuring reliability. Now, Texas consumers have hundreds of energy plans to choose from. We discuss how to choose an affordable electricity plan with Loren Steffy, managing director for 30 Point Strategies, a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly, and a columnist for EnergyVoice.com.

Then: We welcome your questions for outgoing Houston Zoo President and CEO Deborah Cannon. She’s retiring this summer, after more than 10 years leading the organization. Her visit comes as the zoo unveils its new gorilla exhibit to the public. It’s been 11 years since the zoo has housed these animals.

And: From time to time, we talk with Houstonians who have followed in previous generations’ footsteps about the opportunities and challenges inherent in going into the family business. Today, Maggie Martin will talk with Allyson Wells who, like her father, became a musician. (If you’ve gone into the family business and would like to share your story with us, e-mail us at talk@houstonmatters.org).

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