If he wasn't the best-known municipal lobbyist before he was elevated to the prestigious chairmanship in June, he will be now. For years affable, low-key Jim Edmonds has run with the big boys, ranging from developer Walter Mischer to financial guru Tom Masterson to previous port chair Ned Holmes, pouring the best whiskey, hosting good-'ol-boy birding trips (they shoot 'em rather than watch 'em), and in general lubricating the gears of Houston power politics. Although he has graduated from gofer to go-to player, Edmonds says he plans to keep on lobbying at City Hall, where clients Perry Homes and The Woodlands will likely be supplemented by new customers looking for an advocate with a big bat and the power to make the heavyweights return his phone calls.
Dan Hart is the indefatigable property tax activist who bugs Harris County Tax Appraisal District officials with the persistence of a salt marsh mosquito. Hart, a retired Kinkaid School coach, has embraced the role of tax watchdog as a second career, and has even started up a nonprofit organization, Taxpayers for Equal Appraisal, with its own Web page (www.hcadtea.org) to spread the message. Hart and wife Betty even travel to out-of-state tax appraiser conventions to keep track of the activities of local tax officials. In the last year Hart helped expose a trip at public expense by a former HCAD chairman to a realty convention that had far more to do with the man's private business than his HCAD position. Hart also filed open records requests to get documents revealing that an HCAD secretary routinely used the agency's membership cards at Sam's Club to get her own bargain purchases of wine and snacks. She was forced to repay the discount later. Hart can go a bit over the top, as when he launches into the TEA fight song to the tune of the Marine hymn: "From the kitchens of the home we love, to our family's future we guard, we will fight for fair appraisal in the CADs and in the courts." Well, you get the idea.
For a $175 annual subscription, this Austin-based political newsletter published by Bellaire High grad Harvey Kronberg churns up plenty of information. Features of the Quorum Report Web site (quorumreport.com) include bulletins in the form of the Daily Buzz plus an invaluable daily clip service of relevant Texas and national media stories. While the hard-copy version of the newsletter comes out twice a month, the Web site is updated daily. To be sure, Kronberg's slant often seems excessively fawning toward Governor George Bush and Republicans in general, but these days that's where most of the news comes from in Austin. Offbeat in the mold of Matt Drudge, the 48-year-old may be the only Internet political journalist who also operates a flag and flagpole business, a continuation of his family's operation in Houston. The Quorum Report has had its share of scoops, most notably one year ago when it popped the results of a Texas poll several days ahead of its release date and left officials at the University of Texas Office of Survey Research sputtering. Kronberg is not averse to jumping the gun on stories, and the Daily Buzz inevitably includes a smattering of corrections to previous "revelations." Kronberg's slogan: "It's better to be occasionally wrong than naive."

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