Category Archives: 2013 Categories

The Price of Ramen Noodles Is Too Damn High!

Update After the Oberg Story: Did you know that it would take 6.8 million packages (at 25 cents each commissary price) of ramen noodles to pay the Harris County consultant who has saved the Jail money? No, this info was not in Oberg’s report, not that there was much of anything else.


ABC13’s Ted Oberg is doing a story on a no-bid contract that the Sheriff has given to a consulting firm. According to the Sheriff in one of ABC13s ads promoting the report, the consultant has saved the county a lot of money.

One thing I noticed from ABC13’s teaser is that the money paid to the consultant comes from profits from the jail commissary. So, that means that the overpriced ramen noodles, cupcakes, sodas, and other items bought by the inmates is paying for it. That’s a lot of ramen noodles eaten and no tax dollars wasted, at least at first glance.

I have to wonder if there’s a story to this. I would think the bigger story is that the price of ramen noodles is too damn high. Either that, or it’s sweeps week for the local news.

We shall see.

UPDATE:  The HCSO/Sheriff Adrian Garcia released this statement on the savings to taxpayers over the years.

When Sheriff Adrian Garcia took office in 2009, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was overspending its budget by about $58 million annually. In fact the agency had balanced its yearly budget only once in a decade.

In 2015, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has come in under the budget allocated by Commissioners Court for the fourth consecutive fiscal year.

Fiscal Year 2015, as it was known in county government, ended Feb. 28. After allowing for all accounts to settle from the previous budget year, the HCSO is celebrating another year of successful budget discipline.

“Keeping the people of Harris County safe is our top job,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. “Safeguarding public funds and protecting the pocket books of tax payers is a close second.”

“We are keeping the lid on crime for the 1.7 million people in the unincorporated areas of the county while keeping the door shut against monstrous budget deficits,” the sheriff added. “We accomplish this on the front lines with deputies on patrol and in the back offices where employees with business backgrounds eliminate financial waste.”

Some of the biggest savings have come from drastic reductions in overtime pay to staff the county jail, inmate rehabilitation programs that reduce repeat crimes, management of supply contracts and wider use of generic medications for ill inmates.

In the previous three years, budget savings allowed the Sheriff’s Office to put more deputies on patrol. About 90% of the $422 million budget for FY15 was allocated for law enforcement payroll.

“We’ll continue to work with Commissioners Court and other stakeholders to make sure we have the resources to preserve Harris County as a safe place that people choose every day as the place where they want to live, work and raise a family.”

Another Great Candidate Brunch in Kingwood

I’m the Emcee while Kevin McManis, Prez of KAD awaits my turn-over of the mic.

For another year, I had the honor of emceeing the Kingwood Area Democrats Spring Brunch and Candidate Meet-n-Greet. It’s probably the only time you’ll catch this lowly blogger at a country club, but I must say, the staff at Kingwood Country Club did a great job–great bacon!

Dems in the northern reaches of the county had the opportunity to shake hands with and listen to candidates for everything from Houston Mayor to Humble ISD trustee, and even a couple of 2016 candidates.

Candidates in attendance included:  Mayor – Sylvester Turner and Marty McVey; Council At Large 1 – Lane Lewis and Chris Oliver; Council At-Large 4 – Laurie Robinson, Larry Blackmon, and Amanda Edwards; Council At-Large 5 – Durrel Douglas and Philippe Nassif. For Humble ISD Pos. 7 – Nancy Morrison and Robert Scarfo; and Pos. 6 – Dr. Johnny O’Connor. For 2016, Judge Mike Engelhart who is seeking re-election; Steven Kirkland who will run for the 334th; and Joe Stephens, a Galena Park trustee running for JP Pct. 3.

Obviously, not all candidates showed, but as I told the crowd about the importance of Kingwood area Democratic votes to candidates’ bottom line at the end of election night, I also stated that decisions are made by those who show up. Like any group, voters enjoy retail politics and want to get to know their candidates. That said, the club does invite all candidates to visit KAD at their regular meetings since we’ve got seven months to go.

Some Highlights:

State Rep. Turner spoke a little bit about his work in the Texas Legislature, while also highlighting his years of leadership in various committees. Beyond his political work, he has also built businesses, such as a law practice and a title company. He gives credit to his hard-working employees for allowing him the time to serve in Austin. Marty McVey also highlighted his business experiences and how he would be able to bring that to the horseshoe to address issues like transportation and infrastructure.

Lane Lewis put on his Democratic Chairman hat to give a short update on the Party’s happenings. Needless to say, the Party is busy! Wearing his candidate hat, though, he concentrated some of his remarks on drainage as the evening before the rains caused his elderly parents’ home to flood.=Lewis stated that Houston needs someone who will advocate for the people on Council. He also hit on other issues regarding transportation and infrastructure. In fact, those seemed to be the issues of the day. Chris Oliver stated he wanted to bring his policy-making and budget-making experience on the HCC Board of Trustees to Council. He stated his experience in this regard would easily transfer to the tough decisions that need to be made on Council.

Larry Blackmon highlighted his experience as a teacher and in life. That he wanted to bring the peoples’ voice to Council. One issue he brought up was the need for Council to award contracts to the best bids, rather than the lowest bid as a means of ensuring a longer-lasting infrastructure. Laurie Robinson launched an impressive speech in which she spoke about her experiences about being called to action after Katrina. She led the way in finding housing for 16,000 folks who were at the Dome, and that when Ike hit, she was among those ensuring water and ice stations were available throughout the city. She also touched on her DC experience with helping write the Medicare prescription plan law. Finally, touching on her project management experience, Robinson feels she can utilize that experience to solve the city’s challenges. Amanda Edwards touched on her experiences in law school, New Orleans, and her return to Houston to a life of public service. A public finance lawyer, she stated she already helps to build cities and infrastructure and that that experience is needed on Council.

Philippe Nassif touched on his experience working in the nonprofit world, at the White House, and in the community. After stating that City Council needed a community organizer, his opponent Durrel Douglas agreed, and then provided his own experience with various community groups, such as TOP. While Nassif touched on his diverse background, Douglas offered his idea of a municipal ID for the undocumented to ensure people can come out of the shadows–at least locally. Both are running energetic campaigns with the hopes of unseating a over-funded right-wing incumbent Jack Christie.

I wish I could write more on all the candidates’ statements, but I was busy emceeing and not live-blogging or live-tweeting–or even taking notes. Still, I can’t say these candidates made my November decision any easier. I urge all to start paying attention now and not a few weeks before the election. So, stay connected to DC for the latest.

Check out the photos of the event here.

Thanks to the Kingwood Area Democrats for inviting me back. KAD will always be my second family and the Dem club which started up my local political involvement. Best of luck in 2015-2016.

Kingwood Area Democrats

 

Senator Garcia Votes Against State Budget Proposal; It Fails to Address Needs

This just in to the inbox:

AUSTIN – Today, Senator Sylvia Garcia voted against the Senate’s State Budget proposal. The Senate Budget failed to address billions of dollars in identified needs such as:  education,  facilities, healthcare, pre-k, and transportation.

“Texas should not be conducting corporate tax giveaways at the expense of kids and families – it should be providing the services that taxpayers have paid for, such as schools and highways. We made a promise to invest in Texas schools after the 2011 cuts, but instead we face a looming school finance lawsuit,” Senator Garcia stated.

“We were elected to wisely invest Texans’ hard-earned money and grow the Texas dream, but this budget does neither. When the state underfunds schools and roads, it penalizes the hardworking taxpayers that rely on the state to meet these fundamental needs. The budget fails to adequately fund healthcare, pre-k, and other priorities of working families in Texas.”

“In an unprecedented move, Department of Public Safety’s budget is nearly tripled to $811 million in an alleged response to border security threats in South Texas. Meanwhile, crime rates are increasing across Houston and other areas of the state. I cannot honestly tell my constituents that we’re representing their best interests by putting $811 million into policing the border, when they feel unsafe in their own communities hundreds of miles away.”

Latino Turnout: Are Latino Candidates The Answer?

You may recall I wrote about attending a League of Women Voters low voter turnout forum a few weeks ago. Local professor Richard Murray stated that 2016 could be a good year for Latino turnout if either political party runs a Latin@ VP candidate.

He further cited that 2002’s campaign by Tony Sanchez actually increased Latino turnout throughout the state. I recall Sanchez’s ads and they hit at the hearts of Mexican Americans–I certainly enjoyed them. But when Rick Perry ran ads tying Sanchez to drug dealers and money laundering, even White Democrats believed Perry and voted for him in large numbers.

We’re at 2015 and we’ve had a first test of the assertion that a Latino on the ballot helps drive Latino turnout. Post-election research showing how Chicagoans voted is quite interesting. Hispanic voters gave almost 70% of their vote to Chuy Garcia, while 66% of white voters and 58% of black voters went to Emanuel. As far as the other demographics were concerned, it’s not like Garcia was far from their issues, but they stuck with Emanuel for some reason. Perhaps Latinos were looking for change, but certainly a progressive Latino candidate did help increase Latino turnout in Chicago, according to Latino Victory Project, although numbers were still low.

Will Houston get to test this assertion next? I think it is safe to predict that a left to center Latino candidate for Houston Mayor could increase Latino turnout, but will the end-result be the same as Chicago? Would there even be a run-off? I guess it all depends on if Houstonians as a whole embrace a Latino candidate. Chicago showed a tendency, but obviously not a full embrace.

Obviously, Murray’s assertion is that there be a Latino VP candidate in 2016 to give either party a major assist, but I’m talking about a major Latino candidacy at the top of the ballot. After yesterday’s results, I tend to think results elsewhere would be the same. Latino candidates not only have to campaign to a diverse electorate, but against big money interests, and they also have to combat right-wing, anti-Latino sentiment coming out of state legislatures.

Still, I think it needs to be continually tested, rather than have prospective Latino candidates remain in their comfort zones. Certainly, it would ensure a response to those who would make Latinos a political scapegoat.

Anti-Latino Bills Move Forward in Texas Senate

Credit: Denver Post (Click to Enlarge)

I think this is the most unsurprising news of the week. A Texas Senate subcommittee on “border security” moved two bills forward that would, (1) Legalize racial profiling of Latinos for immigration purposes, and (2) Stop in-state tuition rates for immigrant students whose families have more than established residency in Texas. Both bills move on to a full committee. Of course, all of this happened after dozens of students and advocates testified against both bills versus a few who spoke in favor.

While Republicans call these bills changes in policy, the targeted nature of these bills says a lot more. Anti-Latino attitudes by Republicans have once again come up to the surface and more lies are spread about the community. Some will call it fear, I’ll call it downright bigoted policy-making for their own political purposes.

Then there are those who will say that Latinos need to vote in larger numbers. I don’t disagree, but the caveat is that Democrats need to do a better job of defending Latinos and immigrants, instead of playing to right-wing voters by talking anti-immigrant nonsense with some delusion that they will earn their votes. Frankly, these attempts at “centrism” remind me of Rahm Emanuel working with racist Tom Tancredo on immigration reform.

Whether Republicans will come to their senses and kill these bills is still up in the air. Obviously, there’s a race against the legislative clock. How hard they work for these nonsense bills versus bills of dire importance will further show us what they are really about.

Update:  Earlier today, this post caught my attention. In other words, SB1819 (in-state tuition ban) can be beaten. It’s time to deluge Republican senators with phone calls telling them to vote NO on SB1819 if it reaches the Senate floor.

UPDATE:  Both bills (sb185 and sb1819) were approved by the full committee and will be sent to the full Texas Senate.

DC Reviews: David Lee Garza y Los Musicales ~ 2715

dlgnewDavid Lee Garza y Los Musicales recently released their 27th album in the year 2015, hence, the name of the album. Released on David Lee’s DLG Records, the album introduces new vocalist, Cezar Martinez, to David Lee Garza’s vast fan base.

The album also features guest vocalist and legend, the iron-throated Jessy Serrata. Also featured is Christian/Tejano vocalist Jorge David Marroquin.

Garza is known for launching the solo careers of numerous vocalists, including Ram Herrera, Emilio Navaira, Jay Perez, Marcos Orozco, and others, which is actually something of which he is proud. In an interview last year, Garza stated that he is always in search of a new vocalist, but not necessarily one with the legacy sound that put Los Musicales on the map. And Martinez is a vocalist with his own unique voice and able to deliver the tunes chosen for the album.

What hasn’t been lost is the legacy sound of Los Musicales. Te Compraron Con Dinero kicks off this ranchera-based album con ganas, but it is the first single, Traigan Mas Botellas, that sounds like something out of an 80s edition album–and that’s a good thing. Las Cosas Que Tiene La Vida, with its smooth latin intro, transitions into another danceable ranchera that will keep boots on the floor.

My favorite tune, thus far, is one I recall hearing on a Guti Ramirez album back in the 90s–La Apasionada. Con Dinero No comes a close second with its harmonies and musical change ups. Se Te Olvido, Secreto de Amor, and Sufre Sin Llorar round out Martinez’s debut, with the latter showing off some chops on the jazz organ.

Jessy Serrata, on his second project with David Lee, delivers on En El Jardin Del Amor. Marroquin joins the production on a beautiful Christian bolero tune, Si No Hablas Con Dios.

While Martinez gives us a strong performance and shows a lot of confidence with highs and lyric delivery, the main ingredient to Los Musicales has always been Los Musicales. They’re among the best musicians in the industry and have never disappointed on a production.

So, it’s about time everyone added another to their Tejano collection, and David Lee Garza’s 2715 needs to be at the top of the shopping list.

AL5s Douglas First Council Candidate to Stand Against SB185

durrelWe all know that SB185 has been getting its debate in Austin with some delays. The question of the matter is whether we want state and local law enforcement agencies to practice legalized racial profiling, which is basically what SB185 does. While some law enforcement leaders have stepped up against the bill, including Sheriff Adrian Garcia, I can’t say there have been many municipal elected officials or candidates for municipal office stepping up. So, to find that Durrel Douglas, candidate for AL5 has made his voice heard by asking Houston City Council to get involved in the issue was refreshing.

While Public Safety accounts for $1.3 Billion of our city’s FY-2015 $4.7 Billion budget, those resources should be used for police training, recruitment and community policing initiatives that build bridges, not break them down.

While some in the state legislature want to increase the burden and responsibility of over-exerted police departments, over the last five years, HPD has solved just 8 percent of burglaries, and the clearance rate has gotten worse, dropping lower every year since 2010 according to ABC-13 (KTRK).  Although SB 185 is to be voted on under the pink dome of our state capitol, our Houston Mayor and City Council members should use their influence to discourage passage of this horrible legislation.

Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, a community organizer, is heading in the right direction as he uses the megaphone entrusted to him by his constituents.

Obviously, this legislation would open the door for racial profiling since people like me wouldn’t be asked to show my papers.  Which race of people would be most likely to be “asked for their papers?”  Racial profiling of any kind is wrong.

Elected officials, conservatives, in particular, enjoy using border and immigration issues for their political purposes. I recall then-District E Councilman Mike Sullivan and then-CM Anne Clutterbuck went on an anti-immigrant tirade in support of 287(g) six years ago. With SB185 being debated, it seems both sides of the issue have been quiet at the horseshoe, but this law would greatly affect City coffers, police services, and community trust of he police. Where’s the outrage against the Lege by our local leaders?

Thanks to Mr. Douglas for bringing it up while it is still being debated.

 

At-Large 5: Philippe Nassif and Durrel Douglas

As Kuff mentioned last week, there’ve been some changes in the race for At-Large 5, with one prospect bowing out and two candidates coming in to challenge the incumbent, Jack Christie. I wrote a short piece about Durrel Douglas, whom I’ve known for a few years; however, it was a short time after that I found out that Philippe Nassif, who had been running for At-Large 1, had made the jump into At-Large 5.

nassifI met Nassif within the last year and there’s no doubt he has a lot of energy and great ideas on which to run for AL5. I had the pleasure of meeting with him recently and found out a lot about him, including his Lebanese and Mexican background.  His experience working with Mayor Annise Parker, the Obama Campaign, and the White House, as well as with a global nonprofit, gives him a well-rounded background on which to base his campaign.

Durrel Douglas

Here’s what I wrote about Durrel last week.

durrelI’m glad to see Durrel Douglas announce for At-Large 5 against Jack Christie. He’s been a good organizer and activist and will have a lot to say during the campaign.  Douglas, an immigration reform supporter, has already proposed enacting a municipal ID as a means of making Houston more welcoming and safer. I’m looking forward to Durrel elevating the political conversation in this town. It is way overdue.

There’s no doubt that both Nassif and Douglas will provide some energy to the race that the incumbent hasn’t ever had. While the incumbent has an endless supply of cash, I’m hoping voters seek new leadership from the unboring, energetic, and responsive. And in this race, voters have a couple of choices.

Stay tuned.

Chavez Day-Houston [Photos]

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Parade Grand Marshal Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

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State Rep. Sylvester Turner visiting Chavez Day prior to his campaign kick-off for Mayor.

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¡Que Viva!

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Leader and Activist Maria Jimenez honored for her years in La Causa.

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CM Robert Gallegos mentioned that the Cesar Chavez Parade was among the first events he attended when he launched his campaign for District I.

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Part of the crowd.

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Constable Heliodoro Martinez of Pct. 6 working the crowd.

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The Congresswoman had kind words for Tejano Association for Historical Preservation and Cesar Chavez Street activist Benny Martinez.

It was a well-attended event that must continue to grow. It was great to see Chavez High School students enriched by this celebration, as well as Pct. 6 Constable Martinez challenging the students to get involved as the struggle for civil rights is far from over.

Some kudos must also go to Sylvester Turner for showing up, which is more than I can say about the other announced candidates. As CM Robert Gallegos stated, a couple of years ago, this was the first event he attended and look at him now. One cannot expect votes if they don’t show up. And here’s a secret:  People who show up to these events celebrating activists actually vote–or are willing to listen.

Congrats to the TAHP and all involved for a great event.

 

Saturday, 3/28/15 ~ Cesar Chavez Parade-Houston

I’ll be roaming around with my the DC-Cam, so if you’re around, let me take your pic! Congrats to Maria Jimenez on this great honor.

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