Category Archives: Elections

National Guard Goes Hungry on the Border?

At least that’s what was first reported at Harlingen’s, Action News 4 last night, and has now made national news.

“We were contacted that 50 troops that are in the Valley don’t have any money for food and gas and they need our assistance,” said Food Bank RGV Executive Director Terri Drefke.

They’ve turned to the Food Bank RGV for help since they won’t get paid until September 5th and have been in the Valley since August 11th.

Drefke told Action 4 News they are more than ready and willing to assist the military personnel.

“We have fresh, boxed, and frozen food available” Drefke said.

Let’s face it, Rick Perry and the Republicans put on a show for their right-wing followers with this call-up of the Guard, ratcheting up fear and hate on account of Central American children escaping violence in their home countries. Perry, though, finally did respond.

First, the suggestion that Guardsmen aren’t getting paid is false. They are getting paid on a regular schedule with their first pay day on Sept. 5, then every two weeks after that.

And here I thought a military exercise came with government-provided rations. Hell, at least some Texas IOU’s with Rick Perry’s mugshot, right?

And frankly,  one has to wonder what exactly the millions of dollars that Rick Perry and the Republicans are willing to waste is actually being spent on. That Perry’s attempted boondoggle didn’t include GOP-leaning taco joints to feed the men has left me thinking that he just can’t execute a military plan. That doesn’t look good for a Presidential candidate.

Leticia Van de Putte, the Democrat running for Lt. Gov., had the best response.

The Perry – Patrick deployment of the Guard has been nothing but a political ploy: there is no request from local leaders for this mission, no exit strategy, or even a plan to pay for it. Today, we learn that our men and women of the Guard have been forced to contact food banks to feed themselves because they haven’t been paid in weeks. This is unacceptable.

This whole debacle reminds me of when my family would go on full-day shopping excursions to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. Mom and Dad would pack sandwiches, boiled eggs, tacos, sodas, thermoses of coffee–it was definitely a money-saver. One would think since Rick Perry and the Republicans say we should run government like parents run their family budgets that he would have packed some food for the troops.

UPDATE:  The National Guard Responds

According to spokeswoman Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, a “proactive” family assistance coordinator “contacted the Rio Grande Valley food bank to see what resources were potentially available.”

The Guard said it had identified 50 service members who, because of their early August start date, weren’t going to be paid until Sept. 5.

None of those 50 troops have notified leaders that they had used the food bank, officials said.

According to the Guard, troops receive one meal while on duty, plus a $32 per diem food reimbursement that is included in their paychecks.

According to Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy, the food bank made extra preparations after being contacted by someone from the Texas National Guard Support Foundation, but that he wasn’t aware of any troops being served.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” he said.

So, someone not affiliated with Rick Perry or the Guard was thinking ahead?

Whatever, the Guard shouldn’t be there in the first place!

 

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Greg Abbott Loses Again, School Finance System Unconstitutional

After continually under-funding public education, and then cutting $5 billion from K-12 in 2011, the Republican-led Texas Government was sued by a lot of school districts. Today, the Republicans were handed a huge loss by a district judge in Austin. The judge ruled that the way the state of Texas finances education is unconstitutional. The Republicans will likely appeal, since they support cutting K-12 funding.

Specifically, as reported by the Trib:

In an almost 400-page opinion released Thursday, District Court Judge John Dietz of Austin said that the state’s school finance system is unconstitutional not only because of inadequate funding and flaws in the way it distributes money to districts, but also because it imposes a de facto state property tax. Certain to be appealed by the state, the lawsuit that arose after lawmakers cut roughly $5.4 billion from state public education funding in 2011 will now continue to the Texas Supreme Court.

Judge Dietz went on to explain the best reasons to support public education.

“We realize that others provided for us when we were children. We realize that children are without means to secure their education. Just as others provided for us when we were in school, now is the time when we provide for others,” he said, going on to describe the societal benefits of a well-educated population: lower crime rates, fewer people who need public assistance and a greater state income.”

The education commissioner Michael Williams, a Republican, spoke against the ruling, stating that judges shouldn’t be deciding school finance. Well, judges wouldn’t be needed if Republicans weren’t hell-bent on violating a child’s right to an education as specified in the Texas Constitution by cutting funding. So, whether it is Rick Perry appointees or other right-wing elected Republicans mouthing off against the ruling, the bottom line is that they voted to cut public education funding and have been starving K-12 (and higher education for that matter) for decades.

After Dan Patrick, a Houston state senator who is running for Lt. Governor, tried to cover up his vote against restoring some of the K-12 funding in the last legislative session by saying he chaired the committee that voted to restore the funding, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte called Patrick out in a “hypocrisy alert.”

In 2013, Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said, “Patrick was directly responsible for these same education programs not being funded…Such revisionism cannot go unchallenged.” [Texas Tribune, 06/21/13]

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, released the following statement:

“I echo Senator Williams’ sentiments. Dan Patrick was directly responsible for these education cuts, and his revisionism will not go unchallenged. Dan Patrick has shown time and time again that he does not value our neighborhood schools — he showed that when he voted twice against Texas students.

“It is time to accept responsibility and lead. We do not need another court to tell us how to do our jobs. Texans expect a quality education for their children — no excuses, no delays. It is time to put Texas first. As Lieutenant Governor, I will do exactly that.”

And there’s no doubt in my mind that Leticia Van de Putte will take the lead to protect public education and make it a top priority of the Texas legislature.

Elections matter, just like our public schools matter. If you don’t want public schools closing, or if you don’t want your kid in an overcrowded classroom, then you better make it your business to be registered to vote and show up on November 4.

Other Reaction:

Wendy Davis, Democrat for Governor:  “Today is a victory for our schools, for the future of our state and for the promise of opportunity that’s at the core of who we are as Texans. The reality is clear and indefensible: insiders like Greg Abbott haven’t been working for our schools; they’ve been actively working against them. Abbott has been in court for years, defending overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and public-school closings, and today, Judge John Dietz ruled against him. This ruling underscores the crucial need to invest in education and reminds us of just how much our schools, teachers and students have had to sacrifice over the past three years just to get by.”

State Senator Jose Rodriguez (D) El Paso:  Our state has not lived up to its constitutional obligation to offer equitable and adequate educational opportunities to all Texans. Today’s court ruling is yet another opportunity to do better, especially with the 84thLegislature right around the corner. The state’s attorneys should end their battle against the Texas constitution — and our students, parents, and teachers — and allow us to move forward on a legislative solution to this issue, which is of such vital importance for the future of Texas.

State Senator Sylvia Garcia (D) Houston:  “Today is a victory for the school children of Texas. Judge Dietz simply confirmed what we’ve all known for years; that the state refuses time and time again to do what’s right for our children and the future of our state.”

“Today’s ruling reaffirms that Republican leadership has created an unconstitutional system which values some children more than others, yet short-changes them all.”

 

Wendy Davis Outlines Higher Education Plan

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Governor, outlined her proposal to make college affordable.

As Governor, Wendy Davis will work hard for every Texan to have the same higher education opportunities that made such a difference in her own life. She will ensure that Texans are prepared for jobs today and careers tomorrow. Specifically, Wendy will:
  • Create Educational Opportunities for all Texans
    • Create a Career-Technical Coordinating Board to facilitate coordination among local industries, community and technical colleges, and public high schools and streamline the entry of Texas students into 21st century technical jobs.
    • Improve Adult Education and Literacy programs to make it easier for Texans to transition from adult education to the workforce.
  • Make College Affordable
    • Commit to achieving full funding for the TEXAS Grant program to improve education accessibility and affordability for Texas families.
    • Work with the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board to ensure the Texas Tuition Promise fund remains a reliable saving tool for Texas families by improving program outreach and public awareness efforts.
    • Improve accessibility to the B-On-Time low interest loan program, including opening the program to part-time students.
    • Establish a sales tax exemption program for college students’ textbooks to lessen the cost of higher education for hardworking students and families.
  • Improve Graduation and Retention Rates
    • Encourage Texas schools to experiment with programs aimed at assisting first and second year students to navigate the personal and academic challenges they will face as they transition into higher education.
  • Expand the Number of Texas Universities Ranked at Tier One Status
    • Continue to support and encourage Tier One initiatives to ensure Texas creates more world-class research universities.

I must say this is the strongest higher education proposal I’ve seen in a long time. No doubt Texas needs movement on college retention and graduation rates, and the proposed sales tax break to college textbooks and supplies is something student activists have been proposing for quite a while.

“For too long, the insider network in Austin has left our schools underfunded, understaffed and our children undervalued,” said Senator Davis. “Greg Abbott has been in court, defending over $5 billion in cuts to more than 600 Texas school districts and the children who go to those schools. That means overcrowded classrooms, thousands of teachers being laid off, schools being closed down, and our sons and daughters missing out on opportunities that will prepare them for the 21st century.”

I don’t expect the Republicans to offer much of anything on higher education. The Texas economy needs a well-prepared workforce at all levels, so, I’m glad that Davis is elevating these topics. If the Republican response is, “How do we pay for it?,” then obviously, they aren’t all that interested in doing anything bold to improve access to higher education.

HD-132 Candidate Luis Lopez Visits the RGV

Candidate for Texas House District 132 (Katy-Houston area), Luis Lopez, is visiting the Rio Grande Valley today seeking facts and information from local law enforcement about the so-called “border crisis.”

On his way to the RGV last night, Lopez Facebook’d the following:

Unaccompanied minor. That was me. I arrived here with a coyote in order to reunite with my family. Today I reflect on it more than ever.

Tomorrow I will visit unaccompanied minors whose parents had the same dreams as mine – to give their children an opportunity for a better life.

Every challenge is an opportunity for leadership to make decisions that will save, shape and stand up for the future of these children.

You are not unaccompanied.

Today, Lopez visited Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Garza and he quotes the Sheriff:

Informative meeting with the sheriff of Hidalgo county. “The crime rate in our community has not increased, we are one of the safest counties in Texas. The National Guard will not benefit our cause. What we, sheriffs of border counties, need is better funding so that we can expand our effective efforts.”

The positive energy to support the unaccompanied minors in the county is amazing.

Obviously, this issue hits close to Lopez’s heart, having experienced what some of these child refugees have experienced. While his Tea Party opponent has been sounding the “secure the border” alarm, Luis Lopez has been seeking out the truth about the border, the child refugees, and solutions to move Texas forward regarding public safety, education, and health care for all Texans.

I’m glad Luis Lopez is in our corner. Visit his Facebook page and stay tuned for more reports from Luis Lopez.

 

Cowardly Republican Series: Runnin’ Rand Speaks!

Apparently, Rand Paul is a bit butt-hurt over being caught on video running from DREAMers in Iowa. Activist Erika Andiola and a colleague went up to Steve King, who once compared DREAMers to drug mules with large calves, while he was munching on a burger with Rand Paul. As soon as Erika stated she was a DREAMer, one sees Paul’s aide signal him and they both walk away.

King stuck around and debated Andiola about “the rule of law” and even complimented her English speaking abilities–considering she was raised in the US, that’s a big DUH for King. Anyway, all sorts of blogs and mainstream media have spent the day poking fun at Runnin’ Rand.

Today, Runnin’ Rand responded:

“I’ll be honest with ya, I’m not interested in being filmed and berated by people who broke the law and are here illegally to try and convince me about policy”…”But I’ll tell you I have sympathy for the DREAM Act kids. I’m actually a moderate on immigration.”

So, these kids are OK as long as they know their place?

Well, that’s nothing new coming from a Republican. Of course, there’s no DREAM Act to speak of to be calling these kids “DREAM Act kids.” They’re DREAMers and because every single Republican voted against it (and 5 blue dog Dems) in 2010, they’re only “DACAmented.”

Still, Republicans making fools of themselves on immigration is nothing new, whether they compliment ones English or run away from them or send the National Guard after a bunch of 7 year-olds. The ball is still in President Obama’s court.

Van de Putte Releases PreK-12 Plan

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, candidate for Texas Lt. Governor, released her PK-12 plan in San Antonio today.

As Lieutenant Governor, Leticia will:

  • Restore a strong start towards student success.
  • Maximize quality learning by reducing class sizes in Pre-K classrooms.
  • Invest in our students potential.
  • End the over-reliance on and punitive nature of standardized testing in Texas.
  • Expand student access to broadband and ensure quality blended learning.

Pretty standard stuff; however, these are issues long-ignored by the Republicans and Van de Putte’s opponent, Dan Patrick, is more interested in de-funding public schools.

What I found exciting about the plan was a commitment to increasing preparedness. As it stands, 1/3 of university students are enrolled in remedial courses and 1/2 of community college students are enrolled in remedial courses.

That said, I’m looking forward to Van de Putte’s higher education policy that hopefully addresses curtailing tuition increases by investing more in our colleges and universities, and college issues, such as state financial aid, college retention and graduation, intrusive college advising, etc. At least those are the kind of things in which this blogger is interested.

Big Week for Van de Putte, Offers Jobs and Economic Policies

letiDemocrat for Lt. Governor, Senator Leticia Van de Putte, has been enjoying a busy and productive week. Not only did she earn the endorsement of a major law enforcement organization (Texas Sheriffs), she also earned the nod of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Today, Van de Putte announced her Texas First Jobs and Economic Development policy proposals at my favorite, St. Arnold’s Brewery, after meeting with entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“As Lieutenant Governor, I will fight for a strong business climate and a quality workforce, so that businesses create jobs in Texas. Through fair and low taxes, predictable regulation, smart investments, and a public education that is second to none, we will foster a prosperous future for Texas businesses and workers.”

Van de Putte wants to foster entrepreneurship and small business growth and will do so by keeping Texas the “space state,” and supporting space exploration, streamline tax policies, investing in tech start-ups, attracting microlenders to support small businesses, and foster small business growth through the use of Jobs4Texas, Texas Enterprise Fund, and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

The Senator also proposes to ensure a business climate that will include a regulatory system that is fair. She states she wants to improve the environmental permitting process to help businesses moving into the state. Van de Putte also mentions her past support of regulatory changes that made it easier for breweries, distilleries, and wineries to get their products on the market.

She also wants to keep Texas competitive in a changing economy by protecting and strengthening the military and aerospace industry that pumps $150 billion into the state economy.

Of particular interest to this blogger was Van de Putte’s continued support of the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund which some say have been slush funds for Rick Perry’s favorite donors. The Senator wants to ensure accountability for these programs through a thorough applicant review process and a process by which Texas collects damages if the goals on which investments to an individual company are based are not met.  For the Tech fund, she will alter the composition of the board to ensure checks and balances.

Finally, Van de Putte wants to ensure the availability of workforce programs as it is predicted that by 2020, over 55% of jobs will require some sort of credential.

I’ll admit that, based on the current workings of the Texas economy, this is a strong proposal–heavy on business support and practical on regulatory matters. And this is what Texans are expecting from the state to ensure a positive jobs climate and safe workplaces.

Tonight, Harris County Democratic Party volunteers are filling up the HQ making calls in support of Leticia and the great candidates on the ballot. Visit her website and/or make a contribution!

 

 

Leader Pelosi Meets With South Texas Leaders

Thanks to the Leader’s staff for the invite to a photo-op of this meeting which shows that some folks in DC are actually listening to South Texas leaders regarding issues surrounding the child refugee situation in the Valley. Thankfully, I just received a press release from participant, Congressman Filemon Vela’s office, regarding the meeting.

The highlights:

  • None of the meeting participants expressed any support for reducing the due process rights of immigrant children, modifying the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, or deploying National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Participants agreed that the funds requested by the President are desperately needed to deal with unaccompanied children entering through the Rio Grande Valley.

I can’t say I’m in total agreement with the President’s request for money since he has stated that it would expedite court dates and deportation; however, the leaders today were in favor of protecting the due process rights of the refugees and protecting the 2008 Act signed by President Bush.

Leaders who attended provided some pretty strong statements regarding the President’s request for funds and Rick Perry’s National Guard deployment. Yesterday, President Obama announced he would send a Homeland Security team to study whether a federal deployment of National Guard troops would be necessary. Let’s hope he hears South Texas leaders (and not Rick Perry) loud and clear.

  • “As today’s meeting made clear, many South Texans do not support the HUMANE Act’s expedited removal process or deployment of the National Guard to the Rio Grande Valley,” said Congressman Vela. “A better approach is to: (1) provide the needed resources to address cartel activity in Central America, Mexico and across the U.S.; (2) support Customs and Border Protection by providing the necessary funding to increase the number of agents and support personnel; and (3) provide funding to the immigration court system to allow for speedier determinations pursuant to current law while protecting due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution.”
  • “Leaders from across the Rio Grande Valley, who are dealing directly with the unaccompanied children and their families, know firsthand what is most needed on the border and they all agree that sending National Guard troops to the border is not a solution to this humanitarian issue,” said Congressman Hinojosa. “The Rio Grande Valley is not suffering from public health issues or violence from the immigrants so there is no need to militarize the border. Doing so would be an affront to the good qualities our region has to offer.”
  • Texas State Representative Armando Martinez explained, “Deploying the National Guard is the wrong approach and sends the wrong message; we have a vibrant border community that is safe.  Those dollars could be better spent in the community for education, healthcare and transportation.”
  • City of Pharr Mayor Leo Palacios, Jr. noted, “My father came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1913 as a 13 year old boy, scared and penniless as a refugee from the Mexican revolution. He crossed the Rio Grande River along with his younger brothers and sisters, seven in all, seeking safety and refuge from the violence occurring in Mexico at the time. He and his brothers and sisters settled in Pharr, Texas just a few miles from the river they crossed. During the rest of their lives he and his brothers and sisters gave more than they took. His story is not unlike what is happening today. Yes it is 100 years later and many things have changed but what cannot change are the basic principles which have made our country the greatest country in the world today. Senator John Cornyn and Representative Henry Cuellar are both good friends of mine and I respect them greatly,” Mayor Palacios stated.  “However, I in good conscience, cannot support the immigration bill they have put forth. That would be the ultimate act of hypocrisy and contrary to what I have worked for all of my life. That 13 year old refugee from Mexico was accepted by our country and allowed to live in peace, start a life, obtain his citizenship, and contribute his fair share to his new country.”
  • City of Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia remarked, “The $12 million per month that it is estimated to cost to deploy the National Guard along the Texas border could be much better spent on economic development programs or to provide education to our children.  Crime statistics along the border are relatively low compared to other parts of the state.  Deploying the National Guard to turn away immigrants is not in line with our American values.”
  • Hidalgo County Chief Administrator Yolanda Chapa explained, “This is not a security crisis, and South Texas residents do not feel threatened by these unaccompanied children entering the U.S.  Our border community has compassionately responded to helping these children who are fleeing violence in their home countries.”

Democratic Responses to the Militarization of South Texas

Well, you all know how I feel about the militarization and politicization of South Texas 100+ days away from election day. Well, the press releases have finally made their way to my inbox and I’ve found these to be the strongest, thus far, especially Senator Rodriguez’s which points to past problems with the use of the National Guard the military at the border:

Leticia Van de Putte for Governor:  But to strictly militarize the border won’t help us meet this unique humanitarian challenge.  The people of the Rio Grande Valley have made that clear.

State Senator Sylvia Garcia:  Putting military troops on the ground is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.  We should be asking the President and Congress to put politics aside to help our border patrol agents deal with this unprecedented refugee situation and to put resources on the ground for the people who are actually tasked with securing the border and those who are sheltering the unaccompanied minors.

By militarizing the situation, we are going to encourage these children and families to avoid the authorities and cause more deaths and confusion.”

Emmanuel Garcia, Texas Democratic Party:  Governor Perry is continuing his routine of photo-op politics to further his Presidential aspirations….Perry’s use of our guard to score political points is wrong. This is a time for humanitarian support.

State Senator Jose Rodriguez:  Let us not forget less than 20 years ago, in 1997, National Guard troops were sent to the border and that action resulted in the tragic death of 18 year-old Ezekiel Hernandez, Jr. National Guard troops have no knowledge or training about the people who live in this region and will serve no real purpose in a border area where migrant children are willingly turning themselves into Border Patrol.

Militarizing the border isn’t going to solve the problems highlighted by the Governor. Neither will blindly spending millions of dollars without discernible accountability or metrics for success.

State Rep. Ana E. Hernandez:  Activating the Texas National Guard and militarizing the Rio Grande border does not address the problem given that these immigrants are voluntarily turning themselves in and according to local law enforcement there has been no increase in crime.

State Rep. Armando Walle:  Sending troops in to scare children is only the latest chapter in Gov. Perry’s pandering to resurrect his failed presidential run. Gov. Perry’s inappropriate, simpleton, and heavy-handed rhetoric and decision-making in this crisis showcase an ability and willingness to to appeal to fringe elements of his party while also serving as an alarming showcase of bad policymaking.

Wendy Davis, candidate for governor, reiterated her call for a special session to fund more deputies. I would respond, but people need to read it from people who don’t look like me, and PDiddie is on it.

Texpatriate has a take, too.

And Kuff has more, too.

 

 

Heroes and Photo Ops

Real Texas Heroes.

I’ve been against Rick Perry’s DPS Surge because the minute I heard about it, I knew he’d use it for propaganda and photo ops. Obviously, in the pic below, Rick Perry is more interested in scaring children with paramilitary uniforms and high-powered weapons. It doesn’t give me the image of “heroes.” I still believe Democrats should stay away from the surge other than to say how much of a waste of tax dollars this is.