Category Archives: Chicano Politics

SD-6 – The Money

Well, the Ethics reports are in and, not surprisingly, there seems to be a lot of money going in and going out in this race, especially through the campaigns of Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado. (I prefer to look at the raw numbers report than go page-by-page).

A look through Garcia’s finds money from unions and lawyers, along with many individuals. A look through Alvarado’s finds money from cops, firemen, and a lot of corporate/business PACs, and of course, individuals. I can’t say I’m a fan of big business/corporate PACs, but they usually do give to sitting State Reps. I couldn’t help but notice a few Republican colleagues giving Alvarad0 some checks, as well as local Republicans like Bob Perry. I guess that’s all part of the game, too, if you like that sort of thing. None of Garcia’s contributions set off my “There’s a Republican in the room!” alarms.

For Garcia, though, beyond what she’s expended, there is a huge $106K in-kind contribution from Texas Organizing Project PAC for the ground work (canvassing and phones) they are doing for the campaign as part of their endorsement. Obviously, this freed some cash to spend on the TV ads, which cost almost $135K.

From the looks of it, they are both running some disciplined campaigns with the usual expenses–consultants, signs, direct mail, printing, staff.

The bigger story is the fact that over $700,000 (and if you include the TOP in-kind, a lot more) has been spent and both are left with over $700,000 with 8 10 days until election day (of course, they could raise some more in the closing days, too). Thus far, and as of Tuesday, a little over 3,400 souls have voted, including 1,776 ballot-by-mail voters. In other words, less than 1,700 have voted in person, thus far.

There are seven more days of early voting left in which SD-6 voters may vote at any of the early voting polling locations.

As far as the rest of the candidates go, other than the big filing fee, not much else has been spent that could even compare to the top-two funded folks. But they have a lot of heart, I’m sure.

Update:

Wednesday Numbers – Today was the best day, thus far, of in-person voting in the SD-6 Early Voting period. One number that stood out was participation at Ripley House, which had 120 votes today after a low of 24 on Tuesday. I wonder if Joaquin Martinez’s Flash Vote helped?

Hopefully, this upward trend will continue.

Update:

Kuff has a more obsessive exhaustive take on the money. And Marc covers everyone who is obsessed with SD-6).

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Thompson Files Liquor on Sundays Bill

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) shot up the DosCentavos.net rankings for favorite legislator with her filing of a bill that would allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays.

Texas could potentially gain $7.5 million in new revenue every other year if the Sunday ban were lifted, according to a 2011 Texas Legislative Budget Board analysis.

Texas is looking for all sorts of new revenue without raising taxes and this is one idea that I enjoy. I don’t know how many Sundays I’ve spent thinking, “If only I could go buy a new bottle of Makers Mark today.” Seriously.

Beyond the love of libations, this just makes sense. If anything, I wish Texas was more like New Mexico, where I can walk into any Walgreens to buy a bottle of something. But this is definitely progress.

Does Rubio’s CIR Proposal Include Citizenship?

It never surprises me when non-Latino sites immediately praise Republicans who move a tiny bit toward a sensible immigration reform plan. The question to Republicans from pro-migrant advocates (and lefty bloggers) should always be:  Does it include a path to citizenship?

As I went through a power nap this afternoon with the MSNBC on in the background, I heard the terms Marco Rubio and Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the same sentence, and that awoke me! Reading more on the direction he’s headed left me wanting a longer nap.

It’s all still very vague and the White House and Senate have yet to produce a specific bill of their own to compare it to. But while Rubio stressed that his plan “is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship,” he made clear that the legislation he had in mind would strive to ensure that the undocumented population is not left in legal limbo indefinitely. Given that Rubio has toyed with bills that might have stopped short of citizenship before, this is a significant move.

And I call it a move toward announcing for 2016 with a kinder, gentler attitude toward Latinos, who only supported the GOP at about 27%. Creating a second class of people is not an option, just like creating multiple “temporary” work programs is not one. For Rubio and the Republicans, all it takes is appeasing another 18% of the Latino electorate to achieve a win.

It seems we all need a quick lesson on why citizenship matters, and the Center for American Progress provides us that lesson. And then, we must all push for citizenship in immigration reform proposals.

Here we review the top five reasons why citizenship—not just legal status—is of critical importance to our society and to our economy.

1. Big gains to the economy. A December 2012 study by Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins of the University of Southern California found that a path to citizenship leads to higher wages for naturalized immigrants both immediately and over the long term. Naturalized immigrants earn between 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent more within two years of becoming a citizen, and peak at between 10.1 percent and 13.5 percent higher wages 12 years to 17 years from the time of naturalization. Higher wages means more consumer spending, and more spending means more growth for the overall economy. Pastor and Scoggins also found that even if only half of those eligible to become citizens do so, it would add $21 billion to $45 billion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.

2. Economic gains for the native born. Numerous studies have found that immigrants raise the wages of the native born—for example, by complementing the skills of the native born and by buying goods and services, all of which expands the size of the economy. And with even higher earnings after naturalization, more money would be moving through the economy. The $21 billion to $45 billion in extra wages would be spent on things such as houses, cars, iPads, computers, and the like, and as people buy more products, businesses see more revenue and are more willing to hire new workers. Put simply, more money in the system creates economic growth and supports new job creation for all Americans.

3. Certainty for both immigrants and employers. number of scholars working on the economics of citizenship have pointed out that naturalization sends a signal to employers that their workers are fully committed to life in the United States, while also giving immigrants the certainty that they will never have to worry about suddenly uprooting their lives and moving elsewhere. This certainty gives employers the peace of mind that they will not have to retrain a new worker—often at high costs—if the immigrant employee loses their visa or chooses to move elsewhere, and gives individuals the stability to invest in more schooling and more job training, both of which ultimately lead to higher wages and better careers.

4. A stronger, more integrated United States. Since the founding of our country, we have granted citizenship to newcomers and have actively worked to ensure that they are fully integrated into everyday life. Nations such as Germany that historically denied citizenship to many immigrants have struggled to integrate those individuals into society, leading to blocked social and economic mobility. On the other hand, in countries such as Canada that expressly view immigration as a part of their national and economic successstudies find a greater sense of belonging and attachment to the nation among newcomers. Our goal should be the full integration of new Americans, not the creation of a permanent underclass.

5. Forward, not backward, on equality. The United States was founded on the idea that we are a nation of immigrants and that we gain strength from diversity. Over the past half-century—since Congress removed de jure racial discrimination from American life with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965—we have moved toward broader equality and a recognition of the power and strength that diversity brings to the nation. Instead of moving backward toward an idea of America as a country club that accepts some people as full members and rejects others, we must move forward toward greater equality. Creating a group that can legally reside in the United States but can never naturalize, can never vote, and can never become full and equal members goes against the very ideals that founded our nation.

 

NHPO Hosts SD-6 Forum

One side of the room.

The National Hispanic Professional Organization is known for a lot of good things, and putting on candidate forums is one of them. At Doneraki’s Gulfgate this morning, almost all of the candidates showed to shake hands, visit, and give a short stump speech, while the folks enjoyed some good food.

Sylvia Garcia, the former commissioner, was an early arrival and visited for a bit with attendees; unfortunately, she had to leave early for a funeral. In her place was surrogate and community activist Robert Gallegos. Gallegos spoke about Garcia’s record of serving East End constituents, especially regarding the METRO rail underpass for which she advocated and recently became a topic promoted in her direct mail campaign. Gallegos stated that Garcia “was the only elected official who responded” when the community stated its position against a proposed bridge.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado spoke on the various issues citing that people are “tired of negative campaigning.” Alvarado is in favor of restoring cuts made by the Republicans to education to the tune of $5.4 billion. She also gave mention to the need for vocational training because of the lack of a skilled workforce to fill Port jobs. Higher Education was also a topic in which she called for controlling tuition. Alvarado called for the Legislature to lower college tuition and ensure grants are available to those who need them. Finally, health care was another topic as Alvarado called for Republicans to vote to expand Medicaid to increase access to health care. One particular issue within health care was the cuts to reimbursement of Medicaid to nursing homes, thus affecting an increasing number of elderly Texans.

Republican Break:  The two Republicans in the mix took turns defending vouchers, Rick Perry, and stayed within the confines of their Republican Party platforms. The Latina Republican, Dorothy Olmos, explained that she became a Republican because of her “Christian values,” which left me wanting to ask, “Are you saying my 82 year-old Chicana mother who has been a Democrat for 64 years, and prays more than most Catholic nuns is not Christian?” Anyway…

Joaquin Martinez agreed with what most have been saying regarding schools, but believes that community’s leadership not changing is one of the problems. Stating there is a sense of complacency, he points to the low voter turnout as an effect, which has given him the drive to get involved and do something. He also pointed to his experience at a local nonprofit in which he has directly affected lives positively. Martinez called for a new conversation with new leadership that will create a support system community-wide.

Martinez’s challenge that the lack of change in leadership is the problem brought a couple of challenges from the audience. One East End resident defended the work of the late State Senator Mario Gallegos and his effectiveness. Martinez stated that he intends to continue the work of the Senator through community conversations, thus, involving the people in the process.

Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes continued the line of ensuring health care for the elderly,  expanding Medicaid and supporting a return of the $5.4 billion cut to education by the Republicans in the Legislature, as well as the creation of student support programs. Reyes also pointed to community complacency as a cause for low voter turnout which is not helped by the Houston Chronicle’s lack of reporting on all candidates; instead, it only reports on the two major candidates. He pointed to people he has visited in his blockwalks wanting change in their leaders stating that the people were not well-represented. This also brought a challenge from the audience with a defense of the late Senator. Reyes disagreed.

The Green Party’s Maria Selva spent her time promoting alternative and green energy as a means of expanding the energy industry and bringing more jobs to the area. Selva stated that the Transcanada oil pipeline will negatively affect the area, and that big oil’s interest must be curtailed with campaign finance reform; pointing to legislation being promoted by Senator Ellis and Rep. Senfronia Thompson. Selva supports expanding Medicaid. Selva also stated that she boycotted a Transcanada-sponsored debate last week.

Selva was asked what the Green Party represented. Stating that the Democrats have moved to the right, the Green Party has taken up the positions that the “old” Democratic Party used to support.

Also given time to speak to the group were Theresa Gallegos, widow of the Senator, and Lillian Villarreal, sister of Senator Gallegos. Both thanked the organization for hosting the forum, as well as thanked the candidates in the running. Mrs. Gallegos stated her strong support for Carol Alvarado, which is also what her late husband wanted.

There weren’t a lot of fireworks, but what was exhibited was a clear divide between experienced candidates and the new guard of candidates in the running. I have noticed the frustrations from the grassroots campaigns who have been trying to earn some name recognition in this vast district (Over 200,000 registered voters), while the two well-funded candidates have been running your usual disciplined campaigns. It makes sense that mainstream media will gravitate toward the moneyed campaign. That’s just political reality, unfortunately, but not a reason to simply stay out.

NHPO provided a forum for all to speak with equal time and should be commended for doing so. We all have our favorite candidates, me included, but when we have these kinds of forums (live or online), then it is important to be as inclusive as possible. Given my lefty attitude, I’ll sell the lefty side a lot more than anything else. (C’mon, I’m just a Chicano blogger!)

DC-Voice ~ Joaquin Martinez, Democrat for SD-6

DosCentavos.net attended the Power of the Community Rally in support of SD-6 candidate Joaquin Martinez. Martinez, a Democrat and community activist, has been running a grassroots campaign powered by volunteers and shoe-leather. I took an interest in this campaign because he was saying something different, plus he was attracting young voters who are seldom targeted in local campaigns. A crowd of over 125 was in attendance at Talento Bilingue Houston for this event. Here’s his stump speech from the evening.

Update:  I just noticed that some mobile apps may not be seeing the link to the Soundcloud file, so, here’s the link where you may connect.

{There’s an error in the embedding that I’m checking out, but click on the link  to directly access the recording.}

Mayor Parker Launches Parental Involvement Campaign

“Is My Child Ready?” was launched this week by the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives. The program’s work is to engage parents so that they may get more involved in their children’s education.

The campaign coincides with the release of students’ STAAR test results by area school districts scheduled for this spring.  The STAAR exams are part of the state’s new standardized academic accountability system.  The campaign will target “hard to reach” parents to encourage them to ask their schools key questions about their children’s performance on the STAAR test.

The commitment I liked most was this.

The campaign will promote parents’ long-term involvement in their children’s education with an emphasis on post-secondary readiness.  Currently, more than half of Texas freshmen in two-year colleges and nearly a fourth in four-year schools require remedial courses.  Deficient academic preparation also leads to low rates of college completion.

While Texas legislators are seeking ways of blaming college advising and student services offices as a means of cutting their budgets, it is good to see Mayor Parker promoting a solution, rather than some punitive measure, like I expect the Lege to do. It seems she knows one of the roots of the problem, so, hopefully, the Lege will follow suit and commit to these types of programs, too.

And it’s bilingual, too.

The multi-media campaign will deliver messages in various formats, including billboards, signage on METRO buses, electronic communications via SMS texts, emails and campaign websites and posters at libraries, multi-service centers and schools throughout the Houston region.  Public information sessions for parents will also be held.

TEXT “READY” or “LISTO” to 91011
The campaign invites parents to text “READY” to 91011 or visit www.ismychildready.org for key facts and specific questions to ask schools about their children’s STAAR test scores.  Spanish-speaking parents can text “LISTO” to 91011 or visit the campaign’s Spanish language website www.estalistomihijo.org.

“We want parents to talk with teachers and counselors and become informed on what they can do every day to help their children do well in the classroom,” said Mark Cueva, Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives division manager.  “Asking questions about a student’s performance on the STAAR test and what parents can do to help that child do better is a good starting point.”

For full information about the campaign, visit www.ismychildready.org.

Way to go, Mayor! Every bit counts in this effort! Perhaps partnering with local higher education institutions is a good next step?

SD6 ~ Re-Checking the Mail–Direct and Electronic

My post this morning about the start of early voting earned me a call-out about my take, and let’s just let be known that if you call me out and state your case, then, I can be a fair guy–even though this blog wasn’t designed to be “fair and balanced.” But I may just take the pay-route like the Chron, so, be warned.

So, I had written:

There was a flare-up yesterday over a Sylvia Garcia direct mail piece that called out Carol Alvarado’s METRO dealings, which PDiddie covers. Negative pieces are designed to tarnish competitors, and like most things, it’s all in the timing. It’s a lot harder to respond to a negative mail piece than to something on TV. And when the e-mail response to said piece has a couple of linked exhibits and is sent by a surrogate, well, it’s hard to be effective. Targeted voters have something tangible in their hands, in this case. Believe what you will, enjoy the negativity or not, in a race like this where there are too many similarities in issues stances, that’s what one does, beyond the door-to-door.

What seemed to me like an attack on Alvarado’s work for METRO was specifically about the East End rail line and the problem with running the new light rail line across the existing freight rail line crossing on Harrisburg and Hughes. One solution, which METRO supported, was an overpass–a six-block  long bridge over the freight line, 26 feet high. While many of the politicos supported it or thought it feasible, business owners and residents called for an underpass–below the freight line. So, as stated in the article, State Rep. Alvarado was hired as a consultant to find funding for the added cost of the project (bridge or underpass project). In the direct mail piece, Garcia seems to question Alvarado’s work for METRO in support of a bridge while also serving the same constituents who did not support METRO’s idea of a bridge.

In his response to the mail piece, CM James Rodriguez took exception to Garcia’s line of attack and provided a link to a letter from then-commissioner Sylvia Garcia which had stated that she supported “the concept of a bridge or underpass” at the freight rail crossing, and not just the underpass. Citing comments regarding elected officials and “guts” made by Garcia at a candidate forum, Rodriguez challenged Garcia  by stating that many of the area’s officials worked to find the funding for the project and that Garcia did not attend meetings on seeking a solution. Rodriguez further stated that Garcia “declined” to contribute County money to the project.

In fact, Garcia’s letter stated that there was no provision in the county’s most recent bond referendum for this money and that the county was “not in a position” to commit money for the proposed bridge.

So, hopefully, I’ve provided background and fairness to this whole thing about a mail piece. Obviously, there are differing takes and opinions to this whole thing and I have some of my own. Needless to say, the people got an underpass and that’s what matters.

To add a bit more fairness, there was a lot of online rumbling from supporters of Joaquin Martinez, who pointed to the two “serious” campaigns’ warring as a means of pushing the alternative–Joaquin. When other bloggers and even the Chron minimize the other candidates, they tend to get a little upset. As someone who has worked with those kind of candidates, I don’t blame them! But we all know political realities, and those other candidates do, as well.

As far as attacks go, let me say that I seldom mess with people’s livelihoods or personal lives when working campaigns–too many people can get hurt. The bigger story here is that the Texas Legislature was built to be occupied by wealthy people, or at least those who make enough money in their endeavors in a year that they are allowed to take 140 days off to be in Austin. (As if they don’t do Lege work the other days, right?). We seldom question the rich lawyers in the Lege about their money, thus, I’m not a fan of questioning anyone else.

Why can’t they all be like the late, great Ernie Glossbrenner? But that’s for a whole other blog post.

What About the Latina Wage Gap?

The National Partnership for Women and Families released some new information found in the most recent Census:  Latinas are getting hit worse by the gender wage gap.

In the 20 states with the largest number of Latinas who work full time, year round, the wage gap ranges from 51 and 68 cents for every dollar paid to men in those states.

The fact that there is a wage gap isn’t a surprise, but as women are said to make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, the fact that Latinas are making even less is cause for concern, and in the case of the National Partnership, action.

“Women of color are hard hit by a kind of perfect – and perfectly devastating – storm caused by discrimination, a struggling economy and the country’s failure to adopt family friendly workplace policies,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “These new data show that the wage gap is costing women of color thousands of dollars in critical income each year that could be spent on food, rent, health care and on meeting other fundamental needs for their families. It’s an unacceptable situation that should be a resounding wake-up call for lawmakers who have the power to do something about it.”

When one looks at it in real dollar figures:

Nationally, Latinas are paid just 60 cents for every dollar paid to all men. That amounts to a loss of $19,182 each year. In general, women of color fare worse than women overall, who are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to all men – or $11,084 less per year.

The National Partnership is supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act which would close loopholes to the Equal Pay Act and provide for stronger worker protections for women. This is definitely something that we must support.

The National Partnership’s findings for the 20 states with the largest numbers of employed Latinas and African American women can be found at www.NationalPartnership.org/LatinaGap and www.NationalPartnership.org/AAGap. More information on the wage gap can be found at www.NationalPartnership.org/FairPay.

SD6 Early Voting Begins Today

It’s early voting season–again! Well, at least in Senate District 6. All is quiet on the western front where I reside, but since so many opinions are available on this race, I’ll share mine soon enough. Still, it is very important for my friends, relatives, and even a few enemies that reside in SD6, to vote–and early! Kuff’s got a bit of an overview.

There was a flare-up yesterday over a Sylvia Garcia direct mail piece that called out Carol Alvarado’s METRO dealings, which PDiddie covers. Negative pieces are designed to tarnish competitors, and like most things, it’s all in the timing. It’s a lot harder to respond to a negative mail piece than to something on TV. And when the e-mail response to said piece has a couple of linked exhibits and is sent by a surrogate, well, it’s hard to be effective. Targeted voters have something tangible in their hands, in this case. Believe what you will, enjoy the negativity or not, in a race like this where there are too many similarities in issues stances, that’s what one does, beyond the door-to-door.

Beyond that, there have been a few opportunities for voters to attend forums, although I tend to like the community forums more than the “business” group forums. This is about the people, and not the contributors or people wanting a government contract. There are a few more opportunities this week and weekend, including one breakfast forum being hosted by the National Hispanic Professional Organization on Saturday.

Early Voting locations can be found here. With eight candidates on the ballot, there’s no excuse not to vote. Show up! It’ll make you feel good!

The Lege Begins: What’s Your Priority?

There’s no doubt that Latinos take a hit every time the Republican-led Texas Legislature meets. $5 billion in cuts to K-12 funding affects Latino kids who make up a majority of all Texas students. $1 billion in higher education cuts affects Latino college students who were made an admissions priority, yet struggle with college preparedness because of the K-12 cuts. Add to that cuts to health care, and, no doubt, a vicious circle appears that threatens to do in the State of Texas.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities released a statement today after the State Comptroller released a higher estimate than expected of the revenue that will be available for the next biennial budget.

“Today Texas lawmakers heard they will have $101.4 billion in General Revenue to work with when writing the 2014-15 state budget. However, $5 billion is needed for the Medicaid IOU, leaving $96.4 billion to barely continue the current barebones budget and leave in place the devastating 2011 cuts to education, health care, and other areas of critical need. In addition, the state’s Rainy Day Fund will have $11.8 billion available to support state services and investments by the end of 2014-15.

“With available revenue and the historically high Rainy Day Fund balance, which together total $108.2 billion, Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to return to the level of services provided five years ago—-before the financial crisis slashed state revenue. If we are willing to use the Rainy Day Fund, we could fund the rapid population growth and inflation while also undoing the devastating 2011 cuts that have left so many Texas families struggling.

“Today’s revenue estimate announcement officially begins this session’s budget writing process. Now, it’s up to state lawmakers to create a budget that reflects our state’s needs and priorities.

“Legislators should use the money available now to invest in the education and health care systems that will help ensure our state’s future prosperity.

If only it was that easy with the vicious Republicans at the helm. I say vicious because their attitude exhibits more than just plain carelessness as elected leaders, but a lack of care for their fellow Texans. Much like Boehner’s Republican Congress, it’s all about paying back their political contributors–the wealthy Texas corporations.

I was having a conversation with a Republican Latino friend from Denver Harbor and we both agreed that somewhere along the line there needs to be middle ground on which to move legislation that takes care of the people, the schoolkids, the college kids, and those who need health care. I even admitted that, as liberal as I am, even I understand the need for compromise. But if his side is going to talk or act crazy, then I’ll sound so left that I’ll put a few Latin American Presidents to shame.

So, while I’d love for the Texas Lege to come together and do the right thing, perhaps discuss the Texas HOPE legislative priorities, I expect for the Latino community to be on the defensive again from Republican attacks. Once Rick Perry rattles about his non-existent voter fraud and sanctuary cities, and when some other righty whines about HB1403 (Texas DREAM Act), Republicans will once again prove themselves a failure. Of course, we will fight back!

But if the Republicans prove me wrong, well, great!

Best of luck to my State Rep. Gene Wu and the rest of my friends in the Lege.