Category Archives: City of Houston

Leslie Contreras Schwartz Chosen as Houston’s Poet Laureate

Congrats to Leslie Contreras Schwartz! Here’s the press release from Mayor Sylvester Turner making the announcement:

Writer Leslie Contreras Schwartz has been selected as Houston’s fourth poet laureate, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announce today.

Her two-year term begins now, as National Poetry Month comes to an end. Schwartz was selected through a competitive application and interview process by a panel of literary experts.

Mayor Turner made the final selection. The poet laureate receives a $20,000 honorarium for the two-year term, funded by the City of Houston Hotel Occupancy Tax dedicated to the arts.

Contreras Schwartz will work closely with the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to carry out her community outreach project focusing on outreach to people with mental illness and mental health workers. She will also conduct eight workshops in partnership with Houston Public Library and mentor the Houston Youth Poet Laureate.

“The appointment speaks to the great work that this poet has done and will do as an ambassador of the City though poetry,” Mayor Turner said. “Houston will be well represented by Leslie through workshops and outreach work in non-traditional communities.”

The Poet Laureate program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who creates excitement about the written and spoken word as well as outreach activities, special programs, teaching and their individual works. The role of the Poet Laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms, and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words.

“The Houston Public Library congratulates Leslie Contreras Schwartz on becoming Houston’s fourth Poet Laureate and joins the mayor in recognizing her invaluable talent. Contreras Schwartz will bring her passion and extensive knowledge of poetry and writing to Houston’s communities,” said Lawson. “We are excited about working with her on a diverse spectrum of literacy programs that will instill the love of poetry and writing for children, teens and adults alike around the city.”

“As a native Houstonian whose family has deep roots in the city since the early 1900s, I am deeply honored to be named an ambassador for poetry in the city I love and call home,” said Leslie Contreras Schwartz. “I have dedicated my adult life to studying, reading, and writing poetry, and am excited to share this passion. My outreach plan will focus on using writing to improve mental health, particularly among non-traditional and underserved communities.”

She is a poetry editor at Four Way Review and works as a lecturer at the University of Houston. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s degree at Rice University.

Contreras Schwartz says her work examines the individual versus public bodies and documents experiences and narratives of those usually silenced, such as people with mental illness, sex workers, women who are trafficked, or children in custody.

Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, The Collagist, [PANK], Verse Daily, The Texas Review, Catapult, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Her new collection of poems, Nightbloom & Cenote (St. Julian Press, May 2018), was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky. In 2018, she was a featured poet for the Houston Poetry Fest. Her fiction will be included in Houston Noir, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda (Akashic Press, May 2019).

Before ‘‘passing the pen’’ to Contreras Schwartz, the outgoing laureate, Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton, is launching her community outreach project, a multi-video series of performance poetry celebrating neighborhoods of the City. These videos can be found on the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs Facebook & YouTube Pages and will be throughout the coming weeks. The first can be found: https://youtu.be/B-o76Pxz1gs

About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. With more than eight million visits per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.

About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs develops policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at http://www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs and follow us on Facebook & Instagram. Find fun stuff on Houston’s Cultural Events Calendar.

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2019 Houston Mayor, Council Races Shaping Up

Big thanks to Erik Manning of the Sharpstown Dems for keeping a list of incumbents and candidates up-to-date as many of us start thinking about the local election to be held in November.

The Mayoral race will be cause for a lot of ad buys and excitement on the ground–most of the money will be in this race. The open seat in District B has a growing list of prospects. The open seat being vacated by term-limited Ellen Cohen in District C will also be cause for a lot of activity and money flying around. District F’s right-winger Steve Le will hopefully get a good challenge by at least one of the candidates in what is usually a low turnout race–I really need a new council member. District J, some call it the newest Latino council district (out of 3 only 1 is brown), has a chance to actually a elect a brown person, although, the voting population is diverse and any candidate will be required to play well with all of the communities.

There are a couple of at-large races that are getting exciting, too. I’ve made my choice in At-Large 1 hoping that Raj Salhotra can work past a couple of perennial candidates and anyone else who signs up to unseat Mike Knox. There are several candidates who will try to unseat Kubosh in At-Large 3, thus far. And it seems like the entire city is running for At-Large 5, which is finally being vacated by term-limited Jack Christie (he seems to have been there forever!). Surely, there will be more signing up for all of the races before the deadline. I have no favorites in the latter two races, though. I don’t care how much money one is raising, it is sincerity, ideas, and a little bit of retail politics which earns my support early. If  one is good, the money will come. So, I’ll be keeping an eye out.

This is just an early look and a reminder that we have a very important election in November. We need to do a lot better than low double-digit turnout. And we need to be smart about our choices–getting through the bullshit that will surely be well-financed by special interests and wealthy candidates. Although the activity of people signing up seems exciting, it’s the work of the candidates that will make it exciting (and for incumbents, their actions).

I’ll have more on the individual races in the future. For now, enjoy finding out more about the candidates! Click here to see the list of candidates.

 

Same Characters, Same Border Fear-Mongering

The Lite Gov of Texas told El Cheeto he’d build the wall for him and the orange one ran with it.

“One of the things that Dan Patrick suggested, which I thought was very interesting, was: Give the state of Texas a relatively small amount of money — they’ll build a wall themselves, cause they wanna build it,” Trump said.

Talk about boondoggles.

Although, I still think I can do it cheaper than you. … You do things very well in Texas, and I like that idea, so we’ll take a look.”

If this doesn’t sound like a competition for kickbacks on kickbacks, I don’t know what else it could be. Of course, there’s also the racist nature of Trump and Patrick who salivate at the thought of banning brown people from the USA.

Patrick’s idea is a 200 mile wall from Brownsville to Falcon Lake–basically, South Texas. And Texas will still spend another billion dollars on the current boondoggle of a “border surge” that has destabilized communities and militarized the border.

Needless to say, the Texas legislative session just got a little more interesting.

Here in Houston, Chief Art Acevedo joined the debate by stating that the border issue is overblown and that more money is needed for law enforcement on the streets of Houston. A recent murder of a child by alleged gang members has brought the gang issue back into the light.

ABC13 reported on this with the cops union boss blaming the border and immigrants for Houston crime, thus supporting Trump’s policies. This is nothing new as the cops union has supported racist policies like SB4, 287g and Secure Communities in the past.

This is why I’ve always told “progressive” politicians: Stay away from bigoted policies and those who support them! You’ll never out-bigot the bigots.

I’m expecting border issues to become localized as the cops union gets involved and somehow it all makes it into the mayoral debates of 2019. When Houston is experiencing a host of issues, lack of money, and lack of political will, blaming others for problems is to be expected.

Stay tuned, folks.

Raj Salhotra Announces Bid for Houston City Council At-Large 1

During the election and holiday season, I saw this young leader, Raj Salhotra, working rooms and talking to voters and activists about his intention to run for Houston City Council At-Large 1. To say he’s impressive is an understatement. On Monday, he made his announcement through social media:

Today I am excited to announce my candidacy for Houston City Council At-Large Position 1. Houston is an incredible city because of its diversity, its can-do spirit, and its opportunity. I love Houston because it made my immigrant family’s American Dream possible. However, as a teacher, I saw students and their parents who shared my family’s aspirations yet were trapped in poverty because of policy failures. I am running for Houston City Council to build One Houston where every community, family, and child— regardless of zip code—can reach their dreams. I cannot do this alone, so I am asking for your help to join me in building this movement. There are three ways you can help:

1. If you are interested in knocking on doors, phone banking, hosting events, or attending meetings, please visit www.rajforhouston.com/volunteer to join us.

2. If you can contribute financially, please visit www.rajforhouston.com/contribute. Every dollar counts, and I very much appreciate all of your support.

3. Please follow our campaign on Facebook by liking our page Raj For Houston. We will post updates there and would love to hear from you about your vision for Houston.

Thank you for your support, and I know that together we can build a Houston that ensures all of us can reach our dreams.

Visit his website and social media to keep up with Raj Salhotra. He’ll be meeting you soon, for sure.

 

Thoughts on HD145

Well, I’ve been asked what I think of the Special Election for Texas HouseDistrict 145 and my favorite answer to them has been, “I live in HD137!”

Still, when one of the candidates is a long-time friend for whom one has put up signs, passed out push cards, and helped raise money, it’s hard to stay quiet.

That said, there are eight in the running for HD145, the seat once held by newly elected Texas Senator Carol Alvarado (congrats to her, by the way). The most familiar name to me is Melissa Noriega, who temporarily filled the HD145 seat when she was called up to serve in the seat while the officeholder was called to war. She also served three terms on the Houston City Council having effectively earned citywide support, which shows her campaign abilities. In both positions, Noriega served well and was among the most responsive members of the Council during that time. I did my part to get out the vote during my time in the ‘burbs for Melissa Noriega, so, needless to say, I am rooting for her in this race.

Read more about Melissa Noriega. She has served her community in education, nonprofits, and community groups. Always responsive and always ready to listen to constituents–what I believe are the two most important qualifications of a state representative.

As far as the other candidates are concerned, I know De La Garza ran previously for the seat and Del Toro ran with a lot of heart for Pasadena City Council recently. The others, I guess I don’t run in their circles, but I have friends that are supporting one of the others.

I do want to hear more about all of the candidates’ positions as the 86th Lege Session is about to begin and already plenty of bills have been filed. Other than De La Garza and the right-winger, I haven’t seen much in the form of policy pronouncements:  Where do they stand on HISD and education finance? Public schools or charter/privatization? Where do they stand on SB4? Where do they stand on criminal justice reform? Where do they stand on voting rights? Where do they stand on billions wasted on border militarization? You know stuff on which we have been attacked in recent times.

I prefer to see a campaign of issues rather than a popularity contest. But maybe that’s just me. Anyway, some asked where I stood, so, I responded.

Best of luck to the candidates. I know I have friends working in two of the campaigns, at least. Early voting starts January 14th. Election Day is January 29th.

OCT 4-5-6, 2018: FESTIVAL CHICANO HOUSTON

The 39th Annual Festival Chicano is upon us again and will be held October 4 – 6, 2018 at Miller Outdoor Theater.

As always, Daniel Bustamante and his crew will feature the best in La Onda Tejana, including Latin Breed, Gary Hobbs, Ruben Ramos and The Mexican Revolution, David Marez, Avizo featuring Hugo Guerrero and Oscar G, and the King of the Brown Sound (and Beto O’Rourke supporter) Little Joe y La Familia. Also featured will be Impozzible, Negami, and Stevie D. A lot of talent in a few days.

The event attracts over 5,000 Chicanos and others each night. What a time for, say, Democratic candidates and their minions to walk around wearing their campaign tees and be seen. I always wear my campaign tees.

Anyway, it’s free, it’s great music, and it’s nuestra cultura. Enjoy it before some orange baboon outlaws it. And then take your cultura to the polls in November.

Calling Out Our Own: Following The Money

Now, let’s see what liberal freak-out happens next

For years, the Democratic attack against Republicans has had a mantra to convince the voters that one side is bought:  “Follow the money!”

Some of us actually do.

When it comes to private prisons and the border boondoggle that comes with it, both sides seem to enjoy the cash that comes from the industry, and the Texas Observer posted an article which outlines how much money the Dems have received in recent times.

Now, no doubt, Republicans have enjoyed more of the cash, but that’s not the point, right? And this is a national problem as even Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and other nationally known Democrats are known to have taken tons of that cash. Some of these national Dems are even publicly calling out the warehousing of children while still taking that cash. When they start showing up at rallies, well, some of us get a bit annoyed.

In Texas, though, the private prison industry is huge. Corporations like GEO and CORECivic (Corrections Corporation of America) have been hired by the state government to house inmates, along with being hired by the feds to warehouse detained migrants. Some even run the “family residential centers” that have housed migrant families–and not just by Trump.

And the way some of these work:  Local government builds facility; locals give contract to private prison company to run it; private prison gets contract from state or feds; State and Feds ignore complaints about treatment of inmates, lack of health services, etc. It’s a vicious cycle in which multiple levels of politicians earn some easy campaign cash.

Needless to say, the list includes some of Texas’ favorite Democrats, such as former State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. I remember she supported the Texas DPS border surge that is still ongoing and costly. Then I see our own current Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner having received some cash when he was in the Lege. No surprise, there are also “border” representatives like Judith Zaffirini, Tracy King and others who enjoy, or have enjoyed, private prisons as some of the biggest employers in their districts, so, their support kept those private jails filled to the max.

Others on the list have been champions of offender second chances and sentencing reform for poor offenders who can’t pay fines.

I’m sure they’ll have their reasons for taking the checks. Some may just call them “unsolicited” contributions. Current candidate for State Senate (SD19) Roland Gutierrez is one of those and is donating his $250 to a good cause. [Update:  Gutierrez has accused his opponent Pete Gallego of accepting a $5,000 contribution from private prison giant GEO Group; however, further research has found that during the 2013-2014 campaign season, Gallego accepted over $12,000 from GEO and Corrections Corporation of America.] But whether it’s now, when children and families are being locked up in these freezers, or whether “back when” the state of Texas was in a run-up to locking up every low-level offender to fill official and rented jail space, it’s always been wrong to support these badly run facilities.

But, there is a quick-fix! If a check was received, donate it! MALDEF, Grassroots Leadership, Texas ACLU and others are assisting in representing and bonding out detained migrants. Put this bad money to good use. Thankfully, it’s not as much as Greg Abbott, who has a price tag hanging out his hind-side for just about any right-wing interest. And, then, never take a dirty check again.

Remember the question posed by the Observer:  Could it become a liability for Democrats? For most of these Dems in safe districts, probably not. For former Lege members who are now high-paid lobbyists, even less. For Dems as a whole, well, the Republicans are already playing their strategy of “they did it too!” The Republicans are lock-and-goose-step supportive of the money and locking up immigrants and citizens, alike, but when the Democrats make statements against the latest Republican anti-immigrant policy while holding a check from the industry, well, it just looks bad.

Donate it!

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Planning Baby Jail for Houston

The rumors began with a “job opening” post from Southwest Key, the same “nonprofit” that runs the child jail at the former Wal-Mart in the Valley, that was making the  rounds. Houston Councilman Robert Gallegos and others investigated to find out it’s true:  The Trump administration plans to open a “temporary” child prison to warehouse children taken out of the arms of migrant parents escaping Central American violence and poverty.

State Senator Sylvia Garcia issued a statement:  Now is the time to gather together to stop this baby jail before a single child seeking refuge is locked up in our city. The Trump administration has made it clear that it will rip children away from their parents despite legal and child development experts telling them that it is unnecessary and known to cause lifelong harm. No law requires this. Humanity demands compassion. We must say as a community with one voice that jailing children away from their parents is wrong, it should not happen anywhere, and we as Houstonians will not allow it to happen here. Not now. Not ever.

Houston City Council Member Robert Gallegos:  While the City was not involved in the decision or notified beforehand, we will advocate for these children and do all we can to ensure they are cared for with compassion and dignity. Children should be with their families, not warehoused in a detention center hundreds of miles away from their parents. The Trump administration’s inhumane policy of separating families is shameful and goes against the very values our nation was founded on. Congress has failed on immigration reform so many times before. But now, more than ever, lawmakers must seize this moment to pass legislation to end this unnecessary policy and protect children.

Lupe Valdez, candidate for Governor:  The Trump administration and Governor Abbott’s fear-based approach to immigration is inhumane and un-American. These migrant families came to our border because they believed in the hope and promise our country has always offered — and we must treat them with decency.

Lina Hidalgo, candidate for Harris County Judge:  I am devastated that more than 2,000 children have been taken away from their parents in the name of the country of which I am so proud. Children are too precious, and their minds too impressionable, for any of us to stand by while they are traumatized. These children must be returned to their parents, and our government must end its policy of forced separation of families immediately.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado:  My legislative district has now been selected as a site where many of these children will be placed. Years from now, when these children have grown up, some of them will ask how Houstonians responded during their time of confinement here. These children need our support.

Beto O’Rourke, Congressman and candidate for US Senate (Texas):  When our country takes kids away from their mothers and fathers as punishment for coming to this country to seek asylum, when we call those kids “unaccompanied alien children” after we’ve forcibly “unaccompanied” them and sent them to shelters without any clear idea of when, or if, they’ll see their moms and dads again…we’d like to say this isn’t us, this isn’t what we do, this isn’t America.

State Rep. Ana Hernandez:  We will not stand by and silently watch while families are being torn apart and children are detained in prison facilities. A baby jail for immigrant minors forcibly taken from their families has no place in Houston.

More statements will be added as they arrive.

Sunday 4/15 – Los TexManiacs at Discovery Green

Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs are headlining the Discovery Green Birthday Bash this coming Sunday, April 15. The Bash starts at noon with Los Texmaniacs hitting the stage around 4:35pm.

Discovery Green is celebrating 10 years and those years have been filled with plenty of great and free family events. Here is the schedule:

The event schedule is as follows:
12–4 p.m.
Cultural performances by Ballet Folklorico, Aztec dance by Danza Quetzalli, Dance of Asian America, Brazilian Arts Foundation and more on the Anheuser-Busch Stage

12:15–12:30 p.m.
Drumline on the White Promenade

1 p.m.
Reading by Writers in the Schools BLOOMS on the Lindsey Waterside Landing

1–3 p.m.
Performance by Cirque la Vie on the Jones Lawn

4–6 p.m.
Performances by Los Texmaniacs on the Anheuser-Busch Stage

Los Texmaniacs are set to release their new album, Cruzando Borders, on May 11. I’m pretty sure some of the new stuff is on their set-list. Go check them out and enjoy some Tex-Mex Conjunto and Americana music.

Mayor Turner Encourages HS Seniors and Juniors To Compete for Art Scholarships

From the Inbox:

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs encourage City of Houston high school juniors and seniors to apply for the Mayor’s Art Scholarship program.

Winners will receive scholarships up to $1,000 for their original art work.

Students can submit one piece of visual artwork, matted and ready to display, no larger than 30” x 36,” with a written description of the work.

The winning artwork will be displayed at Houston City Hall throughout April 2018.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Monday, March 26. See details and entry forms at: http://houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs/artscholarship.html

The Mayor’s Art Scholarship competition fosters collaboration among Houston-area high school fine arts departments and recognizes excellence in student art, which expresses cultural identities and features of life in Houston area neighborhoods. The program is a partnership among the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Houston Arts Partners and the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

For more information about the City’s Cultural Programs go to www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs/ or follow the Mayor’s office of Cultural Affairs on Facebook @HoustonMOCA.