Category Archives: City of Houston

Gonzalez Continues With 287(g); Goal Remains to Stop Program

A protest of immigrant removal program 287(g) is slated for today, January 26, 2017 at the Sheriff’s HQ at 10AM. This is in response to what is seen as a lack of action by the newly minted Sheriff who made a campaign promise to rid his office of the program; as well as Trump’s recent actions on so-called sanctuary cities and other immigration policies.

In an interview on Mundo Hispanico with Sylvia Oben, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez states that he didn’t know the amount of grant funds that were connected to the immigrant removal program and how difficult it would be to leave the program; however, ridding the county of 287(g) remains a goal, but that it has to be in a responsible manner that ensures people who commit violent and serious crimes are detained like anyone else.

Gonzalez also touched on his priorities, which include jail overcrowding and bail reform to decrease overcrowding. But that becoming a sanctuary county, like Travis County, is not being discussed.

That funds and a flawed program like 287(g) are connected is not a new thing. If anything, it seems like the only excuse used by law enforcement leaders to keep the program. That’s, unless you’re an anti-immigrant zealot who just enjoys targeting immigrants. The program is known to net few violent criminals, as was seen when Harris County became one of the top counties to hand over to ICE low-grade offenders. The vast majority of law enforcement leaders see it as a useless program that leads to racial profiling in the field and is just ineffective.

So, the goal remains to get rid of 287(g), but perhaps his political consultants should have advised him to not make such Obama-esque promises. We just ended eight years with 3,000,000 deportations, thousands warehoused in local jails and private prisons, families separated, economies affected. And much of this was assisted by the last Democratic Sheriff in Harris County.

When a politician makes a promise, they’re expected to act quickly. Or else, they should just say what Gonzalez said in the interview and not in his campaign flyers.

By all means, please protest today.

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The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts

As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.

District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.

That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.

Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.

Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.

Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.

The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.

 

Local Leaders Reinforce Houston as Welcoming City

onaic300Mayor Sylvester Turner today announced the creation of the Office of New Americans, an office which will assist immigrants and refugees with services that will help with their integration into their new hometown. By looks of the website, it is more of a clearinghouse of information, and that’s a good thing.

The Mayor reiterated Houston’s commitment to being a Welcoming City, stating that a task force he created on immigrant communities is developing best practices on how to address the needs of the immigrant community. To the community he said he has their backs.

“Many members of our community are living in fear and asking whether they will continue to have a place in our great city,” said Mayor Turner. “I want all of our residents, including immigrants and refugees, and people of all faiths, to feel safe and protected.  The Houston that existed before the November election is the Houston that still exists today.  We will not tolerate violence or criminal activity against anyone.  Houston is going to remain a city where all are welcome, where neighbors look out for one another and where we are proud of our diversity.”

He passed the mic over to new Houston ISD Superintendent Carranza who stated that schools will not be where immigration raids take place. Citing past Supreme Court decisions, he strongly reiterated that all students have a right to a free education.

Carranza went on to list some of the tasks they have worked on to show their commitment:  Distribution of immigrant rights fact sheets; Hosting a DREAM Summit to provide college and financial aid information to parents and students; and utilizing teachers to distribute information to encourage open discussion on political topics; and a January 4 informational phone bank to assist immigrant families.

Finally, Carranza stated that public schools are not in the immigration enforcement business and that they do not track student immigration statuses. “We will see you in school every single day.”

Chief Art Acevedo encouraged the immigrant community to work with HPD in reporting crimes and facts of crimes without fear of deportation or detention. Acevedo stated that HPD is in place to fight crime and their singular goal is to go after those who do wrong. In Spanish, he stated, “No somos agentes de inmigracion,” or, “We are not immigration agents.”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and State Senator Sylvia Garcia also addressed the press conference ensuring constituents that they would stay strong in the fight against bad anti-immigrant policies. State Rep. Gene Wu stated that “we will not be divided and that we stand as one.”

Councilmembers Laster and Gallegos also reflected on the diversity of Houston as a source of strength, stating that they will continue to be of service to the immigrant community. Laster’s is the most ethnically diverse council district, while Gallegos’ is a strongly Latino-populated district. “Everyone will be heard and respected,” stated Laster.

I was unable to attend, but thanks to a couple of buddies and KHOU, I was able to watch the live feed. At the tail end of the press conference, there was a bit of back and forth regarding sanctuary cities, but as feeds go, they were sort of going kaput. Needless to say, Sanctuary Cities will be a major issue in Texas in the Legislature. Dan Patrick has committed to passing Senate Bill 4, a bill to ban sanctuary cities. Will Houston utilize its lobbying pros to try to knock that bill down? (At least, that’s what I would have asked.)

[Here’s a cold, hard fact:  While it is easy to commit to protecting children of immigrants from raids and rhetoric, their parents have just as big, if not bigger, target on them and deserve protection, too.]

From the looks of online reactions, many left the press conference feeling good about Houston and what they had just heard. The fact of the matter is that there are real battles ahead which require political leaders at all levels to take a stand against anti-immigrant policies. But as my friend Cesar Espinosa of FIEL called the Mayor’s new initiatives, “it’s an important first step.”

We’ll keep an eye on things. And, thank you, Houston leaders, for stepping up.

Mayor Turner Signs DACA Letter to Trump; Will Announce Welcoming City Effort

turnerThere’s been a soft grumble regarding what some activists call a lack of attention by Mayor Turner and the City of Houston’s commitment to keeping the city’s law enforcement out of the immigration enforcement business in this new era of Trump.

The recent hiring of HPD Chief Art Acevedo and the recent signing of a letter by many big city mayors, including Turner, asking soon-to-be President Trump to protect DACA beneficiaries from deportation, have provided somewhat of a signal of where the Mayor stands. During his stint in Austin, Chief Acevedo spoke out against the use of 287(g), an immigration enforcement tool for local law enforcement agencies.

While speaking out against 287(g) as a law enforcement leader brings a little comfort, the DACA letter only represents the protection of less than 800K young people nationwide from deportation. Of course, with 287(g) still in play, so is the opportunity for racial profiling and immigration round-ups. Activists want to see more from local governments given Trump’s standing on deportations.

Since election day, many city mayors have come out against 287(g) and the federalizing of local law enforcement, including some of Texas’ large cities. Specifically, they have stated they would not cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement. Locally, incoming Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has been vocal, as well.

Local government leaders around Texas are now facing the threat of losing state funding if they remain “sanctuary cities.” Greg Abbott has now threatened universities who have committed to providing a sanctuary from immigration enforcement. The threat against Latinos and immigrants in Texas because of Republicans’ threat of legalized racial profiling and funding cuts is very real. The fear, also, is very real.

According to the Mayor’s public schedule, he will be announcing a community effort to reinforce Houston as a “Welcoming City.” Texas Organizing Project is promoting the Monday morning, December 12, event on Facebook to be held at 9AM at NCI Baker-Ripley Chase Opportunity Center, 6500 Rookin, 77074.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Event: 37th Festival Chicano ~ OCT 6, 7, 8, 2016

Time to lock-in Festival Chicano on your calendar! See you there! (Note:  Saturday line-up changed as Mazz is unable to make it. Ram Herrera added to the line-up with David Lee Garza headlining.)

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Register Today!: Mayor’s Back to School Festival

Click on the image to register for this mid-August event.

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Rally to Raise Houston – Friday May 27

seiujanitorsTen years ago, Houston Janitors won a courageous battle for better wages and working conditions. Ten years later, the Janitors are fighting to to get ahead and to achieve a new contract with major office building owners to contract with better paying contractors.

Members of the SEIU invite all of Houston to join the Houston Janitors as they as they come together to fight for dignity, respect, and fair pay.

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016 at 4PM

2000 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77056 

The facts are these. 30% of workforce makes less than $12/hour. Union janitors make an average of $9.35/hour. And Janitors in other cities make more, while rent for offices are less than what Houston building owners make.

IF THE CONTRACTORS WIN

  • Wages as low as $29 a day

  • No guaranteed wage increase

  • No affordable benefits

  • No vacation time

  • Seniority is not recognized

  • No paid holidays

  • No way to solve job problems

IF WE STAND UP FOR OUR UNION

  • Wages at least $9.35/hr

  • Guaranteed yearly wage increase

  • Affordable health care when you work 30+ hours

  • 1 week vacation/year

  • With seniority, up to 2 weeks vacation

  • 6 paid holidays

  • Regular way to solve job problems

Central Business District Office Rents and Union Janitorial Wages

City CBD

Rental Rates ($/sq ft)

Janitor Wages ($/hr)

Houston

41.12

9.35

Seattle

39.12

15.75

Chicago

36.79

16.76

Denver

34.21

12.60

San Diego

29.28

11.65

Philadelphia

28.19

16.89

Minneapolis

27.18

15.12

Detroit

20.64

11.97

Source: JLL quarterly office statistics reports (2015 Q4), SEIU contracts.

Mayor Turner Announces Resource Fairs in his March on Crime

turnerMayor Sylvester Turner has the right idea.  The best way to combat crime is to provide resources to low income, high crime areas. Mayor Turner announced the development of resources fairs that will provide these areas with access to job training, resume writing assistance, social services agencies, among other needed services, especially to those trying to turn their lives around after some lapses in judgment. Recidivism is a major challenge in our community that could be overcome by just opening minds and opportunities for an often stigmatized group of people. Here’s more info:

Turnaround Houston will offer access to job training, resume writing, tattoo removal, social service agencies, educational institutions, counseling and intervention to help hard to employ Houstonians turn their lives around.

“There are Houstonians who have difficulty securing employment due to a variety of reasons which may include a lack of education, prior criminal history, poverty, mental health issues and a lack of positive influences,” said Mayor Turner. “There is a part of our city that is in dire need of assistance and it’s our responsibility to ensure that they are plugged into vital resources and become a part of our city’s success. With the launch of Turnaround Houston, we want to eliminate the barriers to employment by offering a roadmap to a brighter future.”

As a part of this initiative, Houstonians who are hard to employ should also know that if they connect with the resources that are available, they can turn their lives around. There are thousands of success stories in the city, one such example is Angel Ponce who works in theMayor‘s Office of People with Disabilities. Ponce was previously involved with a gang and suffered a life altering accident which finally pushed him on the right track.

“I used to have tattoos on my face, I didn’t care what I looked like and I didn’t have a future. I had known about the services available to me at the City of Houston through the Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office, but I didn’t take advantage of them until I suffered a spinal injury which caused me to re-assess my life. I am now a productive part of society helping former gang members and those with disabilities such as my own. This wouldn’t have been possible without the City’s resources,” said Ponce.

Each Turnaround Houston resource fair will include workshops on resume creation and interview tips. Participants can also learn how to start their own businesses and hear the success stories of Houstonians who have received a second chance.

The first resource fair will take place Saturday, March 26, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, 9413 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77033 and is sponsored by Houston First and the Port of Houston Authority.  The dates for the additional fairs will be announced at a later time.

Turnaround Houston resource partners- Include:

  • The Office of Business Opportunity
  • Mental Health Services –Health Department
  • Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office
  • The City of Houston’s Re-entry program
  • Workforce Solutions/Neighborhood Centers
  • SER Jobs for Progress
  • Houston Area Urban League
  • Dress for Success
  • Career Gear
  • Franklin Beauty School
  • Summer Jobs Program-City of Houston

To see a full list of employers, resource partners and to register log on to www.turnaroundhouston.org.

 

Juliet Stipeche Joins Turner Administration

stipecheCongrats to one of my favorite great minds in the world, Juliet Stipeche, on being named Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Director of Education. It isn’t often when one meets such an intelligent and forward-thinking individual who has been able to push through the political muck and still end up being productive–and for all the right reasons. She’ll be great at this job.

Here’s the press release:

Mayor Sylvester Turner has selected former Houston Independent School District Trustee Juliet Stipeche to serve as Director of Education, a new position within the mayor’s administration.

“Juliet is very passionate about education and children and I share that passion,” said Mayor Turner.  “She is a visionary with transformative ideas.  Her collaborative approach of working with parents, administrators, business, law enforcement and neighborhoods will help achieve my goal of moving this city forward and reducing the income inequality that is so often the result of deficiencies in the education system.”

Stipeche comes to the mayor’s office from Rice University where she was Associate Director of the Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity.  She spent five years as a trustee on the Houston Independent School District Board, including serving as President in 2014.  Since 2007, she has been Shareholder of Counsel at Nagorny & Stipeche, P.C.  She has written and presented lectures on nearly 20 topics ranging from demanding excellence in education to empowering students in today’s world to educating for equity in Texas.  Her law degree was earned at the University of Texas and she graduated magna cum laude from Rice University with a B.A. in Political Science, Policy Studies and Religious Studies

Stipeche’s professional affiliations include membership in the State Bar of Texas, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, the Mexican American Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association of Houston, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Texas Association of School Boards and the National School Boards Association.

“The creation of this new position is meant to compliment, not compete, with the hard work of our area school districts,” said Turner.  “Creating the strong, well-educated Houston of tomorrow will require everyone working together.  Juliet is the perfect choice for ensuring my vision gets implemented.”

“I am excited and deeply honored to work with Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is committed to building a City where educational equity and opportunity exist for every child regardless of zip code,” said Stipeche.  “I look forward to collaborating with fantastic community partners to build lasting relationships to promote educational excellence in the City of Houston.”

Stipeche joined Mayor Turner’s administration effective February 1, 2016.

#StaceSlate Goes 5-2; Houston Elects Turner

Thanks to not picking in a couple of races, I went 5-2 with my City of Houston run-off picks. Congratulations to Sylvester Turner, Chris Brown, David Robinson, Amanda Edwards, and Mike Laster, AKA The StaceSlate. Of course, I am saddened to lose my own CM Nguyen–but not by much. And about my friend, Jason Cisneroz, I will say that he’s not done yet.

Here are a few thoughts that came to mind as the vote was coming in:

21.36%:  Turnout was sad, to say the least. It is safe to say that if over 700K other Houstonians really cared about their city (other than standing in line for hours at Krispy Kreme or spending the time to find a matching arm cast for their #99 jerseys), we’d have some major wins on election night. I don’t know what the solution is, but while a few non-voters may have issues with those in the running, at some point one just has to chalk it up to laziness and lack of caring. Or as my favorite t-shirt states:  Los Pendejos No Votan.

And Then There Was One: Latinos are now left with one Latino on the Council table–Robert Gallegos. As I half-jokingly, half-seriously told someone close to Gallegos, he’s also reppin’ us brown folks on the west side of town. Some will say we shouldn’t break things down by race or ethnicity, but I say those folks miss the mark with their hopes for some sort of utopia. No one understands a community better than someone who has had close to similar experiences–at times it may be socioeconomic circumstances, other times it may be due to similar negative experiences at the hands of right wingers. Of course, sometimes, ethnic representation isn’t all it is cracked up to be, and to this, I thank Amanda Edwards for handing Right-Wing Roy Morales an embarrassing loss. Ultimately, representation is also about standing and defending against what is wrong in the world, so, we have a responsibility to elect the right people. It would just be nice if we could elect a few brown people; especially citywide. Hint-Hint:  2019 At-Large seats!

2016: Whether it was the city elections or the coming Democratic Primary, I’ve heard (and read) friends of mine bemoan competitive races. There were folks upset we had Turner, Garcia, McVey, and the other guy who called himself a Dem but endorsed the right-winger in the run-off, but it made for great discussion (for those listening). It’d be nice to coalesce behind one candidate early-on, but that’s not what democracy is all about. Besides, we all want there to be a coalescing behind “our” candidate. The 2016 primary will have some competitive races, and already I’m getting friend requests and follows from some of the competitors. And that’s the way it should be, if we’re really into that democracy thing. Sure, it might get negative, ugly, we may see law firms trying to buy candidates, and churches violating the separation of church and state (which I hold dear) by endorsing candidates, but until we decide to really fix things, then complaining about competitive elections because we like a particular candidate and not the other doesn’t help democracy. Actually, none of the aforementioned stuff helps democracy and is a reason some people may not vote, but that’s for another discussion–if we really want to have it.

Congrats to the winners; serve us well.