Category Archives: City of Houston

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

The Latest in Harris County Voter Data

Thanks to Hector de Leon from the County Clerk’s Election Office, I’ve got my hands on the latest on the county voter registration rolls. FYI, when they break down the Hispanic numbers, they’re just estimates since they go by surnames. When registering, we are not required to give our ethnicity.

That said, there are 2,119,052 voters whose status is active. And of that, 470,041 are Spanish surnamed. That’s 22% of the voter rolls, folks. And if 20,000 or so would fix their status, we’d be closer to 500,000.

When broken down by congressional district, the county finds that 57% of voters in CD29 are Spanish surnamed. But in a show of “we’re everywhere!” we are anywhere from 14 to 22 percent in the other CDs. In the “hotter” races for CD2 and CD7, Spanish surnamed are 16% and 14%, respectively. In my own very Democratic CD9 and in Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s district, Spanish surnamed are at 19%. But when one looks at CD22 and CD36, which are quite suburban, Spanish surnamed are at 22% and 20%, respectively.

We’re everywhere! And this is a good thing because the ability to impact elections in Harris County is not just in one particular area, and “control” of GOTV efforts are not in any one group of politicos. On the other hand, there is plenty of opportunity to GOTV for those who really want to put in the effort and money. [I’m talking to those big money raisers and groups who GOTV, now.] Particularly when it comes to registered non-voting Latinos who often go ignored, or easily scapegoated, depending on the political party.

One particular set of data to note is how County Commissioner’s seats are broken down. What used to be a stronger Hispanic opportunity precinct, Precinct 2, is at 39% Spanish surnamed. I recall arguing before the County’s redistricting lawyers that while I appreciated Precincts 1 and 4 becoming more Hispanic and it seemed like a good thing because it showed we’re everywhere, it wouldn’t take much cutting from both precincts to bolster Precinct 2 as a Hispanic opportunity district. They didn’t listen. This is important as Latino candidates in the Pct. 2 Democratic Primary fight for whom gets to the chance to knock off a GOP incumbent, thus adding some needed diversity to the Court. I guess it’s important for those of us seeking partisan balance at the County, too.

There’s some 2014 data through which I need to sift that gives a clearer picture about where Latinos voted and in which Primary in 2014, and, no surprise, one finds those more “conservative” ones in the more suburban areas of the county. Has there been much change in how these Latinos feel about one side versus the other after a year of Trump? Are there new voters who haven’t even been given attention by either side? Well, I wish Latino Decisions would give it crack to find out.

Anyway, no doubt there has been growth. Voter registration efforts continue and there’s plenty of time to further impact these VR numbers toward November. What this tells either side of the political spectrum is that upwards of a quarter of the voter rolls are up for grabs if a political party takes that segment seriously in its GOTV efforts.

As Tony Diaz and I discussed on Tuesday on his radio show, it takes more than speaking Spanish and eating a taco in public. It takes being in tune to where Latinos are on the big issues. Those are usually Education, Health Care, Economy (jobs), and of course, Immigration. And I’m pretty sure a lot more of us are listening–whether you’re speaking to us or not. And that’s how November decisions are made.

Anyway, this is where we’re at regarding voter registration.

 

 

 

 

Early Voting for Houston ISD and HCC Begins Today

That’s right, some of y’all need to vote, again.

First of all, I misblogged the other day when I stated Alief ISD would have a run-off. In reality, the candidate with the most votes wins. So, DC-endorsed Natasha Butler, who won by 11 votes, joins Breaux, Nguyen, and Key on the board. Congrats to all of them. Serve the kids and the rest of us well.

Meanwhile, as many as 78,000+ voters will have the opportunity to elect a new HISD Trustee in District I. Voters will choose between Elizabeth Santos, who earned 45% of the vote in Round 1, and Gretchen Himsl. Another 55,000+ voters in District III will get to pick between Jesse A. Rodriguez and Sergio Lira. Almost 10,000 and over 3500 voted in District I and III, in Round 1, respectively.

As far as nods are concerned, I’ll say most of my friends are supporting Elizabeth Santos in District I, and my friends seem split in District III, but I’ve been rooting for Jesse A. Rodriguez.

In HCCS District IX, Preta VanDible Stalworth is the progressive candidate in the mix. And that’s all I’ll say about that. District IX is in Southern Harris County and stretches from around the Southwest Freeway to beyond 288 to zip code 77048. Around 100,000 voters get to choose in this one, though a little over 10K voted in Round 1.

With just a fraction of local voters eligible to vote in these races, you might ask yourself:  Can I vote in this one? Check and see if you have a ballot here. Then find your early voting location here.

So, get out and vote. It really does count in these low turnout elections.

 

It Was A Great Election Night in Houston, Too

Despite the low 6.7% turnout around Harris County, the results of the 2017 Election still amounted to a great election night for progressive candidates and issues.

There were several big wins in the race for Houston ISD School Board. In at least three districts that were at one point considered too conservative for progressives to even challenge, there was quite the change of direction.

My friend and current District VI trustee, Holly Flynn Vilaseca, was in a race to earn her first full term after being unanimously appointed earlier this year. Taking on two well-funded opponents in what was considered a conservative area, which includes West Houston and Sharpstown, Vilaseca proved that running everywhere is the thing to do nowadays, especially if you run a sleek, well-disciplined campaign responsive to voters. By early this morning when the final tally was announced, she had earned 50.38%, avoiding a run-off. Congrats, Holly.

Current District VII trustee, Anne Sung, who had squeaked by in 2016 to win a partial term, steam-r0lled over the same opponent from 2016 with 61.6%. VII is another district that had been occupied by a conservative, but had been relatively untested by more progressive candidates. Again, running a disciplined campaign, connecting with voters, and truly caring about public schools will earn one the vote. And, in this case, in grand fashion.

In District V, an open race to replace an outgoing trustee, Sue Dimenn Deigaard ran a campaign that attracted support from across the political spectrum in another tough-to-crack district that includes Bellaire. With 51.26%, Deigaard earned herself a full-term, avoiding a run-off, with a campaign focused on serving the kids in the district.

Current HISD Board President Wanda Adams had a couple of challengers, but earning 68% showed that she is well-liked by her constituents.

The excitement is not over, though, as there will be two run-offs for HISD Board. District I has the classic match-up, with a Northside candidate and a Heights candidate. Elizabeth Santos came close to an outright win with 44.78% with an insurgency pushed by organized educators and volunteers. Her opponent, Gretchen Himsl, had the support of outgoing trustee Anna Eastman. In District III, radio personality and community activist Jesse A. Rodriguez earned 39.85%, while educator Sergio Lira made the run-off with 33.75%. So, these neighborhoods can expect more door-knocking, flyers, and mail.

ALIEF ISD

Considering the traffic on my general informational post about Alief ISD candidates and the less than 3800 voters who participated, I may have helped a few voters make some decisions in my neighborhood. No doubt, Alief was about to add several new faces to the board.

Darlene Breaux, John Nguyen, and Jennifer Key won easily. Position 7 will have a run-off, though, between Natasha Butler and Janet Spurlock, each earning 38%. So, let’s hope for more excitement to attract plenty of more voters in this one. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Natasha Butler was the top vote-getter and the win goes to that person without a run-off. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALIEF ISD’s Board of Trustees who were sworn in on November 28, 2017.]

HCC

My HCC trustee, Robert Glaser, cruised to victory despite a challenge from the far-right. Glaser has done a great job and his commitment to transparency is still greatly needed. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz beat two challengers with 73%. And there will be a run-off in District IX between Pretta VanDible Stallworth and Gene Pack.

City of Houston

Looks like Houstonians were willing to support all of the bonds. Over 70% of the vote was earned by all of them. Good. Houston needed this injection of funds to add some vital infrastructure.

More To Come

Well, school board elections are probably the most important races in which we can participate. Especially in the Houston area where decisions affecting over 200,000-plus students come into play. While many make this a race about credentials, the bottom line is that we need to support those who have the best interests of the kids in mind, whether they work in education or they serve the community in some other way. And whether they’ve lived in the area all of their lives or transplanted here and hit the ground running. Seriously, you won’t attract support from transplants with “born and raised” statements. Theoretical expertise is nothing if you can’t earn buy-in from voters. So, for those voting in run-offs, study the candidates, study what you want out of your school district, study what you’re getting  from your school district (beyond your tax bill), and pick your candidate.

ELECTIONS

And, with the delays coming from the election office, I think we need to start using #HireDianeTrautman instead of the other thing about firing the current occupant.

Election 2017 Begins Today!

Early voting for the 2017 election begins today. You get to vote on state constitutional amendments, school and college board elections, bonds, and probably other important stuff. This kind of election is the kind to which no one shows up–or, a small percentage of the voting population shows up. Some say your vote counts many times more than usual. I’m thinking democracy is in danger when so few show up and a lot is on the line.

Anyway…

ALIEF ISD

I did a small write-up about Alief ISD, since I live in it. My picks are as follows:  Position 4-Jesus Zamora; Position 5-NO PICK; Position 6-Jennifer Key; and Position 7-Natasha Butler. It’ll be good to see new faces on the Alief school board.

STATE AMENDMENTS

As far as the state amendments go, I can’t say any of them jump out at me. You see political expediency, playing of tax-cutting favorites with certain groups, benefits for the banking industry, and one particular item about political appointments. One in particular even sets up rules on when and how people can challenge the constitutionality of a law. The easiest thing for me is just to vote against everything. You do what you want.

Houston Bonds

The City of Houston is having a bond election. You can check out Lift Up Houston to read up on the pension obligation bonds to save the police pension, and the big dollar items ($490 million) the City needs to provide services to its population–fire station and police upgrades, parks, multi-service centers, etc.

The easiest thing is to vote FOR all of them. I may wait a few minutes on Prop A (Pension bonds) before clicking FOR (or not clicking anything)–since we were made to wait on joining the SB4 lawsuit on account of the pension stuff. Too bad I can’t postpone for two weeks. I’ll decide what to do when I walk up to the E-Slate.

HCC

My current HCC Trustee (District V) is Robert Glaser. He needs to get re-elected.

HISD

I don’t live in Houston ISD, but I certainly have a few favorite candidates: District I should vote Monica Flores Richart; District VI would be smart to keep Holly Flynn Vilaseca; District VII should keep Anne Sung; District V has a good candidate in Sue Dimenn Deigaard; and I’ll go with Jesse Rodriguez in District III.

Now, the League of Women Voters has a good resource in their voter guide to help you decide on amendments and candidates. Read up on the items on the ballot.

Find your early voting location here. Find your sample ballot here.

Get to it!

Houston Food Bank Food and Resource Fairs – Various Locations

Beginning September 5, 2017, Houston Food Bank and South Texas Dental will be hosting Food and Resource Fairs across the Houston area to assist those affected by Harvey.

Click on image to enlarge:

9/2/17: City of Houston’s Latest Announcements

The City of Houston has sent out a few announcements regarding Harvey recovery and assistance efforts.

Houston Health Department Opens WIC Sites at GRB Shelter, Walmart Stores in Response to Harvey (link)

Houston Water Needs Public’s Help:  Zip Codes Affecte d by Impacted Water Treatment Plants in West Houston. (link)

HOUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY OPENS 19 LOCATIONS TO HELP HOUSTONIANS REBUILD (link)

Debris Collection Notice–Move Your Cars When Solid Waste Mgt is in Your Neighborhood. (link)