Category Archives: Cultura

Latinos and COVID-19

The LA Times recently featured an article about COVID-19 in South Texas, specifically, the Rio Grande Valley. I wrote a post about bad state leadership and COVID-19 in South Texas in early May. I had hoped that people would realize that bad leadership and a pandemic do not mix and that they wouldn’t listen to awful leaders. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse.

We’ve all heard that it’s pretty bad down there and it is. Hospitals are overloaded, deaths are happening so often that even a transporter of bodies has earned a feature in some newspapers because of how busy he has become. For Mexican Americans and other Latinos, it is bad everywhere.

In 2015, 27% of US Latinos were uninsured. It’s safe to say that given the undocumented population and the economic effects of COVID-19, that number is even higher today. Latinos did not have access to adequate health care pre-Coronavirus. This in itself is a public policy failure, but if there was an underlying condition that caused underlying conditions to become exacerbated by COVID-19, it is the lack of access to health care and wellness.

The LA Times article quoted one of the Medical authorities in the RGV who stated that people were finding it difficult to avoid family get-togethers, especially during the season of Mother’s Day, graduations, Father’s Day, and 4th of July. An article in the NY Times also gave mention to Latino “culture” in the form of family get-togethers. In other words, events that bring families together are a cultural thing in South Texas and folks can’t seem avoid them.

Miya Shay at ABC13  reported on the Del Toro family whose patriarch contracted COVID-19, along with other members of his family, after a Father’s Day dinner.

It’s bad enough that there are failed Republicans leaders in other states who blame Hispanics for the spread of COVID-19, but let’s not forget the failed Texas leadership that downplayed COVID-19 realities and sped up a re-opening of Texas. Greg Abbott chose profits over people.

As I stated in a previous post, the people model their behavior based on the attitudes and decisions of their leaders, and Greg Abbott didn’t start panicking and reversing course until the body count started worsening in July. Until now, it was all about limited COVID-19 testing, a lack of medical resources and preparation, and fast-tracking the reopening of states. Trump continues hell-bent on reopening states and schools. Meanwhile, there are local leaders who actually are–whether in Houston or in the Valley–trying to shut down their cities, yet, are forced to add a disclaimer that their orders have no teeth because of Greg Abbott.

Well, now we are at this point where the whole state is considered a hot spot and it must be restated:  STAY HOME! And if you need to go to the grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment (and I don’t see any other reason other than essential work to leave your home), wear a mask, distance from others and wash hands. It’s not that difficult. It’s up to us. And, if you’re an essential worker, you also have a responsibility to stop the spread by practicing safe protocols and CDC guidelines beyond your work environment.

In other words, fellow Brown people, screw what may seem to you like “culture,” and take responsibility for saving our families! Culture also means taking care of our own families when there is danger.

And if you are a leader of a state agency, college, or university, or a company that has the ability to continue operations from home, then it is your responsibility to be part of the solution–Keep your employees home!

Given the situation with the Florida Marlins and outbreaks at various school gyms prepping for Fall athletic programs, school sports need to shut down, too. And that includes university sports programs. Hell, even professional programs that are supposedly “in a bubble” need to stop this folly of a season. If they can get sick in a bubble, they will spread it beyond the bubble. And it sets a bad example.

Still, the diversity of my Facebook friends list runs the gamut and it freaks me out to see people at get-togethers with people who don’t reside with them at the lake or at the beach or eating at restaurants (even if they are at whatever percentage they’ve been told to be by Greg Abbott) or getting haircuts…the list goes on.

Forget about the fear of schools reopening as that’s still in the future. What is going on now dictates what happens later and all we see in the future are more funerals and more despair if behavior and public policy does not change. We have a responsibility to ignore bad leaders like Trump and Abbott and do whatever it takes to stop the spread.

It’s getting to where the people who are sick and dying are people we each personally know and love. I‘d rather miss (or be missed by) my family members for a couple of months of lockdown than forever. 

Johnny Hernandez Drops Anti-Trump Tune

The legendary Johnny Hernandez is making his feelings about the current resident of the White House heard in a new protest tune, co-written by Chalo, he just dropped this week.

It’s Time To Unite is an anthem calling on folks to unite to rid us of Trump in November with a Motown funk-heavy beat that offers lots of soul.

In case you’re wondering, YES, Chicanos can perform just about anything and Hernandez’s musical upbringing includes all the standard genres that influenced everything else.

It is refreshing to see a Tejano legend tell it like it is and if you follow him on Facebook, it’s easy to see where Johnny stands. His brother Little Joe has recently endorsed a lot of Democrats, including Joe Biden. The new schoolers in the Tejano industry could learn a few things from these guys and the industry’s history of being a part of the Civil Rights and Farmworker movements.

Here’s the link to the song. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

An Elections Administrator for Harris County

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 to enact the position of elections administrator to run all voting operations, including voter registration. In doing so, they strip these duties from the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector to create what is called an independent, non-partisan office.

As I mentioned when this was first discussed:

…nothing wrong with a discussion.

It seems they decided to forgo any lengthy discussion and just create the position while an ongoing study is had on creating the position. The hiring of the administrator would not happen until after the 2020 election, so, the interim County Clerk Chris Hollins would still run the November election.

And as I’ve stated, I don’t have too much of a problem with having an elections administrator. As Kuff reminds us, other big counties have had one for a while and it seems to work. And, no doubt, each side of the debate gave good arguments that have much to do with history of the current system versus the politics of putting into office good people so that history isn’t repeated.

I agree with former County Clerk Diane Trautman that lengthy discussions should be had. At the same time, change after years of Republican rule can only happen in quick instances if we want change to actually happen. Of course, that’s my argument against police reform committees when the leadership exists to exert change in an instant. I guess I just want some consistency.

Ultimately, the people elected the Democratic majority to do what they think is right. I mean, I don’t like how a couple of the commissioners exerted their influence and money into the race for County Commissioner Pct 3 from their own fiefdoms, thus allowing them to pick their co-workers on the court, but I guess it’s allowed. So, this majority will get to pick the election administrator.

What’s done is done. My hope is that there will be a national search to bring in the best election administrator possible that has run the best, seamless and accessible elections (everything Commissioner Ellis said wasn’t happening in the current system). Or has the appointment already been decided?

Anyway, that’s politics. Even when creating nonpartisan positions.

 

 

 

The Dem Primary Run-Off Results

As far as Texas Democrats are concerned, I’m sure we are all glad it’s [almost] over. For DC, well, it wasn’t the best night for those I supported. Still, it’s on to November like the good little Democrat I try to be.

Royce West’s campaign against the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (and MJ Hegar) fell short, but I sure am proud of my friends who worked on West’s campaign and came up with a respectable result against the odds and the DC cash. We shall see what kind of campaign is run against Cornyn, now. Issues? Trump? Both? Will the DSCC even stick around? Questions that must be asked and answered, and now.

Family friend and fellow Cristaleño, Roberto Alonzo, gave it a go for Texas RR Commish, but it was obvious that Chrysta Castañeda was too much to overpower in the big cities. Still, we are proud of Roberto and the whole Alonzo family because they just don’t give up when it comes to the issues that matter.

Michelle Palmer cruised to victory in her race for SBOE-6, as did Te’iva Bell for the 339th District Court. Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas was soundly defeated by Cheryl Elliot Thornton for the 164th. Thornton is well-qualified and will be impressive in November. Cheri Thomas came up short for one of the appellate court seats against Tami Craft, but she is a great candidate who should remain in the game for future consideration. And Mark Alan Harrison is on his way to November in his run for Constable Pct 5.

Diana Martinez Alexander ran a great grassroots race for County Commissioner Pct 3 against big money and influence. I’ll still give her credit for being the only candidate in the running to shake my hand when asking for votes at one event I attended with most of the candidates in attendance. After doing some campaign finance sleuthing and seeing how she was outspent, and considering the final result, I must say that I am quite impressed with what she accomplished. She’s another one that should stay in the game because her activism will be an asset to Democrats up and down the ballot.

The race that was the most interesting was Texas House 148 with Penny Shaw and incumbent Anna Eastman, who won a special election to replace retiring Jessica Farrar earlier this year. No doubt, Eastman has said the right things on most issues important to Democrats, but it was Penny Shaw who may have gotten a late boost because of the policy differences she had with Eastman on public education and the out-of-town PACs that filled Eastman’s campaign coffers. It always seems to be the difference in these races–Teacher Unions -vs- Big Charter School Money. In this case, it was the union-supported Penny Shaw winning the early voting period and election day to put her over the top. While one side blames “negative campaigning,” it really was all about who turned out the most votes from their targeted base. I mean, c’mon, it was 200 votes difference. In non-COVID times, that would be a candidate attending a quince in the northside as the difference. As this is a Democratic district, Shaw will likely win in November.

Akilah Bacy cruised in HD138 and it seems incumbent State Rep Harold Dutton will squeeze by to another term. Incumbent Constable Chris Diaz was unseated by Jerry Garcia by less than 300 votes. Again, whomever turns out their base wins, no matter how negative it gets.

Big wins elsewhere include Dr. Jennifer Cantu for Fort Bend County Commish Pct 1, Delia Garza for Travis County Attorney, Jose Garza for Travis County DA, and Candace Valenzuela for Congressional District 24.

In Austin, it looks like State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will be in a run-off later this fall for Senate District 14. While this special election brought out Republicans to support their own, it’ll be interesting to see which candidate Republicans choose as their candidate. It could be the difference in the race if Republicans decide to even come out.

It’s been real, y’all. Let’s win in November!

It’s Open Season on Public Education

It seems we are up in arms about schools being forced open by Trump, Abbott, etc. As Betsy DeVos puts it, they must be fully opened–no part-time schools, etc. And Trump threatens to cut federal funding to schools that don’t follow his COVID-spreading rules.

This isn’t just about making kids, teachers, staff, and parents sick with COVID-19. It’s about destroying public schools. Just a guess, but I’d figure it would go something like this:

  1. Trump/Abbott will force open schools or lose funding.
  2. Parents/staff/teachers say NO.
  3. Parents find online privately-run (and corporate charter) school companies to homeschool their kids because of Trump’s threat against public schools.
  4. Trump cuts funding to public schools because of lack of attendance.
  5. Trump offers Dept of Education money to corporations who will operate private/charter schools to run low-quality diploma mills.
  6. Trump doles out federal tax money to parents in the form of vouchers to “send kids to private school,” but in reality, it’s for these low-quality privately-run diploma factories that Betsy DeVos’ friends will open because high-quality private schools aren’t going to be expanding their attendance for every Black and Brown kid in America.
  7. Public education as we know it is destroyed in the name of profits for a few. And considering that the vast majority of K-12 public students are Black and Brown, one can see this was the intent all along.

What really sucks is that this will look like some sort of CARES Act type of thing where parents will be offered a nice-sized check, yet, it’s Trump’s corporate friends who will get the billions of dollars in the end.

Unfortunately, too many people will not want to say no to a big check. Cash is always useful when families are in a hurting situation. Those who are of means will just get a boost to help pay for actual private school tuition (and family vacations). But when the vast majority of students are in public schools, we should invest in online infrastructures for online/hybrid education in the public realm, instead of giving away money to Trump’s friends.

So, while people, teachers, staffers, and parents will be worried about the pandemic and risks of illness, we also need to be worried about the bigger picture that will bankrupt public education. It has always been the goal of Republicans to destroy public education, whether it is through vouchers, the myth of school choice, or the creation of corporate-run charter schools under the guise of them being “public.” And, let’s face it, we have a few Democrats who spout the charter school and “education reform” BS quite well, too, and are as much at fault for opening this door for Trump and DeVos.

Fight back! Even in Tuesday’s run-off, vote for those with a record of protecting teachers, students, and public schools.

We Need A Vote-at-Home Order from Abbott

Well, it’s nice that Greg Abbott has finally decided to order everyone to wear masks during this pandemic. That it took over 175,000 Texans to get infected and over 2,500 dying, as well as an idiotic and sped-up re0pening of businesses which caused an obvious uptick in cases to finally make a mask order happen shows a total disregard of life and health on the part of Abbott and Republicans.

Anyway, thanks?

It was Anthony Gutierrez at Common Cause who captured the reality of the mask order:

“Issuing the mandatory mask order and encouraging everyone to stay home is the right thing to do right now, considering the mess we’re in. But the right thing to do months ago to avoid this very easily foreseeable mess was to allow all Texans to vote by mail so that no one would now find themselves having to choose between voting and endangering their health.

Our Governor and Secretary of State have thus far failed when it comes to adapting our election systems in a pandemic, but it’s not too late to get it right for November.”

We’re currently in the Democratic Primary run-off here in Texas. And while many 65+ voters ordered their mail ballots, thousands of others are going into polling locations risking our health because we believe in the power of our votes. Thankfully, our own Harris County has instituted some measure of protection, but it is never safer than voting from home at this time.

Instead of opening up access to voting by mail for all as a real option, Greg Abbott and Republicans fought against it, putting even more people at risk who may have already been practicing stay-at-home measures on their own.

Anyway, let’s hope there is a vote-at-home order soon. Even Abbott agrees that “it is getting worse,” although, leaders like Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo had said it would get worse if leaders didn’t take COVID19 seriously.

A Couple of Questions Regarding Williford

First of all, I agree with Kuff:  Good riddance!

A deputy felony DA posted a pretty awful meme comparing the Black Lives Matter Movement to Nazis. It’s so wrong on so many levels that any attempt at explaining it away as “thought-provoking” is simply grasping at something that looks more like one trying to stay in their comfortably racist cocoon, than trying to add to a conversation.

That said, I do have a couple of questions:

Given this prosecutor’s comments and obvious feelings toward Black people demanding rights, does this taint any cases which she prosecuted, particularly those involving Black and Brown defendants?

And, when DA Kim Ogg decided to drop the charges on John Hernandez’s murderer, Chauna Thompson, based on the the various prosecutors whom she asked their opinion on the case, was Williford one of them? We need to know what part she played in this.

Whether people want to accept it or not, the DAs office is part of that law enforcement system that needs the reform which is being demanded by Black Lives Matter. Its culture of pumping up their conviction percentages must be changed, and the fact that this person was among the highest ranking deputies shows us that the status quo is very much alive, no matter what lip service “reform” is given by the DA.

 

My COVID-19 Early Voting Experience

By 7:15AM this morning, I had clicked “CAST BALLOT” and was done voting in the 2020 Democratic Primary Run-Off election. It was the 5 minutes (which seemed like an hour) before that were personally harrowing.

I woke up early. I shaved, brushed, combed, etc. I got my ID, put on gloves, hung a pen from my collar, and got my Kokopelli mask. I drove the one minute to my polling location at Tracy Gee and was ready to scroll. Nervous about voting in this COVID-19 era, but doing my duty like my parents taught me.

I walk in and it was welcoming. I was pointed in the right direction, told to distance 6 feet and wait to be called. Already a few Democrats were voting ahead of me.

I walked up to the lady at the table. I was told to hold out my ID so she could match faces. The woman before me didn’t have to show her face since I guess her eyes matched up, but I wasn’t recognizable, apparently. A few looks and I did her the favor and showed my face. And then I still had to tell her that I had lost a lot of weight (120 lbs since that ID pic), but I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.

Then, she looked at my ID funny. It’s one of those new Texas Driver Licenses that follow the racist REAL ID act and I guess it looked suspect to her, even though it says “TEXAS USA Driver License” and has all the watermarks.

Then, I’m asked to turn the ID around and rest it on this tiny stand which allows the IPad to scan the ID. Well, it wouldn’t scan. Her own alarms seem to go off and she asked a question that offended this avid voter, “Is this your first time?”

I think my indignation was obvious when I said, “I’ve voted since I was 18.” The other lady at the table asked, “Did you vote in the last election?” Which caused me to take a deep breath and say, “Yes.”

These questions shouldn’t matter if the ID isn’t scanning. If you have a problem with my ID, call DPS or just type in my name and DL#, right? Well, she seemed annoyed at having to do this. But she just couldn’t read it off the ID. I had to spell out my name and sound off my date of birth and DL# for all to hear. My privacy alarms were going off, but I was going to vote!

Lo and behold, my name came up on her IPad! Once I take my ID off the little stand, and sign the IPad acknowledging that I’m voting in the Democratic Primary, I was given a finger condom, my I VOTED sticker, and my receipt.

Within a minute, I voted the #StaceSlate and was done.

I felt like a ticketed driver thanking the cop for writing me a ticket as I said “Thank you,” for what felt like a verbal frisking of my voter rights.

The moral of the story is, don’t let the pendejadas stop you from voting if this happens to you. You have a right to vote for which you have duly registered, for which you’ve had to pay for your driver license (even if it doesn’t scan and suddenly makes you a fraudster in their eyes).  Just vote!

But, damn, am I pissed off this morning.

I’ll add that I appreciate the County Clerk’s office for trying to ensure a safe election in this COVID19 era, and all the safety practices were in play and appreciated. The ID-ing of voters has not been perfected, and if anything, can be used to treat voters as fraud suspects, and that problem is systemic.

DC’s #StaceSlate – 2020 Dem Runoff

In case you all have forgotten, Democrats have a run-off election to begin participating in come Monday. For some of us, it’s a busy ballot from the Senate down to Constable.

Early voting begins June 29 and goes on through July 10. Run-off election day is July 14. Find your sample ballot here. You can find a polling location here. Here is the 2020 Democratic Run-Off #StaceSlate :

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Jose Rivera Announces for HCDE At-Large Position 7

Local non-profit executive Jose Rivera has announced his candidacy for Harris County Dept of Education Trustee, At-Large 7.  The Democratic nominee must be chosen by the Democratic Party’s precinct chairs later this summer after the current nominee was appointed to another position on the board during the primary season.

Jose offers up years of experience in Democratic campaigns, as well as community advocacy experience through his work in local government and in the office of Congressman Gene Green. Also:

Throughout his career, Jose has found a passion working and for under represented communities. For 8 years, he worked for the nationally recognized non-profit BakerRipley. It was during his time at BakerRipley that Jose learned the importance of engaging communities and collaborating to create programs and initiatives that are reflective of the communities they aim to serve. Jose also helped create and develop intergenerational programs that engaged youth and seniors through mentoring and resiliency connections.

Jose Rivera currently serves as the Executive Director of the Aldine-Greenspoint YMCA and Outreach Initiatives where he oversees programming and resources for the Aldine- Greenspoint Service area along with Outreach programming which includes apartment outreach programs, and services throughout the Greater Houston service area.

Jose holds an Executive Masters in Public Administration from Texas Southern University and has participated as a fellow in the New Leaders Council. He and his wife Tanya Makany-Rivera are members of Unity Church of Christianity and live in Houston with their two boys Anthony and Dominic who attend area public schools.

There are two vacancies on the Democratic side of the November ballot that must be filled by a vote of the Democratic Party’s executive committee, AKA the precinct chairs. One we already know about it that of County Clerk, due to the resignation of Diane Trautman and a called special election to fill the vacancy in November. Each Party must pick their candidate through the precinct chairs.

But, there’s also the position of Trustee of the Harris County Department of Education Board, Position 7–an at-large position. In this case, the Democratic candidate who won the primary was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board, which has left Dems without a candidate for November. So, the precinct chairs will fill this vacancy with a Democrat to take on the Republican in November.

That said, contact your precinct chair and tell them to read up on and support Jose Rivera for HCDE-7. He will serve Harris County well. He has already earned the nod of State Reps. Christina Morales, Armando Walle, and Ana Hernandez, as well as current HCDE Trustee Richard Cantu, and former Congressman Gene Green.

We will be hearing about at least one person running for County Clerk later this week. Stay connected!