Category Archives: Cultura

A Short Local Nightmare Is Over

There are plenty of opinions, legal and otherwise, regarding the accidental resignation of Judge Bill McCleod from his County Court at Law #4 post. No doubt, he has quite a fan base that he worked hard to build by literally being everywhere during his campaigns for office over the years. Ultimately, the law is the law and the County Attorney and County Commissioners made the right call–legally and politically. While the Democrats were straight-forward on the decision, the Republicans seemed to want to play political games given how they voted on the matter.

But, as Kuff reports, the appointment of the new judge, Lesley Briones, came quickly and without much discussion or consideration. While there are no questions of legality, there are political and maybe procedural questions, especially from Democratic activists.

Mostly, Democratic activists have never heard of Briones–even Commissioners who supported her appointment. The questions I got from various activists included:

  • Who is she? Well, Briones has worked with a big firm and a major local nonprofit. She taught at-risk kids in South Texas. She’s educated, obviously. And from my research, she has some South Texas roots (that’s always a plus for this transplant).
  • Has she represented clients in local courts? I have no idea, but it was pointed out to me that maybe not. Perhaps her work has been more transactional and advisory given her resume. Still, she’s trained in the law and will receive the same kind of courtroom training as all of our other judges.
  • Is she a Democrat? I don’t have access to that voter info, but it was pointed out that she does have a favorable primary voting record.

Others expect potential candidates to be party activists and wonder if she’s been to club meetings or knocked on doors in the past.

I don’t blame Dems for asking these questions. We vote and expect our votes to be heard. And Dems feel like we weren’t heard or advised on the appointment by Commissioners. Commissioners did not give voters a chance to be heard on the appointment or find out who else was considered. But, they did open up the meeting to those speaking on McCleod’s behalf. We may not have gotten to vote on the appointee, but some participation would have been nice.

But, I’m also of the opinion that we don’t elect County Commissioners to save the political hides of people who mess up. We’ve got real issues that must be addressed:  Recent environmental disasters, voting rights, criminal justice reform, health care, transportation and roads, etc. And this is exactly what we elected them to do. It was an error of ambition that put the County Commissioners in a position of wasting valuable time on this, instead of doing the work for which they were elected. That they wanted to get beyond this situation and get back to work, well, I don’t blame them.

In this case, we trust those we elected to make the right decisions. If you don’t like the decision, well, email them, message them, or show up at a meeting and tell them. At this point, I’d rather just move forward.

For Briones, if she decides to run for the position in the 2020 special election, then she’ll probably need to get through a primary before getting to the general election. At that point, she’ll have more experience, and, hopefully, she’ll have made herself known to activists. But if we’re the Democrats I know we are, then I’d expect it to be a free-for-all because there aren’t many open judicial seats coming up in 2020 and the political bug is obviously nipping at potential candidates.

 

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Are We All Beto’d Out?

Lots of Texans aren’t happy about Beto running for Prez. They wanted him to run for US Senate against Cornyn. Other Texans are just Beto’d out. I consider myself part of the latter group and much of it has to do with his run-up to his grand decision–the teasing, the one-man drives to Primary country, the videos. Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back–the “born to be in it” interview in Vanity Fair.

Let’s be fair, those of us who supported him in 2018 knew him to be a privileged kid from El Paso. He just happened to side with us on most issues. The article, though, really paints the picture of privilege–his annoyance with his father, yet always having his support to go to private school and Columbia University, the “tech” start-ups, the return to El Paso to the family wealth, and finally, his marriage into even more wealth. Sure, there was sadness along the way with his dad’s untimely death, but he led a charmed life on his way to his political life. And if one reads the long article, one sees the real Beto that some of us didn’t want to hear about, though, we always knew.

His father tried directing him to the New Mexico Military Institute, but O’Rourke instead applied to a prep school in Virginia called Woodberry Forest, on advice from his grandfather through marriage, Fred Korth, a former secretary of the navy in the Kennedy administration.

Of course, there’s also the stuff we liked about him.

Not to begrudge someone with added opportunities on top of what already comes with being a white male, but it’s been a bad week for those of privilege. Aunt Becky and friends are in trouble for seeking added opportunities for their already over-privileged brats. The privileged in the halls of Congress want to deeply cut the social safety net that helped families like mine during tough times. The privileged have just been pissing many of us off. And “born to be in it” Beto didn’t give some of us the warm and fuzzies. And, of course, if one delves into his voting record in Congress, well, the whole “working with Republicans” narrative is already a centerpiece of his launch. And quite annoying.

All of this said, it may just be this newer narrative that gives him a chance in the Democratic Primary against 15 (or more) opponents in multiple states beyond Texas. His campaign of positivity versus being just “anti-Trump,” of offering solutions, rather than what was offered in 2016, of being supportive of the ideas of Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez but perhaps offering a bit of moderation. It’s the kind of stuff that could unite people. Or, could make him a vice-presidential candidate for a moderate candidate with a dismal record (take your pick from the rest of the list).

At this point, I’m still with Bernie Sanders because he is right on the issues–a lot more than what the others are offering. And at this point, it’s all about the issues for me.  I want stances on issues that will keep Democrats in check. Because if the Democratic Party is strategizing based on what moderates and Republicans are saying and thinking, then a whole lot of people will stay home, yet again, because they are being excluded, yet again. If Democrats don’t learn anything from the 2016 strategy, then we’re in for another disaster.

Anyway, happy candidate-seeking to all!

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.

 

March 14-17: Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair 2019

The Texas Talent Musicians Association (TTMA) is hosting its annual Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair at San Antonio’s Market Square. The 4-day event attracts over 100,000 Tejano Music aficionados from across the US and around the globe to enjoy the sounds of over 200 bands on various stages throughout the Square. The event is free.

Along with concerts, food, drink, and vendor booths, fans will also get the chance to meet their favorite musicians at autograph sessions.

The Tejano Music Awards continues to shine each year by producing the largest Tejano Music events in the country. Scheduled to perform this year Michael Salgado, Elida Reyna y Avante, Shelly Lares, Stefani Montiel, Hometown Boys, Isabel Marie, Sunny Sauceda, Fama,La Calma, David Farias, Eddie Gonzalez, Ricky Naranjo y Los Gamblers, Joe Bravo, Avizo, Rio Jordan, Da Krazy Pimpz, Boni Mauricio, Bajo Sexto, Los Garcias Brothers, Massore Erick y Su Grupo Massore, Augustine Ramirez , Massore, Cindy Ramos, Baraja De Oro, Monterrey Project, Tony “Tigre” Saenz, Veronica & The Puro Party Jam, Ernestine Romero,  Stevie D & The All-Star Cast , JR Gomez y Los Conjunto Bandits, JT y Sus Criminalez, Magali De La Rosa, Masizzo, Grupo Vida, Tejano Roze y La Nueva Sensacion, Stampede and many more.

For more information and the official schedule, visit the Tejano Music Awards website. And enjoy your stay at the Capital of Tejano Music.

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.

Chicano Political Prisoner Ramsey Muñiz Released

Although I had heard through activist friends that Ramsey Muñiz had been released in mid-December, the AP finally reported his release from federal prison a month later.

Muñiz, a policy-saavy, charismatic, well-spoken, Baylor-educated lawyer, was La Raza Unida Party’s 1972 gubernatorial candidate. It was those qualities he effectively utilized to put a scare into the Texas Democratic Party by earning over 210,000 votes in a three-way race which almost ended the career of Dolph Briscoe and Democratic power in Texas. The usual historians write it off as Muñiz only garnering 6% of the vote, but it was 210,000 Chicanos who united in calling out the Democratic Party for their lack of respect of the people.

Although La Raza Unida had achieved much in various South Texas counties and even fielded candidates in Houston and Harris County, it was this venture into Texas politics that helped earn it a special place in Texas political history. LRU even fielded a Chicana for Lt. Governor. And it also caused a change in the way Democrats treated Chicanos in Texas–some might say, at least on the surface.

During the time, as Chicano scholar Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez found out through FOIA requests, the FBI targeted various Chicano activists through surveillance and other methods. Chicano political activity was constantly under attack and effectiveness was always challenged because those in power would never allow for shared political power with Chicanos. Gutierrez has a new book coming out in March in which he details the surveillance of the Democrats’ favorite brown person, Cesar Chavez.

It is said that Muñiz was among those targeted when in 1976 he was charged federally with attempting to smuggle marijuana into the US from Mexico. After pleading guilty to one count and being sentenced for 5 years, La Raza Unida Party lost popularity and died a slow death, while Democrats picked up what was left of Chicano activists who were salvageable for political purposes. Later, he’d be charged two more times, thus given a mandatory life sentence in federal prison.

Many believed Muñiz to be a political prisoner imprisoned on false charges, forced to plead out in order to save himself from long-term sentences on the first two charges.

A mandatory life sentence from a 1994 charge, though, is what caused him to reside at Leavenworth the last 24 years. Yes, a military prison for what are small-time charges compared to cartels and major drug dealers. Like other prisoners deemed to be imprisoned for political reasons, he requested early release from Presidents, including Obama, only to be denied. Because of failing health and age, he was finally released on December 10, 2018.

There is little doubt that the burgeoning activism in the Chicano community of the time was demoralized by those in power. That voting and activism in the community was at an all-time high during the time only to be cut off at the knees perhaps shows why Chicano voting patterns have taken decades to improve. No doubt, there is a lack of trust of anyone in power and with good reason. We are seeing similar responses to recently elected Latinos with strong opinions–just a thought.

Anyway, I’m glad that Mr. Muñiz is home with his wife, Irma, whom I met in 2003 at a conference I helped coordinate at Texas State University. She and a close circle of friends never gave up on achieving his release. And he’ll always be considered one of my influences as far as political communication is concerned.

Check Out Little Joe’s San Antonio [VIDEO]

The title track of Little Joe y La Familia’s recent album San Antonio has been offered up as a music video for the masses, thanks to Lupe Moya and LM Media Solutions. What is a gift to the city from the Grammy winning Chicano icon is a horn-heavy ballad dedicated to the various attractions and the welcoming spirit of San Antonio. San Antonio’s multicultural atmosphere is known worldwide and Little Joe catches it all in the tune and the video. The rest of the album is pretty awesome, too. Check it out:

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.

Democrats Sweep Harris County!

Most countywide Democratic candidates in Harris County knew they looked good after the early voting tally was released. But it was the race for Harris County Judge that had many on the edge of their seats until Lina Hidalgo was suddenly leading 11-year incumbent Ed Emmett by 6,000 votes. Things got a little more comfortable a little later, then, Hidalgo became the first Latina to be elected to the County’s executive post.

No doubt there were Democrats who were supporting the Republican, given that Hidalgo didn’t enjoy the extra percentage margin that some of the other Democrats enjoyed. Some of our Latino statewides were going through something similar for some reason.

Congrats to Lina Hidalgo. She came out strong when she announced her run, whether the issue was flood control and response, County services, bail and justice reform, or even immigration. So strong that she was left with no opposition in the Primary. Bottom line:  Hidalgo held progressive policy positions on these issues, while Emmett did not. So, Democratic naysayers, please stop insulting voters’ intelligence and that of the County Judge-elect. We know which political party is on the side of the people, especially locally.

The Harris County Commissioner’s Court now has a Democratic majority as former County Sheriff Adrian Garcia defeated incumbent Jack Morman by around 1800 votes. The outcome wasn’t final until the very end as Garcia was able to overcome a gerrymandering play that changed Precinct 2 to a Republican-opportunity district. A good and disciplined ground  campaign defeated Morman’s negativity and attacks-based campaign.

For those naysayers, a reminder that a Democratic majority at County will actually address the issues that are important to the people. We need action, not just a pat on the head during a hurricane to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Kudos should go to Penny Shaw who turned Precinct 4 into a more palatable challenge against Republicans. Penny worked hard from Day 1 and deserves Democrats’ thanks for running.

Along with new faces in black robes on the bench and new administrators like Diane Trautman as County Clerk, Marilyn Burgress as District Clerk, and Dylan Osborne as County Treasurer, Harris County has two new Congresswomen in Sylvia Garcia and Lizzie Fletcher.

While Garcia’s road to victory was a little easier and more about ensuring turnout to bolster the bottom line, Fletcher’s team ran a strong field campaign to earn every vote to take out the Republican incumbent. Attacked often on immigration and Nancy Pelosi, Fletcher kept a disciplined message on health care and took it to the finish line.

No doubt, the Beto effect helped turn counties blue or bluer, but in races that were in tough to win districts, it was the field campaigns that put them over the top.

Other surprises included victorious finishes in HD132 (Gina Calanni) and HD135 (Jon Rosenthal) out in the ‘burbs. Adam Milasincic came up 80 votes short in HD138 (Spring Branch) which tells me that district can be taken in 2020. Adam didn’t run away from right-wing attacks on immigration and held his own against an entrenched Republican. Out in Pasadena’s HD144, State Rep. Mary Ann Perez won re-election in huge fashion due to another excellent field campaign.

Update from Milasincic campaign: Unofficial totals show us behind by 137 votes out of 48,000+ counted so far. We have learned that provisional and some mail ballots remain under review.

While Beto was the lead Democrat in the bunch, closer to the bottom of the ballot was Richard Cantu who soundly defeated his opponent by posting Beto-like percentages. So, I don’t know why some losers are complaining about being close to the bottom of the ballot. Richard did great!

It is pretty embarrassing that some would simply blame straight ticket voting. You know, people actually think about Party AND policy when they go into the booth. Most of us actually went back to check our selections since Stanart’s relic voting machines were switching Beto to Cruz, according to reports. To insult our intelligence after losing, well, folks doing that need to hunker down.

Congrats to the Party, the campaign pros, the volunteers, and the voters! Harris County is blue!