Category Archives: DC Promo

Jackson: Reform Police Union Contracts

Candidate for Houston City Council District B, Tarsha Jackson, who is known as a community and criminal justice reform advocate, posted on her Facebook page what would seem like obvious solutions. At least where reforming an entire system should begin:

My heart is heavy over the constant murders of my Black Brothers and Sister at the hands of our public servants. Forgive me for not being impressed to see police chiefs and elected leaders standing in solidarity with protesters over the murder of our Brother George Floyd. We’ve seen this scene played out over and over again– BUT Until the Police union contracts are reformed, we will continue to witness our brothers and sisters civil and human rights violated by corrupt police officers.

In 2018, after the murder of our Brother Danny Ray Thomas, community members recommended the following NINE changes to Police Union Contracts to ensure accountability and to improve relations between HPD and the community. Our leaders have the power to make these changes today!

RECOMMENDED POLICE UNION CONTRACT CHANGES:

*Establish consideration of misconduct in promotions (Art. 19 Sec. 8): Officers with a history of misconduct should be subject to point deductions from the promotions formula. This will ensure that two otherwise similar promotion candidates can be fairly distinguished based on their prior misconduct.

*Eliminate technicalities and strengthen promotional bypass process (Art. 20) To the extent promotional bypass remains part of the promotions process (we believe it should be eliminated), then the process in this contract is particularly problematic. There should be no arbitrary time limit after which the Chief cannot apply a promotional bypass (delete Art. 20(4)). Once a candidate has been bypassed due to past disciplinary issues, that person should be pulled from the pool. The chief should not be required to bypass that same person over and over and face an appeal each time. The standard for review should be “valid reason” in accordance with normal standards in labor appeals law.

*Provide path to independent investigation (Art. 30 Sub (2), (4) and (7)): Under this contract, investigations must be conducted by Department personnel. State civil service law, by contrast, allows investigations to be conducted by any municipal employee. Houston can only move toward a process of independent civilian (nonsworn) investigation of police complaints if we alter this provision.

*Eliminate officer review of all evidence prior to making a statement: officers should be able to review only their own materials before making a statement, not the statements of everyone else involved and everyone’s video. Allowing the person under investigation to review all the evidence prior to making a statement is not a “best practice” in any circumstance and should not be a special privilege for police officers.

*Eliminate misconduct statute of limitations: After 180 days from the incident date, the most serious misconduct cannot be addressed at all due to an arbitrary “statute of limitations” clause. This is called the “180 day” rule and is a major problem. It should be eliminated. Serious misconduct should be sanctionable even if the Chief learns about it long after it occurred. If it cannot be eliminated, the time period should be lengthened to at least 365 days.

*Prevent appropriate disciplinary action from being overturned on appeal: Under this contract, when an officer appeals his sanction the burden of proof is on the Chief, and the proof includes 1. the truth of the charges and 2. that a just cause exists for the specific discipline imposed. Instead the burden should be on the officer to prove that the discipline was not reasonable. And, while clearly the charges should always be true, the second clause requires the Chief to prove, in a side by side test with other cases, that this particular suspension length had “just cause.” This is likely to result in discipline being routinely overturned or reduced. Council should request from the Department a summary of every suspension in the past five years, whether it was appealed, and what was the outcome of the appeal (overturned, upheld, or partially overturned with a lesser discipline).

*Never expunge records of past misconduct or even suspected past misconduct (Art. 31(10)): Police generally oppose efforts by the public to expunge criminal records (even of minor violations) because they say even an arrest on a subsequently dismissed charge might prove important to a criminal investigation later. This same reasoning should apply to all records of all officer misconduct. Nothing should be expunged, and all past history should be available to the Chief for review when a new incident occurs.

*Exculpatory evidence of an officer’s history of misconduct should be a public court document: (Art. 31(12)) This contract creates an unnecessary burden on the courts and attorneys by requiring special legal protections (secrecy) for misconduct information that must be handed over to the defense in a criminal trial. Under the Michael Morton Act, the prosecutor MUST give the defense information about the arresting officer’s history of misconduct if it is exculpatory. The contract should specifically exclude evidence provided to the defense under the Michael Morton Act from 143.089g personnel file protections. The process for providing such evidence to the prosecutor and the defense should be straight forward and then once provided to both parties in the case it should be subsequently posted to a website.

*Limit supervisory interventions and never reduce discipline to a supervisory intervention (Art. 32): Supervisory interventions are not discipline and do not create a disciplinary record, even if they may indicate other problems. Several items should be considered for removal from this supervisory intervention list: improper ticket/citation, improper or untimely response to a call, discourtesy to citizens, refusal to identify self including removal/obscuring/failure to wear name badge; abusive language, disrespect for fellow officers, unauthorized ride-alongs. Further, in no case should more serious discipline be reduced to a “supervisory intervention” because this will also eliminate the record of an officer’s prior misconduct.

Need To De-Stress? New Tejano Music Will Help!

There’s upheaval in the world. And we’re still in a pandemic that has caused all sorts of financial and personal stress. I find solace in listening to music and my music of choice is Tejano.

The Tejano music industry, like the rest of the industry, has been hit hard by the pandemic. There’ve been cancellations that have turned into small and big livestream events. I’m glad to see that some of my musician friends are still surviving, even if it is one livestream at a time with studio work thrown in there in between. But it has not been easy.

Other artists haven’t been able to do much in the form of livestreams. Logistically and technically it can be tough. But others have released some live material digitally.

In 2020, the Tejano music world was celebrating the return of icon, Joe Lopez y El Grupo Mazz. The pandemic abruptly stopped the tour bus, but lucky fans are getting to enjoy a live album recorded during Lopez’s recent Freedom Tour. And it’s a well-recorded live album!

Lopez goes through his string of hits seamlessly with the newest rendition of MAZZ, featuring Bam Bam Ramos on Keys/Squeeze, Danny Rodriguez on Bass, Aaron Holler on Drums, Joaquin Cura on guitar, and Alberto Gonzalez on percussion. It’s a keeper and enough to keep fans excited about the post-COVID19 return.

The legendary Little Joe y La Familia also released a new live album, Better Than Ever. It’s one of a string of live albums Little Joe has released throughout his career. Recorded at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi for a LJ birthday celebration, the band goes through a playlist of classics as only La Familia could.

And Bobby Pulido also released Live in Las Vegas. The album was recorded during the Tejano Music Convention and features his dad, Roberto Pulido, and Emilio’s brother, Raulito Navaira as they pay tribute to musicos who have left this world. Those hits, along with the standard Bobby Pulido playlist of hits make for a great live album with strong production values.

So, if you’re in need of live music, there are options. And luckily, some bands have been able to put their live shows on tape.

Even during a pandemic and social upheaval, nuestra cultura y music vive! And it’s keeping many of us going, too.

Christopher Hollins Named Interim County Clerk

Late last night, I got the message that the Harris County Commissioner’s Court appointed local lawyer and Texas Democratic Party Finance Chair Christopher Hollins to serve as interim Harris County Clerk.

The court voted 3-2 along party lines to approve Hollins. Five public speakers urged court members to choose Teneshia Hudspeth, Trautman’s chief deputy. County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Hollins’ pledge to serve only on an interim basis factored in their decision.

So, it will be up to the Party’s precinct chairs to select someone to be the nominee on the November 2020 ballot. Let the games begin.

Hollins, though, seems like candidate material. He served the Obama administration’s Office of Presidential Personnel as a legal intern before embarking on his career. No doubt, he has some Democratic bonafides considering his current position in the Party.

After navigating the local Party website, I finally found out how to find my precinct chair. Unfortunately, they want all my information before telling me who publicly signed up to run for the office (or got appointed later). Anyway, if you want to lobby your precinct chair, I guess this is how you can start.

 

Should Harris County Have An Independent Elections Administrator?

In case you haven’t heard, our County Clerk Diane Trautman has submitted her resignation effective end of month. The Harris County Commissioner’s Court is about to appoint an interim to serve while each political party’s precinct chairs will decide on a candidate who will run in November, 2020. In fact, the interim appointment is supposedly happening this week.

While my post about any replacement county clerk was mostly political, the conversation seems to have taken a turn toward the notion of appointing a non-partisan, professional elections administrator. Harris County is among the last large counties in Texas who still have an elected official running elections, while others have hired professionals to serve in this capacity. And it’s mostly worked and it’s taken the politics out of elections–mostly.

Kuff has more on this.

One of the concerns I had at the time was how do you remove an Elections Administrator if one proves to be not up to the task. The answer to that question, at least as articulated in that last link, appears to be “with a four-fifths majority of the election commission”, which concerns me as anything that requires a supermajority does.

Whether one removes the politics from elections, it’s still a government role so it will still reek of politics if it comes down to this kind of situation. Still, giving the role to a professional doesn’t sound like a bad idea. The policy, though, is still made by politicians and bad policy won’t change unless you get rid of bad politicians who do not support access to voting and increased voter education.

Still, nothing wrong with a discussion.

We still have an election in 2020 to replace Diane Trautman–or to appoint someone who will move forward from where Trautman leaves off. Either way, Commissioner’s Court will need to appoint someone who can run elections in a month and in a few months. I’m pretty sure creating a new elections agency will take more than just printing new signage for office doors and courthouse hallways. Maybe, even politics!

 

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

This installment of the weekly Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup has been done entirely by murder hornets.

Off the Kuff adds Rep. Chip Roy to the active roster of death squad enthusiasts.

Dos Centavos tells us about his hometown’s battle with COVID-19, and whose experience with Greg Abbott isn’t much different than that of Big City leaders.

Socratic Gadfly has, over the last 10 days or so, written twice about the Jesse Ventura for Green Party presidential nominee nuttery. He first talks about how this shows how much Jesse is Just.Another.Politician.™ In a follow-up, he said he wants to see exactly what was in the “letter of interest” Jesse’s minions sent to the Green Party and who signed it, as the Green Party currently risks looking like Just.Another.Political.Party™.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Scott Braddock chronicles Greg Abbott’s various power moves during the crisis.

Lisa Gray interviewed Braddock about the “full-on culture war” that Abbott and others are leading over COVID-19.

Paradise in Hell brings us an important butt-shaking legal update.

Dan Solomon hands out some awards for coronavirus performance.

Paul Basaldua shows how recovered COVID-19 patients can help others by donating their plasma.

Beyond Bones would like to put your mind at ease about those murder hornets.

Did You Hear Rick Treviño’s Cinco de Mayo Song?

When I saw that Rick Treviño had a new single called Cinco de Mayo, I immediately thought, “What the heck is he doing?”

I immediately went to memories of Little Joe’s Dieciseis de Septiembre which I first thought was hokey back in the 90s, but I accept more now because of issues regarding Chicano culture and identity that I like to research.

Trevino’s Cinco de Mayo starts off a little hokier speaking to the usual drinking and partying ID that the holiday has. But he manages to deliver a message if you listen closely, as well as a strong piano and horn samba sound.

“I keep serving up Jose Cuervo and calling the Gringo mi amigo. Everyone’s saying, “Que pasa” and singing La Bamba.”

Uh, did he just do some reverse stereotyping that I enjoy sarcastically doing? If so, Right On!

Anyway, he adds:

“Maybe just for today, leave the border alone. Today don’t send anyone home. It’s Cinco de Mayo.”

Did he just make a pro-migrant political pronouncement?

OK, Rick. I’m liking this tune more as I give it more listens. Whatever the intent, great message. Listen to it on YouTube.

No doubt, Trevino has been on swing of cultural pride in his music. Plus, there are collabs he’s done with greats, such as Los Super Seven, Ruben Ramos, as well as being produced by Raul Malo on some recent albums, among other projects.  So, his creativity is understandable and way different from his Nashville-produced early work.

Last year, with Los Texmaniacs, and then Trevino with Flaco Jimenez, released a single called I Am A Mexican. The tune is about a Mexican’s love for the adopted country that shows its dislike for him on a daily basis. It’s poignant, yet, quite sharp. And it gets quite the response when he performs it live.

Another tune is Cowboys Like Me, with which many can identify with it’s intro lyric, “My granddaddies daddy crossed the Rio Grande, trying to find a better life than what he had…” It’s one of my favorites as my yard had a chain-linked fence, and I loved using my unloaded BB rifle to play “cowboys” in the backyard with friends. (Listen to it to get it.)

Anyway, enjoy the tunes. I’m looking forward to the new album. And if someone whines about it, tell them, “It’s about identity, pendejo!”

Gracias, Rick!

Cinco de Mayo

I Am A Mexican

Cowboys Like Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone has a galactically great Star Wars Day as it brings you this epoch’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at that poll from PPP showing Joe Biden with a one point lead over Donald Trump in Texas.

Dos Centavos shares his tortilla recipe.

SocraticGadfly looked at some common coronavirus conspiracy thinking and how it shows the “horseshoe theory” is sometimes true.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Better Texas Blog urges us to protect immigrants as they power our economy.

Eater Dallas explains the dangers of reopening for small restaurants.

Ken Hoffman finds that Hobby Airport is as empty as you’d expect right now.

Juanita checks in on Mother Pence.

The Texas Signal compares Greg Abbott’s approval bump to those of other governors.

INBOX: Harris County Tax Office COVID-19 Resources

Here’s a note from Ann Harris Bennett, our Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar.

I just wanted to remind you that due to the “Stay at Home Work Safe” order, the Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar office continues to be closed for in-person transactions; however, we continue to work hard for you and the residents of Harris County.

All three divisions (VehicleProperty Tax and Voter Registration) continue to process everything online and via mail.

>> Vehicle Registration
Note: Governor Abbott granted a temporary extension to obtain initial registration, renewal of registration, and renewal of a permanent disabled parking placard.

Online renewal registrations.
Questions: autotdmv@hctx.net.

>> Harris County Property Taxes 
In hopes to help ease property owners’ burdens during this critical time, I have announced a three-month extension of all 12-month delinquent property tax payments.

Questions and payments over the phone at 713-274-2273

In addition, the office will be conducting virtual property tax workshops to help you learn: how the property tax system works, how exemptions save you money, how to protest your property taxes, how your property taxes are calculated and options for avoiding delinquent taxes. Our first workshop was last Tuesday, and it was a complete success. Stay tune for our next virtual workshop

>> Voter Registration
While VDVR trainings and in-person voter registrations are on hold, we are encouraging folks to use our online services to register to vote and/or to update their voting registration address.

1. You can fill out an application online, print it and mail it

OR

2. You can request a pre-postaged paid application.

For more information, we have created a COVID19 list of FAQs for all three divisions to help you complete your necessary transactions while the Tax Office is closed.

Do Your Part and Report Violations of Greg Abbott’s Order

UPDATE 3:15pm – 5/4/2020 — ABC13 reports that during Day 1 of this reporting portal, over 450 businesses have been reported by your fellow Harris Countians for violating Greg Abbott’s order.


If you see violations of Greg Abbott’s order, make sure you report them. Harris County has provided a nifty form on which to report specifics. The form and other pertinent resources are located at ReadyHarris.

Unfortunately, we can’t report idiots not wearing masks, but if you see a violation of Greg Abbott’s “ReOpen Texas Phase 1,” then, by all means, do so.

This is about keeping Texans safe.

 

La*45 II and Tejano Music During the COVID19 Hiatus

Tejano Music isn’t just a genre of music. It’s a way of life. A part of our Chicano culture. Musica that grew from singing old songs while picking crops, at family fiestas, and around a huge fire in the back yard. A music and culture that has thrived and struggled, much like its listeners.

And having been a listener and hard-core fan since my first Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos concert at a school stadium in Crystal City, TX in ’77, it’s a way of life that I’ve enjoyed and have had to help defend from corporate types (and local rodeos and finicky fair-weather fans) that simply want to kill it for whatever reason. Well, even during The ‘Rona, La Onda continues to breathe and it breathes life into stay-at-home fans.

Yes, watching the Cheeto Jesus ruminate about bleach injections can cause one to easily spiral. But thanks to some of my favorite bands and musicians, mental health has been within reach of my cell phone or my laptop as these músicos set-off to survive during this pandemic. Livestreamed concerts by artists like Los Texmaniacs (Max and Josh), Michael Guerra of The Mavericks, David de La Garza (of La Mafia), and others have provided some respite from the current situation. Gracias a Dios for all of this talent that many of us take for granted.

But these concerts aren’t free, although, they’re not forcing you to pay. These bands have been knocked off their tour buses and have taken to opening up Venmo, Paypal, and CashApp accounts so they can make some survival money as their livelihood instantly dried up in March. So, if you see a livestream concert with a payment link, give a little! “No sean codos,” as my Pop used to say.

All of this said, I was so happy when I saw that one of my favorite bands, La*45, was going live on Facebook to present their new production, La*45 II. No, it wasn’t a concert, but a listening session from their recording studio. It was intimate and full of studio and road stories, along with some pretty lofty conversation about music-making and theory. It was mind-blowing, though I think we would have been left in tatters if they’d not been as humble about their talents.

La 45, self-dubbed “the NextGen Chicanos,” is one of those special bands made up of the usual pieces, but also with a powerful 5-piece horn section. Yes, one of those big bands that bring up memories of Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia, Latin Breed, The Royal Jesters, and Tortilla Factory. Compadres Mike Torres III and John Ontiveros, La Familia alums, have put together some pretty impressive elements that not only record great music, but reproduce it live to near-perfection. And their long-awaited 3rd album is finally here.

The first single, Como Me Alegro, was released a year ago while production continued on the album. A hard-driving ranchera with excellent use of the horns and an accordion break, it’s one of those tunes that floats you to the dance floor. Another single is both a tribute to and a collab with the King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe Hernandez, Traigo Mi .45. Yes, the band is named for this classic tune and Torres, III and Hernandez trade-off on delivering the lyrics. A similarly classic-sounding tune is Asi Lo Quisiste, with the addition of harmonies from Torres, III’s better half, Amy, and an amazing sax solo.

The horn section gets quite the workout with a couple of sweeping tunes:  The  cumbia, Cumbia de la Media Noche and a samba, La .45 Anthem. The anthem includes some amazing drumming, trumpet, sax and guitar solos from Will O’Rourke, John Ontiveros, Ricky Ray Hernandez, and Estevan Ramirez, respectively. Moriria Por Ti has a Roberto Pulido-feel to it with its dual sax performance and Tejano cumbia sound. [Shout out to Ricky Ray for being a Texas State Bobcat!]

Although the album has an R&B feel, it is How Could This Happen, that shows off that ability–vocally and musically. La 45 is known for their ability to move from Tejano to Cumbia to R&B and back in a live setting.

Solo Un Juguete, with its Steve Gadd drum intro and keyboard-heavy melody, brought memories of the 80s which saw the introduction of synthesizers to La Onda. [Side Note:  Mazz did a similar drum intro in 1984 with the intro to Ay Muchacha from the Standing Ovation album, for all those historians out there.] Mike and Amy Torres collab on another modernized classic, Con La Misma Tijera. Herbie Lopez’s organ backdrop injects the classic sound into the tune. Que Bonito, offers a jazzy tenor sax intro by Hernandez before heading into a signature ranchera.

All in all, La 45 II is a nice package of cruizin’ music that soothes and causes general happiness. At least, that’s what it did for me. And, next time there’s a super dance in San Antonio produced by Henry Pepsi Peña and featuring La 45, we’re there!

One more thing. The eye-catching artwork on the cover and in the liner notes is by Chicana artist Bianca Mireles. She’s a West Texan who is now based in New Hampshire. Check out her work on her insta.

And get your copy of La 45 II at La45Music.com. You can get the digital version for $10, or, for $15 download it and receive the CD in a week or so. I did the latter.