Category Archives: Education – K12

The Stace Slate – Explained

Early Voting for the City Elections begins next week, October 21, 2019. I put out the Stace Slate (aka #TeamTacho), but I also said I’d provide some explanations. So, here goes.

MAYOR – SYLVESTER TURNER:  It’s been a tough first term for Mayor Turner. Not because he did anything bad, but he was dealt various circumstances that have made his term a busy one:  Harvey; the Harvey response from a slow-moving, low-caring federal and Texas government and leadership; budget constraints; the inability-by-law to raise more revenue to pay for services and employee raises; among other challenges. Houston has been suffering through one or more of these things for a while, now, and no mayor will have an easy time until things change at more than just the city level. That said, Mayor Turner has been exceptional at guiding the city through its trials and tribulations. Pension reform, creating opportunities for youth, and simply keeping the city moving forward through reality-based stewardship. Mayor Turner tried to meet the firefighters more than half-way, but it was obvious that one side wanted more than the City coffers could handle. Mayor Turner still dealt with this better than any of his opponents ever could. Thankfully, a supportive City Council has backed him up. No doubt, there is a lot more to be done and Mayor Turner must be at the helm to not only get things done, but to also provide the leadership to get through whatever challenges may come the way of our City.

CITY CONTROLLER – CHRIS BROWN:  Chris Brown has been effective at advocating for the residents of Houston, and has done an excellent job of providing Houston a good blueprint on which to base a sound budget, cost savings, better protection for employees, and, most importantly, the ability to build infrastructure with the future in mind. He’s forward-thinking and that means being in tune to the city’s reality as a diverse, international city. Brown proves his abilities on a daily basis and he has assembled a staff that backs him up. Unlike his opponent, Brown works for the people and not just another government paycheck.

AT-LARGE 1 – RAJ SALHOTRA:  I’ve supported Raj from Day 1 of meeting him. He’s just that impressive. And the campaign he has created is full of young people who have a stake in the future of Houston. Raj has centered his campaign on economic opportunity, quality of life, and flood mitigation. Whether it is giving an educational leg-up to Houston kids through community-led services, improving public transit options, or promoting sustainable development to avoid flooding, he is offering ideas that speak to the entire Houston area. On top of that, he’s a likable person–always willing to listen. I have no doubt his office will be responsive to all who need an ear, or need to be pointed in the right direction for city services.

AT-LARGE 2 – DAVID ROBINSON:  CM Robinson has been an effective member of City Council, providing a base of knowledge that only an architect can provide. Whether it’s on drainage and infrastructure, pushing for increased access to greenspaces, or budgeting and cost-savings, Robinson has led on these efforts. He deserves a final term.

AT-LARGE 3 – JANAEYA CARMOUCHE:  I’ve known Janaeya for almost a decade, both as a campaign worker and as a public servant. She has always been committed to her tasks, and is more than ready to serve on Council. Carmouche is running on a platform that empowers communities, opportunities for small businesses, and systems-level change in government services. She states that a community that is knowledgeable of its services will be better served. That small businesses should have expanded opportunities for city contracts. And that the community will work together to solve its most pressing issues. An organizer at heart, Janaeya has the maturity and the commitment to lead through change.

AT-LARGE 4 – NICK HELLYAR:  I’ve known Nick for over a decade, whether it’s working on campaigns or serving constituents in City Council or state offices. Nick’s experience in government and in the private sector has given him the knowledge needed to navigate government services, work on public-private efforts, and to effectively serve constituents. Council needs a voice of reason as well as a voice for the people, and Nick has the abilities and skills to be both.

AT-LARGE 5 – ASHTON P. WOODS: Woods is the activist we need on City Council. Woods is focused on human and civil rights issues that local elected officials easily avoid, but he’s also a Houstonian who has experienced how whole communities go easily ignored by local government. He is not afraid to speak up, no matter who is in office or the political implications that come with speaking truth to power.

DISTRICT F – TIFFANY D. THOMAS:  I’ve lived in Southwest and West Houston for almost 8 years and one elected official who was noticeable was Tiffany Thomas when she served on the Alief ISD School Board. She has always advocated for all of the area’s residents, pushing for policies that address economic empowerment, the high poverty level, and decrease crime, especially from businesses dealing with human trafficking. She has always served her community, which is good for those of us who haven’t lived in it for too long.

ALIEF ISD:  Lily Truong, Rick Moreno, and Ann Williams. I’m sticking with the incumbents because Alief ISD remains one of the best districts in the area with a good leader at the helm. Let’s not mess that up.

METRONEXT – FOR:  We need more investment in mass transit and mobility. It’s that simple.

STATE AMENDMENTS (click image to enlarge):

 

FIND YOUR SAMPLE BALLOT HERE.

EARLY VOTING LOCATIONS HERE. (PDF)

EARLY VOTING :

October 21st – October 26th  7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m

October 27th   1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

October 28th – November 1st     7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

2019 STACE SLATE – https://doscentavos.net/2019/09/14/the-2019-staceslate/

 

 

Leslie Contreras Schwartz Chosen as Houston’s Poet Laureate

Congrats to Leslie Contreras Schwartz! Here’s the press release from Mayor Sylvester Turner making the announcement:

Writer Leslie Contreras Schwartz has been selected as Houston’s fourth poet laureate, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announce today.

Her two-year term begins now, as National Poetry Month comes to an end. Schwartz was selected through a competitive application and interview process by a panel of literary experts.

Mayor Turner made the final selection. The poet laureate receives a $20,000 honorarium for the two-year term, funded by the City of Houston Hotel Occupancy Tax dedicated to the arts.

Contreras Schwartz will work closely with the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to carry out her community outreach project focusing on outreach to people with mental illness and mental health workers. She will also conduct eight workshops in partnership with Houston Public Library and mentor the Houston Youth Poet Laureate.

“The appointment speaks to the great work that this poet has done and will do as an ambassador of the City though poetry,” Mayor Turner said. “Houston will be well represented by Leslie through workshops and outreach work in non-traditional communities.”

The Poet Laureate program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who creates excitement about the written and spoken word as well as outreach activities, special programs, teaching and their individual works. The role of the Poet Laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms, and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words.

“The Houston Public Library congratulates Leslie Contreras Schwartz on becoming Houston’s fourth Poet Laureate and joins the mayor in recognizing her invaluable talent. Contreras Schwartz will bring her passion and extensive knowledge of poetry and writing to Houston’s communities,” said Lawson. “We are excited about working with her on a diverse spectrum of literacy programs that will instill the love of poetry and writing for children, teens and adults alike around the city.”

“As a native Houstonian whose family has deep roots in the city since the early 1900s, I am deeply honored to be named an ambassador for poetry in the city I love and call home,” said Leslie Contreras Schwartz. “I have dedicated my adult life to studying, reading, and writing poetry, and am excited to share this passion. My outreach plan will focus on using writing to improve mental health, particularly among non-traditional and underserved communities.”

She is a poetry editor at Four Way Review and works as a lecturer at the University of Houston. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s degree at Rice University.

Contreras Schwartz says her work examines the individual versus public bodies and documents experiences and narratives of those usually silenced, such as people with mental illness, sex workers, women who are trafficked, or children in custody.

Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, The Collagist, [PANK], Verse Daily, The Texas Review, Catapult, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Her new collection of poems, Nightbloom & Cenote (St. Julian Press, May 2018), was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky. In 2018, she was a featured poet for the Houston Poetry Fest. Her fiction will be included in Houston Noir, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda (Akashic Press, May 2019).

Before ‘‘passing the pen’’ to Contreras Schwartz, the outgoing laureate, Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton, is launching her community outreach project, a multi-video series of performance poetry celebrating neighborhoods of the City. These videos can be found on the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs Facebook & YouTube Pages and will be throughout the coming weeks. The first can be found: https://youtu.be/B-o76Pxz1gs

About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. With more than eight million visits per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.

About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs develops policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at http://www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs and follow us on Facebook & Instagram. Find fun stuff on Houston’s Cultural Events Calendar.

March 1: 2nd Annual Internship and Job Fair

State Senator Borris Miles announces this second annual event.

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.

A Weekend of Voting and Cultura

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It was a pretty active weekend of voting and culture this past weekend.

Early Voting Sabado was huge and I got to experience a part of it by spending some time at Moody Park with the hard-working folks of Tacos and Vote and then headed out to MECA’s  and Casa Ramirez’s Dia de los Muertos festivities to get a dose of culture.

My friend Dr. Reynaldo Guerra and his crew put together their Tacos and Vote GOTV effort at three early voting locations. Open to all, the festivities included a Taco truck, mariachis, a jump house for kids, and plenty of fun at Moody, Bayland, and close to Ripley House. All of this after blockwalking the surrounding neighborhoods. It was good seeing Adrian Garcia, Democrat for County Commissioner Pct 2 working the crowd at Moody. From the looks of it, Moody had a good turnout on Saturday and reports from the other locations stated their events were a success.

Afterwards, it was off to MECA to enjoy some culture while celebrating and honoring  those who have departed this life. From the looks of it, a diverse group of thousands enjoyed all sorts of food, music, ofrendas, and the Retablos31 exhibit throughout Saturday and Sunday.

I caught an excellent performance by Mas Pulpo–Vladimir Castellanos on guitar and Roberto Rodriguez on the squeezebox. They took us through some classic Tex-Mex standards that all enjoyed, but their show-ending Volver Volver was cause for a sing-along.

After a taco at Teotihuacan on Airline, it was off to Casa Ramirez, the folk and culture bookstore on 19th Street in the Heights. They held their annual Dia de los Muertos Celebration and March. The ceremony was opened by Danza Azteca, which provided Aztec ritual, history, and dance before hundreds of attendees joined a march to Casa Ramirez. Attendees enjoyed tamales, polvorones, and live music by Bossa II, while visiting the ofrendas offered by families honoring deceased loved ones. It was definitely a family affair enjoyed by all. And emotional, too.

I don’t care what the high-priced consultants tell you, politics and culture go together; especially if we’re adding some resistance to it. Brown folks have a target on their back and it is through cultural celebrations and political resistance with which victory can be achieved.

Thoughts on Viernes – 120817

Proof of Poverty

As I mentioned yesterday, some fact-checkers in Austin wanted proof of Democratic candidate for Texas Governor Lupe Valdez’s farm worker family roots. No, they didn’t ask for college transcripts, proof of serving in the military or anything like that. They wanted proof of poverty! I was surprised to see that Valdez’s people sent in a couple of photos.

Now, I wish my family had had the money to buy film for the ol’ Kodak 110 to take pics of us in the fields, or cooking meals on coals because we ran out of gas, or using said coals to heat the bathroom so we could bathe for school. Anyway…

Little Brown Trust Fund Boy Gets Opponent

I was happy to find out that Miguel Suazo, an oil/gas lawyer,will file to run for Texas Land Commissioner. Suazo worked with NM Senator Jeff Bingaman, so, he’s no stranger to government service. I look forward to hearing  his story and his plans for the office.

State Senator Borris Miles

I have had the privilege of representing the constituents of District 146 and Senate District 13 for over 10 years.

Because I’ve shown myself to be an effective voice of the people, I have made powerful enemies who will go to any length to destroy and disrupt my service.  I will not continue to address anonymous accusations that attack my personal and professional character as an effective lawmaker.

Sexual harassment is a serious offense and I plan to join my colleagues in the Senate in developing policy that allows all people due process and assurances they may work effectively in a fair and safe environment.

The people expect me to do my best and I will continue to fight for them until they decide otherwise. I will not be deterred.

OK, then.

VOTE ON SABADO (FIND YOUR VOTING LOCATION HERE)

HISD District I – Elizabeth Santos

HISD District III – Jesse A. Rodriguez

HCC District IX – Pretta Vandible Stallworth

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!

EVENT on 4/24/17: Future of Public Ed in the Era of DeVos

amunited

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Houston Chapter

invites you to our Annual Meeting and Panel Discussion 

The Future of Public Education in
the Era of Betsy DeVos

Featuring:  Richard Carranza, Supt., Houston ISD; Zeph Capo, President of HFT,  Dr. John Ogletree, Pastors for Texas Children

Moderated by Juliet Stipeche
Director of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston
 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Reception and Annual Meeting – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion – 7:15 pm
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Event Center
3303 Main Street, Houston, Texas 
 
Event is free and open to the public          Free parking available
         RSVP appreciated:  americansunited.houstonchapter@gmail.com