Category Archives: Education – K12

QEPD – Gregg Barrios

I’ve known about Gregg Barrios for a long time.

The former Crystal City educator impacted a lot of students’ lives, mentoring so many kids who became leaders in their respective communities, taught students during the 1969 Crystal City Walkout, and was even the print communicator of La Raza Unida Party with the newspaper, La Verdad. Of course, I wasn’t even born and/or was very young during this part of his life. But he left his mark on Cristal and I learned about it.

Beyond Cristal, he impacted even more lives as a journalist, writer, poet, playwright, cultural critic, and recognized literary figure. To call him a genius and a force of nature doesn’t do him justice because he already knew he was both. Gregg passed away suddenly last week.

He is being remembered by many on his FB page–so many stories. I’ll forever be proud of being included as “Dos Centavos” in the acknowledgments of his poetry work, La Causa, as I had shared some of his works and linked to many of his writings in Texas Monthly, LA Times, and the San Antonio Express-News on DosCentavos.net as a way to support him.

I wrote a lot about his play, Rancho Pancho, which he debuted in San Antonio in 2008, staged in Provincetown, MA at the Tennessee Williams Festival, and finally, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque to rave reviews . It was during this time when I finally met him. It was during the trip to catch Rancho Pancho in New Mexico when I found out he had mentioned me in La Causa, which really touched my heart.

Rancho Pancho is the story of Williams’ tempestuous relationship with South Texan Pancho Rodriguez. Racism, classicism, the nature of superior/subordinate relationships, and the influence of Rodriguez on Williams’ work are just a few of the themes touched on in this play.

And my nephew was cast in the play as Pancho just after he graduated from university and as he was headed to LA to begin his professional acting career. So, needless to say, I became quite the follower of Gregg’s work and exploits as he kept in touch with my family over the years.

On October 15, 2021, Gregg was to be honored by San Antonio Writing Center, Gemini Ink, at their annual Inkstravaganza with the Award of Literary Excellence. So, I’ll steal from them the bio they used on Gregg:

Gregg Barrios is a first-generation playwright, poet and journalist. He is also a graphic digital artist and film-maker. His award-winning plays have been produced in San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Albuquerque, Provincetown, and New York City. He has received a Rockefeller Grant, a Mark Taper – CTG Fellowship, and an Artist Foundation of San Antonio Grant for his theater work. The San Antonio Current has called him “A Texas Treasure.”

Barrios’ journalism has appeared in The New York TimesFilm Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSan Francisco ChronicleFilm CultureLos Angeles Times, and the Texas Observer. He is a former books editor and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He was a founding editor of the local Spanish language daily Rumbo, and an editor of La Verdad, the Raza Unida Party newspaper. Barrios received a USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship in 2013, and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2015. He received a Golden Gavel for his literary work from the Texas House of Representatives, and was the 2015 Fall Visiting Writer at Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently serves on the executive board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Barrios credits his time at Andy Warhol’s original Factory as transformational. He made an experimental film, BONY (1967), with/about Warhol “superstars” poets Gerard Malanga and art critic René Ricard. He later collaborated with Warhol on a Nico music video. His short film Desperately Seeking Dionysus (1968) was part of the Velvet Underground NYC exhibit in 2018. Excerpts from Barrios’ original Bowie-inspired rock musical Stranger in a Strange Land (1976) were featured in Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists… exhibited at Blue Star Contemporary, also in 2018. In 2019, the Austin Film Society honored Barrios for “bringing film culture to Austin through Cinema 40 Film Society” that he founded as a UT student in 1965. Recently, his digital photography was part of the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture at the Centro de Artes exhibition for the New York Foundation of the Arts. 

Barrios has written four poetry collections: Air-Conditioned Apollo (1968); Healthy Self (1979); Puro Rollo (1982); and La Causa (2010). His poetry has appeared in Hecho en Tejas, Latina Magazine, Harvard Review, Aztlan and Vietnam, Fiesta en Aztlan, New Orleans Review, and Home Front: An America at War Reader, Lowrider, and El Quetzal Emplumece. An anthology of his poetry “My Life: The Poem I Never Wrote: New & Selected Poetry 1968-2021” (Hansen Poetry) is scheduled for publication in 2021. 

Barrios served in the USAF as a combat medic during the Vietnam War. He appeared in “Telling SA,” The Tobin Center’s theater production, and on the PBS national broadcast of San Antonio veterans. He was a Harvard Fellow in 2017 and a Yale Fellow in 2019. Recently, he endowed Urban-15’s Mega Corazon with the Gregg Barrios Beautiful Words Prize for the Best Poetry Performance. His new play “Hard Candy: The Life and Times of Candy Barr” will premiere at the Gregg Barrios Theater at Overtime in early 2022. 

No doubt, there was much more for Gregg to accomplish and more lives to impact. I only hope the projects he was currently working on are continued to their completion.

Gregg Barrios, ¡Presente!

SCOTx Ruling Affects Dallas and Bexar Mask Mandates

That’s right, the Texas Supreme Court decided to temporarily stop the mask mandates put forth by these two counties while it hears arguments from each side. School districts and other entities were not affected by this decision if their school boards and superintendents issued mask mandates for their students.

The responses coming from Attorney General Paxton and Greg Abbott show some ineptness (AG), as well as fear of a Texan revolt (Abbott).

“Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local officials that the Governor’s order stands,” Paxton said in a tweet on Sunday after the ruling.

Abbott’s response to the decision was less pointed, specifying that his executive order does not prohibit mask-wearing.

“Anyone who wants to wear a masks can do so,” Abbott said in a tweet.

But some of the local officials who defied Abbott’s order said they’ll continue to fight.

Local leaders who are standing up to Greg Abbott will continue the fight. While Abbott and the republicans have politicized and monetized the pandemic for their own benefit, the leaders who are fighting back are doing it for all of the right reasons.

“We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business [and] others to protect you,” Dallas County Judge Jenkins said.

Fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant, hospitalizations have increased across the state at a pace quicker than any other point during the pandemic. Less than half of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

Ultimately, the people of Texas must stand up for their themselves and defy Greg Abbott: Vaccinate! Wear a mask! Keep social distance! Stop mass gatherings! And keep clean! Some of us are watching which “leaders” are acting like fools and kissing up to Abbott.

Meanwhile, let’s keep an eye on these court decisions.

Leaders Defying Greg Abbott

It’s been heartening to see school and local leaders begin the process of standing up to Greg Abbott’s mask ban; especially as schools begin to open up to students and staff.

Bexar County and Dallas County have won temporary restraining orders that allow them to call for masking up of schools. Last night, Harris County Commissioners voted to authorize the County Attorney Menefee to attempt the same.

Both judges cited public health needs in their decisions. Arteaga said she did not take her decision lightly. She cited the start of the school year and public guidance given by Woo concerning the need for masks in public schools as the highly contagious delta variant contributes to a surge in coronavirus cases across the state. Parker, meanwhile, wrote that “Judge Jenkins cannot be precluded from implementing the mitigation strategies he believes are sound, reliable, and backed by scientific evidence.”

Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton’s responses seem to be coming out of those frontier days when their own ancestors were spreading small pox to the original inhabitants of Texas. They both choose to go full on racist and blame brown people, instead. The facts are on our side, though.

Obviously, Abbott and his minions will appeal and place children and Texans in danger.

The worsening COVID-19 numbers are telling us that we need to mask up again and follow CDC guidelines for distancing. They’ve been telling us this for a while before many wanted to admit it. Over 10,000 Texans are hospitalized and hospitals are in crisis mode regarding room availability and staffing.

Greg Abbott’s “strong encouragement” of personal responsibility is coming late as vaccination immunity will still take time to improve the situation. Action is needed now and masks are the answer to slow the spread, as well as encouraging people to stop acting like fools and filling up venues and restaurants.

Keep masking, folks. Avoid crowds. Keep clean. And if you haven’t yet, get vaccinated. The City of Houston alone has over 30 locations around the city.

Code Orange = Strong Encouragement, Unfortunately

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo elevated the county’s COVID-19 code to ORANGE as hospitals address a significant spike in cases. Orange means “minimize all contacts unless fully vaccinated,” but is that even enough, now?

As I stated previously, I felt uneasy about the Biden/CDC’s unmasking of the vaccinated. Things just looked too comfortable and it certainly didn’t encourage those who needed to mask. Maskholes are still maskholes and I didn’t feel society should be rewarded, yet.

Maybe I preferred the visual of people acting responsibly, rather than the one of unmasked mass (and smaller) events leaving me to wonder what the vaccination rate was in the room. Thankfully, Judge Hidalgo called for masking to return.

Hidalgo said by not wearing masks, even those who are vaccinated are “normalizing” not wearing masks for those who are unvaccinated. She also reminded the vaccinated they can still spread the virus to the unvaccinated, who can get sicker from the virus.

KHOU 7.23.2021

That last line may have been a mild reference to breakthrough cases.

Another unfortunate matter is the fact that all the elevated code does is allow Judge Hidalgo and other leaders to strongly encourage good behavior rather than mandating it, thanks to Greg Abbott’s lack of compassion. Re-opening with little to no precautionary guidance is what has taken us backwards. Schools are reopening soon, and some universities are already open as students get ready to return, and Abbott is allowing bad behavior to exist–no masking, light encouragement of vaccinations if one chooses, etc. These education systems have a responsibility to practice good behavior despite having a crappy leader.

Although right-wing misinformation clearly exists on the airwaves, I found it encouraging to suddenly see more people in my area of town masking and acting responsibly, at stores and even while walking outdoors. Although it was just a tiny moment and area, I hope it continues all over.

As Kuff mentions in his post about the color code change, COVID-19 testing may become an issue as testing has been scaled down. It became pretty obvious to me when I saw an actual line of walk-up clients at a tiny testing temporary building (think 8×8 converted container) in front of the Aldi on Westheimer.

Anyway, mask-up, wash hands, stay vigilant. And tell your unvax’d people to get vax’d or you’re cutting them off.

Abbott’s Intentional Failures

Greg Abbott was not put on this earth to serve the vast majority of Texans and his State of the Failed State speech was just another example of his black heartedness and disdain for those most in need.

As the Texas Lege tries to get back to work amid COVID-19, missing from Abbott’s priorities are efforts to fight COVID-19. It’s not surprising, actually. Abbott has been missing in action in that regard, and President Biden is finding out that Trump and his ilk were MIA, too.

Abbott’s time-wasting moves have been to protect businesses who continually push to violate COVID-19 protocols. His only intention has been to flout CDC guidelines and suggestions by keeping Texas businesses, churches, and schools open in the midst of a pandemic that caused more and more death and illness. By adding that folks aren’t required to get vaccinated in all of his statements on vaccine rollout, he’s pretty much in line with all the yahoos whose behavior has put Texans in peril. Kuff has more on this particular issue.

Abbott completely ignores the need for reform of law enforcement, which would include prioritizing funding toward programs that take on the root causes of crime–homelessness, poverty, mental illness. Instead, he promotes his own version of Trumpism in a vow to overthrow local control of local law enforcement. He commits to ending the actual bail reform that is finally coming to light, while supporting punishment before trial for those who cannot afford to bond out. He is not interested in meeting the demands of the people who continually go abused by a bigoted law enforcement system.

At a time when people are most in need of preventive health care, Abbott cares not about the health of Texans by not supporting an expansion of Medicaid. 2 million Texans could benefit from this expansion at little cost to the state. Instead, Abbott simply does not care. He never has. And sick people be damned.

Finally, Abbott is content with restrictive voting laws that keep Black and Brown people home on election day. He keeps talking about “trust” in elections when his own Donald Trump, et. al. continues a crusade against a legitimate election. Abbott makes up accusations of voter fraud with no evidence, while supporting efforts to stop people from voting. It’s a great deception to rile up bigoted supporters. In fact, while people seem to want to save the republican party, they seem to forget that even “moderate” republicans have found the crazies in the party useful to win elections. They’re just finding out the hard way that these idiots also want to be their elected leaders (look up Greene and Boebert).

Why people have trusted Abbott and republicans to run this state is beyond me. Why people think he would do anything other than serve the masters that keep him and his buddies well-funded also keeps me dumbfounded. Bottom line: Abbott does all of this with a purpose in mind–Keep the rich happy and kick everyone else in the teeth, even the people he continues to fool. It has been the republican way for decades, but Trump allowed the already hateful behavior to show its teeth with amped up racism, lies and deception. And Abbott seems to be OK with that behavior in the role of a Trump lapdog, as long as he gets to lead them.

Democrats need to fight and with fighting words; and with none of the usual rhetorical crap that is never believable, like moving to the right on something, or attempting to fight like gentleman (and gentlewomen) with sugarcoated bullshit, when all republicans do is bludgeon those they hate–verbally and through racist policies.

Texas will not change until the people recognize who is actually on their side when it comes to economic opportunity, health care, education, and the issues that actually matter. But we’ve been saying this for…ever, and no one seems to get it. And the republicans gain ground because they are so good at finding those weaknesses in people that allow them to blame “the other” for every problem.

Anyway, just wanted to put something down on virtual paper which states the obvious: Greg Abbott is failing Texans quite intentionally and he’s been allowed to do it since his beginnings . If we’re going to fight him, well, fight him. But let’s not be squeamish.

Biden States Case For Latino Support

credit: Alamy

Joe Biden stated his case for the Latino electorate with a lengthy article stating where he stands on issues affecting Latinos.

President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. His assault doesn’t just reveal itself in the betrayal of the Dreamers or in the pardoning of a sheriff who has terrorized the Latino community. It’s in the underfunding of schools, in attacks on labor and the ability of workers to bargain for their worth, and in the neglect of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American.

Generally, he promised the following.

Biden will:

  • Invest in Latinos’ economic mobility.

  • Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.

  • Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.

  • Combat hate crimes and gun violence.

  • Secure our values as a nation of immigrants.

Specifically, he talked about supporting a Latino museum at the Smithsonian and political appointees to his administration that will look like America. Included is a promise to expand Latino small business opportunities and jobs creation through infrastructure development. Within this, improving the treatment of workers and expanding worker protection is on his to-do list. To support Latino families, he would address lack of access to child care for essential workers and early education. Expanding Latino homeownership is on his list, too.

One important part of his plan is expanding access to health care through a public option for health insurance and ACA subsidies to make Obamacare more affordable. Most importantly, addressing the inequality experienced by the Latino community that block their access to health care. It’s not Medicare-for-all, but given his primary campaign, I didn’t expect it. Given how COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in health care and insurance, it should still be discussed.

In the realm of higher education, Biden is committed to increasing college graduation rates, tuition-free higher education including 2-year workforce programs, increased access to student financial aid, student debt forgiveness, investing in Hispanic-Serving Institutions, bringing HSI and HBCUs into high-tech research, among other commitments.

Pointing to Trump’s anti-immigrant nature, Biden promises to send an immigration bill to Congress on Day 1 which will modernize the immigration system and include a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents of the US.

On the detention side, Biden promises to decrease its use, passing on the case management responsibility to nonprofit groups while migrants go through the system. And Biden also promises to stop Trump’s policy of caging children in favor of family reunification. [I hope they aren’t reunified in family-style prisons.] Added on is a decrease in the use of 287(g) agreements to take out local law enforcement from the equation.

Really, folks, check out this article, which includes links to his policy pronouncements on his campaign website. It’s actually better than I expected, though, we will have conversations about his Latin America policy soon enough since it doesn’t seem to be any different than what Republicans offer:  More election meddling and coups in support of right-wing, murderous regimes who care little for the poor and indigenous.

Some of you will see articles about the Orange one making a play for Latinos, too. Basically, he’ll speak to the same self-hating, anti-immigrant, bigoted brown folk (including some of our relatives) who think they’re excluded from Trump’s anti-Latino hate. For some reason, they buy into it. So, Democrats should not waste time with them, instead concentrate on increasing the bottom line with folks who want a reason to vote for Democrats.

Yes, many of us feel like we’re just voting for the next guy we’ll be protesting. For sure, we will be making Biden accountable for these promises during the campaign and once in office. And another thing, Biden cannot be a repeat of the Obama years in which access for Latino activists to the White House was controlled by elitists not involved in progressive causes. Latino activists must be part of the discussion of issues, and not just inclusive of those content with invites to the White House Cinco de Mayo event and other photo ops.

And guess what? There will be Dems (brown ones included) who will be upset for the people demanding what was promised. But tough shit. We are only exercising our right to participate and to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Trump has expanded those grievances and “going back to normal” is not an option. It must be better.

The job for everyone who wants to rid us of the Orange one is to sell what Biden is offering, and NOT what Trump is doing or saying. Dems need to stop being a free ad for the Orange one where all they do is point a finger at how bad Trump is. Biden has stated his case and Dems need to back it up when trying to earn the Latino vote.

 

The Reality of Vaccines and Reopenings

I’ve been reading about reopenings of various industries and many industry leaders point to “local authorities” as their benchmark for how they will roll-out any reopening. Of course, what precautions are put in place to protect workers  and how effective those protections will be is up to those industries

Harris County has a color code at which we are currently at RED and it is safe to say that many industries are looking forward to ORANGE as the mark to begin phases for increased employees on-site.

To get to ORANGE, Harris County would need to have 14 days each of flat or decreasing rates of:  new COVID19 cases; COVID19-related hospitalizations; COVID19 ICU admits; and fewer than 15% of general and ICU beds in use. To get from ORANGE to YELLOW, it would take continued decreases at similar rates, as well as widespread deployment of a vaccine or treatment for COVID19.

It’s safe to say that it may take a while to get back to ORANGE, as changes in personal responsibility (behaviors) and public policy (Abbott/Trump) are still a work in progress (or in digging a deeper hole). It may take more death and infection to convince people and leaders to adapt, unfortunately. Still, it would seem that some sort of comfort in reopening would be found at YELLOW. Certainly, reopening at YELLOW would give the impression that an industry actually cares about their employees, instead of the crap-shoot at ORANGE.

While Trump and his minions and some in the science community are selling us on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and that one may be ready as early as October, 2020 (to December, 2020), there are others being a bit more honest about vaccine development and the eventual issues in efficacy, production, and roll-out.

I read a lengthy report by management consulting firm McKinsey that brought all the information out there together to explain the reality. Carolyn Johnson at the Washington Post had a lengthy article, too. For all the attempt at excitement by Trump and his minions, the bottom line is that it is going to be a lot more challenging than what he’s selling. Here are a few of those challenges:

  • More than 50 vaccine candidates are expected to enter human trials in 2020, and 250 total vaccine candidates are being pursued. Historical attrition rates would suggest that such a pipeline could yield more than seven approved products over the next few years.
  • A number of hurdles remain, including validating unproven platform technologies, demonstrating vaccine candidates’ safety and protection against COVID-19, and delivering the highest-impact vaccine profiles.
  • Regulatory bodies are still finalizing guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Vaccine manufacturers have announced cumulative capacity that could produce as many as one billion doses by the end of 2020 and nine billion doses by the end of 2021. [Note:  FDA has set a benchmark of 50% effectiveness to approve a vaccine.]

As the post article mentions, how effective the initial vaccines that are approved really are will influence how much buy-in by consumers there will be. And, as previous vaccines in US history have shown, it has taken a few years for some vaccines to reach a trusted level of efficacy. We are also reminded:

Even the word “effective” will be parsed by experts and may need to be carefully explained. The goal is for a vaccine to prevent infections altogether. But that’s not the only definition of a successful vaccine, which could also include shots that reduce the severity of symptoms people experience. Ideally, a vaccine would do both. But what happens in real life will influence decisions about who should get the vaccine first.

Mark Mulligan of the New York Langone Vaccine Center (quoted in the Post) states that

he believes people should view vaccines in much the same way they have regarded reopening — as something that must occur in gradual phases to be safe and could even double back on itself as we learn more. Governments and companies are investing billions of dollars to ramp up the vaccine supply now, but even so, it won’t be possible to vaccinate everyone in the first week or even the first month after the first vaccine becomes available. The world will become safer, bit by bit, not all at once.

And even when there is a vaccine, what will be the priority list? As the Post article reminds us, it wasn’t until Trump and famous people (athletes) were shown to have easy access to almost daily COVID-19 testing that people began to see how people are prioritized in this country. When the upper crust is prioritized, it would seem that the rest of us start to care less while forgetting that there are more of us who should be demanding change.

No doubt, we need more than just the vaccine to make all of this work. Along with a longer term shut-down to flatten the curve, more testing is needed as well as sped-up results, effective contact tracing (and COVID-19 patients willing to cooperate with tracers to inform those they may have exposed), and the development of accessible and affordable therapeutics and treatment to help those who are infected get beyond the infection. All of this must be buttressed by access to health care and an economic stimulus that keeps people fed and housed, rather than enriching corporations. Without all of these components in place, reopenings deemed safe will only be a farce.

It is getting more difficult to have faith that we will get beyond this with less people affected because political and industry leaders seem to miss the point that much like people were expected to adapt to change (masks and self distancing) of their own volition, politics and industry needed to similarly adapt for the long-term. Because of a thirst for profit and political power, taking on COVID-19 has been a dismal failure for most, but quite profitable for a few. Again, I remind all of how people (and even businesses) are prioritized during these times.

So, stay home as much as possible, and if you need to go somewhere, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance from everyone. The rest is up to those we put in charge and how willing they are to risk your life for political power and profit.

 

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.

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/