Category Archives: Elections

We Need A Vote-at-Home Order from Abbott

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

Anyway, thanks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Couple of Questions Regarding Williford

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

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

That said, I do have a couple of questions:

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

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

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

 

My COVID-19 Early Voting Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, damn, am I pissed off this morning.

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

On Mayor Turner’s Police Reform Task Force

First of all, I am of the opinion that all the great ideas to reform our local police departments have already been discussed and presented, and that they have been presented prior to the events that occurred in Minneapolis.

There has been a dire need for police reform in most cities, including Houston, for decades and nothing has been attempted; if anything, it’s been avoided for political expediency and to appease those who do not support any kind of police reform. We don’t need committees, we need decisive leadership to change the system and the culture of policing.

A committee of favorites that doesn’t include groups that have been at the forefront of police reform advocacy will not come up with anything new. If anything, my fear is that a committee of favorites will only serve as a rubber stamp for the wants of the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the police union. This must be of, by, and for the people, and this committee has too many familiar faces that only talk a good game. For some, it seems it’s what they do for a living.

I wholeheartedly agree with Transform Houston which states:

  1. The 45-person board does not include any individuals currently associated with Black Lives Matter Houston. Moreover, it includes only one organization that is part of the Houston Right2Justice Coalition which has already offered community driven policy recommendations on policing to Mayor Turner.
  2. A number of individuals represented on the task force have been employed by law enforcement agencies. If our goal is to explore ways to end the status quo problems with modern policing, having so many individuals at the table who have been deeply entrenched within those broken structures seems counterproductive to achieving meaningful reform.
  3. Mayor Turner has now had 2 separate bodies recommend police reform measures – both his 2016 Transition Committee on Criminal Justice and a 2017 report on fiscal responsibility and economic growth. The recommendations from both of those reports have yet to be implemented. At today’s press conference the Mayor seemed to dismiss the recommendations as no longer valid given the current movement to reform our policing system. To be clear, there are measures that have been proposed that could be immediately implemented by Mayor Turner that would begin the process of reforming how HPD does its work.
  4. Finally, Pastor Max Miller is listed as a member of the task force. Pastor Miller is well known as an anti-LGBTQ activist who worked tirelessly to spread misinformation about Houston’s transgender community during the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance City Council debates and ballot initiative.

The list of members of the committee is here. I know a few of them personally and a few others I know of their works in the community. According to the Mayor, their charge is to review policies, review the current independent review board, assess release of body camera footage, study best practices, assess community policing practices, and study the presence of police in the community. So, I agree with Kuff when he says let’s see them do something.

But, this kind of “study” should be an ongoing thing and not just one that happens when 60,000 people show up to rally, or when HPD kills the next black or brown person and fails to release results of an internal investigation. When it comes to police practices, and given the current surge of bad apples in policing and those quitting because of rules being imposed on them, the whole system should be under citizen watch beyond our cell phones.

The Mayor and Council are supposed to be our advocates as we elect them to oversee our government services (including police), but it appears that they are falling short. And a committee of favorites does not help this cause.

 

DC’s #StaceSlate – 2020 Dem Runoff

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

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

US Senate – Royce West – 27 years in the Texas Senate fighting for the issues that are important to Democrats. We need a proven fighter to bring out our base and West is that fighter. And I just don’t trust the choices of the DSCC or their incursions into these kind of races. Never have, actually.

Railroad Commissioner – Roberto “Beto” Alonzo – Over 20 years in the Texas Lege, he always scored high on environmental, civil rights, and education group score cards. I prefer someone outside of the oil/gas realm, yet, with a rich legislative history supporting the interests of the people and Democrats, generally. Plus, he’s a family friend whom I’ve known for…ever.

SBOE-6 – Michelle Palmer – I’ve seen her, basically, everywhere. She hasn’t taken any constituency for granted. She’s a progressive educator who will fight for our students.

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals-7 – Cheri Thomas – I met Cheri at a local Dem meeting. Personable, a listener, and someone who will take the job seriously.

Judge, 164th District – Alexandra Smoots-Thomas – She’s done a fine job as a judge ensuring people are not railroaded in the civil courts. There will be negativity thrown at her, but I don’t trust anything coming from Trump’s Justice Department.

Judge, 339th District – Te’iva Bell – She struck me as a reformer who believes in justice for all. A criminal district court should not be a place where one is railroaded to prison, rather, it should be a place where either side will find justice based on evidence and facts. Bell will offer that as a judge of this court.

Harris County Commissioner Pct 3 – Diana Martinez-Alexander – I want a Democratic candidate who will be responsive to voters and not special interests. We need to break down a system built for people with insider connections and Diana offers that kind of alternative, while speaking up on issues important to the people.

Constable Pct 5 – Mark Alan Harrison – He’s a veteran law enforcement leader who advocates for changes that positively impact the community. From what my friends (and his FB posts) tell me, he’s the candidate to support.

Find a PDF of Early Voting Locations by clicking here.  And, again, find your sample ballot here.

Remember to wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and get in and out of the polling location. Chances are you will be asked to remove your mask to match up to your ID. Let’s hope it’s quick. But if you want to order a face shield, Amazon has some.

 

DACA – It’s A Small Win

No doubt, there was a sigh of relief after the 5-4 SCOTUS decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was announced. Many of my friends are less worried.

For the meantime, Trump and his minions have been told that they will have to find another way to make a declaration on DACA’s legality that would lead to its end.

As SCOTUS stated:

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. “The wisdom” of those decisions “is none of our concern.” Chenery II, 332 U. S., at 207. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”

This may only further delay its demise, although, any new Trump effort to end DACA will once again be met by a challenge in the courts. This decision certainly adds to the political pressure against Trump and Republicans to do something about the entire issue (immigration and deportation reform and not just DACA), but also places pressure on Democrats who tend to get squeamish on any of these issues within the realm of immigration reform during election time.

For now, it’s still election season. As local group FIEL’s ED Cesar Espinosa stated:  “We are ecstatic that the supreme court sided on the right side of history and allowed for the DACA program to be in place for the meantime. We hope that in this interim time we are able to petition congress to come up with a permanent solution not only for DACA recipients but the immigrant community at large.”

And as various DREAMers stated at a press conference held today at FIEL, “It’s a small win,” and it is time to vote. It is time to study the candidates, find who is really on the side of DREAMers and immigrants, and vote them into office. It’s time to get beyond executive orders and actually do something.

This is not to say it’s all about politics. Much like the drive toward police reform, it’s about saving people’s lives. If politicians aren’t in it to work for the betterment of the people. then it’s just another popularity contest. Here’s a chance to do something.

There will be more on this, for sure. For now, it’s a good day.

Abbott: Follow The Rules I Didn’t Impose!

UPDATE 4PM:  Well that had to be the most useless press conference ever. Abbott and his minions basically assured Texans that there are enough hospital beds for all the COVID19 patients and that the re-opening will continue.

When asked regarding a letter by Dallas County Judge Jenkins who requested more power to enforce mask use and other rules, an offended Greg Abbott blamed Jenkins for wanting to “jail” non-mask wearers and that he should go after bars and restaurants who violate Abbott’s re-opening capacity rules. Abbott has mentioned that TABC is supposed to be doing this, too, so, who’s in charge?

Anyway, Texas government lacks leadership, but has an abundance of power-hungry zealots, and that is nothing new.


So, Greg Abbott is supposed to speak sometime today (6/16/2020) on the increase in COVID19 positives and hospitalizations.

Harris County continues to lead the state with the most confirmed cases with 17,282 cases, 10,029 active, 6,969 recovered and 284 deaths as of Tuesday morning.

and

Harris County has surpassed the hospitalization peak initially seen on April 11 at 610 patients.

As of Sunday, Harris County now has 696 patients severely suffering from coronavirus.

A doctor with Memorial Hermann says they’ve seen a 30% jump in hospitalizations since the end of May.

Telemundo also reported that one testing center at the Mexican Consulate had a 20% infection rate of the 600 tested. And United Memorial Medical Center reported that 90% of new patients are Hispanic.

But, yesterday, after forcing Texas to Phase 3 re-opening last week, Abbott blamed any increase on young people who aren’t taking Coronavirus seriously.

“They are not wearing face masks, they’re not sanitizing their hands, they’re not maintaining social distancing,” he added. “And as a result, they are contracting COVID-19 at a record pace in the state of Texas.”

I fixed his quote, though:

“How dare you young’ns get sick after going to all the businesses that I re-opened and by refusing to wear masks that I didn’t require you to wear!”

Abbott is concerned, but not alarmed, at the increase in positives and hospitalizations. So, he’ll keep the re-openings going and he won’t enforce any rules regarding masks, looking away while pretending that adults will adult.  All this from the comfort of his own taxpayer-paid cocoon. Now, that’s leadership!

Is it true that mask-wearing is lacking? That distance is not being practiced? Of course. We’ve been saying this the whole damn time. But people take their cues from the leaders that satisfy their wants and needs. Whether it’s racist policies or some semblance of faux rugged individualism, you can count on Republicans to shovel it and blame others for the consequences.

Let’s see what he says today.

 

 

 

Latino Victory Fund Endorses Natali Hurtado for HD126

The Latino Victory Fund, a national progressive organization working to grow Latino political power and representation across the United States has endorsed, among several Texans, Natali Hurtado, the Democratic candidate for Texas House District 126.

Hurtado is in her second run for the suburban district located in north and northwest Harris County. HD126 is considered a “red to blue” opportunity district with Hurtado having earned 46% of the vote in 2018. Once elected, she would be the first Latina to represent this district.

Hurtado’s experience in public policy and local politics is vast, having worked the campaign circuit for various candidates. She began her career in public policy as a congressional intern moving on up to serving as a district director for a Texas State Representative. Currently, she serves as the Deputy Executive Director of SW Houston’s International Management District in the Hawes Hill consulting firm working with district leaders to develop and improve their community.

Hurtado’s campaign issues include ensuring adequate funding for public education, access to health care, and community safety, among other issues of importance to her district.

Other candidates endorsed by Latino Victory fund include:  Joanna Cattanach, House District 108; Eric Holguin, House District 32; Jennifer Ramos, House District 119; Ana-Maria Ramos, House District 102; Lorenzo Sanchez, House District 67; and Carlos Gallinar, mayor, El Paso.

 

 

Where Is Houston on Police Reform?

There is a campaign for police reform called 8CantWait. They list eight reforms to police policy that could reduce police violence if fully put into place.

  • Bans Chokeholds and Strangleholds
  • Requires De-escalation
  • Requires Warning Before Shooting
  • Requires Exhausting Other Means Before Shooting
  • Duty to Intervene
  • Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles
  • Has Use of Force Continuum
  • Requires Comprehensive Reporting

Those in bold are in place in Houston. Meaning, a police officer may intercede to prevent unnecessary use of force by a co-worker and be free to report it to a supervisor; a department has guidelines as to how much force can be used on a resisting subject; and reporting of gun use, whether it is pointing a gun at a person, intentional discharge not resulting in bodily injury, and accidental discharge resulting in injury of a person.

A report written on the subject of police use of force is quite compelling. First of all, African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than white counterparts. It’s a fact. Ultimately, police violence would not only be reduced with these policies in place, but the threat of violence to police officers would also be decreased.  But, what is most disturbing is the lack of advancement on this by police departments as on average, they only accept three of the eight proposed reforms.

If these reforms are not being pushed at the federal and state levels, it is up to cities and their politicians to step up. Here in Houston, At Large 4 Council Member Letitia Plummer offered up amendments to the City of Houston Budget that is currently being debated. (click image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, this is leadership. And she’s on her first term. We have a term-limited mayor and council members who have yet to step up with solutions. But the people must let their own city council members know that they must support this amendment by calling them or e-mailing them. And telling them that these reforms are needed for the purpose of saving lives and improving community – police (and council) relations.

These are changes that have been promised for a long time in one form or another. When things are at their calmest is when they should be put in place. Our government should be proactive, but it is not. It is only after a murder-by-cop and direct action by the people that these changes are proposed. Hopefully, that will change.

If this is truly a lesson learned, then the changes that need to be made will be made. And soon.

Stop It With The Hero Worship

Too many people are going through this need for heroes. Everyone is a hero nowadays. I’m fine with farm workers (who feed us) and medical personnel (who have been fighting the COVID19 battle), but when it comes to talking heads and media hounds, I draw the line.

I thought the most annoying example was the Great White Hype Hope syndrome that many liberals are going through during the pandemic. Fauci, Cuomo, and even Newsom. (And I like Newsom.) They are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and in a Trump climate, but it’s nothing special that requires sainthood. As much as I defend and compliment our Latina County Judge, the same goes for her. They are doing their jobs despite the policies of the Abbotts and Trumps.

Then, George Lloyd was murdered and it became Jacob Frey and Gov Walz in Minnesota. Then it became any cop or police chief who joined a march or gave a symbolic kneel. Tear-filled speeches and symbolic gestures seem to grab and calm people; unfortunately, it only allows for more inaction. Distract and divert.

They’ve all made some pretty awful decisions, though. As far as big city mayors and police chiefs go, they literally attacked peaceful protesters (and reporters) with plastic bullets, tear gas, and horses. They were quick to blame the outsider, but I haven’t seen any of the white supremacists who are getting blamed being shot, gassed, or trampled. And when the sister of cop-murdered Houstonian Joe Campos Torres also gets arrested here in Houston, well, one wonders if something else is going at HPD.

Locally, Art Acevedo and local elected officials who have been elected and re-elected have had plenty of opportunity to push for criminal justice and policing reforms. Acevedo throws out some good lines and good hugs on camera, but where are the changes? Certainly, the death and police violence continues locally despite one of his underlings mouthing off on TV that Lloyd’s murder was in Minnesota and not here, so why protest here? As if Houstonians had no other reason to protest.

At the county level, there have been attempts at criminal justice and bail reform thanks to Judge Hidalgo, Commissioners Ellis and Garcia, and Sheriff Gonzalez. Unfortunately, they are stopped by Republicans at all levels. But they still try.

This is a conversation that must lead to actual effort and actual change and it must be had at all levels. We can’t take the attitude that if the votes aren’t there, then we must wait. If one doesn’t even try to change public opinion from the pulpit in which the voters placed them, then why even have them there?

But people buy into the hero worship because someone gives out a good image. We all want to feel the warm and fuzzies during a scary time. But, there comes a time when someone seen as a leader needs to act. And policing reforms need to happen. They’ve needed to happen since the promises began after the 1992 Rodney King beating. They’ve needed to happen throughout the history of the United States.

One would figure than in a Democratic majority city, with a Democratic majority city council that Houston PD would make the changes. Unfortunately, it would seem that kowtowing to the police union takes precedent over charges of police brutality. In reality, there is a dire need for leadership. The type of leadership that doesn’t only ask for the badges of bad cops, but that takes them away.

That we don’t have leadership at the top of the United States and Texas is obvious. But that doesn’t mean those who are on our side of the issue at other levels shrivel up and die and leave the rest of us to die. And certainly, diverting and distracting the people by making media-savvy moves is not a solution.

If your elected officials and law enforcement leaders aren’t in a room at this moment discussing how they will stop the law enforcement kill culture, change policing methods, enact real citizen review boards, reform a racist criminal justice system, and end a racist mass incarceration system, then, all the talk is just bullshit.