Category Archives: Environmental

A Wall, A Fence: Hysteria and Hate Continue To Build It

H.R. 6061, the “Secure Fence Act of 2006“, was introduced on September 13, 2006. It passed through the U.S. House of Representatives on September 14, 2006 with a vote of 283–138.

On September 29, 2006, by a vote of 80–19 the U.S. Senate confirmed H.R. 6061 authorizing, and partially funding the “possible” construction of 700 miles (1,125 km) of physical fence/barriers along the border. The very broad support implied that many assurances were been made by the Administration — to the Democrats, Mexico, and the pro “Comprehensive immigration reform” minority within the GOP — that Homeland Security would proceed very cautiously. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, announced that an eight-month test of the virtual fence he favored would precede any construction of a physical barrier.

On October 26, 2006, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 6061 which was voted upon and passed by the 109th Congress of the United States.

borderbeachtjI remember that 80-19 vote. I remember Hillary Clinton being among the eighty. And Chuck Schumer. And other Democrats that were loved by many.

A decade later, over 5,000 souls have perished attempting to find new entry points, dying in treacherous terrain, hot deserts, and at the hands of smugglers. Humans who were just looking for something better than their US-tainted home countries offered.

Trump’s wall is nothing new, really. Much like the current fencing, it’s a symbol of fear, blame, and hate. Or, as the old white Democrat (men and women) who voted for Trump calls it, “economic anxiety.”

That Republicans propose this kind of hate is nothing new. REAL ID and HR4437 back in 2005-2006 were in direct response to Mexican and other Latino migrants. But why do Democrats go along with it?

More often that not, Democrats go along with this kind of hate because they fear getting ousted by the bigots in their districts and states. So many times, I’ve been criticized for writing about Democratic bigotry in the ranks of the party, and told that “we need to win re-election,” as if some fake majority will save us.

A decade later, Trump’s wall may get its beginnings. Ridding itself of the EPA, I doubt time will be wasted on environmental impact statements. Ridding itself of the parks service, I doubt there will be any talk about protecting some of the area’s furry residents. And, certainly, such a project will call for an increase in military (and militaristic–think #NoDAPL’s response) presence on the border.

One can argue waste and corruption, which will happen. But no one will listen. This has been a decade in the making. Politically, though, it shows why Democrats should never support anything like this. All one has to do is realize the intentions of such policies and a NO vote should be easy. Unless, they actually enjoy promoting hate, blame, and fear.

Still, I doubt Democrats will ever learn. What’s upsetting is that it’s usually on issues regarding migrants and Latinos.

 

 

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Trump Leaves DACA Alone For Now

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Credit:  Lalo Alcaraz

 

The Trump campaign-turned-administration has perfected the way it instills fear in communities. Of course, the fear has created plenty of activists who will hopefully remain committed to a multitude of issues utilized by Trump to gain enough votes in a few states to win the electoral vote.  Monday was a stressful day for DACA beneficiaries–numbering about 750,000 nationally. By mid-afternoon, it seemed Trump left Obama’s executive order which created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals alone.

Even his COS Priebus and his alternative mouthpiece Spicer seemed to try to calm pro-migrant forces a bit by stating that the priority is “criminal” immigrants. Cesar Espinosa, ED of FIEL, a local immigrant rights group, asked, “What is ‘criminal?'”

The Obama administration used the same kind of program to deport 3 million and warehouse thousands more in private prisons. Early on, the majority of deportees were convicted of low-grade, non-deportable crimes, but were still sent to home countries, breaking up families, and affecting local economies. Now, with 750,000 DACA lives hanging in the balance, hundreds of thousands more of their parents, and millions more who are simply working and contributing to their communities waiting for Trump’s next move, there’s more fear and stress in the community.

The lack of action by Trump today didn’t provide much comfort. Activists, though, are looking to leadership at the local level.

The newly elected Sheriff of Travis County, Sally Hernandez announced her department would not cooperate with the Trump administration and has earned the ire of Greg Abbott who has gotten really good at making threats about funding. El Paso’s Democratic Sheriff, on the other hand, has decided to cooperate with Trump because he fears losing grant money.

Locally, activists await action from new Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Gonzalez promised to rid the department of 287g, an immigrant removal program which provides grant money to the department. Since taking office, he hasn’t mentioned anything about that promise, and already there is the start of a movement requesting action from him and Mayor Sylvester Turner.

It’s only Day 5 and real issues are now being discussed. And we also have the Texas Lege to deal with who are bringing out multiple cans of crazy. Let’s stay focused.

3rd Centavo ~ Tameez: Give Up The Green

My friend, Mustafa Tameez, among the best political strategists out there and whose opinion I trust, had a pretty thought-provoking piece in the Texas Tribune’s Tribtalk. It’s about giving up grass. No, not the one for funny cigarettes, but the actual stuff some of us have in our front yards.

We clip it, bag it, throw it away, feed it, love it, hate it, fight with it, protect it, brag on it and curse it. Our lush green lawns suck up a preposterous amount of our time, energy, money and water supplies. That’s why Texas — still facing major water woes — is the perfect place to open a national discussion on the need to give up this ridiculous obsession.

Lawn care is big business in the United States. According to Ted Steinberg, the author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, Americans spend a massive $40 billion on their lawns every year. Texas, famous for its big suburbs full of big homes surrounded by big lawns, surely makes up a large portion of that total.

The sheer volume of water used for lawn upkeep is even more incredible. According to a Texas Water Development Board study, 259 Texas cities between 2004 and 2008 used an annual total of about 96.7 billion gallons of water outdoors — 80 to 90 percent of which is estimated to have been used to maintain lawns and plants. To put that into perspective, picture all the water that runs over Niagara Falls during a 40-hour workweek. Now imagine that same amount poured into our yards. Just in Texas.

This tremendous wastefulness has continued during a time of scarcity. Texas, already drier than most of the rest of the U.S. to begin with, is in the middle of one of its worst droughts in history. But the lawn care industry is humming along and, along with agriculture, remains a major source of water consumption. (Of course, we don’t eat the grass; it goes into a landfill, but not until after we’ve dumped an estimated 22 inches of water on it, according to the Texas Water Resources Institute.)

In many ways, Texas has adeptly handled water shortages in recent years. Cities like San Antonio are leading the way in municipal conservation efforts, and Texas voters in 2013 overwhelmingly approved a plan to take $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to fund water supply projects. We’re faring considerably better than states like California, where several communities are on the verge of running out of water, and other parts of the world like China.

Still, we drop enough fresh, potable water into our yards every day to make T. Boone Pickens blush.

We must cast aside our vanity-fueled insistence that lush lawns are a fixture of our modern lifestyle. There’s no good reason to plant thirstier varieties of grass, like St. Augustine, instead of hardier types like native buffalograss. Incorporating xeriscaping, or dry landscaping, into more lawns would also help reduce water use.

If Gov. Rick Perry can talk about marijuana in the same tones as President Obama, surely we can have a meaningful conversation about the other kind of grass, too.

Having visited Santa Fe, NM a few times, it was easy to become a fan of xeriscaping and dry landscapes. I guess my biggest concern would be the hit to landscaping companies, especially, their base of employees. Then again, some of these estate-sized lawns who suck up the most water would still have similar management needs. The biggest challenge would be a culture change of epic proportions to support such an idea. Thus far, the threat of water shortages and drought have yet to make people think.

Thoughts on Viernes…02142014

Abbott and Pé

Finding no credible brown face from South Texas or the RGV to defend him, it looks like Greg Abbott settled for a defense from the Little Brown One, AKA “Pé” (en la frente). And it was a pretty weak defense since the people of South Texas are still waiting for an apology from Abbott.

Pé Bush isn’t doing himself any favors defending a condescending gringo non-Latino elected official. I mean, c’mon, doesn’t Pé know that those of us who grew up in South Texas had to deal with condescension and general meanness from right-wing bigots? One would figure he would have learned this at his private school in Florida growing up.

Anyway, South Texas awaits a sincere apology from Abbott for “third world,” as well as for defending K-12 funding cuts, trying to block health care for those who can’t afford it, etc. There’s a long list of stuff for which he owes South Texas an apology.

Contaminated Soil and METRO

This made the news earlier this week (pay wall) and I must say it is quite concerning. The community fought a plan to build an overpass for the East End rail line and negotiations ended up with agreement for an underpass so the rail would cross some freight rail lines. Building an underpass would ensure the area wasn’t divided by a huge wall of an overpass. It was even an issue CM Robert Gallegos ran on in his race for District I as he was among the community activists who supported an underpass.

Well, now, it was revealed that there is a nice-sized area contaminated with gasoline and even some cancer-causing pollutants which leaked from some of the freight rail tanks. According to consultants, if they don’t dig the underpass, then there is no need to clean the site. And that’s when my alarm went off, since I grew up in a town with an area close to schools and housing projects that was polluted so bad it became a Superfund site back in the 80s. Since 1994, according to the article, the contaminated area in the East End seems to have grown–unless they didn’t measure right the first time; they weren’t clear.

The METRO folks are correct, it takes years to mitigate–it was in the mid-90s when the mitigation in my hometown was considered a success to the Feds. But to just leave it there? One way or another, the soil needs to be dug up and removed from the area before anything is built. But it does beg numerous more questions about contamination in the East End, particularly in areas around freight rail lines. I hope we hear more about this soon because I find the solution of simply not digging a bit hard to believe.

Music Break – Los Lonely Boys – Fly Away (Official Video)

DC Inbox: More Good News for Houston

Here’s a note from Mayor Annise Parker announcing Houston as one of the winners of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge for the City’s “One Bin for All” idea for more effective trash and recyclables collection. Below are the particulars. Congrats to Mayor Parker and the City of Houston.

NEW YORK (March 13, 2013) – Mayor Annise Parker today announced that Houston’s One Bin for All idea is one of the five winners in the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities to improve the well-being of the nation. Houston was selected as a Mayors Challenge winner out of a pool of over 300 applicant cities, based on four criteria: vision, ability to implement, potential for impact, and potential for replication.  Houston will receive a $1 million innovation prize to help implement its One Bin for All idea. As the winner of the Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection, Houston will receive a $50K in-kind grant from IBM to support the implementation of its One Bin For All idea as well as featured coverage and promotion from The Huffington Post, including a monthly front page column for a year and an interview with Arianna Huffington on Huff Post Live. The City will also receive a sculpture created by world-renowned designer Olafur Eliasson to commemorate each of the Mayors Challenge winners.

“I am thrilled that Houston has been selected as a Mayors Challenge winner,” said Mayor Parker. “One Bin for All is a first-of-its kind innovation that will revolutionize the way we handle trash, achieving high-volume recycling and waste diversion, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower operating costs.  I am anxious to begin implementation because I know this cutting-edge technology has the potential to improve health and quality of life not only in Houston, but around the world.”

“Recycling has often been treated as an individual responsibility, like paying taxes. But Mayor Parker’s innovative One Bin For All idea turns that notion on its head,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and Mayor of New York City. “Achieving a 75% recycling recovery rate in Houston would represent a huge leap forward in urban sustainability practices.”

One Bin for All utilizes game-changing technology to separate trash from recyclables, allowing residents to discard all materials in one bin.  The anticipated end result is a dramatic increase in the amount of waste diverted from our landfills.  Implementation will be achieved through a public/private partnership.

The Mayors Challenge is a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life. Mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more were eligible to compete, with 305 cities representing 45 states submitting applications last September. [City 1] was awarded the $5 million grand prize, while [City 2], [City 3], and [City 4] were also awarded $1 million prizes. To learn more about the Mayors Challenge, visit bloomberg.org/mayorschallenge.

The Mayors Challenge Fan Favorite Selection, launched in partnership with The Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com/mayors-challenge), allowed citizens to learn more about the bold and innovative ideas of the 20 Mayors Challenge finalists and vote for their favorite. Over 58,000 votes were cast between February 20 and March 6.

The Mayors Challenge is the latest initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, which aims to spread proven and promising ideas among cities. Other Mayors Project investments include Cities of Service, Innovation Delivery Teams, andFinancial Empowerment Centers.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies is on a mission to improve and lengthen lives. We focus on five key areas to create lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation, which includes the Mayors Challenge, and Arts & Culture. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2012, $360 million was distributed. For more information, please visit www.bloomberg.org.

About Houston
With a population of 2.2 million people, Houston ranks as the nation’s 4th largest city.  Known as the Energy Capital of the World, Houston is an entrepreneurial, diverse, cosmopolitan city where no one ethnic or racial group holds a majority.  Twenty-five Fortune 500 companies call Houston home.  It is also the site of NASA headquarters – the facility responsible for putting the first man on the moon – the Port of Houston and the 47 research and treatment institutions that comprise the world-renowned Texas Medical Center.