Category Archives: Higher Education

Uvalde

I was born and raised about 40 miles from Uvalde, TX in Crystal City. As much as the media talks about how small Uvalde is, those residing in the even tinier towns that surround it think of Uvalde as the closest big city that provides a small hospital, a big Wal-Mart, the KFC and other restaurants, car dealerships, and nice parks that provide more than dirt lots on which to run around in. There’s also Eagle Pass 40 miles in the other direction at the border, but we didn’t like to stop at Migra checkpoints because as Americans we didn’t enjoy having our citizenship questioned, unless we really had to go to La Aguila for the mall or the Social Security Admin office.

Uvalde also offers the area’s junior college for students who aren’t yet ready to leave the area for other universities or who seek workforce degrees in nursing, auto mechanics, HVAC, and law enforcement, or for dual credit courses at the high schools. I even took my ACT at SWTJC. The middle school field trip to the John Nance Garner Museum (FDRs VP aka Cactus Jack) was very interesting, too. The Uvalde Coyotes sports teams have been among Crystal City’s top rivals for decades. I’d add that many of us even have relatives and friends in Uvalde. So, what occurred in Uvalde affected the whole area, whether personally or emotionally and we feel so much for the families that were directly affected. Even those of us who have been gone for 33 years.

Before the news channels got ahold of the events, I was finding out about it through text messages from close friends who had friends with grandkids in the school. Later, when other friends were posting photos of unaccounted for children, and some who even knew slain teachers during their childhood, I found out we aren’t all that disconnected from each other in that area of Texas. In fact, slain teacher Irma Garcia’s father was the Principal at Crystal City High School before they moved to Uvalde during the 80s and Irma’s family are related to a cousin-in-law of mine. Eva Mireles grew up in Eagle Pass, which is the other little city in the area. The father of one of the little girls is from a town down the road from Houston where a friend of mine has taught for years.

When I started doing my internet searches of people talking about it on Facebook, there were so many stories going around that law enforcement had not even announced. One story blamed a “migrant bailout” after a chase because the Migra engages them dangerously and frequently. One news channel (CBS) even took notice of all the Border Patrol members in the vicinity that even that talking head was buying into the fake story. The reality is that BP has a checkpoint just outside of Uvalde on the way to Del Rio and Eagle Pass on the border. And they give all sorts of assists to LE when they’re not hunting brown people or causing accidents from chases. So, there’s a reason folks were questioning the Migra’s appearance and there are enough people there who love to blame “the other.” But it’s a small town and chisme happens really fast and that made things all the more frustrating when people were searching for their kids. The frustrations became more immense in the aftermath, though.

The lack of information provided to parents of missing children was quite angering as the school district, law enforcement, and the hospital were not providing information. It seemed they were getting the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” treatment. When they began to bring them in one-by-one for DNA swabs to assist in identity purposes, I knew what the outcome would be. One reporter stated they could hear the crying screams of parents as they were told why a swab was needed. One thing about small town folks in crises, we always hold out for hope because that’s one thing we always have and own, and most held out to the very end. But that they were left without a hint of a status for hours is a travesty.

Now, the information is still slow in coming and fast in changing to the point of inconsistencies, even after today’s DPS presser and Greg Abbott’s second presser. Greg Abbott’s first press conference featuring his political buddies was a joke and provided misinformation. Beto O’Rourke’s actions were quite welcome as he spoke truth to power, and their reactions showed us they knew it. A day later, the DPS press conference provided different information and left too many gaps to be filled. The one-hour gap between law enforcement getting shot at and the killing of the shooter was missing.

But then, there is also the allegations of mistreatment of parents by police, or rumors that law enforcement weren’t going in to the school, or others saving their own kids first, including BP agents. I know an investigation takes time, but when parents begin to provide facts of what they were met with when they arrived at the school, it seemed the presser became about defending law enforcement actions against parents, rather than actually investigating those allegations. That same regional director who headed up the first DPS presser, Victor Escalon, is the guy who interrogated Melissa Lucio, who almost ended up in the death chamber recently. That this guy has gotten promoted says a lot about Abbott’s operation.

The timeline is important, but we also need to know who was in charge during the various actions taken by law enforcement, from going into the school initially to the call-up of additional law enforcement and specialists to that one-hour gap to when they finally killed the shooter. It wasn’t until the aftermath that we found out Texas Rangers took over. But who was in charge the rest of the time? As DPS Director McCraw told the press, there is no need for someone in charge in an active shooter situation. One just goes in and takes out the shooters. (We found out later that the incident commander was Chief Arredondo of the school police, who gave the very first press conference on the evening of this tragic day.)

In Friday’s DPS presser, we found more truths, and maybe even more individuals to blame as a school resource officer was mentioned as driving into the school parking lot after the shooter had crossed the fence. Also mentioned was a back door that was propped up by a teacher who may have gone to his/her car to get a cell phone that he/she forgot. But let’s also recall that an awards ceremony had been held earlier that morning and there were a lot of parents going in and out of the building and it was probably close to the lunch period. It never fails that instead of finding systemic gaps in problems, they’ll find an individual to blame so that those in charge seem unblameable.

Congressman Joaquin Castro (because Uvalde’s right-wing guy Tony Gonzalez is useless) put out a request for the FBI to take over the investigation. I think this is a great idea considering that there were federal agencies involved in this. And the FBI responded after meeting with Congressman Castro.

It would seem to me that the kids who survived this tragedy, that were in the building, that heard the law enforcement demands and the shooter’s response, and heard the shots being fired at the children and teachers are providing the most information. And I commend the media for putting those stories out as DPS director McCraw went so far as saying some witnesses are “wrong.” Based on what, if he wasn’t even there. And why would victims lie? Let’s recall that 19 cops didn’t even go into the classroom where this happened.

We’ve spent decades debating gun control, gun safety, etc., and nothing has come about other than more guns. There are close to 400,000,000 guns out there. That’s more than one gun per person. They are accessible to criminals. But this shooter wasn’t a felon, wasn’t deemed mentally unstable, wasn’t reported by social media friends and was able to purchase two deadly weapons and over 1,000 rounds of ammo. The ammo purchase reminded me of Chris Rock’s suggestion that we need bullet control because whether it’s someone who is unstable or someone who gets off on shooting high-powered weapons for whatever reason, the fact that they are buying this much ammo should be a red flag in itself.

What’s the answer? Obviously people will protest and counter, and now the Senate has a committee to discuss disagreements and whatever else they discuss. Is there hope? There’s always hope, but there’s also a lot of right-wing nuts who will get in people’s faces to prove their point and I fear law enforcement will round-up anti-NRA protesters before they round-up armed idiots, no different than those cops who failed to go into the classroom until someone deemed a “specialist” arrived.

At this point, I want the investigation to continue, I want these families to receive the answers, all of the answer, they deserve, and I want Greg Abbott and his minions at all levels to stop the bullshit of covering each others asses. There were multiple agencies involved and a few days later, no one can determine answers until they agree on one that is favorable to them, it would seem.

So, when people who fear politics tell us to not get political, my response is to grow guts, or a pair, and get in the fight. Or get out of the way. Although this is the issue of the week, the fact that the inaction and failures at all levels occurred in South Texas tells you how little they care about the area and how easily they get their vote with rhetoric that blames “the other,” for the problems elected leaders cause. And, this isn’t just about gun laws, it’s about how the victims are being treated by authorities.

So, yes, it is political. Get over it. As someone who grew up down in that area, it’s also personal. The fact that so many people are interconnected with the victims makes it personal. And not just the murders, but also the ineptitude of those in charge.

Finally, if you really want change, vote out Abbott, Patrick, and all of the Republicans. They are not on the side of the people.

PS…GOFUNDME sent an email to users listing legitimate fundraisers raising money for victim families. There are alot of fraudsters out there, so, be aware.

Abbott Goes After Immigrant Children

Greg Abbott truly is evil.

He announced that, since a right-wing extremist SCOTUS is willing to end abortion rights, well, Texas may as well challenge other rulings, like 1982’s Plyler v Doe, which ruled unconstitutional Texas’ practice of withholding money from schools serving immigrant children.

Abbott cites the cost of educating students in his most recent anti-immigrant attack. Others go straight for racist bullshit.

“We’re talking about public tax dollars, public property tax dollars going to fund these schools to teach children who are 5, 6, 7, 10 years old, who don’t even have remedial English skills,” Joe Pagliarulo (right-wing radio host) said. “This is a real burden on communities. What can you do about that?”

Actually, it’s all about Republican hatred toward brown folks. These bigots want you to forget that people pay property taxes through rent payments, they pay local sales taxes to keep businesses open. But that doesn’t matter if these kids are in their schools offending their white supremacist sensibilities.

“Texas already long ago sued the federal government about having to incur the costs of the education program, in a case called Plyler versus Doe. And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue about denying, or let’s say Texas having to bear that burden. I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler versus Doe was issued many decades ago.”

Times are different? I think Abbott means that Trump allowed challenges based on hate, rather than on law and precedent.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out another reason to throw Abbott out of office in November.

Yes, Another COVID-19 Week

Did You Order Your Free Test?

The Biden Administration’s 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests are now available for all to order at COVIDtests.gov. Also, if one is insured, get information on how to get reimbursed by ones health insurance at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Since we’re Texas, there are different and varying ways in which workplaces are dealing with in-house infections (or trying to avoid them), so, there is an unfortunate chance that one can get infected if some boss or co-worker is walking around unmasked and coughing up a lung at work. PCR Testing is probably better to get to the bottom of ones status, but if one is showing symptoms, then an at-home rapid test could be helpful. Get Vax’d/boosted, wear a mask in public places, and avoid crowds.

Free N-95s?

The Biden Administration also announced that 400 million N-95 masks will become available to the public starting next week. Higher level masks, like N-95, KN-95, and KF-94 masks increase the time for COVID-19 to spread; meaning, if you’re in a workplace setting with a lot of people or a crowd, these masks can be more effective.

The plan consists of working with pharmacies and community health centers to distribute the nonsurgical masks, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile. The administration will begin shipments this week and hopes to have the program fully operational by early February, the White House official said.

That’s nice and all, but I wish there was a way for Biden and company to lower the costs of higher-level masks. No sooner had I ordered a batch of 50 KN-95 masks at a good price, Omicron arrived in full-force and so did the profiteering, thus, doubling + the price within days. Instead, Biden is making stuff available from the stockpile while manufacturing capacity has somewhat increased, but costs have not been controlled.

It’s Getting Better?

Notwithstanding several exposures that required more than one test in my own family over the last month, there are reports that COVID-19 measured through our Houston wastewater is seeing a decrease, and hospitalizations might be waning in a few places. That kind of talk worries me because people begin to act like fools as if they can go back to their most recent “normal,” which means unmasked mass events with people beyond their circle of trust. Don’t! It’s going in the right direction, but we’re still at almost 40% positivity.

Bottom line, we are still in the thick of it. With schools and universities reopening after the holiday, the “end” of this surge may be delayed. If schools have access to testing, masks, and vaccinations, then there is hope. But it will not be an easy task.

Many state universities are doing “soft openings,” which will begin with online instruction before going back to full capacity. For all the complaining about having to go back to virtual learning, if people wore masks indoors all the time and got vaccinated/boosted, and if higher ed leaders were to stand up to the likes of Greg Abbott, we may have had a better shot at keeping things open. But even the simple tasks are too much for people at all levels.

As always, mask up, get vax’d and boosted, and stay away from big crowds.

A Look At The Election Results

Although a power outage at the vote count HQ cramped the style of those of us clicking “REFRESH” all night (and that of many more election workers), some of us decided to go to bed right after the early vote came out. As of this morning, it looks like folks in Houston will need to return for a run-off, while in Alief, the results on the bond and school board seem finalized as they do not require a run-off.

Alief ISD voters, all 5000+ of them, approved 3 of the 4 bonds, with the stadium bond going down in flames, 47-53. The other sports-related bond seems to have passed by less than 100 votes. The biggest bond, which would go to improve and build facilities won overwhelming support from the voters, as did the technology bond. It would seem that voters, at least the 5000+ who voted, knew their priorities and less than $20 million in stadium improvements were not a part of it.

In Alief ISD board races, Darlene Breaux will return after handily defeating Debby Pepper. Harvey Anh Tong earned over 45% of the vote to earn his place on the board. Incumbent Jennifer Key returns to her position after a huge win. And with 56% of the vote, Gregg Patrick, a local pastor, will take his place on the board.

So, yes, I went 3 of 4 on the bond, although I was also iffy on the stadium, and I went 0 for 4 on the board races. It seems the 5000+ who cared enough to vote want the status quo. As long as they don’t mess things up, I guess, right?

At HISD, it looks like run-offs are the order of the day with District I’s Elizabeth Santos taking on Janette Garza Lindner; Sue Deigaard (V) just missed the 50% mark and will take on right-wing-supported Caroline Walter; Holly Flynn Vilaseca (VI) will need to take on Kendall Baker after a surprisingly tight race; and Ann Sung (VII) is also headed for a run-off after a 2nd place finish against her main and well-funded opponent Bridget Wade. Meanwhile, Myrna Guidry (IX) will take her place on the board after finishing with 60% of the vote.

In HCC District 3, Adriana Tamez defeated Brandon Cofield, while Eva Loredo will be in a run-off with Jharett Bryantt in District 8. Meanwhile, since no one stepped up in District 6, the bigoted Dave Wilson will return to the board probably earning more complaints and stepping up his right-wing whining.

In San Antonio’s special election in HD-118, Democrat Frank Ramirez was defeated by vendido republican Lujan. Will the results change in 2022 when they do this all over again? We shall see. The race had 11% turn-out.

Austin defeated a measure that would “super” fund the Austin police department. That’s a good thing.

While there were some great victories in Philadelphia, Pittsburg, NYC, Boston and other places, the results in Virginia were pretty sad. A state which went 20% for Biden over Trump handed Democrats a stingingly close loss. When you have a recycled Dem dude at the top of the ballot…well, anyway. Democrats refuse to learn how to take on racist republicans. I think all this squeamishness started when Hillary Clinton apologized for calling the racists “deplorables,” thinking she could earn their votes. Anyway…

Regarding the power outage in Harris County, I agree with Kuff that these glitches give the County a chance to fix things so we can avoid them when everyone shows up next November. Election chief Isabel Longoria deserves some kudos for testing the whole system to ensure nothing was lost in the process before releasing vote counts; however, those who suffered were the precinct and alternate judges who were delivering their equipment to the counting station. Democracy can suck sometimes and those folks who work a 12-hour day at voting locations deserve a lot more than our thanks.

Anyway, stay tuned for the upcoming fireworks in the HISD run-offs. Although it’s all about turn-out, there is bound to be some deep reaches into opposition research in an attempt to change one or two minds.

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.

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.

 

Jose Rivera Announces for HCDE At-Large Position 7

Local non-profit executive Jose Rivera has announced his candidacy for Harris County Dept of Education Trustee, At-Large 7.  The Democratic nominee must be chosen by the Democratic Party’s precinct chairs later this summer after the current nominee was appointed to another position on the board during the primary season.

Jose offers up years of experience in Democratic campaigns, as well as community advocacy experience through his work in local government and in the office of Congressman Gene Green. Also:

Throughout his career, Jose has found a passion working and for under represented communities. For 8 years, he worked for the nationally recognized non-profit BakerRipley. It was during his time at BakerRipley that Jose learned the importance of engaging communities and collaborating to create programs and initiatives that are reflective of the communities they aim to serve. Jose also helped create and develop intergenerational programs that engaged youth and seniors through mentoring and resiliency connections.

Jose Rivera currently serves as the Executive Director of the Aldine-Greenspoint YMCA and Outreach Initiatives where he oversees programming and resources for the Aldine- Greenspoint Service area along with Outreach programming which includes apartment outreach programs, and services throughout the Greater Houston service area.

Jose holds an Executive Masters in Public Administration from Texas Southern University and has participated as a fellow in the New Leaders Council. He and his wife Tanya Makany-Rivera are members of Unity Church of Christianity and live in Houston with their two boys Anthony and Dominic who attend area public schools.

There are two vacancies on the Democratic side of the November ballot that must be filled by a vote of the Democratic Party’s executive committee, AKA the precinct chairs. One we already know about it that of County Clerk, due to the resignation of Diane Trautman and a called special election to fill the vacancy in November. Each Party must pick their candidate through the precinct chairs.

But, there’s also the position of Trustee of the Harris County Department of Education Board, Position 7–an at-large position. In this case, the Democratic candidate who won the primary was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board, which has left Dems without a candidate for November. So, the precinct chairs will fill this vacancy with a Democrat to take on the Republican in November.

That said, contact your precinct chair and tell them to read up on and support Jose Rivera for HCDE-7. He will serve Harris County well. He has already earned the nod of State Reps. Christina Morales, Armando Walle, and Ana Hernandez, as well as current HCDE Trustee Richard Cantu, and former Congressman Gene Green.

We will be hearing about at least one person running for County Clerk later this week. Stay connected!

Federal Assistance Funds Leave Out Undocumented Families

The effects of the pandemic continue to be exacerbated by racist policies created by Trump and the Republicans. One example is the local rental assistance program approved by Houston City Council.

The City of Houston Rental Assistance Program leaves out tax-paying undocumented families. Since the $15 million infusion into this program is based on funds from federal stimulus money, undocumented families are specifically targeted for disqualification. No doubt, much more is needed as thousands of families will be left homeless without the program. And, no doubt, undocumented families are among those left jobless by employers who take advantage of their status in the first place.

Austin, which usually disappoints in attempting to be an example of a liberal city in Texas, approved city funds for their rental assistance program. Somewhere along the line, city and county governments must stop emulating the federal government and help everyone.

We know the Grand Orange Wizard and his klan are behind this, but one would figure there would have been more of a fight about this in Washington, DC. And I think I just caught myself expecting too much, again.

Local advocacy group, FIEL Houston, responded:

We in Houston are petitioning the City of Houston to show true leadership and begin addressing the needs of the immigrant community during this pandemic. We thoroughly believe that it should not just be left up to the non profits or community organizations to take care of our own.

Another example? Colleges and Universities received a lot of federal stimulus money ($6 Billion) to assist students in need (among other expenses); and, undocumented and DACA students are also specifically left out, yet, are suffering through this pandemic like every other college student. These are tuition-paying students! 

California, being the closest thing to a beacon of hope in this day and age, has committed to assisting thousands of undocumented and DACA students in need using state funding. Arizona State University is seeking private funding to provide assistance to their undocumented students; however, no mention of state funds, but they are an anti-immigrant, republican state. Texas is an anti-immigrant republican state, as well, so, there is no expectation of leadership or action, although, some nonprofit groups are putting in some effort. But it’s not enough. Let’s be honest:  Disqualifying undocumented students has nothing to do with “the budget.” It has everything to do with bigotry and putting more money into the pockets of the wealthy.

And another?  Of course, we’ve already heard of undocumented taxpaying folks being left out of the $1200 stimulus check release. Even Americans who fell in love and married undocumented people are not receiving checks! Again, it has nothing to do with the budget if corporations are making out with millions of dollars even though they are not small businesses and when even dead people are receiving checks.

The bottom line:  Trump’s grand plan is working. He’s leaving out communities, while targeting them with wasteful anti-immigrant boondoggles (like black-colored border walls) and handing out money to military contractors and corporations. In the process, he manages to blow Blue Angel-exhaust up everyone’s hind side in a show of faux patriotism. So, people get to experience that whole “all is well with the world” feeling for 2 seconds.

All of us benefit from undocumented workers and their families, especially in this City. I think people are just asking for a little bit more effort in helping this group of people for no other reason than to be human. Now, wouldn’t that be patriotic?

 

 

 

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.