Category Archives: Local Politica

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.

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.

 

Why So Surprised at Abbott’s Destruction of Texas?

The Chron, an avid endorser of Greg Abbott, wrote a critical op-ed about Abbott.

The Chron still supported Abbott after the multi-billion dollar shit show that has been the “border surge,” the billions cut from public education, and not allowing an expansion of Medicaid. So, who is “foolish?”

Well, now, Greg Abbott and republicans are failing Texas on mitigating the Coronavirus–big time! But we have enough beds for all the fools who go to bars and parties unmasked as Abbott re-opens the economy, y’hear? Maybe not.

Why are we so surprised? And why is he considered “failing,” now? We’ve known Republicans were out to get the poor, the infirm, immigrants, women, persons of color, the disabled, the LGBT, and many more for a long time.

Why the faux outrage toward him, now? Is it about YOU, now?

 

 

 

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!

The Latest on Local Police Reform

The Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved a long list of items that could lead to reform of law enforcement at the county level.

At the very least, these reforms will create some semblance of transparency over law enforcement budgeting and statistics regarding racial disparities in the system itself, and create a mechanism to ensure the indigent are represented in criminal courts. Most importantly, it gets the ball rolling on an independent civilian oversight board with subpoena power.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez took to social media to tell us of his dislike of the #defund movement, stating that more money is needed. My own thinking is that a more transparent budget process would definitely allow us to look beyond the usually undisputed round numbers that go with funding law enforcement.

He added:

I’m putting in the work to review how my agency can do better. For some changes, we don’t need extra time to review, I’m moving forward now. Other changes may require more time, simply because they’re complex issues that require thoughtful deliberation. We prohibit the use of chokeholds, but we’re going to make it even more clear in policy. We will immediately implement a Duty to Report policy. We will increase audits of our BWC’s and taser use. And more is in the works. The time to act is now.

I hope the Sheriff understands that it takes these types of events, including the local unresolved murder-by-cop case in his own department of Joshua Johnson, to exact some action from our leaders. A lot more is needed. Above all, these things must be codified in countywide (and statewide and federal) fashion so that the next Sheriff doesn’t obliterate it all.

Either way, it’s good to see something that was decided by those whom we elected.

In other news…

After City Council failed to support a comprehensive list of police reforms submitted as budget amendments by CM Letitia Plummer, they approved an increase in funding for HPD. Instead, Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an executive order on police practices.

The EO covers the police department’s response to resistance, de-escalation, use of deadly force, prohibited techniques, and no-knock warrants. For the first time, it codifies prohibited techniques, such as neck restraints or chokeholds, which cannot be used unless objectively necessary to prevent imminent serious bodily injury or death to the officer or others.

No word on reforms that lead to more transparency and accountability, such as release of bodycam film and investigations of the bad apples and the good apples who allow them to be bad, but, supposedly, there is a task force.

Obviously, we will all keep an eye on this and the coming push back from the naysayers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somerville Votes NO

The Somerville, TX City Council voted unanimously against the re-hiring of Chauna Sheffield (Thompson). The Mayor of Somerville has also requested the resignations of the police chief and the city administrator.

The developments were announced by the town’s Mayor Michael Bradford at a rally held outside of the meeting and broadcast on a Facebook Livestream by FIEL Houston.

The family of John Hernandez continues to seek justice in this murder case. While Terry Thompson is now serving 25 years at TDCJ for the choke-hold murder of John Hernandez at an East Harris County Dennys, Chauna Thompson, who is seen in a video helping her husband by holding Hernandez’s arm, was effectively declared not guilty by the Harris County DA Kim Ogg who blamed it on lack of evidence to convict.

Good work by the family of John Hernandez, our friends at FIEL Houston, and others who got the word out about this. A huge thanks to the Mayor and City Council and the people of Somerville, TX for standing up for justice. If you drive through Somerville or Burleson County, make sure you stop at one of their businesses.)

(SIDENOTE:  My Abuelita was born in Caldwell, TX which is also in Burleson County.)

The lucha sigue!

Harris County To Consider Reforms to Law Enforcement

Harris County Commissioner Pct 1 Rodney Ellis and his Democratic colleagues (Judge Hidalgo and Commissioner Garcia) will propose some needed reforms to law enforcement in Harris County. Stated Commissioner Ellis on his Facebook page:

Harris County devotes more than $776 million to the Sheriff and Constables. That’s 45% of our total spending of our general fund departmental budget. By reallocating funds towards community resources we can begin to build a better quality of life for communities of color and stop using the criminal justice system to address problems associated with poverty and health.

The Chron’s Zach Despart posted the proposals:

As Kuff states, it’s harder for the Commisssioners to impose police reforms on law enforcement departments run by their own elected officials, such as Sheriff and Constables. But each of these proposals has much to do with how tax dollars for law enforcement are allocated and how these offices will become more accountable to the people, i.e., the creation of an independent civilian review board with subpoena power.

Kuff also reminds us that the Houston Mayor and City Council do have more power to effect police reforms and I must agree that City Council Member Letitia Plummer’s budget amendment proposals should be a starting point for implementation. Considering that the Mayor is proposing almost a billion dollars for law enforcement with no particular proposal for change or reform, it is definitely time for a public discussion led by elected officials, rather than political appointees.

 

 

 

Fired HC Deputy Chauna Thompson Up For Cop Post in Somerville

6/10/2020 UPDATE:  Somerville Votes NO

You heard right.

Chauna (Sheffield) Thompson is being considered for a police officer post by the City of Somerville, TX.

Thompson is a former Harris County Sheriff’s Department deputy who, while off-duty, assisted her husband in the choke-hold murder of John Hernandez at a Denny’s in East Harris County in May, 2017.

Her husband, Terry, was convicted; however, DA Kim Ogg made the decision to drop the charges against Chauna Thompson because she didn’t think her office could prove Thompson intended to kill Hernandez and Thompson wasn’t in the area of the killing the entire time. The video shows Terry choking Hernandez and Chauna holding Hernandez down.

Effectively found not guilty by the DA, (Sheffield) Thompson is now free to work as a police officer, again. And, now, she is up for a post in the small town of Somerville, TX, located north of Brenham on TX36. Somerville must not let this happen.

The town is diverse, with 33% Hispanic and 32% African American population. Given the diversity, given Thompson’s record of participating in a murder, the City Council’s consideration of her application does not give off that feeling of trying to earn the trust of the community in these days of needed police reform. Her hiring would definitely not create that trust.

UPDATE:  A quick look at the City Council agenda attachments shows that Sheffield is being considered for re-employment, so, apparently, she has already been employed by Somerville in the recent past since her HCSO firing in 2017.

Justice for John Hernandez and others will be participating in a rally at Somerville’s City Council meeting tomorrow with the hope of convincing the City Council to vote down (Sheffield) Thompson’s application.

If you believe Somerville deserves better, attend the rally outside the city council meeting Tuesday (JUNE 9) at 5:30. The meeting is at the Somerville Senior Center on HWY 36 across from Mama’s Restaurant.

somerville

Just Another Kill For The LE Trophy Case

Whatever the media is showing on your TVs really are not the final words of George Floyd, murdered by law enforcement at the age of 46.

Among George’s last words, as a cop’s knee pressed into his neck for nine minutes, were, “Mama, Mama.”

That was before the sounds coming out of him became agonizing moans. And that was before he was flopped onto a stretcher, his neck snapping before the cop (obviously not an EMT tech) grabbed hold of his head so it would stop flopping around as he was placed on the stretcher before he was placed in the ambulance. (He probably remembered he was on camera.)

George Floyd is another black person in an ever-growing long line of victims of police brutality and state-sanctioned murder. He joins names like Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown. As George is connected to Houston, one should also remember names like John Hernandez and Nicolas Chavez who were killed by local law enforcement.

These cop-lead murders happen so often, that it is easy to become desensitized to them. Even when there is video. One has a choice to become numb to reality or allow emotions to take over. But one doesn’t experience the depths of humanity until you see a person calling out for his mother at the hands of a murderer.

Oh yeah, that kind of thing has been portrayed in romanticized versions of war–the fresh-faced white kid with his guts shot out calling out for his mom. But this is real life. And it’s the “good guys” who are doing the killing.

But it’s the “good guys” who have all the defenses in the world. Whether it’s some puffed up media-savvy police chief, or some loud-mouth, annoying cops union rep, they will defend their  bad apples until they can’t. Until there’s video that is compelling enough to make them do something. Or at the very least, makes them shut their mouths.

But even when the people respond and protest, it is the same cops who allow white supremacists to protest with high-powered weapons at our government buildings who then tear-gas and respond violently to black and brown protesters who are simply petitioning government for a redress of grievances. And their own trade media defends law enforcement and makes them out to be the victims to the delight of racists and law and order types. Because, obviously, it’s the dead who are the bad guys.

I am pretty much at the end of my trust threshold when it comes to law enforcement. Even if I do have friends and relatives in law enforcement. Whenever I hear someone running for sheriff or someone wanting to be a leader in government over law enforcement I want to hear about how they are going to change the culture of law enforcement. How they are going to stop the killing for no reason of black and brown people.

And then I want to see them do it. The usual brown-nosing for police union endorsements doesn’t give me much hope at this point. One who wants to lead needs to lead the way for change. It is that simple.