Category Archives: 2020

Texas Progressive Alliance Roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with those demanding justice for George Floyd and Javier Ambler as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff details the state of police reform in Houston and Harris County, with a coda about HISD.

DosCentavos had a series on the possible re-hiring of Chauna Thompson. The effort failed.

SocraticGadfly offers up a twofer on third party national politics. First, in the wake of a previous post about Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen, he snarks on the party wanting to be “more dramatic and noteworthy.” Second, he has some Minneapolis-related questions about Cam Gordon, one of the speakers set for Greens’ national convention.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Craig Mills says he should not know the names of George Floyd and so many other black men who are known to him because they were killed by police.

Space City Weather revisits the question of COVID-19 and the Texas weather.

Abby Springs and Wesley Storey explain how Texas laws fail to hold police accountable.

G. Elliott Morris walks you through the Economist’s election model.

Dan Solomon confirms that the official policy of the state of Texas is that avoiding coronavirus is your own responsibility.

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.

 

 

 

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!

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

Abbott and GOP Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

The Maddog got mad at Trump and said a word or two. Abbott got mad at racist party chairs and wants them to resign. Suddenly, they get the hero worship as if words change anything.

James Mattis was at the forefront of pushing Trump’s military border deployment in support of the “remain in mexico” policy. When Mattis finally left, he went back to the board of directors of General Dynamics which has made billions of dollars off of the warehousing of children and mothers put into baby and family jails. Not to mention the whole war-complex. Where was the outrage, then?

Abbott and his ilk should enjoy the fruits of the labor put in by these racist party chairs. Thus far, party chairs in at least three counties have put out statements or memes that are pretty racist. That doesn’t shock me because that is what got them elected to their positions. And Abbott and his friends are in office because of these bigots.

Call it the KKK, the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, the Tea Party, MAGA, throughout GOP history, things have not changed and the GOP and everyone elected by them have prospered and enriched themselves because of them. Now, it’s a problem?

Here’s how I see it.

Too many people are attempting to find victory in a Republican Party that has forever shown its hate for color. Whether it’s racist comments, the defense of killer cops, domestic and foreign policy unfriendly to brown and black people, little brown kids in cages, or defending at its core a racist capitalist system from which they benefit, this is the GOP. The problem is that words don’t change anything. Firing a racist in a volunteer position doesn’t do anything to change racist systems.

As I’ve always said, Democrats need to stop wasting time trying to save the republican party for the sole reason that they want someone with whom to fight. Kinder, less racist systems are still racist systems. Let them destroy themselves. Besides, Democrats still have work to do, too.

Jackson: Reform Police Union Contracts

Candidate for Houston City Council District B, Tarsha Jackson, who is known as a community and criminal justice reform advocate, posted on her Facebook page what would seem like obvious solutions. At least where reforming an entire system should begin:

My heart is heavy over the constant murders of my Black Brothers and Sister at the hands of our public servants. Forgive me for not being impressed to see police chiefs and elected leaders standing in solidarity with protesters over the murder of our Brother George Floyd. We’ve seen this scene played out over and over again– BUT Until the Police union contracts are reformed, we will continue to witness our brothers and sisters civil and human rights violated by corrupt police officers.

In 2018, after the murder of our Brother Danny Ray Thomas, community members recommended the following NINE changes to Police Union Contracts to ensure accountability and to improve relations between HPD and the community. Our leaders have the power to make these changes today!

RECOMMENDED POLICE UNION CONTRACT CHANGES:

*Establish consideration of misconduct in promotions (Art. 19 Sec. 8): Officers with a history of misconduct should be subject to point deductions from the promotions formula. This will ensure that two otherwise similar promotion candidates can be fairly distinguished based on their prior misconduct.

*Eliminate technicalities and strengthen promotional bypass process (Art. 20) To the extent promotional bypass remains part of the promotions process (we believe it should be eliminated), then the process in this contract is particularly problematic. There should be no arbitrary time limit after which the Chief cannot apply a promotional bypass (delete Art. 20(4)). Once a candidate has been bypassed due to past disciplinary issues, that person should be pulled from the pool. The chief should not be required to bypass that same person over and over and face an appeal each time. The standard for review should be “valid reason” in accordance with normal standards in labor appeals law.

*Provide path to independent investigation (Art. 30 Sub (2), (4) and (7)): Under this contract, investigations must be conducted by Department personnel. State civil service law, by contrast, allows investigations to be conducted by any municipal employee. Houston can only move toward a process of independent civilian (nonsworn) investigation of police complaints if we alter this provision.

*Eliminate officer review of all evidence prior to making a statement: officers should be able to review only their own materials before making a statement, not the statements of everyone else involved and everyone’s video. Allowing the person under investigation to review all the evidence prior to making a statement is not a “best practice” in any circumstance and should not be a special privilege for police officers.

*Eliminate misconduct statute of limitations: After 180 days from the incident date, the most serious misconduct cannot be addressed at all due to an arbitrary “statute of limitations” clause. This is called the “180 day” rule and is a major problem. It should be eliminated. Serious misconduct should be sanctionable even if the Chief learns about it long after it occurred. If it cannot be eliminated, the time period should be lengthened to at least 365 days.

*Prevent appropriate disciplinary action from being overturned on appeal: Under this contract, when an officer appeals his sanction the burden of proof is on the Chief, and the proof includes 1. the truth of the charges and 2. that a just cause exists for the specific discipline imposed. Instead the burden should be on the officer to prove that the discipline was not reasonable. And, while clearly the charges should always be true, the second clause requires the Chief to prove, in a side by side test with other cases, that this particular suspension length had “just cause.” This is likely to result in discipline being routinely overturned or reduced. Council should request from the Department a summary of every suspension in the past five years, whether it was appealed, and what was the outcome of the appeal (overturned, upheld, or partially overturned with a lesser discipline).

*Never expunge records of past misconduct or even suspected past misconduct (Art. 31(10)): Police generally oppose efforts by the public to expunge criminal records (even of minor violations) because they say even an arrest on a subsequently dismissed charge might prove important to a criminal investigation later. This same reasoning should apply to all records of all officer misconduct. Nothing should be expunged, and all past history should be available to the Chief for review when a new incident occurs.

*Exculpatory evidence of an officer’s history of misconduct should be a public court document: (Art. 31(12)) This contract creates an unnecessary burden on the courts and attorneys by requiring special legal protections (secrecy) for misconduct information that must be handed over to the defense in a criminal trial. Under the Michael Morton Act, the prosecutor MUST give the defense information about the arresting officer’s history of misconduct if it is exculpatory. The contract should specifically exclude evidence provided to the defense under the Michael Morton Act from 143.089g personnel file protections. The process for providing such evidence to the prosecutor and the defense should be straight forward and then once provided to both parties in the case it should be subsequently posted to a website.

*Limit supervisory interventions and never reduce discipline to a supervisory intervention (Art. 32): Supervisory interventions are not discipline and do not create a disciplinary record, even if they may indicate other problems. Several items should be considered for removal from this supervisory intervention list: improper ticket/citation, improper or untimely response to a call, discourtesy to citizens, refusal to identify self including removal/obscuring/failure to wear name badge; abusive language, disrespect for fellow officers, unauthorized ride-alongs. Further, in no case should more serious discipline be reduced to a “supervisory intervention” because this will also eliminate the record of an officer’s prior misconduct.

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.

 

Need To De-Stress? New Tejano Music Will Help!

There’s upheaval in the world. And we’re still in a pandemic that has caused all sorts of financial and personal stress. I find solace in listening to music and my music of choice is Tejano.

The Tejano music industry, like the rest of the industry, has been hit hard by the pandemic. There’ve been cancellations that have turned into small and big livestream events. I’m glad to see that some of my musician friends are still surviving, even if it is one livestream at a time with studio work thrown in there in between. But it has not been easy.

Other artists haven’t been able to do much in the form of livestreams. Logistically and technically it can be tough. But others have released some live material digitally.

In 2020, the Tejano music world was celebrating the return of icon, Joe Lopez y El Grupo Mazz. The pandemic abruptly stopped the tour bus, but lucky fans are getting to enjoy a live album recorded during Lopez’s recent Freedom Tour. And it’s a well-recorded live album!

Lopez goes through his string of hits seamlessly with the newest rendition of MAZZ, featuring Bam Bam Ramos on Keys/Squeeze, Danny Rodriguez on Bass, Aaron Holler on Drums, Joaquin Cura on guitar, and Alberto Gonzalez on percussion. It’s a keeper and enough to keep fans excited about the post-COVID19 return.

The legendary Little Joe y La Familia also released a new live album, Better Than Ever. It’s one of a string of live albums Little Joe has released throughout his career. Recorded at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi for a LJ birthday celebration, the band goes through a playlist of classics as only La Familia could.

And Bobby Pulido also released Live in Las Vegas. The album was recorded during the Tejano Music Convention and features his dad, Roberto Pulido, and Emilio’s brother, Raulito Navaira as they pay tribute to musicos who have left this world. Those hits, along with the standard Bobby Pulido playlist of hits make for a great live album with strong production values.

So, if you’re in need of live music, there are options. And luckily, some bands have been able to put their live shows on tape.

Even during a pandemic and social upheaval, nuestra cultura y music vive! And it’s keeping many of us going, too.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a nervous eye on those post-reopening projections as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff has the latest updates in the various vote-by-mail lawsuits.

SocraticGadfly offers his take on the documentary-based last chapter in the life of “Roe,” that is, Norma Jean McCorvey.

DosCentavos tells us that Joe Biden had Latino problems last week, too. But they are fixable.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Better Texas Blog calls for rebuilding child care.

Grits for Breakfast doesn’t understand the budget priorities being given to TDCJ.

Sanford Nowlin finds Greg Abbott fibbing about how Texas handles COVID testing data.

Juanita finds proof that only the good die young.

The Texas Signal wonders if migration from other states will be what finally turns Texas blue.