Category Archives: Count Me!

Caravan For Peace On The Way

Have you heard of the Caravan for Peace? If so, great. If not, here’s why you should get involved and support it in every way that you can.

A Trans-border Caravan for Peace and Justice with the Poet and Peace Leader Javier Sicilia

More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the last few years. 10,000  people have been disappeared and over 160,000 displaced. Global Exchange and Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) led by Javier Sicilia have made “End the Drug  War- No More Violence” campaign a priority in 2012. Starting in August, a high profile caravan will cross the US starting in San Diego/Los Angeles, heading east along the US-Mexico border and then up to Chicago, New York and DC.

Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco was murdered along with six friends on a fateful night in March of  2011. He has since become an inspirational voice for peace, justice and reform– drawing huge  crowds throughout Mexico. He comes north this summer with a call for change in the bi-national  policies that have inflamed a six-year Drug War, super-empowered organized crime, corrupted  Mexico’s vulnerable democracy, claimed lives and devastated human rights on both sides of the border.

2012 offers a uniquely fertile moment to internationalize the struggle for peace in Mexico. Latin American elite opinion is shifting rapidly on the question of ending drug prohibition. This call for reform has not yet echoed in the United States. The Caravan represents an unprecedented effort by Mexican civil society to impact U.S. thinking and policy.

Having just started it’s first leg, the Caravan will make its way through the Southwestern US and all the way to Washington, DC, ending on September 12. It will spend a day and a half in Houston, August 26 and 27.

Learn more about the Caravan here and support this cause.

LEUV Launches on Wednesday

Houston, Texas – A new voter engagement group targeting Latino voters will launch its efforts on Wednesday, July 11. Created by a group of community leaders and professionals, “Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting.” (LEUV) is committed to developing and supporting candidates while championing community issues with an ultimate goal of increasing voter participation and achieving effective Latino representation.

The July 11 event is open to all. Community leaders, organizations, candidates and elected officials are encouraged to attend.

“We are long overdue for a Latino engagement group that not only supports candidates, but helps candidates develop into champions of the Latino community,” said business and community leader Greg Compean, adding, “I am proud to support LEUV in their mission to increase Latino voter participation and representation in Harris County.”

Compean is a founding contributor to LEUV, said organizer Fidencio Leija, Jr, “When an accomplished community leader and major player in the political community, such as Mr. Compean, shows his support from Day 1, it means we are on the right path,” adding, “LEUV wants to be more than just a rubber stamp of a candidate, but serve as a means to develop candidates to ensure their accountability to the Latino community.”

On Wednesday, July 11, at 6:30pm at Bam Bou Lounge, 2540 University Blvd., Houston, TX, the community is invited to join Mr. Compean and community leaders in supporting LEUV at a community education forum and fundraiser. Dubbed “Education and Safety Matters to Latinos,” the event will feature short presentations on both subjects by Joe Cardenas, III, former State Director of Texas LULAC and long-time education advocate; Erica S. Lee, candidate for Harris County Board of Education, Pct. 1; and Cindy Vara-Leija, candidate for Harris County Constable, Pct. 1. Those attending will also enjoy the Latino Gallery with a Purpose, opportunities to network with local leaders and professionals, as well as a Live DJ and dancing to close the evening.

With over three decades of experience in law enforcement, Ms. Vara-Leija offers a wealth of information on the topic of community safety, while Ms. Lee, a former teacher and policy professional, is a young and energetic advocate for public education. Mr. Cardenas has been on the front lines lobbying the Texas Legislature for fair and equitable education funding, and will offer his take on the legislative future of Texas Education.

Houston ISD Trustee, Juliet Katherine Stipeche, is equally supportive of LEUV, stating, “The Latino community needs an organization that will offer a new energy to engaging the community and candidates for office,” adding, “I look forward to working with LEUV to better educate the community about improving educational opportunities locally.”

L.E.U.V. is a political action group, which will develop and support candidates while championing community issues with the goal of increasing Latino/a voter participation and achieving effective representation of the Latino community in Harris County. 

For more information, contact:  281-410-LEUV (5388) or latinosengaged [at] for a prompt response.

Thursday in Houston: Latinos for Erica Lee

Fact:  I support Erica Lee for Harris County School Board. Erica is in a run-off after running an energetic, grassroots campaign. That’s the kind of community energy we need on our local school boards.

Thursday, HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche will be hosting, along with many others, Latinos for Erica Lee. I think my colleague, Dr. Rey Guerra, said it best:

Not only has Erica Lee been a community leader and extremely supportive on issues impacting Latinos, but she is the most qualified candidate in this race. African Americans and Latinos have been hit hard by budget and policy decisions affecting K-12 education, so, there has never been a more important time to elect qualified advocates, like Erica, to school boards.

Here’s the poster. Feel free to share! (Click to enlarge)

The Austin Trip–So Far

Yes, blogging has been a little slow, but Austin has been keeping me busy. Actually, Central Texas, generally.

Central Texas

Monday, my camarada and Houston organizer, Fidencio Leija, invited me to my old stomping grounds in San Marcos to meet his protege’, Nathan. Nathan is a grad student at Texas State (PoliSci, what else?) and is going to head up an effort to register and GOTV Latino students, as well as San Marcos residents. It’s not a project for the faint of heart, actually, but his energy will definitely be contagious. A visit to the elections office, a voter registrar training later, and some good insight from the head of the office, and Nathan is set!


Facebook is a great little tool, sometimes. How else would I have found about Austin’s HABLA platica held this morning at Austin Java. HABLA is Hispanic Advocates Business Leaders of Austin, a local think tank that meets to discuss solutions on various issues impacting the Austin Latino community. Today’s discussion was on the continuing debate over single member districts in Austin.

Advocates in the Latino community are pushing for a 10-1 solution–10 districts (geographic representation), 1 Mayor elected at-large–while some city insiders push for a hybrid solution (8-2-1), kind of like the one we have in Houston. Much of this will come to a head on Thursday as Austin City Council meets to discuss what may/will become a referendum on the November ballot. While Council may present a hybrid solution, 10-1 advocates have been collecting signatures for a 10-1 referendum. Will both appear on the ballot? Will it be either/or? I guess all of this might be answered, or at least discussed, on Thursday. I plan on being there to check things out.

Ultimately, Austinites must demand that they hold the power; not certain special interest groups who anoint candidates ahead of time. That’s what geographic representation is all about.

Somos Tejanos

So, Somos Tejanos is going to change slightly. After a year of constant activity, blogging, and being a one-touch source of information for Tejanos, the evolution continues. I think the boss, Amaury Nora, said it best:

Simply put, the effective public use of social networks to influence policy isn’t something that needs to be proven feasible now, it has shifted into a reality that needs to be improved upon and promoted.

Given that evolution, Somos Tejanos must change to meet the needs of the community. Last year can be viewed as a useful experiment in learning about public policy and social networks, with a finite lifespan. It will not be a dramatic change from our mission, as we’ll be continuing in the work without any pause or interruption.

The adventure definitely continues! Stay connected.

And I even have celeb news:  MACHETE is in the same hotel as I. Danny Trejo is in town shooting the sequel, Machete Kills. As I walked off the parking garage elevator I saw him in the restaurant with his entourage and I just froze. Phone dying, camera up in the room, totally unprepared. I’m carrying my camera with me and my phone charger from now on!

That’s my update during hump day in Austin. It hasn’t been humid, which is a welcome change; but, the sun does feel like it’s going to burn right through me, sometimes. See you soon!

Reminder: Tacos y Votes – Saturday, May 19

Tacos y Votes

Spread the Word: May 1st March!

Re-Committing To Voter Registration

There’s no doubt that 2012 is weighing heavily on our minds. With Republican-led voter suppression efforts becoming law around the country, the intent of these efforts is obvious. It’s what we don’t see that we should be worried about, according to my good friend Stan Merriman, who had this op-ed in the Chron.

The Harris County tax assessor-collector has re-created the equivalent of a regressive poll tax by maximizing the time and travel costs of voting. He forces most voters in Harris County to reapply over and over. He then decides whether to allow a citizen to remain on the registration rolls by a secretive purging operation that, even after the lawsuits by the Democratic Party mentioned in the Jan. 30 article, remains largely obscured from public scrutiny. No increase in the voter rolls for this dynamic and growing community is the result.

The Tax Office suspends or cancels voter registrations based on something like a credit check. The office calls it a live check; it sends personal identification information into a so-called “fusion center” and, from there, to where nobody will say. In any case, the unreliable information returned from various sources is used to disqualify or misdirect voters. This is not subject to audit and barely subject to appeal. You the voter just show up at the polls to discover when it is too late to do anything about it that you are not qualified to vote. Just making a simple change of address is difficult and risks cancellation. Voter registration in Harris County is really a lifetime reregistration process costing millions their right to vote and the county millions of dollars.

Many believe new voter identification rules will suppress turnout, but whatever effect they may have is dwarfed by the huge voter suppression caused by our registration process.

There are solutions.

He goes on to give some simple, common sense solutions, so read the rest of the article.

Meanwhile, a voter group has filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas for some of these practices.

The latest lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Texas courts names Texas Secretary of StateHope Andrade and takes aim at the state’s new mandatory training for all volunteer registrars – in which almost anyone who handles a voter’s application as part of a registration drive has to complete training before he or she can be “deputized” to operate in any Texas county. A spokesman for Andrade refused comment.

Population growth in Texas exceeds most other states, while many voter registration rolls throughout the state remain stagnant. As of January, 12.9 million Texans had registered to vote -up just 2 percent from January 2008.

There’s no doubt that this is all part of a pattern to suppress voting opportunities for Texans across the political spectrum. Through some spies, I’m hearing of other things that may be launched soon to cut folks off the rolls. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this in the near to not-so-distant future.

More than ever, voter registration will play a major role in the 2012 elections. It’s time to recommit to ensuring Texans remain on the rolls.

It’s time to “true the democracy,” don’t you think?

Stay connected!

The Shift: Hispanics in America

This vid I came upon today was produced by the Center for Hispanic Leadership, which has a commitment to creating Hispanic Talent. Warning to Tea Partiers – Your head may fall off after watching this.

COH: Redistricting In A Squeaker!

Redistricting and adding two new seats to Houston City Council now moves forward.

Why didn’t this Kingwood Democrat attend Kingwood’s immigrant & annexation bashing session, also known as Kingwood’s District E redistricting forum? Given the outcome on Item 26 (and thanks to Greg for some great play-by-play) it was going to move forward.

Besides, I’ve had enough of the anti-annexation whining already, and I really don’t mind Kingwood and Clear Lake being lumped together as any move toward separating them would dilute minority voting strength in neighboring areas. And furthermore, I can read the local Mexican bashing in the two newspapers we have in the ‘Wood.  (Or I’ll read how my State Rep. is one of the sponsors of HB-12 and wants to internally sonogram women ). Nuff said.

Now, let’s get to the real debate. Who gets these districts?

Houston Votes: Democracy At Its Best

I had the privilege of meeting with staff members of Houston Votes, a local organization well on its way to meeting a goal of registering 100,000 voters in Harris County.  Houston Votes is sponsored by the organization Texans Together Education Fund, a nonpartisan 501 (c) 3 that engages the historically disengaged in Harris County.

In 2008, Houston Votes tested its abilities registering 24,000 lower income residents, which in turn produced a 65% turnout. In Harris County, there are 600,000 eligible, yet unregistered, potential voters and Houston Votes and its partners have committed the resources necessary to getting the job done.

As Houston Votes tells us very frankly, it has five prongs:  Public Awarness, Storefront Voter Registration, Door-to-Door Registration, Non-Partisan turnout, and strict compliance.

And they aren’t joking, either. Founder Fred Lewis, a voter rights advocate, is quite serious when he speaks about being compliant and especially non-partisan.  They know where the voters are–in 285 low turnout precincts–and their job is to bring out new registrants.  There is no “voter info” sharing with partisan groups, and, if anything, they take voter engagement quite seriously.

As Lewis told me, engaged community members make for a healthier community.

What this blogger enjoyed the most about this organization is that it has brought in staff members from “the outside,” to lead the ground effort. Highly qualified individuals who have been effective in other parts of the United States and are up to the challenge of meeting the group’s goals.

While previous nonpartisan efforts have been challenged as partisan by one political party or another because of those involved or in the lead, Houston Votes is effectively avoiding the “taint,” in that it is serious about its work.

Frankly, I find the organization that much impressive.  As partisan as I am, I think engaging people–whether it’s for the ballot box or for the purpose of engaging entire neighborhoods in various governmental processes, is more important.

I am reminded of that good ol’ notion of PAR–Participatory Action Research–which is usually avoided by political parties in fear that it will only grow the universe of voters. But it works if done correctly.

Anyway, Houston Votes is having a kick-off party on Thursday at 6PM at the Pearl Bar on Washington.  I’ll be there taking a few pics and celebrating their jump start to reaching their goal. Join me!

For now, check out this video to help reach the Latino community that is unregistered.