Category Archives: Houston Politica

Final Day of Early Voting – SD6

Well, if you live in SD-6 and you are not one of the just over 7,000 who have cast a ballot in the special election, then that means you’re part of the 97% (or so) who are either suffering from election fatigue, don’t like any candidates, or are just plain apathetic and probably won’t even read this post. Or maybe you will come out in droves today and Saturday.

Today is the last day that you can cast a ballot at any early voting location. Come Saturday, you will need to vote in your assigned precinct location.

Hopefully, the Ethics Commission will post the 8-day finance reports to see what kind of money has been spent in the run-up to election day. Waking up to the local news this morning, I did catch at least one-ad each for the well-financed candidates. Whether the ad buys were in the first report or these are new expenses, we shall see.

With close to or over a million dollars being spent by the candidates and over $400K by the county to put on this election, let’s hope for a big jump in participation.

Kuff has numbers and projections.

Catching Up on City Stuff

The Labor Guy

After all the pedo ruckus some of us made a while back, it looks like Mayor Annise Parker finally got a Labor dude on the Port Commission, Dean Corgey. Since everyone was talking about “firsts” after another appointment, is it safe to say that the working people got their first representative on the commission?

An Opponent for MAP?

Looks like a wealthy lawyer is once again making noise about running for Houston Mayor. We’ve all been wondering, from which direction will he run at Mayor Parker? The Chron talked to him.

In our conversation this morning, Hall stressed job creation, economic growth, international trade, and a more creative, compromise-seeking approach to the city’s pensions issues, and also emphasized that the city’s strength lies in its diversity. He said Parker’s 16-year tenure at City Hall as a council member, controller and now mayor, has produced “leadership fatigue.”

That’s a bold statement from someone who has walked those halls for a long time, too.

The 2013 Elections

It’s about that time to start thinking about the 2013 Elections. With all the activity at Houston Community College lately with what will end up being two appointments, I’ve had my ear talked off about another HCC race–District I. Yes, that one is up again. Unfortunately, my own HCC trustee has resigned, but he leaves after producing some good results:  Thank you, Richard Schechter!

Now, the City elections will be interesting. At-Large 3 is open, as is District I–one of the Latino seats. Both will have a long list of candidates. Will any current Council members be targeted? Well, with the Mayor getting a well-financed challenge, it’s possible that some would want to try some sort of coattail riding–if coattails even form. So the DC will have the ojos open.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Politics is the Art of Compromise?

by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

The most overused saying among liberals is that politics is the art of compromise, and it gripes me to no end. Liberals repeat it with such smugness as if they were sages. I find it so pretentious — to the point that I consider it a bunch of toro dung.

It is like saying that politics is the art of the possible, an equally absurd, pretentious and irritating notion. What happened to the impossible dream? Shouldn’t we always strive for something better?

If we have to have a standard wouldn’t a better saying be that politics is the art of principle after all politics is not a game. It involves people, and consequences.

In my own little world, I have seen too many Chicana/o studies programs compromised out of existence with administrators convincing Chicana/o negotiators that it was impossible to give them what they wanted, not enough money. At the same time the president of the institution draws down $300,000 a year, and gets perks such as housing, a per diem, and an automobile. One recently retired university president that I know sits on two corporate boards of directors, and draws down an extra $300,000.

This is academe’s version of one potato two potatoes three potatoes, more.

The game gets ridiculous. Faculties at institutions of higher learning supposedly have shared governance. In fact, every committee is merely advisory to the president who can accept or reject the recommendations.

For the past several years California State University professors have been playing footsies with the administration or better still the chancellor’s office over the budget and pay raises. This is a Catch-22, however. Faculty members also say that they are concerned about the escalating tuition; note that students pay as much as 80 percent of instructional costs. So where is the additional revenue going to come from? Professors love students, but not enough to forgo raises or out of principle go on strike to trim back the number of administrators and the presidents’ salaries.

It really gets ridiculous at times. At Northridge, Chicana/o studies was threatened that if it exceeded its target enrollment that the department would be penalized and its budget cut. Our former chancellor wanted to pressure the state legislature to cough up more money by turning back students. The administration minions at the disparate campuses justified this by repeating the party line that numbers do not count. In fact they laid a guilt trip on us saying that Chicana/o studies professors we were not team players because we were admitting too many students.

As a result, this semester we have a crisis. The institution did not admit enough students; the rationale was if we had fewer students, then we would spend less. But it does not work that way. At state universities even the allocation for paper clips depends on how many students you are taking in. That is why most departments are now being told to beef up their enrollment or lose a portion of their department budget.

Good old compromise got us there as well as the illusion that faculty has power. In fact there were other possibilities. Compromise was not necessarily one of them.

The word compromise is insidious. President Barack Obama has been trying to play Henry Clay and show that he is a great compromiser – forgetting that he is not bargaining for a used car.

President Obama compromised and got his Obama care package. A half a loaf is better than none my Democrat friends repeated, smiled, and nodded. But, according to the New York Times, “Americans continue to spend more on health care than patients anywhere else. In 2009, we spent $7,960 per person, twice as much as France, which is known for providing very good health services.” An appendectomy in Germany costs a quarter of what it costs in the United States; an M.R.I. scan less than a third as much in Canada.

The U.S. devotes far more of its economy to health care than other industrialized countries. It spends two and a half times more than the other countries do for health care; most of it is funneled through giant health corporations. Why do we pay more? Could it be because Obama compromised on the single payer?

I have been to France, Spain and Germany; I can testify that the quality of care is on a par and often better than in the U.S. and the earnings and prestige of doctors is equivalent or better.

Why is this? Could it be that they don’t have giant medical corporations making tremendous profits? Just Blue Cross of California has annual revenue of $9.7 billion. This not for profit corporation made $180 million in excess profits in 2010.

The only conclusion that I can reach is that Obama was suckered into believing compromise was necessary and that politics was the art of the possible instead of sticking to principle.

Let’s be honest for a moment, immigration was put on the back burner until the Democratic party realized that in order to win that Latinos better be invited to the dance.

However, Mexican Americans, Latinos or, whatever we call them, play the same ridiculous game as white people do.

Go to the neighborhoods, ask Central Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Ask Cuban Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Many resent the fact or want to ignore that Mexican Americans make up two-thirds to 70 percent of the Latino total.

So, let’s not rock the boat, Mexicans will call any politician with a tenth Mexican blood a Latino and call them compadre. They are happy to be called anything but Mexican.

I don’t know how we are going to get out of this bind when we have to vote for people without principles. Are we going to support a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz because they have Spanish surnames, or George Prescott Bush because his mother was Mexican, and forget that he was once called ”the little brown one.”

It gets ridiculous — like that game played in the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices that features articles asking, do you know that this actor or actress has Latino blood? It is as stupid as the game of compromise or the art of the possible.

It reminds me of my grandfather and uncles who worked on the railroad (Southern Pacific) for fifty years who would say that a certain foreman was simpatico, they just knew he liked Mexicans. Why shouldn’t he? Mexican workers bought his lottery tickets and junk jewelry.

Support should be based on principle. I support Central and Latin Americans not because their numbers swell opportunities for politicos, but because they have suffered European and Euro-American colonialism, and come to this country for a better life. They deserve what every other human being should have.

We are not going to get a thing through compromise. Every time I look at John Boehner, Eric Cantor and their buddy in the Senate who reminds me of the bloodhound Trusty in “Lady and the Tramp”; I am reminded that a fair deal is based on integrity. I would not want any of these jokers to come to dinner – not in my house!

Before we start compromising and calling anyone our amigos remember that Boehner called a 2007 bipartisan immigration bill “a piece of shit.” This is what he thinks about us. I use the generic word Latino because I care about my Latin American family – not because I want to be Italian.

Obama is now at a crossroads. He is going to have to make a decision, and that decision does not only encompass immigration and gun control. It is about whether politics is the art of compromise, the art of the possible, or whether it is about principle.

My advice is to tell his three Republican amigos to take a hike and mint the damn trillion dollar coin. It is better to be right and to be respected than to be liked.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

SD-6 – The Money

Well, the Ethics reports are in and, not surprisingly, there seems to be a lot of money going in and going out in this race, especially through the campaigns of Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado. (I prefer to look at the raw numbers report than go page-by-page).

A look through Garcia’s finds money from unions and lawyers, along with many individuals. A look through Alvarado’s finds money from cops, firemen, and a lot of corporate/business PACs, and of course, individuals. I can’t say I’m a fan of big business/corporate PACs, but they usually do give to sitting State Reps. I couldn’t help but notice a few Republican colleagues giving Alvarad0 some checks, as well as local Republicans like Bob Perry. I guess that’s all part of the game, too, if you like that sort of thing. None of Garcia’s contributions set off my “There’s a Republican in the room!” alarms.

For Garcia, though, beyond what she’s expended, there is a huge $106K in-kind contribution from Texas Organizing Project PAC for the ground work (canvassing and phones) they are doing for the campaign as part of their endorsement. Obviously, this freed some cash to spend on the TV ads, which cost almost $135K.

From the looks of it, they are both running some disciplined campaigns with the usual expenses–consultants, signs, direct mail, printing, staff.

The bigger story is the fact that over $700,000 (and if you include the TOP in-kind, a lot more) has been spent and both are left with over $700,000 with 8 10 days until election day (of course, they could raise some more in the closing days, too). Thus far, and as of Tuesday, a little over 3,400 souls have voted, including 1,776 ballot-by-mail voters. In other words, less than 1,700 have voted in person, thus far.

There are seven more days of early voting left in which SD-6 voters may vote at any of the early voting polling locations.

As far as the rest of the candidates go, other than the big filing fee, not much else has been spent that could even compare to the top-two funded folks. But they have a lot of heart, I’m sure.

Update:

Wednesday Numbers – Today was the best day, thus far, of in-person voting in the SD-6 Early Voting period. One number that stood out was participation at Ripley House, which had 120 votes today after a low of 24 on Tuesday. I wonder if Joaquin Martinez’s Flash Vote helped?

Hopefully, this upward trend will continue.

Update:

Kuff has a more obsessive exhaustive take on the money. And Marc covers everyone who is obsessed with SD-6).

Thompson Files Liquor on Sundays Bill

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) shot up the DosCentavos.net rankings for favorite legislator with her filing of a bill that would allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays.

Texas could potentially gain $7.5 million in new revenue every other year if the Sunday ban were lifted, according to a 2011 Texas Legislative Budget Board analysis.

Texas is looking for all sorts of new revenue without raising taxes and this is one idea that I enjoy. I don’t know how many Sundays I’ve spent thinking, “If only I could go buy a new bottle of Makers Mark today.” Seriously.

Beyond the love of libations, this just makes sense. If anything, I wish Texas was more like New Mexico, where I can walk into any Walgreens to buy a bottle of something. But this is definitely progress.

Does Rubio’s CIR Proposal Include Citizenship?

It never surprises me when non-Latino sites immediately praise Republicans who move a tiny bit toward a sensible immigration reform plan. The question to Republicans from pro-migrant advocates (and lefty bloggers) should always be:  Does it include a path to citizenship?

As I went through a power nap this afternoon with the MSNBC on in the background, I heard the terms Marco Rubio and Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the same sentence, and that awoke me! Reading more on the direction he’s headed left me wanting a longer nap.

It’s all still very vague and the White House and Senate have yet to produce a specific bill of their own to compare it to. But while Rubio stressed that his plan “is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship,” he made clear that the legislation he had in mind would strive to ensure that the undocumented population is not left in legal limbo indefinitely. Given that Rubio has toyed with bills that might have stopped short of citizenship before, this is a significant move.

And I call it a move toward announcing for 2016 with a kinder, gentler attitude toward Latinos, who only supported the GOP at about 27%. Creating a second class of people is not an option, just like creating multiple “temporary” work programs is not one. For Rubio and the Republicans, all it takes is appeasing another 18% of the Latino electorate to achieve a win.

It seems we all need a quick lesson on why citizenship matters, and the Center for American Progress provides us that lesson. And then, we must all push for citizenship in immigration reform proposals.

Here we review the top five reasons why citizenship—not just legal status—is of critical importance to our society and to our economy.

1. Big gains to the economy. A December 2012 study by Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins of the University of Southern California found that a path to citizenship leads to higher wages for naturalized immigrants both immediately and over the long term. Naturalized immigrants earn between 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent more within two years of becoming a citizen, and peak at between 10.1 percent and 13.5 percent higher wages 12 years to 17 years from the time of naturalization. Higher wages means more consumer spending, and more spending means more growth for the overall economy. Pastor and Scoggins also found that even if only half of those eligible to become citizens do so, it would add $21 billion to $45 billion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.

2. Economic gains for the native born. Numerous studies have found that immigrants raise the wages of the native born—for example, by complementing the skills of the native born and by buying goods and services, all of which expands the size of the economy. And with even higher earnings after naturalization, more money would be moving through the economy. The $21 billion to $45 billion in extra wages would be spent on things such as houses, cars, iPads, computers, and the like, and as people buy more products, businesses see more revenue and are more willing to hire new workers. Put simply, more money in the system creates economic growth and supports new job creation for all Americans.

3. Certainty for both immigrants and employers. number of scholars working on the economics of citizenship have pointed out that naturalization sends a signal to employers that their workers are fully committed to life in the United States, while also giving immigrants the certainty that they will never have to worry about suddenly uprooting their lives and moving elsewhere. This certainty gives employers the peace of mind that they will not have to retrain a new worker—often at high costs—if the immigrant employee loses their visa or chooses to move elsewhere, and gives individuals the stability to invest in more schooling and more job training, both of which ultimately lead to higher wages and better careers.

4. A stronger, more integrated United States. Since the founding of our country, we have granted citizenship to newcomers and have actively worked to ensure that they are fully integrated into everyday life. Nations such as Germany that historically denied citizenship to many immigrants have struggled to integrate those individuals into society, leading to blocked social and economic mobility. On the other hand, in countries such as Canada that expressly view immigration as a part of their national and economic successstudies find a greater sense of belonging and attachment to the nation among newcomers. Our goal should be the full integration of new Americans, not the creation of a permanent underclass.

5. Forward, not backward, on equality. The United States was founded on the idea that we are a nation of immigrants and that we gain strength from diversity. Over the past half-century—since Congress removed de jure racial discrimination from American life with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965—we have moved toward broader equality and a recognition of the power and strength that diversity brings to the nation. Instead of moving backward toward an idea of America as a country club that accepts some people as full members and rejects others, we must move forward toward greater equality. Creating a group that can legally reside in the United States but can never naturalize, can never vote, and can never become full and equal members goes against the very ideals that founded our nation.

 

NHPO Hosts SD-6 Forum

One side of the room.

The National Hispanic Professional Organization is known for a lot of good things, and putting on candidate forums is one of them. At Doneraki’s Gulfgate this morning, almost all of the candidates showed to shake hands, visit, and give a short stump speech, while the folks enjoyed some good food.

Sylvia Garcia, the former commissioner, was an early arrival and visited for a bit with attendees; unfortunately, she had to leave early for a funeral. In her place was surrogate and community activist Robert Gallegos. Gallegos spoke about Garcia’s record of serving East End constituents, especially regarding the METRO rail underpass for which she advocated and recently became a topic promoted in her direct mail campaign. Gallegos stated that Garcia “was the only elected official who responded” when the community stated its position against a proposed bridge.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado spoke on the various issues citing that people are “tired of negative campaigning.” Alvarado is in favor of restoring cuts made by the Republicans to education to the tune of $5.4 billion. She also gave mention to the need for vocational training because of the lack of a skilled workforce to fill Port jobs. Higher Education was also a topic in which she called for controlling tuition. Alvarado called for the Legislature to lower college tuition and ensure grants are available to those who need them. Finally, health care was another topic as Alvarado called for Republicans to vote to expand Medicaid to increase access to health care. One particular issue within health care was the cuts to reimbursement of Medicaid to nursing homes, thus affecting an increasing number of elderly Texans.

Republican Break:  The two Republicans in the mix took turns defending vouchers, Rick Perry, and stayed within the confines of their Republican Party platforms. The Latina Republican, Dorothy Olmos, explained that she became a Republican because of her “Christian values,” which left me wanting to ask, “Are you saying my 82 year-old Chicana mother who has been a Democrat for 64 years, and prays more than most Catholic nuns is not Christian?” Anyway…

Joaquin Martinez agreed with what most have been saying regarding schools, but believes that community’s leadership not changing is one of the problems. Stating there is a sense of complacency, he points to the low voter turnout as an effect, which has given him the drive to get involved and do something. He also pointed to his experience at a local nonprofit in which he has directly affected lives positively. Martinez called for a new conversation with new leadership that will create a support system community-wide.

Martinez’s challenge that the lack of change in leadership is the problem brought a couple of challenges from the audience. One East End resident defended the work of the late State Senator Mario Gallegos and his effectiveness. Martinez stated that he intends to continue the work of the Senator through community conversations, thus, involving the people in the process.

Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes continued the line of ensuring health care for the elderly,  expanding Medicaid and supporting a return of the $5.4 billion cut to education by the Republicans in the Legislature, as well as the creation of student support programs. Reyes also pointed to community complacency as a cause for low voter turnout which is not helped by the Houston Chronicle’s lack of reporting on all candidates; instead, it only reports on the two major candidates. He pointed to people he has visited in his blockwalks wanting change in their leaders stating that the people were not well-represented. This also brought a challenge from the audience with a defense of the late Senator. Reyes disagreed.

The Green Party’s Maria Selva spent her time promoting alternative and green energy as a means of expanding the energy industry and bringing more jobs to the area. Selva stated that the Transcanada oil pipeline will negatively affect the area, and that big oil’s interest must be curtailed with campaign finance reform; pointing to legislation being promoted by Senator Ellis and Rep. Senfronia Thompson. Selva supports expanding Medicaid. Selva also stated that she boycotted a Transcanada-sponsored debate last week.

Selva was asked what the Green Party represented. Stating that the Democrats have moved to the right, the Green Party has taken up the positions that the “old” Democratic Party used to support.

Also given time to speak to the group were Theresa Gallegos, widow of the Senator, and Lillian Villarreal, sister of Senator Gallegos. Both thanked the organization for hosting the forum, as well as thanked the candidates in the running. Mrs. Gallegos stated her strong support for Carol Alvarado, which is also what her late husband wanted.

There weren’t a lot of fireworks, but what was exhibited was a clear divide between experienced candidates and the new guard of candidates in the running. I have noticed the frustrations from the grassroots campaigns who have been trying to earn some name recognition in this vast district (Over 200,000 registered voters), while the two well-funded candidates have been running your usual disciplined campaigns. It makes sense that mainstream media will gravitate toward the moneyed campaign. That’s just political reality, unfortunately, but not a reason to simply stay out.

NHPO provided a forum for all to speak with equal time and should be commended for doing so. We all have our favorite candidates, me included, but when we have these kinds of forums (live or online), then it is important to be as inclusive as possible. Given my lefty attitude, I’ll sell the lefty side a lot more than anything else. (C’mon, I’m just a Chicano blogger!)

A Closer Look at Houston’s District J

My Council Member, Mike Laster, gave a State of the District report the other day and provided a snapshot of District J. Here’s his report as written in his Journal.

Demographics and Destiny…

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to present a “State of the District” message to those gathered at the Southwest 2000 Bi-Monthly Breakfast hosted by Houston Baptist University. In preparation for my presentation I consulted the “Council District J Profile” produced by the City’s Planning and Development Department. The “Profile” can be found for review as an icon attachment at the District J website.

The Profile information is compiled from the 2010 U.S. Census data. It gives us a snapshot of the communities in District J when it was created along with District K.

The Profile confirms much of what we know intuitively about our neighborhoods – simply because we live here. Just over 181,000 persons call this part of Houston home. The District is three times as densely populated than the rest of Houston, hosting 9,000 persons per square mile to the City’s 3,100 persons per square mile. We are profoundly ethnically diverse – both from a residential and commercial stand point. Sixty-Eight percent (68%) of our households speak a language other than English at home. I firmly believe that it is the international connections of our people that will help District J lead Houston in international economic development in the coming years.

We are not without our challenges though. While 66% of our population is between the ages of 18 and 64, 41% of the population does not have a high school diploma. The District is home to 75,240 total housing units (both apartments and single family residences), yet 79% of those are renter occupied. Most concerning is that the median household income for District J has fallen nearly $7,000.00 in the past decade to $30,269.

While these numbers help us accurately understand who we are as a community, they do not determine our destiny. They serve as a starting point. I profoundly believe that the decent, hard-working people of District J will come together to build a community filled with pride and optimism. With effort and good will, we will build a better southwest Houston.

Now that I’ve resided in District J for ten months and will more than likely remain for the long haul, I need to start getting more involved, particularly in the area in which I live, which is surrounded by Harwin, Fondren, Hillcroft, and Bellaire, which isn’t a part of the civic association, according to the SCA maps. This little area is described quite well by the demographic information–we have $300K townhomes, $60K condos, and lots of affordable apartments. Just like any other neighborhood, we want good streets and great services, so I’m looking forward to hearing about the various construction projects and improvements being made to the area.

DC-Voice ~ Joaquin Martinez, Democrat for SD-6

DosCentavos.net attended the Power of the Community Rally in support of SD-6 candidate Joaquin Martinez. Martinez, a Democrat and community activist, has been running a grassroots campaign powered by volunteers and shoe-leather. I took an interest in this campaign because he was saying something different, plus he was attracting young voters who are seldom targeted in local campaigns. A crowd of over 125 was in attendance at Talento Bilingue Houston for this event. Here’s his stump speech from the evening.

Update:  I just noticed that some mobile apps may not be seeing the link to the Soundcloud file, so, here’s the link where you may connect.

{There’s an error in the embedding that I’m checking out, but click on the link  to directly access the recording.}

Mayor Parker Launches Parental Involvement Campaign

“Is My Child Ready?” was launched this week by the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives. The program’s work is to engage parents so that they may get more involved in their children’s education.

The campaign coincides with the release of students’ STAAR test results by area school districts scheduled for this spring.  The STAAR exams are part of the state’s new standardized academic accountability system.  The campaign will target “hard to reach” parents to encourage them to ask their schools key questions about their children’s performance on the STAAR test.

The commitment I liked most was this.

The campaign will promote parents’ long-term involvement in their children’s education with an emphasis on post-secondary readiness.  Currently, more than half of Texas freshmen in two-year colleges and nearly a fourth in four-year schools require remedial courses.  Deficient academic preparation also leads to low rates of college completion.

While Texas legislators are seeking ways of blaming college advising and student services offices as a means of cutting their budgets, it is good to see Mayor Parker promoting a solution, rather than some punitive measure, like I expect the Lege to do. It seems she knows one of the roots of the problem, so, hopefully, the Lege will follow suit and commit to these types of programs, too.

And it’s bilingual, too.

The multi-media campaign will deliver messages in various formats, including billboards, signage on METRO buses, electronic communications via SMS texts, emails and campaign websites and posters at libraries, multi-service centers and schools throughout the Houston region.  Public information sessions for parents will also be held.

TEXT “READY” or “LISTO” to 91011
The campaign invites parents to text “READY” to 91011 or visit www.ismychildready.org for key facts and specific questions to ask schools about their children’s STAAR test scores.  Spanish-speaking parents can text “LISTO” to 91011 or visit the campaign’s Spanish language website www.estalistomihijo.org.

“We want parents to talk with teachers and counselors and become informed on what they can do every day to help their children do well in the classroom,” said Mark Cueva, Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives division manager.  “Asking questions about a student’s performance on the STAAR test and what parents can do to help that child do better is a good starting point.”

For full information about the campaign, visit www.ismychildready.org.

Way to go, Mayor! Every bit counts in this effort! Perhaps partnering with local higher education institutions is a good next step?