Category Archives: Houston Votes ’13

District A Is Starting to Get Crowded

We’re not even done with 2012, but it looks like there will be some excitement in the Houston City Council District A race. We’ve got some familiar faces at the ready to challenge incumbent Helena Brown.

It appears unlikely that former District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig will get a one-on-one shot at a comeback from her 2011 loss to current Councilwoman Helena Brown.

“It is my plan to run for District A,” Amy Peck, district director state Sen. Dan Patrick, told me Monday.

Stardig has said it is “highly possible” that she will try to gain the seat back next year. Brown and At-Large Position 5 Councilman Jack Christie were the first challengers in 12 years to knock off incumbent Council members when they won run-off elections in December 2011.

I’m thinking it may get a little more crowded, since this could provide a good opportunity for a more progressive candidate to join in. It is also a District with a burgeoning Latino community that needs to get empowered and involved in their community. Whether any of the challengers or the incumbent even attempt to play nice with Latinos is still a question that has been left unanswered, thus far.

Let’s keep an eye on this one.

No Consensus on Closed Meetings; Proposal Dead

Well, I’m happy about this.

What a mayor’s spokeswoman called a “lack of consensus” was manifest in a committee meeting last week during which several council members criticized the idea as bad policy and bad timing.


Mayor Annise Parker‘s agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting seeks approval to put the two charter housekeeping amendments and the five bond measures on the November ballot. The closed-session proposal was not on the agenda.

Mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans wrote in an email that Parker had no pre-conceived opinion on closed sessions.

“She is able to see all of the arguments both for and against. Given the lack of consensus on Council, she decided not to move forward,” Evans wrote.

Frankly, with five bond propositions and two housekeeping ones, along with METRO and HISD, I’m a bit worried about voter education on all of this stuff. And that’s on top of my worry over all of the candidates!

Anyway, here’s what will probably be placed on the November ballot for the City of Houston at Wednesday’s meeting:

  • Proposition A: $144 million bond measure for public safety
  • Proposition B: $166 million bond measure for parks
  • Proposition C: $57 million bond measure for general government
  • Proposition D: $28 million bond measure for libraries
  • Proposition E: $15 million bond measure for affordable housing
  • Proposition 1: Repeal outdated provisions from city charter, including those that give the city the power to set the price of bread and appoint Houston school board members
  • Proposition 2: Strike from the city charter references to the Democratic primary in city elections, which no longer exists in officially non-partisan races for city offices


Parklets? Parklets? What’s A Parklet?

I had given some mention to parklets previously during the City of Houston budget amendment fun-time a few weeks ago and thought they were a good idea from my friend CM Ed Gonzalez. The Chron seems to like the idea.

Well, what are they?

Under this plan, businesses can apply to adopt on-street parking spots and turn them into parks, outdoor seating or some other storefront extension. This means more greenspace and pedestrian friendly areas at no cost to the city. And if the parklets don’t work out, they can just be turned back into parking. The parklets can even be created on a temporary basis for times of high pedestrian traffic – imagine holiday-themed parklets during December.

Well, that  doesn’t sound bad. And the Chron has given them their seal of approval.

I’ve heard from friends who like the idea and others who really dislike it.

I wouldn’t mind seeing more green space down the street from my place; perhaps it could take up some of the superfluous parking from PlazAmericas (on the back end of it). A few trees, some benches and the families in the surrounding apartment complexes would be nicely served. It could be a nice public-private effort, even.

Just a thought. Anyway, the Chron continues:

Of course, one can question whether a small park is worth the lost on-street parking spot, especially given that the most walkable areas also appear to have the worst parking crunches – lower Westheimer, for example. But because the parklet process must be initiated with neighborhood approval, it seems unlikely that parklets will replace anything but superfluous parking.

For naysayers who think that parklets aren’t a worthwhile endeavor, we encourage patience. Gonzalez isn’t proposing any massive overhaul, nor forcing parklets where they aren’t wanted. This will be a trial run to see how a parklet policy could work.

Anyway, I like the idea, too.

LEUV Launch a Huge Success

Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting (LEUV),Houston’s newest Latino engagement political action committee, launched Wednesday night before a large crowd atRiceVillage’s Bam Bou. What began as an event to educate and inform a diverse set of guests turned into a celebration and rallying call for action.

“The women in the room definitely made our inaugural forum special,” said event emcee, Danita Gallegos. “Along with powerful presentations from candidates Cindy Vara-Leija and Erica Lee, we were honored to have Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, who just completed a third-term as President of NALEO, give the room a rousing pep talk; as well as HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche who added to the new energy felt throughout the room.”

The Latino Gallery with a Purpose, a set of 18” x 24” infographics detailing various statistics and facts highlighting themes impacting the Latino community, such as education, public safety, and socioeconomic discrepancies, was a hit and a source of lively dialogue for participants.

Cindy Vara-Leija, candidate for Constable Pct. 1, spoke regarding much of what was featured on the Latino Gallery, especially the statistics on crime, child abuse, and the underrepresentation of Latina elected officials in Harris County and Houston,TX.

“Looking through the Gallery, I couldn’t help but get mad at some of the more troubling facts about the Latino community—Are you mad? And are you ready to take action to change these facts?” asked Vara-Leija, to which the crowd responded with a resounding, “Yes!”

Speaking of her own career, Vara-Leija, who holds the distinction of being the first Latina Captain in the Precinct 1 Constable’s Office, spoke about her three decades of experience in law enforcement, and about the challenges women face in the field moving up the ranks, making a promise to make the promotional process one that takes women seriously

With this first test of the Latino Gallery with a Purpose, there are now plans to expand it and take it on the road.

“We want to enhance our ability to engage the community by offering these visual depictions on issues and themes impacting Latinos,” said Fidencio Leija, Jr., LEUV Co-Founder, adding, “From the students in attendance to guests, which included HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche, Judge Richard Vara, and Commissioner Garcia, all recognized the creative impact the gallery had on the crowd.”

Leija emphasized the fact that LEUV will continue to utilize modern tools to deliver a more engaging message on civic involvement, taking the gallery to schools, churches, parks, and especially through social media outlets.

Erica S. Lee, candidate for Harris County Board of Education Pct. 1, gave a poignant presentation, highlighting issues she faced working as a 1st grade teacher in Houston’s East End, stating that the experience, combined with her public policy work, has given her the background needed to be an effective member of the Board. Lee also made mention of President Obama’s recent DHS policy change benefiting DREAMers.

“Some of these are the kids that I taught early in my career,” said Lee. “President Obama’s effort to help DREAMers will open up doors of opportunity that will ultimately benefit our Nation, and we must support that.”

Local teacher, Adriana Salcedo-Saldaña, felt empowered by the candidacy of a fellow educator who wants to serve her community. “I was honored to introduce Ms. Lee as she has helped open my eyes to how state and local politics affects my classroom, and how I need to be proactive in ensuring my students and their parents are better served.”

In her introduction of Vara-Leija, Commissioner Garcia gave mention to a need for new and energetic leadership that will empower the next generation to become engaged in the political process. “I am so proud of this new organization and congratulate them on their first event,” said Garcia, “Their passion, energy, and commitment will help move our Latino community forward.”

In another presentation, guest speaker Joe Cardenas, III, former State Director of LULAC and also a high school teacher, challenged LEUV to take on lobbying duties when the State Legislature reconvenes. “It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican, if you think public education should be a top funding priority in Texas, then you must lobby for it at the Capitol,” said Cardenas, inviting them to rally on the first day of the legislative session in January, 2013.

Beyond the energy of the speeches was the number of guests volunteering for action, whether it was to give a few hours to a campaign or registering to vote. Deputy voter registrars Adan Gallegos and David Bustillos worked a registration table and were excited about registering someone who had not only attended her first political event, but was an educator who had never registered previously.

“The Latino community struggles with low voter participation and LEUV will work to increase that through our efforts,” said Bustillos. Adan Gallegos added, “Along with our low participation rates, we have to also increase our voter registration efforts, and tonight showed us that first-time voters are just as crucial to achieving success at the ballot box.”

Finally, event sponsor, LEUV founding contributor, and local business leader Greg Compean called supporters to “huddle up” for some sound advice, telling them that all of the speeches and all of the statistics will not matter much unless everyone in the room does their part in the process—volunteer on campaigns, volunteer to register voters, get involved in the legislative process, give donations, and just promote the greater good.

“The LEUV are young and energetic, with a lot of great ideas.  They have a lot of potential because they are reaching those people who have not been reached,” said Compean, “and that is the next step to achieving success for the Latino community in the political process.”

LEUV is planning additional forums and events throughout the summer and fall in the lead-up to the July 31st Runoff Election and November’s General Election, including a sequel to the Tacos and Votes event on Friday, July 27.  Stay Tuned!

$410 Million Bond Proposed for Houston

Mayor Annise Parker, today, proposed a $410 million bond package that, if supported by Council, will be on the November ballot. Voters may get to vote on five different measures:

The bond package also includes:

$144 million for public safety needs, including:

  • Improvements at neighborhood police stations citywide
  • Expansion of Fire Station 55, City Council District D
  • New fire station to serve Pine Brook area, City Council District E
  • Expansion of Fire Station 22, City Council District I
  • Fire station maintenance/improvements citywide
  • Facility security improvements

$63 million for health, sanitation/recycling, and general government improvements at city facilities not included in the other categories:

  • Renovation of the Westpark recycling facility, City Council District J
  • Renovation of the Central Depository, City Council District I
  • Possible repair of Sunnywide Multi-Service Center, City Council District D
  • Repairs to City Hall and City Hall Annex
  • Environmental Remediation

$15 million for affordable housing.

  • These dollars will be used for demolition of blighted properties to make way for new affordable housing.

$28 million for libraries, including:

  • Renovation of the Montrose Library, City Council District D
  • Replacement of the Moody Library, City Council District H
  • Replacement of the Meyer Library, City Council District K
  • Renovation of Robinson-Westchase Library, City Council District F

$160 million for parks, including the Bayou Greenways Project and:

  • Improvements at Haden, Busby Park, Judson Robinson Sr., Jaycee, Wright, Bembry,
  • Hermann, Alief, Nieto, Squatty Lyons, Gragg, Braeburn, Glen and Wildheather parks
  • Pavilion replacements
  • Swimming pool upgrades and replacements
  • Ball field lighting upgrades
  • Trail replacement and overlays
  • Bayou Greenways Project

According to the Mayor, this is one of the smallest bond packages proposed and will not require a tax increase. Let’s keep an eye on this as things develop.

Update:  According to a report from Chris Moran of the Chron, $116 million of the bond is not yet earmarked and is up from grabs from the various Council districts. Council must vote on what measures appear on the November ballot by August 20.

Update:  Looks like the campaign to pass the City bond has begun.

The Vote for Houston’s Future Committee is co-chaired by Philamena Baird, Pam Gardner, Melinda B. Hildebrand, City Councilmember Melissa Noriega and Barron and Lisa Wallace. Finance chairs are Robert Collie, Jr., Jason Few and Neil Thomas. Dean Corgey is the campaign treasurer and Billy Briscoe is the campaign manager.

Houston ISD is in the process of debating a bond package which may also appear on the November ballot. HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche will be speaking on Thursday, July 12 at 7PM at the Tejano Democrats meeting at the Harris County Democratic Party HQ (1445 North Loop West).

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.

July 11: Education and Safety Matters Event

Join LEUV in Making History…CONTRIBUTE TODAY!

Political ad paid for by Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting.

July 11: Education and Safety Matters to Latinos

A new political engagement group, Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting., is hosting a community education forum and fundraiser next week on Wednesday, July 11 at Bambou in Rice Village. Here are the particulars of what will be a fun and educational evening.

Is Education and Safety important to you and your community? 

Join us and get informed on the issues that impact us all.

Event: “Education & Safety Matters to Latinos”

Guest Speakers on Education and Safety:
I. Joey Cardenas III – Former State Director of LULAC
II. Erica Lee – Candidate for Harris County Board of Education
III. Cindy Vara-Leija – Harris County Constable, Precinct 1

Location: Bambou
2540 University Boulevard
Houston, TX 77005

You are also encouraged to be a founding contributor to: Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting. (L.E.U.V.) on the day of the event. Your support will shape the future of our community!

Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Schedule for Education & Safety Matters to Latinos:
A. Latino Gallery, Networking with a Purpose 6:30 – 7:30 PM
B. Topic: Education in Texas Matters 7:30 – 7:45 PM
C. Topic: Education in Harris County Matters 7:45 – 8:00 PM
D. Topic: Safety in Harris County Matters 8:00 – 8:15 PM
C: Question & Answer with Speakers 8:15 – 8:30 PM
E. Live DJ and Dancing with L.E.U.V. 8:30 – ?

The new organization, LEUV, 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.

I will be at this event, so, come on over and let’s talk education and safety with some local and Texas talent.

City and Southwest Agree on Hobby Expansion

Well, congrats to all those involved, especially Council Member James Rodriguez, for leading on this particular issue. Although the vast majority of Houstonians agree that a 2nd international airport would be good for Houston, there is still some strong opposition in the form of United lobbyists and future PAC money. Although the Council still has to approve the deal, this is a huge step forward, for sure.

So, what was agreed upon? It was agreed that Southwest Airlines would be paying for the international expansion.

Mayor Annise Parker today announced her support for international service at Hobby Airport and released details of a proposed agreement under which Southwest Airlines (SWA) will cover all costs related to the $100 million expansion. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) requires SWA to design and build the five new gates and customs facility to the City’s specifications.  When finished, the City will own the improvements debt free.  In return for its investment, SWA will have preferential scheduling rights and pay no rent for its use of four of the five new international gates, and will also pay no rent for its use of the customs facility.  The fifth additional gate and the customs facility will be available for use by all other airlines at Hobby, but unlike SWA, the other airlines will pay rent.

“This will be financed with no City debt and no Passenger Facility Charges (PFC),” said Mayor Parker.  “SWA will bear all the risk.  “They will also have to abide by our minority and small business contracting requirements and Hire Houston First policy.  That helps guarantee our local workers get a chance at the construction jobs.  From the beginning, I have said that my decision would be based not on what is best for one or another airline, but rather on what is best for the City, the local business community and the traveling public.  There is no question we have done that.”

But like I said, there is still more to come–more lobbying and more debate. If you support the expansion, then call your Council Member.

The proposed MOA is subject to approval by Houston City Council and SWA management.  City Council consideration is expected May 30, 2012.  Construction is planned for the spring of 2013.  In the interim, the City will work closely with SWA and Washington to obtain the necessary federal approvals as well as a commitment for an adequate number of customs and border patrol agents at both of our airports.

“Again, this is not about one airline over another,” said Mayor Parker.  “My goal is to ensure the millions of international travelers who pass through Houston receive adequate customs services no matter which airport they use.”

Sounds like a good deal to me. Let’s move forward.

In Case You Missed Tacos and Votes [Video]

Our friends, The Parra Brothers, produced a short highlight film of this past Saturday’s Tacos and Votes voter engagement program. Enjoy and/or be amazed!