Category Archives: HoustonVotes ’11

Run-Offs on the Radio, Part I

Well, if you missed this week’s edition of This Week With Sylvia Garcia, you missed the first two candidate forums featuring City of Houston Run-Off candidates. It was a good, productive discussion about city and district issues.

In District B, it was Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis. Both are good candidates, in my opinion, offering different skill sets. Byrd offers a wealth of experience “on the inside” having worked for current council member, while Davis offers up experience in the small business sector and the community. There was hardly anything controversial in the discussion, although there could be a couple of opportunities on which to “strike” that probably don’t have much to do with “city issues.” Perhaps they’ll keep it on the ground, instead of over the radiowaves, but the two were gentlemanly and impressive in their efforts today.

In District A, only incumbent Council Member Brenda Stardig participated, and she devoted most of her time speaking about her record. Whether it was her efforts at bringing more businesses to District A utilizing 380 Agreements, to boasting about the fact that District A has a high-level of participation in neighborhood recycling efforts, to the fact that there are tens of millions of dollars in CIP monies in the pipeline for District A, she spoke frankly about the need to continue these efforts with her in office.

I think my favorite question to Stardig came when I announced that I may just be moving into the city (finally) and that I expect my future council member to be a cheerleader for their district. I must say that I was practically sold by her “sales job,” until the host of the show (The Commish) later made her pitch about moving to Lindale. Even Byrd and Davis made some pretty strong pitches, and all talked about the various improvements and new developments that have been cropping up in their districts.

I had not met CM Stardig until today, but she certainly is friendly, open to discussion, and someone that has and is willing to continue promoting a cooperative City Council to achieve what is best for her district. At least, that’s what I got from the discussion.

And being a blogger, I decided to “go there” and ask about the revelations of controversial comments made by her opponent, Helena Brown. But Stardig kept it “candidate classy,” and preferred talking about her record and accomplishments. And that’s exactly what the voters needed to hear.

The show repeats on UCTCRadio.com on Friday morning at 8AM and then at 5PM. So, while you’re eating leftovers, give it a listen–twice!

This Just In: Fonseca Will Not Seek Recount in HISD3

That’s the latest from Texas Watchdog Reporter Mike Cronin on his FB:

Ramiro Fonseca, who lost to incumbent Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriguez last week by 25 votes, has told Texas Watchdog, he will not seek a recount. Fonseca’s statment: “After examining the official election results, I have decided that a recount is not an option that would change the outcome of this election. I congratulate Mr. Rodriguez on his re-election. I am honored to have worked with the many supporters and volunteers in my campaign for HISD Trustee. I thank everyone that stood behind me throughout this time. I am very proud of our campaign team and I hope that we have set an example for our next generation of leaders on how a campaign should be executed.”

Well, with the campaign officially over, the campaign to remove Manuel Rodriguez from the HISD Board continues. I just saw a new website taking shape explaining all that went on during the last last days of the HISD-3 race up to the protest at the HISD Board meeting in which community leaders and students called out Rodriguez publicly. HISDBully.org is the site, so, check it out.

Harris County Redistricting Heads to Court–UPDATED

Kuff had a post yesterday about Harris County Commissioners Court attempting to mediate with Latino activist plaintiffs regarding an interim map for the 2012 elections. Indeed, it was in the Sunday morning news, along with news that the County Commissioner’s Court would be meeting on Monday to discuss options.

Today, the Chron reported that mediation did not effect an interim map and the parties were headed to court–and only to work on the interim map; not on arguments for or against the original maps. Obviously, with the 2012 primaries looming, there is a bit of uneasiness as the political parties must deal with candidate filing deadlines, residency requirements, and the overall prep for the primary. Equally important is the fact that precinct boundaries must be drawn, as well.

It is safe to say there is cautious optimism with the outcome of at least the interim map.

Dunn said the map could be drawn to add black voters to Precinct 1 and Latino voters to Precinct 2.

“The judge has made clear that any interim map she might adopt cannot be retrogressive to African-Americans or Latinos and it has to fairly distribute the population in the county,” Dunn said.

The County’s media folks were working overtime in putting it out there that they were willing to mediate and negotiate this weekend, and Pct. 2’s Jack Morman wasted no time in playing his own brand of spin:

“After the mediation Thursday it just seems like the other side is almost not negotiating in good faith, like anything they propose they know would be unacceptable” to the county, Morman said Monday.

Bottom line, mediation is where both sides come together and put it all out there. There’s little doubt that a bone of contention on the Latino activist side is the huge swath of Northeast Harris County (Atascocita) that is proposed to be a part of Precinct 2–more than likely the source of retrogression. Did the county offer to cut that out of the maps? Not likely, since their game appears to be incumbent protection.

Meanwhile, we await a decision from the Department of Justice to see if the proposed map even passes muster and the Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice also is reviewing the county’s adopted map and is expected to rule on whether it conforms to the Voting Rights Act by mid-December.

Given the fact that Texas Republican-created maps have been ruled improper lately, I’m hoping the DOJ continues that trend so that we may correct the improprieties.

Stay connected as decisions, maps and opinions will be flying about in the next days and weeks.

UPDATE 11-15 @ 9:25PM :  Testimony in case is complete!

Interesting

Assistant county attorney Doug Ray said Gilmore will hire demographer and redistricting consultant Jerry Wood (who assisted the City of Houston with its redistricting plan earlier this year) to help her draw the map.

Francisco Pedraza, professor of political science at Texas A&M University, and local political consultant Robert Jara testified for the plaintiffs (who are led by Houston City councilmen James Rodriguez and Ed Gonzalez and represented by Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party).

University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray (who helped the county draft its plan) and Ray testified on Harris County’s behalf.

Ray said his testimony focused mainly on the administrative difficulties that would be created by a radically redrawn map, given the many deadlines coming up related to the March 6 primaries.

Ray said he also is worried that a federal court in San Antonio that is hearing a challenge to the state’s redistricting map for state and congressional offices could create more severe administrative headaches.

A headache from correcting a map with so many Republican improprieties? Oh my! By all means, let’s not give the county more work to do after they messed it up the first time!

Anyway, the interim map could be completed this week, so, stay connected!

How About We Call them Humans?

The Texas Tribune, bless their hearts, provided us a debate today on whether a group of human beings who are simply looking for economic opportunity should be called “unauthorized” or “illegal.”

Right-wing Rep. Jose Aliseda of Beeville, seems to be trying his best to separate himself from Latinos, though he does take the “legal” route.

Referring to persons, things and matters in their proper legal terms and common definitions is very important for a lawyer and should be important for a layperson and society as a whole. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, after all.

In that case, I’ll refer to him in a more human terms:  insensitive, selfish, egotistical, and self-loathing.

On the “unauthorized” side is Dan Kowalski, who gives a better argument in terms most lawyers, unlike Aliseda, would understand.

To the question, what part of “illegal” don’t you understand? I answer: every bit of it, including the distinction between jaywalking and murder, between littering and grand theft; in short, between malum prohibitum and malum in se — that is, the things we’ve decided to regulate versus the things we all agree are evil.

Of course, there are also the things that people like Aliseda turn away from, like the blatant disregard of the Voting Rights Act as if the undocumented are going around committing voter fraud. Aliseda and his sort will create “voter fraud” and violate the very laws that protect voters. But no, let’s blame an easier, defenseless target.

Although I can see where Kowalski is headed with his argument for “unauthorized,” in that it is a status that can be changed, it seems society generally fails to point to the positive aspects of the immigrant community; especially in the overall debate. Instead we get into debates like these, and Republican La-TEA-Nos like Aliseda can promote hate-filled legislation and force positive legislation to die in the name of politics–a vote.

I appreciate Kowalski’s end that we should be pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. But whether it is right-wing hate-speech or the indifference of a Democratic administration that chooses to waste political capital on other things, CIR is not happening, thus giving the Trib the ability to debate words, rather than help push the effort for CIR.

I wonder what Aliseda would call my 4th generation American mom, or my 2nd-generation American dad who would gather old clothes for, and provide food and drink to, “los mojaditos” who would be trekking along train tracks close to our house. I know I’d call them humanitarians.

Redistricting on the Radio on Tuesday

Internet radio, that is.

While “The Commish” tends to the redistricting case regarding the Harris County Commissioner’s Court re-draw this week, I will be the “stand-in” on “This Week With Sylvia Garcia” on Tuesday, November 15 at 10 A.M on UCTCRadio.com.

We’ll have the usual cast of VIPs, including State Rep. Ana Hernandez-Luna with the State Report; Congressman Gene Green with the Federal Report; and the Chisme of the Week with Yolanda Black Navarro. The feature segment will be all about the challenges to Republican redistricting–Congressional, State Senate, State Rep., SBOE. Also, we are hoping for a call from The Commish with an update about the local case from the Courthouse.

Of course, because of all of the shenanigans on redistricting, there have been some changes to Primary filing periods, so we’ll have a special guest calling in, Demetria Nelson-McNaulty, who will be providing a clearer picture. If you’re interested in running for office in 2012, this will be a good time to listen to some great information.

Again, 10AM on UCTCRadio.com.

Post-Election Thoughts ’11 – Round 1

I thought I’d put this collection of initial thoughts together regarding the election. Usually, I start right as the numbers are coming in, but this time around, I slept on it. Let me tell  you, waking up this morning didn’t change my thoughts much, but maybe someone can convince me otherwise.

It Ain’t Over

We’ve got run-offs! At-Large 2 has Thibaut vs Burks, and At-Large 5 has Jones vs Christie. In AL-2, I’m glad at least one of my two favorite candidates made it to the run-off and I’ll be voting Thibaut in a month. Jones, on the other hand, has a tougher way to go. It might be easy to say that it’s Republican vs Democrat in this one, but Christie isn’t your usual Teaper–at least I didn’t get that impression when I met the candidate. But attitudes can change in a tight run-off. In both of these races, it will be all about turn-out. What may become a single-digit turn-out of Latinos in the run-off may actually have some significance in these races, though.

In District A, one or both candidates who made it to the run-off are probably thanking the heavens for Bob Shoellkopf. I don’t know what effect Bob could have in this one. Frankly, if I lived in A, I probably would have voted for him just because I don’t like voting for Republicans, and I guess he was the most Democratic. But I’ve also had to vote between Republicans in the past (District E) and I chose the better saner friendlier of the two. (Or was it the one who would actually talk to me?)

In District B, well, I’ll let the B folks decide.

The Mayor

Well, when there are different factors involved, it is pretty obvious that money ain’t everything. The Mayor avoided a run-off after only one term; a term which, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t bad considering the challenges. Beyond the economy and the cameras and the drainage fee, I think there was something out there that affected her numbers, and I won’t say it until I see the precinct-by-precinct numbers to see how certain areas of town voted. Needless to say, I think the Mayor needs to begin campaigning today for 2013.

Believe it or not, I think there is one person who is in the best position to challenge her in 2013, and it’s not perennial wannabe-a-candidate with free space in the Chron, and it’s not some other former activist-turned-wealthy lawyer. It’s that one At-Large member of Council who was handily re-elected and will have the ability to create a bully pulpit where he will be seen on a weekly basis. Some may argue money-raising ability, but we’ve learned that money may not be everything. Still, I’ll root for the Mayor.

The Winners

Congrats to Ed Gonzalez in District H, who I will always think is one of our best hopes for Citywide greatness, as far as Latinos go. James Rodriguez in District I, obviously, has that potential, too. I am happy about the re-election of Melissa Noriega to another term in At-Large 3. These three good, progressive candidates had some annoyances for challengers, but in the end, finished on top; although, I was hoping for larger margins. Especially in At-Large 3, I want to see the precinct-by-precinct numbers to get a better view of things. Stephen Costello in At-Large 1 seems to have gotten “Annise’d,” too (yes, I said it–chill out!). He withstood all sorts of attacks and came through, but I’m sure he will be challenged the next time. One thing is for sure:  2013 is looking more and more interesting up and down the ballot. Then again, two years can be a long time if all goes smoothly on Council.

Congrats to Ellen Cohen and her District C team, as well as to District J’s Mike Laster on some decisive wins. I would like to note than in District E, 24% of voters did not vote for Mike Sullivan (undervotes). One guy that is sure to be impressive is Larry Green in K.

Update:  Al Hoang was returned to his District F seat. I don’t know, I kind of like him, but it’s probably because his staff sends me press releases and stuff. Congrats CM Hoang.

We still have the run-offs, obviously, and I am definitely looking forward to getting to know these candidates–all over again.

Education

HCC will have a good proponent of students in Carroll Robinson. When he participated in This Week With Sylvia Garcia’s forum, he impressed me with his ideas on retention and graduation. Community colleges are experiencing various challenges and they will need to step up–big time!

HISD-8. Well, Juliet Stipeche took out the teabagger challenger…again! That was another one of those annoyances I mentioned earlier, but her team worked the streets hard, and ultimately, that’s how elections are won. It was a decisive victory for Stipeche, who now gets four years to work on what matters–what is best for the kids, teachers, and families of HISD. I was hoping for more of a stomping of the teabagger, but, again, annoyances. As I said on the radio yesterday, Juliet is the real deal and she didn’t have to be created in some political laboratory. Congrats, Juliet!

HISD-3:  I’m not sure what I’m more disappointed in:  That a good, honest candidate like Ramiro Fonseca fell short, or that almost half of the election day voters bought into the incumbent’s hate piece. Some might say, “it’s because the voters were conservative,” but I’ll just say they were…

And Finally, Latinos

Some recent stats from Early Voting showed that Latino voters (surnamed, maybe?) were about 12% of the vote and a good majority were in District I and H. Those two districts had between 10 and 11% turnout after yesterday, so, I guess that’s where Latinos were hovering. A couple of percentage points is not necessarily amazing progress, so, there’s work to be done. And when you have annoying LaTEAnos getting on the ballot and spouting teabagger and other hateful nonsense, chances are they will get an audience. I will continue to argue that there needs to be mass and frequent engagement by progressives beyond the campaign-only, door-to-door stuff to reach Latinos. The annoyances cut into margins, slightly, and if those of us on the progressive side do not act, that trend will continue.

Well, I thought I’d be all 2011’d out, but we’ve got some run-offs in a month. Stay connected to DosCentavos.net because I’m bound to set someone off with one of my posts.

Kuff has more, as does Gregorio.

Early Voting Begins Today!

It’s that time again. Early voting for Houston Mayor and City Council, Houston ISD, Houston Community College, and amendments to the state constitution begins today and ends on November 4. And the best thing about early voting is that you may vote at any early voting location in Harris County–there’s 37 of ’em!

Check out my “Before You Vote” post from last week for more information and here for links to the best in election commentary and advice.

I’ve made my decisions on candidates, but I still have to study the state amendments. I’ll have more commentary on those later, as well as on a few of the races.

And check out “This Week With Sylvia Garcia” on Tuesday, October 25 at 10AM for the Houston Community College District IV forum. Right after that, a lightning round conversation about the hot City races featuring Sylvia Garcia, yours truly, Charles Kuffner of OffTheKuff.com and Greg Wythe  of GregsOpinion.com. It will be a fun one, for sure. Only on http://UCTCRadio.com.

Here are you Early Voting locations:

HISD-4, -3 Candidates Spar on “This Week…”

I was privileged to co-moderate candidate forums for HISD District 4 and 3 on This Week With Sylvia Garcia this morning on UCTCRadio.com. For the District 4 race, there were some fireworks.

District 4

Challenger Davetta Daniels offered her experience and successes as a school leader as her qualifications for the position. Daniels feels that the incumbent needs to be replaced in order to “put the trust back in trustee.”  Incumbent Paula Harris offered a track record of growth that must be continued as the reason she should be returned to the board, citing before and after numbers regarding drop-out rates and other statistics.

Things took a turn for the heated after the question was asked about the new ethics policy that was recently approved by the school board, which had been going through recent public scrutiny because of board member contact with prospective and current vendors. According to Incumbent Harris, the media hyped up the ethics issue as there were no findings that any improprieties had occurred between board members and vendors. Challenger Daniels responded by reiterating what had been in the press regarding a trip to Italy by Harris and an HISD vendor who is a friend of Harris. Regarding ethics, Harris pointed to an e-mail her challenger sent to her asking for a job, even stating that the challenger would not run against her if she gave her job. Harris called it illegal; however, Daniels stated that she did send it seeing how there were Principals missing in various schools.

When asked about support for the Apollo program, Incumbent Harris stated that she was in support of it and its intent to help those children with the most needs, even spending more on them. Challenger Daniels stated she supported some aspects of the program; however, was concerned about its cost and how the money for this program is being spent. Harris stated that the millions of dollars which funded Apollo was provided by private donations; however, Daniels was adamant about an accounting of the dollars.

HISD did not the raise property tax rate for this budget, but because the cut in K-12 funds by the Republican legislature will provide  bigger challenges to school boards next year, would either of them support a tax increase?Challenger Daniels believes that board members need to look at how each dollar is being spent, i.e., vendor contracts. Harris stated that much like in this last budget process, everything has to be on the table. Harris reminded us that the next budget process begins in January.

A very intense forum for a very intense race for HISD-4. The best of luck to both candidates.

District 3

The HISD-District 3 Forum was a bit more subdued, yet informative. Challenger Ramiro Fonseca, a higher education professional, stated he was running to provide constituents with better representation, seeing a need to provide leadership on the various challenges the district faces. For incumbent Manuel Rodriguez, he would like to stay to continue the representation he has provided, noting the progress that the district has made during his time on the board.

On the Apollo Program both candidates were supportive, with incumbent Rodriguez calling the program an “emergency room” for what is ailing the school district. Challenger Fonseca, on other hand, called the program a reactive one which he would like to see turned into one that is more proactive and offered district-wide, including an increase in early childhood education investment.

On Ethics, Rodriguez stated that HISD has the strongest ethics policy of school districts in the area, and he is committed to transparency. Fonseca stated that he is also a supporter of transparency in government; however, that nothing bothered him more than seeing HISD being talked about in the media regarding ethics issues.

Finally, on the budget, Rodriguez pointed to the legislature’s cuts to K-12 funding being a direct result of HISD’s financial challenges; however, that the board was able to get by with losing only around 300 teachers. Fonseca reiterated his call for transparency, a commitment to ensuring the children are provided the best, and that everything is on the table for next year’s budget.

Looks like the voters of District 4 and District 3 have some choices to make.

Early voting begins on Monday, October 24. Click here for a list of Early Voting sites.

Thanks again to Sylvia Garcia for the service she provides to listeners and candidates. And thanks to the candidates for making my Tuesday a little bit more exciting–especially today!

Chron Goes With Costello (AL1), Thibaut (AL2)

The Chron begins announcing its endorsements for the City of Houston At-Large contests today, and it looks like they picked Costello and Thibaut in this first round.

AL1

I can honestly put out there that I didn’t support Costello in his first-round, but I must agree with the Chron that he had a good and tough first term. As a supporter of Rebuild Houston, faults and all, I appreciated his work to get that passed and then its political defense of it. The Chron also mentions this:

And as at-large Position 1 council member, he made an admirable effort to help people too often underrepresented at the council table. He’s worked to bring grocery stores to “food deserts,” low-income areas where it’s easier to buy French fries than a fresh potato. And he’s now investigating programs to serve the homeless in ways that are both more humane and more cost-effective than addressing their problems in jails and emergency rooms.

Good luck to CM Costello.

AL2

In the At-Large 2 race, there are a whole bunch of candidates. This past Tuesday, I helped moderate a radio forum which featured what may be considered the four contenders:  Pool, Thibaut, Robinson, and Fraga, and, let me tell you, any voter would have a tough time picking their candidate.

There’s no doubt that there will be a run-off in this one as it seems that almost all candidates have some sort of base of support. In the Chron’s case, they picked Kristi Thibaut, whom I can safely say is among my top two picks.

Thibaut says she will focus on job creation, infrastructure improvement and public safety if elected. She hopes to encourage Houston’s universities to become centers for generating new technology that spawns commercial enterprises.

With the city facing pension funding problems that can only be resolved at the state Legislature, Thibaut’s experience and connections in Austin will be a valuable asset.

She supported the Rebuild Houston drainage initiative and says a dedicated funding source is necessary to deal with flooding and deteriorating thoroughfares.

During the radio forum, I was able to ask each of the four a sort of “gotcha” question. For Thibaut, it was whether her intent in running was just to get “the next job” for which some might consider her a “political opportunist.”

Thibaut responded that it was all about serving the people as she had in the Texas House. She stated that she has the option of being a mom and spending more time with her family, but answering the call to service is something that she also enjoys.

Good answer!

There will be voters who will have a tough time making a choice in this race. For those in my group in my neck of the woods, they rely on meeting the candidates and listening to their ideas. There’s no doubt that many of us appreciate Thibaut, along with Jenifer Rene Pool, for making the trip out to Kingwood.

So, there you have it. The Chron has spoken. Will it matter? Since this is an at-large race with more territory to cover, maybe.

Eight Arrested Protesting KBH’s Anti-Jobs Vote

Eight pro-Jobs activists were arrested yesterday after staging a sit-in at the Mickey Leland Federal Building. Showing their disappointment at Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn’s “no” vote on President Obama’s American Jobs Act, hundreds of protesters, including folks from SEIU, Good Jobs = Great Houston, and the Occupy Houston movements, among others, assembled at the federal building.

Three women and five men were charged with criminal trespassing. The demonstrators also included representatives of the Jobs Not Cuts organization.

In a display that put to shame the County Commissioner’s lack of support for more Harris County jailers, HPD sent out 50 officers, some in riot gear and others on horses, to arrest the eight activists and “control” the 200, which included some good people I know. That’s 1 officer for every 4 protesters, right?

Kudos to the protesters. I’m of the opinion that a movement should take the fight to those in power–the elected officials–and this protest did just that. The final step, though, is finishing the job–by voting and then staying involved.