Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting. held a mixer and dinner on Tuesday to discuss the various referendums on the 2012 ballot. Over 30 community leaders, including educators, school principals and counselors, higher education professionals, public servants and business owners attended and engaged in a lively discussion.
LEUV co-founder, Stace Medellin, provided a “lightning round” overview of the ballot, briefly describing the individual races and bond referendums. Touching on the METRO referendum, Medellin stated that voters have an important choice: Support the current way of providing 25 cents of every METRO tax dollar to the county and cities in its service area or allow METRO the keep its tax dollar to use as they see fit. All in the room thought it fitting that a METRO train passed by during the presentation. Stace reminded those in attendance that educating themselves and others is of the essence, and that if voters want to find out what is on their ballot, that a great resource is HarrisVotes.com, where a personal sample ballot can be generated.
HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche gave a powerful presentation on the Houston ISD Bond referendum, which would authorize the investment of $1.89 Billion to build and improve most of HISD’s high schools, improve technology, and other facility improvements. Stipeche gave the background on the need for new facilities, given that the average age of the high schools is 50 years, way above the national average of 42 years. Add to that issues with plumbing, mold, and structural problems and one sees the need for major investment that would put the district back on track and set for the next couple of decades.
During his presentation, Medellin touched on LEUV’s evolving support for the HISD bond. What began with questions over the contracting process and a push for ethics and campaign finance reform for trustees turned into support for the bond once the reform package was passed unanimously in its first reading in September. HISD will bring the ethics reform package up to a final vote at their October meeting.
Community activist Michael Espinoza made a brief presentation on the Houston Community College bond which would authorize the investment of $425 million to build new facilities across all of HCC’s campuses. Espinoza provided background on his own history as an organizer, and found that whether it was janitors, students, immigrant children, or members of a church, that the one issue that seemed to impact these communities was education, and that Houston Community College played a major role in this process. Specifically, the bond would pay for a new health care education and early college facility in the Medical Center, workforce facilities in Stafford and North Shore, and a new campus in West Houston (Westheimer/Eldridge area).
David Cisneros, a recent graduate of Tulane University who recently returned to Houston, represented Parks by You. Speaking to City of Houston’s Prop B, which would authorize the investment of $166 million to be spent on parks, Cisneros spoke about Houston’s history and interest in providing its residents with green spaces. $100 million of the bond would be invested in uniting the various bayous through the development of green space and parkland. Parks by You is matching that investment, and has raised $20 million, thus far.
The question and answer session allowed those in attendance to truly engage the presenters. One comment made by Trebor Gordon, an announced candidate for City Council At-Large 3, was that he arrived with plenty of questions, but that he felt all of the questions were answered by the presenters. Others asked questions to bring some clarification to the difference between infrastructure investment through bonds and annual budget investment in education and policy-making.
There were also 2012 candidates who attended to do some good ol’ retail politicking, including Diane Trautman for County Trustee-At-Large, Erica Lee for County Trustee, Pct. 1, and Gene Wu for Texas House District 137.
LEUV is committed to developing various events and campaigns in the near future. According to Dr. Rey Guerra, a LEUV Co-Founder, “We are excited about how far we have come in just six months and we know that the best is yet to come, including continuing the Tacos and Votes program during Early Vote weekend in October.”
LEUV would like to thanks all those who showed their support, the candidates who attended, and those who provided a wealth of information on the bonds and the 2012 election. A very special thanks to Julia’s Bistro on Main and Alabama who provided a beautiful venue with the METRO rail as a nice backdrop.