Expanded Trail On The West Side

I was quite happy to read that the Brays Bayou trail will finally be connected at the West Belt.

Officials on Thursday announced the start of construction on a 7.7-mile segment of trail along the bayou, from Braeburn Glen Park near Gessner and Interstate 69 to Archbishop Fiorenza Park at the Westpark Tollway and Eldridge Parkway. The $20.5 million project completes trail work along Brays and is the longest segment in the Bayou Greenways plan.

What’s exciting are the added options regarding which direction one can go when on this trail. Although, the trail will go through Chinatown and Arthur Storey Park, then snake west to Fiorenza Park, a stormwater detention parkland between Highway 6 and Eldridge, and beyond, there will be a connection to the Westchase Trail, which I use a lot for recumbent triking. That I’d be able to head west is a great option, though, heading east to the Medical Center is nice, too.

This project won’t be completed until the end of 2023, so, there’s no telling where I’ll be at that point in time, but I’m glad for the folks on the West Side of town who need this completed alternative transportation route. Walkers, runners, and cyclists will definitely enjoy it.

I’ll Say It: Gun Deal Is Window Dressing

Too many people are celebrating the bipartisan deal on a framework that may eventually become a weak response to gun violence. It’s like they are celebrating a weak attempt at bipartisanship than what actually came out in the end.

The tentative deal, for which Cornyn was the lead negotiator, includes a mix of modest gun control proposals and funding for mental health. It would incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others; boost funding for mental health services, telehealth resources and more school security; permit juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for purchasers under the age of 21; and crack down on the straw purchase and trafficking of guns.

After all of these years, after some pretty awful mass shooter events, and after a re-invigorated movement to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands, this is the best that can be done because Republicans really don’t care and because Democrats have little fight to make even the killing of children an issue. There’s more fight for faux bipartisanship than for actual issues.

Let’s face it, the funding of mental health can easily come from our own state dollars if Republicans and Greg Abbott hadn’t already made deep cuts that were given to the border boondoggle. Texas being given the option for free federal money to pass red flag laws isn’t much different than giving Greg Abbott the same option to deny federal money for Medicaid expansion. Abbott won’t do it, or the money will be misspent. More money for security that has been proven lax and weakly trained, though they make a big deal for photo op purposes. Deeper background checks for those under 21 is an even weaker response to this as most “issues” a kid may have go undetected. There are still too many questions left to be answered.

It is window dressing that will do little to stop the next mass shooter. The only thing it may be is a small dent in the Republican’s NRA armor. Still, I expect them to just laugh it off as a victory against gun control advocates who I think would be kneecapped by this deal. In other words, even the window dressing used for political purposes is hanging by a thread.

Kuff is a little bit more hopeful than I am.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at social media monitoring tools and why they were of no value in Uvalde.

SocraticGadfly talks about how much, or how little, that OPEC meeting meant, while noting there IS something Biden could do, and no, it’s not his plan to renormalize MBS, which he’s writing about this week.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Liz Hanks finds a bit of common ground with her gun-owning father.

Mimi Swartz gets to the essence of Greg Abbott’s do-nothing character.

Robert Rivard asks Republicans a simple question.

The TSTA Blog has no patience for the Republican “solutions” to school shootings.

The Texas Signal presents a brief history of Pride in Texas.

Houstonia lists the top LGBTQ+ bars in Houston.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the people of Ukraine and the people of Uvalde as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff brings the news of the long-awaited professional misconduct lawsuit against Ken Paxton, filed last week by the State Bar of Texas.

SocraticGadfly wonders if even any of the Goldilocks Three Bears of Kissinger, Chomsky or the NYT editorial board (plus Pope Francis being more honest about NATO than Biden), will persuade any Democrats to support negotiated peace talks in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Stace offers up a post about his thoughts on and his personal connection to Uvalde.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Texas Signal covers Beto O’Rourke’s confrontation with Greg Abbott at a press conference after the Uvalde murders.

Reform Austin shows Ted Cruz being Ted Cruz, in the most Ted Cruz way possible.

Scott Braddock gives us a rare peek inside a Republican primary campaign, with evidence in support of something we already knew.

The Dallas Observer takes a look at what the post-Roe landscape will be in Texas.

Therese Odell vents her rage at our increasingly longer national nightmare.

Matthew Dowd singles out four myths about guns that stand in the way of reform.

Your Local Epidemiologist has the policy prescriptions for reducing gun violence.

Gus Bova correctly calls Greg Abbott “full of shit”.

Joshua Benton explains the deeply segregated Highland Park school system.

The Houston Press brings back the Houston Bucket List.

COVID-19 Creep-Up Continues

The latest 14-day COVID-19 positivity report from Houston Health now has us at 14.5% and the viral load in the wastewater is at 242%. I’m a little confused as to whether they call this “low,” or if they are saying vaccines will keep the number low. Well, I’m still back in 2020 when 5% positivity was causing freak-outs and freaking out that people are still allowing the rate to increase by staying unvax’d and/or unmasked.

I did a couple of reportable by app at-home tests last week. I got hit hard by something last week that laid me out, at least for parts of a few days. Fatigue, low-grade fever, chills, sinusitis, but no COVID-19 positivity. Thankfully, I’m doing better and I’m glad that it wasn’t COVID-19. Still, quite a few friends and acquaintances report they’ve been hit by COVID-19. I try not to be mean and ask, “Are you still wearing masks in crowds? Because I see your partying selfies without masks.” So, I just wish them well and hope they get through it quickly.

I still mask up at stores, at restaurants while I wait for my order, or in any kind of crowd. Too many unmasked folks out there! I’ve opened my life to a few more friends in my vicinity, and while it warms the heart, I still worry. Thankfully, those I associate with are not anti-maskers, don’t get offended by masks if I wear one, and are very much vaccinated. And that’s how I keep fighting against COVID-19.

The summer is just starting and things may worsen for some. Get vax’d and boosted, and do what you can to promote mask-wearing and staying away from crowds.

Uvalde

I was born and raised about 40 miles from Uvalde, TX in Crystal City. As much as the media talks about how small Uvalde is, those residing in the even tinier towns that surround it think of Uvalde as the closest big city that provides a small hospital, a big Wal-Mart, the KFC and other restaurants, car dealerships, and nice parks that provide more than dirt lots on which to run around in. There’s also Eagle Pass 40 miles in the other direction at the border, but we didn’t like to stop at Migra checkpoints because as Americans we didn’t enjoy having our citizenship questioned, unless we really had to go to La Aguila for the mall or the Social Security Admin office.

Uvalde also offers the area’s junior college for students who aren’t yet ready to leave the area for other universities or who seek workforce degrees in nursing, auto mechanics, HVAC, and law enforcement, or for dual credit courses at the high schools. I even took my ACT at SWTJC. The middle school field trip to the John Nance Garner Museum (FDRs VP aka Cactus Jack) was very interesting, too. The Uvalde Coyotes sports teams have been among Crystal City’s top rivals for decades. I’d add that many of us even have relatives and friends in Uvalde. So, what occurred in Uvalde affected the whole area, whether personally or emotionally and we feel so much for the families that were directly affected. Even those of us who have been gone for 33 years.

Before the news channels got ahold of the events, I was finding out about it through text messages from close friends who had friends with grandkids in the school. Later, when other friends were posting photos of unaccounted for children, and some who even knew slain teachers during their childhood, I found out we aren’t all that disconnected from each other in that area of Texas. In fact, slain teacher Irma Garcia’s father was the Principal at Crystal City High School before they moved to Uvalde during the 80s and Irma’s family are related to a cousin-in-law of mine. Eva Mireles grew up in Eagle Pass, which is the other little city in the area. The father of one of the little girls is from a town down the road from Houston where a friend of mine has taught for years.

When I started doing my internet searches of people talking about it on Facebook, there were so many stories going around that law enforcement had not even announced. One story blamed a “migrant bailout” after a chase because the Migra engages them dangerously and frequently. One news channel (CBS) even took notice of all the Border Patrol members in the vicinity that even that talking head was buying into the fake story. The reality is that BP has a checkpoint just outside of Uvalde on the way to Del Rio and Eagle Pass on the border. And they give all sorts of assists to LE when they’re not hunting brown people or causing accidents from chases. So, there’s a reason folks were questioning the Migra’s appearance and there are enough people there who love to blame “the other.” But it’s a small town and chisme happens really fast and that made things all the more frustrating when people were searching for their kids. The frustrations became more immense in the aftermath, though.

The lack of information provided to parents of missing children was quite angering as the school district, law enforcement, and the hospital were not providing information. It seemed they were getting the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” treatment. When they began to bring them in one-by-one for DNA swabs to assist in identity purposes, I knew what the outcome would be. One reporter stated they could hear the crying screams of parents as they were told why a swab was needed. One thing about small town folks in crises, we always hold out for hope because that’s one thing we always have and own, and most held out to the very end. But that they were left without a hint of a status for hours is a travesty.

Now, the information is still slow in coming and fast in changing to the point of inconsistencies, even after today’s DPS presser and Greg Abbott’s second presser. Greg Abbott’s first press conference featuring his political buddies was a joke and provided misinformation. Beto O’Rourke’s actions were quite welcome as he spoke truth to power, and their reactions showed us they knew it. A day later, the DPS press conference provided different information and left too many gaps to be filled. The one-hour gap between law enforcement getting shot at and the killing of the shooter was missing.

But then, there is also the allegations of mistreatment of parents by police, or rumors that law enforcement weren’t going in to the school, or others saving their own kids first, including BP agents. I know an investigation takes time, but when parents begin to provide facts of what they were met with when they arrived at the school, it seemed the presser became about defending law enforcement actions against parents, rather than actually investigating those allegations. That same regional director who headed up the first DPS presser, Victor Escalon, is the guy who interrogated Melissa Lucio, who almost ended up in the death chamber recently. That this guy has gotten promoted says a lot about Abbott’s operation.

The timeline is important, but we also need to know who was in charge during the various actions taken by law enforcement, from going into the school initially to the call-up of additional law enforcement and specialists to that one-hour gap to when they finally killed the shooter. It wasn’t until the aftermath that we found out Texas Rangers took over. But who was in charge the rest of the time? As DPS Director McCraw told the press, there is no need for someone in charge in an active shooter situation. One just goes in and takes out the shooters. (We found out later that the incident commander was Chief Arredondo of the school police, who gave the very first press conference on the evening of this tragic day.)

In Friday’s DPS presser, we found more truths, and maybe even more individuals to blame as a school resource officer was mentioned as driving into the school parking lot after the shooter had crossed the fence. Also mentioned was a back door that was propped up by a teacher who may have gone to his/her car to get a cell phone that he/she forgot. But let’s also recall that an awards ceremony had been held earlier that morning and there were a lot of parents going in and out of the building and it was probably close to the lunch period. It never fails that instead of finding systemic gaps in problems, they’ll find an individual to blame so that those in charge seem unblameable.

Congressman Joaquin Castro (because Uvalde’s right-wing guy Tony Gonzalez is useless) put out a request for the FBI to take over the investigation. I think this is a great idea considering that there were federal agencies involved in this. And the FBI responded after meeting with Congressman Castro.

It would seem to me that the kids who survived this tragedy, that were in the building, that heard the law enforcement demands and the shooter’s response, and heard the shots being fired at the children and teachers are providing the most information. And I commend the media for putting those stories out as DPS director McCraw went so far as saying some witnesses are “wrong.” Based on what, if he wasn’t even there. And why would victims lie? Let’s recall that 19 cops didn’t even go into the classroom where this happened.

We’ve spent decades debating gun control, gun safety, etc., and nothing has come about other than more guns. There are close to 400,000,000 guns out there. That’s more than one gun per person. They are accessible to criminals. But this shooter wasn’t a felon, wasn’t deemed mentally unstable, wasn’t reported by social media friends and was able to purchase two deadly weapons and over 1,000 rounds of ammo. The ammo purchase reminded me of Chris Rock’s suggestion that we need bullet control because whether it’s someone who is unstable or someone who gets off on shooting high-powered weapons for whatever reason, the fact that they are buying this much ammo should be a red flag in itself.

What’s the answer? Obviously people will protest and counter, and now the Senate has a committee to discuss disagreements and whatever else they discuss. Is there hope? There’s always hope, but there’s also a lot of right-wing nuts who will get in people’s faces to prove their point and I fear law enforcement will round-up anti-NRA protesters before they round-up armed idiots, no different than those cops who failed to go into the classroom until someone deemed a “specialist” arrived.

At this point, I want the investigation to continue, I want these families to receive the answers, all of the answer, they deserve, and I want Greg Abbott and his minions at all levels to stop the bullshit of covering each others asses. There were multiple agencies involved and a few days later, no one can determine answers until they agree on one that is favorable to them, it would seem.

So, when people who fear politics tell us to not get political, my response is to grow guts, or a pair, and get in the fight. Or get out of the way. Although this is the issue of the week, the fact that the inaction and failures at all levels occurred in South Texas tells you how little they care about the area and how easily they get their vote with rhetoric that blames “the other,” for the problems elected leaders cause. And, this isn’t just about gun laws, it’s about how the victims are being treated by authorities.

So, yes, it is political. Get over it. As someone who grew up down in that area, it’s also personal. The fact that so many people are interconnected with the victims makes it personal. And not just the murders, but also the ineptitude of those in charge.

Finally, if you really want change, vote out Abbott, Patrick, and all of the Republicans. They are not on the side of the people.

PS…GOFUNDME sent an email to users listing legitimate fundraisers raising money for victim families. There are alot of fraudsters out there, so, be aware.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the people of Ukraine and the families and friends of the victims of the racist attack in Buffalo as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff sees some positive signs in the latest poll of the Governor’s race.

SocraticGadfly offers a variety of thoughts on small town graduations, partly applicable to graduations in general, and a couple of aspects of small town manners.

DosCentavos friend, Cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz was awarded the Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning and even showed up in The New Yorker.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Tina Petway warns of the damage that helium balloons do to marine life.

The Kinder Institute presents a retrospective on the career of Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg, founder of the Houston Area Survey.

Melissa Kean remembers Houston icon Sandy Havens.

Texas 2036 touts remote work as a way to help state employees deal with the high cost of living in the Austin area.
CultureMap reports on the new digs of Houston’s longtime public radio station KPFT.

The Current notes a bump in the bromance between Greg Abbott and Elon Musk.

The “Glad That’s Over” Dem Run-Off Report 2022

With 100 percent of the polling locations around the state reporting, it looks like the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor will be Mike Collier as he has around 55%. A little closer than I hoped, but I was surprised to see Beckley showing well in South Texas. That said, Collier will be an active participant in this election.

Also, Rochelle Garza was doing extremely well in South, Central, and North Texas on her way to a decisive victory with over 62% of the vote. Glad we’ll have some highly qualified diversity on the ballot because the rest of the statewide team is not diverse at all.

Janet Dudding (61%) and Jay Kleberg (52%) end up as the Dem nominees for Comptroller and Land Commish, respectively.

In a race that took a negative turn in the last days of the campaign, Lesley Briones held a steady lead with 54% (or so) of the vote over Ben Chou on her way to becoming the nominee for Harris County Commissioner Pct 4. I guess the unfounded, negative attacks against her didn’t work. Briones will take on right-wing incumbent Jack Cagle, who recently voted against a county resolution decrying gun violence. Yes, on the day of the Uvalde, TX shooting, Cagle made it clear that he doesn’t care about dead children. I’m all in with Briones and it is time for all to come together to win this race.

It was also a sad day for incumbents Criminal District Judge Jason Luong and Family District Judge Chip Wells. I guess I need to learn more about the winners. Beverly Armstrong defeated Kim McTorry for the Dem nod for 208th District Judge in an open race.

Also, Treasea Trevino didn’t make the cut for County Court #4, though she was a great candidate who was challenging the local Dem establishment with her race against Monica Singh. Don’t give up, Treasea! Also, Sonia Lopez ran a great race for JP Pct 1, falling short to Steven Duble. Sonia has a great future in local politics.

In San Antonio, Judge Peter Sakai won the Dem nomination over Ina Minjarez for Bexar County Judge. He’s not a bad guy; actually, quite beloved, so Bexar County will be alright once he defeats the Republican.

And in Congressional District 28, Jessica Cisneros was nipping at the tail of Nancy Pelosi’s anti-woman lapdog, Henry Cuellar, down by less than 200 votes most of the night. While Bexar County results showed a few boxes still out, they didn’t seem to change the final result. Newsflash: Nancy Pelosi will get nothing for Democrats from Cuellar, other than a “W” for selling out women, migrants, and poor people.

Anyway, the results are in and we have a ballot to support, while also having the ability to demand more from our candidates in the form of GOTV, issues support, etc. It should already be expected, though.

Today is Democratic Run-Off Election Day!

The Ultimate Goal

Today is the day Democrats finish up deciding just who will represent them on the ballot in November. It’s an important election as we vote on state positions, such as Lt. Governor, Texas Attorney General, Comptroller, and Texas Land Commissioner, and local ones, like County Commissioner Pct 4 and judicial posts. Get it done!

FIND A SAMPLE BALLOT HERE

FIND A POLLING LOCATION HERE

And VOTE THE STACE SLATE

Race For Precinct 4 Is Almost Over, But…

The Precinct 4 race for County Commissioner continues its negative track as Leslie Briones responded to Ben Chou with her own attack ad, which called out Chou’s self-crediting statement as the inventor of drive-thru voting. In addition, Briones offered up some receipts regarding Chou’s alleged acceptance of money from folks who work for Harris County vendors. Also, Briones pointed out that Chou and his supporters created a fake organization that violated all sorts of campaign finance rules. Though the receipts didn’t really resonate with me since they were small, personal donations to Chou, the rest of the ad did because everything else Briones states is true.

Unfortunately, a doctored photo of Chou on the headline of the ad is what has caused the race to go rather ugly, with charges of racism against Briones. Briones has apologized and gotten rid of the designer of the photo and ad, but Chou continues his attack against the Latina candidate, while not accepting the apology. As if either community isn’t under real attacks by forces who will effect racist and bigoted public policy if we don’t win this seat in November.

If Chou and his supporters were offended by the doctored photo, Chou’s use of an unflattering, grainy, black and white photo of Briones, a highly successful, professional Latina leader, may be equally offensive to some. It is to me as our Latina sisters are under relentless attack. But it’s part of the business as one campaign tries to paint the other as sinister and bad in order to convince voters to decide for whom to vote by way of artwork, instead of actual words. I mean, have you seen the imagery the Republicans create as they tear each other apart?

In this case, both campaigns are guilty of going negative. And both campaigns are guilty of trying “gotcha” politics as the election winds down because it may be that close of an election. Ultimately, it’s about who one believes and who presents a better story of themselves to convince whatever voters are still undecided. And, yes, doctored and grainy, unflattering photos are something that Democrats should avoid. Both campaigns are guilty of this. Above all, we seem to be bad at it.

I voted for Lesley Briones because she has a track-record as an executive, educator, attorney, and as a member of the judiciary. She has given of herself to her community and the community at-large. She is proven in all facets of leadership, whether as a decision-maker or as a paper-pusher. Above all, she makes herself accessible and is responsive. These are qualities we need on the Commissioner’s Court and Lesley is the only candidate who offers these qualities.

Vote on Tuesday!