Tag Archives: Mayor Sylvester Turner

Update on UMMC COVID-19 Vax

NPR posted an interview with Dr. Joseph Varon, the medical director at United Memorial Medical Center on 12/16/2020. In it, Dr. Varon states that he was told by the Mayor that UMMC would receive their COVID-19 vaccine for their frontline workers sometime next week.

INSKEEP: Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday on the program that maybe caseloads will start to go down significantly when half the population is vaccinated, which is something that is a good number of months away. Let me ask about your hospital specifically, though. The first people getting vaccinated have been, in many cases, health care workers. Do you know when your staff will get vaccinated?

VARON: I was told by the mayor just a couple of days ago that we’re going to be getting our vaccine next week.

INSKEEP: Next week.

VARON: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: What do the staff have to say about that?

VARON: Oh, they were very happy because they – you know, they were actually kind of annoyed that we didn’t make the first round of vaccination. But apparently, that was done on the basis of how big the hospitals are. Our hospital is a small community hospital that has less than a thousand employees, and therefore it was not chosen to receive the vaccine on the first round.

INSKEEP: We’ve heard about health care workers, along with people in the population at large, who are skeptical about the vaccine. Do you have anybody on your staff who’s pushing back?

VARON: Well, gosh. Yesterday, I had a – not a fight, but, you know, I had a friendly argument with more than 50% of my nurses in my unit telling me that they will not get the vaccine. And, you know, of course, I pushed the concept that people should get vaccinated. And I asked, why not? And, you know, at the end of the day, like I have said before, coronavirus has become a political toy, and most of the reasons why most of my people don’t want to get the vaccine are politically motivated.

INSKEEP: Do you trust the science when it comes to this vaccine?

VARON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

NPR 12/16/2020

When half of his nursing staff is making the decision to not take the vaccine based on Trump politics, ones hope for the future sort of wanes. But it’s just not hospital staffers.

Kuff touched on how tough it will be to get everyone effectively vaccinated. Just within my own friends list, there have been a few who question everything about the vaccine. Some of it based on crap one reads on the internet, but also some based on US History of testing on people of color. There is a lot of mistrust and misinformation; most of it, because of the orange buffoon that is still in the White House who didn’t really care to carry the ball on fighting the pandemic. But US History is not kind to black and brown folks, either.

That said, I agree with Dr. Varon when he states that the current state of the vaccine does not help matters at the moment. A few thousand frontline workers and some elderly folks being inoculated is not going to help the current state of test positivity, hospitalizations and ICU admits. Americans must continue to practice COVID-19 measures–masks, wash hands, stay away from gatherings, etc.

It’s good to know that UMMC staffers will have access to the vaccine, though. The excuse they were given (having a lower number of employees) for not being amongst the first to get it was pretty weak.

On Mayor Turner’s Police Reform Task Force

First of all, I am of the opinion that all the great ideas to reform our local police departments have already been discussed and presented, and that they have been presented prior to the events that occurred in Minneapolis.

There has been a dire need for police reform in most cities, including Houston, for decades and nothing has been attempted; if anything, it’s been avoided for political expediency and to appease those who do not support any kind of police reform. We don’t need committees, we need decisive leadership to change the system and the culture of policing.

A committee of favorites that doesn’t include groups that have been at the forefront of police reform advocacy will not come up with anything new. If anything, my fear is that a committee of favorites will only serve as a rubber stamp for the wants of the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the police union. This must be of, by, and for the people, and this committee has too many familiar faces that only talk a good game. For some, it seems it’s what they do for a living.

I wholeheartedly agree with Transform Houston which states:

  1. The 45-person board does not include any individuals currently associated with Black Lives Matter Houston. Moreover, it includes only one organization that is part of the Houston Right2Justice Coalition which has already offered community driven policy recommendations on policing to Mayor Turner.
  2. A number of individuals represented on the task force have been employed by law enforcement agencies. If our goal is to explore ways to end the status quo problems with modern policing, having so many individuals at the table who have been deeply entrenched within those broken structures seems counterproductive to achieving meaningful reform.
  3. Mayor Turner has now had 2 separate bodies recommend police reform measures – both his 2016 Transition Committee on Criminal Justice and a 2017 report on fiscal responsibility and economic growth. The recommendations from both of those reports have yet to be implemented. At today’s press conference the Mayor seemed to dismiss the recommendations as no longer valid given the current movement to reform our policing system. To be clear, there are measures that have been proposed that could be immediately implemented by Mayor Turner that would begin the process of reforming how HPD does its work.
  4. Finally, Pastor Max Miller is listed as a member of the task force. Pastor Miller is well known as an anti-LGBTQ activist who worked tirelessly to spread misinformation about Houston’s transgender community during the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance City Council debates and ballot initiative.

The list of members of the committee is here. I know a few of them personally and a few others I know of their works in the community. According to the Mayor, their charge is to review policies, review the current independent review board, assess release of body camera footage, study best practices, assess community policing practices, and study the presence of police in the community. So, I agree with Kuff when he says let’s see them do something.

But, this kind of “study” should be an ongoing thing and not just one that happens when 60,000 people show up to rally, or when HPD kills the next black or brown person and fails to release results of an internal investigation. When it comes to police practices, and given the current surge of bad apples in policing and those quitting because of rules being imposed on them, the whole system should be under citizen watch beyond our cell phones.

The Mayor and Council are supposed to be our advocates as we elect them to oversee our government services (including police), but it appears that they are falling short. And a committee of favorites does not help this cause.

 

Harris County To Consider Reforms to Law Enforcement

Harris County Commissioner Pct 1 Rodney Ellis and his Democratic colleagues (Judge Hidalgo and Commissioner Garcia) will propose some needed reforms to law enforcement in Harris County. Stated Commissioner Ellis on his Facebook page:

Harris County devotes more than $776 million to the Sheriff and Constables. That’s 45% of our total spending of our general fund departmental budget. By reallocating funds towards community resources we can begin to build a better quality of life for communities of color and stop using the criminal justice system to address problems associated with poverty and health.

The Chron’s Zach Despart posted the proposals:

As Kuff states, it’s harder for the Commisssioners to impose police reforms on law enforcement departments run by their own elected officials, such as Sheriff and Constables. But each of these proposals has much to do with how tax dollars for law enforcement are allocated and how these offices will become more accountable to the people, i.e., the creation of an independent civilian review board with subpoena power.

Kuff also reminds us that the Houston Mayor and City Council do have more power to effect police reforms and I must agree that City Council Member Letitia Plummer’s budget amendment proposals should be a starting point for implementation. Considering that the Mayor is proposing almost a billion dollars for law enforcement with no particular proposal for change or reform, it is definitely time for a public discussion led by elected officials, rather than political appointees.

 

 

 

Houston Re-Elects Mayor Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner was re-elected by a landslide against a self-funded, access-buying, divisive, homophobic millionaire lawyer. With 57% of the vote and an over 25,000 vote margin, Mayor Turner earned another 4 years despite millions spent against him, bad news reporting on made-up controversies, and divisiveness from the local right-wing. Congrats to Mayor Turner and his team who seemed to run on the old adage, “steady wins the race.”

In my own District F, Tiffany Thomas was headed toward her own landslide win with 56% of the vote. She worked the district hard and earned this victory. I know she will hit the ground running.

In District H, incumbent Karla Cisneros was holding on for dear life to a 12-vote lead against organizer Isabel Longoria, who ran a strong, grassroots campaign. Longoria states she will wait for all votes to be counted before any other decisions are made. In District D, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz won handily, as did Abbie Kamin in District C. And in District J, Sandra Rodriguez came up short, unfortunately.

In the At-Large races, Raj Salhotra and Janaeya Carmouche ran great races; unfortunately, the right-wing incumbents won handily. I think we need to find out why right-wing zealots win in such a blue city. Is it color? Money? All of the above? Needless to say, young leaders like Raj, Janaeya, Isabel, and Sandra should stay in the game. They will be needed in the near future.

Thankfully, David Robinson was re-elected; and, Letitia Plummer and Sallie Alcorn will be joining him after their own strong victories against right-wing candidates. Mayor Turner will have a comfortable majority with which to enact policies and programs needed in our city.

In HCC District 1, Monica Flores-Richart cruised to victory against another right-wing zealot whom I think got too many votes inside a blue city. What’s up with that? Anyway, the people will be well-served by Trustee-to-be Flores-Richart.

Of course, District B is still up in the air. Some say it won’t be decided until May. Democracy delayed is not a good thing. Let the people vote, already!

The big losers in all of this were the firefighters union. But there is an now an opportunity for agreement on reasonable raises. And let’s remember that HR decisions should not be decided by voters. We elect our Mayor and Council to make those decisions and elections (and phones) are available to deliver a message to our elected officials regarding what policies to support.

One group that took a hit was Latinos. At this point, it seems Robert Gallegos in District I will represent all things “brown” as he is the only one who stands up and leads on Latino issues. I just wanted to point that out.

I agree with Kuff in saying that I’m glad most of this is over. I still worry that District B has become disenfranchised because of trivial BS rules that should no longer exist in this day and age. [The courts should not delay this decision any longer and the politicians should not pass this around.]

Kuff has his take.

KHOU Poll Has Mayor Turner Leading. Vote Anyway!

KHOU, et al, released the results of what is probably the final public poll of the Houston Mayoral race and Mayor Sylvester Turner leads with 56%, with 6% undecided and another 4% refusing to say for whom they would vote. The millionaire, access-buying, Trumpista has the rest (34%).

While Mayor Turner has over 90% support from Democrats, he has made some significant inroads with other groups, such as Bill King voters (37%), and even Republicans (20%). Independent voters are split in the 40s, which isn’t surprising. Turner is also polling strong with young and seasoned voters alike.

The poll is of likely voters who voted in the first round (234 out of 516 responded). The live interviews were conducted with cell phone and landline voters.

So, we can feel good while we down our coffee this morning, but we must still vote on Saturday, 12/14 to ensure Mayor Sylvester Turner keeps his seat. Polls are just a snapshot of any given day and the only poll that matters is on Saturday.

Voters may vote at any polling location (find one here www.HarrisVotes.org), 7am to 7pm. According to Diane Trautman – County Clerk, over 115,000 Houstonians voted early already, which is more than in the first round. So, let’s close the deal on Saturday. Get out and vote the #StaceSlate: 

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Raj Salhotra – At Large 1

David Robinson – At Large 2

Janaeya Carmouche – At Large 3

Letitia Plummer – At Large 4

Sallie Alcorn – At Large 5

Tiffany Thomas – District F

Others

Isabel Longoria – District H

Sandra Rodriguez – District J

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz – District D

Abbie Kamin – District C

Monica Flores-Richart – HCC District 1

The City Needs Your Input on Long-Term Plan for Latino Arts Facility

The City of Houston is developing a long-term plan for the city-owned facility in the East End Cultural District (formerly operated by Talento Bilingue de Houston, or TBH). The vision is to build on the history of the facility as a home for Latino arts and realize a dynamic and welcoming cultural center serving residents, visitors, and local artists.

To that end we need your help. Please take the following survey (OFFERED IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH BELOW) to let us know more about your experience and your needs.

English survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MJLK8NF
Spanish survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TDPGDSK

Executive “Interns” Aren’t Coffee Go-Fers

I swear, right-wingers and second-rate reporters run on stupid to gain votes and ratings.

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s opponents, which apparently includes local media, are trying to make something out of nothing when it comes to the “$95K intern” that a local station discovered in plain sight (it’s public record). The Mayor’s opponents play on ignorance–all of the time.

It’s obvious the local station is creating something out of nothing since they seem to concentrate on the attempted “gotcha!” BS of reporter Mario Diaz who pushed a mic in the Mayor’s face while he was walking out of a police cadet swearing-in ceremony in attempt to surprise the Mayor. It was pretty disrespectful. Even the best reporters wait for a press conference or gaggle when they question the President on his law-breaking and impeachable offenses. In this case, it was theater–and it wasn’t even good theater. And the Mayor’s political opponents are the worst actors.

As far as the intern is concerned, I have no problem with city government having an executive training program, which is what this should have been called by the local news, and what it is. “Intern” sounds to most like a coffee go-fer at KPRC. And perhaps that’s what comes to mind to most voters when someone says “intern.” Maybe folks should think better of interns.

This guy is not your run-of-the-mill office go-fer. The position was created to start a management training program. It’s no different than corporations with similar programs, like Enterprise. Or, even our own state universities who seek out talent within the academic ranks to give them experience in the administration side of things–I think they call them “assistant to the president,” or something to that effect. Why shouldn’t governments do the same as corporations? Don’t we want better government?

The “intern” in question has three degrees–two of them from my alma mater (Texas State). It’s not like he’s not qualified for the job or even the salary; although, some lawyer who KPRC brought around says he’s “too qualified” to be a coffee go-fer. Yeah, he is. And he isn’t a coffee go-fer. He’s training to become a government executive. One needs experience to run things, no?

This story does point out a need for our city governments:  A management training program in all executive departments so we can keep and grow talent in city management and not lose them to the private sector so quickly. Oh, and maybe interns should be paid, whether they bring coffee or help run things.

As far as playing “Gotcha!”, it would seem local reporters need to step up their game. At the very least, improve the theatrics.

 

Leslie Contreras Schwartz Chosen as Houston’s Poet Laureate

Congrats to Leslie Contreras Schwartz! Here’s the press release from Mayor Sylvester Turner making the announcement:

Writer Leslie Contreras Schwartz has been selected as Houston’s fourth poet laureate, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announce today.

Her two-year term begins now, as National Poetry Month comes to an end. Schwartz was selected through a competitive application and interview process by a panel of literary experts.

Mayor Turner made the final selection. The poet laureate receives a $20,000 honorarium for the two-year term, funded by the City of Houston Hotel Occupancy Tax dedicated to the arts.

Contreras Schwartz will work closely with the Houston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to carry out her community outreach project focusing on outreach to people with mental illness and mental health workers. She will also conduct eight workshops in partnership with Houston Public Library and mentor the Houston Youth Poet Laureate.

“The appointment speaks to the great work that this poet has done and will do as an ambassador of the City though poetry,” Mayor Turner said. “Houston will be well represented by Leslie through workshops and outreach work in non-traditional communities.”

The Poet Laureate program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who creates excitement about the written and spoken word as well as outreach activities, special programs, teaching and their individual works. The role of the Poet Laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms, and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words.

“The Houston Public Library congratulates Leslie Contreras Schwartz on becoming Houston’s fourth Poet Laureate and joins the mayor in recognizing her invaluable talent. Contreras Schwartz will bring her passion and extensive knowledge of poetry and writing to Houston’s communities,” said Lawson. “We are excited about working with her on a diverse spectrum of literacy programs that will instill the love of poetry and writing for children, teens and adults alike around the city.”

“As a native Houstonian whose family has deep roots in the city since the early 1900s, I am deeply honored to be named an ambassador for poetry in the city I love and call home,” said Leslie Contreras Schwartz. “I have dedicated my adult life to studying, reading, and writing poetry, and am excited to share this passion. My outreach plan will focus on using writing to improve mental health, particularly among non-traditional and underserved communities.”

She is a poetry editor at Four Way Review and works as a lecturer at the University of Houston. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s degree at Rice University.

Contreras Schwartz says her work examines the individual versus public bodies and documents experiences and narratives of those usually silenced, such as people with mental illness, sex workers, women who are trafficked, or children in custody.

Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, The Collagist, [PANK], Verse Daily, The Texas Review, Catapult, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. Her new collection of poems, Nightbloom & Cenote (St. Julian Press, May 2018), was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky. In 2018, she was a featured poet for the Houston Poetry Fest. Her fiction will be included in Houston Noir, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda (Akashic Press, May 2019).

Before ‘‘passing the pen’’ to Contreras Schwartz, the outgoing laureate, Deborah “D.E.E.P.” Mouton, is launching her community outreach project, a multi-video series of performance poetry celebrating neighborhoods of the City. These videos can be found on the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs Facebook & YouTube Pages and will be throughout the coming weeks. The first can be found: https://youtu.be/B-o76Pxz1gs

About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. With more than eight million visits per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.

About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs develops policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at http://www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs and follow us on Facebook & Instagram. Find fun stuff on Houston’s Cultural Events Calendar.

Mayor Turner Encourages HS Seniors and Juniors To Compete for Art Scholarships

From the Inbox:

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs encourage City of Houston high school juniors and seniors to apply for the Mayor’s Art Scholarship program.

Winners will receive scholarships up to $1,000 for their original art work.

Students can submit one piece of visual artwork, matted and ready to display, no larger than 30” x 36,” with a written description of the work.

The winning artwork will be displayed at Houston City Hall throughout April 2018.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Monday, March 26. See details and entry forms at: http://houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs/artscholarship.html

The Mayor’s Art Scholarship competition fosters collaboration among Houston-area high school fine arts departments and recognizes excellence in student art, which expresses cultural identities and features of life in Houston area neighborhoods. The program is a partnership among the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Houston Arts Partners and the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

For more information about the City’s Cultural Programs go to www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs/ or follow the Mayor’s office of Cultural Affairs on Facebook @HoustonMOCA.

Houston Votes on SB4 Lawsuit Today

Over 200 members of the community showed up at City Hall yesterday to deliver public comments regarding this week’s City Council Agenda Item #16, a resolution supporting the City of Houston joining the lawsuit against Greg Abbott and the State of Texas which questions the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4–the “show me your papers” law.

According to the Chron, sparks did fly when CM Greg Travis, a known “NO” on the issue, took offense when several members of the Texas House testified that SB4 is hateful and evil. Travis used the usual conservative rhetoric of “rule of law” as the reason for SB4, rather than racist and evil reasons. State Rep. Gene Wu shot back, reminding the room that he’s heard rhetoric, such as “dirty mexican,” “wetback,” “drug dealers,” being used by those who voted for the bill and those who support those who voted for the bill.

Needless to say, the message was delivered that the City of Houston must join the lawsuit against what is basically a legalized racial profiling law. Right-wingers will say that questioning any given brown person’s citizenship is just “optional,” but opening the door to it is a danger in itself. If these conservatives refuse to get beyond the discriminatory nature of SB4, one would think that their conservative anti-spending side would creep out of them to vote FOR the lawsuit to avoid costly litigation that will come. The message they send is that they just don’t care and don’t mind targeting entire groups of people–citizen and not.

Anyway, you can still make some last-minute calls to your district and at-large council members. Tell them to vote FOR today’s Agenda Item #16–the resolution to support the City joining the lawsuit against Senate Bill 4.

District A Brenda Stardig 832-393-3010
District B Jerry Davis 832-393-3009
District C Ellen Cohen 832-393-3004
District D Dwight Boykins 832-393-3001
District E Dave Martin 832-393-3008
District F Steve Le 832-393-3002
District G Greg Travis 832-393-3007
District H Karla Cisneros 832-393-3003
District I Robert Gallegos 832-393-3011
District J Mike Laster 832-393-3015
District K Larry Green 832-393-3016

At-Large 1 Mike Knox 832-393-3014
At-Large 2 David Robinson 832-393-3013
At-Large 3 Michael Kubosh 832-393-3005
At-Large 4 Amanda Edwards 832-393-3012
At-Large 5 Jack Christie 832-393-3017 (* Still Abstaining?)

Of course, if Kuff is correct, it could also get tagged by an opponent which would delay the vote until next week. Delaying a resolution? Now, that would be a waste of time and resources and a show of how evil and hateful opponents really are.