Texas “Feels the Bern” With Bernie Sanders

There’s just something about Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Independent Senator from Vermont has been the surprise story of the 2016 race thus far, drawing huge crowds to events in nearly every state he visits, including Texas. As the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports the Sanders campaign seems to have no trouble finding the blue in a sea of deep red…

FORT WORTH – Lauren McCauley has already made her pick.

The race for the White House doesn’t begin in earnest until next year, but she is backing Bernie Sanders, a long-shot candidate trying to spark a political revolution.

“I find it very refreshing to have a candidate who I feel speaks for the middle class,” said McCauley, 31, of Fort Worth. “He has a long history of supporting women’s rights and gay rights.

“He seems like the only no-bulls— candidate in the race.”

Even throughout the Obama Administration, the President has rarely campaigned or visited Texas. The fact that Bernie Sanders is staying true to his word with a 50-state campaign. And the result?? New hope, energy and excitement for a Progressive base long neglected by national tickets. At this point it’s too early to know for sure just who will be the Democratic nominee, but we can all be thankful for the healthy, respectful debate which has emerged among the candidates. If only the GOP could say the same.

So add Texas on to a rapidly-growing list of states that “Feel the Bern”.  And let’s hope that Senator Sanders continues holding traditional political wisdom to the fire.

 

 

METRO Bus Driver Risks Life, Saves Man From Fire

What began as an ordinary morning in Houston turned into an ultimate test of inner strength and character for METRO Bus driver Paul Nelson– one that he passed with flying colors.  As KTRK news ABC 13 reports, Mr. Nelson proved himself an incredible hero today…

Funding Model Emerges For the Astrodome

If there’s one thing Harris County voters made clear in 2013, it was this… we don’t want to spend public money to save the Astrodome.  And of course “we” meaning a clear majority of Harris County voters who bothered to show up for the 2013 elections.

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While many around town saw the election result as a clear mandate to tear down the historic structure, at least one person was not ready to throw in the towel.  Thankfully for Houston and Texas, that one person is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.  After spending months to develop a bold vision for the nearly doomed Dome’s future, the Judge and Harris County Commissioner’s Court are now ready to reveal the most critical part of the plan… funding.

Here’s the report from Gabrielle Banks of the Houston Chronicle

A few months ago Ed Emmett had a breakthrough moment about how to save the Astrodome, a goal he’s been chipping away at for the better part of eight years. The Harris County judge was driving out of the county administration building lot headed straight for the historic 1910 courthouse in downtown, and he thought, “There’s a building we completely re-purposed without bond money.”

Meanwhile, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation was mulling over a 38-page report by the Urban Land Institute outlining details for transforming the Astrodome into an indoor park with 1,200 parking spaces underneath it. What remained unclear was how to fund it.

And that’s where Emmett’s idea comes in. His plan has now become the blueprint for a public-private partnership overseen by a conservancy that would unite the city, county, the sports and convention corporation and other governmental entities with private investors to revive the Astrodome without requiring voter approval. Under the conservancy model, Emmett said, the Dome would earn tax credits, which would help significantly with covering expenses for renovation.

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(original photo credit:  the Texas Historical Commission)

So when exactly will the ‘Astrodome Park Conservancy’ or whatever it is to be called come to fruition?  No one is quite sure, but Commissioner’s Court is set to outline more details this week, and hopes to have a firm plan in place by the end of this year.

If this was to ultimately be the venue for saving the Dome, one wonders why we even attempted the “public money” route in the first place.  Maybe Harris County wanted to have more control over the redevelopment process?  But in any case, this is where we are in 2015, and this blogger is thankful that there may finally be a definitive path forward.

Beyond flagship investors like the big corporations one would expect to lead these efforts, let’s hope the Conservancy is also open to some small donation funding models (i.e. “buy a brick” investment).  They may not raise the big bucks, but they do tend to encourage participation from the public, foster promotion and tourism of the site and serve as an educational tool teach the importance of historic preservation.

Looking forward to more details on this, and it’s great to see a funding model finally materialize.  After 50 years of extraordinary history, the world’s first ever domed stadium may still have a bright future ahead.

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Here’s hoping.

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of July 27th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is always on the side of equality as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff decries the Supreme Court ruling that will force a vote on whether or not to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance.

Harold Cook explains why the Republicans won’t nominate Donald Trump, but won’t be able to escape him, either.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos never ceases to be amazed by Rick Perry’s serial hypocrisy. Have YOU No Decency, Rick Perry?

Socratic Gadfly talks about the Dunning-Kruger effect and why many people think their local race relations are much better than national race relations.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that many people in South Texas do not have clean drinking water. This should be a scandal, but, as Donald Trump has amply explained, Texas Latinos are nothing but piñatas to republicans.

Ben Hall and Steven Hotze, Ben Hall and Dave Wilson… a lot of prayers got answered for the Houston bigots and homophobes when the Texas Supreme Court ordered the City of Houston to either repeal its equal rights ordinance or put it on the November ballot. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs knows that we don’t need another HERO referendum, but we’re going to get one anyway.

With football season fast approaching in Texas, Neil at All People Have Value posted about the NFL’s refusal to allow Junior Seau’s family to speak at his Hall of Fame induction as Seau’s family sues the NFL over his terrible head injuries. Football is unsafe to play at any level. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

The Texas Election Law Blog tries to clear up some confusion about resignations and vacancies.

Ex-pat Texan Elise Hu-Stiles documents what it’s like to live and have children in Seoul, South Korea.

The TSTA Blog wishes our state leadership cared as much about schools as teachers, parents, and charities do.

Scott Vogel, editor of Houstonia, has some choice words for a couple of readers who objected to an ad showing a multi-racial family.

Tamara Tabo examines the problems of jail surveillance cameras.

Paradise in Hell knows that Texas is great in spite of Rick Perry, not because of him.

Eric Berger geeks out over the pictures from Pluto.

Grits for Breakfast tries to distill some lessons from the Sandra Bland tragedy.

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(Today’s feature photo is of a mural at Blackshear Elementary School in Houston’s Third Ward, created by artist Anan Ronen.  Photo by L. Wayne Ashley)

Music Musings: Tori Kelly For REAL

So much of the contemporary debate in pop music revolves around issues of authenticity.  The industry relies on many of the same sampled, re-sampled and

For all the folks out there that are looking for a genuine, original artist to support, look no further than the incredible Tori Kelly. Even from her very first YouTube videos at age 14 (singing a JAZZ arrangement of Go Tell It On The Mountain!!), it was abundantly clear that Kelly was charting a path all her own to a successful music career.

And yes… she for real did this at the age of 14….

From that raw talent as a young teenager to today, Tori Kelly is one artist that is ready to take the world by storm.  Her debut album Unbreakable Smile is just starting to get noticed.  But if talent and good quality music count for anything, the effort should soon be a worldwide smash on par with the likes of Adele’s 21 or Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience.  Having purchased Unbreakable Smile and listened to it top to bottom, I can say without hesitation that it’s one of best pop albums of the year.  If you have any doubts of this, then take 3 minutes and 28 seconds to hear Kelly’s song ‘Expensive’ (my personal favorite track from the album), and put those doubts out to pasture.

While Kelly excels at big brazen tracks like ‘Expensive’, her gifts are equally apparent in live performance.  The gifted singer, songwriter and guitar player has the uncanny ability to draw audiences to their feet even when performing solo.  Check out this recent performance of her new single ‘Should’ve Been Us’ from ABC’s The View…

It’s clear that Tori Kelly has all the elements to become the next big thing in music.   I for one am looking forward to more great things from this artist.  Let’s all hope that she continues to get the recognition that she deserves.

Texas Supreme Court Says HERO Must Be Placed On November Ballot

The Conservative-leaning Supreme Court of Texas has sided with anti-Equality plaintiffs in a Friday morning ruling.  Here’s the story from Rebecca Elliott of the Houston Chronicle

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Houston City Council must repeal the city’s equal rights ordinance or place it on the November ballot.

The ruling comes three months after a state district judge ruled that opponents of Houston’s contentious non-discrimination ordinance passed last year  failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a repeal referendum.

“We agree with the Relators that the City Secretary certified their petition and thereby invoked
the City Council’s ministerial duty to reconsider and repeal the ordinance or submit it to popular
vote,” the Texas Supreme Court wrote in a per curiam opinion. “The legislative power reserved to the people of Houston is not being honored.”

The city’s equal right ordinance bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

Houston City Council has 30 days to repeal the ordinance or place it on the November ballot.

The ruling overturns a lower court decision of the district court.  It also seems to ignore copious evidence submitted by the city that proved the petitions were wrought with fallacies, including not listing the resident county of the signee, some pages that may have been forged, and other issues.

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A sample page from the original petition to place HERO on the ballot reveals that plantiffs did not comply with Texas Election Code which governs how petitions must be submitted.  

Oddly enough in the full text of the Texas Supreme Court opinion, the author even makes explicit mention of the rules governing how citizens must submit petitions.  One has to wonder if the court actually saw the document before issuing their decision.

During the 30 day decision period, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has been suspended, effective immediately per the ruling.

This is breaking news, so check back later for more.

Sandra Bland’s ‘Arrest’ Was A Violation of Her Rights

At this point, so many things have been said about the tragic arrest, detention, and mysterious death of Sandra Bland, there are probably few readers that haven’t at least heard of the story.  The young woman, a graduate and soon-to-be employee of Prairie View A&M University, was sent to jail from what should have been a traffic stop.

But video of that first encounter reveals some serious problems occurred before Ms. Bland was placed in Waller County Jail.

As the Texas Standard reports, the dashcam video makes it perfectly clear that officer Brian Encinia violated Bland’s rights…

 

Questions, in the wake of the video: What are the rules? Not policies or politeness –  specifically, what are your rights when you’re pulled over by police?

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, speaks with Texas Standard about the footage of the arrest, point-by-point. Here’s a transcript of the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:

The trooper asks, “You mind putting out your cigarette please?” And Ms. Bland says, “Well, I’m in my car – why do I have to put out my cigarette?” Does she have to put out her cigarette?

“No, she doesn’t have to put out her cigarette. And you wonder why the officer is even bothering with that. This is part of his escalation of the whole event that unfolded, unfortunately.”

The next part: “Step out of the car.” Ms. Bland says, “You do not have the right.” He interrupts – “I do have the right, step out of the car or I will remove you.” Does he have the right, first, to order her to step out of the car, and second, to actually physically remove her from the car?

“He does not have the right to say get out of the car. He has to express some reason. ‘I need to search your car,’ or, whatever; he needs to give a reason. He can’t just say ‘get out of the car’ for a traffic offense.”

It’s one thing to say he has a reason; it’s another to say he has to give a reason. He may have had probable cause, or thought he had it, we don’t know. Does he have to state it?

“He doesn’t have to state probable cause; he has to state some reason … And that’s part of the training that he should have had about how to de-escalate a situation. She’s clearly upset about what happened, particularly – as we know later on – that she moved over because he was tailing her. … He should be working on de-escalation. That’s the key. ”

It’s difficult to know all the facts regarding the Sandra Bland case once she was taken to Waller County jail.  But this video does not lie.  Still, it’s true that many people have different opinions of the situation.  Why didn’t Sandra Bland comply with the officer’s requests?

But here’s a critical fact in this case… her decision whether or not to comply with officer Encinia should not matter.  In that moment while Encinia was wearing the badge of law enforcement, it was his responsibility to follow the law and respect Ms. Bland’s rights, whether she knew them or not, and whether she was “compliant” or not.  It was also his responsibility not to escalate the situation further.  Does officer Encinia cart every single person that makes a rude comment within his earshot to jail?  Would any of us in our jobs be allowed such power as to control what other people say and think??  He did not have to like Sandra Bland, but he did have to respect her rights, including her right to say things that he doesn’t like.

Currently, officer Encinia is currently on administrative leave.  As the situation develops and more pressure is placed upon Waller County, it will interesting to see if he faces any charges for his behavior in the situation.

 

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