Texoblogosphere: Week of January 26th

Well more than two thirds of the Texas Progressive Alliance thinks this legislative session is off to an inauspicious start as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reviewed the state of play in the Mayor’s races in Houston and San Antonio.

light seeker at Texas Kaos writes a thought provoking article about how we can create a more inclusive prosperity and save democracy at the same time. The Great Progressivism Debate, Part 2.

The latest developments in the Houston mayoral contest posted by by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had Adrian Garcia dropping hints and Chris Bell throwing his hat in.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is tired of Henry Cuellar acting like a crony capitalist Republican. Why can’t Cuellar represent his constituents?

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The 2/3rds in the Texas Senate is gone…oh well. That’s what happens when 60 percent of 30 percent “govern” our state.

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

Grits for Breakfast interviews Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas.

Texas Vox warns about the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) that Congress recently passed.

Dwight Silverman documents a year of living without cable.

Concerned Citizens contemplates the meaning of the MLK Day march and the #ReclaimMLK movement.

SciGuy has five can’t-miss space events for 2015.

The Lunch Tray concludes that new Ag Commissioner Sid Miller is being deliberately dishonest in his “cupcake amnesty” proclamations.

Minding Houston explains the current state of mental health funding in Texas.

Lisa Falkenberg pens the second-worst poem ever about the end of Rick Perry’s reign as Governor.

 

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(This week’s photo feature is the McFarlane House in Richmond, Texas.  Constructed in the 1880s, the home is now part of the Fort Bend Museum)

Hang On Texas: The Dan Patrick Era Begins

In a fiery speech at his Inauguration last week, the new Lieutenant Governor for the Lone Star State said it several times…

“What day is it??  It’s a new day in Texas.”

This is what Dan Patrick proclaimed shortly after ascending to the state’s second highest office.  But under his leadership, it may be the state’s highest office in actuality. The old dynamics of the Perry era– a “showboat Governor” at the helm with a more passive, pensive Lieutenant Governor on the dyess– have been turned on their head. In the new guard of state leadership, there is no question that Governor Abbott has the cooler head.

Only hours into his new post, the Lieutenant Governor is wasting no time to implement his fringe Right agenda.  Via Texpatriate, Patrick has begun his reign over the State Senate by decimating Democratic leadership…

Making good on two longstanding committees, Patrick both consolidated the number of committees and significantly reduced the number of Democratic chairs for those committees that remained. Three committees (Government Organization, Jurisprudence and Open Government) got the ax, and a further two committees (Economic Development and Natural Resources, respectively) were merged. This had the overall effect of slashing the total number of committees from 18 to 14.

All three folded committees had been chaired in the 83rd session by Democrats, as did a further three committees. Thus, 1/3rd of the committees had Democrats at the helm, roughly the proportion of the chamber controlled by the minority party. Patrick kept State Senator John Whitmire (D-Harris County), the dean of the chamber, in charge of the Criminal Justice Committee, a position he has held for many years. He also tapped State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Cameron County) as the chair of Intergovernmental Relations, a rather low-ranking post. Reportedly, this was an olive branch extended to the upper house’s most centrist Democrat. Lucio was the one Democrat this past week to vote for the elimination of the 2/3rds rule, as well as for the omnibus anti-abortion bill HB2 (the one Wendy Davis filibustered) in 2013.

Yes Texas… your new Lieutenant Governor has axed the Open Government committee.  Anyone see the irony here??

The committee shake-ups come less than one week after the Senate scrapped one of its oldest traditions of requiring a two-thirds majority to deem a bill filibuster proof.  This prevents any other Democrat from creating moments like Wendy Davis did in 2011 and 2013.

One thing can be said in earnest for Patrick though… he has stayed true to his word.  So far, he has honored each and every promise he made to swing Texas government even further to the fringe Right than once thought possible.  Democrats will have no place in the Senate in 2015, unless they can beg Republican friends for support.

So yes, we can all agree with our new Lieutenant Governor… it is indeed a new day in Texas.  The question is… what challenges will that new day bring?

Hang on everyone. Looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Houston Mayor Nationally Recognized For Arts Leadership

Behind every successful artist, there is a network of people, and places that have paved the way for their success.  Those who champion great art don’t often get the recognition they deserve, and all too often, their role is much more important than people may ever realize.  In recent years, Houston has seen unprecedented growth and prestige in the city arts scene, due in no small part to a municipal government which has worked to foster that growth.  At the helm of that government, Houston Mayor Annise Parker received a special accolade for innovative approach to the city’s arts scene.  Here’s more from a City of Houston Press release

For 17 years as a council member, controller and now Mayor of Houston, Mayor Parker has been an avid supporter of the arts. As a council member she shepherded a civic art ordinance that sets aside 1.75% of qualifying capital improvement projects.   She introduced and passed an ordinance to use the Hotel Occupancy Tax to provide an unprecedented amount of funding—up to $86 million over 5 years —for arts and cultural organizations and programming. Working with her Office of Cultural Affairs, Mayor Parker has launched a large public engagement and planning process to develop a vision, goals and objectives for the future of arts and culture in Houston. Additionally, Mayor Parker nominated “Cultural Districts,” representing Houston’s Museum District, Theater District, Midtown Arts District and others, which have successfully been designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Through the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the Mayor has introduced economic tools to help further the enhancement of cultural institutions including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.  In partnership with the Houston Arts Alliance, new civic artworks have been commissioned, purchased or are underway. And Mayor Parker is a poet and writer herself; in 2013, she named Houston’s first poet laureate.

“Arts and culture contribute to our quality of life and are an expression of the soul of a city,” remarked Mayor Parker.  “Houston prides itself on being the most diverse city in the nation.  Our cultural communities are a big part of that. Through public policy and funding opportunities, we are working hard to grow and expand arts and culture projects in our City.  I want to thank you for this award.  It is truly humbling to have our efforts recognized.”

“During her tenure, Mayor Parker has put the arts front and center in her agenda,” stated Jonathon Glus, president and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance. “Mayor Parker has worked tirelessly to integrate the arts into the fabric of City Hall—from shepherding greater investment in cultural facilities to launching the city’s first cultural plan in more than 20 years. She continually makes the case for continued corporate leadership in the arts, culture, and creative economies and works to extend the impact of the arts throughout our expansive city.”

“Every year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes the exemplary efforts of local leaders who believe as much as we do that the arts are the heart of our society,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Arts and culture help shape a city’s quality of life, but mayors also understand the connection between the arts and business and the arts’ impact on the local economy.”

Ask any of the over 220 artists, cultural groups and organizations that receive annual grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, and they will let you know how vital a supportive municipal government has been to their success.

In her short remarks receiving the award, Parker said that she views arts and culture as “part of the infrastructure of a city”.  Much the same way that our communities must have roads to transport people from point A to point B, and we must have clean water to drink, the arts provide an invaluable outlet for creativity and expression.  The arts can be the tie that binds otherwise disparate populations, but can also lay the groundwork for commonality and compromise when we are faced with substantive problems to solve.  If there is one portion of her legacy that Annise Parker can be proud of, it will surely be that she was a champion of Houston art and culture.  Her fellow Mayors across the country have taken notice too.

Chron: Sheriff Adrian Garcia Certain To Run For Mayor

The clock is slowly ticking on towards the Houston municipal elections.  But one area that has seen significant action is the race for Mayor. This week, another major candidate has made moves that are sure to shake up the race.  Theodore Schleifer of the Houston Chronicle reports that all the signs point to an impending announcement from Garcia…

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is sending every possible message that he intends to run for mayor this year, aggressively increasing his political operations and signaling to some close advisers and backers that a campaign may be imminent.

Garcia, under the Texas Constitution, would have to resign as a county official immediately upon declaring his candidacy. That presents Garcia, who watchers expect to immediately move to the field’s top tier if he joins the burgeoning mayoral fray, with a fateful decision: Does he step down as the county’s top Democratic officeholder to make a bid that would make him either Houston’s first Latino mayor, or politically unemployed?

“At the end of the day, it’s like standing at the craps table, placing the bet – and you could walk away with nothing,” said Garcia confidant Greg Compean.

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Perhaps most tellingly, county sources say, is that Garcia’s top staff at the Sheriff’s Office are looking to jump as they eye other county positions that would give them a landing place beyond Garcia’s tenure and vest them in the county’s pension system. Garcia’s top lieutenant and close friend, Armando Tello, left last month for a lower-profile post in Precinct 6, and other executive officers currently are scoping out other opportunities.

“He’s running,” said Hispanic Chamber of Commerce head Laura Murillo, who once considered her own bid for mayor. “He’s getting ready to make his announcement very soon.”

Murillo is not in Garcia’s inner circle, but several of the sheriff’s other allies confirmed a bid is all but inevitable.

Sheriff Garcia joins a growing field of possible candidates… including State Representative Sylvester Turner, former Congressman and City Council member Chris Bell, current Council Members Stephen Costello, Jack Christie and Oliver Pennington, Ben Hall, Bill King and Orlando Sanchez.  Crowded doesn’t even begin to tell the story here, but it’s important to note that some candidates have more potential than others.  From the pillars of potential money and name ID, Garcia presumably sits in the upper echelon of contenders right out of the gate with Sylvester Turner.  Though there is certainly nothing to stop Ben Hall from bank rolling his own massive campaign, as we basically saw from 2013.

Side note… are there any women interested in running for Mayor? Any??

By far, a Garcia run will have the most immediate impact on local politics.  As Dos Centavos points out, his resignation as County Sheriff could mean a substantial roll back of the Progressive policy agenda that has been actualized in recent years.  Would a more Conservative Sheriff dismantle aggressive Mental Health reforms and LGBT protections in Harris County law enforcement?  That remains to be seen.  But those fears aside, there is no doubt that Garcia is a most worthy candidate to lead the city of Houston.

Brains and EggsOff the Kuff and Texpatriate have more on this fast-moving development.

 

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(Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.  Photo credit:  harrisdemocrats.org

 

ByYou City: Houston Launches Culture/ Planning Input Initiative

Ask anyone that is more than casually familiar with Houston, and they will tell that it is a city full of surprises.

Whether it’s cool public structures like the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, or more exclusive gems like the Villa de Matel Convent, Houston is a city that keeps some of its greatest hidden attractions… hidden.  Long time residents will often discover places or sights that they never knew existed.  Tourists to the city often have to do extensive research if they want to see some of Houston’s coolest stuff.  Attractions are often not well advertised and difficult to find for visitors.

Toursim is just one area where the Bayou City has great potential that has yet to be realized.  But the attitude towards tourism, cultural activities and planning in Houston appears to be changing.  City Government has launched a new website, ByYou City:  Houston’s Home for Civic Engagement, which is designed to be a central collector for direct ideas that citizens have for cultural improvements.  The leaders receiving the feedback from the site are Rick Lowe and Philamena Baird, tasked by Mayor Annise Parker to create a comprehensive culture plan for the city.

Citizens can post directly to the forum and offer suggestions which may be incorporated into the plan.  Does Houston need more parks?  Better tourism venues?  Improved transit?  If you have a great idea that can make Houston a better city in the future, visit ByYou City and share it with the group.  Your idea could become a part of Houston’s future.

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(Photo of the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, a popular Houston Tourist attraction) 

Texoblogosphere: Week of January 21st

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes the Supreme Court finishes the job on marriage equality as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff offers some thoughts on emphasizing local elections for the next cycle or two.

light seeker, back from his sabbatical leave at Texas Kaos, reexamines the state of the Democratic Party and the need for and challenges to grow its voter base. The Great Progressivism Debate, Part I.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The rotten fruit of one party rule in Texas, See The Corruption Inherent In The System?.

Texas Leftist kicked off the 84th Legislative Session with a new blog series. Big Government Texas is a catalogue of the endless hypocrisy waged from Texas’ TEApublican CONservative leaders. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Texas Republicans clearly love their cronies profits more than they care about the safety of our workers. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme morns along with those missing an actual fighter for workers and Texas children.

Handicapping the race for Houston mayor this early in the cycle is a dirty job, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs did it anyway.

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

Juanita explains what “local control” really means.

The Lunch Tray highlights Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s grandstanding on “cupcake amnesty”.

Better Texas Blog lays out its legislative priorities.

CeCe Cox wants rationality to win out over fear-mongering in Plano.

Lone Star Ma bemoans the STAAR requirements.

Newsdesk eulogizes Linda Bridges, president of the American Federation of Teachers chapter in Texas, who died unexpectedly last week.

Finally, the TPA wishes Paul Burka all the best as he begins the next chapter of his life.

 

(Photo of of the Houston skyline from the Wells Fargo sky lobby– 2015 by L. Wayne Ashley)

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Candidates Gravitate To Houston At Large 1 Race

Though we are still a long way out from the high campaign season, Houston City Council races are already starting to get complicated… especially for Progressive, Pro-Equality voters. As John Wright reports via Project Q Houston, two of the city’s most notable political forces are now in a crowded field for City Council…

 

After narrowly missing a runoff for Houston City Council in 2013, Jenifer Rene Pool hoped 2015 would be her year.

Pool, who’s vying to make history as Texas’ first transgender elected official, decided in early 2014 to run for the At-Large Position 1 seat, which will be open in November because incumbent Stephen Costello is term-limited.

Pool, who ran for the At Large Position 3 seat in 2013, changed her website and Facebook page to reflect the new campaign, in addition to printing business cards and voter pushcards.

“Anybody who knew me knew that I was running for At-large Position 1,” Pool said. “I’d always hoped that this year the community would rally behind my campaign – to win this time.”

But those hopes were dampened during a holiday party for Houston Democratic clubs in December, Pool said. That’s when Lane Lewis, a gay man who serves as chair of the county party, announced he’ll also seek the At-Large Position 1 seat.

 

Wright’s post goes on to state that Pool was not pleased with Lewis’ decision to run for the seat.  Lewis had no comment.

On the one hand, Houston’s Progressive, Pro-Equality community should be glad to have a strong slate of candidates for the 2015 election.  Even with Mayor Parker’s time in office coming to a close, it’s great to see other LGBT leaders, allies courageous enough to join the cause.

On the other hand, it is perplexing that everyone insists on running for one very popular seat when others are available. Strong candidates like Pool, Lewis and newcomer Philippe Nassif have continued to pile into the At Large Position 1 race, while another seat for At Large Position 4 remains noticeably thin on challengers… save for the well-qualified Laurie Robinson. Those unfamiliar with Houston politics may wonder why so many candidates are filing for one seat over another.  Both are At Large, meaning any Houston resident can run for the seat, regardless of where they live.

The short answer?  Many assume that because Council Member C.O. Bradford is African-American, there has to be another African-American take over his seat.  But the assumption is inaccurate.  With 11 district seats and 5 At Large, the Council has plenty of opportunities for anyone and everyone that would like to run.  Saving At Large 4 for candidates that haven’t even filed yet is not logical.

Which brings us to the original post topic. “Opportunity” is also a key term in this equation, because each candidate has a unique set of opportunities that they can leverage in the 2015 elections.  But they don’t all rest in At Large 1.  For example, if Pool were to switch to At Large 3, she would likely have a much larger support base in a head-to-head match up with CM Kubosh than she could attain having to split the “Democrat” vote and donor/endorsement base with Lewis. Given the unique history surrounding Pool, Kubosh and their opposing roles in the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, this seems the most logical match up for a 2015 contest.  At Large 4 is also an option for anyone wishing to pursue it, but would seem a much better fit at this point for Nassif.

With months to go before the filing deadlines, we can all expect to see much political jockeying.  When all the dust settles, let’s hope that those changes don’t leave the city’s healthy community of Progressive voters with some tough choices to make.  Unlike past election cycles, 2015 is a year where there seems to be room enough for all.

 

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