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Texas Lt. Gubernatorial Debate: Review

Well Dan Patrick said it best…

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, there has never been such a clear difference between two candidates.

Which is indeed a true statement… one of a precious few the Houston-area Senator and Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor told during his debate with San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, who is vying for the same office also with her party’s nomination.  Patrick was even given a Pants on Fire rating for one of his responses, as according to the Politifact scoring of the contest.  This was a running theme for the evening with Patrick, who insisted issue after issue that his plans were sound, even when there was a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Take the tax plan that Dan Patrick is proposing, where he wants to lower property taxes for all Texas home and business owners, yet still manage to fund all of the government’s responsibilities.  How does he propose doing this?  By raising sales taxes.  Leticia Van de Putte was quick to rebut this plan, correcting Patrick that property taxes aren’t even controlled by the state, but by local governments and school districts.  Patrick is correct that the state can set lower caps on property tax, but that decreases funds for all of these essential services.

The subject of Education brought the most fiery point of the evening.  Van de Putte stated that when faced with budget short falls in 2011, the state Legislature had a choice to cut, or to invest.  Here’s what Van de Putte said to her opponent…

You need a Math lesson. The fact is that 11,000 teachers lost their jobs.  8,000 class waivers.  A judge has said that our system is inefficient, inequitable and not working.

Patrick’s response was not deny the cuts, but simply double down and try to justify them

Those 11,000 teachers [that's] a lot of jobs. But by the way we have 332,000 teachers. And those 11,000 teachers were a lot who just retired.  And those 11,000 slots were for the replaced by, like the Math Department head, or various people.  So your children weren’t shorted.

From listening to this, it’s that Senator Patrick needs more than just a Math lesson.  He apparently doesn’t understand the concept of forced retirement, where a teacher is let go long before their choosing.  Nor does he understand that when schools lost teachers, each of those “various people” had to take on extra classes and students to meet the desperate of growing schools that were making substantial cuts.  Patrick can say certainly claim that the school children of Texas “weren’t shorted” from disastrous decisions waged by the GOP, but if that were the case, then why are 600 school districts suing the state due to under-funding? If the “children weren’t shorted” then why decide to restore some of the funding cuts during the 2013 legislative session, and why did your campaign team boast that you “led the charge” to do so??  Say whatever you want Dan… it’s still not true.

One other very clear distinction was on the issue of marriage equality.  Dan Patrick confirmed that under no circumstances would he support a movement for marriage equality in the state of Texas.  Van de Putte had a different view…

I think people’s attitudes are changing.  What we know is that our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters are in our work force, and in our families.  They deserve full equality.  As Lieutenant Governor, I would make sure that this discussion on equality would continue.  That’s why I sponsored a bill last Legislative session to make sure our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters are not discriminated against [in the workplace].

An historic position for a major party, statewide candidate in Texas, and yet another indicator of just how clear of a choice voters have this fall.  In performance, Leticia Van de Putte struck a good balance between consistency, and sincerity.  She forcefully rebutted Patrick when needed, but was also able to stay on track.  Patrick’s style was not bad by any measure, but at times, he lost control, and even became angry when answering Van de Putte.  I guess that’s what happens when you have to work so hard to distort the truth.

In any case, Leticia Van de Putte was the clear winner of this debate. The entire event is linked below, so watch, share with friends and decide for yourself…

 

Ebola in Texas

Why An Ebola Outbreak Is Less Likely In The US

After news broke that the first official case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, it’s understandable that many in Texas and across the country are concerned that the virus could spread rapidly like what is happening in Africa.  The patient is from Liberia, came in contact with the virus there and traveled to Texas before showing any signs of infection.  But as Susannah Locke with Vox shares, that worst-case scenario is extremely unlikely in the United States…

The current Ebola outbreak has already infected thousands of people in West Africa — including several Americans who were diagnosed there and then brought back to the United States for treatment. But this is the first time a person has been diagnosed with the disease inside US borders.

According to the CDC, the patient had recently been in Liberia and flew to the US before he was symptomatic or contagious. He later fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in Texas, where he was placed in isolation.

It’s not surprising that an Ebola case has finally popped up in the United States — especially with air travel as common as it is. But it’s also not a disaster. Experts say that public-health officials would likely be able to contain any Ebola outbreak in the United States pretty quickly.

Why is that? One big reason is that Ebola is not especially contagious, as diseases go. You can only get Ebola by coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already showing symptoms. That makes it relatively slow to spread (unlike, say, the measles).

More importantly, the United States has ample health resources and infection-control measures to contain outbreaks. This is in stark contrast to West Africa, where poverty and weak health care systems have allowed Ebola to spread and claim the lives of more than 3,000 people.

“Ample health resources” is something of an understatement.  As a health official from Doctors Without Borders shared in a recent PBS News Hour interview, there stark differences among the healthcare infrastructure here and in West Africa. “Some of these countries, entire countries, have less doctors than, say, a single hospital in a major Western city.”

Beyond sheer numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital facilities, cultural differences also lessen the chances of Ebola becoming a stateside epidemic, like the people in urban areas not living in as close proximity to each other, or a different concept of personal space.  And of course, people in the United States are more educated about basic health concepts like washing ones hands after an interaction with someone who appears to be sick.

But even with all of these practices to seemingly stop Ebola from ravaging our shores, it’s never too early to take extra precautions. The most important defense there is from any potential health threat is accurate information.  While Texas health professionals stand on the front lines of this epidemic, here’s what you can do to spot possible symptoms of the disease, as well as protect yourself, via the New York Daily News

Ebola 101

 

 

Houston Votes

Texans Together Calls For US Justice Investigation Of Greg Abbott

All things considered in this high election season, many are quite surprised that the bombshell revelation that Attorney General Greg Abbott ordered an armed police raid of a Houston voter group has not received more attention from news media.  But the low profile of this case could soon be changing very quickly.

This is bold request from the advocacy group Texans Together, and it’s aimed squarely at Greg Abbott, and the Harris county Clerk’s office…

We recently made a formal, written request to the U.S. Justice Department to immediately investigate Texas and Harris County officials for voter suppression in Harris County (see letter here). We are asking for a federal investigation of not only the Texas Attorney General’s Office, but also Harris County election officials for their long history of impeding minority voter registration and voting.
We believe the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector should be investigated thoroughly for their many years of wrongful registration denials and delays as well as their incompetent processing of registration applicants. We also are seeking an investigation that the Justice Department look at the apparent politicization of the Harris County Clerk’s election administration.
As for the Texas Attorney General’s Office (AG), our letter points out that the AG falsely accused Houston Votes of “voter fraud” and effectively shut down our voter registration drive in 2010. The AG’s theory was that our voter registration drive was engaged in felony identity fraud, for simply keeping records of the people we registered to ensure that County authorities properly registered them and so that we could remind them to vote. No wonder after raiding us with six officers with guns and flak jackets, and investigating for 11 months, the AG dropped their oppressive investigation without ever notifying us. Under its absurd theory, every voter registration and turnout drive in the country would be a criminal enterprise.
Even after the original story was uncovered by the Dallas Morning News, no one had heard directly from those formerly with Houston Votes, and the whole issue never went any further than the original report (and a dedicated circle of bloggers, of course).  Off the KuffNeil Aquino and Dos Centavos were actively covering the Houston Votes saga when the first allegations were waged in 2010.

The whole reason for Abbott’s illegal, oppressive raid of Houston Votes in the first place?  Lies from the King Street Patriots, a Houston-area TEA Party group that also spawned True the Vote in 2012.  They claimed that Houston Votes had falsified thousands of voter registration documents.  After a lot of drama staged by True the Vote, no evidence was actually found, but Abbott and his TEA minions got what they wanted anyway… to silence minority voices in Harris County.

This needs to be a national story, and soon.  But for the moment, the best thing you can do is share posts like this one and let people know what’s going on.
Beaumont

Texoblogosphere: Week of September 29th

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone read at least one banned book last week as it brings you this weeks’ roundup.

Off the Kuff presents interviews with two of the many dynamic and well-qualified Democratic women running for legislative offices this year, Rita Lucido in SD17 and Susan Criss in HD23.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos laments the dire consequences of voting Republican or of not voting at all. Oh come on Texas, surely we can do better than THIS?

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Abbott’s transportation TV ad is full of dissembling, Abbott’s Fundamentally Dishonest Transportation Ad.

Eric Holder was certainly not as bad as Alberto Gonzales, but his tenure as US attorney general still did not merit a passing grade, at least according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said there is no inherent conflict between involvement in traditional politics, while at the same time looking for non-conventional protests and movements as a way also to move society in a better direction. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Though the new routes are far from being finalized,Texas Leftist shares that Houston METRO has now fully committed to the System Reimagining Plan. After this week’s vote by the METRO board, there’s no turning back.

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

SciGuy gives us a look at Russia’s astronaut training facility.

Newsdesk reports on Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ abortion disclosure.

The Great God Pan Is Dead argues for the elimination of art fairs.

Texas Clean Air Matters cheers Austin and San Antonio’s leadership in clean energy.

Andre Grimes points and laughs at Breitbart Texas.

The Bloggess encourages you to support your local no-kill animal shelter.

The TSTA blog calls out Greg Abbott for lying about his authority as AG to settle the school finance lawsuit.

The Current has more reporting on the shady practices and uninformed advice at crisis pregnancy centers.

Scott Braddock tells the tale of a wingnut catfight.

 

This week features pictures of Beaumont, Texas…

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Texas Governor's Debate

Texas Debate Week

For political people in Texas, this is a very big week, perhaps the most important week of the 2014 election season.

But for Texas Democrats, this is a week that many haven’t seen for the better part of a decade.  The strongest Democratic ticket in 20 years have in back-to-back contests  with their Republican opponents.

Tonight at 7pm, the Lieutenant Gubernatorial debate will see Democrat Leticia Van de Putte and Republican Dan Patrick face off.   With the apparent contrasts between these two, this is likely to get interesting.  You can watch the debate streamed live via the Texas Tribune, or check out other viewing opportunities for your area.  You can also follow along via social media with the hashtags #LtGovDebate and #VivaLeticia.

Tomorrow night at 8pm is the Second Gubernatorial Debate between Democrat Wendy Davis and her Republican opponent Greg Abbott. Several PBS stations, including KUHT Channel 8 in Houston, KLRU Channel 2 in Austin, KERA Channel 13 in Dallas/ Fort Worth and KCOS Channel 13 in El Paso will be airing this debate live, as well as other streaming outlets available here.  For social media, you can follow along with the hashtags #TexasDebates and #TeamWendy.

Let’s hope that after these events, the full formats of the debate will be available too.  If so they’ll definitely be posted here at texasleftist.com.  But for now, be sure to catch these very important nights for Texas politics!!

LVdP TLCQ

TLCQ 2014: Leticia Van de Putte

In the Ninth installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Leticia Van de Putte, Texas State Senator and candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  She is a Democrat.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

LVdP:  Leticia Van de Putte

 

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

LVdP:

1999 – Present     Texas State Senate District 26

1991 – 1999        Texas House of Representatives District 115

 

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

LVdP:  Our state government is responsible for public safety, public education, and building the infrastructure for a strong economy. These are critical services to our communities that can no longer be ignored.

Sadly, we have politicians who are more interested in political score cards than our student’s report cards, numerous school districts have been left without basic resources. Rich and poor alike, fast-growing, suburban, and rural, school districts across Texas have had no other option but to sue the state because our neighborhood schools remain underfunded and our school finance system is broken.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will ensure that government works for the people. That it is meeting the needs of our growing Texas population and fulfilling our responsibility of prioritizing public education.

 

TL:  If elected, name 3 top priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session.  Describe how you plan to accomplish them.

LVdP:

Education: Getting kids to and through a quality education – My Texas First plan will adequately fund our local neighborhood schools. Overcrowded classrooms in grades Kindergarten through 4th grade tripled after the education cuts of 2011. 11,000 teacher jobs were gone just like that. Parents should no longer have to wonder if their child’s class will be overcrowded, students should no longer have to wonder whether one test will determine whether they graduate, and teachers should no longer have to pull money from their pockets just so that their students have basic supplies.

And I will make higher education within the reach of every hard-working high school graduate. Not every high school graduate will go to college but every one of them deserves the opportunity to go. That’s why I am proposing we create the Texas Promise Scholarship Program. It would offer all qualifying high school graduates two years of free community college or advanced technical training. Higher education is getting further and further out of reach for everyday Texans – but we can change that. A one time investment of capital that is sitting in state budget coffers today can change the lives of an entire generation of Texans. I want Texas voters to have the final say, so when it passes the legislature next session, it would be put before voters as a constitutional amendment.

Improved quality of life for veterans, service members and their families – As the daughter of a veteran, I know that it takes a family to serve and that to truly honor those who protect us, we must improve the quality of life for military members, veterans, and their families and support our military bases.

My Texas First Plan will ensure that our veterans receive the health care they need and have earned; have access to higher education and training opportunities; and get college credit for their military service. I will continue the work I have done as Chair of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations to fulfill the promise to our military members, veterans and their families that Texas is the number one state for them to return, prosper, raise their families, and retire.

Building roads for the 21st century – I have a plan to invest in good public roads and a sustainable future water supply. These two ingredients that are essential for a prosperous economic future have been neglected for too long. I will lead with courage to move our state towards making smart investments in roads and bridges that keep Texas moving forward. And I will ensure that our families and communities have the water they need to grow. With Texas being one of the most rapidly growing states and having just suffered one of the worst droughts in its history, we can no longer afford for basic needs such as roads and water to be neglected.

 

TL:  A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association.  Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance.  This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded healthcare benefits in other states. If elected Lieutenant Governor, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong?  If not, please explain why.  If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure.  

LVdP:  As a practicing pharmacist for over thirty years, I have seen the successes and shortcomings of the healthcare system firsthand. After decades of experience serving my community, I know that access to healthcare is a right that all Texans deserve, not just the ones who can afford it.

I understand that healthcare is a costly and complex system in our state, but also realize that Texas simply cannot thrive when 1 out of every 4 Texans has no health insurance coverage. With the highest rate of uninsured in the country, Texas hospitals struggle to provide over $4 billion per year in uncompensated care, while county and local governments spend roughly $2.5 billion in local tax dollars on indigent care. We need a solution that will better utilize our resources and increase access to effective services, so that millions of hard-working Texans can have the opportunity to care for themselves and their families.

I’m committed to work with all stakeholders to develop a plan that will incorporate personal responsibility without sacrificing care. I will put politics aside and encourage collaboration to expand Medicaid eligibility to up to 138% of the federal poverty line through a customized solution designed to meet the unique needs of our state. I will facilitate negotiations between the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the federal government to reach reasonable compromises and obtain approval of a Texas Solution.

I will ensure that Texas maintains the flexibility to make significant reforms to the Medicaid program. A Texas solution could include cost-sharing provisions found in plans already negotiated by other conservative states, such as manageable co-pays and premiums based on income, contributions to health savings accounts, healthy lifestyle incentives, and even using federal funds to buy private insurance.

 

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office?

LVdP:  I’m a sixth generation Texan, a pharmacist for over 30 years, and a proven effective legislator for over 20 years. I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I’m a Texan first. I bring my experience as a pharmacist and a small business owner to this race and I have a prescription for Texas. From ending high stakes testing for our students to ensuring all qualified high school graduates have the opportunity to continue their education, I have a prescription to build roads and highways so we can continue to support our businesses and create high paying jobs in Texas. My prescription will ensure veterans and their families have access to the resources they need and have earned, and we will secure the border and hold Washington accountable to fix our broken immigration system.

A leader listens first and then works with the brightest minds, regardless of political affiliation, to put Texas first. I am determined to leave a Texas with more opportunity for my grandchildren than was given to my generation. That means fighting for our neighborhood schools, ensuring affordable health care, building a smart economy, and investing in a strong infrastructure.

As Lieutenant Governor, I’ll make sure Texas is a better place to live, learn, and start a business.

 

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

LVdP:  I love to cook for my large family. My husband Pete and I will usually have our kids and grandkids come over on Sunday nights and I make my speciality which they call ‘The Holy Trinity’. It is frijoles (beans), fideo (vermicelli), and picadillo (meat).

 

Thanks to Senator Van de Putte for her participation.

 

(photo credit:  Kathleen Kamphausen) 

Wings Houston

‘Wings’ In Houston Sparks Interesting Arts Debate

Few places in the city of Houston are more public, or more treasured than Discovery Green Park.  Though it’s one of the most recent public spaces created in Downtown, the park has quickly become a destination for residents, convention visitors and tourists.

But this month, Discovery Green  has also become the sight a brewing controversy over public art appropriateness.  Now through February 2015, the park is hosting the work of acclaimed Mexican artist Jorge Marín.  The exhibit, entitled Wings of the City, is a collection of nine sculptures which depict various aspects of the human body, including nudity.  Here’s more on that from Discovery Green’s website

For over 25 years, Marín has presented his winged sculptures in more than 200 exhibits worldwide. Wings of the City had been viewed by more than one million people on Mexico’s Paseo de la Reforma before appearing at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, and now at Discovery Green! The allegorical and fantastic creatures portray perfection of the human body, and spark dialogue around themes of desire, will and determination with the body and mind.

The images have left many Houstonians to wonder if such a public display of this work is appropriate.  The Houston Matters panel, consisting of myself, Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff, local illustrator Maria Heg, and Houston Public Media’s Edel Howlin serving as moderator.   Like many across the city we had a lively discussion about the appropriateness of the artwork, and whether it should be displayed in forum such as Discovery Green.  Check out the segment below…

Since the segment, I have had a chance to view Wings of the City, and must say that it is an excellent collection of works, made even more effective by strategic placements around the park.  Venue makes a difference in this context, and the art simply wouldn’t be the same if it were confined within a museum.  After viewing the work, you can count me in the group that has no problem with it.  But as KPRC Local 2 reports, there are still plenty of people, even after viewing, that do take issue.

What is your view about Wings of the City?  Should it be allowed at Discovery Green?  Let me know your opinion in the comments.

 

 

 

 

A Voice for the Rest of Texas