Houston Mayor Names New City Department Leaders

For all of the Federal Government’s turmoil and uncertainty with the impending Presidency of Donald Trump, Houstonians can be assured that municipal leaders have their act together.

As if Mayor Sylvester Turner’s deal with Uber this week wasn’t enough, the Chief Executive of Texas’ largest city had more big news to make this week.  Here it is directly from the city’s Press Release…

In a sweeping announcement, Mayor Sylvester Turner named four new department directors and a reappointment Thursday.  Pending City Council confirmation, Art Acevedo of Austin will assume the position of police chief and El Paso’s Samuel Pena will take over the fire department.

“Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo and Acting Fire Chief Rodney West have performed exemplary in dealing with some challenges and we are indebted to them for their service,” said Mayor Turner.  “I had said all along that once we reached solution to our pension problems, I would move quickly to fill key positions.  This is the team that will carry us into 2017 and beyond.  We are going to build upon the successes of 2016 and be even more transformative, innovative and responsive.”

Acevedo has served as Austin’s police chief since 2007.  His 30 years of law enforcement experience began as a field patrol officer in East Los Angeles.  In Austin, he oversaw a department with more than 2,400 sworn officers and support personnel and a $370 million annual budget.  He joined the department at a time when relations with minorities were strained due to questionable police shootings.  He has been credited for a commitment to police legitimacy, accountability and community policing and engagement.  His accomplishments include creating a special investigative unit to criminally investigate officer involved shootings and a new disciplinary matrix.  Acevedo holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of La Verne, is a graduate of the FBI’s National Executive Institute and speaks fluent Spanish.

Pena joined the El Paso Fire Department in 1995 and then rose through the ranks to the position of fire chief, which he has held since 2013.  He has previous experience as a fire fighter, paramedic, media spokesperson, advanced medical coordinator, Combined Search and Rescue Team member, Hazardous Materials & Special Rescue Task Force member and academy training chief. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at El Paso.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he served for four years as an air control specialist. Like Acevedo, he is fluent in Spanish.

Along with the high profile appointments of Chief Designates Acevedo and Pena, Mayor Turner also appointed Judge Elaine Marshall to preside of the Municipal Court system, while Tom McCasland, currently serving as Interim Director of Houston’s Department of Housing and Community Development, will now ascend to the permanent post.  Municipal court Judge Phyllis Frye, the first openly transgender judge to ever serve in the state, was also reappointed to the city’s Municipal Court.

Once again surrounded by a diverse coalition of Council Members, Mayor Turner was all smiles in naming the “full house” of appointments.

Today’s news comes at the end of an unprecedented sweep of progress for the new Administration’s 1st year in office.  After the announcement of an historic pension reform plan last month, and a city budget that was passed unanimously by Council in the Spring, Mayor Sylvester Turner seems to be living by his mantra that Houston is “a can do city”.  If the game of politics is won with leadership by example, then Mayor Turner appears to be nothin’ but net.

Of course one final showdown is yet to come.  We’ll see what the State Legislature has to say about the pension deal next year.

Check out the Mayor’s Press Conference here.

 

houston-police-chief

Center, Incoming Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.  

After Latest Dust Up, FBI Finds Nothing New In Clinton Emails

For most Americans, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI is an agency which seems to live in secret.  There’s no doubt that public interest has likely increased since the hit ABC series Quantico, which delves into the world of FBI agent training.  But for the most part, the men and women of this agency focus much more on their work than talking about it because, well, they’re the FBI.

Sadly in 2016, those rules have flown out the window.  As of this summer, the agency had already played an unprecedented role in this year’s Election by not only revealing details of an investigation into Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, but clearing her of wrongdoing.  That was in the summer, but just a couple of weeks ago to the surprise of the entire nation, FBI Director James Comey set off yet another national firestorm when he revealed to members of Congress that the email investigation was being reopened after they found more communications on a computer owned by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Wiener.

Could this be it for Hillary Clinton??  After 40 years in politics and 25 in the national spotlight, did this final set of emails reveal THE smoking gun Republicans have hoped for??? 

Umm, yeah… you guessed it.  The answer is NOPE.

Here’s the story from Eric Bradner, Pamela Brown and Evan Perez from CNN Politics…

FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Sunday the agency hasn’t changed its opinion that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges after a review of new emails.

“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July,” Comey wrote in the new letter to congressional committee chairmen.
Comey dropped a bombshell on the presidential race last month when he sent a letter to Congress saying the FBI had discovered emails in a separate investigation that could be connected to the now-closed probe of whether Clinton mishandled classified information. The move infuriated Democrats and emboldened Republican nominee Donald Trump.
So after all the drama, the FBI basically concluded that they found more run-of-the-mill emails that were of a personal nature, and that while Clinton’s use of the private server was careless, she did not harbor malicious intent and will not be charged with a crime.
Wait… let’s repeat that last part…

In her emails, Hillary Clinton did not harbor malicious intent and will not be charged with a crime.  

As you can probably guess, Donald Trump and Republicans are not happy with Director Comey’s update, saying that it’s impossible for the FBI to review 650,000 emails in 8 days.  But like most of the things he’s said throughout this Presidential campaign, Donald Trump is wrong yet again.  Here’s more on that from Andy Greenberg of Wired
“You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days,” Trump said Sunday in a campaign speech in Michigan hours after Comey’s latest update to Congress came out. “You can’t do it, folks. Hillary Clinton is guilty.” Trump supporter General Michael Flynn did the math on Twitter:

But fortunately for Comey’s eyesight—and for Clinton’s presidential campaign—Trump is wrong: the FBI can review hundreds of thousands of emails in a week, using automated search and filtering tools rather than Flynn’s absurd notion of Comey reading the documents manually. “This is not rocket science,” says Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensics expert who’s consulted for law enforcement and worked as a systems administrator. “Eight days is more than enough time to pull this off in a responsible way.”

One former FBI forensics expert even tells WIRED he’s personally assessed far larger collections of data, far faster. “You can triage a data set like this in a much shorter amount of time,” says the former agent, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid any political backlash. “We’d routinely collect terabytes of data in a search. I’d know what was important before I left the guy’s house.”

So there’s some last minute fact to add into all the noise that is being bantered about by the Trump campaign and his ReTRUMPlican hounds.  For your sake and mine, let’s hope that this is the last week that we have to care about what Trump says about anything.

Speaking of that last point… Have you voted yet?? Election Day is tomorrow, so you’ve got one more chance!!  Go to I Will Vote if you have any questions about your polling place.  Let’s get Hillary Clinton in office, and Trump out of the picture.

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President Obama Urges Black Community to VOTE

In case you forgot Texas, today is Election Day.  Across the Lone Star State, voting is already happening like never before.  As of Thursday evening, over 3.7 million Texans had already voted.  This shatters previous records from 2012 when 3.1 million residents voted early, and there’s still one full day of early voting results to go!!

But even in this era of historic voter turnout, important questions remain, like who is turning out to vote at such high numbers?  According to the Washington Post, this turnout does not appear to be driven by the African-American community…

By most accounts, Hillary Clinton’s path to victory relies on substantial turnout among black and Latino voters. And while early voting numbers so far appear to favor the Democrats, reports in recent days have suggested that although Latino participation may be up, African American turnout may be lower than in 2012. How concerned should the Clinton camp be?

[…]

In 2012, African Americans overperformed in states such as North Carolina and Texas. But this year, black voting rates are trailing other groups relative to their size of the electorate, with some swings on the order of 5 to 10 percentage points.

Per the Texas Tribune, African-American Texans led the state in 2012, voting at a higher percentage of their total population than any other racial or ethnic group.  This is a very interesting fact given all of the negative stereotypes out there which suggest that the Black community is ‘uninformed’ or ‘uninterested’ in elections.  But so far in 2016, Black voters appear to be trailing other parts of the state in the early vote, and are significantly behind their landmark participation rates from 2012.

This lack of voter enthusiasm should be an alarm bell to Democrats.  How is it possible that a candidate as divisive as Donald Trump has not inspired huge turnout in all minority communities??

One prominent African-American is highly concerned, and that is President Obama.

This week on the Tom Joyner morning show, he had this to say, via Black America Web

If you really care about my presidency and what we’ve accomplished, you are going to go and vote. And if you don’t know where to vote, go to www.iwillvote.com .If you’ve already voted, but your mama hasn’t voted, your cousin hasn’t voted, your nephew hasn’t voted, I need you to call them and say that the President and Michelle personally asked you to vote. It’s not that hard. And I know it’s not that hard because we’ve done it before.

But if we let this thing slip and I’ve got a situation where my last two months in office are preparing for a transition to Donald Trump, whose staff people have said that their primary agenda is, to have him, in the first couple of weeks, sit in the Oval Office and reverse every single thing that we’ve done – all the work we’ve done to make sure people get overtime, all the work we’ve done to make sure women get paid the same as men for doing the same job, all the work we’ve done so that 20 million people get healthcare, all the work we’ve done to make sure we’re doing something about climate change, so that we don’t have a situation where the whole world is not scrambling to figure out where they’re going to live and where they get enough water and crops failing and bigger hurricanes – if I’ve got to look at that the last two months, because folks stayed home, even going on the Tom Joyner cruise won’t help me then. If I’m on the cruise, I might jump off.

So yes Black America, sadly the nation’s first Black President is not on the ballot.  It is a difficult fact to accept, but that should not be an excuse.  Donald Trump’s policies on education, banking, the economy and a myriad of other aspects of American life would decimate the black community.  He has promised time and again to pass on massive tax cuts to the wealthy, which will lead to divestment in minority communities.  If a President Trump were to actually scrap the Department of Education and end student financial aid to college, it would bring about the swift demise of universities across the country, with Historically Black Colleges and Universities among the first to close their doors.  Even if President Obama himself is not on the ballot, America needs to know that in 2016, Black Votes Matter.

Early Voting may be over for Texas, but there’s still a chance to vote this Election Day.  Don’t wait until it’s too late!!

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Texoblogosphere: Week of November 1st

The Texas Progressive Alliance asks if you have voted yet as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff compares current and older poll results to evaluate the argument that Texas Democrats should not get too giddy.

Socratic Gadfly calls Mark Miller, the Libertarian candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission, a dangerous alternative, and calls out any and all state-level Democratic fixtures endorsing him instead of Green Martina Salinas over Grady Yarbrough.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos learned that elections are rigged in a certain way. The rigging is called voter suppression and gerrymandering. Where the Real Rigging Takes Place.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why Texas Republicans hate women and children so much. Funerals for miscarriages? Giving tax cuts to corporations while stiffing health care for children.

Turnout in Harris County and across Texas and the country swelled as Americans chose to end the 2016 presidential election as early as humanly possible. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wrote about his personal experience voting early at one of Houston’s heaviest polling places.

Neil at All People Have Value said that if you see a gap, you should fill it in yourself. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

Lone Star Ma wants to know what your voting plan is.

Grits for Breakfast despairs over the degraded state of Texas high criminal court elections.

The TSTA Blog calls on Dan Patrick to put his money where his mouth is on special education.

Mimi Marziani argues that Texas still has a long way to go to get it right on voter registration.

Paradise in Hell wonders how many more Republican judges will switch parties.

 

And Just for Fun…

Via 270 to Win, here’s the election prediction for 2016.  While I certainly see a Blue Texas for the future, I’m not sure that it will be happening next week.  Though I would be very happy to be wrong about that, and see Hillary win in a landslide!!

 

2016-prediction

 

Do you have an Election prediction?  If so, share yours in the comments.

Think SWING Texas– 2016??

If you’ve followed the blog, it’s been a frequent subject of discussion, and frankly, a sincere hope…

Will Texas ever become a Swing State?? 

 

Back when I first discussed the topic in 2012, here was the rationale:  With over half of the state’s population now concentrated in the 13 largest counties, the potential for Texas to be competitive is abundant.  But it remains a reliably Red State because of low voter turnout.  After the 2012 elections, these ideas seemed to be confirmed.

That’s the problem for Texas, but finding solutions has proven more challenging.  In 2013, Battleground Texas formed to with that very goal in mind.  After being written off by national Democratic organizations for over a generation, suddenly the state was abuzz with left-leaning political activity.  Of course we know that the end result wasn’t in BGTX’s favor, as neither Wendy Davis or Leticia Van de Putte were able to win their statewide races.  But even in losing the battle that year, BGTX played a huge role in an historic new high of voter registration, helped to connect and unite Democrats across the state, and gave us all something to fight for.

After laying a foundation, will 2016 finally be the year that sees this elusive house get built?  If the first week of Early Voting is any indication, the results appear promising for Democrats.  

How promising is still anyone’s guess.  But what we do know is this…

Voter Registration has reached another historic benchmark across the state, led by minority communities in urban counties. The state of over 27 million residents is now up to 15.1 million registered voters.

Early Voting is running a full 6 percentage points higher than in 2012, and nearly 800,000 more people at the polls.  More Texans have already voted than ever before, with most of the state’s 13 largest counties seeing one quarter or more of their voters at the polls. Exciting numbers, but it’s not yet clear whether this represents an actual increase in turnout (and a possible change in the makeup of the electorate), or simply a shift in behavior from voting on Election Day to voting early.  In any event, the answers will be revealed soon.

tx-counties-2016

The other X Factor in the 2016 race (besides the candidates themselves) is the interesting structure of campaigns.  While Hillary Clinton has certainly not made Texas a focal point of her election strategy, the state is not being totally ignored by Democrats.  Even miniscule investments can serve to motivate voters that may have otherwise stayed at home.  But oddly enough, the Trump campaign has also largely ignored the Lone Star State, instead opting for little organization and some social media activity.  As always, there is a strong network of Republican organization here, but it’s not from the top of the ticket.

So with such interesting conditions at play, could Texas voters yield an historic turn of events for Clinton?  The answer is ‘yes’, and even with a loss.  The last time a Democrat actually won the state was in 1976 thanks to President Jimmy Carter.  Since then, no Democrat has even garnered 44 percent of the vote statewide.  If polling is consistent with actual vote totals, Clinton should break this 40 year old glass ceiling with ease.

prez-texas

If past is prologue, we’re far from celebrating an huge sea change in Texas politics.  But if anything, 2016 will serve to move Texas ever closer into that competitive column, and hopefully give Democrats some needed momentum into 2018.

So hold on to your blue boots, and shine ’em up for Election Night!

 

(If you liked this post, please consider a donation to continue the work of Texas Leftist.)

 

TLCQ 2016: Mark Miller

In the Second installment of the 2016 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Mark Miller, candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission.  He is a Libertarian.

Please note: Responses are 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 may be considered during the endorsement process.

 

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot and the office that you are seeking in 2016?

MM:  Mark Miller

Texas Railroad Commissioner 

 

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

MM:  No 

 

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

MM:  Government has a primary responsibility to protect the rights, liberties, property, and common resources of its citizenry. Good governance simply requires that those goals be effectively executed. 

 

TL:  If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.

MM:  My top priority will be to seek ways through both rule-making and legislation to provide a better balance between surface property rights vs. subsurface mineral rights and between property rights vs. commercial rights. The dominance of both mineral rights and commercial rights have serious implications for things that are sorely in need of reform – e.g., urban drilling, eminent domain authority of common carrier pipelines, and seismic activity triggered by wastewater injection. These issues are bound to increase in importance as the State’s shale resources are developed in the future. The time to address them is now. 

 

 TL:  Recent years in American Politics have yielded an environment of hyper-partisanship, the results of which have often led to government inefficiency, and sometimes total government gridlock.  Describe how you plan to break through this partisan gridlock for the good of your constituents, and work with those from differing political ideologies. 

MM:  Texas government has little gridlock because of one-party dominance in our State. But even where the two parties manage to vie for power, gridlock is exacerbated by the duopolistic nature of our current politics. Partisan deadlock can best be dealt with by ensuring that three or more parties share political power. This is one of the main reasons I am running for office as a Libertarian and not as either a Republican or Democrat. 

 

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

MM:  Because of my petroleum engineering experience and expertise, I am far more qualified than anyone else running for Railroad Commissioner. I am also the only candidate who truly believes in limited government whose responsibilities should be focused solely on protecting public safety, our common natural resources, the rights of all property owners, and personal liberties.

I have also thought and written extensively about the Railroad Commission. My policy recommendations can be found on my website blog and in a recently-published book titled Oil & Gas and the Texas Railroad Commission: Lessons for Regulating a Free Society

 

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

MM:  I like to spend my free time doing things with my grandchildren and working on our new house on five acres in Dripping Springs.

 

 

Thanks to Mr. Miller for the responses.

Election Day 2016 is Tuesday November 8th, and Early Voting runs from October 24th through November 4th.  For Houston area voters, here’s early voting information for Harris CountyFort Bend County, Brazoria County, Montgomery County, and Galveston County.  For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

mark-miller

Texas Leftist 2016 Endorsements

For those interested, here are the Texas Leftist endorsements for 2016.

Texas Leftist has chosen to endorse candidates because they have demonstrated a commitment to advancing public policies that will improve the lives of Texans.  Though each person’s individual positions vary, they are generally candidates that stand for equality, social justice, healthcare expansion, living wage and economic prosperity.

Election Day 2016 is Tuesday November 8th, and Early Voting runs from October 24th through November 4th.  For Houston area voters, here’s early voting information for Harris CountyFort Bend County, Brazoria County, Montgomery County, and Galveston County.  For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

 

 

Federal Races

U.S. President:                                                 Hillary Rodham Clinton (D)

U.S. Rep. District 2:                                       Pat Bryan (D)

U.S. Rep. District 7:                                      James Cargas (D)

U.S. Rep. District 9:                                       Al Green (D)

U.S. Rep. District 18:                                    Sheila Jackson Lee (D)

U.S. Rep. District 22:                                    Mark Gibson (D)

 

State Races

Railroad Commissioner:                             Mark Miller (L)  [TLCQ 2016]

State Board of Education, 6:                     R. Dakota Carter (D)

Justice, Supreme Court Place 3:            Mike Westergren (D)

Justice, Supreme Court Place 5:            Dori Contreras Garza (D)

Justice, Supreme Court Place 9:            Eva Guzman (R)

Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2:      Lawrence “Larry” Meyers (D)

Court of Criminal Appeals Place 5:      Betsy Johnson (D)

Court of Criminal Appeals Place 6:      Robert Burns (D)

 

State Senator, District 13:                            Borris Miles (D)

State Rep. District 126:                                 Joy Dawson- Thomas (D)

State Rep. District 127:                                 Joseph McElligott (G)

State Rep. District 134:                                 Ben Rose (D)

State Rep. District 135:                                 Jesse A. Ybanez (D)

State Rep. District 137:                                 Gene Wu (D)

State Rep. District 147:                                   Garnet Coleman (D)

State Rep. District 149:                                  Hubert Vo (D)

State Rep. District 150:                                  Michael Shawn Kelly (D)

 

District Races

Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals:          Jim Peacock (D)

1st Court of Appeals, Place 4:                       Barbara Gardner (D)

14th Court of Appeals, Place 2:                   Candance White (D)

14th Court of Appeals, Place 9:                   Peter M. Kelly (D)

11th Judicial District:                                         Kristen Hawkins (D)

61st Judicial District:                                          Fredericka Phillips (D)

80th Judicial District:                                         Larry Welman (D)

125th Judicial District:                                      Kyle Carter (D)

127th Judicial District:                                      R.K. Sandill (D)

129th Judicial District:                                      Michael Gomez (D)

133rd Judicial District:                                      Jaclanel McFarland (D)

151st Judicial District:                                       Mike Engelhart (D)

152nd Judicial District:                                      Robert K. Schaffer (D)

164th Judicial District:                                      Alexandra Smoots-Hogan

165th Judicial District:                                      Ursula A. Hall (D)

174th Judicial District:                                      Hazel B. Jones (D)

176th Judicial District:                                      Nikita “Niki” Harmon (D)

177th Judicial District:                                      Robert Johnson (D)

178th Judicial District:                                       Kelli Johnson (D)

179th Judicial District:                                       Randy Roll (D)

215th Judicial District:                                       Fred Shucart (R)

333rd Judicial District:                                       Daryl Moore (D)

334th Judicial District:                                       Steven Kirkland (D)

337th Judicial District:                                       Herb Ritchie (D)

 

Harris County Races

District Attorney:                                                 Kim Ogg (D)

Sheriff:                                                                         Ed Gonzalez (D)

County Attorney:                                                  Vince Ryan (D)

County Clerk:                                                          Ann Harris- Bennett (D)

County Commissioner, Pct. 3:                      Jenifer Rene Pool (D)

County School Trustee Pos. 2:                      Sherrie L. Matula (D)

County School Trustee Pos. 4:                      Marilyn Burgess (D)

Constable, Precinct 1:                                        Alan Rosen (D)

Constable, Precinct 6:                                        Silvia Trevino (D)

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 5, Place 1:          William “Bill” McLeod (D)

HISD Proposition 1:                                            AGAINST

 

The following resources were consulted for the 2016 Texas Leftist endorsements:  Project Vote SmartHouston Association of Women Attorneys, The Texas Tribune, The Houston Chronicle Endorsements, The Dallas Morning News, Houston GLBT Caucus, Off The Kuff, and Ballotpedia.

 

2016

 

 

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