It’s been quite the whirlwind day for GLBT equality, and oddly enough none of the major news was from Washington for once. In the words of the HRC’s Chad Griffin, Jason Collins “changed the face of sports forever” by the being the first active American professional athlete to come out as gay. For the movement toward GLBT equality and acceptance, this can only be seen as a major step forward.
Houston was the scene for a similar step forward in GLBT history 3 and 1/2 years ago, when our Mayor Annise Parker, became the first openly gay person to lead a major American city. It was Houston that achieved this milestone, and not only did we do it in Texas (some would say that is a feat to itself), but we did it before the cities that are assumed to be more progressive like Los Angeles, New York or even San Francisco. Which makes today’s events in Houston all the more complex. Through the digital magazine CultureMap, the mayor held an “Ask Annise” web event, inviting citizens to ask about any questions they wanted about city issues, and even interesting facts. So I decided to participate, and thankfully the CultureMap staff picked up my question. Here’s how it went…
Texas Leftist: During your administration, you’ve tackled some of our city’s toughest issues… Chapter 42, city pensions, etc. and as a result have made tremendous progress. But why has so little been done regarding the LGBT community? With the exception of city government and some other select businesses you can still be fired for being LGBT because we do not have a non-discrimination ordinance for general employment. This lags behind other Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, and Ft. Worth. When will you work to pass city-wide non-discrimination laws for our city? And even if it weren’t to pass council, isn’t the conversation worth having for the sake of all Houstonians?
Mayor Annise Parker:The conversation is worth having and as an openly lesbian politician, it is clearly not an issue I’m afraid to tackle, but see the answer above. I am unwilling to bring an issue forward when I know there aren’t sufficient votes to pass it. A non-discrimination ordinance would be important, but I am more interested in seeing discrimination removed from our city charter.
The city is prohibited by charter from offering domestic partner benefits or from recognizing the domestic relationships of our gay and lesbian employees. It would require a vote of the citizens to undo. I hope Council will join me in placing it on the ballot at the appropriate time.
I think I understand Mayor Parker’s point here… why waste the energy on one contentious issue when there are so many other things that can be done? From a purely political calculus, this type of “playing it safe” approach makes perfect sense.
But the problem here? Equality isn’t safe, and it’s definitely not supposed to be based on a political calculation. Every day in Houston and throughout much of this country, discrimination continues unabated against our LGBT citizens… people ARE losing their jobs because they are gay. They are getting harrassed at work, beaten up, and for some people, right here in the city of Houston, they are even losing their lives. You don’t come out as LGBT in this country to be safe. You don’t support LGBT issues to be safe. You come out and you support equality because it’s who you are, and who you love.
As a constituent, I have great respect for Mayor Annise Parker. The city of Houston has weathered our nation’s economic storms better than any other metropolitan area, in no small part to a thoughtful and responsive city government under her stewardship. She has a not insignificant record on LGBT rights, having appointed Texas’ first Transgender judge Phyllis Frye, and is a member of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. As the top executive of the city, she has extended equal protection rights to all city employees. The Mayor, having suffered so many of these indignities herself, knows what should be done for Houston. And of course, her election in itself was an important turning point in American politics, and brought new elevation to all of Houston’s LGBT community.
But as someone that cares about progress throughout Houston, Texas and the whole country, it is not sufficient that we continue to “play it safe”. Sometimes progress isn’t about the end result… it’s about the journey to get there. In what is likely to be her 3rd and final term, I hope Mayor Parker considers taking a different path. Not only for the 2.2 million Houstonians that are depending on her leadership, but all of the Progressive forces that have invested in her current campaign, and her bright political future.
Houston is a city with an affinity for forward motion, and Mayor Annise Parker’s new initiative is no exception. In an effort to arm Houston job seekers and employers with a new, 21st century way to connect, the Mayor announced the launch of the ‘Tweet My Jobs Houston’ smart phone app. Now job searches can be hyper-localized thanks to the geo-location software of the smart phone app. If the effort is successful, it will help people connect with jobs in their area at an even greater rate of accuracy.
Here is an excerpt from the city’s official press release…
Houston, TX (April 26, 2013) – Mayor Annise D. Parker announced the launch of “TweetMyJobs Houston!” during today’s State of the City address. This new online jobs platform, powered by TweetMyJobs, revolutionizes recruitment by incorporating mobile and social media. “TweetMyJobs Houston!” is the connective thread that will distribute jobs throughout the greater Houston area and match qualified job seekers with employers. It will also produce hyper-local analytics to help facilitate executive decisions by government and business entities thereby enhancing and fostering future job growth in the Houston metro area.
“Houston is the biggest economic success story in America, however; as you know, the best can always get better,” said Mayor Parker. “That is why I’m launching ‘TweetMyJobs Houston!’ a free, interactive jobs initiative geared to match qualified job seekers with thriving Houston businesses.” The public-private partnership model is a solution for many small to mid-size businesses with limited recruitment budgets as well as recent college-graduates from our booming higher education communities that now need jobs.
By adopting the TweetMyJobs platform, Houstonians will have access to relevant opportunities instantly and directly. Houston based employers will be able to reach quality candidates in a fast, efficient and affordable way. “TweetMyJobs Houston!” includes more than 150,000 jobs in all industries at all levels of employment, from entry level to C-Suite positions in the Houston metro area. The platform is not limited to specific demographics, in fact, “TweetMyJobs Houston!” is a tool for all Houstonians.
Available at www.Houston.TweetMyJobs.com or at the App Store for your mobile device, getting started is as fast and easy as pushing a button to find jobs. Likewise, employers can instantly distribute their job listings to every corner of the digital landscape. “TweetMyJobs Houston!” leverages social media to drive local employment solutions. Job seekers can choose to receive job notifications “pushed” to them via text message on their phone, email or through social media networks like Twitter. The platform is also integrated with Facebook so that job seekers can easily see if any of their friends are connected with the hiring company. Through the site seekers can request a referral from their friend to the hiring company, making their chances of getting the job 20 times higher.
The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the people of Boston and West as we bring you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff explains what electric car makers and microbreweries have in common.
There’s always a price for stupidity and it’s usually steep, especially when it comes to the stupid decision not the regulate key industries. From Mcblogger, The bill for Rick Perry’s low regulation heaven came due this week in West.
Before all of the other things happened last week, Swift Boat Bob Perry passed on to his greater reward. Which, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs hopes, is a low-paying job in an extremely warm climate.
WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts about former Williamson County DA being charged with a crime, Ken Anderson will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in Michael Morton case.
At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw reminds us that there are no signs of Rick Perry become a human being anytime soon. Check out Rick Perry’s Texas: Tax Cuts for Businesses. No Mercy for the Poor.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
TFN Insider reminds us that the creationists are still at work in the Legislature.
Today is one for the American history books. All five of the nation’s living Presidents have gathered in Dallas to open the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas today. The last time that the five men met was shortly after President Obama’s 2008 election. Regardless of one’s politics, this is a day to reflect on the importance of our political system. It is also a moment to capture 8 years of historical events for our nation, both good and bad. And of course for us Leftist Texans, anytime Presidents Obama and Clinton are in the state together, it is a welcomed site.
But perhaps the best moment of the day comes from an early morning interview on the Today show. Matt Lauer sat down with Former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush, as well as first daughters Jenna Bush-Hager and Barbara Bush to discuss the historic moments of the library opening. But at the end of the interview he asks if they would like to see former Florida Governor Jeb Bush run for the Presidency in 2016. Laura Bush gave the expected answer of “Sure he’d be terrific”, but the real fun came with Barbara Bush’s reply to the same question…
“He’s by far the best qualified man, but no, I really don’t. I think this is a great country, and there are a lot of great families. It’s not just four families or whatever. There are a lot of other people out there that are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes.
Now there’s a phrase we can agree one. It’s official folks… Barbara Bush is my FAVORITE member of the Bush family.
After six years of vigorous debate, the Houston City Council has voted to further increase the city’s density. Chapter 42 passed Council on a vote of 14 to 3. The ordinance changes development rules in the hopes of making the city more competitive with the suburbs. And given the extreme interest by area developers, it will likely be successful in that regard. This was far from an easy vote, as virtually every Council Member had qualms with the ordinance. As the Mayor said, this vote ends the separation between inner loop and outer loop areas. “The city of Houston now has one development code.” And it has been updated to reflect a much more ‘urban’ reality.
Council Member Melissa Noriega voiced resident concerns that Chapter 42 does not address a legacy of draining issues (currently covered under Chapter 9 of the development code), and that will only put a greater strain on an already aging drainage system. Even with this concern, Noriega voted in favor of the ordinance.
Council Member Helena Brown even proposed an Amendment to exclude her entire district (District A) from the Chapter 42 changes. It failed, and Brown voted against the whole measure. Of course to most Houstonians ‘Council Member Brown voting no’ shouldn’t be a surprise.
But even with all of the added drama, anxiety and resistance, this grand bargain is an important next step for the city of Houston. The Mayor and her office worked tirelessly on the issue, and to strike an agreement between the neighborhoods and builders was a win in itself. But now that agreement is law, and Houston can pave the way to a more dense development future.
From a purely political standpoint, the passing of Chapter 42 is a very big win for Houston Mayor Annise Parker. It is yet another major legacy issue that she has tackled as Mayor. If any other elected offices lie in her future, she can point to Chapter 42 as one of the big things that she accomplished. Hopefully, the continuing issues with drainage, complete streets and buried powerlines will be tackled in the not-too-distant future. But Chapter 42 is officially DONE.
For previous coverage on chapter 42, you can check here and here.
After years of prognostication, we finally have the bi-partisan Senate draft for an Immigration Reform bill… as proposed by the Gang of 8. Interesting that it’s called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013… likely at the insistence of Republican members. (Update: This Bill was PASSED by the Senate on June 27th)
But hey, whatever works. This bill actually seems a credible way to tackle the problem. And as long as it does that, I doubt Democrats will care what the name is. So here are the basics of how it would work…
1) Getting documents for the Undocumented. Under the proposal, undocumented persons will be able to receive an immediate, but limited legal status called RPI– Registered Provisional Immigrant Status– once they pass a criminal background check, submit proof that they were in the United States prior to December 31st 2011, and pay a $500 fine. RPI status can even be extended to persons that have been deported previously if they can demonstrate a relationship need to someone still in the country… mother or caretaker for a young child that is a citizen or DREAMer for example. This is a huge deal, because RPI status ends the threat of deportation for people that have otherwise obeyed US laws, and allows some people to come back and be reunited with their families. Persons in RPI status also have the ability to enter and exit the United States as though they were a citizen.
2) Border stuff. In order to make the bill more “attractive” to Republican lawmakers, the bill has some creative new language saying that the border must be “90 percent secure” by the Department of Homeland Security. If for some reason DHS cannot secure the border to 90 percent (how that measurement is determined is still beyond unclear), then an independent board has to offer stricter measures to reach that goal. Once someone is documented as an RPI, they will not be allowed to enter citizenship procedures until the border is deemed “secure”. This is the part of the bill that is kind of weird and a bit worrisome, but hopefully lawmakers can re-visit this once the main legislation is passed.
3) A real path to citizenship. Finally… this bill offers some credible pathways for people currently undocumented to obtain full United States citizenship. It may not be easy or fast for most, but at least it will be there. Assuming the border situation is settled, RPIs would then be able to obtain a Green Card AFTER 10 years of RPI status in the US. And herein lies the other complex issue. Citizenship decisions will be mostly Merit-based… that’s how they will determine who is granted citizenship, and when.
One more thing to note… anyone that has already been classified as a DREAMer will have a fast track through these processes. They only have to wait for 3 years to obtain a Green Card, and as soon as they have it, they can apply for US citizenship.
So the bill won’t be perfect, but it’s an important step in fixing one of our nation’s most dire needs. And it allows millions of families to stop living in fear. Check out the full text of the proposal, or this outline from scribd…