Texoblogosphere: The Week of May 27th

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes their legislators get to go home soon as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff doesn’t profess to know whether Rick Perry will run for Governor again or not, but he does know that Greg Abbott would not be any improvement over him in the Governor’s mansion. The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes their legislators get to go home soon as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Williamson County does it again! WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts on the latest outrage from the GOP in Williamson County, Religious test for constable applicants in Williamson County .

A Dick decided to run for mayor of Houston. Like THAT’s newsworthy. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs decided to blog about it anyway.

Darth Politico is back with some Memorial Day musings about how we treat our veterans and that not all those who die because of war are killed in combat.

DosCentavos celebrates the death (for now) of the latest Republican attack on the poor– drug testing for TANF beneficiaries. He does support some sort of test for Lege members.


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

Hair Balls listens to Steve Hotze’s anti-Obamacare song so you don’t have to.

Brewed And Never Battered thanks everyone who helped pass the craft beer bills this session.

Open The Taps explains what all that craft beer legislation will do for you.

Juanita Jean already has a reason to look forward to 2016.

Sara Inés Calderón offers her perspective on Battleground Texas.

Austin Contrarian reassures his neighbors that Austin isn’t as big as the Census may have you believe.

Jason Stanford explains how the Legislature screwed you this time around.

Better Texas Blog laments that the Lege still doesn’t account for growth in its budget.

Burnt Orange Report (BOR) updates us on the redistricting effort in the city of Austin.

Texpatriate applauds the Lilly Ledbetter equal pay bill.

A Different Vision: Ben Hall

There’s a substantive difference between gaining a first impression of someone on camera or in print, versus a face-to-face interaction. I think most would agree that the latter is always preferred. Even if it’s a brief contact, you’re just able to gather a world of information from someone when you see them with your eyes, and hear them with your ears. I was reminded of this last week in meeting Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall. As a relatively new Houstonian (especially from a political standpoint) I don’t know much Mr. Hall’s time as City Attorney. But in one meeting with him, it’s clear that he is vastly knowledgeable about Houston. He understands the city’s struggles, needs, and perhaps most importantly, its aspirations.

Hosted by the Harris County Democratic Party (though important to note that all municipal races are non-partisan), Hall was introduced by chairman Lane Lewis, and then gave a broad-ranging speech about why he is challenging the present incumbent. Throughout the talk, Mayor Annise Parker’s name was never actually mentioned… Hall was able to focus the audience on his ideas and on what he called “a different vision” for the city of Houston. He started off by answering the question that was on everyone’s minds… why run for mayor now, in 2013?

“We decided long ago in America that we would not have dynasties. We chose to elect our leaders, as opposed to anointing people for some term. We are offering the voters an option to decide which is the better way forward for the city of Houston. That’s the privilege and right of voting in a Democratic society, and I welcome and embrace it. That’s why I have chosen to run this year.”

He went on to speak of bold and aggressive plans to create a dynamic downtown, and bring real private investment back to the city of Houston. He commented about several investors that have already approached his campaign and are interested in bringing upwards of 2 billion dollars in for downtown and East End retail. He also doesn’t agree with the present incumbent’s fee and tax system…

“We cannot continue to proceed under the present revenue scheme of this administration, and I offer a different way forward. As opposed to penalizing the domestic population with excessive fees, we should bring more businesses into Houston that can generate revenue, and not only cover the cost of city services, but help all of us rebound into a glorious and prosperous future. For the sixty percent of city properties that are under-performing in terms of revenue, wouldn’t it be better to negotiate a tax advantage, tax incentive, tax rebate, or even consider enterprise zones? That’s a win-win for the city of Houston, as opposed to losing money on these properties like we are right now. The task of a mayor must be more than simply balancing a budget. It must be to look for sustainable ways for the city’s continued growth.”

Of course many of the things Mr. Hall mentioned are being enacted by the current administration… most notably a recent (and hotly-contested) Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone established to help improve Memorial Park.

He did acknowledge that Houston has seen impressive growth and economic prosperity over the past few years, but chose to view this fact in comparison to other Texas cities, citing state-wide growth as the reason for this.

One thing is for sure, Ben Hall proved that he knows and loves the city of Houston. Though his talk was certainly enjoyable, he still lacks specifics of how he would go about achieving several of his ambitious goals. How would downtown and the East End generate the funds for these massive retail centers? Are we going to get rid of the voter-approved drainage fee for citizens, and let somehow encourage private businesses pay the tab? It was very open-ended as to how he wants to pursue such grand ideas. He did however promise to reveal more details as the campaign progresses. As the good news keeps on coming for the Parker administration, he will need a strong, deliberate, and detailed platform to run on. I for one will be watching closely.

Going North: First Test of the MetroRail Red Line Extension

Crack open your urban rail fact books, and get out the corrective tape. Houston’s 7.5 mile light rail line just experienced a significant growth spurt. Yesterday marked the first ever test of the new North Line/ Red Line extension. Though not quite ready for prime time (the rail car was being towed by a diesel vehicle), the test run is a momentous occasion for the very auto-centric Bayou City. Houston’s only light rail transit line now increases from 7.5 miles to a whopping 12.8. Sure it’s a far cry from New York, but everyone has got to start somewhere. The extension will now connect Downtown Houston and the Medical Center to burgeoning neighborhoods in Houston’s Near Northside. 

The Southeast and East End lines are set to open sometime in 2014. 
 Check out the YouTube video of yesterday’s test run below…

The Closest EVER footage of a Tornado??

One thing is for sure… Charles Gafford is a VERY brave man. This is shocking footage he took from a storm cellar as the monster EF-5 tornado swept through his town. Not something I ever hope to see up close, but it’s still very important to view and know that these storms are absolutely nothing to take lightly.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people in Moore, OK and those affected by this week’s storms.

Big-H Bowling: Houston to host 2017 Super Bowl

We’ve come a long way from the nip slip.

It looks like Houston will have a second chance at a memorable Super Bowl, whether the Texans claim a title by then or not. After awarding Super Bowl 50 to San Francisco for 2016, the NFL commission has selected the Bayou City to host the world’s biggest American Football game in 2017. Some of the plans that we’ll see for the big game already got a trial run this year with the smashing success of the NBA All-Star game. Like the Super Bowl bid, Houston used Discovery Green (which wasn’t around last time the city hosted) as a central gathering point for family festivities, concerts and general fandemonium, while the actual game took place in Toyota Center. Along with Discovery Green, the city will have over $5 billion dollars in new amenities in time for the game, including a new 1,000 room hotel, and a Texas Cultural Center. Some exciting things ahead for Houston sports fans.

Reconsidered: Annise Parker on GLBT rights

To say that the past few weeks have seen fast progress for LGBT equality would be a gross understatement. Just a few short years ago, it seemed an endless fight. But today, even without full federal protections in place, some states are working hard to change things. Marriage equality has moved with lightning speed over the pass few weeks, being approved in Delaware, Rhode Island and Minnesota. They’ve joined other states that are paving the way to a better, safer and stronger future for all of their residents.

Unfortunately though in Texas, our LGBT communities continue to struggle beneath a firewall of state laws prohibiting progress. And until there are significant changes in state government, that reality would seem to persist in the forseeable future. In fact, with today’s news of a Collin County judge saying a lesbian couple can no longer live together, some would argue that we’re moving as fast as possible in the opposite direction. The efforts in Texas to stem the tide of change are just as extraordinary as the historic changes have been.

It is through this lense of intolrance that Texans have to fight the battle for equality, and in this state, it is every bit a battle. But beyond working to change the law, one of the most important aspects of this fight is setting good examples in our community, and shattering the lies that drive Anti-LGBT sentiment. The more Texans that live out in the open as LGBT, behave as good neighbors, and do all the things that we already do, the better prepared we will be for that moment when our laws can change. I wrote a few weeks back about some frustration within Houston’s LGBT community. Three years after the historic election of Mayor Annise Parker, many laws regarding LGBT equality have not changed. It’s a valid point, and an important opinion to share on behalf of many in the community.

But what was missed in that article is the profound impact that Mayor Parker’s leadership has had within Houston, and beyond. She forged a path to show Houston that an LGBT person is capable of being mayor of a major city. She has continued to prove that Houston is a city that can get major things done to improve the quality of life for everyone. And as I have learned since writing the last post, she has inspired many other LGBT persons in Conservative states looking to be pioneers in their own communities.

Perhaps most importantly though, the Mayor seems committed to making progress, even when the picture for equality isn’t always ideal. In a touching Huffington Post Op-ed for Mother’s Day, Parker shared the following…

People who know gay couples know that we are just as committed to each other as our straight counterparts. And people who know gay parents know we are just as dedicated to raising our children with love and protecting them from harm. We will keep pushing for the government to treat us equally — in marriage and adoption and beyond — and in the meantime, we’ll keep being who we are, openly and honestly, and showing just how alike we all are in the ways that really matter.

This post is not a retraction of the former post, or an endorsement. I still hope that the Mayor will work to pass equal rights into Houston’s laws. But it is a recognition that even if she hasn’t done that, the examples she and other LGBT leaders set are critical in the fight for full equality. And as long as our leaders do that, they create a pathway to the protections we seek.

Immigration Reform shouldn’t be a partisan issue…

But let’s face facts here folks… it IS. Even if there are a precious few Republican Congress members that sincerely want to fix our broken immigration system, that number is not enough to matter in the grand scheme of Republican politics. There is still far too large a segment of the GOP that really HATES the idea of allowing undocumented persons to be recognized by the government. If they didn’t, then why is it that (as President Obama politely reminded us at the opening Bush 43’s Library) 3 previous attempts crashed and burned during the Grand Ol’ Bush Administration? When Republicans were in control under an arguably Pro- Immigration Reform President, they tried 3 times and got NOWHERE.

Given recent developments from last week, it’s critical for us to look at why the 2007 attempt did not work. Back then, the failure of the Senate to approve Bush’s measure truly was a Bi-Partisan defeat, as 15 Democrats actually voted against the legislation, citing many similar concerns as the GOP. And eventhough plenty of Democrats didn’t like George W. Bush, they didn’t try to ruin him at every turn the way Republicans have to Obama.

But one thing that both attempts had in common? The Heritage Foundation… a Right-wing think tank. Just like today, Heritage also released a study in 2007 that was timed almost perfectly to scuttle Bush’s Comphrehensive Immigration Reform (abbreviated as “CIR” bill. It served its purpose by pealing off Conservative Democrats and Republicans to vote against the legislation. So is anyone surprised that Heritage felt the necessity to release a similar study last week? And here’s the funny part… both studies make an insane claim that Amnesty will somehow cost the American economy $6.3 Trillion dollars, and neither take into account any of the contributions that Undocumented persons make in our society right now. They work, they go to school, they pay sales taxes, and do almost every thing that other Americans do. But the Heritage Foundation doesn’t mention any of this in its flawed logic. In 2007, these lies were enough to make President Bush 0 for 0 on CIR.

President Obama’s attempts have already gone better though. Let’s not forget that the DREAM ACT came within one GOP filibuster of being law in 2010. Even after that defeat, the President still accomplished many elements of the DREAM Act via Executive Order in 2012, bringing some small measure of hope to that select group of persons. By any measure, Obama and Democrats are the ones that have been responsible for any progress on this issue for the last 30 years, and they certainly weren’t the ones standing in the way when the other side tried to fix it. On the other hand, all the GOP can do is run, hide and tell lies. In every scenario that Comprehensive Immigration Reform laws could pass the House of Representatives, they require virtually all House Democrats to combine with a few “reasonable” Republican members. IF it gets done, that’s the only way CIR is going to happen. So again, I say that I wish Immigration Reform was not a partisan issue, but right now at least in Washington, it is textbook divide and squander. Anyone that wants real progress should remember this going into 2014.

Dos Centavos has some great coverage on this issue as well. Please make sure to check it out.