Free Press Equality Fest: Macklemore and Annise Parker

Perhaps Texas progressives and supporters LGBT equality are approaching our goals from the wrong angle. Maybe what we need is a little less pounding pavement and a little more poppin’ tags.

Take the spectacular events at this weekend’s Free Press Summer Fest in Houston. The two day event (which has been sold out for weeks) hosted some mega music acts, and even landed Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as their second single is atop the Billboard charts. The crowd at the rap duo’s performance was massive, and they were treated to some big surprises. Right before the the hit song Same Love (which promotes marriage equality), Macklemore introduced Houston Mayor Annise Parker to a roaring crowd. Here’s how the Houston Chronicle writer and pop music expert Joey Guerra observed the situation…

Between the party-starting and fur flinging, Macklemore acknowledged Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who greeted him upon arrival at the festival. It was a fitting intro for “Same Love,” the duo’s powerful, poignant ode to the LGBT community.

“She is an amazing person. And one of the coolest things is that she is the first lesbian mayor in the United States of America,” he said.

“I believe in equality. I believe in tolerance. And I believe in change. And I believe that Houston is at the forefront of one of the biggest civil rights movements of our generation.”

Easy to see how that could be viewed as an “endorsement” of sorts. But the rap artist really sums up the main point here… LGBT equality is indeed THE Civil Rights movement of our time. And, at least for Millennials, it’s also a foregone conclusion, crossing virtually all party lines and ideologies. The longer the Republican Party has to hold on to ideas of bigotry and LGBT discrimination, the more young adult voters they are going to lose.

So here is the key for Progressives… how do we get crowds like this one from the theater box to the ballot box? If politicians like Annise Parker ever want to win statewide in Texas, it’s going to take engagement like what we saw from that crowd. But with endorses as cool as Macklemore, I suspect we’ve got a real shot.

Houston’s Strong Economy: Why It’s more than just Hype

Houston seems to be a favorite subject of national media these days. But perhaps it’s good hear about the Houston economy from those that are actually living it day to day. Here are six reasons I think Houston’s economy is working so well…

1) Houston didn’t have much of a housing boom last decade, so it’s less likely that we’d have a housing bust in the near future.

2) Health care jobs are growing. We’re still on the leading edge of Baby Boomer retirements, so it’s reasonable to think that any city that has a strong health care center is only going to see more growth in coming years. Plus, with the ACA and a massive Medicaid expansion (even without Texas at this point) the need for doctors, nurses and other health workers is stronger than ever. Makes sense that ever since I’ve moved here, the Medical Center has always been dotted with cranes.

3) Port of Houston shipping strength. As home to one of the nation’s largest ports, and one of the largest freight rail hubs, Houston is well-positioned to take advantage of our nation’s growing shipping industry. And grow it shall… once completed in 2015, the widening of the Panama Canal is expected to double it’s traffic capacity. The Port of Houston has spent millions to get ready for it, so all signs point to a busier shipping industry in the Bayou City.

4) Energy diversification. Sure… having oil and energy-related jobs be nearly half of your economy may not sound “diverse” but it’s a heck of a lot better off than the mid-1980s, when oil made up 87 percent of the Houston economy. Plus the jobs themselves are different now. Far fewer of the strictly industrial labor sector, and more people that are engineers and specialists, the future of the energy industry.

5) Good governance. Our current city government has been a good steward of public money, and as a result we are investing in our transit system, schools, parks, bike trails and infrastructure at an impressive rate. With programs like Hire Houston First, these investments are creating jobs for local companies. Under Mayor Annise Parker’s leadership, things are getting done at City Hall.

6) Immigration reform? As Texas’ second largest metropolitan area, Houston has a particularly special interest in our nation’s immigration system. If done well (let’s be honest… if done AT ALL), the recognition of the US’ undocumented population is going to bring over 11 million people into legal, working status. And that’s going to create some serious jobs. Houston is home to a large population of immigrants legal and otherwise, so we stand at the forefront of CIR’s effects.

I’m cautious to use terms like “economic boom” because anything can happen. But it’s fair to say that Houston is on a strong economic path for the next few years. So don’t believe the hype… instead, just look at the facts.