HERO Opponents File Suit Against City of Houston

Here’s the story from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle

Opponents of Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance sued Mayor Annise Parker late Tuesday after city officials rejected a petition the group had submitted hoping to force a repeal referendum in November.

Plaintiff and conservative activist Jared Woodfill said his group is asking a state district judge to declare that City Secretary Anna Russell followed her legal duty and verified a sufficient number of signatures to force a referendum before City Attorney David Feldman illegally inserted himself into the process.

“If he felt there were underlying problems with the petition then he, like us, has the right to file a lawsuit if he doesn’t agree with what the city secretary did,” Woodfill said. “Going in before she’s ever made the decision and influencing her is inappropriate, it’s illegal and we believe the court will agree with us and that folks will have their voices heard in November on this issue.”

Feldman declined to comment until he had seen a copy of the lawsuit, but earlier Tuesday disputed the idea that his involvement crossed any ethical or legal lines.

“The fact is, that given my role as defined by law,  I’m supposed to give advice to city officials, whether they be elected, appointed or just employees,” he said. “That’s part of my role and the role of this department, so I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here in terms of our involvement.”

This move was to be expected, which is why Mayor Parker decided to delay the new ordinance while all of the legal battles are being worked out.  Plaintiffs listed on the lawsuit were Ex-Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill, almost convicted criminal Steven Hotze, Pastor F.N. Williams Sr. and Pastor Max Miller.  Noticeably absent from the plaintiff list was Pastor and Kendall Baker, whom has had his own trouble with the law. Rest assured, it ain’t no “family values” Brady Bunch.

UPDATE:  Be sure to visit Lone Star Q for an excellent post on the lawsuit as well.  Here is some critical information that they have published…

The lawsuit alleges that last Friday, City Secretary Anna Russell determined there were approximately 17,846 valid signatures on the petition, more than the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. However, on Monday, Parker and City Attorney David Feldman held a press conference to announce that the petition contained only 15,249 valid signatures.

Given that there is a significant disagreement between the City Secretary’s numbers from Friday, and the announcement on Monday, this could certainly strengthen the plaintiff’s case in the lawsuit.  Kudos to Lone Star Q for publishing not only this information, but including both the lawsuit and City Secretary’s official memo, dated Friday August 1st.

(Steven Hotze.  photo credit:  Death and Taxes mag

Rep. Steve King Confronted by DREAMers, Caught on Tape

Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas, both members of the Dream Action Coalition, shook hands with the two lawmakers and introduced themselves as beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program — a program King pushed to end through legislation in the House. Paul was quickly whisked away from the table by an aide and even left his food behind as Andiola handed her DACA card to King and offered to let him rip it up.

The Dream Action Coalition posted video of the confrontation to YouTube.

“Stop a minute,” King said as he grabbed Andiola’s wrist. “You’re very good at English. You know what I’m saying.”

“I was raised in the United States,” Andiola said.

King continued to insist that Andiola was misunderstanding him.

“I spoke of drug smugglers. Now, you’re not going to tell me you’re one of them are you?” he asked.

“Do I look like a drug smuggler to you?” she said.

Don’t worry if you missed Senator Rand Paul, or were waiting for him to weigh in on the conversation… he was only there long enough to take one bite of his sandwich, and the second he heard Andiola say the word “DREAMer” he bolted like he stole something.  Talk about a display of Presidential leadership!!

So he leaves Representative King to represent Congressional Republican opinion on the issue, and boy does he.  And that’s part of the problem with this exchange… King isn’t some Joe Blow protester holding up signs at the Capitol.  He carries the responsibility of KNOWING these issues inside and out for the 700,000 constituents we PAY him to represent.  This guy here, telling Andiola that she “speaks good English” and completely ignoring her when she said her mom left her native country originally to flee violence, is on the taxpayer payrolls making $175,000 dollars per year.  If he can’t have a more informed opinion on these sensitive issues, who can?

As ugly as the Congressman’s comments are, at least we have now heard them.  Kudos to Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas for having the courage to confront these lawmakers, and to the DREAM Action Coalition for posting the video and exposing Steve King’s views to the world.  Hopefully the outcry over things like this will bolster President Obama’s urgency for an Executive Order.  If the President is waiting for people like King to “come around” on Immigration reform (and ripping families apart in the process just to prove he can enforce current law), it ain’t gonna happen.  Republicans have proven once again that they will not behave responsibly on these (or any other) issues, at least not in 2014. Time to act, Mr. President.

Texoblogosphere: Week of August 4th

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks Congress can stay in recess all the way till November as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff marveled at the warmed over banality of Greg Abbott’s appellate brief in the same sex marriage lawsuit.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston wonders “If a tree falls on you, would Gregg Abbott defend the tree?”

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos discloses the cynical and deceptive efforts by Ted Cruz and other anti-government ideologues to sabotage the people’s business in the U.S. House of Representative. Only cowards would scapegoat children. Ted Cruz: The Texas Republican Anti-Government Demagogue Strikes Again.

The Democrat in the race for Harris County judge abruptly quit the race last week, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs saw that as a pity for one candidate and his party and an opportunity for another.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme isn’t surprised that for profit, low oversight schools, aka charter schools, have severe performance problems.

Neil at NeilAquino.com started a new blog called Blog About Our Failing Money-Owned American Political System. This blog joins All People Have Value http://www.neilaquino.com/all-people-have-value as the two blogs on the site. NeilAquino.com has nine pages total and is well worth your time.

Frustrating as it may be to see abject failure from state political leadership to address ongoing Border challenges,Texas Leftist Is still heartened and inspired to witness such an extraordinary response from Texas faith communities. I wish someone would remind Austin and Washington that basic humanity should ALWAYS come first.


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

Keep Austin Wonky proposes a better way to spend a billion infrastructure dollars in the Capitol city.

Better Texas Blog ruefully reports that Texas is a tough place to be a kid or a parent.

Lone Star Q reminds us that it is still perfectly legal in 32 states to fire someone for being gay.

Greg Wythe wonders how Republicans will react to truly free market pricing of new medications.

Concerned Citizens calls for a comprehensive transit solution in San Antonio.

Offcite reports on Plant It Forward, an ambitious vision for urban farming in Houston.

Scott Braddock details Michael Quinn Sullivan’s bad week.

BOR has a suggestion for how Stop Patriarchy can do some actual good in Texas.

(photo credit: VIP Realty SA)

BREAKING: HERO Opponents FAIL At Recall Attempt

It appears that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has survived an attempt to be forced onto the ballot.  According to City Secretary Anna Russell, opposing forces to the new law did not successfully attain the over 17,000 signatures needed to require a referendum.  According to Janice Evans in the Mayor’s office (via Twitter), the city was able to verify only 15,249 signatures of those turned in.

Even before the H.E.R.O.’s final passage, opponents had begun to organize in the effort to defeat the law.  From those with the HOUequality group, an independent community effort that was also checking petitions separately from the City Secretary, it was clear that some pages had to be thrown out because their collection dates were before the law was signed by the Mayor. In other cases, people printed their name and then didn’t sign, or their information was illegible.  Another issue seen by the independent group was that petition collector were not City of Houston voters.  These are just a couple of reasons that municipal officials likely invalidated petition pages.

“There are simply too many documents and irregularities to overlook.  The petition is invalid.”  City Attorney Feldman said.

“Clearly the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process.”  said Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

However, the Mayor also said that implementation of the ordinance will be delayed, as further legal challenges are anticipated.

UPDATE:  Here is a statement from the group Equal Rights Houston

Opponents of equal rights failed to submit the required number of valid petitions for one reason and one reason only: Houston is a city that doesn’t discriminate. Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance modernized our nondiscrimination laws in a balanced way with the support of the broadest coalition of Houstonians – from the Greater Houston Partnership to the NAACP, Rice University, LULAC, the GLBT Caucus, the League of Women Voters, the Houston Chronicle, public safety professionals and faith leaders. The Equal Rights Houston campaign will defend against any attempts, whether in the courts or at the ballot box, to overturn the basic, common sense protections the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance provides to all who live and work in our great city.





Music Musings: Jessie J + Ariana Grande + Nicki Minaj– BANG BANG

In today’s music industry, it’s rare to find a talent like British singer-songwriter Jessie J. Her gifts lie in solid melodic composition, a wealth of pop music knowledge and versatility. She’s a well-known presence throughout the music industry, having written Miley Cyrus chart-topper Party in the USA, and other hits for artists like Chris Brown. But her greatest gift by far is a unique voice, which can only be closely described as the power of Patti Labelle combined with the agile melismatic skills of Whitney Houston. But even comparisons to those singers don’t quite fit Jessie J.

And fitting in, at least for marketing to US audiences, has been the issue. Of course she is not entirely without her successes in the United States.  Her song Domino reached Number 6 on the Billboard charts, and she had another significant worldwide hit with ‘Price Tag‘…  both of which came from her debut album Who You Are.  But due to a string of bad decisions by her management, most Americans know very little about her or her incredible talent.  While finding great success in countries like Brazil and her native UK, the artist has struggled to even have the chance of releasing music stateside.  In fact, the singer’s entire second album Alive has yet to be brought into the US market.

After a rocky road, Jessie J is giving US fans another go.  This week, her new co-single Bang Bang with fellow pop stars Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj was released worldwide, and was an immediate success.  Thus far, the song has already skyrocketed to Number 1 on US iTunes, as well as 20 other countries, cementing its status as a certified hit.

The tune is a fun romp into the world of pop collaboration (something surprisingly missing so far in 2014), and could be destined to become one of this decade’s “girl power” anthems.  All three ladies bring their best on this fiery track, but instead of being a vocal duel, the trio manages a fair level of cohesiveness.  Jessie J and Ariana Grande both have a great show of their respective vocal skills, while Nicki Minaj almost steals the show with her rapid fire rap. It’s a great song for the summer.

Besides the official record, Jessie J did a live acoustic version of Bang Bang. With just her and guitarist Lewie Allen Jessie J proves her worth as one of today’s best pop singers, navigating massive registration shifts with utmost precision and clarity. As Vibe magazine said when tweeting out the video, “she kills it.” Check out the track below.

Here is the record version with partners in crime Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj…



Congress: Gimme That Ol’ Time Division

By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to most Americans that the United States Congress has entered an unprecedented era of dysfunction and inaction.  Time and again, analysts have termed the 113th as the least productive Congress in history, and with a full month of August recess and precious few months in the term, that sad streak is unlikely to be reversed.
But what most Americans don’t know is that there are very specific cause for that inaction, and they cannot be blamed on President Obama or divided government.
When the President is of one Party and one or both Houses of Congress of another, it’s natural to expect some grandstanding, inflamed rhetoric, and yes a few “show votes” that have no realistic chance of becoming law.  These are common occurrences of divided government.  But when that division is happening within a Party, it has reached a level that can become harmful to the nation.  And such is the case with members of the Republican caucus.  Ever since taking the House majority in 2011, GOP Representatives have worked tirelessly to make President Obama the most hated man in the country.  They block his initiatives at every turn, even when he’s putting forth ideas that they agree with.
It was this week in Washington that brought Republican division to another level.  The GOP’s latest “blame Obama” tactic is to wage frivolous lawsuits against the President for taking executive actions, claiming that he is trying to circumvent Congressional authority.  By doing this action, it would suggest that House Republicans want Obama to STOP issuing Executive Orders, right?  Sure, that’s what they wanted until yesterday.  Here’s more on the madness from Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog, because I can’t even explain it well enough…
Even by congressional standards, the mixed message from Capitol Hill this week was jarring. On Wednesday, House Republicans approved a civil suit against President Obama – the first such suit in American history – complaining that the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress when making public policy.
Literally one day later, House Republicans killed their own border bill, prompting GOP leaders to issue a statement urging the White House to circumvent Congress.
On msnbc’s “Morning Joe,” Eugene Robinson asked Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), to help reconcile the contradiction. The Republican congressman’s response was striking. For those who can’t watch clips online:
ROBINSON: There was a contradiction yesterday that I’m still struggling to understand. The leadership statement, when the [border bill] didn’t pass essentially said, ‘Well, there are plenty of administrative things that President Obama can do and should be doing at the border, and that was a day after the House voted to sue President Obama for taking administrative actions.
COLE: (Laughs)
ROBINSON: So, how does that square?
COLE: Well, I’m not going to disagree with you because it’s a point I made myself in conference. Look, you can’t say on the one hand that the president’s overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction, and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area. So, I don’t disagree with what you have to say at all.
Well, at least Congressman Cole is smart enough to figure it out.
Even the darkest times in recent partisan gridlock, like the Clinton-era shutdowns or impeachment proceedings, the one thing we could count on in divided government was for opposing sides to agree on some goals for their particular side.  And even when they did draw attack lines for the election, those former Congressional sessions at least knew that some things had to get done, like infrastructure investments or disaster relief.  But for this newest iteration of the GOP, all works of government are viewed as not necessary.  Have they just decided to wait until the bridges actually collapse?
Democrats are far from perfect.  There is plenty of disagreement and election-year politics to go around in that Party, and we see it every day.  But the Republicans have reached a new, terrifying level of divisive behavior that, if left unchecked, could ruin the country.  The only way to stop them in their tracks is to vote for Democrats in 2014.  If this week’s antics are any indication, there’s only one sane option left on Capitol Hill, and it ain’t the GOP.