Register to Vote… It’s Now or Never Texas!!

In case you haven’t heard, October 6th is the deadline for Voter Registration in Texas.  That’s today!!!

And remember than in Texas, you have to keep your information current.  If you haven’t voted in a couple of years had a name change or a change of address, there’s a good chance that you need to register again. Visit the Voter Information Search to see if all of your voter info is current.

Now sometimes even a search at the Secretary of State’s website doesn’t yield a result.  If you think you should be registered, be sure to check with your County website as well.  For example, in Harris County, you can check with their voter registration search if nothing is found on the state website.

Ok so you found your name, you are registered, and everything is up to date??  Great!!!  Here’s you between now and EARLY Voting…

Voter Registration


But if you didn’t find your name, be sure to to print out a Voter Registration Application, fill it out real quick, and drop it in the mail before 5pm today.  If you miss the 5pm deadline, find one of your “political” friends… you know who I’m talking about… and ask them if they know a VDVR– Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrar that lives in your county.  They may have Voter Registration forms with them, can help you register until midnight tonight, and will give you a receipt showing they accepted the form.  But either way, if you want to vote in the November 4th elections, you need to act today.

Yes, today!!!

voter reg



Are Texans At Greater Risk Of Disease Outbreaks?

Even with the surprising and unsettling mistakes that have transpired as Dallas County officials try to contain the nation’s first confirmed Ebola case, people are still at far reduced risk when compared to nations with less advanced health systems or monitoring techniques.  With the eyes of the nation fixated upon the spread of this disease, Texans should know that every effort is being made to combat any further impact on the state’s population.

But Ebola is not the only infectious disease out there.  Lots of other health risks exist, many of which are not put in the national focus as has been done with Ebola.  Meanwhile, Texas remains the state with the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.  Eventually a correlative question has to be asked…

With so many of our poor left uninsured due to the state’s refusal of healthcare expansion, is Texas also left at greater risk of a major disease outbreak?  

It’s a tough question to answer, but the first step is to take a look at the state’s uninsured population, and realize that they aren’t just “lazy people with no job on Welfare”.  From the Texas Medical Association, here are a few interesting facts about the state’s uninsured population…

According to a summary of national data by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), groups with a high likelihood of lacking health insurance include:

  • People in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level;
  • Hispanics;
  • Young adults, age 19 to 34;
  • People in families in which the adults worked either part-time or only part of the year; or
  • Individuals in fair or poor health status who are significantly more likely than others to be uninsured for longer periods.

Texas workers are less likely to have employment-based health insurance coverage than those in other states. 50 percent of all companies in the US offer health coverage for their employees.  In 2012, Texas ranked 42nd in the nation, with only 45 percent of Texans having employment-based health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 63 percent of the uninsured have at least one family member who works either full-time or part-time in 2011 to 2012.


The uninsured are up to four times less likely to have a regular source of health care and are more likely to die from health-related problems. They are much less likely to receive needed medical care, even for symptoms that can have serious health consequences if not treated. About one in four Texans lives at or below the poverty level; for children, it’s nearly one in three.

So just think about that for a second… a large number of the uninsured population in Texas are people that are working, but likely in low-wage jobs.  They are waitstaff at restaurants, taking clothes at the dry cleaners, preparing delicious beverages at a favorite coffee place.  In other words, Texans without insurance are you and me. When they , we, are healthy,  everyone’s risk of health risks are lowered.

But when those Texans are sick and don’t go to get early treatment for fear of cost, everyone is put at greater risk.  And while it’s true that the simple act of having more people covered can never guarantee that people will take responsibility and see a health professional when needed, healthcare expansion would give a critical option to those that are now solely relying on the Emergency Room for their needs.  Early diagnosis saves lives, and is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

As voters make their decision this Fall, healthcare will undoubtedly be a central issue to those Texans that need it.  What people may not realize though?  That same decision could help protect us all, not just those that would be direct beneficiaries of expansion.

Houston Pride Festival, Parade Makes Surprise Move to Downtown

Much to the surprise of Houston LGBT community leaders, next year’s annual Pride Festival and Parade will have a new location. Pride organizers announced the news yesterday at a press conference in Downtown.  Here’s the scoop from Joey Guerra of the Houston Chronicle

The Houston LGBT Pride Celebration, after more than 30 years in Montrose, is moving downtown.

“Pride Houston has outgrown the space required to produce quality activities associated with the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration,” Pride Houston president Frankie Quijano said. “Downtown is already host to many successful annual festivals and parades. The downtown location also ensures greater access to parking, public transportation, hotels, emergency personnel and other facilities within walking distance of the celebration.”

At the press conference, Quijano also said that the changed was already approved by the Board of Pride Houston by a 7 to 1 vote.  Community leaders were shocked to find out about the changes, as it seems that no one was informed of this in advance of the Board vote.  Here’s more on that response, via News92FM

Pride Houston said the decision to move the 2015 parade came because the event has gotten so big. On its website, Pride said downtown can accommodate more people, and has better parking.

But Jack Valinski, founder and former committee member of Pride Houston, said the move came as a surprise.

“I am not necessarily against the move, I am against the idea that they moved it without really talking to the community,” Valinksi said.

The website said committee members met with the Mayor Annise Parker’s office, with the Houston Police and fire department.

But Valinski said the committee did not meet with the LGBT community.

“This is where our heart is and this is where the center of our universe is, Montrose and Westheimer,” Valinksi said, “and the fact that they’re leaving that are without consideration of even talking to people is a real slap in the face to the community.”

Several aspects surrounding the announcement seem suspect as well. Pride Houston chooses this week to break the news knowing that Mayor Parker is on a trade mission in Asia, and therefore unavailable to share her insight on the community’s concerns.

If Pride Houston has indeed outgrown the neighborhood, it stands to reason that organizers want to institute a sound plan for its future.  Houstonians are incredibly supportive of the LGBT community, and want the Pride celebrations to continue to grow.  But having a vote with little public notice, followed by a stealth and sudden announcement was not the way to make those changes happen. Many Montrose businesses count on Pride festivities, not just for increased sales during that one week, but as critical promotion and advertising so that customers will come back throughout the year.  As a longtime partner in the area, Pride Houston had an obligation to work with community leaders and business professionals affected by the move, and should have done so before this decision came up for a vote. 

Even with those huge missteps, this will hopefully be a good move for the City of Houston.  No one can deny the special role that Montrose has played, and continues to play in national LGBT history, as well as the movement for equality.  Today GCAM, the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of LGBT History, is actively working to establish a permanent museum site for these treasured stories.  Growing pains are being felt all over the Houston region, and Pride festivities are no exception to that swell.

Though the decision has already been made (and Pride Houston makes that very clear on their website), there will be a forum this Saturday to discuss the move and its various implications.  If you have comments, this is the place to share them with others, and have all community perspectives be heard.  Let’s hope that Pride Houston learns from their mistakes on this one.


Texas Lt. Gubernatorial Debate: Review

Well Dan Patrick said it best…

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, there has never been such a clear difference between two candidates.

Which is indeed a true statement… one of a precious few the Houston-area Senator and Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor told during his debate with San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, who is vying for the same office also with her party’s nomination.  Patrick was even given a Pants on Fire rating for one of his responses, as according to the Politifact scoring of the contest.  This was a running theme for the evening with Patrick, who insisted issue after issue that his plans were sound, even when there was a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Take the tax plan that Dan Patrick is proposing, where he wants to lower property taxes for all Texas home and business owners, yet still manage to fund all of the government’s responsibilities.  How does he propose doing this?  By raising sales taxes.  Leticia Van de Putte was quick to rebut this plan, correcting Patrick that property taxes aren’t even controlled by the state, but by local governments and school districts.  Patrick is correct that the state can set lower caps on property tax, but that decreases funds for all of these essential services.

The subject of Education brought the most fiery point of the evening.  Van de Putte stated that when faced with budget short falls in 2011, the state Legislature had a choice to cut, or to invest.  Here’s what Van de Putte said to her opponent…

You need a Math lesson. The fact is that 11,000 teachers lost their jobs.  8,000 class waivers.  A judge has said that our system is inefficient, inequitable and not working.

Patrick’s response was not deny the cuts, but simply double down and try to justify them

Those 11,000 teachers [that’s] a lot of jobs. But by the way we have 332,000 teachers. And those 11,000 teachers were a lot who just retired.  And those 11,000 slots were for the replaced by, like the Math Department head, or various people.  So your children weren’t shorted.

From listening to this, it’s that Senator Patrick needs more than just a Math lesson.  He apparently doesn’t understand the concept of forced retirement, where a teacher is let go long before their choosing.  Nor does he understand that when schools lost teachers, each of those “various people” had to take on extra classes and students to meet the desperate of growing schools that were making substantial cuts.  Patrick can say certainly claim that the school children of Texas “weren’t shorted” from disastrous decisions waged by the GOP, but if that were the case, then why are 600 school districts suing the state due to under-funding? If the “children weren’t shorted” then why decide to restore some of the funding cuts during the 2013 legislative session, and why did your campaign team boast that you “led the charge” to do so??  Say whatever you want Dan… it’s still not true.

One other very clear distinction was on the issue of marriage equality.  Dan Patrick confirmed that under no circumstances would he support a movement for marriage equality in the state of Texas.  Van de Putte had a different view…

I think people’s attitudes are changing.  What we know is that our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters are in our work force, and in our families.  They deserve full equality.  As Lieutenant Governor, I would make sure that this discussion on equality would continue.  That’s why I sponsored a bill last Legislative session to make sure our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters are not discriminated against [in the workplace].

An historic position for a major party, statewide candidate in Texas, and yet another indicator of just how clear of a choice voters have this fall.  In performance, Leticia Van de Putte struck a good balance between consistency, and sincerity.  She forcefully rebutted Patrick when needed, but was also able to stay on track.  Patrick’s style was not bad by any measure, but at times, he lost control, and even became angry when answering Van de Putte.  I guess that’s what happens when you have to work so hard to distort the truth.

In any case, Leticia Van de Putte was the clear winner of this debate. The entire event is linked below, so watch, share with friends and decide for yourself…


Why An Ebola Outbreak Is Less Likely In The US

After news broke that the first official case of Ebola was diagnosed in Dallas, it’s understandable that many in Texas and across the country are concerned that the virus could spread rapidly like what is happening in Africa.  The patient is from Liberia, came in contact with the virus there and traveled to Texas before showing any signs of infection.  But as Susannah Locke with Vox shares, that worst-case scenario is extremely unlikely in the United States…

The current Ebola outbreak has already infected thousands of people in West Africa — including several Americans who were diagnosed there and then brought back to the United States for treatment. But this is the first time a person has been diagnosed with the disease inside US borders.

According to the CDC, the patient had recently been in Liberia and flew to the US before he was symptomatic or contagious. He later fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in Texas, where he was placed in isolation.

It’s not surprising that an Ebola case has finally popped up in the United States — especially with air travel as common as it is. But it’s also not a disaster. Experts say that public-health officials would likely be able to contain any Ebola outbreak in the United States pretty quickly.

Why is that? One big reason is that Ebola is not especially contagious, as diseases go. You can only get Ebola by coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is already showing symptoms. That makes it relatively slow to spread (unlike, say, the measles).

More importantly, the United States has ample health resources and infection-control measures to contain outbreaks. This is in stark contrast to West Africa, where poverty and weak health care systems have allowed Ebola to spread and claim the lives of more than 3,000 people.

“Ample health resources” is something of an understatement.  As a health official from Doctors Without Borders shared in a recent PBS News Hour interview, there stark differences among the healthcare infrastructure here and in West Africa. “Some of these countries, entire countries, have less doctors than, say, a single hospital in a major Western city.”

Beyond sheer numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital facilities, cultural differences also lessen the chances of Ebola becoming a stateside epidemic, like the people in urban areas not living in as close proximity to each other, or a different concept of personal space.  And of course, people in the United States are more educated about basic health concepts like washing ones hands after an interaction with someone who appears to be sick.

But even with all of these practices to seemingly stop Ebola from ravaging our shores, it’s never too early to take extra precautions. The most important defense there is from any potential health threat is accurate information.  While Texas health professionals stand on the front lines of this epidemic, here’s what you can do to spot possible symptoms of the disease, as well as protect yourself, via the New York Daily News

Ebola 101