All posts by L. Wayne Ashley

Thanks for visiting!! My name is Wayne, and I live in Houston, Texas. I wouldn't consider myself a "diehard" liberal activist, but I definitely have a Progressive view on most issues. I'm a proud Millennial, and I feel like the voice of my generation in Texas gets overshadowed by the older, more established groups. This is my effort to change that. Please come back and read when you can.

TLCQ 2018: James Horwitz

In the Fifteenth installment of the 2018 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from James Horwitz, candidate for Harris County Probate Court- Number 4.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

JH: James Horwitz

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

JH:  No. I was the Democratic nominee for this Bench in 2014, and ran for the Houston City Council in 2013.

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

 JH:  Beneath the rotunda of City Hall is a seal. Its caption reads “Government Protects the People.” The adage is twice as true for the judiciary. The probate courts, the judgeship for which I am a candidate, doubles as both a court of law and a court of equity. What this means is that adjudication of the black-letter law is only one component of the job. Doing what is right is another.

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for the upcoming judicial term. Describe how you plan to accomplish them.

JH:  (1) The most important priority for my Court would be to expand community outreach. It is time for the people to say enough, and demand that the judiciary that works for them actually do so. I would want my Court to be an active member of the community in educating and informing the public about wills, estates, trusts and guardianships, among other functions of the probate courts.

For example, you can handwrite your own will, and in doing so skip most all of the formalities that often cause typewritten wills to be voided in court. Another example is that, if you don’t write a will, the state legislature essentially writes one for you through a process called “intestacy.” The general public basically knows the rudiments of criminal or family law, but often does not for probate law. I want that to end, with my Court being on the vanguard of the change.

(2) I will insist upon more mediations to occur in my Court before trial.

Probate court is often the setting of visceral family disputes, where longstanding feuds rearise. Litigants sometimes lose track of their best interests, and disputes over even modest estates can be tied up for years in court, with the attorneys often taking a sizable chunk of everyone’s inheritances. I want to insist upon more mediations, the way the family courts have operated for years, before trials, so more cases can have happier endings.

(3) I will interpret the law.

This is a phrase that may sound a little trite, and it’s because it is a favorite of Republican judges. I recall being interviewed by the Houston Chronicle editorial board in 2014, and discussing how the law always changes, and a good judge needs the alacrity to respond to changes or developments in the law. In 2014, I discussed how a federal court may one day soon legalize same-sex marriage in Texas. (In fact, the Supreme Court did just that less than a year later.) I discussed the need to react to updates in the law by openly and fairly interpreting it.

I suggested that a good judge would examine the prospect, then, of common-law marriages being found for same-sex couples. Whether the decedent in probate court left a surviving spouse is often a major question. Many Republican judges, the ones who talk about interpreting the law, now make political statements by ending their longstanding occupational commitment to officiating marriages. I don’t see that as following the law. I see my suggestion, reacting to the developments and updates that may arise, as following the law more faithfully.

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office?

JH:  I have practiced law for more than 40 years. I have also practiced any and every different type of law under the sun, with the regrettable exception of arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have practiced law longer than my primary opponent has been alive. He solely does probate law, and claims that he has more active cases currently before the probate court.

But as I explained, much of the probate courts is administrative. Probating most wills is very straightforward. I have no doubt that both my opponent and I would be able to capably do such tasks. The probate courts, though, are also courts of equity, or doing the right thing. And in such cases, there simply is no substitute for the experience, wisdom and compassion that accompanies practicing the law for more than 40 years.

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

JH:  I am very lucky to have a remarkable family with whom I can spend as much time as I can. My wife Deborah, sons Geoffrey and Noah, daughter-in-law Adele, nephews Jamie and Daniel, and standard poodles Tilly and Sadie brighten my days.

Thanks to Mr. Horwitz for the responses.

 

Texas Primary Election Day is Tuesday March 6th, and Early Voting begins February 20th.  For the Primary, you must register to vote no later than February 5th (if you’re unsure of your voting status, here’s where you can check your registration).  Early voting procedures can differ depending on your county, but here are helpful links to some: Harris CountyFort Bend CountyBrazoria CountyMontgomery County, and Galveston County

For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

(if you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation!  Help us encourage Progressive, common sense ideals in the Lone Star State!!)

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of February 19th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is thankful Adam Rippon is here to distract us from everything else as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff questions the assumption that Republicans have the advantage for November in Harris County.

It is understandable that the tragic events at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School would dominate the current news cycle. As we continue to mourn with them AND stand with them in calls for action, it’s also important to keep up with developments in our community as well. Texas Leftist shares news about the brave students of Houston’s Austin High School, who protested the ICE detention of an undocumented classmate, just months shy of his graduation. Is it truly the priority of our Federal Law Enforcement to persecute high school students who have done nothing wrong?? #FreeDennis

SocraticGadfly has some First Amendment and other questions about the Mueller indictments.

Stace is still sad that the local rodeo doesn’t have any Tejano Music on GoTejano day. But San Antonio is having one awesome music fest in March with the Tejano Music Awards Fan Fair Weekend. Because without Tex-Mex culture, politics is pretty boring.

Neil at All People Have Value said school shootings are an intended result of America’s gun culture rather than an aberration. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

=====================

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

Brene Brown speaks truth to bullshit on gun reform. (Not from this week, but it was getting shared a lot this week and is certainly on point, so.)

Jason Pittman and Anita Ledbetter explain how Trump’s tariffs on solar panels will affect Texans.

Juanita passes along a couple of primary recommendations.

Texas expat Elise Hu prepares for the Year of the Dog.

The Lunch Tray highlights a class difference in how parents treat junk food for their kids.

Paul Battaglio, Doug Goodman, and Meghna Sabharwal voice concerns about how nonprofits are handling sexual harassment allegations.

 

Texas Leftist 2018 Endorsements- Democratic Primary

For those interested, here are the Texas Leftist Endorsements for the 2018 Democratic Primary.

Texas Primary Election Day is Tuesday March 6th, and Early Voting begins February 20th.  For the Primary, you must register to vote no later than February 5th (if you’re unsure of your voting status, here’s where you can check your registration).  Early voting procedures can differ depending on your county, but here are helpful links to some: Harris CountyFort Bend CountyBrazoria CountyMontgomery Countyand Galveston County

For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

Texas Leftist has chosen to endorse candidates because they have demonstrated a commitment to advancing public policies that will improve the lives of Texans.  Though each person’s individual positions vary, they are generally candidates that stand for equality, social justice, comprehensive immigration reform, healthcare expansion, living wage and economic prosperity.

 

Though not endorsed by Texas Leftist, candidates Margarita Ruiz Johnson, Matt Harris, Glenn “Grumpy” Williams, Kevin Nelson, Tahir Javed and Levy Q. Barnes Jr. did participate in this year’s Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire.  Please consult their interviews for more information. 

 

Federal Races

United States Senate                            Beto O’Rourke

United States House TX #2               Silky Malik

United States House TX #7                Ivan Sanchez (TLCQ)

United States House TX #10             Tami Walker (TLCQ)

United States House TX #14              Adrienne Bell

United States House TX #18              Sheila Jackson-Lee

United States House TX #22              Steve Brown

United States House TX  #27             Vanessa Edwards Foster (TLCQ)

United States House TX #29               Sylvia R. Garcia

United States House TX #36               Dayna Steele

 

State Races

Governor                                                                    Andrew White

Lieutenant Governor                                            Mike Collier  (TLCQ)

General Land Office Commissioner             Miguel Suazo

Railroad Commissioner                                       Roman McAllen

Agriculture Commissioner                                Kim Olson

Comptroller                                                                Joi Chevalier

Texas State Senate #5                                Brian E. Cronin (TLCQ)

Texas State Senate #15                             John Whitmire

Texas State Senate #17                              Fran Watson (TLCQ)

Texas State House #28                               Meghan Scoggins

Texas State House #29                               Dylan Forbis

Texas State House #126                            Undrai Fizer

Texas State House #129                            Alexander Jonathan Karjeker

Texas State House #130                             Frederick A. Infortunio (TLCQ)

Texas State House #133                             Sandra G. Moore

Texas State House #134                             Allison Sawyer

Texas State House #138                              Adam Milasincic (TLCQ)

Texas State House #139                              Randy Bates

Texas State House #142                              Harold V. Dutton Jr.

Texas State House #146                               Shawn Nicole Thierry

Texas State House #147                               Garnet Coleman

 

Harris County Races

Harris County District Clerk                            Marilyn Burgess

Harris County Clerk                                              Diane Trautman

County Treasurer                                                   Dylan Osborne

Harris County Commissioner #2                  Adrian Garcia

Harris County Commissioner #4                   Penny Shaw

County School Trustee Position #3             Josh Wallenstein

 

Judicial Races

Texas Supreme Court, Place 2              Steven Kirkland

14th Court of Appeals, Place 3            Jerry Zimmerer

14th Court of Appeals, Place 8            Michele Chimene

55th Civil District Court                          Latosha Lewis Payne

113th Civil District Court                        Rabeea Collier

185th Civil District Court                       Jason Luong

188th Civil District Court                        Scott Dollinger

234th Civil District Court                        Lauren Reeder

269th Civil District Court                          Cory Sepolio

281st Civil District Court                           George Arnold

246th Family District Court                      Angela Graves- Harrington

289th Family District Court                      Barbara J. Stadler

309th Family District Court                      Kathy Vossler

Harris County Probate Court #2                         Jim L. Peacock

Harris County Probate Court #4                        James S. Horwitz (TLCQ)

Harris County Criminal Court #2                        Harold J. Landreneau

Harris County Criminal Court #5                        David M. Fleischer

Harris County Criminal Court #7                          Andrew A. Wright

Harris County Criminal Court #11                         Gus Saper

Harris County Criminal Court #12                        Juan A. Aguirre

Harris County Criminal Court #13                         Raul Rodriguez

Harris County Criminal Court #15                        Kris Ougrah

 

In addition to the TLCQ 2018 series, the following resources were also consulted for the 2018 Texas Leftist endorsements: Off The Kuff, Dos CentavosHouston GLBT CaucusProject Vote SmartThe Texas TribuneThe Houston Chronicle Endorsements, The Dallas Morning NewsThe League of Women Voters Guide and Ballotpedia.

 

(if you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation!  Help us encourage Progressive, common sense ideals in the Lone Star State!!)

 

TLCQ 2018: Ivan Sanchez

In the Fourteenth installment of the 2018 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Ivan Sanchez,  candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Texas’ 7th Congressional District.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

IS:  Ivan Sanchez

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

IS:  No.  I have never held public office.

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

IS:  The purpose of government is to provide, as best as possible, a system guided by what is in the best interest of the common good.  It must protect and defend the principles of our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; wherein, “all men are created equal”, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, “that among these are life, liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for the upcoming legislative session. Describe how you plan to accomplish them.

IS:  As a freshman congressman, I realize I will have limited opportunity to directly introduce legislation; however, I will passionately support and advocate for legislation that: (1) acknowledges climate change and the need to control abuse of our ecosystem, including development of renewable energy; (2) is designed to implement a path to citizenship for DREAMers and other (non felony) immigrants; and (3) will provide single payer healthcare.

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is on course to have an unprecedented boom in the state’s population. But with more people and more opportunities comes an ever-increasing strain on Texas roads and infrastructure. Describe your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve Texas infrastructure now so we can plan for a bright future for the state.

IS:  Improving Texas’ infrastructure must be addressed as a two-fold issue—addressing current infrastructure and developing sustainable long-term solutions.  Currently, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute is involved in “developing solutions to the problems and challenges facing all modes of transportation.”  This research, along with the work being conducted by the Houston-Galveston Area Council and NASA must be collaborated to maintain an effective and efficient infrastructure as we know it today.  At the same time, these same types of agencies and enterprises must collaborate to create visionary modalities of transportation and infrastructure.  The recent news items regarding the Dallas-Houston bullet train are indication that we are headed in the right direction, but the bullet train must not be the only solution.  Government must step up to partner with industry to develop urban area transportation infrastructure that does not only increase current highway capacity (adding more lanes to a highway is not a sustainable solution), but considers automation and other technologically informed solutions.  There must be paradigm shift from single-vehicle transportation as the mode to mass-transit as the mode.

TL:  Even as impressive growth continues in around the state’s urban centers, rural Texans are faced with a healthcare crisis.  According to Laura Garcia of the Victoria Advocate, rural communities across the state have lost 18 hospitals in less than five years, and this was before any additional challenges worsened by natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.  Without hospital services in or near their local communities, the medical and emergency care is at an increasing risk our citizens.  As a legislator, how would you plan to address this issue and help Texas’ vital rural healthcare facilities stay open?  

IS:  The rural healthcare issues and concerns are symptomatic of a national healthcare crisis.  Providing affordable healthcare is the goal, which is to-date being compromised by the greed of huge pharmaceutical companies and the skyrocketing cost of providing healthcare.  Shifting the conversation of healthcare as a right, not a privilege implies government intervention in regulating the industry to limit excessive costs of R&D and profit-margins passed along to the consumer (patient).  Addressing the healthcare crisis will inherently benefit the rural healthcare enterprise.

TL:  In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to overturn an Obama-era rule which classifies internet service providers as public utilities, and thereby governed under the 1934 Communications Act.  This decision essentially erases the principle that Internet Service Providers should treat all online content equally without giving preference to particular sources, otherwise known as Net Neutrality.  Please describe your views on this decision, and whether or not you would support legislation at the State or Federal level to uphold the principle of Net Neutrality.

IS:  What the light bulb was to the 19th century, the internet is to the 21st century.  It is an everyday convenience that touches every aspect of our lives.  We are in an informational era, and the opportunity to utilize all that the internet has to offer must not be limited by corporate giants who seek to profit based on the speed of a person’s connection, or which web pages and services someone wants to access.  I am a strong proponent of net neutrality, who believes the government must ensure the Internet continues to be treated as a utility, and internet providers cannot charge different rates, or favor certain websites over others.

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office?

IS:  I know the struggle.  I came to the U.S. as a child when my mother, seeking asylum from the violence that prevailed in Colombia, wanted to raise her children in a safe environment that would provide opportunity for her and her family.  It took me seven years, since I had to work multiple jobs, to complete a four-year program and earn my bachelor’s degree.  This great land has provided many opportunities and given me much.  I say I am DREAMer with papers, yet because of our democracy I am a candidate for the U.S. Congress.  I am passionate about being part of the solution to bring change to a compromised system, to ensure that our country maintains its edge as the greatest country on earth and continues to be the land of opportunity for all.  My passion is supported by my youth, providing an unparalleled level of energy and fresh perspective, and a contemporary of the next great generation.  And, despite my youth, I have had the great fortune to work as a senior liaison in a congressperson’s office.  I have developed a network of federal agency leaders, working to solve issues related to such areas as Social Security, immigration, and homeland security.  I am familiar with and comfortable to move throughout the bureaucracy, and challenge the status quo as needed.

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

IS:  I am committed to my family, most especially any opportunity to visit with my toddler niece.  My girlfriend and I enjoy evenings alone or among friends, enjoying fellowship.  I am energized being around people, and any chance I have to celebrate life is my greatest joy.

 

Thanks to Mr. Sanchez for the responses.

 

Texas Primary Election Day is Tuesday March 6th, and Early Voting begins February 20th.  For the Primary, you must register to vote no later than February 5th (if you’re unsure of your voting status, here’s where you can check your registration).  Early voting procedures can differ depending on your county, but here are helpful links to some: Harris CountyFort Bend CountyBrazoria CountyMontgomery County, and Galveston County

For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

(if you like this Texas Leftist post, please consider a donation!  Help us encourage Progressive, common sense ideals in the Lone Star State!!)

Black Panther Sets New Agenda For Hollywood

History hidden from me
To hide my identity
So I’d never feel
I am somebody

You’ve gouged my eyes
I see more clearly
You’ve tried to rob
My humanity

My spirit you tried to break
My soul you tried to take
There’s no need to be afraid
Cause I won’t do unto you now

These lyrics, taken from Janet Jackson’s iconic 1993 cut New Agenda, are but one instance of what many entertainment pioneers have worked to change for centuries… the severe under-representation (and by default, dehumanization) of people of color in Entertainment.  An yes, while much progress has been made in recent years, this weekend’s opening of the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther feels much more like a leap forward than a significant step.

Jamil Smith, writing for Time magazine, shares this excellent rationale…

If you are reading this and you are white, seeing people who look like you in mass media probably isn’t something you think about often. Every day, the culture reflects not only you but nearly infinite versions of you—executives, poets, garbage collectors, soldiers, nurses and so on. The world shows you that your possibilities are boundless. Now, after a brief respite, you again have a President.

Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multi­faceted. Relating to characters onscreen is necessary not merely for us to feel seen and understood, but also for others who need to see and understand us. When it doesn’t happen, we are all the poorer for it.

This is one of the many reasons Black Panther is significant. What seems like just another entry in an endless parade of super­hero movies is actually something much bigger. It hasn’t even hit theaters yet and its cultural footprint is already enormous. It’s a movie about what it means to be black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world. Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life. It is also incredibly entertaining, filled with timely comedy, sharply choreographed action and gorgeously lit people of all colors. “You have superhero films that are gritty dramas or action comedies,” director Ryan Coogler tells TIME. But this movie, he says, tackles another important genre: “Superhero films that deal with issues of being of African descent.”

Much like that famed day in 2008 when Barack and Michelle Obama became America’s First Family- Elect, representation is truly at the heart of all the excitement which surrounds Black Panther.  Before this project, the experiences of those in of African heritage had never been explored and celebrated at such a total, multi-dimensional level.  After this weekend, that will never be the case again.

So from this point forward, where does Hollywood go from here?  Will they see potential in marketing to new audiences?  More importantly, will they continue to market more diverse projects as a top priority, full-stop picture like they have done for Black Panther?  As we know from the post- Obama era, everything wasn’t “happily ever after from Election Day 2008.  Even with a bold leap, it is still incredibly possible to take steps backwards.

But even during the missteps, Hollywood will never be the same once people across the world see Black Panther on their movie screens.  And any fears that the film might be a flop seem to be vanishing rather quickly.  After it’s first night of release, the film is already making an historic run at the Box Office, nabbing over 25 million dollars last night alone.

We’ll see what the future holds, but for today, Black Panther is here, with a New Agenda for Hollywood.  As the song says…

Amen
All that we’ve been through
Our time has come to rejoice
A new agenda’s due
Amen
It’s time to know the truth
Our time has come to rejoice
A New Agenda’s due

Rights… Violated

The Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights reads, exactly…

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

One more time…

“A

well REGULATED 

Militia, being

NECESSARY

to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

 

In the everyday tragedies of American gun violence, those that support unabridged gun rights and gun access are quick to sympathize with communities in mourning, but still very committed to their version of the Second Amendment, which somehow always seems to leave out the critical parts, noted in the above.

But those words are a part of the Second Amendment too.  The founding fathers engaged in careful debate about the Second Amendment, and the ending document is a result of that measured debate.  The idea of firearms use needing to be well-regulated, and that arms have certain necessary, but limited purposes is part of the Second Amendment for a reason.

The Declaration of Independence, on the other hand, lists a set of unalienable rights which have proven central to the development of the United States.  It is the access to these rights which have allowed for the advancement of this nation towards the ideals of inclusion and equality for all.  It is access to these rights which made the Bill of Rights  possible…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

As “the Governed” who among us has consented that the right to bear arms is more important than the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?  And if that hasn’t happened, when will ‘We The People’ recognize our current form of governance has become destructive, and seek to alter and / or abolish it.  Unfettered gun rights, that do not even honor the actual Second Amendment, is not the government that Americans want.  A Congress which works more to appease a minority of rich donors and groups, chief among them the NRA, than it does to make laws to improve OUR rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is not the government that Americans want.

So with that in mind, I’ve started a petition.  It’s time that those elected to represent US actually start doing it.  And if they cannot, it’s time for them to go.

As citizens of the United States of America, we are tired of having our Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness taken away by those who would seek to abuse the Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms.  They are not part of a well regulated militia, and instead of using firearms to protect their home, their property or the nation, they use them to violate the unalienable Rights of other innocents citizens.  This is unacceptable.  
We demand that Congress do its job to protect the Unalienable Rights of Americans.
We demand that Congress put the American People FIRST ahead their reelection campaigns.  
We demand common sense solutions to the horrors of violent, domestic terrorism. 

 

If you agree, please sign via Change.org. 

TLCQ 2018: Vanessa Edwards Foster

In the Thirteenth installment of the 2018 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Vanessa Edwards Foster,  candidate for U.S. House, Texas’ 27th District.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

VF:  Vanessa Edwards Foster

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

VF:  Unless you count being elected as a precinct chair, NO.  I’ve never been employed in the public sector.

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

VF:  Government is, essentially, the public trust.  Its goal is to provide for the common good by creating, in deliberative fashion, rules and structure that will successfully maintain the security, the commerce and the well-being for every one of its citizens.  It should also be vigilant to ensure that these rules are neither exploited by those in elected office acting as agents for outside interests for profit, power or both, nor that these rules are bent or changed to punitively impact one segment of society at the behest of another in order to uphold the well-being of society overall.  We must also be vigilant to the potential of forces abroad attempting to externally manipulate and undermine our system of government and act to cease those efforts any time we discover them.  Government was created, and should remain, by and for all citizens of this nation.

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for the upcoming legislative session. Describe how you plan to accomplish them.

VF:  Funding and pushing for groundbreaking on infrastructure needs throughout this nation — we’re desperately too far behind on this issue.  Ensuring protection of social security, Medicare, Medicaid and moving to seek Medicare for all in order to stop the healthcare calamity which is nearly bankrupting us.  Finding a solution to address the wage gap and the wealth gap in America.

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is on course to have an unprecedented boom in the state’s population. But with more people and more opportunities comes an ever-increasing strain on Texas roads and infrastructure. Describe your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve Texas infrastructure now so we can plan for a bright future for the state.

VF:  Obviously funding.  Beyond that, we need a transportation department with vision to set aside current open space via planned future eminent domain and begin negotiating with landowners way before the project in those areas to find an equitable agreement to have said tracts set aside with that future growth in mind.  Additionally, smart-growth options such as rail or subway options and right-of-way development for bicycle trails is strongly needed.  Preparing for the eventuality of autonomous (or self-driving) vehicles as well as vastly increasing development of charging stations (and the necessary electrical grid to power those) for hybrid vehicles is also a necessary goal to keep pace with the advancing technologies.

TL:  Even as impressive growth continues in around the state’s urban centers, rural Texans are faced with a healthcare crisis.  According to Laura Garcia of the Victoria Advocate, rural communities across the state have lost 18 hospitals in less than five years, and this was before any additional challenges worsened by natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.  Without hospital services in or near their local communities, the medical and emergency care is at an increasing risk our citizens.  As a legislator, how would you plan to address this issue and help Texas’ vital rural healthcare facilities stay open?  

VF:  This is a difficult problem to tackle.  There’s a number of factors at play here: population decrease in small-town America, funding to keep these hospitals in business and enticements to reopen or entice new ownership to move in and continue the facility.  While it’s crucial to have healthcare facilities within a reasonable drive of county residents, the small populations in sparse areas, coupled with population decline in many of these communities makes it unlikely that some of these closures can be reversed or prevented.  The benchmark for hospital feasibility is that the region have a population of around 40,000.  Another factor that contributes to this is Obamacare — in particular the states that refused to expand Medicaid to cover for it (Texas being one), leaving many residents still uninsured.  As such, hospitals in those non-expanded states bled red ink until they could no longer keep their doors open.  Enticing new hospital owners to come in and fill that gap will be key, but won’t be an easy fix as Trump’s Tax Cut just sliced over $1 trillion in Medicaid from the budgets over the next decade.  This might be solved by expanding Medicare to cover all citizens, but that will take time.  My suggestion would perhaps involve an incentive for non-profit university hospital systems (e.g. UTMB, Baylor College of Medicine, etc.) to move in and take over as satellite teaching facilities for their student and interns.  Beyond that, I honestly don’t have a solid answer to this problem.

TL:  In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission voted to overturn an Obama-era rule which classifies internet service providers as public utilities, and thereby governed under the 1934 Communications Act.  This decision essentially erases the principle that Internet Service Providers should treat all online content equally without giving preference to particular sources, otherwise known as Net Neutrality.  Please describe your views on this decision, and whether or not you would support legislation at the State or Federal level to uphold the principle of Net Neutrality.

VF:  Net neutrality should NOT be overturned.  The internet was originally created by the government and funded by taxpayers, and has since remained part of the public domain.  Giving away the internet to profiteering corporations is absolutely wrong.  It’s especially alarming that this will essentially kill internet for many in isolated rural areas of the country where only small, local providers prevail — small providers who will easily be locked out of the market by the huge corporations.

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office?

VF:  My campaign is quite similar to Bernie Sanders in that I do everything with people power and will only accept campaign contributions from individuals, and I’ve been told I may need to reconsider at least one PAC (Act Blue Veterans).  However, I will not accept contributions from corporations, from special interests or from most all PAC’s.  Represent the people — not special interests.

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

VF:  Listening to my albums (I have an extensive collection of LP’s), or occasionally noodling around on my guitar.

 

Thanks to Ms. Foster for the responses.

 

Texas Primary Election Day is Tuesday March 6th, and Early Voting begins February 20th.  For the Primary, you must register to vote no later than February 5th (if you’re unsure of your voting status, here’s where you can check your registration).  Early voting procedures can differ depending on your county, but here are helpful links to some: Harris CountyFort Bend CountyBrazoria CountyMontgomery County, and Galveston County

For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

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