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.

Ray Hill: Never Afraid To Speak Out

Everyone has moments in their life where we are faced with an immediate choice.  When we witness an injustice, do we speak out at that very moment, or do we shy away and try to make sense of it in our individual way?  Rarely is this inner struggle an easy one.  But whether easy or not for Houston human rights activist and LGBT icon Ray Hill, we do know that he found the courage to speak out, and fight for justice over the course of decades.

Now Ray himself may have referred to this speaking out as a “performance piece” in some circumstances… he was willing to yell, scream, get arrested and perform any type of civil disobedience as needed to draw attention to issues.  But whether performing or not, Hill was known as someone that generated important results.

Over this weekend, the legendary Ray Hill passed away.  From the Houston Chronicle

Hill, who late in life eschewed leadership roles in activist circles to hone a career as a monologuist — a dramatic undertaking that gained him appreciative audiences in New York, Pennsylvania and New England — died of heart failure in hospice care Saturday. He was 78.

A legend in his own right — and in his own mind — Hill’s business card described his profession as “citizen provocateur,” a proudly worn label he received from a Supreme Court justice after a long-ago legal battle with the cops.

“I was born to rub the cat hair the wrong direction,” he once said.

A rabblerouser, a social gadfly with a sting, Hill made the issues that mattered to him matter to everyone — or at least to those in power. He launched his activist career in 1975 after returning to Houston from a four-year stint in prison for burglary and larceny.

Ever willing to fight the man, at one point Hill bested the City of Houston in the highest court in the land when he got the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an ordinance that made it illegal to interrupt police officers.

Hill’s work continues to have an impact.  Long before the days of cell phone video, Hill fought for the constitutional rights of citizens as they encountered law enforcement.  A case he won against the City of Houston in the Supreme Court not only struck down the city ordinance, but is now used across the nation as more documentation of these interactions are known to the public.  His experience as a prison inmate turned prison reform activist have caused substantive changes in an aspect of Texas that few may understand, but that affects us all.

For decades, Ray Hill showed Houston, the state of Texas, and the entire world the true power of refusing to accept one’s contemporary circumstance.  Be it through civil disobedience (and maybe occasionally un-civil), wielding drama or plain old persistence, Hill was willing to work for change when he saw the need for it.  And as a result, he left an indelible influence on a whole generation of Texas activists.

I was fortunate enough to meet Ray Hill on a couple of occasions, but the one I remember most was sitting down with him and fellow activist Jenifer Rene Pool when she was a guest of his on KPFT.  Pool was running for Houston City Council, and I served as her Social Media director at the time.  As they spoke about various topics, the notion of finding one’s place came up.  After a moment of back and forth, Hill finally said, “but it’s not always about finding your place.  If you can’t find it after a while, you better just make it.

And that was Ray Hill, a true Texas original.  Because of his work, many more of us have a place in the conversation.  But that’s no excuse to stop making new ones as well.

Thank you Ray.

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of November 19th

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at the results of the Congressional races to find some themes about what happened and what we can learn from them.

SocraticGadfly remembers the centenary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Along with indulging in counterfactual history, he says people should stop romancing war in general.

As the results of the 2018 election are still being finalized, Texas Leftist is pretty sure that the Georgia Governor’s race will be remembered as one of the most important of this cycle. Though Democrat Stacey Abrams has ended her historic campaign, the work she does to combat Voter Suppression will have a lasting national impact.

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

Better Texas Blog explains the spending cap that the Legislature adheres to.

Houston Justice League reports from the NAACP Houston chapter elections.

Houston Legal has the details of the public reprimand issued by the State Bar of Texas against former Harris County GOP Chair and notorious homophobe Jared Woodfill.

Nonsequiteuse urges Beto O’Rourke to take another run for the Senate in 2020.

Paradise in Hell tells you more than you needed to know about Trumpy Bear.

Dan Solomon is satisfied with how the Amazon HQ2 thing turned out.

Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams Ends One Campaign, Begins Another

If you’ve gotten the sense over few weeks that every day seems like an election day, it’s because that sense is basically true.

Long past November 6th, we continue to see high drama play out within close races, both here in Texas, and across the country.  As analysts continue to assess the ramifications of the 2018 Elections, the Georgia Governor’s race will surely stand out as one of the most important contests in our nation’s history.

In Georgia, where Legislator, Democrat and long-time voting rights activist Stacey Abrams battled with former Secretary of State (known for his long history of voter suppression) Republican Brian Kemp.  After more than a week of suspense, the outcome of this race is finally known.  Via Vanessa Williams and John Wagner of The Washington Post

Democrat Stacey Abrams ended her campaign for governor of Georgia on Friday, lamenting voting irregularities that she said tainted the election but conceding that former Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp would be declared the winner.

Abrams, who had hoped to become the nation’s first elected female African American governor, had worked to force a runoff with Kemp, who as of late Thursday led by 54,801 votes out of 3.9 million cast.

Kemp’s 50.22 percent of the tally put the Republican just above the 50 percent-plus-one-vote threshold required to avoid a runoff election in December.

[…]

Earlier Friday, Abrams was considering filing a separate lawsuit contesting the results and demanding a new election. That would have been based on a provision in Georgia law that allows losing candidates to challenge results.

But she said Friday evening that she did not want to gain an office if she had to “scheme” to get it.

In her speech, Abrams made it clear that she was not giving a speech of concession, but simply acknowledging that her path to victory in the race for Governor was unlikely.  But after a career of fighting despicable voter suppression tactics against the state’s minority communities, she vowed to continue the important work of making elections in the state of Georgia representative of all of its citizens.

Abrams also got real with her supporters.  She spoke out on the many heinous atrocities that Former Secretary of State, now Governor- Elect Brian Kemp employed on Georgians to impede their right to vote.  Even as the campaign for Governor ends, Stacey Abrams also announced that she is not done fighting.  Even as she pledged to pray for the Governor Elect as he prepares to take his post, Abrams also announced the creation of Fair Fight Georgia, an organization dedicated to the integrity of the state’s electoral process.

Candidate Stacey Abrams may not be the next Governor of Georgia, but she has rightly earned the title of Teacher for us all. Through her refusal to give in to a system which silences the voices of its citizens, Abrams is now paving the way for better, fairer elections across the United States.

Thank you Stacey.  Please Fight On.

Alpha Big H: GaWC Ranks Houston As Texas’ First ‘Alpha World City’

In Texas, we talk alot about the “Big D”.  But it might just be time to up the conversation about the “Big H”.

According to the UK based Globalization and World Cities Research Network, the leading academic think tank on cities in globalization, the city of Houston has been doing some B-I-G things of late.  So big that we’ve managed to garner the world’s attention.  For the first time ever, Houston has been ranked as an Alpha World City by the GaWC, and also marks the first city in Texas to claim the distinction.

The new report sees the Big H out rank  other American cities like Denver, Atlanta, Boston and even our in-state neighbor Dallas.

In previous rankings, the Texas urban titans of Dallas and Houston were both classified as Beta World Cities.  Dallas retains its ranking from the previous report.

Per the group’s own metrics, the rankings are a measurement of how well a major city and its regional economy are integrated into the world economy.  Given Houston’s continued standing as one of the world’s leading energy captials, the ascent to Alpha status in comparison to other Texas metros may come as less of a surprise.  But even outside of the immediate energy realm, Houston’s recent advances in areas like healthcare, education and transportation have also proven to have a global impact.

Photo Credit:  L. Wayne Ashley for Ingressive Media 

Texoblogosphere: Week of November 12th

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates last week’s wins and looks to build on them as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff has some fun with the Harris County Republican Party and its ridiculous whining about straight ticket voting.

SocraticGadfly had a three-part election wrap. First, he looked at general hot takes, trends and issues from races. Second, he observed that conservative writers at centrist political mags were getting out the long knives for Beto, maybe in fear of a 2020 presidential run. Third, noting successful Democratic Socialist of America campaigns, he wondered if they would stay true to ideals once in office, and other issues, above all, the use of the word “socialist.”

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

Colin Strother makes the case for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Therese Odell vents about the Saturday Night Live/Dan Crenshaw situation.

Sanford Nowlin reports on how progressives hope to build on 2018.

Paradise in Hell interprets the Presidential appointment-making process.

Grits for Breakfast looks at the 2018 results through a criminal justice reform lens.

Dan Gordon cuts through the anti-Semitic crap.

 

And just gotta say… the view from a much more #BlueTexas is looking pretty good!!  Let’s work together, and fully realize that dream in 2020 and 2022.

Houston Region Prepares For New Era With Harris County Judge-Elect Lina Hidalgo

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again… Elections have consequences.

Speaking on Election Night 2018 after her incredible victory, Harris County Judge-Elect Lina Hidalgo reflected briefly on another recent election…

Like thousands of women across the country this year, I decided about 15 months ago that I wasn’t just going to let things be.  That I was going to do things myself.  I never thought I would work in politics.  I never thought I would run for office.  I thought I would continue my career working, pushing for the system to work better from the outside.

But I had to step up.  And truth is, with the turnout we saw this year, we’ve all stepped up.  We realized that Democracy depends on our participation.

And because she stepped up, Hidalgo will now be the top government official of the third largest County in the country… a county larger in population than 26 states.

To many, the result is something of a surprise.  Even this very blog endorsed Judge-Elect Hidalgo’s opponent Ed Emmett, largely based on his record of service and his ability to put the needs of citizens largely above politics.

But with the race now settled, Texas Leftist looks forward to Ms. Hidalgo’s leadership, and many possible changes to come.

One change is already clear.  Joining Hidalgo will be Commissioner-apparent Adrian Garcia (at present Commissioner Jack Morman has yet to concede the race) and Commissioner Rodney Ellis, which marks the first Democratic majority in charge of Harris County in over a generation.

And what can we expect to see under Judge Hidalgo’s leadership??  Issues highlighted during her campaign were to create a county government that is “proactive, not reactive” when it comes to flood protection, disaster preparation, comprehensive public transportation, education and government transparency.

Check out this wide-ranging interview done with political blogger an media strategist Egberto Willies.  For those with any doubt, this should make it perfectly clear that Judge-Elect Hidalgo is ready to lead the 4.6 million residents of Harris County.

 

Operation Think Swing Texas 2018: At Long Last, We’re A-Swingin’!!!

Just before the 2014 Election, I wrote a post about how Texas was inching ever closer to Swing State status. Battleground Texas was hard at work, and as a result, Voter Registration had reached historic highs for a mid-term Election Cycle.  Then-Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was hard at work, especially in her home District of Tarrant County, while then- Lt. Gov. candidate Leticia Van de Putte was giving impressive stump speeches across the state.    Democrats were hopeful to at least see some Progress.
And then came Election Night.  Any hope from the surge in voter registrations quickly faded, as it was clear that all those new and infrequent voters just didn’t show up.  With voter participation at historically low levels, Republicans victory swept through the Lone Star State yet again.

But the path to Swing State status never actually changed.

Here’s some information from my 2012 post, the original “Operation Think Swing Texas”.  Notice that just 6 years ago, even Harris County was not nearly as dependably blue as we’ve seen in the last few cycles…
Tier 2 we’ll consider these “swing” counties. These flipped to vote for Obama by a smaller margin such as Harris (Houston), Jefferson (Beaumont) or Bexar (San Antonio). But you can also consider other counties that held for McCain, but by a rapidly decreasing margin… Hays, Fort Bend, Williamson and Nueces (Corpus Christi). Texas Democrats should work hard to keep Harris county in the blue and try to flip Hays, Williamson or Fort Bend. If one of those were to flip in 2012, it would mark the first time a substantial suburban county went blue. The impact of this could not be understated because it would show that Texas follows the same model as any other swing state… The cities become heavily Democratic, rural areas lean Republican, and the election battle is fought and won in the suburban counties.

It just took a bit longer than some may have expected, but at long last, Texas is finally stepping into Swing State territory.  After seeing an historic number of voters registered (step 1), and then followed up by impressive turnout (steps 2-1,000), the 2018 Texas Electorate has now finally proved a fertile ground for good Democratic candidates.  Thanks to turnout  which was nearly double that of the 2014 contest, any possibility of Republican statewide candidates winning by 20 percentage points was wholly eradicated.

Perhaps most telling were the dramatic shifts in voter preference for the big urban and suburban county populations.  Here’s more on that from Alexa Ura, Chris Essig and Darla Cameron of the Texas Tribune

Counties that haven’t voted for a Democrat in decades turned out for Beto O’Rourke in his unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and he picked up enough support in ruby red Republican counties to force Cruz into single-digit wins.

It could all be a blip — a year of Democratic enthusiasm spurred by a shiny candidate or vitriol toward President Donald Trump. But with margins narrowing over time in some of the GOP’s longtime strongholds, Tuesday night’s results suggest that the Republican firewall in the suburbs could be cracking.

In Central Texas, O’Rourke broke the electoral status quo in Hays and Williamson counties, rapidly growing bedroom communities taking in new — likely liberal — residents from Austin.

Hays County, home to Texas State University, hadn’t voted for Democrats at the top of the ticket since 1992. But Republicans’ control of one of the fastest-growing counties in the country has been weakening for years. Last night’s results indicate the county is trending blue. It swung hard toward the Democrats, giving O’Rourke a 15.3 point margin and narrowly opting for Gov. Greg Abbott’s Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez despite the 9-point margin of victory Abbott claimed over Democrat Wendy Davis in 2014.

The flip to blue was less all-encompassing in Williamson County. O’Rourke claimed a 2.8 margin of victory, which was notable given how Republicans have long maintained a strong advantage there. Abbott easily held onto the county, but another statewide Republican — Attorney General Ken Paxton — lost there.

From Central Texas gaining blue ground, to the second time Fort Bend County managed to flip in Southeast Texas, to Tarrant County, for the first time in decades, joining the Light Blue club in North Texas… well, let’s just say the Cruz-O’Rourke map looked mighty similar to what Texas Leftist postulated 4 years prior…
Knowing that rural voters would continue to lean heavily Republican, and urban voters would become more Democratic, the fight for Texas would eventually come down to the suburban counties. 2018 proved that to be absolutely true. Beto won every single county that he would’ve needed to garner victory, he just didn’t win them by quite a large enough margin. With HIGHER VOTER TURNOUT in any number of the state’s largest counties, or simply closer margins in some of the suburban areas, Texas could easily be celebrating a Senator O’Rourke, an Attorney General Nelson, and even an Ag. Commissioner Olson. 
The answer, as always is HIGHER VOTER TURNOUT…
So no statewide races just yet, but some important victories just the same and encouraging movement for the future.  Welcome to Texas– Swing State style.