Category Archives: Texas

University of Houston To Host 2016 GOP Primary Debate

Some big news coming from Houston, as the 2016 Presidential race will soon turn its eyes and ears to one of the Lone Star State’s rising educational stars.  Early next year, the University of Houston will play host to a 2016 Primary Debate for the Republican Party.  Here’s the scoop via UH press release

The University of Houston has been selected by NBC News and Telemundo to host a Republican presidential candidates’ debate on the UH campus Feb. 26, 2016.

The debate, sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, is slated to be the final GOP debate before the crucial “Super Tuesday” primary contests in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia on March 1. Alaska, Minnesota and Wyoming also will award delegates on that same day. All candidates who qualify are expected to participate in the debate, which will be presented in partnership with National Review.

“Diversity is more than our demographics at the University of Houston – it’s our commitment to expression, varied viewpoints, and the belief that challenging the status quo produces the strongest innovation,” said University of Houston System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator. “This debate comes at a pivotal moment in the election cycle. We’re delighted to host a national conversation with real-life impact on our community and country, and welcome an evening of engaging discourse to our campus.”

The debate will be broadcast nationwide on the NBC News and Telemundo networks.

According to the American Presidency Project, UH’s announcement will mark only the 3rd time that a major Presidential or Vice Presidential Debate has been hosted in the state of Texas.  Houston’s Alley Theater played host to a 1976 Vice Presidential debate between Walter Mondale and Bob Dole, and UT Austin hosted candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in early 2008 Democratic Primary contest.  For a state as big and influential as Texas, this is quite the “get” for Khator and the University of Houston.

Earlier this year, other Texas sites were in the running to land a General Election debate, but those sites where given to other locations.

Houston Opens Buffalo Bayou Park to Rave Reviews

Texas, meet your New “Riverwalk”.  

Last weekend against a backdrop of near perfect weather, the city of Houston cut the ribbon on a years-long project, and a dream come true for Mayor Annise Parker and many others in the city.  The newly-renovated Buffalo Bayou Park made its official debut to the world.  And if initial impressions hold up, it may be on its to becoming a world-class destination.

Here’s more on the big reveal from Leo Flores of the Memorial Examiner

Buffalo Bayou Park is officially opened. After a $58 million renovation, the 160-acre and 2.3 mile green space that stretches along Buffalo Bayou features two pedestrian bridges, a picnic pavilion, one of the city’s largest dog parks, a skate park, and children’s play area.

The park was made possible through a public and private partnership led by Buffalo Bayou Partnership, The City of Houston Parks Department, Harris County Flood Control District and the Kinder Foundation.

[…]

“As Houston’s population grows, so will the desire for the quality of life amenities like parks and green spaces,” said Nancy Kinder, president of the Kinder Foundation.

“As a foundation, we saw an opportunity to work collaboratively to develop the urban jewel that is Buffalo Bayou Park, which will be enjoyed by individuals from all parts of the world.”

The park’s renovation project took just four years to complete, and was open throughout the construction. The vast improvements have taken the park from an empty grassy field to a vibrant green space where families can picnic, exercise, pontoon boat tours and even enjoy live entertainment.

The October 3rd grand opening was actually rescheduled from June 20th, due to the recent Memorial Day flood which heavily affected the park as it neared completion.  But even in that situation, designers were mostly impressed with how well the design coped with the event, and recovered in the weeks that followed.

Not only is the transfiguration gaining attention and envy from our in-state sibling cities, but it’s also garnering some national news coverage, especially from the architecture and design community.  

The 2.3 mile stretch represents the first phase in a series of projects, the next of which will focus on the downtown section of the bayou. If you haven’t been out to see the new Buffalo Bayou yet, be sure to do so in the coming days.  As of October 3rd’s grand opening, users can now rent bicycles, canoes and kayaks at various stations within the park.  Visit the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to learn about all the cool new amenities before you go.

 

Buff4

(photo credit:  Jazztour.ru)

 

 

Buff1

Buff2

Buff3

(photos credit:  Buffalo Bayou Partnership facebook)

HouBuff3

The new Buffalo Bayou Park visitors center is nearing completion, but now open for equipment rentals at Sabine St. and Allen Parkway.

HouBuff

It’s also a great place to catch some stunning skyline views before or after a park visit.  

HouBuff2

HouBuff1

 

 

Ted Cruz Spews Islamophobic Comments in Michigan

Last month, there was a glimmer of hope for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as he rebuked salacious comments (well, sort of) by another GOP rival Ben Carson, whom said that a Muslim could never be President of the United States.

But those that have watched Cruz closely know that what he says today will likely be very different than the comments of tomorrow. On the campaign trail in Michigan, the Senator’s Islamophobic pandering was back on full display.

Here’s the story from Jonathan Oosting at Michigan Live

KALAMAZOO, MI — Presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Monday morning in Michigan that it would be “absolutely crazy” to bring more Syrian refugees to the United States, despite a humanitarian crisis that has captured the attention of the world.

The U.S. Senator from Texas spoke to a crowd of roughly 800 guests at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, criticizing President Barack Obama on a number of fronts, including his plans to allow more Syrian refugees into the country.

“What President Obama is proposing to do, bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslims to America, is nothing short of crazy,” Cruz told the crowd during a question and answer period.

[…]

“It would be the height of foolishness to bring in tens of thousands of people, including jihadists who are coming here to murder innocent Americans,” Cruz said. “…With respect to the refugees, it is a humanitarian crisis, but they ought to be settled in the middle east, in majority Muslim countries.”

Is it even possible to defend the constitution’s freedom religion, and then make comments like these??  In the world of Ted Cruz, apparently so.

In a time where Muslim communities across this country suffer constant discrimination, unfair scrutiny and unspeakable indignation, it’s a real disappointment to hear such irresponsible comments from a statewide elected official.  Nevermind the fact that half a million Texas residents whom happen to be Muslim should expect better of their Senator.

Sadly, Cruz’s carelessness comes the same week that Anti-Islamic rallies  are planned across the United States.  The rallies have are planned to be staged in front of American mosques in places like Kentucky, and possibly even Houston.

The threat is so serious that CAIRThe Council on American- Islamic Relations, released a statement of alert to American Muslim communities.

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/4/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today urged Muslim community leaders to consider instituting additional safety measures in response to hate rallies by possibly armed anti-Muslim extremists targeting mosques nationwide on October 10.

[NOTE: October 9 has also been mentioned online as a date for the hate rallies.]

CAIR also called on all Presidential candidates and other elected officials to not only repudiate Anti-Muslim hate rallies, but also to show support for the community by visiting a mosque this weekend.

No doubt that many of the Senator’s constituents will be looking for a more sensible response.  At this point, no one can be quite sure what they’ll get from Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz

 

Are Texas Workplace Injuries Under-Reported??

At the height of his influence, former Governor Rick Perry was darting across the country to tout his role in the Texas Miracle.  As other states have continued to slowly climb their way out of the Great Recession, Texas seemed to be blasting off like never before.  Particularly for those wanting to start a business and hire a cheap workforce the Lone Star State has rarely shined brighter than in the early 2010s.

But at some point, we have to ask what allows the state’s workforce to remain so cheap, even as wages remain flat and rising property values put an enormous strain on everyday families.  What is Texas doing to keep our work environment so low-cost??

As Jim Malewitz of the Texas Tribune reveals in a new report, part of that puzzle is what we’re not doing… properly documenting workplace injuries.

On any given day across Texas, truck drivers might crash their vehicles, construction workers tumble from scaffolding or refinery workers inhale nauseating fumes.

But many of their injuries will be documented poorly by employers and insurance companies. Some will go unreported entirely — as if they never happened. As a result, no one really knows how many Texans — or Americans, for that matter — are hurt at work.

What is written down about workplace injuries  — and when it’s written — is more than just scorekeeping. Documentation can largely determine whether workers get medical care covered by insurance companies, or fall into whatever social safety net exists, relying on government aid and public programs to recover and support themselves.

[…]

In its report to the Legislature last year, the state Division of Workers’ Compensation touted a remarkable statistic: Texas workers are filing far fewer claims than they once did — a 31 percent drop over the past decade.

The report offered many possible explanations for a trend that mirrors other states, including more safety awareness at job sites, stepped up watchdog efforts from state and federal regulators and new, safer technology.

But in one clause of one sentence of its report, the division touched on another factor potentially at play: “the possibility of under-reporting workplace injuries and illnesses.”

Make that a probability of under-reporting.  Technological advances aside, blue-collar work across the state has only increased over the last decade as more people continue to move in, and require more homes and businesses to be built and serviced.  More workers with a drop in injury claims?  Something definitely doesn’t add up.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a workplace injury claim in Texas, make sure to visit the Texas Department of Insurance Workers Compensaion page.  And remember all claims must be filed within 30 days of the incident to be eligible.

Let’s hope that more Texas workers can be made aware of their rights, and don’t have to continue suffering in silence.

TxWork

(Photo Credit:  Jones Lawyers

 

Houston’s Next Great Challenge? Affordable Housing

Like the brightest of stars, the 2010s have (thus far) been a very good decade for Houston. The parade of accolades have been rolling in… best city for this, number 1 at that.  In the coming years however, the Space City may be brought back to earth.

Besides a fluctuating oil price market, there’s another important metric where Houston’s big advantages are fading fast:  affordable housing.  The days of the Bayou City being a place where you could ‘have it all’ on a modest income are just about gone.  Paul Takahashi of the Houston Business Journal even goes so far to label our current market in an ‘affordable housing crisis’…

For much of the past half-decade, Houston has been in this envious position where employment and incomes have been growing while housing has remained “remarkably affordable.” However, that has changed amid the recent energy boom, according to Zillow economists.

Houston home prices have climbed to record highs as thousands of new residents moved to the Bayou City, fueling a hot housing market. In addition, growing construction, land and labor costs have forced homebuilders to build ever more expensive homes to hit their profit margins.

[…]

At the same time, rents also have risen to record levels amid Houston’s tight housing market. Houston’s median monthly rent grew 5.4 percent year over year to $1,522 in July 2015, according to the Houston Realtors Information Service Inc.

For many middle-class Houstonians the term crisis may seem a little harsh to describe the area’s housing woes.  But one look at the struggles of low-income residents reveals a very tough road ahead. As rent and housing prices continue to ratchet upward, the Republican-dominated state legislature has done everything in its power to restrict a city or county’s ability to raise its minimum wage, even as they simultaneously sue Washington, preaching the “necessity of local control” from the Federal Government.  The end result of this political wrangling?  Real Houston families making far below the city’s Living Wage, getting priced out of their preferred neighborhood and worrying whether they’ll have any place to live tomorrow.

It’s time to shed some light on Houston’s affordable housing crisis.  This issue may not garner much press in the current municipal elections, but affordable housing is likely to be a major challenge for the next Mayor and City Council of Houston.  Let’s hope that all of the candidates will see this coming.

 Affordable Housing Hou

Houston Honors Community Leaders, Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

All too often when we turn on the news, we hear so much about people doing the bad things– someone who has committed a crime and escaped, another person that is going to jail, murderers, rapists and thieves.  Sadly, most media coverage of minority communities is especially guilty of focusing on the negative, while omitting the hard work of those trying to pave a better future.

This continuing imbalance is a huge part of why observations like Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), which goes from September 15th to October 15th of each year, are not only needed, but very relevant in contemporary American society.  It is a time for the nation to shine a light on the boundless contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans, and celebrate the culture’s place in our diverse society.

One way that the City of Houston celebrates this month is by recognizing outstanding community leaders with the Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award.  Via the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, here’s information on this year’s honorees…

2015 HISPANIC HERITAGE AWARD RECIPIENTS ANNOUNCED

The 2015 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients are being honored with proclamations from Mayor Annise Parker today and October 6, 2015 at Houston City Hall.  Each honoree was selected based on his or her outstanding contributions toward enhancing the quality of life and advancement of Houston’s Hispanic community.

This year’s Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award recipients are:

Lifetime Achievement Awards: Josefina Rendon and Jose Adan Trevino
Josefina Rendon was one of Harris County’s first Hispanic women attorneys and the first woman and first Hispanic Civic Service Commissioner for the City of Houston.  In 1983 she became Houston’s third Latina municipal court judge, where she still presides.  Her judicial career also includes becoming the first Latina Civil District Judge in Harris County.  Judge Rendon is the immediate past president of the Association for Conflict Resolution – Houston and past president of the Texas Association of Mediators.  She is a published author of over 100 articles and the recipient of both the Justice Frank Evans Award from the State Bar of Texas and the Susanne Adams Aware from the Texas Association of Mediators.

Jose Adan Trevino is founder and former President/CEO of Univision 45, Houston’s first Spanish language television station.  Trevino has also been a strong voice on behalf of the Hispanic community at the local and national levels.  He has served on many boards including the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Chancellor’s Council at the University of Texas-Austin, Houston Community College Foundation, Texas State Securities Board, Baylor College of Medicine, Governor’s Business Council and the Greater Houston Partnership.

Community Activist: Gilbert Garcia
Gilbert Garcia has enjoyed much success professionally, but he has also been a dedicated volunteer, leader and activist in the Houston Hispanic community.  In 2010, Garcia was appointed as the first Hispanic chairman of METRO.  Under his leadership, METRO has restored its public image, repaired its relationship with the Federal Transit Administration, improved customer service, obtained voter approval for more funding, expanded light rail service to the Hispanic community and received the Gold Leadership Circle Award for transparency from the Texas State Comptroller.  His volunteer work includes countless hours of service on difference nonprofit boards and fundraising for community improvement efforts and organizations that benefit the Hispanic community.

Education in the Community: Gloria Zenteno
Gloria Zenteno founded Barrio Dogs in 2010 after she moved back to the East End and witnessed homeless, neglected and mistreated animals seemingly everywhere.  The organization stresses the importance of spaying and neutering pets and encourages residents to report animal abuse or neglect to authorities.  By working in community centers and schools and holding events at civic association meetings and parks, Barrio Dogs spreads its message to the larger community.  Zenteno’s hard work and commitment to her East End community and to its animals are obvious and serve as a great example for others to follow.

Youth Activist: James Lee
James Lee is the public affairs field specialist for Legacy Community Health.  While a student at the University of Houston (UH), he founded LGBT Advocates, the first undergraduate political organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.  As the leader of the organization, he worked to expand UH’s nondiscrimination policy to include protections for all LGBT students.  As a member of the UH Student Government Association, Lee also advocated on behalf of undocumented students and for revisions to academic policy regarding mental health.  His work in the area of healthcare policy advocacy has been recognized by the Texas Freedom Network, which honored Lee with the 2012 Samantha Smoot Activist Award.

Art in the Community: Daniel Bustamante
Daniel Bustamante is Executive Director of the Greater Houston Fair Housing Center and a founding member of the Multicultural Arts Cooperative of Houston. He is an experienced producer, director and administrator of festivals, tours, television, community programs and special events.  Bustamante’s record of community service spans nearly 40 years and includes being a founding member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Go Tejano Committee, membership in the Houston Association of Hispanic Media Professionals and serving as chair of the Casa de Amigos Health Clinic Advisory Council.  He has been founded, produced or directed a dozen local shows and festivals.

 

2015 marks the 10th year of this prestigious group of awards.  Here’s the list of past honorees.

These citizens are working everyday to improve the lives of Houstonians, and it is great to see them recognized for all that they do.  A special congratulations to Josefina Rendon, Jose Adam Trevino, Daniel Bustamante, Gloria Zenteno, Gilbert Garcia and James Lee.

Beyond these awards, there are lots of special events happening throughout Houston for Hispanic Heritage Month.  For more information, check out this great calendar compiled by Hispanic Houston.

 

HHMHou

2015 Hispanic Heritage Honorees pose with City Council Members, and citizens on the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board.  Photo credit:  Victoria Lara via Facebook.  

 

President Obama Works to Strengthen U.S. Ties With Africa. Can Texas Benefit?

With a quiet confidence and an audience of of the world’s best and brightest, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States made history earlier this year in the bustling city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Barack Obama became the first sitting US President to address the African Union.  Here’s more from The Africa Report

US President Barack Obama advised African leaders to respect their constitutions and condemned those who refuse to step down when their terms end, in an historic address to the African Union, in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday.

Obama’s speech, the first by a sitting President of the United States at the AU, acknowledged progress Africa has made, ranging from a decline in HIV case to attracting increased foreign direct investment to the continent.

But he told the African Union that these gains rest “on a fragile foundation”.

“Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives,” he said.

The remarks were the culmination of a landmark visit which also brought the President back to his father’s homeland of Kenya, and several meetings with leaders from across the continent.

His speech to the African Union may have leaned towards governance, but while in Kenya, Obama made some significant progress towards economic ties with the rapidly-rising nation and it’s neighboring economies.  As Jake Bright of Fortune magazine reports, new business opportunities are literally booming across the continent…

After a decade of rapid economic growth, a fast-rising African consumer class is expected to wield over $1 trillion in annual spending power by 2020. Foreign aid in Africa is being overshadowed by record increases in foreign direct investment, up 42% between 2008 and 2014, to $55 billion. Over the last two years, countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia have gained sovereign credit ratings and issued global government bonds now included in the portfolios of funds like PIMCO. And Africa’s stock markets are capitalizing and digitizing, as many of them partner with exchanges such as NASDAQ to adopt the latest trading platforms.

[…]

A major area attracting talent and U.S. investment is Africa’s emerging tech sector, which is most strongly associated with Kenya. The East African nation of 44 million has become the continent’s unofficial tech capital, dubbed “Silicon Savannah” for its advances inmobile money, tech incubators such as iHub, and local IT innovations such as the Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform and solar powered BRCK mobile Wi-Fi device that are finding applications in the U.S.

Kenya’s tech status has inspired a startup boom across the continent, led by many young African entrepreneurs with strong U.S. ties who are connecting ventures to American investment.

So what could all of these new inroads to the African continent mean for Texas metros like Houston?

Two words… trade missions.

As Houston Mayor Annise Parker has shown during her time in office, following Obama’s lead on international opportunities can have positive reverberations in the local economy.  The new economic ties with African nations can be utilized with all of the other important connections shared between the vast, diverse continent and the rapidly diversifying Lone Star State.  With its plethora of international flights, huge energy and medical research sectors, and established African immigrant communities, Houston seems a natural fit for these routes of growth.  But booming Tech sectors and an expanding need for digital expansion stands to benefit cities like Tech-savvy Austin as well.

Whether they agree with his politics or not, cities across Texas would be wise to follow this segment of Obama’s legacy.  It’s an important message for the next Mayor of Houston, and other state metros.

Let’s hope that state leaders see the growing potential that lies with the people of Africa.

 

Obama in Africa

(photo credit:  WhiteHouse.gov)