Tag Archives: Texas Congressional District 2

Is Ted Poe A Go for Light Rail?

Unless mine eyes and ears deceived me… yes. Though unlike the Chronicle’s Dug Begley, I’m not exactly ready to call him a ‘new rail line champion’.

In a bit of a shocker on the House floor yesterday, Congressman Ted Poe spoke in support of federal funding for Houston METRO’s University Line, the “cornerstone” branch of Houston’s light rail expansion that would connect Downtown and the Medical Center to the Galleria.

It’s common knowledge that John Culberson, who represents the area in which the westernmost branch of the rail line will run, is Capitol Hill’s most vocal opponent of rail transit. He has tried time and time again to kill all urban rail projects in Houston. But in speaking with Ted Poe yesterday on the House Floor, he almost sounded supportive of the line as well. Perhaps he was just trying to sound cordial with Poe and his Republican colleagues, but it’s a greater positive step than he’s ever taken before. From the video, Here’s what Poe had to say about the rail…

“…I have never been a strong champion of light rail, but my Congressional district includes a significant portion of the proposed rail line… A majority of my constituents in the affected area that would be served support the light rail. I am concerned that Section 166 of the bill that would prohibit federal funds from going to a part of the University Line that falls in… Mr. Culberson’s district, number 7. This language, although affecting his district primarily, indirectly affects my constituents because it has the effect of killing the whole project. Federal funds are needed to build the University Line in Houston. To be clear, Section 166 really doesn’t save any federal money, it just sends those funds to somewhere else

I’ve recently surveyed the constituents who live in the affected area in my Congressional district… Those in the affected area want light rail. On Facebook alone over the last few days, 604 people supported light rail and 340 opposed it.”

Just in case you’ve forgotten, this rare occurrence where a member of Congress is against a project, but is later swayed by the overwhelming support of his constituents? That’s actually how our government is supposed to work. Americans send Congress to Washington so that they will vote the interests of their constituents, not just hold to their personal, rigid beliefs. It was also quite surprising to see Poe concede this fact publicly.

Now the next question… will Ted Poe’s reasoning be enough to sway John Culberson to drop his bill killing federal funding? No one knows for sure, but after yesterday’s events in Congress, Houston is again closer than ever to completing a major piece of it’s planned transit infrastructure. It’s good to see that some in Washington are beginning to figure out that Houston doesn’t need to fall behind just to prove a talking point.

Many Republicans in Culberson’s district are in support of transit investment. I asked Republican activist and Houstonian Christopher Busby what he thought of Poe’s remarks, and here was his response…

“As a former University of Houston student who understands the need for a modern transportation system, I think Congressman Poe’s support for the University line is great. As we continue to grow and become a more dense urban population, projects like the University light rail will become more and more essential to the development of our city’s infrastructure. We have reached the time when development of new roads and maintenance of old ones is not enough to sustain our population growth.”

But having more Houstonians in support of rail transit is just the first step. Most of the University Line is still planned as an At-Grade system, and that’s going to lead to more accidents in the future. While renewed hopes for federal funding are great, it’s time for city leaders and METRO to consider grade separation for the University Line. Most expect that when completed, this line will have the highest ridership of the whole system. It will also be traveling through the most high-density area of the city… an area that is still growing very rapidly. More people and more cars make for a higher probability of accidents. But if Houston plans for a better system now, those future issues can be avoided.

For more on this, check out Off the Kuff.

Montrose, Meet Your ‘Poe’ Excuse for a Congressman

Houston is very diverse city, and few areas give a better taste of that diversity than the neighborhood of Montrose. It’s the heart of the GLBT community, and home to much of the city’s progressive (yes I said PROGRESSIVE) community. And in 2013, we have a “new” United States Congressman… Ted Poe.

So just what does Congressman Poe have in common with Houston’s progressive community? As it turns out, absolutely NOTHING. He has worked hard to earn a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign, which means that he is the absolute enemy on all GLBT issues from marriage equality to hate crimes prevention. Had Ted Poe had his way, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for our nation’s military would still be in place. And of course the Congressman is new to our area, but it’s worth noting that he was one of only 7 house members to vote against the Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization in 2009. Named after an Indiana teenager that died of the disease, Ryan White CARE is “insurance of last resort” for poor advanced HIV and AIDS patients when they can’t get medication or healthcare elsewhere. It’s also a critical funding source for clinics in the Montrose area that treat these patients. Well guess what, neighbors… it’s up for Reauthorization again this year.

Another issue that is certainly of concern to the citizens of Montrose is Immigration reform. We are in Texas, afterall. Regardless of how Immigration reform plays out, it will have a major effect on the the city of Houston, the state of Texas and all over. Most Montrose residents in fact probably know someone that will be directly affected, it not themselves. So if you were wondering where Mr. Poe stands in regards to Immigration reform, don’t expect him to have much empathy, or insight for the complex situations of Texas families. He likens illegal immigration to something that can be cured with insect repellant. Listen to what he said…

“Now it seems to me that if we are so advanced with technology and manpower and competence that we can capture illegal grasshoppers from Brazil, in the holds of ships that are in a little small place in Port Arthur, Texas on the Sabine River… If we’re able to do that as a country, how come we can’t capture the thousands of people that cross the border everyday on the southern border of the United States? You know they’re a little bigger than grasshoppers and they should be able to be captured easier.

If you’re looking for an adult conversation about our nation’s immigration system, you ain’t-a-gonna get it from Ted Poe.

Thankfully, the Congressman has recently softened his stance, saying in a recent Politico Op-Ed that he even supports Immigration reform now. But thanks to clips like the one above, I’ll have to believe it when I see it.

Perhaps what is most disturbing was a the recent vote to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, which Ted Poe gladly voted against. Of course when the citizens of Southeast Texas needed 1.7 Billion dollars in federal funds to recover from Hurricane Ike, Congressman Poe was a thankful recipient. So when it’s Texas families that need help repairing their homes and getting loans for their businesses, it’s “aid”, but if those families are in New Jersey it’s “wasteful spending”?

So Montrose there you go… this is the guy we’ve been stuck with thanks to Texas’ shoddy redistricting program. But our neighborhood does not have to be ignored. In fact, we should introduce ourselves to the Congressman with some phone calls, emails, Tweets and throw in a couple of invitations to the Pride Houston this summer.

We’re already in a Red State, right? Let’s show Mr. Poe just how red we can get.