Tag Archives: Texas politics

TLCQ 2014: Ron Hale

In the Second installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire we hear from Ron Hale, candidate for the Texas State Senate, District 15.  He is a Republican.

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? 

RH:  Ron Hale


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

RH:  No.

 

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

RH:  Government is important to the point of protecting the god given rights we are all given.

 

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session.  Describe how you plan to accomplish them. 

RH:  Property Tax Reform

Abolish property taxes and replace them with reformed state sales tax that includes an adjusted tax rate base.

Ideally, the reformed state sales tax would closely resemble the option with an 11% sales tax rate and an adjusted base that includes all services taxed in at least one other state, including the sale of property

Municipal Pension Reform

We have to fight to bring pension control back to our cities, so we do not have another Detroit situation on our hands.

Freeze enrollment in the current defined benefit system and enroll newly hired or unvested employees in a 401(k) style defined contribution pension plan.

Implement either a hard or soft freeze of the system for vested employees.

Replace current employee health care plans with Health savings accounts.

Education Reform

We must maintain our role as world leaders in educating our youth to be the workforce and future of our great State of Texas, and for America.

  •  I believe in having options when it comes to school choice, and that our tax dollars should have the ability to follow each student to their selected school of choice.

  •  There needs to be an end to standardized testing in Texas, and no longer should teachers be teaching an evaluation exam to students in order to achieve higher evaluation scores for that school.

  •  We need to encourage corporations and small businesses to partner up with local schools in their area so that they may provide workforce training during high-school, ensuring our graduates will have better career training and job opportunities.

 

TL:  A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association.  Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance.  This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded health care benefits in other states. If elected, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong?  If not, please explain why.  If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure. 

RH:  No I do not support Medicaid expansion. It is tax payer who fund Medicaid now and growth in the program means higher taxes. We need to figure out a way to lower health care cost in Texas to provide the best care possible and the lowest rates available.

 

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is projected to have a population boom of historic proportions.  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. 

 RH:  We need to open the bidding process to more companies with the tools to complete the jobs. this will bring to light the ability of lower cost construction through competitive bidding.

 

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

RH:  My ability to work well with others and the will to do the right thing for Texas not matter what the issue.

 

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

RH:  Reading and watching the history channel. Also, spending time with my wife and the rest of my family.

 

 

Thanks to Mr. Hale for his participation.

Leticia Van de Putte Launches TV Campaign

State Senator Leticia Van de Putte continues with another huge step in her historic campaign to be Texas’ first Female, Hispanic Lieutenant Governor. Today the Democratic candidate released her first major statewide TV ads.  Here’s more from the Van de Putte campaign via press release…

San Antonio, TX — This weekend, Leticia Van de Putte is releasing her first two television ads, one in English and a separate ad in Spanish. The 30-second spots are a significant buy in multiple major media markets, as well as markets with a dominant Latino population.

In “Twice,” Leticia Van de Putte directly calls out Dan Patrick, who voted twice against our kids. Patrick’s cuts to our neighborhood schools in 2011 resulted in the loss of 11,000 teacher jobs. In 2013, Leticia worked across the aisle with many Republicans to put Texas first and support our students. Despite bipartisan support for our neighborhood schools, Dan Patrick voted against our kids — again.

http://youtu.be/nfJSeVnBTyU

In “Respeto,” Leticia Van de Putte shares about the respect that every Texan deserves. Leticia introduces her immigrant grandmothers; as well as the service of her mother, a teacher, and that of her father, a veteran. Texans never give up, and Leticia — a mother of six, grandmother of six, pharmacist and a State Senator — commits to continue the fight to protect the future of our kids.

http://youtu.be/x5CbyT1qsg0

The aspirational nature of “Respeto”  speaks deeply to a community whose voice has long been lacking in Texas statewide politics.  “Twice” does a great job of straddling the lines of presenting negative information on the opponent, while managing to be a net positive ad. Touting her strong bipartisan record and unique family story, these ads seem to have all the right ingredients for success.

With six weeks to go before the first votes are cast, it’s impossible to predict just what kind of impact will be had from these spots.  But by getting out ahead of her opponent Dan Patrick with strong ads, Leticia has assured that the first “big move” is hers.

TLCQ 2014: Laura Nicol

In the First installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Laura Nicol, candidate for the Texas State Representative, District 133.  She is a Democrat.

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? 

LN:  Laura Nicol

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

LN:  No

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

LN:  Government’s job is the protection and empowerment of ordinary people and their communities. Protection from natural disasters, accidents, and predators (animals, people, and businesses). Empowerment via infrastructure, institutions, and programs that anyone can use to achieve success.

Workers need a living wage, humane working conditions, and affordable housing near public transportation. Families need wholesome food, health care, and social services within their community. Neighborhood schools need full funding and the freedom to teach. Immigrants need legal options and an efficient path to citizenship.

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session.  Describe how you plan to accomplish them. 

LN:  As State Representative for Texas House District 133, I will fight for full restoration of funding for neighborhood schools, and distribution of resources according to need, not test scores.  I will champion legislation to require every job to provide a living wage, decent working conditions, and regularly scheduled days off.  I will fight to protect communities from endangerment and exploitative business practices by enforcing regulations, requiring independent inspections, and imposing crippling penalties for repeat infractions.  If necessary, I will push for a state income tax to fund these measures.

TL:  A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association.  Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance.  This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded healthcare benefits in other states. If elected, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong?  If not, please explain why.  If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure

 LN:  Yes. If there is suitable existing legislation, I will vote for it.  If not, I will submit a bill.  In addition, I will join other advocates in publicizing the benefits and debunking the feared consequences of Medicaid expansion.

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is projected to have a population boom of historic proportions.  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.

LN:  Infrastructure is what individual prosperity is built upon.  But infrastructure rests upon the foundation of environmental health. Water, air, and soil are our most fundamental and essential assets.  Environmental protection regulations must be enforced and continually updated to include new data. Natural resources must be managed for the good of all, not the profit of a few. Once the foundation of environmental health is secure, civilization’s infrastructure can be addressed:  education, health care, housing, transportation, etc.  All must be addressed with the intent to provide the most good for the most people in the long run.  There are fact and evidence based solutions already working out in the rest of the world; we should not let profiteers call the shots.

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

LN:  The incumbent is a business man, not a public servant.  He is wealth oriented, stuck in the profit paradigm where money matters most.  He brags about how many private schools are in his district, and voted to both reduce and divert public education dollars, starving our neighborhood schools for the benefit of exclusionary institutions.

I am committed to the health and well-being of all Texas residents; I believe every neighborhood needs good public schools, affordable housing, accessible health care & social services, reliable public transit, and a variety of small businesses providing goods, services, and living wages.  We all do better when we ALL do better.

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

LN:  Although I no longer sing in a choir, I still lead hymns at my UU church every Sunday.  I read a couple of hours a day.  The exception is when my children coax me into trying out a new video game, which I will play for a couple of months before losing interest.  Several times a year I like to spend a day in the garden, focusing on plants and dirt; it puts everything else into perspective for me.

Thanks to Ms. Nicol for her participation.

Sam Houston Challenges ‘Invisible’ GOP Opponent To Debate

In most statewide election cycles, the typical focus is going to be on some key races… the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and state legislature.  The first two because they are the highest elected officials in the state, and the legislature because they are the ones who represent constituents at capitol, and those who make the laws.

But in Texas, there is another race that sometimes matters more than any of these others, especially for citizens that have to deal with a court of law.  Once elected, the Attorney General set important and far-ranging legal procedures that have a huge effect across the state.  It’s an Attorney General that chooses how and to what extent that punishment for law breakers (or convicted of being a law breaker) will be pursued.  Will the person caught with an ounce of hash have to pay a fine not unlike that associated with a traffic ticket, or will that ounce mean that they have to lose their job, their home, and completely change the trajectory of their life after serving a prison sentence?  More often than not, these life-altering decisions are made by attorneys, and the Attorney General is the most powerful amongst that group.

For all of those listed reasons, it is imperative that Texans know their candidates for the state’s highest legal official.  But as Democratic candidate for Attorney General Sam Houston points out, it’s been quite difficult to locate his Republican opponent Ken Paxton in 2014. Here’s more from Lauren McGaughy of the Houston Chronicle

Democratic candidate for attorney general Sam Houston wants his opponent, state Sen. Ken Paxton, to agree to a debate ahead of the November general election.

Houston is expected to issue the challenge Wednesday at a news conference in Austin, demanding his Republican opponent “quit hiding from the media and the voters,” spokeswoman Sue Davis confirmed.

“To me, this is fair. He’s either going to debate me or explain to somebody why he hasn’t,” Houston said Friday. “How is this guy going to be attorney general if he won’t even address the issues?”

Houston contends his opponent hasn’t made a public appearance in months, ever since Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to a 30 percent in commission – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.

Paxton’s campaign called Houston’s demand for a debate “desperate”.  But what is so desperate about wanting Texans to know your views on particular issues?  Just like Greg Abbott last week, Ken Paxton’s excuse to avoid a debate sounds like it’s motivated purely out of fear that if Texans learn the truth about him and his views, they won’t agree.

The art of debate and argument is critical to being a lawyer.  If Ken Paxton can’t agree to one debate, then he doesn’t deserve to be the state’s top lawyer. Let’s hope the Sam Houston campaign and Texas Democrats keep up the pressure.

 

Greg Abbott’s ‘Debate And Switch’

In early 2013, months before the HB2 filibuster, and before anyone was seriously contemplating the possibility of a strong Democratic ticket in Texas, I sat down with Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party for an interview.  One of the things he said was regarding how to turn Texas blue…

Texas is going to turn blue, but it is not going to be an event. It’s going to be a process.

As we enter the Fall of 2014, it’s becoming clear that Mr. Lewis is absolutely correct.  Election nights are what make the headlines, and what go in the history books.  But those events are merely the sum total of an entire process… knocking on doors, making calls, contributing a few dollars here and there, fleshing out major issues, and solid use of the press. All of these things are the process by which Texas becomes a battleground state, and all of them are happening right now. After enduring years of weak candidates, Republican posers running on the Democratic ticket, gross campaign mismanagement and misdirection, Texas Democrats are getting their act together, and much faster than anyone thought they could. As a result of this process, Texans are realizing that we finally have a real choice in 2014.

On Friday, the Democrats were handed a test of their burgeoning strength when Republican Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott announced that after originally agreeing to debate his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis, he decided to cancel the event due to “formatting issues”. This is after both gubernatorial campaigns had set up the debate on May 28th.

With the Texas Democratic Party of yesteryear, this simple cop-out would’ve worked.  After all, Governor Rick Perry got away with no debates in 2010, only to deliver a Texas-sized embarrassment on the national stage the next year.

But Greg Abbott is not so lucky.  Within minutes of his pathetic reversal, blow back from the Davis campaign, the Texas Democratic Party, Battleground Texas, and a slew of other groups was swift and insurmountable.

Once they realized that Texas wouldn’t stand for such a lame excuse, Abbott’s camp quickly fabricated a new plan… weasel out of the WFAA event (because it was sure to be televised across the state on major media outlets), and instead offer up an alternative on another area station in the hopes of dramatically decreasing viewer exposure. Doing so a month beforehand leaves TV stations scrambling to commit to even carry the event instead of their scheduled programs, and of course ruins all the pre-planned advertising for stations that have been committed since May. Yes folks… Greg Abbott is trying to pull the ole ‘Debate and Switch’.

Just so we’re clear… Abbott does not want a debate with Wendy Davis at all.  If the current trickery doesn’t work, there is no doubt that he and his campaign will concoct some other last-minute stunt.  To put it simply, Abbott is afraid.  Probably not afraid of Wendy herself, and given that he’s been a statewide elected official for a decade, he’s certainly not afraid of politics.  What Abbott is afraid of is that Texans will learn the truth about the him and his TEApublican colleagues.  He is afraid of having to answer the questions that Wendy is going to ask.  How is he going to go on camera in front of millions of Texans, tout the “Texas miracle” and simultaneously justify draconian cuts to education? What will be a “miracle” is if Texans don’t see through the lies.

Abbott’s ‘Debate and Switch’ may hinder an event or two, but it cannot stop the swing state process.  If anything, these tricks should serve as encouragement that the process is working faster and better than most would have previously imagined. Texas Republicans are in for some big surprises this November, and unlike Greg Abbott, that fact is not up for debate.

Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs have more.

 

Texas Leftist Published in Houston CultureMap!

As the decision over the HERO petition jostles through the courts, a new debate has arisen in media… should the ordinance be subject to a vote of the people?  Yesterday Clifford Pugh, Editor-in-Chief at CultureMap Houston, penned a response saying that Houstonians should be able to vote on the measure.  Knowing that I disagree, Mr. Pugh allowed me to write an opposing view on the subject.  Check out the excerpt below…

One must admit that “Let the people vote” is a nice-sounding argument. Voting, at least in contemporary democracy, is the way we choose our representatives in government, and it is often the way we choose how to allocate public money for certain uses. In recent years Houstonians have weighed in on the fate of the Astrodome, the usefulness of red light cameras, funds to rebuild city infrastructure and whole host of other topics.

These are issues that deserve a vote.

But the Astrodome, beloved or hated as it may be, is not a person. It wasn’t guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It doesn’t think, it doesn’t feel, and it doesn’t become disenfranchised. These are experiences that belong solely to people, and under the Constitution of the United States of America, people have rights above and beyond subjection of public opinion…

For more, head on over to CultureMap.  Be share to comment on the article and share with your friends!

RE TribTalk: Houston Vehicles for Hire

This post is in response to a recent Texas Tribune article by Noah M. Horwitz.  Please read his post on the Trib site for background.  In summation, his editorial is arguing against the proposed changes to Houston’s Chapter 46, the rules governing Vehicles for Hire, if those rules are not evenly applied among existing taxi companies and newer model companies like Uber and Lyft.  Horwitz presents a sound argument for equal treatment under the laws that govern vehicles for hire. But the argument still deserves further examination.

As a Houstonian that has used taxi service and often been dissatisfied with it, I cannot call my personal opinion “an outright lie”. That opinion was formulated by challenging experiences with taxi service in Houston. A specific instance being when I requested a cab in Downtown to take me to Montrose, and the driver arrived to pick me up. Before he allowed me into the vehicle, he asked me “are you going to Bush airport?”, and when I replied with my location, he sped off. Many other residents have had similar experiences with discrimination from taxi drivers. Of course it’s somewhat unfair to judge the actions of one individual against the whole, but if these are indeed multiplied, then it can become a real problem.

I also have to question the central point of equality in regards to a preferred client base. It is true that Uber and Lyft shift their pricing with more frequency than taxis, but it’s also true that patrons have other options like public transit. By the same measures which say that Uber and Lyft discriminate against seniors and the disabled, does that also mean that services like MetroLift and Harris County Transit discriminate against everyone but seniors and the disabled?  While no one is arguing that all have a right to fair and equal transportation options, one could argue that it’s not necessarily Uber or Lyft’s place to provide those services.

To the specific comment “Uber and Lyft reserve the right to not pick up everyone, effectively disenfranchising those in poor neighborhoods”, it’s important to draw a distinction here between the two companies. Lyft vehicles are currently operating in most areas of the city, and give drivers no such preferential information, at least not officially. As their business model dictates and more drivers have come online, the Lyft service area has expanded. At its infancy in Houston, Lyft only operated inside the loop, but within a month drivers began working at the airport, and now cover many additional areas  inside the Beltway.  I wouldn’t suppose to define just which areas of the city are “poor”, but by reports from customers, Lyft drivers have been seen regularly in neighborhoods from Pleasantville and Montrose to River Oaks and Acres Homes.  While Houston area taxi companies have an established service area that has developed over decades, it stands to reason that newer business models be given a provisional period to figure out what works best for them.

Also unlike Uber corporate, Lyft has not openly defied city regulations by going ahead and charging for rides, but still operates on a “suggested donation” basis.

After yet another delay by City Council today, it’s become quite clear that this is a contentious battle.  But as technology adapts to a rapidly changing society, law needs to catch up and confront the business activities that are already going forward.  Houstonians have invested billions of dollars to expand the city’s public transit options.  While the massive gaps in things like insurance coverage and fair access need to be discussed, that is not necessarily a reason to halt operations of Uber and Lyft.  These businesses deserve a chance in Houston, and if demand is any indication, that is what they will get from City Council.

(Photo credit:  Texas Tribune)