Tag Archives: Texas

Shareholders’ Meeting: ‘Women’s March’ Welcomes New President

Yesterday the National Mall in Washington, DC was the site of one of our nation’s most cherished and important traditions.

And today, the same sacred site hosted another important tradition. The Women’s March on Washington had larger than expected turnout, with some news sources reporting a crowd comparable to attendance on the actual Inauguration Day.  Whatever the final numbers, it is quite possibly the largest inauguration-related protest in American history.

Standing in solidarity with Washington were citizens across the country, with many sites beating expectations.  The Lone Star State was certainly no exception.  The Houston estimate of attendees was north of 22,000, and estimates for Austin are said to have crossed up to 50,000 attendees.

So those are the stats, and here is the why.  Sure some people showed up today because they still refuse to see Trump as a legitimate President.  It was an opportunity for them to let off some steam, and be around like-minded folks with similar complaints.

But for most, today’s march was about more than Donald J. Trump, or any one President.  It was a reaffirmation of the America that has had a place since Barack Obama was elected in 2008.  It was a reminder that one Electoral College result may have chosen a leader, but it didn’t erase the people of this nation.  It didn’t erase their values.  Of the 324 million citizens in the United States (235 million in the voting-age population), 130 million of them participated in the 2016 Election.  Of that sum, state lines and their apportioned Electors determined a winner which only 63 million of those people selected, while 66 million chose the other candidate.  So sure, what happened today across the country was a protest.

President Trump is still relatively new to governing, but he has lots of experience in business.  So instead of viewing today’s events as protests, perhaps another way to think about them is a shareholders’ meeting.  Like any major company, the citizens of the United States all have a stake in our country.  As President, Mr. Trump is the only elected official whom serves all of us… 324 million shareholders, 324 million bosses.  Like the inaugural celebrants of yesterday, we have a right to ‘welcome’ the new administration as well, and voice our interests and concerns.  Glad to see that the message is getting out.

Here are a few snaps from Women’s March Houston

 

 

The Green Party Brings Its Mission to Houston

Even as it continues to urbanize and become increasingly diverse, it’s doubtful that anyone familiar with American politics considers Texas to be a harbinger of Progressivism.  Thanks to many factors like voter suppression and mis-education, the Lone Star state is expected to once again skew Conservative for the upcoming election.

Though the constraints of America’s often challenging two-party system would want voters to think otherwise, the terms “Progressive” and “Conservative” do not belong to exclusively to Democrats or Republicans.  In fact 2016’s two major party candidates are causing many American voters to look outside of the traditional “big tent” status quo.

This week, a major player in a Progressive politics is taking over Houston, as Mihir Zaveri of the Houston Chronicle reports…

The odds seem long for the Green Party of the United States. In a presidential election, it never has won more than 2.7 percent of the popular vote.

Right now, its presumptive candidate is slated to be on the ballot in only two dozen states.

Still, members say the November election could provide a unique opportunity for the progressive party, now in its fourth decade, to capture voters who will not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump.

That will be one of the central themes as the Green Party kicks off its three-day national convention Thursday at the University of Houston, where delegates are expected for the second straight election cycle to nominate Jill Stein, a Lexington, Mass., physician, author and environmental advocate, for president.

“I think we’re trying to take advantage of something this year,” said party spokesman Scott McLarty. “That is the widespread realization by a lot of people, among non-voters, among independents, and, interestingly this year, among a lot of Democrats and Republicans, that the two-party status quo is failing us.”

It’s been something of a ‘Powerhouse’ Political year for the University of Houston, whom not only welcomes the Green Party this week, but also played host to a Republican Debate earlier this year.

Spoiler Alert:  at this point it is unlikely that Dr. Jill Stein, or her running mate Ajamu Baraka will win this years election.  At present, they have reached the General Election ballot in 24 states and the District of Columbia.  But that situation in the Presidential race doesn’t discount the real successes that its membership has garnered elsewhere.   The party currently has 134 elected officials serving in 15 states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and yes, Texas.

Per the schedule of events, convention activities begin today August 4th, with the highlights of Keynote speaker Dr. Cornel West, the roll call of states, and the official Presidential Candidate nomination and acceptance all slated for August 6th.  There’s even a special welcome for Bernie Sanders supporters.

Will the Green Party’s mission be advanced by their time in Houston?  At this point it is uncertain.  But Texas Leftist plans to find out.  Look for more Green Party Convention coverage right here.

Green Party Houston

Jenifer Rene Pool Wins Primary for Harris County Commissioner

With a heated Presidential Election in our midst, it is sometimes tough to keep up with important news surrounding other races.  This is particularly the case in a state like Texas, which focuses so heavily on Republican/ Conservative media to start.  But the March 1st Primary did prove to be an historic one for Progressives as well.

With over 78 percent of the vote, local politician Jenifer Rene Pool has garnered a decisive win in her Primary Race for Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 3.  The victory makes Pool the First Transgender Candidate to win an election in the entire state of Texas, and one of a precious few openly transgender candidates to have won elections across the United States.  She now moves on to face incumbent Republican Steve Radack in the November 8th General Election.  (For more information on the history of Transgender Elected Officials and candidates, see the 2015 Report by the LGBTQ Representation and Rights Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, prepared by Logan S. Casey and Andrew Reynolds).

Prior to Election Day, Pool had earned many high profile endorsements from the Houston Chronicle, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and a host of other influential organizations.

Directly from Ms. Pool, here are some comments on this truly historic win…

I was gratified last night for the tremendous show of support.  I am truly thankful that voters recognize me as a leader who can address the many serious issues facing Harris County, from our growing population to our copious infrastructure needs.  I look forward to the campaign and General Election so we can build a better Harris County where it matters.

Pool has run previously for Houston City Council.  Though she did garner over 17,000 votes in 2013, she did not move to the run-off for that election.  However this week Ms. Pool was able to garner votes from over 24,000 Texans.  In what is always assumed to be a very Conservative state, this victory is decisively Progressive.

Congratulations Jenifer!!

Jenifer Rene Pool Winner

Greg Abbott Opposes Houston Prop1, Forgets Minor Detail

Is it a surprise that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is opposed to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance?  Not exactly, especially given his long record of being against LGBT Texans, equality in general and local control for cities.

But in his effort to stoke the flames of fear and falsehood, our esteemed Governor left out one small detail about the irony of his opposition to Houston Prop 1… his current place of residence.

Like the Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Abbott happens to reside in Austin, Texas… you know, the same city that has had comprehensive Non-Discrimination protections for its citizens since 2004.  Before being elected to his current position, Abbott served as Attorney General to the State of Texas

So umm, if the Governor and his family have resided safely in Austin for over a decade (assuming during that time that they also used restroom facilities), then why is it such an atrocity for Houston to implement similar Equal Protections?

Anytime you’d like to respond Governor, I am all ears.

Abbott Lies

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.

Bye FeLEGEcia: A 2015 Texas Legislative Wrap-Up

Ok everyone sing it with me…

Ding Dong The Lege is Dead!  

Which Ole Lege?  The TEXAS Lege!  

Ding Dong The Texas Lege is DEAD!!

Though I guess it’s up to your point of view on just how wicked it turned out to be.

We’ll turn to Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune to give a proper summation…

It was clear after the 2014 elections that Texas voters were sending a conservative political cohort to Austin. It turned out that the officeholders they elected had different ideas about what that meant, and that this group — no real surprise here — could alternately quarrel and cooperate about as well as most of its predecessors.

In the process, issues that might have seemed black and white during the elections were rendered in shades of gray during the session.

It started right out of the gate: On the first day of the legislative session, a group of advocates for legalized open carry of handguns blustered into the Capitol to talk to members. They were so obnoxious about it that their bill — one of the virtual certainties coming out of the elections — didn’t pass until the final weekend 20 weeks later.

Before the session, even Democrats like Wendy Davis were in favor of open carry. After the over-enthusiastic supporters were done, even the sure bets were shaky. It finally did pass, however, along with legislation that will allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on some parts of the campuses of state colleges and universities.

The $209.4 billion state budget, often a source of deep rancor and infighting, turned out to be relatively easy to put together. It helped that the year began with $17 billion uncommitted in the comptroller’s forecast of available money. The people who write political bumper stickers hate it when the superlative is “responsible,” but that word is already popping up in the news releases coming from the state’s leaders.

Of course it’s important to note that the fudge-it budget does nothing to address the state’s growing healthcare needs, still sold many schoolchildren short on their education, and barely took a bite out of the rapid declination of Texas road infrastructure.  If you’re looking for a source to classify this state budget as “responsible”, you’re not going to find it on Texas Leftist.  Choosing not to set fire to house is very different from taking steps to prevent fires from happening.

It’s fair to say that local control got torched.  The Legislature successfully eroded power from the citizens of Denton, and allowed fracking to resume in the city after banning the ability of municipalities to ban any form of extraction.  The unprecedented overreach had a special tier of irony given how most of the elected Republicans at the Capitol have built their careers on protests against sweeping big government action.

Congratulations Denton… If Governor Greg “Grab It” Abbott has his way, your votes will get swept under the rug.

Even with this terrifying result, it could have been much worse, given some of the other bills that were filed to obliterate municipal and county powers.  So as the court battles play out with Frack Free Denton, the issue of local control now comes in to question for future legislative sessions.

This is the bad news, but there were some highlights.  Texas Democrats proved an incredible force to protect much of policy that families across the state depend on.  They successfully defended an assault on in-state tuition, supported infrastructure investment, and defeated dozens of TEA-CON bills that would have eradicated local protections for LGBT citizens.  Of course on that last point, it’s important to note that a broad coalition within the state supports LGBT equality, so it’s far from a partisan cause.  One huge highlight of the 2015 session?  We now have a sense for just how broad that support is, and how successfully they can gather up resources.

So yeah… the things we learned in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session:

1) Don’t count your chickens before they’re fracked.

2) College Professors might think twice before failing their students, especially the ones packin’ heat.

3) The only Medicaid Expansion Texas can hope for is expanded lines at the E.R.

Bye FeLEGEcia… see you in 2017.  

 

 

Culberson, Garcia Put METRO Federal Funds, Commuter Rail On Fast Track

So last Friday, I wrote the following regarding then-unknown plans surrounding the new open-door policy between U.S. Congressman John Culberson, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, AKA METRO…

“But let’s be clear on what the Congressman did not promise.  If a new vote occurs, rail supporters can be sure that Culberson and his group will do everything in their power to defeat the measure.  The door to funding may have been cracked open, but it is far from a guarantee.”

With the details of that plan now released, I am happily prepared to eat those words.  As Katherine Driessen of the Houston Chronicle reports, the new agreement between Culberson and METRO Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia is more significant than most anticipated…

Metropolitan Transit Authority leaders and U.S. Rep. John Culberson on Monday announced details of a new agreement to help the agency move forward with transit projects.

The Houston Republican, who has long been at odds with Metro over its plans for a rail line on Richmond, has agreed to help Metro obtain funds for a proposed commuter rail line on U.S. 90A and other projects. Rail on Richmond west of Shepherd Drive or on Post Oak Boulevard north of
Richmond would be contingent on voter approval.

Culberson lauded the agreement as a “historic breakthrough” in addressing Houston area traffic congestion and rebuilding his fractured relationship with Metro.

“Above all, what today symbolizes is a new era of cooperation between Metro, under Gilbert Garcia’s leadership, and the Houston area congressional delegation,” Culberson said. “We will all be working arm in arm to make sure that metro and the elected officials in the region solve our transportation problems by looking to every kind of transit and transportation available, beginning with commuter rail out 90A.”

It’s something that should probably be avoided most of the time, but today, Hyperbole is warranted.  The new understanding between METRO and Houston’s Congressional delegation not only fosters new hope for a University Line, but puts Commuter Rail along the US90A corridor on the fast track.  The planned route would connect Houston’s inner loop (most likely via the south end of the existing Red Line) to Missouri City.

But wait… there’s more!!  Like back-door Federal funding for the East End Rail Line (originally built entirely on local funds) can now be used as “transfer credit” towards the Commuter Rail? Wha huh???  Here’s an excerpt from the full letter of agreement between Garcia and Culberson…

Congressman Culberson will begin work right away to change federal law so
that METRO can count $587 Million in local funds spent on the East End Rail Line as the
local matching credit for a commuter rail line along 90A, and secondarily for any non-rail
capital project, or any other project included in the 2003 Referendum. Rail on Richmond
Avenue west of Shepherd Drive or Post Oak Boulevard would only be eligible to utilize these credits once approved in a subsequent referendum.

Also included is another $100 million payday for METRO to improve its bus fleet and transit infrastructure (again some of which is already being done as a result of System Reimagining), and a recoup of funds diverted to the Southeast and North lines that can be put back into general maintenance and improvement projects.

Of course some of this has yet to materialize, but given how Congressman Culberson was the most vocal opponent of previous initiatives, there’s little reason to think that all of these plans can’t be realized.

All told, today is a great day for transit in Southeast Texas.  And Houstonians have Chairman Gilbert Garcia to thank for it.

Could Culberson’s newly-discovered love for transit spread to other Republican Lawmakers, and result in significant new transportation investments nation-wide?  Only time will tell.  But if today is any indication, Obama’s “lame duck” period may not be as lame as we once thought.

US90A Commuter Rail

Though not the finalized route plan, here is one proposed route for the US90A Commuter Rail project.