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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Texoblogosphere: week of April 14th

The Texas Progressive Alliance honors the legacy of LBJ and the continuing struggle for civil rights as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the Republican statewide slate and is unimpressed.

Bay Area Houston says the Texas State Troopers Association has issued an Amber Alert for MIA Greg Abbott.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is perplexed over Greg Abbott's disappearing acts. Is he hiding from his white nationalist educational adviser who believes women and minorities are intellectually inferior to men like him? Or is he hiding because he wants standardized testing for four year old children? Where is Greg Abbott?

Horwitz at Texpatriate looks at the most recent head count on Houston's proposed non-discrimination ordinance, and asks "who's lying" on the issue.

Texas Progressive Alliance bloggers Stace Medellin (DosCentavos.net) and Charles Kuffner (OffTheKuff.com) will be panelist on Politics Done Right on KPFT discussing the delegitimized news media, blogging, and crowdsourcing the news. – EgbertoWillies.com.

Texas Leftist is glad to see the community organize to strengthen Houston's planned Non-Discrimination Ordinance. But for all the work being done, does it even matter if the Mayor refuses to budge?

The Texas Renewal Project, a conclave of evangelical pastors, met in Austin last week and decided that the fires of Hell are just about to consume us all because of gay marriage and non-discrimination ordinances and things like that. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says that if God is really that homophobic, then he'll take a pass, thanks.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson on Perry's latest corporate scheme. It may not be illegal, but what's going on here is is inherently incompatible with democracy. It just seems wrong that the governor of Texas is allowed to gallivant around the world to do the bidding for corporations. While he continues to deny health care to those who need it.



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



Lone Star Ma reminds us that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Lunch Tray laments the trend of giving students junk food "treat bags" during standardized testing periods.

Lone Star Q updates us on failed former Senate candidate and sportscaster Craig James.

Jason Stanford mocks conservative victimhood.

Texas Watch lauds the tort system for its power to hold corporations accountable.

Beer, TX notes that the big beer distributors will be standing fast against any further attempts to level the playing field for craft brewers.

The Rivard Report documents efforts to make San Antonio's Fiesta parade more sustainable.

Offcite notes Houston's first Sunday street closing in the Heights to encourage pedestrian traffic was born in the rain, which did not seem to discourage participation much.

Grits wonders who is advising Rick Perry on the issue of prison rape.

GOP Continues To Ignore Changing Texas

In last Sunday's Houston Chronicle, Gary Scharrer's op-ed provided an epic indictment of the Texas GOP-dominated legislature and it's priorities. He tells it like it is...

Texas is headed for the ditch, but few people are aware of the state's perilous path. The demographers have seen the future, though, because it's foretold in their numbers. And they've been sounding the alarm.

There hasn't been much of a public-policy response, so far.

Texas could be the pacesetter: It has a young and rapidly growing population. Educate that workforce and Texas becomes a vibrant, thriving state for decades. Unfortunately, that young population is overwhelmingly minority and under-educated, and there appears to be little political interest in addressing the needs of that demographic group.

Increasingly, Texas stands to become poorer and less competitive, according to demographers who study the numbers for a living. Neither state leaders nor the media is paying adequate attention. Few Texans are aware of the state's rapidly changing population. Hispanics will surpass whites as the largest population group some time before 2020.

By the numbers, here's what's been taking place: The state lost 184,486 white children between 2000 and 2010 while gaining 931,012 Hispanic children over that decade, according to the U.S. Census. Stated another way, in 2000, Texas white kids outnumbered Hispanic children by 120,382; Flash forward to 2010 and Hispanic children outnumbered white kids by 995,116.

Here's the most important figure: All of our K-12 enrollment growth over the past decade comes from low-income children - that is, children whose family income qualifies them for free and reduced-cost school lunches. Those low-income students now make up a little more than 60 percent of our public school enrollment.

Many are way behind when they arrive in the first grade. Too many drop out years later. A whopping 47 percent of low-income high school students from the Class of 2015 were off track to graduate, according to testimony in last year's public school finance trial.

Why does this matter? Murdock, who served as director of the U.S Census Bureau in the administration of President George W. Bush, projects that three out of 10 Texas workers will not have a high school diploma by 2040. Also, in 25 years, the average Texas household income will be some $6,500 less than it was in the year 2000. The figure is not inflation-adjusted, so it will be worse than it sounds. Basically, today's children, collectively, stand to be worse off than preceding generations.

How can we address the trend line? The first step is to increase access to high-quality pre-K, Murdock says.

And here is where it gets complicated. Republican lawmakers cut $200 million from pre-K resources in 2011 as part of the Texas Legislature's $5.4 billion reduction in public education funding. Conventional wisdom holds that lawmakers aligned with the tea party will be in greater numbers than ever before when the Legislature convenes next year. You won't hear that group campaigning for more pre-K funding.

An influential Republican lawmaker told me a few years ago that the leadership doesn't care about what happens to Texas in 25 years. The next election is more important. Another influential Republican leader bluntly told me that talking about the challenges of low-income students will hurt you in the GOP primary.

[...] It will be interesting to watch candidates for the state's top political leadership spots this fall. How much attention will they (and the media) focus on what soon could turn into the state's No. 1 problem?

The growth in minority population has created a "generational rift" along racial and ethnic lines, which is documented in a new book, "Changing Texas: Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge." Murdock is the lead author.

[...] "Lower-income populations are less likely to purchase housing units, to create substantial increases in private sector revenues, and to increase state taxes and other revenues at the rate of persons with higher incomes," the authors point out. "Although closing the socioeconomic gaps for Texas minority populations will be difficult, it is clear that the state is better off if they become better off."


To sum up, it's time for Texas to !!!WAKE UP!!!



Ok Spike Lee references aside, this is so important that for everyone in Texas to understand. We have to stop viewing education as a burden and start viewing it as our most precious investment. The banter back and forth about Pre-K isn't just political wrangling. The money that we choose to invest in these young minds will have a direct correlation on the future of the Lone Star State. Thanks to insidious actions of the legislature, Texas schools are falling behind other states. This is simple fact.

But the one thing Scharrer doesn't discuss in this op-ed?? People are starting to wake up. Thanks to candidates like Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte and other Texas Democrats, we have opened the conversation again about making the right investments in education. The Davis campaign has continues to hammer Abbott's Pre-K plan because they know how important this is for Texas families, and for all of us. We can ensure a better future for this state starting in November if we elect the right people to lead us. And at this point, they can't be found in the GOP. Make no mistake... Democrats are the only party in this state that are willing to address these issues. If you care about having a good education for all Texas children, if you want better investment in our schools and colleges, then you have to get out and vote for it this November. Don't let the Republicans drive this state into oblivion.

Off the Kuff has more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MSNBC Coming to Texas Southern University

Some exciting news for MSNBC fans. From the Texas Southern University website...

NOW with Alex Wagner” will broadcast live at 3 p.m. CT from Texas Southern’s University Plaza, near the Tiger Walk, just in front of the Sterling Student Life Center. MSNBC hosts and contributors will also be onsite for meet and greets with fans from noon to 7 p.m. local time.

Growing Hope is a MSNBC initiative that invites viewers to engage with the brand and share their hopes for change around issues that impact their communities. The “Growing Hope” series will include live events, online activations and special on-air programming. By sharing hopes online, at events, and through social media, the MSNBC audience can grow together as a community with the power to make a difference.

The MSNBC space was one of the most popular at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans last year, remembers TSU Associate Vice President Eva Pickens. “People from all walks of life were tweeting their hope for America, then running to take pictures as their statements showed up across the reflection pond. It was very interactive and exciting to see. Of course, we expect hundreds of thousands to show up at Texas Southern as well. We are definitely inviting everyone and planning for a huge audience.”

Pickens said invitations, letters and flyers have gone out to community groups, other colleges and schools, non-profits, church leaders to invite their congregations and parishioners, TSU students, alumni and employees. But one does not need an invitation to attend. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the university’s east and west garages; one at Cleburne and Tierwester (near Yates High School) the other at Blodgett and Ennis (near the H&PE Arena). Then visitors can take a small stroll down Tiger Walk and write in their hope for America.

TSU’s V-Lot will be closed, beginning Wednesday, April 23rd and reserved for production crews, electricians and MSNBC representatives.

MSNBC kicked off the multi-market “Growing Hope” tour at the 9th annual Jazz in the Garden festival in Miami on March 15-16. The tour continues throughout the year with visits to local festivals across the country this spring and summer. The tour stops will feature unique fan elements including MSNBC host meet and greets and an opportunity to participate in the “Growing Hope” activation. Additional events and programming will be announced in the months ahead.

Viewers can find information about “Growing Hope” online at www.msnbc.com/growinghope. In the coming months, msnbc.com will unveil a digital Hope Tree, allowing users to virtually post a hope, explore hopes of others in their communities, and receive unique content about the issues that matter to them. “Growing Hope” will live on social media with #GrowingHope.


As a Lone Star Progressive and frequent viewer of MSNBC, this is some most excellent news. Not only is it a great opportunity for Texas Southern University, but it's hopefully yet another bridge that the predominantly East Coast network can forge in Conservative Texas. It's my opinion that the folks over at MSNBC need to get out more. The opportunity to grow their viewership is there, but they're not going to do it by having news coverage that's weighted so heavily towards the Bos-Wash corridor. In their Texas broadcast, I hope they incorporate some of our local politicians, activists and political analysts as well. Kudos to Alex Wagner and her team for going on this tour.

Monday, April 14, 2014

'Hotel Mania' for Downtown Houston

As written previously, Downtown Houston is in the beginning stages of a major construction boom, that will continue to ramp up through the course of 2014 and 2015. As the clock ticks closer and closer to Super Bowl LI, to be hosted in the Bayou City, a flood of new projects are racing to get completed before 2017. Though every conceivable type of construction is happening in Downtown, it appears the largest single type is going to be hotels during this high-activity period.

Many Houstonians may be wondering... why the need for so many hotels? Are they all being built just for the Super Bowl?

In reality, Houston is actually playing catch-up. The city's is now in high demand to host more Conventions, and business leaders from all industries are starting to see the opportunities associated with that demand. Here's an excerpt from a recent Houston Public Media story...

... the [GHCVB] achieved a hundred percent of its goals in booking domestic meetings, with a direct economic impact of $345 million. Well over a half-million definite rooms nights are booked for upcoming conventions — that's one yardstick for measuring success. The bureau enjoyed 198 percent of its goals in booking international meetings, with a direct economic impact of $77 million. There were 203 film and commercial projects. Greg Ortale is president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"What it is, is we have a fairly robust database to find opportunities. We're looking both for groups that have not made a decision on specific years and matching them up with our annual calendar to see if there's a fit, and then we go and proceed after them."

Ortale says the ten-year-long "My Houston" campaign has helped solidify Houston's image.


"Where we got Houston-born — and many living, continuing to live here — celebrities to do endorsements, whether in print or video, about living here. We had well over 40 celebrities, all the way from Bush-41 to ZZ Top."

That improving image seems to have a direct correlation to rapid growth in the Convention business, but other evidence suggests that it could've grown much faster. Studies by Houston First Corporation show that the city lost millions of dollars in potential business last year due to a lack of sufficient hotel room capacity.

But the plan to rectify this seems to be going well so far. Just last Friday, city leaders broke ground on the Marriott Marquis, a 1000-room facility that will be connected to the George R. Brown Convention center, and is set to be the next signature hotel for Houston. With the hotel will come retail and five new restaurants, sure to be a robust addition to Downtown's retail landscape.

Marriott Marquis is the single largest hotel project, but it will be joined in good company. Other projects in downtown include an Aloft hotel, the 225 room Hotel Alessandra, 325 room J. W. Marriott, 261 room Hyatt Place, and the 215 room Savoy. All told, these projects will add well over 2,200 new hotel rooms to Downtown's current inventory, and should go a long way to improving Houston's Convention competitiveness. The increased foot traffic will undoubtedly have an impact on other downtown businesses, such as existing street-level retail. Exciting times ahead for Houston.



(The sleek new design of Hotel Alessandra, expected to open in 2016. Photo credit: Swamplot)

Houston Matters

Last week, I was honored to re-join the folks over at Houston Matters for a particularly deep discussion. We delved into the current developments over Houston's Non-Discrimination ordinance, the pressures of high-stakes testing for Texas teachers, and transparency accolades for the Texas Comptroller's office. The segment was hosted by Craig Cohen, and featured myself along with Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle and Russ Capper of the Business Makers radio show.

The show, which is celebrating its 1st anniversary this month, has quickly become a valued news resource for the Bayou City, Greater Houston region, and indeed the state. The young show has made its fair share of news as well, having conducted critical interviews with Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and other influential Texans. I highly encourage you to check it out, and add this program to your daily news fix. Houston Public Media just concluded it's Spring fundraising campaign last week as well, but it's certainly not too late to join the cause and support great shows like Houston Matters.



Friday, April 11, 2014

The Buck Stops With Parker

On Houston's impending Non- Discrimination ordinance, new developments abound...

First,Off the Kuff reminds everyone that it's not out of the ordinary for Council Members to take a cautious approach...

There’s been a lot of speculation about who may or may not support the ordinance that Mayor Parker has promised to bring before council. As yet, there is not a draft version of the ordinance, and that seems to be the key to understanding this. As CMs Bradford and Boykins mention to Lone Star Q, without at least a draft you don’t know what the specifics are. Maybe it’ll be weaker than you want it to be. Maybe it’ll be poorly worded and you will be concerned about potential litigation as a result. It’s not inconsistent for a Council member to say they support the principle and the idea of the ordinance, but they want to see what it actually says before they can confirm they’ll vote for it.


A key point to consider, particularly when trying to gauge the votes of members like Kubosh who have given little indication for why they might be supportive. Which is why it's more important than ever to continue to focus on Mayor Annise Parker, and any clues of what to expect. In her State of the City address, she laid out that the planned ordinance will offer protections to all public employees, housing and businesses with public accommodations. Extending non-discrimination protections to private employment has never been mentioned by the Mayor herself. Given that the only way an ordinance can be proposed is from the Mayor's office, this point is crucial. No matter what the community wants... no matter how many Council Members they call asking if they'd support extensions to private employment, Council won't have the option to vote for a strengthened ordinance if the Mayor doesn't propose it in the first place.

Texas Leftist was able to ask this question of Mayor Parker in a recent interview with News 92 FM. Conducted by JP Pritchard and Lana Hughes, here's how the exchange transpired...

JP Pritchard: From Texas Leftist, In light of recent developments, are you willing to strengthen the planned Non- Discrimination Ordinance to include private employment?

Mayor Parker: I am willing to cover private employment, but this is not about my personal preferences. This is about getting an ordinance that will pass Council and that is defensible with the public, and a repeal effort after that. I'm not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I am interested in having an effective Non- Discrimination ordinance, and if it doesn't go as far as it could the first time around, there is always an opportunity later to fix it.


As you can see, it is again a very political answer. Parker says she's willing, but at the same time it appears she has already decided what will be proposed. This makes me wonder if all of the work trying to sway Council is even worth it if the Mayor isn't movable on the central issue. Is it Council that is unwilling to support a strengthened ordinance, or is it the Mayor?

The only other possibility here? If Parker brings hers as planned, and one of the Council Members submits an amendment to extend protections to private employment. The likelihood of this happening is very slim. There are certainly those at the Council table looking to score some political points against Parker, but I highly doubt this is the issue they would choose. One thing is clear... if Houston wants the best possible Non- Discrimination Ordinance, the buck stops with Parker.



(photo credit: Daily Kos)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Texoblogosphere: Week of April 7th

The Texas Progressive Alliance always comes in ahead of projections as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzes precinct data in Harris County from the Democratic and Republican primary elections.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos learns Greg Abbott has not only invited creeps to advise his campaign but he has also brought a Tom DeLay minted crook on board. Abbott campaign pervaded by creeps and crooks.

Too many who need health insurance in Texas are intentionally being kept from getting it. WCNews at Eye on Williamson makes sure everyone know that If You Don't Have Health Care In Texas Blame Rick Perry & The Texas GOP.

The social policies of Charles Murray, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a white nationalist, serve as inspiration for Greg Abbott's education reform proposal. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs is shocked and awed that Abbott is making so many critical mistakes in his gubernatorial campaign.

Texas Democrats haven't claimed a statewide elected office in 20 yrs, but after a rousing bus tour, Texas Leftist is convinced now more than ever that pharmacist, State Senator extraordinaire and Lt. Governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte has the prescription to change that.

Neil at All People Have Value offered the view that courtesy & a sense of self-worth without a feeling of superiority is a form of resistance in our society. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

Kingwood Area Democrat Karen Menke wrote a timely op-ed in the Kingwood Observer about women's rights. – EgbertoWillies.com.

Texpatriate releases an April Fool's day issue of The Houston New Post.



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



Texas Redistricting charts the components of population change in 12 Texas counties.

Scott Braddock reports that some legislators are concerned that schools will not have the funds to implement some mandated reforms.

Jason Stanford explains how Texas women can win on equal pay.

Juanita can't help but see the face of Tom DeLay in today's Congress.

Dutch Small celebrated at the wedding reception of Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her wife Kathy Hubbard.

Christopher Hooks tries to pierce the conservative persecution complex that surrounds Republican SD02 candidate Bob Hall.

M1EK has a simple suggestion for where to locate a rail line.