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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Texoblogosphere: week of April 21st

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy enjoying springtime as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff evaluates the Castro-Patrick debate.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is horrified by the Texas Republican campaign strategies that vilify women and immigrants. Boats N' Hoes, Snake Oil Dealers and Diseases from Mexico.

Horwitz at Texpatriate discusses the implication of Uber, the infamous ridesharing app, openly breaks the law in Houston.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson reminds us that Democrats in Texas can't keep fighting one election at a time and go home in between. This week's Poll Was A Bummer, Now Get To Work!

On the horns of a pair of dilemmas -- one being a progressive in Texas, the other associated with the president and the attorney general's playing of the race card -- PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finds himself a little uncomfortable.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know why gun pushers are so pushy. Only the gun manufacturers win. And, that's the point. Ted Cruz is pushing the NRA propaganda.

Neil at All People Have Value made some posts from London this past week. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.



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



BOR pens an ode, in word and Twitpic, to the massive and successful Wendy Davis/BGTX door-knocking campaign last weekend.

Lone Star Q celebrates the four Texans on the Out Magazine Power 50 list.

The Texas Green Report celebrates the latest win in court by the EPA over industrial polluters and the Attorneys General that abet them.

The Texican reminds us that live animals do not make good gifts.

RH Reality Check reports that the state lawsuit against the prohibition of funds for the Women's Health Program going to Planned Parenthood was allowed to proceed by the Third Court of Appeals.

Bob Dunn updates his site's legal disclaimer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sides Weigh In on Houston NDO Debate

Back on October 3rd, I published the questionnaire response from Council Member Cohen, and she not only confirmed full support for the Non- Discrimination Ordinance, but gave valuable insight into how to move it through Council...

TL: With the exception of city government and some other select businesses, Houstonians can still be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender because we do not have a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance for general employment. This lags behind other Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, and Ft. Worth. Do you support a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance for the city of Houston? If not, please explain why. If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure.

EC: I absolutely support a comprehensive non-discrimination measure a consider it to be a major civil rights priority. Demonstrating community support and dispelling misconceptions will be critical in getting such a measure passed.


Not sure whether that last statement is more politics or prophecy, but whichever the case, it's certainly coming true. In the short time since the Ordinance's public debut, declamatory shots have been fired by all sides. Here's more on that from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle...

The City Council is expected to discuss the measure at a committee hearing next week and to vote on the proposal next month, the mayor said.

Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, said she is aware most of the debate will focus on sexual orientation and gender identity - two groups not covered by federal law - but stressed that the proposal, Houston's first nondiscrimination measure, is comprehensive.

"It has been surprising to me how many people in the African-American community I have heard from in recent months talking about still having problems getting equal access to the hottest clubs in the evening or restaurants, bars, music venues," she said. "It gives the city of Houston an opportunity to weigh in and try to help smooth a path for those who want access to those facilities."

Churches' criticism

Dave Welch, of the Houston Area Pastor Council, said Parker is imposing onerous rules on businesses for a problem that does not exist.

"She is using anecdotal examples of discrimination, which may or may not occur, based on race and veterans' situations as a front for her promises to 'her people,' as she described them in her inaugural address, the GLBT community," he said. "It's dishonest."

Parker initially had talked of creating a human rights commission to hear complaints, but that idea was left out of the proposal announced Monday.


Contrary to what the article implies, not all churches are against equality. As Texas Leftist readers know, many faith-professing congregations around the Bayou City are proud to support this Non- Discrimination ordinance, and others like it. But from people like Dave Welch, this response was to be expected. After all, he and the Houston Area Pastor Council have led the charge against Parker since before she was even elected, and have opposed her every step of the way. In summation... Haters gonna HATE.

But if a couple of enraged pastors and irate bloggers is the best that the anti-equality side has, then this vote really should be a no-brainer for Council. And in case anyone needed a reminder, equality is not a right vs. left issue. Many Conservative Houstonians are willing to support this Non- Discrimination ordinance as planned, and some, like the Log Cabin Republicans of Houston have been working behind the scenes towards its passage. Here's what LCR had to say on the group's Facebook page...

The Log Cabin Republicans of Houston applauds Mayor Parker's plans to introduce the upcoming Equal Rights Ordinance. The ordinance is a significant step to promote the economic development of Houston. The great city of Houston is currently experiencing an economic highpoint, and it would be well served by protecting its workforce from incidents of discrimination. This proposal is good policy which will move Houston forward into the 21st century.

The history of the Republican Party has been one of supporting equal treatment of all people before the law, including supporting the civil rights movement for Black Americans, women suffrage, and the 1964 civil rights act. It is in this same vein that we today urge all city council members and citizens of Houston to support this important step for our city.


As Cohen stated above, dispelling misconceptions about this ordinance is just as key as anything else. Thanks to groups like LCR, we can put one more to bed... Houstonians on both the Left and the Right support equality, and want to see this ordinance move forward. Hopefully Council Members will keep this in mind as they consider their vote.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Houston NDO Draft INCLUDES Private Employment Protections

After months of intense negotiations, the Draft of Houston's Comprehensive Non-Discrimination Ordinance has finally arrived, with some most excellent news. Though the original language as planned (via the Mayor's State of the City speech and several other public comments) did not include protections that extended to private employment, some important changes have been made. Directly from the Draft...

AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTERS 2, 15 AND 17 OF THE CODE OF ORDINANCES, HOUSTON, TEXAS, PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF PROTECTED CHARACTERISTICS IN CITY EMPLOYMENT, CITY SERVICES, CITY CONTRACTING PRACTICES, HOUSING, PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS, AND PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT; CONTAINING FINDINGS AND OTHER PROVISIONS RELATING TO THE FOREGOING SUBJECT; DECLARING CERTAIN CONDUCT UNLAWFUL; PROVIDING FOR A PENALTY; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY; AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY...


The ordinance would extend protections to all persons employed in the City of Houston regardless of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy. Exemptions to this law would only be made for religious institutions, private clubs and small businesses (those with fewer than 50 employees).

So what appear to be last minute changes have significantly strengthened the law as planned. Of course it's not been voted on by Council yet, but even having this be the Mayor's intent is a huge step forward, and one that even a couple of weeks ago was highly uncertain. But thanks to tireless work on behalf of Houston's Progressive community, this change is now sure to come for a vote.

Like any and all legislation, this is in itself is not a "perfect" ordinance... no such law exists. But it does represent a fundamental shift in the belief system of Houston. Through it's passage, the city can move from a place that sanctions inequality, to a place that cares about the life, health and prosperity of all of it's diverse citizens. Much more political horse-trading lies ahead, but for today it's important to recognize Mayor Annise Parker and salute the courage it took to move the needle on this issue. Throughout her tenure as Mayor, Parker has shown the capacity for getting the big things done for Houston. Today is the start of a very big step forward for the 2.2 million Texans that call Houston home.

But JUST the start...

If you are a Houstonian and support this Comprehensive Non- Discrimination Ordinance, it's now more important than ever that you call, email your elected City Council Members and voice that support!! This handy form from the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats is a great place to start. I used it, and started getting replies/ updates from Council Members immediately.

Lone Star Q and Texpatriate have more.

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)