Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Houston School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez Got Away With His Anti-Gay Campaign—He Had A Lot Of Help

At Houston’s Gallegos Elementary School on Harrisburg Drive, they appreciate School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez.

We know this is true because–at least as of 2 days ago–there was a sign in front of the school that said so. You see that sign above.

In contrast to the views expressed on the sign, I am uncertain that Mr. Rodriguez is a good example for school children or for any resident of our community.

Mr. Rodriguez circulated anti-gay campaign materials in his recent successful reelection effort. Please click this link to see what Mr. Rodriguez circulated. The bottom right corner of the circular is where you will find the hate.

Here is what the Houston Chronicle reported at the time

“Rodriguez, who is seeking re-election to the District III seat, noted in the brochure that his challenger, Ramiro Fonseca, has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids.”  The ad also points out (Ramiro) Fonseca’s endorsement by the Houston GLBT political caucus and underlines the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” Rodriguez describes himself in the flyer as a “family man” who is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of four and the grandfather of five. The ad says Fonseca has a male partner and no children”

There were some protests regarding Mr. Rodriguez.

A website was set-up to draw attention to the issue. There was also a Facebook page.

While the people who organized the protests and set up the website are to be commended for the work they did, these protests were not able to be sustained.

This failure is an indictmant of our entire city of Houston.

If local civil rights groups and advocacy groups had spoken out, maybe the protests could have been sustained.  Maybe it only matters when people in your own group are attacked.

If local political leaders had spoken up, maybe the protests could have been sustained. Many of these officials seek the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, yet they were no place to be found when a school board member responsible for the education of children used anti-gay words.

If the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had focused on the issue, maybe the protests could have been sustained.

In a previous post on this subject I noted that news of Mr. Rodriguez’s deeds were not on the Caucus website.  This is still the case.

Yet Mr. Rodriguez is still on the board and is still making decisions about our Houston schools.

There is a measure of irony in the absence of Rodriguez issue from the Houston GLBT website. The Houston GLBT Caucus endorsement questionnaire for local candidates is well-known for having very many questions and for taking a long time to complete.

Candidates for public office are expected to take hours to complete that form in the middle of a campaign, but the Caucus itself can’t take a few minutes to update a website when a school board member responsible for the education of children attacks gay folks and remains on the board.

I update this blog each day.

If the parents and all the other folks who live in Mr. Rodriguez’s district had spoken up, maybe the protests could have been sustained.

If everyday people in Houston had spoken up, maybe the protests could have been sustained.

Instead–What has happened is that Mr. Rodriguez communicated a terrible message and got away with it just fine. If you motor on down Harrisburg Dr., you’ll know Mr. Rodriguez as nothing other than a great guy helping out school kids.

Sure.

On the back of the sign at the top of this post was a reminder that Martin Luther King Day was approaching. I have no idea if the incongruity of this was considered at a place where people are supposed to be learning history.

You see this side of the sign at the bottom of this post.

Here is former NAACP chairman Julian Bond speaking in support of gay marriage. Coretta Scott King supported gay marriage. 

The work of freedom and justice is up to each of us. You can’t wait for somebody else.

If you are a gay kid in our Houston schools— or any freedom loving young person who sees that all people are created equal—you just got a lesson from all sides of the aisle.

Regretfully, one of the most valuable things you can learn from your elders is very often how not to be like them.

January 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Loyal Citizens (A Few Of Them) Protest Manuel Rodriguez’s Anti-Gay Campaign Tactics—Where Are The Good People?

Above you see freedom loving citizens of Houston protesting the ongoing presence of Manuel Rodriguez on the Houston Independent School District Board.

They are quite appropriately making this protest under the flag of our State of Texas and under the flag of the United States of America.

Mr. Rodriguez circulated anti-gay campaign materials in his recent reelection bid. Mr. Rodriguez won by 24 votes.

The link above shows the campaign circular.

From the Houston Chronicle

“Rodriguez, who is seeking re-election to the District III seat, noted in the brochure that his challenger, Ramiro Fonseca, has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids.”  The ad also points out (Ramiro) Fonseca’s endorsement by the Houston GLBT political caucus and underlines the words “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” Rodriguez describes himself in the flyer as a “family man” who is married to his high school sweetheart and is the father of four and the grandfather of five. The ad says Fonseca has a male partner and no children”

There is a website regarding this issue. 

Though I don’t see a word about this concern on the website of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. 

There were maybe 20 people at the protest shown in the picture. These folks were loyal Americans seeking to right a wrong.

While that is very good, there are a number of questions I had after attending this rally.

Where was the full GLBT community?

Where were the candidates who have been happy to take the Houston GLBT caucus endorsement over the years?

Where were other civil rights groups in Houston? The freedom of all people is connected. Where is the outreach between groups? Where is the effort and imagination? Where is the hope that people working together can make life better?

At the core of the matter, where were everyday citizens of Houston?

Is anybody serious about anything?

You can’t control what folks such as Mr. Rodriguez are going to do or say. There are always going to be people who do and say mean and hateful things.

All you control is your response to the bad actions of people in power.

Mr. Rodriguez and people who support his narrow mindset know the sad facts of the matter as shown by this example.

You can get away with just about anything and folks will look the other way.

Even folks who say they care about issues of civil rights and freedom will for the most part look away.

December 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Protest To Call For Resignation Of HISD Board Member Manuel Rodriguez—Mr. Rodriguez Has Attacked All Persons In Our City

Incumbent Houston Independent School District Board member Manuel Rodriguez circulated anti-gay campaign materials during his recent reelection bid.

(Above–Citizens of our community calling for the resignation of Manuel Rodriguez.)

Mr. Rodriguez won his race by 24 votes.

A website has been established to call for Mr. Rodriguez’s resignation from the board. 

There is also a Facebook page called Remove The HISD Bully.

How can Mr. Rodriguez well-serve any HISD student? The rights and dignity of all people are connected.

If Mr. Rodriguez has a problem with gay folks, who can be certain that Mr. Rodriguez will champion the success of any HISD student?

There will be an upcoming protest to call for Mr. Rodriguez’s resignation.

I encourage all freedom loving Houstonians to attend this event.

It would be great that if in addition to an informed and outraged general public taking part in efforts to call for Mr. Rodriguez’s resignation, we were also to see coordinated efforts among Houston’s various civil rights groups.

Folks can’t go on just speaking up when their own concerns are the issue. We will never make progress if that is how we operate.

Mr. Rodriguez’s hate mongering is an attack on all people and it is a call to action for all people.

Here are details of the protest—

JOIN US in protest of HISD School Board Trustee Manuel Rodriguez, who according to the Houston Chronicle, displayed “appalling homophobia” over the weekend. The HISD School Board is the LAST place that we want this kind of homophobia to be in power.

What: HISD School Board meeting 
When: Thursday, December 8; outdoor protest beginning at 4:30pm, public hearing at 6:30pm 
Where: The Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 West 18th Street, in the board auditorium.

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Protest Today Against HISD Board Member Manuel Rodriguez

There will be a protest later today against newly reelected Houston Independent School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez.

Mr. Rodriguez, who won by 24 votes, circulated what many view–including myself—as anti-gay campaign materials.

Mr. Rodriguez has apologized. That is not enough in this case.  There is simply no way that Mr. Rodriguez can be seen as an advocate for all kids in Houston schools. Nor can he be seen as an example to follow by either students or HISD employees.

Texas Watchdog has reported on this story. 

Here are details of the protest this afternoon—

JOIN US in protest of HISD School Board Trustee Manuel Rodriguez, who according to the Houston Chronicle, displayed “appalling homophobia” over the weekend. The HISD School Board is the LAST place that we want this kind of homophobia to be in power. 

What: HISD School Board meeting

When: Thursday, Nov 10; outdoor protest beginning at 5pm, public hearing at 6:30pm 

Where: The Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 West 18th Street, in the board auditorium. 

PLEASE SHARE THIS INVITATION. We have several signed up to speak, but also want as many as possible there to stand with us in solidarity against bigotry on the HISD School Board!

For background on this issue, see: http://blog.chron.com/k12zone/2011/11/gay-rights-group-condemns-hisd-trustees-ad-updated/

November 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Steps You Can Take To Defend Our Texas Public Schools—It Is Up To You To Act

Blogger’s Note—The  following post was compiled and written by top Houston political blogger Charles Kuffner at his blog Off The Kuff. I asked Charles if I could use this material here and he was kind enough to say yes. The post deals with what people can do to fight drastic cuts in Texas education being planned by the Texas legislature and Governor Rick Perry.  While the post deals at first with the Houston-area Spring Branch Independent  School District, it could just as easily be about any school district in Texas.  As you read down the post, you’ll see  it offers ways for average folks from all over Texas to fight back and win.  I cannot imagine there is any part of Texas not concerned about these cuts in education. It cannot be said enough—The hard work of freedom and of bringing about a hopeful future is up to all of us. We all have the option to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, to write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family,  start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor,  volunteer for candidates and causes we value, and even run for office ourselves. I urge you to consider all these possibilities as from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C, to Austin, our American values of fair play for all are under attack.  Thanks again to Off The Kuff for this post.

1. First and foremost, make sure you understand the scope of the issue and how it will affect you. Here’s an email that was sent out by the Spring Branch ISD to its parents:

Why should you care about the State Legislature and how its leadership impacts SBISD students? 

  • In 2005, state property taxpayers were told by the Texas Legislature that their property taxes would be lowered and that the funding loss to our schools would be made up through other taxes or revenue sources, including a new business or “margins” tax. That promise to make up for the funding loss has not been kept. The Texas Legislature must honor its commitment and restore this funding.

  • Reductions proposed in Austin would equate to 15% of SBISD’s current funding. This represents a reduction of about $800 per student from the current $5,700 per student allotment, or $20,000 per classroom. Pictured in another way, this is the equivalent of one full class period being eliminated from every student’s school day.

  • In 2006, the state froze school district revenue at the 2006 level. Since that time, in order to fund basic inflationary cost increases, including cost-of-living increases for our teachers, SBISD has made difficult non-campus reductions and used its savings to limit the direct effect on our classrooms. In fact, the current 2010-11 SBISD budget reflects reductions of more than $8 million to make ends meet. Unless the Legislature restores school funding, SBISD will no longer be able to keep the impact of yearly budget reductions away from its classrooms.
Our Priorities:Spring Branch ISD students will graduate from high school on time and go on to successfully complete a 2-year technical degree, or a 2-year associate’s degree, or a 4-year bachelor’s degree. 

To support this goal, the Legislature must: 

  • provide SBISD with a revenue stream that is predictable, takes into account inflationary costs, and is not less than the amount SBISD currently receives;
  • exempt school districts from state mandates for which the Legislature has not appropriated funding sufficient to meet expenditures (for example, costs related to the 4X4 math/science requirement);
  • restore the authority of elected school boards to raise funds locally without a tax-rate election, and eliminate the requirement that any of these additional funds be sent to the state (Robin Hood);
  • return local control and responsibility over important issues, such as the school calendar, to elected school district trustees who are most accountable to the community on matters of public schools; and
  • provide high-performing school districts like SBISD with autonomy and flexibility over their educational program.

As the Texas Legislature continues to meet during the months ahead, reduced budgets and associated reductions will be more clearly defined. SBISD, in the meantime, will continue to communicate with Legislators and our community about what these cuts will mean to our students, our employees and the local community.

If you’re not getting this kind of information about what’s going on with your school and your school district, talk to your child’s teacher, your PTA, your principal, or your school board trustee. You can’t know what to do if you don’t know what’s at stake.

2. Make your voice heard in Austin by lobbying your Representative, your Senator, and the members of the relevant legislative committees. HISD has a Legislative Training sessionscheduled for next Saturday to help you learn who these people are and what your best strategies are for communicating with them.

With the State of Texas facing a record-level budget shortfall, it is expected that the Texas Legislature will be severely cutting funding for public education.

To help parents, teachers, administrators, students, and other concerned members of the community understand how this could affect Houston-area students, HISD will be presenting a “primer” on how the Texas Legislature works on Saturday, February 26.

The district’s second “Legislative 101,” which starts at 9:00 a.m. at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions (3100 Shenandoah, 77021), will provide participants with an update on current legislative activity, the chance to hear from top lobbyists on the most effective ways to communicate with elected officials, and details on how Houston-area school districts can work together on legislative issues impacting their students.

For planning purposes, those who expect to attend this event are asked to RSVP as soon as possible to events@houstonisd.org.

You can also watch a video of the first event held on January 27.

Some legislators – Republicans, for the most part – will need more convincing than others.

3. Head up to Austin for a rally and march.

We invite everyone from across Texas to join us at the Capitol building in Austin Texas on March 12th, 2011!

Save Texas Schools will hold a rally and march at the State Capitol on March 12, 2011, with parents, teachers, students, community members, business owners, and faith organizations. A list of speakers and entertainment is in the works for this historic, nonpartisan, family-friendly event. We invite everyone, from school districts all across the state of Texas, to join us in asking our lawmakers to Keep Texas Smart!

DATE: Saturday, March 12, 2011

TIME/PLACE:

March: 11:00 a.m. starting from 12th & Trinity (2 blocks from the Capitol)

Rally: Noon – 2:00 p.m. at the Texas State Capitol on the South Steps, Congress Ave. & 11th St.

Click the link above for a map, and click here to RSVP.

So there you have it. If we don’t fight for this, we will have no right to complain later on. And if you need a little inspiration to get into the fighting mood, read this letter from John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, in which he channels a little William Travis to the Lege.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Renew Houston Gives Me Chance To Run Photo Of Rock

Issue 1 on the November ballot in Houston is about funding a massive wastewater removal program with the intent of reducing flooding in Houston.

The issue is called Renew Houston. I’m sure that name was focus group tested.

The issue will be funded by taxing property owners.

Stace Medellin as Dos Centavos says that Renew Houston will address a problem and create jobs.

I think he has a point, but I’m writing this post because I want to run a picture of a rock on my blog.

The Houston Independent  School District will have to pay money if Issue 1 passes.

This story in the Houston Chronicle details the fact that Houston schools do not want to pay this money. They say that if they have to pay this money that they might have to layoff teachers.

Here is how the Renew Houston folks responded

“HISD should do a more responsible job of managing taxpayer funds before laying off teachers and opposing a fiscally responsible plan to keep its students safe.

And—

“HISD has been rocked by at least two scandals this year, from lax oversight of more than a billion dollars in bond funds to spending millions on unnecessary overtime.”

What is the point of the venom of this response? Everybody is looking for money at this point. Why pick an unneeded fight with the schools?  Could not this issue have been seen in advance?

The Renew Houston people have a lot of money for ads and promoting their ballot issue.

Houston schools are strapped for cash.

Here is where I get to run a picture of a rock.

For coming up with this response Renew Houston was — As dumb as a rock.

Renew Houston needs to work this out. Already the reflexive anti-tax crowd opposes this issue. Why fight when you do not have to fight?

Below–-A diorite rock. Photo taken by Slim Sepp.”


John Coby at Bay Area Houston has also written about this matter.

Martha Griffin at musings has also commented on this concern.

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

What Will Houston Mayor Annise Parker Say And Do About 47% of Houston Kids In Poverty?—Where Are The So-Called Progressives And The Democrats?

A few days ago the office of Houston Mayor Annise Parker offered up the following status update on Facebook–

“Forbes Magazine says, “if you want to see a successful 21st century urbanism, hop down to Houston and the Lone Star State.” What do you think?

Here is the link to the article that the mayor was referencing. The Forbes article was written by Joel Kotkin.

Here is one thing the article says—

“Although it also attracts a large number of low-skill migrants, Houston has considerably expanded its white-collar workforce. According to the Praxis Strategy Group, Houston’s ranks of college-educated residents grew 13% between 2005 and 2008.”

Don’t worry folks—Those low-skill migrants are so busy doing our dirty work for us for low wages, that they don’t have time to bother you in any other regard. That is unless you are one of the folks obsessed with the immigration status of the people you exploit.

Houston has good points. There is a feeling that you can come here from someplace else and make a life for yourself and your family.

There is, however, another side. It is a side of Houston that Mayor Parker has never addressed  since she became Mayor earlier this year.

Here is what  a May 27 report from Houston Public radio station KUHF says about the free school meal program in Houston schools

Their (The Houston Independent School District) statistics show 47-percent of Houston children live at or below the poverty level. They say that means more of them are likely to go hungry. However there’s no poverty requirement to receive food with the summer program. They say any child can just show up and he or she will be served. When you combine the parks and school locations, there were 430 sites that served free lunch last summer. They say Texas ranks lower than most states when it comes to feeding its children and they’d like to add even more sites….”

47% of kids in poverty. I’d say that this number is an everyday crisis. We (try to) address an oil slick when it befouls the Gulf of Mexico. We make our dirty air in Houston an issue.

What about nearly half our kids living in poverty? Isn’t that a big crisis?

Mayor Parker must be a public advocate for our City of Houston, yet she must also acknowledge that we have many terrible problems in Houston that go beyond drainage and budget issues.

Mayor Parker is a Democrat who began her career in politics fighting for the human rights of gay folks. Where is her commitment to the best ideals of the Democratic Party and to the betterment of all citizens in Houston regardless of how much money they make?

It is up to liberals, progressives and Democrats in Houston to demand more of Mayor Parker.

The future of Houston involves more than pushing for more bike trails and urban rail lines.

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Terrible Graduation Rates Show You Can Do Anything To The People Of Houston And Get Away With It

A new study reports that only 58.5 % of Houston-area high school freshmen graduate four years later.

Here is the Houston Chronicle story about the study. 

From the study—

Children at Risk, a Houston-based advocacy group, commissioned the Texas Education Agency to conduct study of six-year graduation rates for the region’s 130 high schools. They learned that 53 percent of the students who begin as ninth-graders in the Houston Independent School District had not graduated from any Texas high school in six years. The combined graduation rate for the entire region’s high schools is 58.5 percent.”

This report tells me you can do anything to people in and around and Houston and get away with it. Can you imagine people tolerate this? Or take it as normal?

These type numbers exist in cities and rural areas across the country.

You’d might as well put people in camps or brand them with irons. A poor city neighborhood in this society is a camp in any case. One that Republicans ignore all the time and Democrats often only notice at election time.

( And an isolated rural area can often be a kind of more wide-open camp that Democrats ignore and Republicans often only notice at election time.)

You can’t get anywhere in this country without a high school degree. You can’t even be sure of your prospects anymore with a college degree. People should be demanding action. People should have been doing so a long time ago because these bad education numbers are longstanding.

Our Harris County sheriff, Democrat Adrian Garcia, wants Harris County to build a new jail. Yeah–Another jail. That will solve our ills.    

Please click here for my post on the subject of why people believe conspiracy theories.  I assert people often hold such views because nothing is so crazy or brutal that it can’t be true. It seems plausible enough that we as a community in Houston would be content enough with large numbers of our poor just dying off. How would it be so different from how we treat folks currently?

May 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 6 Comments