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Who Can Liberals & Progressives Support In 2011 City Of Houston Elections?—Who Is Running For Houston City Council?

It is time for our Houston municipal elections.

(Above–Houston City Hall.)

Early voting runs October 24-November 4. General Election Day is November 8.

Here is a link to help you find out where to vote.

Who can a liberal or progressive support in these elections?

As is so often the case in Houston, the pickings are slim.

Houston city elections are low-turnout affairs in which an electorate not representative of Houston’s demographics chooses from candidates who discuss a very narrow range of issues. Just how much is it that can we hear about red light cameras?

The credibility of the candidates on the ballot is often judged by how much money they have raised.

Here is my look at the Houston city ballot and, also, some additional links to help you figure out how you’d like to vote.

Houstonians merit liberal and progressive options at the ballot box.

Houston was a 61% Obama city in 2008. If we can’t muster up some decent candidates, then maybe we should use our political energies to support Occupy Houston.

While we should vote in every election, the energy and hope we are seeing from the Occupy Wall Street movement is more positive  and hopeful than anything occurring in our municipal elections.

Here are my endorsements—

Mayor-–I’m leaving my ballot blank for Mayor. I simply don’t believe Mayor Annise Parker has any consistent commitment to progressive values. Good people will disagree, but the Mayor has had two years to offer leadership on pressing issues of poverty and on the lack of broad political participation in Houston. She seems to have little interest in these subjects.

Mayor Parker is likely to win reelection in 2011. The absence of competent and credible opponents, and her campaign war chest of more than $2 million helps make this so. Yet despite her good electoral outlook for 2011, the Mayor is concerned with winning a strong majority of voters in 2011 so as to strengthen her hand with City Council, and to help her fend off challengers in 2013.

I’ve no desire in helping the Mayor accomplish these goals. No matter what percentage of votes cast in 2011 Annise Parker ends up  winning, it will be done with an overall turnout of somewhere between 10% and 15%. There is no way the Mayor will have a credible mandate from an involved public. Why should Mayor Parker be given the illusion of a mandate when she has never engaged in serious grassroots efforts to expand voter turnout in Houston, and when she does not pursue policies that are inclusive of Houstonians of every economic status?

(Update 10/31–Mayor Parker has received a grade of A- for fiscal conservatism from the Texas Conservative Review. I say again that Mayor Parker does not warrant the support of liberals and progressives.)

(Below–Recent picture of ongoing drought in Houston as seen in Memorial Park. The grassroots have dried up. Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino)

Council At-Large #1–Incumbent Stephen Costello plays all sides of the political aisle while Green Don Cook does not work hard in his campaigns. Mr. Costello’s Renew Houston plan addresses the serious issue of flooding in Houston, but is also regressive in how it is funded and makes little effort to include green solutions in the plan. I’m leaving my ballot blank in this race.

Council At Large #2–I’m supporting Jennifer Rene Pool in this 10 candidate race.  She will occasionally say liberal and progressive things. Maybe she means some of them.

Council At-Large #3–Incumbent Melissa Noriega is a thoughtful person and has my support.

Council At-Large #4–Green Amy Price is an energetic and upbeat. She works hard to learn the issues and will be a councilmember who seeks solutions and who listens. Incumbent Democrat C.O. Bradford has on his balance sheet his terrible administration of the crime lab when he was Houston’s police chief, and his calls for austerity-type budgeting for Houston.

Council At-Large #5–Only you know if you want to support Jolanda Jones for one last term. She is always involved in some type of fuss. Sometimes it seems to be her fault, while other times it is not her fault. In any case, you wish that Ms.Jones was a more disciplined and effective advocate for the poor and disenfranchised in Houston. Her story on Council seems in good part to be of an opportunity missed. After some thought, I’ve decided I’m going to vote for Ms. Jones.  Ms. Jones made a recent visit to Occupy Houston and I appreciate that fact. I’m not aware of any other incumbent city official who has done the same.

Council District C-–I live in this district. Karen Derr is a more progressive option than Ellen Cohen. I’m going to be voting Ms. Derr. Ms. Cohen is a fund-raising machine who in the recent past has accepted campaign funds from gay marriage opponent Bob Perry. I’d rather have a fresh voice in City Hall rather  than a candidate who seems to have the advantage in part due to her friendship with Mayor Parker, and in part due to her ability to raise a lot of money from big donors. Ms. Cohen gives the impression of being an incumbent even before she is elected.

Council District H–I don’t live in this district. However, incumbent Ed Gonzalez merits mention as a decent person and as someone open to hearing voices on all sides of a debate.

There are also 10 amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot. Here is my in-depth analysis of these propositions.

There are 2 resources that stand out when considering our city elections. These resources cover all the Houston district council seats up for election in 2011.

Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has a page at his blog Off The Kuff with his interviews of many of the candidates. This page also has links to the websites of the candidates and listings of selections by the various interest groups that endorse in city elections.

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area offers a voter’s guide that profiles and asks questions of all the Houston candidates.

Fellow blogger Perry Dorrell at Brains And Eggs has made a series of excellent posts endorsing candidates in Houston for 2011.

Greg Wythe at Greg’s Opinion has also made some well thought-out endorsements.

Houston city elections often seem to be a taxpayer-financed subsidy for a political class of consultants, city contract seekers, and all-purpose opportunists who all have little do with everyday life in Houston.

That said, you should still go and vote. I don’t have the heart to tell you otherwise.

The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.

Vote in Houston in 2011 and then commit yourselves to making our local democracy better.

(Below–Houston skyline in 1971. Photo by YixilTesiphon. Here is a link to a history of Houston.) 

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Houston League Of Women Voters Has All The Facts—Texas Liberal Panel Of Experts

A few days I ago I drove the office of the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area so that I could get some election related materials. The Texas Liberal Panel of Experts has been pondering the upcoming election, but felt they needed additional information to make the best choices.

The League of Women Voters has many resources to share with the voting public. I’m including with this post photographs of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts reviewing these materials.

Below is Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat checking out the Harris County sample ballot that was provided to me by the League. Hamburger is dwarfed by the ballot. The ballot is even larger than this because it is printed on the other side as well.

You see that the Harris County sample ballot is printed in both Spanish and English. On the other side it is printed in Vietnamese. No matter how much the so-called Tea Party wishes otherwise, our city, county, state and nation are becoming more diverse each day.

The League provides an online service where you can build our own ballot.

Another of my expert panel, Cactus, is seen below reading 2010 Voters Key from the League. This booklet has the names and contact information of very many elected officials in Harris County. There are also facts here about the duties of each office. I think Cactus really enjoys this publication. Though so far Cactus has not said one way or another on the matter.

The final member of my expert panel, Samuel Slater Bobblehead Doll, is studying the LWV Voters Guide. This excellent guide features all the candidates for office offering their qualifications and responding to various questions. Samuel Slater Bobblehead enjoys reading this document from cover-to-cover. Here is the pdf file of the Houston voter’s guide.

The League of Women voters is of great value. They compile facts to help folks decide who to support at the polls , they sponsor debates of local candidates, and they put on events year-round to help inform the public.

Please make use of the League wherever it is that you live.

October 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Candidates For Governor Of Texas Debate Education–An Eyewitness Report

I attended the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area Texas Governor’s race debate held on Sunday, October 3 here in Houston.

The debate was held at the Harris County Department of Education building you see pictured above. As you will note in the picture, this education building is named after Ronald Reagan.

That would be funny if the joke were not on all of us.

Three of the four candidates for Governor of Texas took part in this debate.

The three in attendance were—

Democratic nominee Bill White.

Green nominee Deborah Shafto.

Libertarian nominee and scary person Kathie Glass.

Not attending the debate was incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry.

Governor Perry does not believe that the people of Texas merit the chance to see and compare all the candidates in one place and at one time.

The focus of the debate was education. There was a warm-up panel of three Harris County school superintendents to discuss education issues in Texas.

So the event was really something of a double feature.

(Below—Double Feature.)

The three local superintendents all agreed that educating kids is a challenge. They all agreed that kids must take many standardized tests, but that they sought to educate kids beyond the tests. They all agreed that money is tight. They all agreed that they agreed.

A top Houston and Texas education blogger is Martha Griffin who writes musings.

As for the debate, here are some observations—

Bill White spoke to the fact that anybody born in the U.S. is a citizen. This was in response to a question about if the children of undocumented persons should get government services.  Mr. White’s stand is clearly the correct Constitutional view.

Deb Shafto said she would be willing to raise taxes to support education. This is a good position that puts the long-term interests of Texans ahead of short-term politics. Texas has one of the worst drop out rates in the nation.

Angry Kathie Glass said that the number of immigrants coming across the border represented an “Invasion.” If you hold this to be true, it seems to me you’d be justified to do just about anything to repel an “invasion.”

(Below–Invasion.)

Mr. White did not at any point mention poverty or the large number of poor Texans. He may have alluded to the fact of poverty, but he made repeated and clear mention of the middle class. The middle class does indeed need a government that is on their side. Yet at the same time, it is frustrating that in a state as poor as Texas, the former Democratic Mayor of a city with a near 50% child poverty rate did not discuss attacking poverty as an important way of improving education. We need a root and branch approach to education because as it says in Job 18:16

“Their roots will dry up, and their branches will wither.”

Ms. Shafto said that she has been a union member and that she supported teacher’s unions. She said that while she has seen these unions at times pursue things she did not fully agree with, that people have a right to organize and that teachers unions are often good advocates for education.

Extreme Ms. Glass said that she would get rid of truancy laws and that if kids as young as 14 wanted to drop out that they should be allowed to do so.

That is just what she said.

Mr. White said the cost of attending our Texas state universities has gone up a great deal while Rick Perry has been Governor. This is a correct assertion by Mr. White and it is not clear what Governor Perry is going to do about this problem.  Maybe if the Governor had been at the debate, his views on the matter would be more clear.

Ms. Shafto used the analogy of a “jump ball” in basketball to describe how Texas teachers are competing for bonuses. I enjoyed this metaphor. As Sojourner Truth knew, we must sell the shadow to support the substance.

(Below–Jump ball)

Far Out Ms. Glass said that local government control of schools was okay, but that Austin should stay out of the picture to the extent possible.

Yet if the issue for libertarians is the place of government in our lives, local government is still government. If any level of government can be trusted to run something as important as are our schools, why can’t government be trusted to handle a number of responsibilities? Libertarians live in a fantasy world.

All in all, the debate served a useful public purpose. I urge folks to consider all the candidates. In my view, either Mr. White or Ms. Shafto would do a good job for Texas. I will be voting for Mr. White because he will be a far better Governor for the future of Texas than Mr. Perry. 10 years of Rick Perry so far is more than enough.

(Below— The debate stage. This is an approved LWV picture. I followed the rules and did not take any pictures inside the debate hall.)

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Since He Won’t Debate, What Type Of Empty Chair Should be Set up For Rick Perry?

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area and the Harris County Department of Education are hosting a debate for our Texas Governor’s Race.

This debate will be held at 6PM Sunday, October 3 at the Harris County Board of Education building located at 6300 Irvington Boulevard in Houston.

(Above–Incumbent Governor Rick perry refuses to debate this year. I think the League should set up an empty chair for the Governor. Above you see a Saddle Chair.  Maybe the Governor would attend if he could imagine himself a cowboy during the debate.)

The debate will be moderated by Melanie Lawson. Her name sounds familiar for those of you who live in Houston because she is an anchorperson on the TV news.

(Above–I think all Texans would enjoy seeing Governor Perry sitting in a Garden Egg chair. This chair was designed in 1968 by Peter Ghyczy.  Photo by Paulscf.)

The Democratic nominee for Governor—Bill White–-and the Green nominee–-Deb Shafto-–are scheduled to attend this debate.

The Libertarian nominee will be there as well. I don’t want to mention that person’s name. If you’re really a Libertarian, you’ll look it up yourself and not count on me to do that for you.

Though if you are a Libertarian, I bet you’ll take Social Security when it is time and I bet you’ll call the local fire department if your house is on fire. It is services for others that Libertarians don’t like.

( Governor Perry might attend the debate if chairs were set up in a palatial setting that reminds Mr. Perry of the $10,000 a month rental home he has been living in since the Governor’s mansion burned down. Picture taken by Hennrik Bennetsen.)

Incumbent Governor Rick Perry will not be at the debate. Mr. Perry is refusing to debate Mr. White and his other opponents.

It is not really so much that Governor Perry is afraid to debate Mr. White.  It is, instead, that Mr. Perry has a small lead in the polls and his base of supporters does not care if he debates or not. It does not serve the Governor to debate. The fact that a debate involving all candidates would serve the democratic process is not so important to the Governor. It is about that is best for Rick Perry instead of what is best for the people of Texas.

(Above–The League could bring a park bench in for the Governor.  Photo taken by James Perry.  Seeing a public asset, the Governor could seek to privatize the bench by selling it to a company that would charge a fee or toll to citizens who wished to sit on the bench.)

Listening to others in a debate can be difficult when your personal and political identity is often rooted in disliking people, and in being afraid of people not like yourself in our minority-majority state. This describes the mindset of many Tea Party/Republican voters in Texas.

By not debating and by refusing to meet with newspaper editorial boards, Mr. Perry helps his supporters live in their own private world.

It is world where Federal Health Care Reform is rejected even though so many in Texas have no health insurance.

(See here all that Health Care Reform does for hard working Americans. These are benefits that any American might require at any time.)

It is a world where treasonous talk of secession from our nation is okay.

It is world where the response to high school drop out rates, is to refuse federal education dollars that are correctly tied to maintaining a consistent level of education funding in upcoming years.

It is not such a nice world.

Hopefully, Mr. Perry will soon come to the realization that the people of Texas deserve to see all the candidates for Governor debating the issues on the same stage.

(Above—The chair Governor Perry merits most for his petulance. Photo taken by Yvwv.)

September 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Houston Area League Of Women Voters Host Meet The Candidates Event On Sept. 18

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area will be holding a big meet the candidates day for Harris County on Saturday, September 18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The event starts at 3 PM.

(Above–A great deal better than a Glenn Beck rally. Here is some history of the struggle for Women’s suffrage.)

You say that Saturday September 18 is Yom Kippur and you can’t go? Okay…Hard to say anything other than that is indeed an oversight for what will otherwise be a great event. I hope the League keeps this fact in mind for the next time.

Here are the facts on the event—

September 18, 2010, the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area is cosponsoring I-Day Houston (Infrastructure Day) with the Houston Chapter of the American Society of Civil engineers. I-Day Houston is being held in the George R. Brown Convention Center, Entrance C, 3rd Floor, starting at 3pm. The event is free and open to the public. I-Day Houston includes town hall meetings, a candidate meet and greet, and debates.

Town Hall Meetings on Infrastructure

Co-sponsored with American Society of Civil Engineers
Talk about problems and solutions with experts, such as Dr. John Lienhard,
host of
The Engines of Our Ingenuity
Session One: 3:00–4:00 pm
1a. Transportation
1b. Energy
Session Two: 4:30–5:30 pm
2a. Storm & Waste Water
2b. Ports & Airports

Candidate Meet and Greet

Brought to you by the League of Women Voters
of the Houston Area Education Fund

Talk to candidates seeking federal, state, and county offices. Ask them why they deserve your vote.
Open to the public at 3:00–5:30 pm Continue reading

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Best Resources To Figure Out Who To Vote For In Harris County & In Texas For 2010 Democratic Primary

The Texas Democratic Primary is coming up on March 2, 2009.

Any properly registered voter can vote in the Democratic primary. The only restriction is that you cannot also vote in the Republican primary if you vote in the Democratic primary.

There are many contested races on the ballot in Texas and here in Harris County, Texas.

How should one vote? Nobody knows about all these people running for all these judgeships.

Please take note—The judicial races in Harris County are for the whole county. Though it may say district court  on the ballot, the races are countywide.

What are the best resources to learn about the candidates in contested Democratic primaries both in Harris County and statewide?

I am aware of two resources that are best.

Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has a spreadsheet with information about the candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This spreadsheet  has links to interviews that Mr. Kuffner conducted with most of the candidates, a list of endorsements the candidates have received, and links to the web homes for the candidates.

Another strong resource is the voters guide issued by the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area. This guide, accessible online, has information for both Harris County and Fort Bend County.

Please find some time over the weekend to figure out who to vote for on primary day. There are campaign volunteers, party workers, bloggers and others who spend time on these races because they think it is the right thing to do as citizens. Please make some effort on your part to be a good citizen as well.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment