Texpatriate endorses in CD2

Editorial note: A previous version of this editorial inadvertently misspelled Mr Letsos’ first name. We have fixed the typo with apologies to Mr Letsos.

Texas’ 2nd Congressional District is a remarkably unique creature. Historically situated in deep East Texas, it has been occupied by some of the great behemoths of Texas politics, namely Jack Brooks and Charlie Wilson. In 2004, under the stewardship of Tom DeLay, the Texas Legislature gerrymandered the district into an entirely new creation, combining swaths of East Texas with not only northeastern Harris County, but the working class neighborhoods of Beaumont. A prominent Criminal District Judge from Houston, Ted Poe, received the Republican nomination and handily defeated Congressman Nick Lampson, the Democrat who had represented the Beaumont area for many years.

This board has always been cautious about Poe’s tenure as a Congressman. All in all and most generously, it is best characterized by relentless adherence to majoritarian principles and interests of constituents. Still, we have historically been impressed by his steadfast dedication to justice. As a District Judge, overseeing felonious cases, Poe was renowned for handing down bizarre sentences that “fit the crime,” including requiring thieves to march around the establishments they store from with signs notifying the public of their crimes.

Perhaps most importantly, Poe has been a tireless advocate against human trafficking. Specifically, this board has been wowed by his introduction of the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act in this most recent session of Congress. The bill increases appropriations for Federal law enforcement agencies to fight the heinous crimes and increases penalties for all those involved with the despicable practice. It has unanimously passed the House of Representatives, under Poe’s guidance, and is now waiting for action in the Senate.

Furthermore, Poe has incessantly been a valued representative to his constituents, even in areas not necessarily prone to voting for him. During 2011 redistricting, the 2nd District was rearranged once again, with the East Texas and Beaumont precincts being swapped out for inner-city Houston, namely Montrose and Timbergrove, two Democratic neighborhoods. This board has been particularly impressed with how Poe has been receptive to his new constituents desires, unlike their previous Congressman, John Culberson.

While Culberson continues to be at the behest of special interests trying to stymie an invaluable expansion of Light Rail throughout Montrose, Poe calmly polled his constituents and –upon learning they overwhelmingly supported expansion– began fighting for their interests. Poe sets an example for all his contemporaries, Democratic or Republican.

Of course, we are not without our criticisms. Poe is sadly somewhat right-wing on many social issues, and his views on immigration and foreign policy are sadly out of touch. However, even in representing these poor positions, Poe manages to successfully channel the desires of his constituents.

While we like Poe’s Democratic opponents, Niko Letsos, we believe he simply lacks the experience for Congress. The job requires someone without the need for on-the-job training, as well as an individual with a complex grasp of the myriad issues facing this State and this Country. While we may give Letsos the benefit of the doubt on the former, even a cursory glance over his website will show a somewhat superficial grasp of the issues. We likely agree with Letsos on some issues over Poe; predominantly those aforementioned social issues. However, this election ultimately comes down to a decision on experience and engagement. This board believes Poe decisively possesses both.

Noah M. Horwitz wrote an individual addendum to this editorial
I share my good friend Andrew’s views on the positive qualities Poe brings to his district, as well as the concerns over Letsos’ inexperience in the realm of politics. However, I do believe that he undervalued the importance of issues themselves.

Poe is a great representative for his people, but should this publication merely validate what is popular and not what is right? I disagree with Poe on abortion, on gay marriage, on Obamacare, on immigration reform, on taxes and on the general way that Congress should be run. These are significant points for me and, if I were to live in Poe’s district, they would make voting for him difficult.

Obviously, it would be easy for Letsos to say that he disagrees with Poe on the flashpoints while sharing his commitment to ending human trafficking. All the members of the House ostensibly shared that commitment, but it took Poe to actually craft a bill that attempts to solve a very terrible problem. Poe’s go-getter attitude on this issue and others is, in my opinion, his strongest attribute.

I don’t know how I would vote if I lived in Poe’s district. I honestly cannot see myself voting for the Republican in good faith, given their position in national politics. Alas, I don’t live in the 2nd district. My good friend Andrew does, though, so I will listen to what he has to say.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the voting board.

Election Watch Parties

Texpatriate will be offering comprehensive election night coverage tomorrow evening. Noah M. Horwitz will begin the evening at 5:30 (Houston time), live from Boston, offering color commentary and predictions for the final 90 minutes of Election Day. At the conclusion of voting, he will be joined by George Bailey to begin a full program, where the two will switch off between reading results and analyzing numbers. Texpatriate will be calling races and projecting victories in certain races before all votes will be counted.

Bailey & Horwitz will be joined in intermittent commentary throughout the proceedings by Andrew Scott Romo in New Orleans and Olivia Arena in Austin. Additionally, Texpatriate‘s Staff Writer Sophia Arena will be livestreaming from Annise Parker’s watch party in Downtown Houston.

We will provide a link to this livestream coverage on our website. Starting tomorrow afternoon, the first link on texpate.com should be an embedded video. Pre-coverage starts at 5:30, full program begins at 7:00 and the full program will end no later than 11:00. If there are any races still undecided at that time, Horwitz will stay on air as long as they are counting votes.

Click here to read about Candidates’ watch parties!

Four Years Later

Four years ago today, August 18th, 2009, marked the beginning of my political life. At that time, I had been following both national & local politics for some time already, but this was the point that I put myself out to the public and joined the conversation. Simply put, this is the most important decision I have made thus far in my young life.

At some point in August of 2009, preceding my Sophomore year of High School, I figured out it was somewhat easy to speak before the Houston City Council–just how easy, I still did not know. On August 18th, a Tuesday, I called the City Secretary’s office to schedule a time to speak at public session. I am still surprised how quickly I was called back. Calmly, I put together a 3-minute speech on a topic I wished to bring light onto, and convinced my Father to give me a ride to City Hall (I was 15 at the time).

Near the end of public session, after Mayor White had long since left the building, my name was called by Anna Russell and a 5 foot tall child with a medium-sized Jewfro approached the podium with three pieces of paper and began speaking. I spoke at length about just how wrong it was that schools in Houston were named after prominent Confederates (specifically three High Schools: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and John H. Reagan), and the reasons why the names should be changed.

Among my reasons were such gems as that Persons of Color going to these schools is  as offensive as I, a Jewish person, being zoned to go Adolf Eichmann Middle School. And that while it would be illegal and against HISD policy to fly a Confederate Flag at a High School, some of these same schools are named after the representatives of that flag.

Obviously, this is not the City of Houston’s issue, but I had hoped that I could stir up some support from the City Council in preparation of another speech at the HISD Board of Trustees. That second speech did, in fact, occur, in part because of the publicity surrounding my City Council speech. I spoke before the Trustees on September 10th, 2009, which, by coincidence, was the day Terry Grier was inaugurated as the new superintendent.

The astute will remember that Senator Mairo Gallegos, may he rest in peace, had given a speech immediately preceding Grier’s confirmation. Well, my speech was immediately succeeding Grier’s confirmation. At that point, I was swarmed by the press, asked by countless organizations to give interviews and quotes. Ultimately, I did appear on KPRC to discuss the issue.

Unfortunately, the institutions and inertia standing against change prevented any concrete action on the issue. Ever since he held the infamous “Why Ride Bikes While Others Die?” protest at UH in response to the Kent State Shootings, my father has liked to say that the entire City of Houston is coated in molasses that slows down progress to a nauseatingly slow pace.

The most important result of my speech on August 18th four years ago was that I put myself out there and entered the conversation on local politics. For the first time in my life, people I had not personally met could listen to my opinions. Perhaps most importantly, the speech set the stage for my years working at City Hall.

In October of that year, I was selected to serve as the District A Councilmember on the Mayor’s Youth Council, an organization made up of 33 well qualified young people who meet to discuss pertinent issues and submit a report to the City Council. When I showed up for the inauguration ceremony at City Council chambers, I met a young woman named Olivia Arena who identified herself as the District A Senior Aide. To this day, I still think the organizers mixed up the roles for the two of us, but that’s a whole different issue.

Throughout the following year, I became close with her and two other members of the group, George Bailey & Andrew Romo. Between the four of us, we dominated the Executive Committee of the council for three years. Not wanting to leave local politics behind us, we discussed ways to stay up on stuff back home while at College. Hence, Texpatriate was born.

None of this would have ever been possible if I had not given that original speech. I would have continued having pent-up opinions on issues with no outlet to discuss them. This would have probably continued until I would have just lost interest in politics and moved on.

Below I embed the speech I gave at the HISD Trustee meeting; it is probably the better of the two speeches. If you click on the links, you can find both the City Council speech and the KPRC interview as well. Again, I look pretty awful, so don’t judge.

Introducing…the Texpatriate Editorial Board

A few months ago, I (Horwitz) welcomed “an old City Hall buddy of mine,” Andrew Romo, into Texpatriate. Originally, the idea was for him to contribute articles, but this proposal was soon abandoned in favor of a more nuanced role. Rather, he has taken over most social networking and general publicity for this blog.

Accordingly, when the idea arose for two more “City Hall buddies” of mine, Olivia Arena and George Bailey, to join the Texpatriate organization, I ultimately came to the conclusion that writing may not be the best position for them. Primarily, I suppose, because most people seem to have better things to do with their lives than constantly read and write about local politics.

The four of us, however, do still want to be closely connected and affiliated with Texpatriate. The conclusion we ultimately came to was to create the Texpatriate Editorial Board (pictured below; from right to left, Noah M. Horwitz, Olivia Arena, George Bailey and Andrew Romo):

editorial board

The board will not manage the general affairs of Texpatriate, such as website changes, design decisions or other general matters. Content on individual articles will still be left, without restriction, to the discretion of the individual writer. This means that nearly every article, which is written by me (Horwitz), will be unchanged.

The key role of this board will be Editorial articles. These will include endorsements, annual or biennial rankings of City Councilmembers/State Legislators/Texas Congresspeople and general opinions or positions on contentious issues. While the vast majority of these editorials will probably be authored through my account, these will not be only my opinion and sometimes might not even be mine at all. All editorials will be obviously marked as those articles where “Texpatriate” is the first word of the title (Ex: “Texpatriate endorses Sylvia Garcia“).

Editorial board decisions will only be reached if the decision is unanimous or 3-1. If there exists a 2-2 tie, no decision will be rendered. Individual members of the board, if their opinions are not completely expressed in the editorials, may write their own opinions on the subject or field their own endorsements for candidates not chosen.

Just a little bit of background on where the political tilt exists within this new board. Olivia Arena and I (Horwitz) have traditionally liberal views, Andrew Romo has moderate views and George Bailey’s complete apathy on national political issues makes a political litmus test difficult. Roughly, his views represent significant local emphasis, but are broadly to the right of centre (just slightly).

We look forward to bringing you our first editorial: “Texpatriate’s best and worst legislators of the 83rd session,” sometime before Texas Monthly comes out with theirs.

New Contributor

I have had some reflection over the weekend and have decided something: I am going to move Texpatriate in a bit of a different direction. Before, I wanted to have a Houston Progressive blog, like the dozens of other ones. However, I have decided to make Texpatriate a tad more diverse. I am welcoming an old City Hall buddy of mine, Andrew Romo, as a Contributing Writer.

Andy is a fellow Texpatriate, sojourning in New Orleans. Andy was a moderate in High School, but I think he has taken a slight turn to the left since starting College. However, he is probably more professional than I and writes from a non-partisan point of view rather than my unabashedly liberal point of view. He has some very interesting perspectives that I hope he can share with everyone soon.