287g Reauthorized

The Houston Chronicle reports that the controversial 287(g) program used in the Harris County Jails will be extended for another two and a half years, following a unanimous vote of confidence from the Commissioners’ Court and strong campaigning from the Sheriff.

The program basically allows law enforcement to check those arrested of crimes for their immigration status, and then possibly turn them over to the Federal authorities (i.e., ICE, formerly known as INS). Supporters of the policy note that it roots out dangerous people who should be deported, while opponents allege that most of those deported are non-violent, and it presumes one is guilty until proven innocent.

287(g) in Harris County, which first reared its head during the tenure of Sheriff Tommy Thomas (a Republican), was introduced in 2008. Later that year, Thomas was defeated for re-election by Democrat Adrian Garcia. The next year, amid massive protests, the program was controversially reauthorized. Mostly because of the rather quiet nature of today’s reauthorization, there were no such protests this time. Part of this most likely stems from the different partisan composition of the Commissioner’s Court. Whereas the commissioners were, in 2009, split evenly, there are 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat today. This, of course, is because Sylvia Garcia was defeated for re-election in 2010 by Jack Morman. The elimination of Garcia, the only Hispanic on the court, probably made reauthorization easier, though Sheriff Adrian Garcia, an ardent supporter of the problem, is also a Hispanic Democrat.

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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!

Brazilians, Christie and medicine

On Thursday August 22nd, a few representatives of the Editorial Board met with a Brazilian delegation of youth leaders, and other officials representing the City of Houston, in an effort to share information about youth civic activism.  Olivia Arena, Noah M. Horwitz and I were asked to join in the meeting to give our perspective on the Mayor’s Youth Council –the organization we all met each other serving on– from the position of alumni.  Councilmember Jack Christie presided over the meeting and provided the Brazilian delegates pertinent background about Houston and its importance globally.  He was chosen for this important position because of his recent trip with Mayor Annise Parker to South America, where they participated in a cultural exchange.

Councilmember Christie dominated the conversation for the first twenty minutes or so, explaining Houston’s prominent place in the oil industry and giving a brief overview of its history.  He also took it upon himself to give a brief history of South America and the importance of oil there.  While Christie made an important connection pointing out our similar interests in the energy economy, it seemed rather strange to be telling people from Brazil about their homeland.

Each member of the Brazilian delegation then introduced themselves, followed by a short comment from Councilmember Christie.  The first delegation member explained his involvement with providing health services to members of his community and encouraging youth to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  At that point, Councilmember Christie launched into an extended rant on his abhorrence towards modern medicine, stating that this country is “over-medicated” and explaining that he tells his children not to even take aspirin because it’s only a gateway drug to other medications.  He proceeded to repeatedly bring up his revulsion towards modern medicine, making it apparent that he actually does not believe in proven medical treatments of legitimate diseases.  After the Brazilian delegation finished introducing themselves, Councilmember Christie was called into another meeting and he politely excused himself after we took some group photos.

We finished up the meeting by each of us explaining what the Mayor’s Youth Council meant to us and what the Council does on a monthly basis, after which we opened up the meeting to a much more open discussion.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time after the extended introductions to truly delve into the open discussion, but I feel we did convey much of the feel of the Mayor’s Youth Council in this brief hour and a half meeting.

What perplexed me long after I left that meeting, however, was why a public official such as Jack Christie would go out of his way to bash the virtues of modern medicine. Given that this is not Coucnilmember Christie’s first experience with the controversial position, I would have expected better from him. However, these comments are systemic of a troubling trend: a rejection of science. Such a position is dangerous.

Dewhurst’s Messy Call

In the past week it has become alarmingly clear that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has little if any consideration for the law when it comes to personal matters. The Texas Tribune reports on thirteen-minute phone call between Dewhurst and Sargent Maness of Allen Police Department in which Dewhurst attempts to sidestep a “miscarriage of justice” and get his step-sister’s daughter-in-law, Ellen Bevers, out of jail.

He begins by asking for the “most senior officer available” and qualifies his inquiry by stating his name and title as the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. He is then transferred to Sargent Maness. He assures Maness that Bevers was arrested on a “mistaken charge”.

It becomes clear that the issue at hand is an “unscanned” bag of groceries from Kroger totaling fifty-seven dollars. She was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor for theft between 50 and 500 dollars. Dewhurst assured law enforcement that he has “known this woman for thirty years” and she is “the sweetest woman in the world”.

Dewhurst asked Maness to “explain to me what I need to do to arrange for getting her out of jail this evening” because he knew “in my heart was not involved” in the intentional act of stealing”.

Dewhurst’s attempts to circumvent legal protocol and use his title to influence the legal process are examples of a disregard for the legitimacy of the judicial process. He claimed this was all a matter of “unfortunate circumstances”, but how often has he quickly dismissed the same argument. Politicians like Dewhurst claim to abide by an ethical standard that more often than not, is disregarded when it comes to personal matters.

The issue of hypocrisy in politics is nothing new, but the blatant attempt by Dewhurst is all the more insulting. Repeatedly stressing his title and rapport with law enforcement, Dewhurst badgers Maness for phones numbers and contact information. He seems to have no qualms when it comes to seeing “what can be done to prevent this very nice lady, through a miscarriage of justice, from spending the night in jail.”

Supporters of Dewhurst stress that he emphasized his desire to let law enforcement deal with the matter in the appropriate manner. While Dewhurst did say he wanted to conduct everything the legal way, he attempted to influence the legal process. The audacity to place the call is what should be discussed. It appears we live in a political climate that allows politicians to think they can manipulate the law with little or no consequences. In fact, though Dewhurst has received scathingly comments from both sides, he claims his statements were in no way an attempt to circumvent the law.

The issue was quickly picked up by Dewhurst’s opponents, who will no doubt exploit the issue in the upcoming Republican primary. Already, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has put out an Anchorman-themed Tweet on the subject, saying “Dew’s call to Allen PD sounds like Anchorman Ron Burgundy: ‘I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal. People know me.’

Bay Area Houston, Brains & Eggs, Burnt Orange Report, Letters from Texas and McBlogger all have more.

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.