That's the question, isn't it?
It took only a few minutes at the District H candidate forum Thursday morning for discussion to turn to the elephant in the room.
"District H is supposed to be a Hispanic district," said Edgar Colon, chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Political Action Committee, reading a question on behalf of an audience member. "Should it be represented by a Hispanic?"
In what is shaping up as a hard-fought runoff campaign between Houston police officer Ed Gonzalez and former public high school teacher Maverick Welsh to fill the City Council seat vacated by Adrian Garcia, that question looms as large as any other in a district originally drawn to elect a Latino.
I'll be the first one to say it. No! It doesn't have to be represented by an Hispanic. But when you have a highly qualified, progressive-minded product of the district, why not?
As a highly-educated Chicano myself, I've been proud to click on a Anglo candidate running against a brown person, especially when the brown person is not a progressive (cough-cough, Roy and/or Danny More-or-Less Mexicano). So, no, it's not about race, or in this case, ethnicity. As a voter, I'm interested in having a highly qualified candidate with whom I can identify, whether it by that candidate's story, or something else.
Currently, District I Councilman James Rodriguez is the only Latino among 14 council members, in a city where Hispanics make up nearly 42 percent of the population.
The Department of Justice helped create District H when it forced the city to undertake redistricting in 1979, part of an effort to correct historic voting inequities in Houston and ensure more minority representation on the council. But the district, which includes the Heights, much of the old Second Ward just east of downtown and a wide swath that extends midway between the inner and outer loops around Interstate 45, has undergone dramatic changes since then.
James M. Goins 1,181
Willie D. Hatchett 1,719
Herman Lauhoff 3,977
Russel Stanley 305
Anne Wheeler 2,824
Dale M. Gorczynski 3,274
You can make of all that what you will. I found it interesting that this district that was drawn to be represented by a Hispanic has only recently been actually represented by a Hispanic for a majority of its existence. David Ortez has some tangential thoughts.
Professor Murray takes a look at the upcoming runoff in District H, taking into consideration the 1992 Congressional election in which Rep. Gene Green won a runoff against Ben Reyes and the early and absentee voting patterns from this election. You can see my take here. All I know is that early voting begins in a week, and things have been pretty quiet so far. At least, I've not yet observed any negative campaigning like what we saw in the November 2003 runoff, which is fine by me. Of course, everyone may just be waiting till after the holiday weekend to get down to business. If so, we'll know soon enough.
Last week, I noted that Mayoral candidates Peter Brown and Gene Locke expressed very different opinions at a candidate forum about the Mayor's role in public education, with Brown advocating an urban school district with Mayoral appointees for its board, and Locke disagreeing with that approach. Both campaigns followed up with post-event press releases touting their positions. I've now received a similar statement from Annise Parker, which I present beneath the fold. I really need to spend some more time thinking about this, which I hope to do shortly after sine die, when I'm not devoting 80+% of my bloggy brain resources to the Lege. For now, here's Parker's statement on education.
Via email from the Gene Locke campaign, the three Democratic State Senators who serve in Houston have all endorsed Locke's candidacy for Mayor.
"At a time when Houston needs a strong, accomplished leader at City Hall, the right candidate has come forward. We are committed to seeing Gene Locke elected Mayor of Houston," declared John Whitmire, Dean of the Texas Senate and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice; Rodney Ellis, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Organization and a member of the far-reaching Committee on State Affairs; and Mario Gallegos, Chairman of the Senate Sub-committee on Flooding & Evacuations and Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Jurisprudence. The declaration came in the form of a joint statement issued from Austin where the Texas Legislature is in the final weeks of its biennial session.
When I blogged about a recent story in the Chron about some resume-stretching by Roy Morales, I suggested that he should turn his firing by the Houston Emergency Center as a positive. Well, he's now written a letter to the editor doing exactly that.
But it is the description of my departure from the Houston Emergency Center that is the most incomplete. I should have been more forceful in explaining the circumstances. The fact is, I bucked the city bureaucracy because I thought decisions were being made that jeopardized the 911 response system and put the people of Houston at risk. Inexperienced people were installing new technology for which there was no written plan. And this was occurring at a time when the center was facing issues related to previous technology and electrical problems. So I spoke up. I said it could bring the system down. My superiors disagreed. I was given the option to leave, and I did. Faced with the same decision now, I'd do the same thing.
Yolanda Navarro Flores, who finished third in the District H special election on May 9, has endorsed Maverick Welsh for the runoff. From the email the Welsh campaign sent out:
"Maverick Welsh will be a great city council member. He is sensitive to our Latino needs and issues...his door will be open to black, brown, and white. Maverick will not put the personal political agenda of others before the interests of the people."
Yolanda is a distinguished resident of District H, serving on the HCC Board and having served in the Texas House of Representatives. She and her family have a proud history of standing for the people of our community.
"Today, I offer my endorsement to Maverick Welsh," Yolanda said Tuesday. "My endorsement is for change and responsiveness for our District, not the same politics of the "patron/patrona" hand-picking the candidate for the people. No more status quo politics. My endorsement is for Maverick Welsh--he represents hope for a new and better future for all people in District H and our great city."
Having said this, it's not that big a surprise that Flores would back Welsh. We know that there's no love lost between Flores and Gonzalez. For her to endorse him would have been the bigger surprise.
The runoff is scheduled for Saturday, June 13. Early voting begins on Monday, June 1, and runs through Tuesday, June 9, at the same locations as for the May election. You can see the times and places here (PDF). If you voted in the May 9 election, expect to have your door knocked sometime between now and then.
Even fewer voters are expected at the polls for the runoff than the initial contest, when about 4,200 out of 93,000 cast ballots among nine candidates. That, political analysts say, and the already slim 183-vote difference between Welsh and Gonzalez, is expected to transform the next three weeks into a campaign blitz between two highly-motivated candidates with vocal and ardent supporters.
"It's all about turnout and who has the organization and can deliver their voters to the polls," said Robert Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.
David Ortez casts a critical eye at the campaign websites of the Mayoral hopefuls, and grades them out on things like design, content, and social networking. It's an interesting exercise, and one for which an aesthetic imbecile such as myself is wholly unqualified, so I appreciate the effort. Check it out.
At a Mayoral forum on Thursday, Gene Locke and Peter Brown get into it over the school system.
Gene Locke, the former city attorney, targeted Councilman Peter Brown's recent statement to the Chronicle that Houstonians should consider forming an urban school district heavily influenced by the mayor through board appointments.
"I think that's an awful idea," Locke said. "It's going to be hard enough to make sure this city is safe, to make sure the business development grows."
Brown retorted, "We cannot punt on education like my colleague said."
Several independent school districts, overseen by elected school boards, operate inside the city limits. Brown said Thursday he does not favor having city government take over the Houston school district in the way that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has suggested for urban areas.
City Councilman Brown is pitching the formation of a new "urban school district," perhaps spanning from downtown past the 610 Loop, that would fall under the mayor's power.
"I would favor the creation of this urban school district that is controlled by the mayor, that has a board that is largely appointed by the mayor, so there's accountability," he said.
Brown added that a task force should study several ideas, including breaking the 200,000-student Houston ISD into smaller districts.
"I wouldn't want to say, 'I'm elected mayor, and the second week I'm elected mayor we're going to dismantle HISD,' " he said.
One more thing:
Morales asserted that when he served on a grand jury, "50 percent of Hispanics who came across our court were illegals and 90 percent of them were committing crimes against their children and other children." The figures could not be confirmed late Thursday.
Most of the candidates dodged a question about whether they would propose no annual spending increases in the city government budget. Morales, however, said he would cut the budget and that police and firefighters have told him billions of dollars are wasted in their departments. He did not cite specifics.
Back in March, I noted that businesswoman Elizabeth Villafranca, one of the leading voices in Farmers Branch against its anti-immigrant xenophobia, was running for City Council there. Alas, she did not win.
Among other municipal races from Saturday, a leading opponent of efforts in Farmers Branch to stop landlords from renting to illegal immigrants failed to win a city council seat.
Restaurant owner Elizabeth Villafranca lost to executive assistant Michelle Holmes, but she said some good came out of her run for council.
Villafranca: We called attention to a lot of things that are going on. And this is a good thing. This is a good day. Sometimes winning is not necessarily the most important thing. And certainly in this case that has proven to be the truth.
Villafranca said Farmers Branch has never had any minority representation on the city council and that needs to change.
It will be eight weeks or more before shoppers see beer and wine in grocers' coolers as stores line up to receive state alcohol permits.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will issue permits to sell alcohol throughout Lubbock County after voters overwhelming approved two propositions expanding alcohol sales during Saturday's county-wide election.
But questions about Lubbock's zoning ordinances could further slow the process of opening the city up to alcohol retailers.
Challenging the city's alcohol zoning ordinances, Pinkie's and Majestic Liquor, which own the liquor stores at The Strip, last week filed a lawsuit against the city of Lubbock and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission claiming the ordinances violate state law. The Lubbock City Council approved alcohol zoning ordinances in November 2008 in anticipation of Saturday's vote.
Anti-alcohol PAC Truth About Alcohol Sales co-chairman Josh Allen said while he's not involved in the suit, he does not "believe the City Council has much of an ordinance to stand on."
He described the zoning ordinances, which use specific language regulating alcohol sales in Lubbock's West Broadway District, and set a city standard for floor space and percentage of sales allowed of alcohol retailers, as contradictory to TABC regulations.
The liquor stores asked 237th District Judge Sam Medina to bar the city from issuing the necessary paperwork to obtain alcoholic beverage permits until an agreement can be reached on the wording of the ordinance. An Avalanche-Journal story last week reported Medina will consider at a hearing later this month whether to grant an injunction.
The suit has nothing to do with whether alcohol should be sold in Lubbock, but rather who can sell it where, said Zach Brady, attorney for the stores.
"As far as we're concerned, the citizens are going to decide whether we have alcohol sales in Lubbock," Brady said. "But if we do choose to have those sales, my clients want to make sure that the rules are fair and that they comply with state law."
The city council approved last December changes to the city ordinances defining where alcohol could be sold in anticipation of Saturday's vote. Lubbock overstepped its authority when the council limited the size of package stores and specified what types of businesses could sell alcohol in the same area, Brady said.
The liquor stores asked 237th District Judge Sam Medina to bar the city from issuing the necessary paperwork to obtain alcoholic beverage permits until an agreement can be reached on the wording of the ordinance.
Cities do have options for zoning under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, but the ordinances they establish cannot conflict with the state law, Brady said.
"What they've chosen to do is not among their options," he said. "What they can't do, expressly under the code, is to discriminate among the different classes of alcohol retailers. They can't let one type of business sell alcohol in a given area and not let another type of business locate in that area."
We need more early voting locations
There is now beer in Lubbock
Ed and Maverick in District H
Projecting District H
Last day of early voting for the May elections
In Lubbock, there is no beer
Endorsement watch: Ed for H
Early voting in District H
Endorsement watch: Bring on the funk
Endorsement watch: Castro for San Antonio
Chron District H overview
The Mayorals and gambling
More on Lonnie Allsbrooks
Another contender for At Large #1
Hey, at least it's not an L
Neil talks to Noel
Last candidate forums for District H
Registration deadline for District H
Candidate interview: Ed Gonzalez
Litt announces for At Large #1
ITL and OTL
Early voting schedule and locations for District H
Let the gloves come off
Candidate interview: Hugo Mojica
Candidate interview: Maverick Welsh
Locke to formally announce today
Candidate interview: Gonzalo Camacho
Candidate interview: Lupe Garcia
Time to throw out the first attack mailer of the season
Shorter to challenge Lovell
Candidate interview: Yolanda Navarro Flores
Holm announces for Controller
Reminder: GHDC District H candidate forum
Candidate interview: Rick Rodriguez
Activist running in Farmers Branch
Derr to run for At Large #1
Derr misses filing deadline
Another City Council lineup update
Bradford announces for At Large #4, Pennington announces in G
Council campaign miscellania
ULI Mayoral candidate forum report
Green to announce for City Controller
Shady Acres candidate forum report
Stardig announces in A
Brown's announcement coming
District H candidate forum in Shady Acres
Roy is in
Locke is in, Hall is out
Monday morning Mayoral intrigue
Parker polls, King drops out
Ed Gonzalez kickoff event
A list of who has actually filed treasurer's reports so far
Parker to announce for Mayor today
Locke files his treasurer's report
Election date set for District H
City Council lineup update
Derr files, Bradford contemplates
Filing report: Noel Freeman
Let the candidate filings begin!
Early contender for District A
Special election date for District H not set yet
Strayhorn makes it official
Schecter for Council?
District H update
Julian Castro announces for San Antonio Mayor
King for Council?
Noel Freeman announces for At Large race
Cibrian in San Antonio
One indecisive grandma
You can't keep a tough grandma down
Three more names for District H
The next special election
Where the line gets drawn
Would we call him "Mr. Governor Mayor"?
Here comes Karl
A look ahead to the Council of the future
The next Mayor of San Antonio
Cibrian in '09?
Is it 2009 already?