Who should represent District H?

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.

Stace gives a nice answer to that.

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.

Stace supports Ed Gonzalez. As you know, I broke the tie in favor of Maverick Welsh. You can't really go wrong either way. I was at that forum, and I thought both candidates answered the question deftly, without getting trapped by it. The right answer to me is that this district, like all of the others, should be represented by someone who can serve the needs of everyone in it. One could just as easily ask the question should District G be represented by an Anglo? Who should represent the city, in which no racial or ethnic group comprises a majority? I say the answer is the same across the board. In this particular case, we have two candidates who I think would fit the bill nicely. It's up to all of us to ensure that whoever wins lives up to that.

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.

Here's something you may not know. I didn't know it until I went looking through the historical election returns on the City Secretary's webpage. The first election for District H in 1979 was won by Dale Gorczynski, who is now a Justice of the Peace in JP Precinct 1. Here are the returns from that election:

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

Gorczynski won the runoff, then held the seat through the 1991 election, after which he did not run again. The first time that a Hispanic candidate won the District H seat was as far as I could tell the first time that a candidate with a recognizably Hispanic surname ran for it, in the open seat contest of 1993 in which Felix Fraga emerged victorious. I knew Gorczynski had been the District H member before Fraga, but I hadn't realized he was the original Council member.

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.

05/30/09 | permalink | comments [3]

A look at the District H runoff

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.

05/26/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Parker on education

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.

Continue reading »

05/22/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Endorsement watch: Three Senators for Locke

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.

I've reproduced the email beneath the fold. I wasn't following endorsements very closely during the 2003 Mayoral campaign, but my recollection is that there weren't too many of them being given this early on. The campaign cycle starts a lot earlier these days, thanks to things like early voting and a greater emphasis on social networking, but this is still a nice catch for Locke. With the three main contenders all being Democrats, I suspect there will be more of a push for endorsements like these. There's video of the three statements at Locke's web page if you want to hear what they say instead of reading it, which you can do by clicking on.

Continue reading »

05/22/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Roy takes my advice

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.

Better late than never, I guess. Morales spends much of the letter claiming that he was misrepresented by Alan Bernstein. That's pretty much SOP for politicians about whom a story like this is written, though of course the original claims that Bernstein pushed him on were made in public forums. I'm not exactly sure how that's anyone else's fault, but hey, whatever gets you through the day.

05/21/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Endorsement watch: Yolanda backs Maverick

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."

That seems like a big deal to me. The question for the runoff, as noted by folks like Miya and Greg, is whether the Hispanic majority in the district will turn out in enough numbers for Ed Gonzalez to overcome Welsh's advantage in the Heights. If Flores' endorsement gets some of her supporters to vote for Welsh, that could be the difference-maker. I'm going to guess that Gonzalez will counter with a push from the elected officials that support him. We'll see how it goes.

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.

Anyone want to take a guess at the turnout figure for this race? In 2007, Melissa Noriega and Roy Morales combined for 22,306 votes in the first go-round, out of 34,274 ballots cast (65.1% of the total), and 24,954 votes in the runoff. Here, Gonzalez and Welsh accounted for 2,413 votes out of 4,141 cast (58.3% of the total). I'll place my chips on 2,000 to 2,500 total ballots on June 13. What do you think?

05/20/09 | permalink | comments [6]

Grading the Houston mayoral campaign websites

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.

05/17/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Brown and Locke spar over education

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.

Here's an earlier Chron story with more on Brown's position, with which Annise Parker, Roy Morales, and current Mayor Bill White say they disagree.

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,'‚ÄČ" he said.

I actually think that's an interesting idea and would like to hear more about it. I don't know what I think about it yet, but that's what these debates are for, to hash stuff like this out and let the competing visions actually compete. Brown and Locke metaphorically took it outside after the event by sending out press releases touting their positions and attacking the other's; I've reproduced one of each beneath the fold. If this is a sign that the heat level has been turned up a notch in the race, as you know I think that's just fine. As long as it's about issues and not trivialities, I say keep it up, y'all. Stace has more on this, as well as a candidate forum in Kingwood at which immigration was the hot topic.

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.

Sure, Roy. Whatever you say. We believe you.

Continue reading »

05/16/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Villafranca loses in Farmers Branch

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.

There was a lawsuit filed last year to force Farmers Branch to draw single-member Council districts, but it was dismissed by a federal judge; the plaintiffs are appealing that ruling. As for Villafranca, she got 1315 votes out of 3851, or just over 34%. Given that the opponents to the 2007 referendum that ratified the latest version of their still-illegal ban on renting apartments to undocumented immigrants got 32% of the vote, this represents a tiny bit of progress. I hope they can pick up the pace of that progress for the next election.

05/16/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Don't sell that beer just yet in Lubbock

It's always something.

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.

Here's that earlier story.

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."

Obviously, the current setup is a better deal for the existing liquor retailers than whatever comes next will be. I've no idea what the merits of their suit are, but I can't blame them for taking this step to protect their business. We'll see what the judge thinks. Be sure to read this Texas Monthly feature, in the May edition, about the environment in Lubbock leading up to the vote as well.

05/15/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Roy's self-inflation

05/14/09 | permalink | comments [5]

We need more early voting locations

05/13/09 | permalink | comments [9]

There is now beer in Lubbock

05/12/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Ed and Maverick in District H

05/09/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Vote today

05/09/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Projecting District H

05/08/09 | permalink | comments [0]

More candidates

05/07/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Last day of early voting for the May elections

05/05/09 | permalink | comments [3]

In Lubbock, there is no beer

05/04/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Endorsement watch: Ed for H

05/02/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Early voting in District H

05/01/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Endorsement watch: Bring on the funk

05/01/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Endorsement watch: Castro for San Antonio

04/27/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Chron District H overview

04/26/09 | permalink | comments [1]

The Mayorals and gambling

04/25/09 | permalink | comments [2]

More on Lonnie Allsbrooks

04/24/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Another contender for At Large #1

04/22/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Hey, at least it's not an L

04/20/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Neil talks to Noel

04/15/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Last candidate forums for District H

04/14/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Mayoral Musings

04/11/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Registration deadline for District H

04/09/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Candidate interview: Ed Gonzalez

04/06/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Litt announces for At Large #1

04/06/09 | permalink | comments [0]


04/05/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Early voting schedule and locations for District H

04/05/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Let the gloves come off

04/03/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Candidate interview: Hugo Mojica

04/01/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Candidate interview: Maverick Welsh

03/30/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Locke to formally announce today

03/26/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Candidate interview: Gonzalo Camacho

03/25/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Candidate interview: Lupe Garcia

03/23/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Time to throw out the first attack mailer of the season

03/23/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Shorter to challenge Lovell

03/20/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Candidate interview: Yolanda Navarro Flores

03/18/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Holm announces for Controller

03/18/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Reminder: GHDC District H candidate forum

03/17/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Candidate interview: Rick Rodriguez

03/16/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Activist running in Farmers Branch

03/12/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Derr to run for At Large #1

03/11/09 | permalink | comments [2]

"Houston first"

03/11/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Derr misses filing deadline

03/04/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Another City Council lineup update

02/27/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Bradford announces for At Large #4, Pennington announces in G

02/25/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Council campaign miscellania

02/23/09 | permalink | comments [1]

ULI Mayoral candidate forum report

02/23/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Green to announce for City Controller

02/23/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Roy announces

02/20/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Shady Acres candidate forum report

02/18/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Stardig announces in A

02/16/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Brown's announcement coming

02/14/09 | permalink | comments [2]

District H candidate forum in Shady Acres

02/11/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Roy is in

02/10/09 | permalink | comments [5]

Locke is in, Hall is out

02/09/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Monday morning Mayoral intrigue

02/08/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Parker polls, King drops out

02/05/09 | permalink | comments [4]

First impressions

02/05/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Ed Gonzalez kickoff event

02/04/09 | permalink | comments [1]

A list of who has actually filed treasurer's reports so far

02/04/09 | permalink | comments [3]

Parker to announce for Mayor today

02/02/09 | permalink | comments [5]

Locke files his treasurer's report

02/01/09 | permalink | comments [2]

Election date set for District H

01/29/09 | permalink | comments [0]

City Council lineup update

01/27/09 | permalink | comments [6]

Derr files, Bradford contemplates

01/26/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Filing report: Noel Freeman

01/20/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Let the candidate filings begin!

01/19/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Early contender for District A

01/18/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Special election date for District H not set yet

01/15/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Strayhorn makes it official

01/12/09 | permalink | comments [2]

More contenders

01/09/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Schecter for Council?

01/07/09 | permalink | comments [1]

District H update

12/22/08 | permalink | comments [1]

Julian Castro announces for San Antonio Mayor

12/10/08 | permalink | comments [0]

King for Council?

12/08/08 | permalink | comments [1]

Noel Freeman announces for At Large race

12/03/08 | permalink | comments [0]


11/23/08 | permalink | comments [0]

No King?

11/18/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Cibrian in San Antonio

11/17/08 | permalink | comments [0]

One indecisive grandma

11/16/08 | permalink | comments [0]

You can't keep a tough grandma down

11/12/08 | permalink | comments [1]

Three more names for District H

11/10/08 | permalink | comments [1]

The next special election

11/08/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Gene Locke

10/08/08 | permalink | comments [1]

Where the line gets drawn

08/20/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Would we call him "Mr. Governor Mayor"?

08/19/08 | permalink | comments [3]

Here comes Karl

08/11/08 | permalink | comments [0]

A look ahead to the Council of the future

07/27/08 | permalink | comments [0]

The next Mayor of San Antonio

07/25/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Cibrian in '09?

05/01/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Is it 2009 already?

01/17/08 | permalink | comments [1]