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December 30th, 2021:

Judicial Q&A: Herbert Alexander Sanchez

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. Much more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet.

Herbert Alexander Sanchez

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Herbert Alexander Sanchez, I am 37 years old, a husband, and a father to 3 children ages 4 to 19 years old. I am the son of Silvana and Oscar, two hard working people, who taught me the value of hard work, service, and dedication. I am a small business co-founder on the East Side of Harris County and an elected School Board Trustee. I believe that being a public servant requires an unshakeable conviction in the principles of equality and justice for all. There is no greater calling than to be of service to others by diligently working for the greater good of our communities by building coalitions and building up individuals through effective interventions when they are introduced to the justice system. These interventions must aid citizens to be productive members of society. I am currently running for the office of Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2 court hears civil cases that rise to $20,000 in argument. The Justice Court hears Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic cases, and landlord/ tenant disagreements. The JP Judge may preside over driver’s license suspension, revocation, or denial hearings, occupational licensing hearings, and gun license revocation, denial, or suspension hearings. The Justice of the Peace also performs marriage ceremonies, may conduct hearings relating to tow and storage of vehicles, and may conduct inquests. The JP Court has a JP Liaison who assists with offenses that include juvenile truancy.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench because I feel that I am the most qualified candidate. I understand the issues our community faces on a daily basis. Being a father to 3 young children, a husband, and a son to elderly parents, I long for a safe and prosperous community. Presently, our community is experiencing high levels of crime and poverty. I have witnessed firsthand the detrimental impacts of inequality in public services. I believe in building bridges instead of walls, providing a hand up not a handout, and closing the gap between the public and the officials who serve them. For many citizens, the Justice of the Peace Court is their first experience with the justice system, and it must be an experience that ensures the best possible outcomes for the citizens of Precinct 3 and Harris County.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

In order to have a strong, vibrant community, it is imperative that the Harris County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2 be a highly qualified individual. As a member of this community, a business owner, and public official, I have worked hand in hand with our local law enforcement, local organizations, community leaders, and directly with our community members on a daily basis, allowing me to understand the needs in our area and better understand areas of neglect.

Serving as an elected Galena Park ISD Board Trustee has also provided me with crucial insights regarding the direct impact living in an underserved community has on our children and their future. It is clear that our community deserves servant leaders who have the competencies and clear understanding of the needs of our community. I possess the qualifications, skills, and abilities that the office of the Justice of the Peace requires. My educational attainments, business experience, and community involvement have prepared me to best serve our community. I have earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration In Homeland Security and Disaster Management from Sam Houston State University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice Cum Laude from Texas Southern University and an Associate’s Degree in Social and Behavioral Science from San Jacinto College. I am also actively pursuing a Law Degree. I have served in in law enforcement capacities from Police Intern Trainee, 911 Dispatch, Jail Deputy, and finally Patrol Deputy. All of these experiences have given me invaluable insight into the criminal justice system.

5. Why is this race important?

As a youth growing up in an impoverished area, I too experienced the feelings of frustration and helplessness as a result of imbalanced public services in our communities. People living in these situations often feel as though public servants are working against them rather than for them. This race is important because the Justice of the Peace Court can be the first and final experience within the justice system by promoting firmness, fairness, and compassion to strengthen citizens and deter them from a life of self-defeating, community-damaging poor choices. It is crucial that JP Judges implement sensible and lawful avenues of serving justice to serve the people. Effective interventions at this level can help prevent a citizen’s progression to the higher criminal court system, and help maintain safety and strength in our communities.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

A Justice of the Peace Judge must be prepared for the various challenges our community faces, must understand our community’s needs, and must respond to these needs through the implementation of programs aimed at building bridges instead of walls through accountability, deterrence, and rehabilitation. I understand the needs of our community. I have fought and continue to fight for a safe and more resilient community. I have the qualifications and the desire to change our community in a more positive way. The status quo serves no justice and is a revolving door that leads to higher levels within the justice system. Your vote in March will ensure firmness, fairness, and compassion, with equal justice for all.

Lawsuit over Harris County Commissioners Court redistricting tossed

Missed this over the holidays.

A Harris County Judge on Wednesday tossed a lawsuit from Republican commissioners and voters over new county maps that favor Democrats.

Judge Dedra Davis ruled in favor of Harris County, finding that Republican commissioners Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey and three voters did not have jurisdiction to sue.

The Republicans’ attorney, Andy Taylor, indicated that he planned to appeal the ruling.

Cagle, Ramsey and the three voters filed the lawsuit against Democratic County Judge Lina Hidalgo and against Harris County last month. The suit alleged that the redistricting map proposed by Democratic Commissioner Rodney Ellis, known as the Ellis 3 plan, amounts to an unconstitutional gerrymander that would deprive more than 1.1 million voters of their right to vote.

Texas election law staggers county precinct elections every two years. All county commissioners serve four-year terms, but commissioners in even-numbered precincts and those in odd-numbered precincts take place at two-year intervals.

The next election for even-numbered precincts is in 2022. The lawsuit alleges that the Ellis 3 plan shifts more than 1.1 million voters from even-numbered precincts to odd-numbered precincts, depriving them of their right to vote until 2024.

“Plaintiffs submit that there is a very simple explanation for why this occurred,” the lawsuit reads. “Commissioner Ellis wanted to do whatever it would take to draw a new map that would create three…Democratic seats. Thus, the Ellis 3 Plan does just that.”

See here for the background. The lawsuit seemed pretty flimsy on its face, and it was dismissed without comment by District Court Judge Dedra Davis. The plaintiffs, which include Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey, and fan favorite attorney Andy Taylor, have filed a writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court in a last ditch effort to stop the new map from taking effect. The mandamus, which you can see here, makes the following claims:

  • The 2020 census revealed population changes among districts that required redistricting.
  • It was possible to comply with the “one man, one vote” rule by transferring 4% of the county’s population.
  • But Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia chose a plan that moved 48% and overstepped their authority.
  • That plan will deprive 1.1 million people of their right to vote for commissioner in the next election and likely tip the result from Republican to Democrat in one precinct, creating a 4-1 supermajority for Democrats.

As soon as I saw that “moved 48%” of voters claim, I said to myself, where have I seen a statistic like that before? Right here:

The initial Republican proposal for redrawing Texas congressional maps calls for Harris County to once again be split into nine districts, but with major alterations to protect the region’s endangered GOP incumbents.

The shifts mean more than a million voters who live west of downtown Houston would have a different member of Congress representing them.

Ultimately, Democratic-held districts now represented by U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green and Lizzie Fletcher would all become more heavily blue under the proposed map released Monday by the Texas Senate. Under the proposal, Republican U.S. Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Troy Nehls would get more like-minded voters in their districts, too.

The proposal adds a completely new congressional district in west Harris County — District 38 — designed to favor a Republican, stitched together by cutting into four existing districts.

A little back of the envelope math here, we have “more than” a million voters, in a county with just under 2.5 million registered voters, that’s over 40% of voters being put into new districts, for the express purpose of creating a new Republican district in the county and bolstering the Republican caucus in Washington. So, yeah. Cry me a river, fellas.

Got to keep an eye on the hospitalizations

They’re up, but for now we’re still in reasonably decent shape.

More than 1,200 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Houston area on Monday, according to data released by the state Tuesday afternoon. The Department of State Health Services reported that 1,224 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the nine-county region around Houston.

The figure comes one day after the state reported topping 1,000 hospitalizations for the first time since October as the delta wave tapered off.

The hospitalization rate represents a 93 percent increase over last Monday, when DSHS recorded 636 COVID hospitalizations in the Houston area. The surge corresponds with the rapid spread of the highly-transmissible omicron variant, which first appeared in South Africa in late November, and has swelled to account for more than 90 percent of local cases in recent weeks.

Houston’s hospitalizations are still well below their delta peak, which reached 3,500 on Aug. 24. But less than a week after Houston  logged its 300,000th case of COVID, data from the Texas Medical Center shows that local transmission is increasing at a steady rate.

The current transmission rate is high – basically, on average everyone who gets the omicron variant will pass it on to another two people – and our vaccination rates remain pathetically mediocre. Harris County is better than the state overall, but not by much. There’s still a lot of room for this thing to find vulnerable people. Use rapid tests, isolate if you get a positive result, and wear good quality masks. We really can get through this if we’re not too dumb about it.

Texas blog roundup for the week of December 27

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that all is calm and bright with you as it brings you this week’s roundup.


The Shepherd and Durham Major Investment Project

Get ready for some major construction, but the end result will be well worth it.

Beginning next month, those who travel along North Shepherd Drive and Durham Drive in the Heights are going to have to cope with road construction – for at least the next five years.

For decades after that, though, driving down the parallel, one-way thoroughfares figures to be smooth sailing. And the same goes for walking and cycling.

Construction is expected to start in late January on the Shepherd and Durham Major Investment Project, which will overhaul the two north-and-south streets between North Loop 610 and Interstate 10 to the south while adding bicycle lanes, new and wider sidewalks, landscaping and new underground infrastructure for water, wastewater and stormwater drainage. The project could take at least five years to complete, according to president Sherry Weesner of the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority, which is spearheading the $115 million initiative and providing a significant portion of the funding for it.

“It’s going to take a lot of patience from all of us, but it’s going to be worth it,” said Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin, who serves the Heights as part of District C.


Protected bike lanes have been part of the plan for the TIRZ 5 project between 610 and I-10, where they will be on the east side of both Shepherd and Durham, according to Weesner. METRO bus stops on Shepherd also will be on the east side of the street because there is room to accommodate both, she said, while the bus stops on Durham will be on the west side.

New, wider sidewalks will be installed on both sides of Shepherd and Durham, where vehicular traffic lanes will be reduced from four to three on both streets with the addition of designated turning lanes at select intersections with typically heavy traffic, such as West 11th Street. Weesner said two different traffic studies showed that congestion on Shepherd and Durham was caused mostly by the absence of turn lanes at busy intersections, so there does not figure to be a negative impact on traffic flow even with the overall reduction in lanes, she said.

In addition to the work on Shepherd and Durham, the project also calls for improvements on several of the cross streets that connect them – 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 24th streets.

Weesner said two other features of the project are city-owned street lights and an underground bio-retention system – called the Silva Cell Tree and Stormwater Management System – that will be beneath the trees planted on each side of Shepherd and Durham. The idea is to capture stormwater to help drainage and promote the growth of large trees.

“This is a really great project, because it can do so much,” Weesner said. “The area is really changing. The area has lots of new restaurants and other facilities, and people want to be able to walk there. People need to be able to walk from one business to the next business. Improving all modes of transportation is very important.”

I like this a lot. There’s been a ton of mostly residential construction in the area, and there are now a lot of places to eat along both Durham and Shepherd. Making it easier to get around by non-car means will be a big difference maker, and will be a boost for bus riders as well. I hope they figure out a way to connect the bike lanes directly to the Heights bike trail as it passes underneath. It will be a pain going through five years of construction, but I can’t wait to see what the result looks like.