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January 5th, 2022:

Interview with Aurelia Wagner

Aurelia Wagner

Today’s candidate for HD147 is Aurelia Wagner, who had run in the primary for this seat in 2020 as well. Wagner is a teacher and graduate of Texas Southern University, where she participated on the debate team. She served in the United States Navy Reserve while in college, and had grown up in different places around the country as her father had served in the US Air Force. Wagner has volunteered with Constable May Walker and with the Texas League of Young Voters. Here’s the interview:

As with the judicial Q&A’s, more information about Democratic primary candidates, including links to the interviews and judicial Q&As, can be found on Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. I will periodically round up the links to these posts as well.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Lucia Bates

(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.

Judge Lucia Bates

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am the Presiding Judge of Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 Place 2. My court is located in Baytown. I was elected November 2018.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

I preside over a variety of cases including:

Small Claims and Debt Claims up to $20,000
Evictions
Only Court in Harris County handling the Driver’s License suspension dockets
Mental Health Docket
Magistration
Truancy
Jury Trials for Criminal Citations

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

o Cleared a backlog of 20,000 cases in 3 months
o Conducted Eviction Workshops with Houston Apartment Association to educate the Landlords and Tenants on procedures.
o Hosted Virtual Truancy Workshops via zoom due to the Pandemic. Facilitated by the Assistant. District Attorney, there were over 147 Triad officers in attendance.
o Streamlined court access to the public.
o Elected on the Harris County Juvenile Probate Board- Just re-appointed. (15 students graduated in the summer).
o Goose Creek CISD Communications Academy Advisory Board
o Partnered with Exxon Mobile to facilitate a Teen Summit to be held in Spring, 2022
o Established a very good relationship with the various School Districts, helping with youth initiatives.

Actively involved in the Precinct 3 Community

✓ Board Trustee for HCA Hospital -Southeast-just re-elected for 3 more years
✓ Galena Park ISD Community Leadership Council
✓ Membership Board Committee of the North Shore Rotary
✓ Nominating Board Committee of the North Channel Chamber of Commerce (Former Board Chairman)
✓ Top Ladies of Distinction-Baytown Chapter
✓ Vice President- Home Owners Association
✓ Collaborated on 6 Food Drives throughout the Community including 3 at the Courthouse Parking lot.
✓ Sponsored a Bicycle giveaway at Christmas
✓ Collaborated with the City of Baytown on many initiatives
✓ National Junior Honor Society Induction
✓ Member of Crosby/Huffman, Baytown and Highlands Chamber of Commerce.

Spoke to various groups:

▪ North Shore’s Annual Certification Day
▪ Friends of Crosby Library
▪ Baytown Lions Club
▪ Black History Program at Lee College
▪ Kiwanis Club
▪ Young Professional Council-Baytown Chamber of Commerce
▪ Baytown Optimist Club
▪ Northshore Senior Networking meeting.
▪ Highlands Elementary (guest speaker)
▪ Houston Chronicle “Lunch & Learn Guest” Celebrating Women’s History month.

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

Continue to provide the best solutions to everyone who enters the Courtroom.
Continue to be fair in my rulings.
Complete the backlog of Jury trials, put on hold during the pandemic.
Continue to Educate myself by attending all classes pertinent to the Justice of the Peace Court.
Continue the positive relationship with my constituents and keep the Court “The People’s Court”.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because I am committed to this job and community. I still have initiatives to complete. The Community has trusted my judgement and fairness and I would love to continue to be the positive change agent at “The People’s Court”.

6. Why should people vote for you in March?

I am the only candidate in this race that has experience. I am successfully running an efficient court. In my 1st term, I have cleared over 20,000 backlog cases, made the court accessible to all citizens and I work hard every day to better the lives of those most in need.

I would like to continue advocating, leading and finding solutions for my community, whether it be Truancy, Evictions, Food distributions or educating the public on the numerous legislative changes.

SB8 plaintiffs want their lawsuit moved back to district court

As is usually the case, the lawless Fifth Circuit is the problem, with a generous assist from SCOTUS.

With the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set to hear arguments about Texas’ restrictive new abortion law Friday, abortion providers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to again intervene and instead send the case to a lower court.

Abortion providers filed the request Monday, along with a motion to expedite the high court’s ruling on the matter ahead of Friday’s hearing. Lawyers for the providers argue that the 5th Circuit should send the case to district court, which in October temporarily blocked enforcement of the law.

[…]

In December, the Supreme Court threw out most of the providers’ challenges to the law and allowed only one narrow challenge, against medical licensing officials, to proceed. The court also allowed the restrictions on the procedure to remain in place.

Then, in an additional blow to abortion providers, the Supreme Court sent that one remaining challenge to be reargued before the 5th Circuit, considered one of the most politically conservative circuit courts in the nation. Providers had been expecting it to be sent to the district court, which was seen as a more favorable venue. They argued in Monday’s filing that district court is the proper venue for the case to proceed.

“It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is defying the Supreme Court’s ruling last month by refusing to send our case back to the district court so that we can continue fighting Texas’ six-week abortion ban,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “The Supreme Court must step in to prevent the appeals court from needlessly delaying our lawsuit against Texas’ bounty-hunting scheme and compounding the harm this ban has already inflicted on Texans.”

Rather than remanding the case to the district court, though, the 5th Circuit decided in a split decision to hear arguments in the case on Friday and will consider whether the case should be sent to the Texas Supreme Court to proceed. Legal experts say certifying a case to the state supreme court can extend the appeals process by months, if not years.

Circuit Judge Stephen A. Higginson dissented from the majority, arguing that the Supreme Court’s ruling does not require reargument before the 5th Circuit and should not be sent to the Texas Supreme Court. Higginson also wrote that he believes the Supreme Court ruling indicates that the medical licensing officials should be blocked from enforcing the law.

But Higginson noted that he had been “unpersuasive,” and unless the Supreme Court weighs in before Friday, the case is likely to proceed at the 5th Circuit. Abortion providers argue that this delay is harming women seeking abortions.

See here for the background. The plaintiffs had also asked the Fifth Circuit to just send this back to the district court, but they declined and instead scheduled this hearing, which is not a thing that appellate courts normally do. It’s clear that the purpose of this is to just flat-out delay if not deny sending the case back to the district court judge, who will surely enjoin it for the duration of the lawsuit, and wait for SCOTUS to officially throw out Roe v Wade in the Mississippi case. The Fifth Circuit is rogue and lawless and needs to be gutted. Simply calling it some variation of “very conservative” does not accurately describe it. The news media needs to wake up and get with the program. The 19th has more.

Get ready for more construction in 2022

Happy New Year! Here are the places you’ll want to avoid driving in 2022.

Flush with green, Houston area transportation officials have a whiteboard full of highway and transit projects poised to start in 2022, but rolling out all that blacktop will mean drivers see many more orange cones and construction zones, leaving some feeling blue.

Texas Department of Transportation construction spending is expected to top $2.2 billion for the Houston region for fiscal 2022, which began Sept. 1, nearly double the 2021 total. The projects that money pays for are spread across the region, said James Koch, director of transportation planning and development for TxDOT in Houston, during a discussion with local transportation officials.

“(2022) is going to be a very big year for our region, for the contractors and whatnot,” Koch told members of the Houston-Galveston Council’s transportation advisory committee on Dec. 9. “You will see a lot of barrels and cones out.”

Among the major projects set to break ground in the year are new bridges across Texas 288 to remove many at-grade crossings from the highway and transition more of it to a freeway-like form. Across five different projects, TxDOT has teed up $135.6 million worth of work on overpasses in Brazoria County, along with a $70.9 million planned widening of Texas 36.

[…]

Upcoming construction, meanwhile, does not reflect work spurred by the recently approved federal infrastructure bill. The federal framework, which continues many of the same methods for funding highways and transit, is likely to jump-start a litany of other projects, officials said. Tapping those federal dollars, however, will mean as drivers see more construction zones, local and state officials — along with the engineering and planning firms they hire — will be preparing for even more work.

Much of that work is already planned for Metro, which received voter approval for $7.5 billion in new projects and upgrades in 2019, weeks before COVID changed commuting patterns worldwide. Since, Metro officials have prepped for many of the projects to proceed, with some of the earliest work likely unveiled this year.

Metro is likely to choose a preferred route and potential station locations for a planned busway along Interstate 10 in the next two or three months, allowing transit officials to get in line for federal transit money by mid-2022 as they continue design.

The project is the linchpin in Metro’s expansion of rapid transit from downtown west into Uptown, which is crucial to park-and-ride service in western and northwestern parts of Harris County, officials said.

“The benefits extend beyond those seven miles,” said Amma Cobbinah, a senior transit planner with Metro overseeing the project, noting how the lanes connect downtown to the Northwest Transit Center at I-10 and Loop 610, a major stop for park and buses.

Now past the transit center, those commuter routes crawl along I-10 with car and truck traffic to and from downtown, making them far less efficient and timely.

Provided the project stays on pace, officials said they hope to begin construction by late 2023 and start service in 2027.

Work on the so-called Inner Katy is just one of two major bus rapid transit projects Metro is moving forward on in 2022. Transit officials in December unveiled an online open house outlining plans for the University Corridor project, a 25-mile BRT line planned from the Tidwell Transit Center north of Kashmere Gardens, south through Fifth Ward and the Eastside. The line then turns west through Third Ward and Midtown and then through Greenway Plaza and south of Uptown where it connects to the Silver Line that runs along Post Oak.

Eventually, the University Corridor will connect to the Westchase Park and Ride near Westpark and Beltway 8.

And all this also includes the ongoing projects like the 610/59 interchange and I-10 widening out west around Brookshire, not to mention some non-freeway zones. I’m excited about the two BRT projects, both of which will be with us for a couple of years. If we can live through it all, the end results should be well worth it. Drive safe, y’all.