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Houston Have Your Say

“Houston Have Your Say: Energy, Economy & Environment”

Time again for another edition of Houston Have Your Say on KUHT:

Worried about air quality? Concerned about environmental regulation costing jobs in the Houston region? Join Patricia Gras for Houston Have Your Say: Energy, Economy & Environment: Making It Work on Tuesday, October 26 at 7pm. This live town hall forum will discuss finding the balance between Houston’s energy needs, environment concerns and sustaining a strong economy. Join us as we search for solutions together.

Do you have a question or comment you would like addressed during the town hall forum? You can send an e-mail to [email protected]

Be sure to visit our previous town hall meeting sites for more information:

Houston Have Your Say: Education
Houston Have Your Say: Immigration
Houston Have Your Say: Houston’s Future Growth
Houston Have Your Say: Economy
Houston Have Your Say: Health Care Reform

Ree-C Murphey, Michael Reed, and I will be there as usual to provide color commentary on their live chat. As was the case with the education episode, the conversation will continue online for about a half hour after the live TV broadcast ends. Come join in on the discussion tonight at 7.

UPDATE: Come join the conversation here.

Wrapup from “Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis”

I thought last night’s broadcast of Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis went very well. You can see rebroadcasts of the show on Thursday, April 22, at 1:00 am; Friday, April 23, at 8:00 pm; and Sunday, April 25, at 4:00 pm; you can also watch it online. There will be a web-only broadcast of the 30-minute after-show discussion, which should be up later today, and of course you can see the live chat that Ree-C Murphey, Mike Reed, and I helped lead. We got a lot of feedback from folks who were watching, so check it out.

Two comments from the show that stuck in my mind: One, from a panelist whose name I did not catch, was basically that everyone in the room knew what needed to be done to improve educational outcomes. It’s just a matter of having the willpower to actually do them. The other, made during the post-show discussion, was from State Rep. Scott Hochberg, who observed that in recent years, the Legislature has had a sizable surplus at its disposal, but instead of allocating any of that money towards some of the things that everyone knows would improve education – things like pre-K and providing for more time for classroom instruction – they chose instead to cut property taxes. Which, as we know, is what has created the structural deficit in the budget that we are now dealing with. He said that until we choose to do the things we know we need to do, we’ll continue to be right where we are now (and where we’ve been before), talking about it instead.

Join the chat for Houston Have Your Say

I’m here at the KUHT studios for Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis. There’s a Cover It Live chat available, so head over and let us know what you have to say about it. There’s a lot of brainpower among the guests they’ve brought in for the discussions. We’ll be going till 8:30. See you there!

The coming train wreck

Two local school superintendents – HD Chambers from the Stafford Municipal School District and Louis Stoerner from the Alief Independent School District – wrote an op-ed for the Chron about the financial catastrophe that school districts are facing.

With a few exceptions, districts are faced with one option — asking voters to approve a tax increase through a tax-ratification election. However, most taxpayers are struggling and cannot support an increase. (It is interesting to note that locally elected school boards are the only elected entities in Texas not allowed to set their own maintenance and operations tax rate without an election.)

School district leaders are responsible for ensuring that our children graduate prepared for college or a career, and we must be good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars. However, the state also must provide adequate funding to support continually rising state and federal standards and requirements. Removing or suspending various unfunded or underfunded mandates is not a long-term solution for the school funding crisis but could help us get through these difficult economic times. However, a long-term fix must be found since school districts throughout the state are facing financial challenges that threaten the very core of public education and, in some cases, the future viability of public schools. No one is ready for the possible train wreck that lies ahead.

Basically, school districts’ funding is inadequate to cover rising costs. Many districts, especially the faster-growing ones, have responded by laying off employees, which is both unsustainable and just plain undesirable. Only the state can fix this for the long term. Given the way things work around here, you know what that means: Another school finance lawsuit is on the horizon. It’s a matter of when, not if. I’m sure the subject will come up tonight on Houston Have Your Say, whose topic is “Education Crisis”. Tune in tonight at 6 PM on KUHT (Comcast channel eight) to see a distinguished group of experts discuss the matter.

Houston, Have Your Say on education

I’ve had a lot to say about public education and related issues lately, from school finance to HISD and so forth. This coming Tuesday, Houston PBS station KUHT will have another episode of Houston Have Your Say to discuss the issue.

In the public school system of the Greater Houston region, the dropout rate is high, the graduation rate is low, and there are growing concerns about the quality of its teachers and the inequities in its funding structure. These are troubling issues for a metropolitan region seeking to distinguish itself as one of the best places to live and work in the 21st Century global community. HoustonPBS, in partnership with the Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Community Newspapers and KUHF Houston Public Radio, presents a rare opportunity for the public to have a voice in the discussion on the future of public education during the televised town hall forum Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis.

Help shape the discussion. Do you have a question or comment about the state of education in the Houston region? Send an e-mail to [email protected]

As before, I’ll be there in the studio alongside Ree-C Murphy and Mike Reed of the Examiner newspapers to blog about it while it’s going on. Reed has a preview of the episode as well.

“Our public education system is at a crossroads of diversity, advances in technology and a global-based economy. We must act soon to make our public schools the example for others to follow in the future,” said [The Center for Houston’s Future] CEO and President, Catherine Mosbacher. “We hope to bring positive and measurable change in our region by keeping people engaged in this fundamental issue.”

One example of the topics to be explored: According to the Houston Area Survey, children of Latino immigrants, as well as U.S. born Latino and African American children in the Greater Houston region are attaining lower educational levels than their classmates, and yet the Latino population is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the population (Steve Klineberg, 2009). What can be done to address this achievement gap?

And via Mike Falick, here are some of the folks who will be in attendance to talk about it:

Some Confirmed Guests: Gayle Fallon, Houston Federation of Teachers, Former Education Secretary Rod Paige, Lori Vetters Greater Houston Partnership former Education Chair, Linda McNeil Rice University, Paula Harris, HISD Board, Mary Spangler HCC Chancellor, Tina Reyes University of Houston, State Reps. Rob Eissler and Scott Hochberg, Ann Stiles Project Grad, Michael Holthouse Prepared 4 Life, Carol Shattuck Collaborative for Children, Chris Barbic YES Prep., Richard Farias Tejano Center, Martha Salazar Zamora EdD HISD Asst. Superintendent, and many more.

It ought to be a lively and informative event. I’ve done several of these with Ree-C and Mike, and I’ve been impressed by the level of discourse each time. Tune in at 7 PM on Tuesday, April 20 to KUHT (Channel 8 on Comcast) and join in the discussion yourself.

Doing the liveblogging thing

I’m at the KUHT studios with Mike Reed and Ree-C Murphey for another round of “Houston Have Your Say”. You can follow our thoughts here. If you want to participate more actively, you can do it by voting in their poll:

What is your biggest concern about health care reform?

To vote: Text a KEYWORD to 99503

Expense – EXPENSE
Lack of public option – LACK
Losing my coverage – COVERAGE
Government involvement – GOVERN

Send in your vote and let us know!

Houston, Have Your Say on health care

Tuesday night, KUHF channel 8 will broadcast another edition of “Houston, Have Your Say”, with the topic being health care reform. Here’s what to expect:

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 20th, HoustonPBS, in partnership with The Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Community Newspapers, and KUHF Houston Public Radio, will air Houston Have Your Say: Health Care Reform, a live town hall meeting. Moderated by Patricia Gras, this on-going series gives community leaders, concerned citizens and students an opportunity to discuss important issues and how they will impact the Houston region. Viewers can be part of the community conversation on health care reform by calling in during the broadcast or e-mailing their question prior to the show to [email protected]

In addition to a live studio audience, scheduled to appear on the show are, Dr, Guy Clifton, with UT Houston Medical School and author of Flatlined: Resuscitating American Medicine; Dr. Lewis D. Foxhall, President of Harris County Medical Society; Dr. Ana Malinow, Associate Professor of Pediatrics Baylor College of Medicine & Co-founder and Chair of Health Care for All Texas; Dr. Katherine Yudeh King with Baylor College of Medicine And Chair of Doctors for Change; Clifford L. Fry, Executive Vice President RRC Inc, a health care consulting firm; David Lopez President and CEO Harris County Hospital District; Karen Love Executive Director Harris County Health Alliance and Dr. Stephen J. Spann, Senior Vice President and Dean of Clinical Affairs at Baylor College of Medicine.

“Our approach will be local. We’ll explore how health care reform will affect us in the Houston region, where we lead the nation in the number of uninsured and where we’re also home to the largest medical center in the world,” says Patricia Gras.

“There is a great need right now to determine fact from fiction. This forum will educate the public about how the Houston region specifically may be affected by national health care reform as well as provide the community with a chance to have their say about this important topic,” said Catherine Mosbacher, Center for Houston’s Future President and CEO.

As before, I will be in the studio along with Ree-C Murphy doing the blog thing here and on the Houston Have Your Say blog. Tune in and tell ’em what you think.

“Houston Have Your Say” on the economy

Tune in to KUHT (Houston PBS channel eight) tonight at 7 PM for another edition of Houston Have Your Say. Tonight’s topic is the economy, about which I think we can all agree there is much to be said. Ree-C and I will be behind the scenes as usual, posting our observations about the proceedings as well as the occasional 80s TV reference to the Houston Have Your Say blog. Tune in, call in, leave comments – you know the drill. See you tonight!

Blogging for “Houston Have Your Say 2.0”

I’m at KUHT along with Ree-C Murphey and Mike Reed of the Examiner newspapers, and we’re getting ready to begin doing our stream-of-consciousness thing for Houston Have Your Say. You can follow us there, and I’m sure I’ll post a longer summary here tomorrow. I’m looking forward to this discussion. If you tune in, let me know what you think, either here or there.

Houston Have Your Say 2.0

So last year I got to serve as an on-the-spot blogger for KUHF’s production of Houston Have Your Say, which was about immigration. I blogged some of it at Kuff’s World and some of it at a blog that was set up for the show. Tonight I’ll be back in the KUHF studios along with my compatriot from the last time, Ree-C Murphy of Lone Star Times and Chronically Right, and the topic will be growth. There’s a new blog for the occasion, which you can find here – expect to see our output there this evening.

That blog already has a few entries on it, from some of the guests who will be on the program to discuss the issues. One such entry is here, from Tory Gattis of Houston Strategies. In the spirit of kicking things off, I’m going to pick a nit about his case for why we shouldn’t fear growth, a thesis with which I otherwise concur.

Houston has a pedestrian-hostile tropical climate five months of the year. While northern transit-based cities benefit from a personal warming technology – the coat – the only personal cooling technology that exists for southern cities is an air-conditioned vehicle.

All due respect, but as someone who grew up in a northern transit-based city and spent ten years of his life walking or taking public transit to get to school, it’s cities like New York that are pedestrian-hostile for five months of the year; essentially, November through March. It’s true one can wear that magical personal warming technology Tory refers to when it’s cold, but up north we also have what’s known as “snow”, which turns into “slush”, and trust me on this – your coat only helps so much in those conditions. I’ve seen snow as early as Halloween and as late as Easter – in fact, the last snow day I recall as a student was on Good Friday, in the first week of April. Some day, when I tell my daughters that I often went to school in a foot or more of snow, I won’t be exaggerating. (The bit about it being uphill both ways will admittedly be a stretch.) You want weather that’s not fit for walking, or for waiting for a bus? Let me introduce you to the concept of the “wind chill factor”. That’s my idea of an I’d-rather-be-driving climate.

As for Houston, well, I may be more heat tolerant than some, but for the most part outside of July and August, I’ll take our weather over theirs. And you know, in a well-designed transit-oriented city, they do have a remarkable pedestrian-cooling technology available. It’s called “trees”, which when planted along sidewalks can make a big difference in the ambient temperature. You may recall a big argument over the redevelopment on Kirby Drive regarding the dispensation of its trees. And though it may not provide as much relief, unlike your car’s technology, a tree canopy won’t break down on you and require a costly repair.

Anyway. Like I say, Tory has some really smart ideas, but to me at least, the suggestion that Houston has worse walking weather than New York or Boston or Detroit is frankly ludicrous and in need of some pushback. For more on being a pedestrian in Houston, I’ll refer you back to Andrew Burleson’s recent post about walking as well as this earlier one about urban corridors and the need to value sidewalks and walking as much as we do cars and driving. May we have a lively and informative debate on all these topics tonight.