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Juliet Stipeche

HISD will not raise the tax rate

Instead, they will dip into their reserves to balance their $1.5 billion budget for this year.

The amount is about the same as last year, when the district reduced spending by approximately 5 percent to offset unprecedented state cuts.

Instead of seeking a tax increase – which the school board has been reluctant to embrace – [Superintendent Terry] Grier has recommended spending $9 million, or 3.5 percent, from savings next year.

“I would hate to arbitrarily raise taxes at this point when we don’t know what’s going to happen down the road,” said Mike Lunceford, president of the Houston Independent School District board.

HISD is one of about 600 districts suing the state, claiming funding is inadequate. Lunceford said he is hopeful that lawmakers will revise the school finance system next session.

[…]

[HISD Chief Financial Officer Melinda] Garrett said the district cannot continue to spend its fund balance. The account contains $257 million, about two months’ worth of operating expenses. HISD also plans to use $18 million from one-time federal jobs funding to close the budget shortfall.

“The district and the board will have to address how to balance this budget next year,” Garrett said.

The budget was adopted Thursday night. I’m sure the improved real estate market, which has led to higher property tax revenues and thus greatly eased the budget situation for entities like the city of Houston, enabled HISD to get close enough to balance to take this approach. A lot of the cost cutting they did last year – i.e., staff reductions – carry over as well. Still, as Garrett says, they can only go to their reserves for so much. Especially with a big bond package on the table for this year, they will need a healthy amount of reserves to ensure good bond ratings.

That bond package was unveiled Thursday as well, and unlike this year’s budget it will mean higher taxes down the line. Most of the focus will be on the high schools. You can see the details in School Zone and Hair Balls. The Board has not yet voted on Grier’s bond proposal, but there is some early opposition.

Trustee Juliet Stipeche criticized the plan for not including a new High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, her alma mater. Grier acknowledged the facility is lacking but said he wants to sell the valuable property on Dickson and find a new site.

Stipeche said she opposed changing the location, which is convenient to internships at downtown law firms and to students who transfer in from across the city.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, made a special appearance at the board meeting Thursday night to tell trustees he did not support the bond proposal as is, particularly the slight to Law Enforcement.

You can’t have everything. I don’t think that’s sufficient reason to oppose the entire package, but by all means until such time as the board has voted on it anyone who is unhappy with some part of Grier’s proposal go ahead and fight to make it better as they see fit.

Well, at least they’ll be able to burn off the calories

News item number one.

My kids love tapioca

Papa John’s pizza, Blue Bell ice cream, and fluorescent-colored Slushies.

For some kids, those may be the ingredients of a perfect school lunch. But for at least one Houston school district trustee, they may be the makings for a food fight.

At a board meeting Monday, trustee Juliet Stipeche questioned the district’s request to spend as much as $3 million on pizza, ice cream, chips and juices.

“This really bothers me that so much money is going to things that are not healthy,” Stipeche said Tuesday. “We should be offering something that is healthier than ice cream.”

The district has proposed spending up to $750,000 on Blue Bell ice cream, up to $960,000 on Papa John’s pizza, and up to $800,000 on beverages from Sunny Sky Products, which supplies juices and Slushie-type drinks.

With childhood obesity affecting about 17 percent of the country’s children, Stipeche said she worries that the district is sending the wrong message.

“Is it wise to promote children to eat unhealthy food?” asked Stipeche. “I’m not someone who’s just being picky about pizza and ice cream. This is a health crisis and something we need to show leadership on.”

News item number two.

Advocates of free play on the school yard won an endorsement Thursday when the HISD Board unanimously adopted a resolution recommending daily recess in addition to physical education classes for all elementary students.

Though the measure doesn’t guarantee unstructured play on campus, supporters say the policy brings the youngest pupils closer to an opportunity every school day to blow off steam on their own terms.

“I think it is a great step in the right direction,” said Chrysi Polydoros, a member of the district’s school health advisory council – which made the recess proposal – and the mother of four HISD students. “They need to get their sillies out so that they can go refocus in the classroom. They are kids and we have them in schools like little business professionals. They need a little extra bit of free time to get themselves ready to go back in and do more hard work.”

I pretty much said all I have to say in the title of this post. Gotta take your silver linings where you can find them.

Sometimes an apology isn’t enough

That’s what we tell our kids when they do something particularly egregious. It’s what I would tell Manuel Rodriguez, too.

The day after he retained his Houston school board seat by just 24 votes, Trustee Manuel Rodriguez formally apologized for a campaign brochure he distributed last week that many described as homophobic.

“I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter he released Wednesday afternoon. He said he “respect(ed)” challenger Ramiro Fonseca’s “contributions to our community and his record of public service.”

[…]

“I’m glad he finally did this,” [Trustee Juliet] Stipeche said Wednesday night, when she learned of Rodriguez’s apology. “I just wish he had apologized earlier. But I hope he truly understands how the ad was hurtful and harmful. Perhaps we can use this as a means of truly understanding our total non-discrimination policy and have a better understanding of what ‘bullying’ is.”

Fonseca was not impressed by Rodriguez’s words.

Fonseca said he was waiting for the final vote tally, which would count outstanding mail and provisional ballots, before deciding his next step – including a possible request for a recount.

“I think the hurt has been deep in the community,” Fonseca said in response to Rodriguez’s statement.

[…]

Mike Pomeroy, a member of the GLBT caucus, said he thought Rodriguez’s statement was insufficient, and he plans to join others – including an HISD student – in addressing Rodriguez during the public comment period.

“I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy said. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.”

I agree with all these reactions. Rodriguez didn’t admit to doing anything wrong – his “apology” amounts to little more than “I’m sorry if someone was offended by what I said” – and didn’t say what if anything he might do to atone for his words. Talk is cheap. Rodriguez has shown us who he is, now he needs to show us – not tell us – that he intends to be better than that. He’s got a long way to go. Hair Balls has more, while K-12 Zone and Stace report from the protests at last night’s HISD meeting.

2011 Houston results

Let’s go through the races…

– Mayor Parker won with a shade under 51%, with none of her opponents cracking 15% on their own. Obviously, this is not a position a Mayor with no serious opposition wants to be in, and it won’t surprise anyone if one or more potential opponents for 2013 are on the phone already calling potential financial backers. It’s certainly possible, perhaps likely, that she will face a much tougher challenge in two years. It’s also possible, given a better economy, a less dire budget, and fewer externally-driven issues like a red light camera referendum, that she could be in a stronger position for re-election in two years and that the time to have beaten her was now. Many people thought Rick Perry looked vulnerable after winning with 39% of the vote in 2006, but things don’t always go as you think they will. Often uncertain the future is, that’s all I’m saying.

– Brenda Stardig trailed Helena Brown in District A by 479 votes. She and Jolanda Jones, who led Jack Christie by about 6700 votes, will be headed to a runoff. All other incumbents won majorities, with CM Stephen Costello having the closest race but winning with 51.2%. So much for the anti-Renew Houston slate.

– Only two of the five open seats will feature runoffs. Ellen Cohen in C (53.62%), Mike Laster in J (67.27%), and Larry Green in District K (67.23%) all won. Alvin Byrd (25.11%) and Jerry Davis (24.38%) head to overtime in District B, while the perennially perennial Andrew Burks led the field in At Large #2, garnering 17.33%. Kristi Thibaut came in second, with 15.65%, followed by Elizabeth Perez and David Robinson. This is at least the third time Burks has made it to a city election runoff – he lost to Sue Lovell in overtime in 2009 – and I wonder if he will get any official support. Being in a runoff with Jolanda Jones and a District B race also on the ballot will help him, but beyond that it’s hard to see him doing much of anything. You have to wonder what Michael P. Williams is thinking this morning. Oh, and Eric Dick finished seventh out of ten. Apparently, it takes more than spreading campaign signs like grass seed and putting out puerile press releases to win public office. Good to know.

– Paula Harris and Juliet Stipeche easily won re-election in HISD, as did Chris Oliver in HCC. Carroll Robinson defeated Jew Don Boney by a 55-45 margin to succeed Williams as the District IV Trustee. The closest race of the election, one that will have people gnashing their teeth all winter, was in HISD III, where Manuel Rodriguez barely held on. I’m a staunch advocate of early voting, but you have to wonder how many early-goers to the ballot box may have regretted pushing the button for Rodriguez before his shameful gay-baiting mailer came out.

– There were 123,047 city of Houston votes cast in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, making this election a near exact duplicate of 2007 turnout-wise. There were 164,283 votes cast in Harris County, of which 120,931 were Houston votes, for a Houston share of 73.6%. The final early vote total for Harris County was 60,122, almost exactly what I hypothesized it would be, and the early vote total was 36.6% of the overall tally in Harris. There were 920,172 registered voters in Houston, about 15,000 fewer than in 2009 but 7000 more than in 2007. City turnout was 13.14% in Harris County.

I have my second tour of jury duty today, this time in the municipal courts, so that’s all from me for now. I may have some deeper thoughts later. What do you think of how the election went? PDiddie has more.

UPDATE: Robert Miller offers his perspective.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

Time to evaluate Grier

It’s performance review time for HISD Superintendent Terry Grier.

The elected nine-member school board uses an evaluation form that consists of data measurements in categories such as the increase in student college readiness; recruiting and retaining the best teachers and principals; and improving the public support and confidence in HISD schools.

Trustees have moved toward an “objective evaluation instrument, instead of a subjective instrument,” said trustee Greg Meyers, who represents HISD District VI. “As data-driven as we are, we wanted an instrument that would aligned with our philosophy.”

The current evaluation allows board members to hold the superintendent accountable for the data results of the district, Meyers said.

But Grier’s performance review is just beginning, said Trustee Juliet Stipeche, who represents HISD District VIII.

“[Friday] was the first day we, as a board, had the opportunity to review the data the administration provided us,” Stipeche said. “Everybody fills out an evaluation form and those are ultimately aggregated.”

Board members will complete the evaluation by Nov. 3, Stipeche said.

I can’t wait to see what they have to say. I’m sure it will have as much bearing on whether or not his contract gets renewed as the election

Endorsement watch: HISD incumbents

The Chron sticks with the incumbents in the three contested HISD Trustee races.

For HISD Trustee in District III: Manuel Rodriguez Elected to the board in 2003, he was its president in 2007, when the district successfully passed an important bond to build 21 new schools and repair and remodel more than 100 others. He consistently supports Grier and Apollo 20.

For HISD Trustee in District IV: Paula Harris. Harris, currently board president, has been a forceful advocate for her district, and as board president, has pushed a consistent program of reforms to improve school performance. She has been a staunch ally of Grier and an advocate of Apollo 20. We have been seriously concerned by reports of fat HISD contracts awarded to her friends. But Harris says that she’s played by the rules, welcomes new, tighter ethics standards, and promises to avoid murky areas in the future.

For HISD Trustee in District VIII: Juliet Stipeche Elected in November 2010 to complete an unfinished term, Stipeche quickly proved herself a strong board member. She’s supported tighter ethics rules and a truly independent audit of HISD’s procurement system. An alumna of the district’s High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, she’s a strong supporter of high-performing magnet programs and in-district charter schools. We appreciate her diplomatic, thoughtful criticism of Grier and Apollo 20.

Based on their own reporting, that strongly suggests they want to see Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract extended after it expires next December. Be that as it may, Harris and Stipeche are clearly better qualified candidates than their opponents, while the Rodriguez/Fonseca matchup is closer to even. I thought Fonseca might have had the edge here since he won almost all of the endorsements from other organizations, but apparently not. (Campos, not surprisingly, vehemently disagrees with the Chron.) My interview with Paula Harris is here, with Juliet Stipeche is here, with Manuel Rodriguez is here, and with Ramiro Fonseca is here. What do you think?

Interview with Juliet Stipeche

Juliet Stipeche

Next up is Trustee Juliet Stipeche, whose campaign webpage is here. She won a special election in 2010 for the Trustee seat in District VIII that was vacated by Diana Davila. Stipeche is an attorney and a graduate of HISD schools, including the High School for Law Enforcement. (See also School Zone’s Q&A with Stipeche and her opponent.) Here’s what we discussed:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Your 2011 electoral lineup

There are many candidates running for office this year. Some of them have a better rationale for running than others, but thankfully for them that’s not a requirement.

A flurry of late filings to run for city office Wednesday filled out an election ballot that left only two Houston officials unopposed for re-election in November.

The city’s second-highest elected official, Controller Ronald Green, will run unopposed for a second two-year term as the city’s chief financial officer. Two-term District E Councilman Mike Sullivan also is unopposed.

Mayor Annise Parker has five challengers, but their combined campaign bank accounts total less than $5,000, compared with the $2.3 million Parker reported as of June 30.

You can see the full lineup here. There are a few oddities. The story list an Avery Ayers for District B and a Terence Jewett for District D, but the City Secretary does not. Similarly, the Chron only has Brad Batteau challenging CM Melissa Noriega in At Large #3, but the City Secretary has had Chris Carmona listed since early in the day yesterday. Also, there had been a candidate named Sergio Leal on the City Secretary’s page in At Large #4 before yesterday, but he has apparently dropped out. For that matter, I thought I had seen Jewett listed earlier, but at this point I couldn’t swear to it. Anyone know anything about these discrepancies?

There are two additions to the Mayor’s race: Jack O’Connor, who had previously been in At Large #5, and Dave Wilson – yes, that Dave Wilson – who presumably didn’t feel that the rest of the field hated gay people enough. I have no idea what made O’Connor decide to switch races. From what I can see, politically speaking he’s an Anglo Fernando Herrera, without the firefighters’ endorsement. There’s an anti-Parker vote out there, but I don’t see how the entrance of O’Connor or Wilson expands it in any way. They’re all fighting for the same 30% ± ε that was always going to vote against the Mayor. Had someone from the other end of the political spectrum jumped in, that might have made things more interesting. Wait till 2013, I guess. Speaking of which, now that both Ben Hall and Paul Bettencourt are officially non-candidates, can we please declare a moratorium on quoting them in any election-related story until after this election is over? Thank you.

What last minute surprises there were took place in the HISD races. First, we had a last minute dropout:

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, a mother of five who is active in the advocacy group HISD Parent Visionaries, confirms that she has filed to run for the District II seat now held by Carol Mims Galloway.

Galloway, who praised Skillern-Jones at a recent HISD board meeting, is expected to withdraw her application for re-election.

And withdraw she did. I respect Carole Mims Galloway, but I do not like this kind of placeholding. Handing your seat off like that to someone who will not be subject to any kind of scrutiny is not democratic. The voters deserve a choice. Even having a crackpot candidate in opposition would be preferable.

Another candidate discovered that he didn’t live in the district that he thought he lived in.

The Houston school board manager today notified Arturo “Art” Huerta, who had filed last month to run against trustee and board president Paula Harris, that he may not run for that seat because he does not live in the boundaries of the redrawn district.

The surprise came on the last day to file to run for the board. Like those of other governmental entities, the redistricting was done as a result of the new U.S. census data.

“I wanted to inform you that due to recent redistricting of HISD trustee boundaries, I have confirmed that your residential address of […] Vermont Street is in precinct 38,” board manager Suzanne Harrison emailed Huerta this morning, “and although precinct 38 is ‘split,’ your street falls within HISD Trustee District 8, not District 4 as we had originally discussed. I had this confirmed with the Harris County Voter Registrar this morning. Therefore, you will now be running against incumbent trustee Juliet Stipeche, Trustee for HISD District 8.”

[…]

Huerta said he will not seek election in District VIII, so he is out of the school board races for good this year.

“I have no interest in running against Juliet Stipeche,” Huerta said. “Her track record’s not the one that motivated me to run for this office.”

[…]

HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said the district’s legal consultant on school board boundaries, Gene Locke, confirmed that Huerta lives in District VIII — and the recent redistricting did not change that. The problem, Spencer said was the color-coded map that Harrison used. Huerta’s address looked like it was in District IV based on the color coding, which didn’t account for the precinct being divided into different school board districts.

I have sympathy for Huerta, who says he spent a bunch of his own money on signs, but I wonder if he was at that same address four years ago. If so, perhaps he remembers who he voted for in the Trustee race that year. For what it’s worth, I tried to find Huerta’s voter registration information so I could see what the Tax Assessor’s office thinks his HISD precinct is, but I could not find a registration for him. I don’t know what to make of that. Texas Watchdog has more on this.

In any event, Paula Harris will have an opponent, one who is familiar to her.

• In District IV, retired HISD principal Davetta Daniels is challenging Paula Harris, the school board president. Harris defeated Daniels four years ago. As we reported earlier today, Arturo “Art” Huerta, who had filed to run for the seat, was notified this morning that he didn’t live in that district and couldn’t run, despite being told by an HISD official last month that he did live in District IV.

• Juliet Stipeche, who represents District VIII, faces a challenge from Dorothy Olmos, who lost to Stipeche last year in a special election for the seat.

• Ramiro Fonseca, a Houston Community College financial aid associate, is running against incumbent Manuel Rodriguez Jr. for the District III seat.

Harris easily defeated Daniels in 2007 (page 19), garnering over 66% of the vote. Harris’ ethics issues may make this race closer, but I don’t really see Daniels, who also ran for At Large #5 in 2009 and received 8% of the vote, getting much traction. As for Olmos, she has run for numerous offices in recent years, and finished third (page 41) in the six-candidate special election for District VIII; as a multiple-time Republican candidate for office, I daresay she was bolstered by the makeup of that particular electorate. I don’t expect Stipeche will have much to worry about this time around. Fonseca, who has racked up a couple of nice endorsements since his entry into the race, looks to be the most interesting challenger.

Oh yeah, there’s also the HCC Trustee races. I have no idea who’s running for what beyond what I’ve said before, I will only list endorsements on my 2011 Election page if I can find a link to them. If an endorsing organization can’t or won’t list their supported candidates on a web page, I don’t see any reason to bother with them. I am listing the Houston Professional Fire Fighters’ endorsements because they were listed in this Houston Politics post, and that does count even if it is a technicality. The other endorsements mentioned in that post have no such luck. Whether you’re an endorsing organization or a candidate, if you want me to list your endorsements, show me the link.

UPDATE: I sent an email to story author Chris Moran to ask about Carmona in At Large 3, and was informed that his exclusion in the story was an error; there should be a correction in the online edition by now. CM Noriega does indeed have two opponents.

The other races

In addition to the city of Houston races, I am trying to follow the HISD and HCC Trustee elections as well. I say “trying” because there’s just no information out there that I can find. For one thing, though there are seven such races this year – four in HISD, three in HCC, including one open seat – I am unaware of a second candidate in any race. HISD Trustees Paula Harris, Carol Mims Galloway, Manuel Rodriguez, and Juliet Stipeche are up for election. None have opponents that I know of, though there’s a group calling itself “Educators For A Better District IV” that has been attacking Harris and claimed to have a candidate for that race at one point, though that fell through. As for HCC, it’s not at all easy to figure out who’s doing what. You just can’t easily tell from the biographies or from the past election results on Harris Votes whose terms are up. I know Richard Schechter will be on the ballot, and I know that Carroll Robinson is running to fill the slot that Michael P. Williams is leaving behind in his run for City Council, and somewhere along the line I managed to determine that Christopher Oliver was the third one in. At least, I think so – I was unable to duplicate whatever method I used back then to draw that conclusion. There’s got to be a better way than this.

And campaign finance reports, forget it. Google “HISD Trustee Campaign Finance Reports” and you’ll find this page, which contains exactly two reports, Juliet Stipeche’s from January and July. Google “HCCS Trustee Campaign Finance Reports” and you get a Carroll Robinson press release from January and a few links about Jay Aiyer. In other words, a whole lot of nothing.

So I’ll ask you. What do you know about any of these elections? Are there candidates out there, even rumors of candidates, that I’m not hearing about? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.

Stipeche wins HISD Trustee runoff

From School Zone:

Juliet Stipeche has won the Houston ISD District VIII school board runoff election by 48 votes, according to the unofficial results. Stipeche, an attorney, beat Judith Cruz, a stay-at-home mom and former HISD teacher, with 51 percent of the vote. The total number of votes cast was 2,032, compared with nearly 15,000 cast in the Nov. 2 general election.

The numbers are here – Stipeche won 1040 votes to Cruz’s 992. Cruz led in early voting, but Stipeche caught up and passed her with 53 of the 57 precincts reporting. Congratulations to Juliet Stipeche, HISD’s newest Trustee.

Runoff Day in HISD VIII

Today is the day of the runoff election for HISD Trustee in District VIII between Judith Cruz and Juliet Stipeche. According to School Zone, only about 1000 votes were cast during early voting, so if you live in this district, your vote really matters. See here for a map of the district, here for a list of residential addresses in the district, and here for a list of polling places, all of which will be open from 7 AM till 7 PM. Finally, you can listen to an interview I did before the November election with Cruz here and with Stipeche here. Now go vote!

Endorsement watch: Runoff reiteration

The Chron reiterates its endorsement of Judith Cruz in the HISD Trustee runoff.

To a large degree, the solution to the United States’ education problems is being worked out here in Houston. We’re the birthplace of some of the nation’s most successful charter schools – schools like KIPP and YES, which have shown long-term, measurable success in propelling low-income and minority kids to college.

The secrets to their success aren’t secrets at all. (Have you seen Waiting for “Superman”?) At the very top of the list is an insistence on high-performing teachers.

Research confirms what PTO moms already know: Some teachers are far better than others. No other single factor – curriculum, class size, dollars spent, or use of technology – makes nearly as much difference in a kid’s academic performance as the quality of his teachers.

As much as any urban school district in the nation, HISD has tried to raise the level of its teaching: to recruit the best new teachers; to reward those who perform best; and to improve or get rid of those who don’t measure up.

The district has a long way to go. And naturally, the strategy isn’t popular with teachers’ unions, which fight to save their members’ jobs no matter how poorly those members perform.

But we believe that our public schools’ main purpose is to educate children – not to provide guaranteed employment for adults.

For that reason, in the runoff election for HISD’s District VIII board member, we support Judith Cruz.

Is it just me, or is the tone of this endorsement different from their usual style for endorsements? Makes me wonder if the author of this particular piece is someone who doesn’t usually do them. I’m also not sure where the Chron’s disdain for the teachers union is coming from, or the money we’ll need to hire and retain all these high-performing teachers we’re being promised, but those are subjects for another day. Anyway, you can listen to my interview with Judith Cruz here, and my interview with her opponent in the runoff Juliet Stipeche here. Details about the early voting period for this runoff are here.

Early voting information for the HISD VIII runoff

One more election to go this year, the runoff for the open HISD Trustee seat in District VIII. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, early voting begins tomorrow and runs through next Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know from the County Clerk:

HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT (HISD) TRUSTEE – DISTRICT VIII RUN-OFF ELECTION

The HISD Trustee – District VIII Run-Off Election will be on Tuesday, November 30th.

For more information pertaining to the run-off election, voters should call: 713 556 6121

Early Voting Schedule for HISD Trustee – District VIII Run-Off Election:

Nov. 18–24 (7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., including Saturday and Sunday)

Early Voting Locations:
Gregory Lincoln Education Center
1101 Taft Street, Houston, TX 77019
Furr High School
520 Mercury, Houston 77013
West Gray Adaptive Recreation Center
1475 West Gray, Houston, TX 77019
Austin High School
1700 Dumble, Houston, TX 77023

The “West Gray Adaptive Recreation Center” is also known as the West Gray Multi-Service Center, with which we early voters are all familiar. Get out there and vote if you live in HISD VIII – the two candidates running are Judith Cruz and Juliet Stipeche – this is sure to be a low turnout election, so your ballot really matters.

Overview of the HISD Trustee race

Here’s the Chron overview of the HISD Trustee special election in District 8. There are five candidates actually running, though there is a sixth on the ballot:

Roberto Centeno, 61, lives in Museum District
Judith Cruz, 35, lives in Eastwood
Dorothy Olmos, 51, lives in Idylwood
Peter Schwethelm, 35, lives in Avondale
Juliet Stipeche, 36, lives in Idylwood

The links are to my interviews with them. Cheryl Moodie is also on the ballot but has dropped out of the running because she didn’t meet residency requirements. For those of you in District 8 (see district map here), bear in mind that a straight-ticket vote does not include this race, and that there will almost certainly be a runoff in December.

Interview with Juliet Stipeche

Juliet Stipeche

My next interview for the open HISD seat is with Juliet Stipeche. Stipeche is an attorney who hails from the East End and is a graduate of the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice and of Rice University. She was a candidate in the Democratic primary this year for the 281st District Civil Court. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Six candidates file for the open HISD Trustee seat

Here’s the lineup for the HISD District 8 seat that was vacated by Diana Davila:

Robert Centeno, a former teacher in the Houston Independent School District.

[Judith] Cruz, a stay-at-home mom who previously was the special education department chairwoman at HISD’s Liberty High School for immigrant students and an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Lee High School.

Cheryl Moodie, a former general manager at Ritz-Carlton hotels who now consults in the fields of hospitality and international medical education.

Dorothy Olmos, a former candidate for state representative and Harris County commissioner who runs a small business focused on rental renovations and works part-time for an industrial supply company.

Peter Schwethelm, the founder of a college placement service for high school athletes and a former geography and world history teacher at Yates High School and a math teacher at Milby High School.

Juliet Stipeche, an attorney at her own law firm who got her start at District VIII’s High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, where she graduated as the valedictorian.

Stipeche ran in the Democratic primary for Civil District Court #281, losing to Donna Roth. Olmos ran in the Republican primary for County Commissioner in Precinct 2, losing to Jack Morman. She has also run unsuccessfully three times for HD143, in the special election in 2005, in which she got 6% of the vote, then in 2006 and 2008 against Democratic Rep. Ana Hernandez, getting about 26% each time. Far as I know, none of the other candidates has run for office before. As the story notes, all but Moodie and Centeno appeared at the candidate screening in August when the Board was still thinking about appointing someone. You can be approximately 100% certain this race will result in a runoff, so be sure to pay attention if you live in District 8, because in the end not a whole lot of votes will pick the winner. I’ll be doing interviews with at least some of these candidates, so I hope that will help.

Judicial Q&A: Juliet Stipeche

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so 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. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

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

My name is Juliet Kathy Stipeche, and I am a Democratic judicial candidate for the 281st Civil District Court in Harris County, Texas. If you would like to learn more about my background, please visit my website: www.stipecheforjudge.com.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The 281st Civil District Court only hears and determines civil cases. It does not handle cases involving family, juvenile, probate or criminal matters. Civil causes of action before this court include a wide variety of claims ranging from simple to complex. Matters include but are not limited to collections, personal injury, wrongful death, professional liability, premises liability, products liability, contract claims, and real estate disputes.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

For the past decade, I have been a civil litigator and have practiced almost exclusively before civil district courts, so I am very familiar with the types of cases that this court handles. I have witnessed the need for our civil trial courts to remain committed to the principles of fairness and accessibility for all persons. We also need judges who believe in the jury system. I am running for the 281st Civil District Court because the citizens of Harris County deserve experienced civil court judges who are fair, hard working, and committed to the community and to maintaining the highest ethical standards. I am dedicated to these principles and will also treat all parties with courtesy and respect.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I grew up in a working class household in Houston’s East End as the daughter of immigrant parents from Argentina and Mexico. My parents always told me that the key to my future was through hard work and education. I took their words to heart graduating valedictorian of the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. I earned an academic scholarship to Rice University, where I graduated with majors in Political Science, Policy Studies and Religious Studies, magna cum laude. Afterward, I obtained my law degree from The University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas.

I have practiced exclusively in complex and general civil litigation for the past ten (10) years, and I am a shareholder at my firm, Nagorny & Stipeche, P.C. I have worked on hundreds of cases and participated in trials concerning serious, catastrophic injuries. The longest trial lasted six (6) weeks, while the shortest was approximately one (1) week. I have experience working up cases from inception to trial to appeal. I have also given lectures on a variety of legal topics, and I take my role as a counselor seriously.

I am conversant in Spanish, a very hard worker, and a creative problem solver. I have a passionate conviction for impartiality and justice that motivated me to become a lawyer in the first place. Additionally, I want to serve my community, and I will devote every single ounce of free time to improving the life circumstances of the citizens of Harris County by mentoring, volunteering, and making a difference.

5. Why is this race important?

This race is important because the Courts serve as the guardians of due process, equal protection, and our liberties and freedoms. Most of us do not think about the judges on the benches until we are before them, and if and when this happens, we are usually at our weakest. This is because civil lawsuits are derived from conflict, tragedies and disagreements. We need a Judge in the 281st who will serve as a fair and even-handed referee and who believes in the right to trial by jury. Therefore, this is your opportunity to assist in the selection.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

This is my first time running for political office, but I have always had a passion to serve others and to make a difference. I have excellent academic and legal credentials and the integrity and character to remain independent. I have life and legal experiences that make me knowledgeable about the law as well as people. I have an industriousness and willingness to work hard for the citizens of Harris County and a personality that is courteous and considerate to all persons. I have served as a volunteer for my community with the YMCA, the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association and the Ya Es Hora program, and I have always been committed to the Democratic Party’s principles of strength, inclusion and opportunity. I have received the endorsement of the Coalition of Harris County Democratic Elected Officials, the Harris County Tejano Democrats, Dos Centavos, the Harris County AFL-CIO, the Houston Police Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers (O.S.S.O.), the Mexican American Sheriff’s Organization (M.A.S.O.), and the Latino Labor Leadership Council of Southeast Texas.