October 12, 2007
Endorsement watch: More officeholders for the bonds

More support for the HISD bond referendum.

Houston's 200,000 students desperately need the 24 new schools and $90 million in security upgrades proposed by the bond, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said.

"We believe it's a fair plan, and it's time to move forward," said Ellis, whose alma mater, Worthing High School, would receive a $17 million facelift if voters approve the bond next month.

"We would prefer to have a new school. So would everybody. You get as much as the voters are willing to give you."

The bond has drawn adamant opposition from other black politicians, who say the measure doesn't do enough to improve education in their neighborhoods.

The NAACP and The Metropolitan Organization have come out against the bond. LULAC, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Houston Partnership are endorsing the proposal.


Voters shouldn't punish students because HISD leaders didn't put together the perfect plan or seek community input, Ellis said.

"People who run our schools are human. Sometimes they make mistakes," Ellis said. "I'm suggesting we look beyond these minor things that divide us. It's a good package. It's a fair package."

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he thinks many voters don't realize the recent slew of concessions that HISD made to win community support. For instance, the district abandoned its plan to open pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade campuses in the Fifth Ward, he said.

"The plan is a better plan than the original plan," said Coleman.

Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, also endorsed the bond package. Miles said voters need to be informed before they head to the polls.

"This is a very emotional time for our community," he said. "It's unfortunate things got off to a bad start, but you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Also speaking out for the bond is State Sen. Mario Gallegos.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos on Friday acknowledged the controversy over the Houston Independent School District's $805 million bond request but urged voters to put aside "political squabbles" and any disappointments they might have about specific projects and vote for the package in the Nov. 6 election.

"Did I get everything my community wants? No," said Gallegos, D-Houston, speaking at a press conference outside the Houston East End Chamber of Commerce offices, 550 Gulfgate Center.

Specifically, Gallegos said he had hoped Jackson Middle School would get a new building but had to settle for the $16 million renovation that the bond would cover.

Nevertheless, he said his discussions with HISD officials and participation in public forums had convinced him that "every child under the HISD umbrella is covered, whether they're black, brown, white, Asian. Whatever race, color or creed, it covers that student, and I think for that, I can live with it."

The bond issue has drawn endorsements from the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but black community leaders have criticized it, saying it doesn't do enough to repair predominantly black schools in the Third and Fifth Wards.

Acknowledging that divide, Gallegos said while the Hispanic and black communities might clash politically, "at five o'clock, we're friends. We might disagree on some of the issues. That's politics, but as friends, (Hispanics) and the black community could not be stronger than we are today."

Some black leaders have said the bond's architects should focus more attention on improving academics, but Gallegos said that issue is separate from the infrastructural needs the bond is designed to address.

"Programs (such as magnet schools and efforts to help students with special needs) can be worked out with the school board and the president and us in the Legislature during the interval," he said. "Those kinds of programs are not about this bond. The bond is (about) a healthy environment for our kids. They deserve that when they go to school in the morning."

And finally, the local Republican Party may decide today if it wants to take action in this referendum.

Harris County Republican Party chairman Jared Woodfillannounced this week that "emergency committees" have been formed by GOP leaders to make recommendations about party endorsements in several area upcoming bond elections.

The bond issues under review include HISD's $805 million bond program; as well as bond issues in the Spring Branch and Cypress-Fairbanks school districts. Harris County's $880 million bond program, which includes $250 million for Port of Houston improvements, also is being assessed, Woodfill said.

The panel researching the HISD bonds has heard from HISD officials, bond
opponents and bond supporters, Woodfill said. All of the committees will make their recommendations to the local GOP's advisory board, and party officials will announce endorsements by next week, Woodfill said.

The endorsements will be announced, and then e-mailed directly to about 7,000 GOP faithful, who are automatically linked by e-mail to an estimated 25,000 other party stalwarts, Woodfill said.

Well, you can't accuse them of rushing things, that's for sure. We'll see what they say.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 12, 2007 to Election 2007