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January 29th, 2018:

Interview with Dylan Osborne

Dylan Osborne

We move on now to Harris County races. There are races for county courts and Justice of the Peace, which I am covering via the judicial Q&As. Lina Hidalgo is unopposed in the primary for Harris County Judge. In the races for County Clerk, District Clerk, and County Commissioner in Precinct 2, I have chosen to endorse candidates instead of interviewing the slate. That leaves County Treasurer, HCDE Trustee in Position 3 At Large and Position 6, Precinct 1 (Andrea Duhon is unopposed in the primary for Position 4, Precinct 3), and County Commissioner in Precinct 4. The next two weeks will be devoted to these races, beginning today with County Treasurer.

Treasurer is an odd office, a constitutional holdover that was eliminated at the statewide level in 1995. Three Democrats have filed to try to defeat incumbent Orlando Sanchez, who was first elected to this office in 2006. Dylan Osborne was the first of the three to jump in. Osborne works in the Planning & Development Department for the City of Houston, and he has been on staff for two City Council members, most recently Richard Nguyen in District F. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Judicial Q&A: Natalia Oakes

(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. You can see other Q&As and further information about judicial candidates on my 2018 Judicial page.

Natalia Oakes

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

My name is Natalia Oakes. I’m an attorney and I’m running for Judge of the 313th (Juvenile) Family District Court. I was born in Beaumont, Texas and was raised in a big civic-minded family full of many uncles, aunts, cousins in Beaumont and New Orleans. I’ve lived in Houston since 1980. I graduated from Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans with a B.A. in English Literature with a teacher’s Certificate. I was awarded my law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of TSU. I taught school in Beaumont, New Orleans, Houston and Athens, Greece. My father worked hard and my parents stressed education. I am grateful for the honesty and integrity they taught me through example.

I have been working in Juvenile Court for 18 years. I joyfully interact daily with lawyers, judges, clients, probation officers, court personnel, assistant district attorneys, county attorneys, detention officers, interpreters and bailiffs.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Juvenile Court presides over Juvenile delinquency cases from Misdemeanor B to 1st degree Felonies. Juvenile Court also hears CPS (Child Protective Service) cases involving abused and neglected children.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I want to focus on effective rehabilitative programs so the children do not come back into the adult system. Even with little support at home, juveniles can be guided to see their potential and contemplate a productive future. Juvenile Probation can track which programs work and which programs do not produce results. It is important to give young people tools to effect a positive change in their lives; to find a talent and cultivate it, to be introduced to areas of interest that they are not exposed to in their home environment. Every child has a special talent and must see their potential. We can maximize resources already in place like, community resources, and discard those that don’t produce results.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I’ve been working exclusively in Juvenile Family Court for 18 years. I work well with people. A Juvenile Judge deals with many entities (Juvenile Probation, CPS personnel, District Attorneys, County Attorneys, the Juvenile Board, Commissioners Court) and a judge can harm juveniles if a he/she alienates any of the groups. I can accomplish my goals of bringing effective change to the Harris County Juvenile System. I am the most qualified in this race and am ready on day one to implement needed changes.

5. Why is this race important?

When our children benefit, we all benefit. When our communities are safe from teenage crime, communities thrive.

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

  • I am a parent: I understand children
  • I am a former school teacher: I understand the education system
  • I’ve spent 18 years working in Juvenile Court years handling misdemeanors, felonies, adoptions and CPS (Children Protective Services) cases representing abused and neglected children and their parents: I understand the law.

My goals are to promote programs that produce results for the children and families of Harris County. These programs must be tracked to assess if children are being rehabilitated and families are accessing the services that they need in order to help them.

Every young person should be able to see their potential by being exposed to their unique talents/interests, be it academics, trade schools, vocations, mentoring, crafts, arts, animal husbandry, agriculture. This, in turn, helps self-esteem and leads to productivity.

The XFL will be back

And this time the gimmick is there will be no gimmicks.

WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced Thursday he is giving a professional football league another go.

It will be called the XFL, the same name of the league McMahon and NBC tried for one season in 2001, but it won’t rely on flashy cheerleaders and antics as its predecessor did, he said.

McMahon said he is the sole funding source for the league, which is slated to begin in January 2020. Its first season will have eight teams around the country playing a 10-week schedule. The initial outlay of money is expected to be around $100 million, the same amount of WWE stock McMahon sold last month and funneled into Alpha Entertainment, the company he founded for the project.

“I wanted to do this since the day we stopped the other one,” McMahon told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “A chance to do it with no partners, strictly funded by me, which would allow me to look in the mirror and say, ‘You were the one who screwed this up,’ or ‘You made this thing a success.'”

McMahon told reporters on Thursday afternoon that he has had no initial talks with media entities.

One mark of the new league, McMahon said, will be faster games. The ideal running time, he said, would be two hours.

As for the timing of the announcement, two years before the league’s debut, many might point to McMahon’s relationship with President Donald Trump, who this fall criticized the NFL for allowing its players to kneel and sit during the national anthem. McMahon said players in his league will not be given the forum to take a personal stance while on the playing field. McMahon’s wife, Linda, heads the Small Business Administration in Trump’s Cabinet.

Hey, everything else from 20-30 years ago is being rebooted, so why not the XFL? I can’t say I’d care – I didn’t watch the original version – but it will provide a few jobs, so that’s something. And for what it’s worth, I’m rooting for El Paso to get a team. Deadspin has more.

Harris County could use a bit of cybersecurity training


On Sept. 21, not three weeks after Houston was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, the Harris County auditor’s office received an email from someone named Fiona Chambers who presented herself as an accountant with D&W Contractors, Inc.

The contractor was repairing a Harvey-damaged parking lot, cleaning up debris and building a road for the county, and wanted to be paid. Chambers asked if the county could deposit $888,000 into the contractor’s new bank account.

“If we can get the form and voided check back to you today would it be updated in time for our payment?” read a Sept. 25 email from Chambers.

On Oct. 12, Harris County sent the money out. The next day, the county quietly was scrambling to get it back, after being alerted that the account did not belong to D&W, that Chambers did not exist and that county employees had been duped by a fraudster.

The county recouped the payment, but the ongoing investigation into who tried to take the county’s money and nearly got away with it has ignited a debate over the financial security and cyber security of the third-largest county in America. That debate comes as experts point to a growing number of increasingly sophisticated attackers from around the world, homing in on untrained employees or system vulnerabilities.

The incident now has become wrapped into an FBI investigation into a group that has attempted to extort local governments around the world, law enforcement officials said.

Meanwhile, some officials are moving to revamp their practices as others say further scrutiny of county defenses is necessary.

There’s a lot going on here, and a lot of room for process improvement. The county can provide training to employees to better recognize phishing attempts, and send out test emails to ensure that the training took hold. Extra checks and verifications, like pre-screening vendors an maintaining a list of approved vendors, can be put into place before any payments are made. Keeping on top of threat intelligence, to know what the new scams are that are going around, and ensuring that the email system and the proxy servers recognize junk mail and malicious websites. Cybersecurity is a process, and it contains multiple layers. The fact that the county almost got scammed is in itself not a great shame – it does happen, to many organization – but only if the opportunity to learn and improve from it is fully embraced.