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February 10th, 2023:

CM Gallegos enters the Mayor’s race

I wish him well.

CM Robert Gallegos

Councilmember Robert Gallegos, the lone Hispanic member of Houston’s City Council, has entered the mayoral race.

Gallegos filed a form Thursday with the secretary’s office to start raising money for a mayoral bid, and he told the Chronicle shortly after that he has decided to run. He said he would make a more formal campaign announcement in the coming weeks.

“What I bring is over nine years’ experience in the trenches making a difference,” Gallegos said in a statement. “Our city is at a crossroads. We need strong leadership to make city government work and a vision that makes this a world class city on public safety, city infrastructure, improved affordability and equal opportunity in every part of this city.”

He joins state Sen. John Whitmire, former County Clerk Chris Hollins, former Councilmember Amanda Edwards and attorney Lee Kaplan among the contenders for the seat.

A poll went out last month that presaged Gallegos’ entry, asking residents who they would pick among the declared candidates, Gallegos, and former METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia, who widely is expected to launch his own campaign soon. Recipients said it contained specific information about Gallegos and his track record on council.


Gallegos will have to expand his voter pool drastically to become mayor. Less than 11,000 people voted in the most recent District I race, whereas 241,000 people voted in the mayoral contest.

He will face an uphill climb in fundraising as well. Candidates announced their bids earlier and started raising more money than usual in this year’s contest. Each candidate has raised more than $1 million to date and has more than $1 million in the bank. In his January campaign finance filing, Gallegos reported having about one-tenth of that amount, $133,500, in the bank.

It is possible other candidates will join the fray as well. Another recent poll tested how U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee would fare in the contest, although it was not clear who funded the survey.

The field also lacks a conservative candidate. Municipal races are nonpartisan, but the last two elections have ended in runoffs between Mayor Sylvester Turner, a longtime Democrat, and conservative challengers.

See here for the January 2023 finance reports. I’d heard rumors of his candidacy for awhile, so this isn’t a big surprise. He does have a tough challenge ahead of him, but he also has the most experience in city government, having been first elected in 2013, and the most recent experience. That ought to count for something.

I’ve also heard rumors about Rep. Jackson Lee, and I got one of those poll calls mentioned in the story a few days ago. Many of the questions compared her directly to Sen. Whitmire. I can say that the poll did come from her campaign, because I asked specifically that question at the end of the call. In the same way that I don’t understand why Whitmire wants to be Mayor, I don’t understand why she wants to be Mayor. It’s a much tougher 24×7 job than what either of them has now. If you don’t want to do what you’re now doing any more, it’s okay to just peacefully retire. I don’t get it.

Finally, on that last point, it’s very much my opinion that a Republican candidate will enter the race. My belief is that if this happens, it will be a modern Republican, which is to say a MAGA type, not an old school Chamber of Commerce type, who enters. Not because they think they can win, but because they want to have someone on the ballot they want to vote for. Obviously I could be wrong, running for Mayor is a big commitment even if you’re just doing it to make a point, but this just makes sense to me. We’ll see if I’m right.

Still more Uvalde bills from Sen. Gutierrez

At least one of these might have a chance to pass.

Sen. Roland Gutierrez

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez wants the Texas Department of Public Safety to create robust mass shooting response training for all public safety entities after the chaotic response to the Uvalde school massacre delayed medical treatment of victims.

“Everybody in Texas needs to examine the complete and utter failure that happened on this day,” Gutierrez said at a news conference in Austin, joined by families of victims from last year’s Uvalde shooting and the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting. “It must not ever happen again.”

The new slate of bills Gutierrez unveiled Tuesday came less than two months after an investigation by The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and The Washington Post found a faltered medical response undermined the chances that some Uvalde victims would survive the shooting.


On Tuesday, Gutierrez said the victims who had a pulse before later dying “might have lived” had the response been more in line with the average length of a mass shooting, which he said was about 12 to 14 minutes, compared to the 77 minutes children waited in Uvalde before the shooter was killed.

“We do not know how many of the other kids that didn’t have a pulse, at what time did they expire?” he said. “We do not know that.”

Gutierrez is a San Antonio Democrat whose Senate district includes Uvalde. His Senate Bill 738 calls for ensuring all public safety entities in certain counties have the radio infrastructure for communication between all public safety entities, including between different kinds of agencies.

Further, the bill would create a process to train public safety entities in responding to mass shootings. The training would be required to include protection of students at a school; emergency medical response training in minimizing casualties; tactics for denying an intruder entry into a school or classroom; and the chain of command during such an event.

Another legislative proposal outlined Tuesday would create a law enforcement unit tasked with having at least one officer present at each public school and higher education facility in the state. The unit, Texas School Patrol, would be expected to coordinate with local police officials about emergency responses to mass shooting events.

A third proposal, which Gutierrez called “a little bit more aspirational,” would replace a Confederate monument at the Capitol with a memorial to honor victims and survivors of mass gun violence.

“Each parent should be able to send their kids to school knowing that they’re going to be able to pick them up at the end of the day,” Gutierrez said. “We can afford to do this and we should do this and it will have the adequate training to make sure that they can handle this type of situation.”

Senate Bill 737, to create the new police unit, would require 10,000 additional officers in the state within the Texas Highway Patrol; it would cost about $750 million, Gutierrez said.

See here, here, and here for the background on Sen. Gutierrez’s efforts, and here for more on the failed medical response at Robb Elementary. I don’t want to predict success for any bill, especially a Democratic bill in Dan Patrick’s Senate, but SB738 strikes me as the kind of thing that probably won’t generate much ideological opposition. Spending money on enhanced security measures is one of the few acceptable-to-Republicans responses to mass shootings, so it has a chance. SB737 might have a chance as well, but it’s a lot more expensive and that might make people balk, even in a flush-budget biennium. I’m not saying these would be my top choices for bills to pass – I think SB738 has merit and hope it succeeds, while I’m far less enthusiastic about SB737 – but they are the sort of thing that could pass. This is the state government we have.

The 988 hotline has been very busy lately

I don’t suppose this is a surprise.

Calls to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline have surged in Texas and the U.S. since its launch last summer, highlighting the demand for mental health services in the wake of the pandemic and the related workforce challenges.

Staff at four call centers in Texas answered 9,478 calls in December 2022, a significant increase from 5,043 calls in December 2021, said Jennifer Battle, vice president for community access and engagement at The Harris Center.

The Harris Center in Houston handled more than half of those calls, Battle said, with trained crisis counselors working around the clock to pick up the ringing phones.

The nation has seen climbing call volume over the last six months after transitioning from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 1-800 number, to a shorter, more memorable three-digit code. People experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or other emotional distress, can call, text or chat online 24/7 with a trained crisis counselor.

The ease of access, increased awareness from media and social media campaigns, investments by states and federal agencies to create funding streams and build the crisis care network, and the significant mental health impacts from the pandemic have contributed to the soaring call volume, Battle said.

Calling the crisis lifeline should be similar to calling 911 or 211 for other services, she said.

“Our hope is that over time it helps normalize and de-stigmatize the act of asking for mental health support,” she said.

Texas answers roughly 70% of the in-state calls, an improvement from roughly 40% several years ago, Battle said. The rest get diverted to a national back-up call center. Although the state lags behind others by that metric and is working to improve upon it, Battle said, Texas still answers more calls than every state except California and New York.

Texas has been keeping up with the demand with funding and resources from state and federal partners, Battle said. But hiring and retaining the workforce for an emotionally demanding job with night and weekend hours remains a challenge.

“The last things we wanted was to have 988 roll out and then not be able to meet demand,” she said. “(But) it’s been very successful. We’ve been able to talk to and serve so many additional folks right here in our community.”

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission plans to put $33 million in federal grants toward workforce expansion and increased responsiveness to the hotline through 2024, according to an agency spokesperson. Much of the funding comes from the Mental Health Block Grant, although Texas additionally received grant money from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

I’m glad to hear that it has been adequately funded, as clearly the need is there, but as with anything else in this state I worry about its long-term prospects. I can’t imagine this counts as a priority for our state’s leadership, so the possibility of it becoming a victim of belt-tightening, reorganization, or just neglect is present. At least in the near term it looks good. It would be a good idea to let your State Rep and State Senator know that you think this service should be fully supported.

Dallas-area news roundup, inaugural edition

Hello, Off the Kuff readers! I’m Ginger and I’ve been friends with our host for nigh onto thirty years. Back in the early 2000s, when they called it “warblogging”, I had a blog, but I’ve long since retired it. I’ve been sending Charles items from the news in Dallas, where I now live, for a while and offered to start doing local news roundups for DFW.

I was born and raised in Houston, lived for a decade in Austin, and have lived in Dallas for four and a half years now: long enough to get familiar with a lot of local politics but not long enough to have found everything about the area that’s interesting. My political interests are broad, from immigration (I used to work as a paralegal for a corporate immigration lawyer) to reproductive choice (Charles and I infiltrated an anti-abortion activist meeting together to report back to our local Planned Parenthood many years ago), to disability issues. When I’m not doing politics, I read a lot, mostly history, mysteries, and science fiction/fantasy, listen to a lot of music, and play tabletop roleplaying games in person and online.

What you can expect to see from me is news from the DFW metroplex, centered mostly on Dallas and the Dallas-side suburbs mixed with some local stories that I get from friends who are still in Austin and a few larger stories that grab my interest. I’ll probably post about a half-dozen links every week and we’ll see how it goes.

Note from Charles: The idea to do this kind of Dallas-centric news roundup emerged from an email exchange Ginger and I had. It was Ginger’s blog, which I stumbled across in 2001, that gave me the impetus to do this blogging thing, and I’m delighted to have her voice on here. We’ll see how this goes, and we may come up with a suitable name for the feature if we’re inspired. Let me know what you think.