Stan Stanart’s Moment to Be a Hero – Or a Villain

It’s August 30th in Houston. We’re mucking out homes, provisioning families with everything they need since everything they had is done, repairing roofs, restocking shelves, and wondering how on earth we’re going to recover from Hurricane Harvey.

But it’s only about 7 weeks until early voting starts for this November’s elections.

It’s not too early to talk about politics. What’s going on is in many ways directly related to politics.

Now is Harris County Clerk’s time to decide whether to be a hero or a villain.

On the one hand, County Clerk Stan Stanart could be a hero and put in place the procedures and equipment necessary for people registered to vote in Harris County to vote at any precinct or early voting-style polling location on Election Day.

He should also extend early voting hours to the maximum number allowed by law.

After all, this election will have very low turn-out for some very high-stakes positions on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees.

Thousands of people are displaced from their homes, having left without critical papers they may need to re-establish themselves. They could be living in friends’ rooms, apartments, hotels, or (let’s hope not but worst case scenario) shelters or FEMA trailers by the time it is voting time.

The place they usually vote might not even BE there come election day.

With a crisis of this magnitude, Stanart & his office should do whatever it takes to make it easy for people to vote in whatever part of town they find themselves in come election day. The early voting options we already have are not enough.

The law is written so he can authorize changes like these. He can check in with his colleagues in Travis County for guidance.

On the other hand, #FireStanStanart is a perennial hashtag for a reason.

The long lines, the machines that don’t work first thing in the morning, the polling sites changing last minute … this isn’t ineptitude, it’s intentional, and designed to suppress votes.

The clerk can prove me wrong if he wishes by following my advice and making it easier for people to vote.

The leaders of our great city and county should call on Clerk Stanart to be as generous with his access to democracy’s sacred duty, voting, as the rest of us have been toward our storm-tossed neighbors. Harris County voters should demand it as well.

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Fear and Loathing and Buses in the Suburbs

Spring Happenings is an online journal for folks living in that little slice of heaven north of the beltway between Hwy 249 and I-45.

And to keep it heavenly, Spring Happening’s president, Zach Karrenbrock is urging readers to attend a community hearing to oppose METRO’s plans to run a bus line to Spring.

“Implementing METRO bus service in Spring will give criminals an easy way in and out of our community,” said Karrenbrock. “I believe some type of public transportation is needed, especially since Spring is growing at such a rapid rate, however, a METRO bus line is NOT the answer.”

It’s nothing new to hear people oppose new rail or bus lines by warning that public transit creates an express lane for criminals.

It’s also not true. Burglars don’t take the bus.

In a very comprehensive study, Journeys to CrimeAssessing the Effects of a Light Rail Line on Crime in the Neighborhoods, researchers at the examined this myth:

The implementation of new transit lines is some times dogged by concerns that such lines may increase crime rates in station neighborhoods. Affluent communities have often complained that transit lines transport crime to the suburbs. This study focuses on the Green Line transit system in Los Angeles and examines its effects on crime in the adjacent areas. The Green Line light rail system passes through some high-crime inner city neighborhoods and terminates at its western end in affluent suburban communities. The study examines neighborhood level and municipality-wide crime trends for five years before and five years after the inception of the line. A piecewise regression model is developed to evaluate the impact of the opening of the line in the station neighborhoods. GIS analysis is also utilized to identify spatial shifts in crime hot spots for the municipalities abutting the Green Line. At the end, the study establishes that the transit line has not had significant impacts on crime trends or crime dislocation in the station neighborhoods, and has not transported crime from the inner city to the suburbs.

Public transit has faced the myth of the criminal many times. As a result, some pockets of major urban centers are transit deserts, cut off from culture and commerce.

One of the most frustrating parts of visiting Washington, D.C., for example, is that the very efficient and easy to use subway does not go into Georgetown. Residents of that tony territory were also convinced criminals would use the Metro to sneak in and steal their silver. <Insert snarky and cynical comment about the fact that the lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, and diplomatic hangers-on are now stuck using town car service instead of the Metro to get in and out of Georgetown while stealing our nation’s silver.>

This is not to say that crime doesn’t happen on or near trains or buses. It does. But that’s because crime happens, full stop. Criminals don’t come into being only when conjured by two bus tokens being rubbed together.

At best, those who oppose expanding public transit options are misguided folk who’ve never stopped to consider that a person fleeing the scene of a crime would hardly want to risk waiting at a bus stop on a major thoroughfare for 20 minutes in afternoon rush hour while wearing a mask and holding a 42″ plasma TV with the wires dangling from it.

At worst … well, we’re sadly familiar with the racially coded language of suburban fearmongering.

I find it particularly amusing that the editor of this website acknowledges that some public transportation would be helpful, just not METRO. As if the city’s crowbar-to-the-back-door set has Q cards and fierce brand loyalty.

Houston desperately needs more transit options. METRO has done a phenomenal job of studying commuting patterns, traffic flow, geographic population distribution, and re-routing under-utilized lines, all of which has improved service.

Opposing a bus line now won’t reduce the crime rate, but it could mean that once the gridlock gets bad enough, people will stop moving to Spring, preferring neighborhoods with better transit options.

Let’s hope that the hardworking residents of Spring who would very much prefer the cost and ease of riding METRO over having to drive a car (and pay for gas, insurance, repairs, and parking) are not cut off from the city because of a few loud opposition voices.

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Public-Private Partnerships and Free Speech

We differentiate between the government, private, and charitable/social service sectors for a reason. We need all three in a robust democracy. They all serve different functions and are subject to different rules.

While we’re fighting to protect so much else, let’s protect that distinction as well.

Discovery Green, the verdant downtown Houston park that sprouted where once there was only a lunar hellscape of surface parking lots, is often mentioned as a location for rallies and protests.

Sometimes, the park does agree to host political events. As Pokemon Go players discovered last year, however, the park can also shut people out.

If you ask the average Houstonian on the street, they would likely tell you that Discovery Green is a city park.

True. Sort of.

While the land the park sits on is the property of the City of Houston, the programming and rules are controlled by the Discovery Green Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

Public may be in the name, but that doesn’t make the space a public one. Public charities do not have the same obligation to accommodate first amendment activities as government entities do.

Governments can put content-neutral restrictions on free speech activities, like requiring that any group wishing to use amplified sound get a sound permit, but they cannot abridge the right of free speech.

Non-governmental entities, on the other hand, like the conservancies that run so many of our heavily-used parks—Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Buffalo Bayou Park—can put whatever restrictions they wish on those activities, and refuse to host those they would prefer not to support.

Public-private partnerships have been all the rage on the civic development and beautification front. We praise the generous donors who support them, as we should.

We should be mindful, however, that we need those donations because of our short-sighted fixation on cutting taxes. Our elected officials have had to seek funding elsewhere, and the price we have paid is the relinquishment of full public rights in public parks.

This surrender of public land and public space has foreclosed upon our options for protest.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the frothing hyena on the House Oversight Committee who attacked Hillary Clinton for her private email server before abruptly retiring from Congress to become a Fox News commentator, kicked off 2016 by sponsoring a bill that would have authorized the sale of 3.3 million acres of public land across ten states. After widespread public outcry, he announced via Instagram that he is withdrawing the bill.

Millions of acres of land draws attention that acre and half-acre parcels do not. If we allow the privatization of public spaces to continue, we will lose more than glorious parkland and scenic vistas. We will lose the public square, a vital ingredient in our civic stew.

We, the people, could refuse to allow our government to sell our right to free speech for the sake of a splash pad and dog run. Yet another issue to monitor, another item to search for on city council agendas, and perhaps a question for a future referendum. As someone once said, and Thomas Jefferson may have also said later, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

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I Am Not Your Female-In-Character Assistant

Last night, as a friend and I sat greeting people coming to an event we were helping organize at the United Way building (where any nonprofit can rent a room for a function), a man approached. White, balding, walking with purpose.

I said hello, are you here for our event?

No, he said, he was looking for the bat people event.

He wore faded black t-shirt with the bat silhouette Commissioner Gordon used to throw up into the clouds when he was in a pickle.

There’s a huge urban bat colony about a quarter-mile from the building, and we have nonprofits in town dedicated to bat habitat and such, so everything seemed reasonable and his outfit was on point.

I waved toward the only other check-in table set up across the corridor and said well, it must be them.

I watched and listened as he greeted the woman staffing that table, which was only a few feet away from ours.

She was not the bat people either.

He asked her where his group was, then, assuring her that his information said he should come to 50 Waugh Drive and that was this building, correct?

She confirmed that was the address, apologized (as women do), and explained, again, that she did not work there and if he wasn’t there for her event, she did not know where he should be.

He came back to our table. Just as the other woman had done, we suggested he go ask the man at the check-in desk.

He’s not there, the bat man said.

I had checked in with this info desk staffer earlier. A couple of times he got up from his desk to pick things up or get things out of closets or drawers, but I stood by the desk and he returned within a couple of minutes to provide me with the information I sought.

I’m sure he’ll be right back, one of us said.

Several minutes later, I noticed he had returned to the other not-bat-affiliated person to ask if she was sure she did not know where his meeting was.

He looked at us and my compatriot reminded him that we still did not work there.

Her tone was a mite … frosty.

He was a grown, adult man.

He had a cell phone, and he had what appeared to be a printed out email.

He was in a building that has a staffed desk that literally has sign on it promising information.

And he kept returning to women WHO HAD PATIENTLY EXPLAINED MORE THAN ONCE that they did not have the information he was seeking to ask if they were sure they did not have the information he was seeking.

He asked her what she thought he should do. He was clearly getting frustrated.

So was she, but he did not appear to care.

This is not the first time I have seen this happen.

Men of the world, take note. As long as you have opposable thumbs and minimal brain activity—and it was clear this man had both—you have all of the tools you need to solve your problems.

I know this to be true, as I have shown up places and not found what I was looking for and discovered a solution using just my cell phone, quick wit, and ability to self-propel through three-dimensional space.

Women are not here to be your assistant just because you are frustrated and want someone else to make your life easier.

DO NOT DO THIS.

But if you do, and I know you will, consider yourself warned. I will go to the secret place all women go and I will mock you. We will all mock you.

We will tilt our heads and roll our eyes and purse our lips and there will be a firm set to our jaws as we try not to gnash our teeth, because we have all dealt with you, and we know we will never be done dealing with you.

Women are not your female-in-character robot assistants.

P.S. Here’s the clue you will get. The secret place women go to mock men? It is the internet, and I am here, and I will describe you well enough that if you have a drop of self-awareness and happen to come across this, you will know I am talking about you. And I know that is not nice but I do not even care.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, feminists & feminism | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup May 9, 2016

The Texas Progressive Alliance remembers Harris County Democratic Party stalwart Carl Whitmarsh, who died over the weekend, as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff ponders career options for Ted Cruz.

SocraticGadfly takes a snarky look at possible Hillary Clinton Cabinet nominees.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos learned that Rick Perry is looking for a job. She thinks Ted Cruz should be looking too. In another line of work. A Tale of Two Texas Republican Losers.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is shocked to hear that a Texas cemetery refuses to serve Hispanics. Surely, they are happy Trump is the nominee of their party.

It was a disgraceful Cinco de Mayo for Drumpf, as he made a fool of himself with a taco bowl and a Hispander. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs hoped he used the coupon for free breakfast tacos on the 6th, because he certainly seemed drunk on the 5th.

As the Sanders campaign moves towards the Democratic convention in July, Neil at All People Have Value found a freedom loving Texan supporting Bernie. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Great God Pan Is Dead tells a NSFW story about art, obscenity, and the jailing of Rokudenashiko for making a kayak in the shape of a vagina.

Houston Tomorrow is looking for its next Executive Director.

John Royal calls out Baylor for its out of control sexual assault problems with its football team.

Make West Texas Great Again documents (and complains about) the rise of the “suburbatarians” in rural parts of the state.

Andrea Grimes invites out-of-staters who cheer the idea of Texas seceding to come here and help us do the work needed to turn our state around.

Progress Texas rounds up the best “Ted Cruz drops out” reactions from Twitter. (WARNING: You will never be able to un-see the image at the top of this post. Click over at your own peril.)

Raise Your Hand Texas hopes you thanked a teacher last week.

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Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup April 11, 2016

The Texas Progressive Alliance cannot be found in the Panama Papers as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff warns about the likelihood of North Carolina-style anti-equality legislation being put forth in next year’s Legislature.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos believes the GOP deserves its bigoted Presidential frontrunners. 50+ years of an ugly dog whistling Southern Strategy reaps the worst among us. The Republican Party and its bigoted Presidential frontrunners. The devil made them do it.

Ken Paxton, under indictment for fraud, hired another theocrat on the public dime. CouldBeTrue South Texas Chisme doesn’t think much of his family values.

Socratic Gadfly takes a look at Bernie Sanders, presidential politician.

One of the topics later this week in the New York Democratic presidential debate will surely be qualifications to be president, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said that while we discuss the anti-gay legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi, we should recall that Houston voters repealed our human rights ordinance just a few months ago. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Better Texas Blog argues that sales tax holidays are not good for consumers.

The Lunch Tray gives a meal delivery service a try.

Paradise in Hell looks forward to being able to discriminate against numerous of his fellow citizens who have raised his holy ire.

The TSTA Blog bemoans the effect of ideology on public education.

The Makeshift Academic examines cost sharing and access to health care.

Posted in Texas Progressive Alliance | 1 Comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup March 7, 2016

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates all the winners of last week’s primary elections as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff explored the pros and cons of Universal Vote By Mail.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos argues that there are subtle tactics taking place at election polls, at least in Harris County, that discourage voter turnout. The Texas Blues: The More Subtle Aspects of Voter Suppression.

Socratic Gadfly says RIP to Ponzi-scheming fracking grifter Aubrey McClendon and his apparent suicide by vehicle.

So is Democratic turnout in primary elections to date up, or is it down? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs is asking for a friend.

This week’s Texas Primary went as expected for most races, but Texas Leftist was happy to see some history made as Democrat Jenifer Rene Pool became the first transgender candidate to win an election in Texas. With so much news dominated by Trump and Cruz, it’s great to have some Progress worth celebrating.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is sad to see the tuition at Texas public universities go up. Oligarchs pay low taxes and greedy lenders get more student debt payoffs. Republicans like the rich best.

Neil at All People Have Value visited the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that elections especially have consequences for education.

The Lunch Tray interviews Sen. Debbie Stabenow on child nutrition.

BOR pens a letter of greeting to the new Travis County GOP Chair. And Newsdesk digs a few of the ads he’s placed in the Austin Chronicle from their archives.

Grits for Breakfast laments the results of the Republican primaries for the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Better Texas Blog explains the Texas coverage gap.

The Makeshift Academic assures us there will not be a contested convention.

Finally, the TPA maintains neutrality in the breakfast taco wars.

Posted in politics, Texas, Texas Progressive Alliance | Leave a comment