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.

Advertisements
Posted in Houston, politics | Leave a comment

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.

================

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.

Posted in Texas Progressive Alliance | Leave a comment

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.

=================

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.

======================

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

Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup February 29, 2016

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to rumble for November as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff examines Ken Paxton’s latest appeal of his fraud charges.

Nonsequiteuse saw everyone else getting in on the open letter game, and figured hey, I can write an open letter, too!

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know what McAllen has to fear from their auditor?

Socratic Gadfly, using someone else’s opinion piece, explained why this year as in previous elections this century, he won’t be “enabling” the Democratic Party in the presidential race.

The GOP debate in Houston made room for a lowly progressive blogger, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs was a first-hand witness to the culinary carnage.

Neil at All People Have Value said that kindness, patience and empathy are forms of resistance in this society. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

================================

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

Russ Tidwell figures that the Presidential election and the 2021 redistricting effort will put an end to gridlock, one way or another.

The Lunch Tray dissects the socioeconomics of picky eating.

Juanita looks to the last contentious Presidential primary for context on this one.

Better Texas Blog adds up the tax revenues that undocumented immigrants provide.

BOR points out that the cost of implementing campus carry are falling on students and their families.

Dan Solomon finds another example of Republican politicians getting slapped for using a song without permission for campaign purposes.

The Texas Election Law Blog calls the Court of Criminal Appeals “soft on crime” for letting Rick Perry off the hook.

The Alliance encourages voters to support Jessica Farrar in HD-148, especially in light of her opponent’s intentionally deceptive and hateful, anti-gay mailers.

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

45-Year Old Cocks Head to Side Like Confused Puppy After Reading Rants of 36-, 29-, and 25-Year-Old Fellow Humans

An Open Letter

I read all three essays: the 25-year-old who wrote an open letter to her CEO, prompting a 29-year-old to write an open letter to snake people* like that 25-year-old, and the 36-year-old responding to the 29-year-old’s response to that 25-year-old.

Well, friends, I stepped across the threshold of the big 4-5 earlier this year, and reading all three of these essays made me think.

A lot.

Even though I know that technically, a lot is a piece of property, or an item/bundle of items in an auction, or something you might draw as a selection tool, like drawing straws, but not an adverb. Because, hey, art history major here! One who graduated when we were still putting two spaces after periods!

I’ve come to an important conclusion that I would like to share with all of you, the 36-year-olds, the 29-year-olds, and the 25-year-olds, and all of your friends.

I pretty much don’t care.

You know what I mean. I’m tired, and I don’t have time to go around writing open letters all day. Although, given what I read on the Facebooks, I probably could.

I mean, I care, in the sense that I want everyone to be appreciated, even loved, and housed, clothed, fed, educated, and cared for when sick. I just don’t care in the sense that I know you don’t care what I think, and in the sense that I don’t think I have any veto power over or right to critique your life choices.

Except one life choice, and that is this:

Do you vote?

You damn well better vote.

Every.

Damn.

Election.

I hope you will vote for candidates who support, or are likely to support, a living wage.

I remind you to vote non-presidential races, which happen each and every year, not just presidential election years, because elected officials in Congress, in your state legislature, and even on your town council could be the people whose vote on a living wage affects your ability to earn one.

Government can’t solve every problem, but refusing to be part of creating a better government certainly increases the likelihood that government won’t even make a half-assed effort to pitch in.

All of you, you who are 25, 29, and even 36, are part of the largest group of people eligible to vote. Your cohort has more voting power than baby boomers right now.

More voting power than baby boomers.

And if there’s one thing that I think we can all agree on, it’s that we’ve been letting the boomers drive this train unsupervised for long enough.

So please.

Register.

Vote.

Make sure your friends do the same.

Spend a little bit of time learning which politicians will advocate for the things that will make all our lives easier, regardless of how many of us have asinine bosses, or no bosses at all.

Politicians who will keep tweaking health care so that we move steadily away from subsidizing multi-million dollar insurance company CEO salaries and towards a single-payer healthcare system that truly makes healthcare accessible and affordable for all people.

Politicians who will champion a living wage, and find a way to put their support into action via legislation.

Politicians who will look at the long game when it comes to climate change and balance the immediate needs of business with the long-range needs of our planet and future generations.

Politicians who will work for systemic change of major institutions so that public education, housing, and so many other areas of our life are not tainted and stacked against some people simply because of the color of their skin, or the zip code they were born in.

Or, you know, vote for a politician who believes in whatever you believe, even if you still haven’t gotten past your Ayn Rand stage. There are more of us than there are of you.

Have compassion. Think about the common good. Think about what’s good for you. Strike a reasonable balance.

If you do all that, I don’t care what bourbon you buy, what family relationships you work to get a job, or how well you can point out logical flaws in other people’s open letters.

Just vote, and I won’t say anything about you other than hey, fellow citizen of this great democracy, thanks, and here’s to all of us working things out and making things better for everyone.

*I have that Chrome** browser extension that replaces all instances of m i l l e n n i a l with snake person, and I have to say, it really improves your whole internetting experience. Recommend! A+++!

** Yeah, I use Chrome most of the time. I know I should be covering my digital tracks better, doing something with Tors or a Tor or whatever, but I’m Gen X. I pretty much assume all of my secrets have been laid bare, so whatever, I’m just not dealing.  

 

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, life, politics | 4 Comments