Monday, July 15, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows that #SilenceEqualsCompliance, whether it is Republicans refusing to condemn the remarks of a racist president, or a House Speaker who won't adequately rise to the defense of the four Congresswomen at whom Trump's bigoted tirade was directed.

As the pre-announced #ICEraids in ten US cities including Houston (postponed in New Orleans due to Hurricane Barry) were scaled back due to mass protests, Dos Centavos kept an eye on what Houston officialswere saying about them.  Texas Standard sees volunteers from across the state stepping up to address the humanitarian crisis  at the border.  And Better Texas Blog has the crazy idea that our state should treat asylum-seeking migrant families with respect and dignity.

Legal matters occupied Texas bloggers' and news reporters' thoughts this past week:

-- The TexTrib and Off the Kuff wrote about the Obamacare hearing at the Fifth Circuit.

-- The San Antonio Current posted about Ken Paxton's defeat in state court of parts of his 'sanctuary cities' lawsuit.  A couple of days later, a federal appeals court gave the Trump Administration a victory in a similar-yet-different case.

-- In the state's capital city, the treatment of homeless persons has enraged Republicans.

An Austin City Council decision to rescind local prohibitions on sitting or sleeping in most public areas has kicked off a dispute between state and city leaders about the best way to handle homelessness in urban areas in Texas.

In the weeks since the policy was adopted, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made multiple threats to pursue actions at the state level to overturn Austin’s decision.

The Travis County Republican Party expressed support for state intervention in a news release on Wednesday, titled: "Homeless given more rights than property owners under new camping policy."

That statement was rated False by Politifact Texas.

-- And SocraticGadfly says the most egregiously wrong ruling of this Supreme Court term was not the gerrymandering case, but seven justices -- including two liberals -- ruling against First Amendment religious freedoms.

Silas Allen at the Dallas Observer documented the increased recruiting efforts of white supremacists on Texas college campuses and around the country.

Houston Public Media compiled a list of the more than 70 Space City candidates for mayor and city council.  John Coby at Bay Area Houston is tracking campaign finance reports.  TXElects has a smattering of 2020 declarations from across the Great State.

HD10 open: Waxahachie title company executive Ryan Pitts, son of former Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), announced he would seek his father’s old seat, which is being vacated by the retiring Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie). Midlothian business owner and former Naval fighter pilot Jake Ellzey officially announced he would seek the seat. Ellzey unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for open HD10 in 2014 (16%) and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for open CD6 in 2018, losing the runoff to Ron Wright, 52%-48%.
#TXSEN: Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) has scheduled a July 22 news conference during which he is widely expected to announce his challenge of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R). West has served since 1993 and was re-elected in November. His seat is not on the ballot in 2020, which means that he does not have to leave the state Senate to run for U.S. Senate.
Texas Supreme Court: Bellaire attorney and Court of Appeals Justice (Dist. 14, Pl. 3) Jerry Zimmerer amended his campaign committee for a potential challenge of Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (R) as a Democrat. Zimmerer won the Place 3 seat on the 14th Court of Appeals in 2018 by ousting Justice Brett Busby (R) (now a Supreme Court justice himself) in the 2018 general election, 51%-49%. Zimmerer unsuccessfully sought the 1996 Republican nomination for a place on the 1st Court of Appeals, finishing third with 29% of the vote.
CD26: Highland Village author and minister Jack Wyman established a campaign committee for a potential primary challenge of U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville). Wyman served two terms in the Maine legislature and ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate (1988) and governor (1994) there.
El Paso County: County Attorney James Montoya and El Paso attorney Yvonne Rosales announced they would run to succeed retiring District Attorney Jaime Esparza. Rosales narrowly lost the 2016 Democratic primary to Esparza, 51%-49%. The district includes Culberson and Hudspeth counties.
Fort Bend County: Sheriff Tony Nehls (R) announced he would not seek re-election. Nehls explored challenging U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Humble) in the 2018 Republican primary but ultimately did not enter the race. At the time, he said he would wait until 2020. Nehls said a decision on a potential congressional race would come in a few months.
Orange County: Bridge City council member and former Mayor Kirk Roccaforte was appointed to the vacant P3 seat on the Commissioners Court by outgoing County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. The Court will appoint Thibodeaux’s successor, widely expected to be former P3 Comm. John Gothia, who resigned to seek the position. Whoever is appointed will be the third county judge to serve this year.
Houston: The Houston Retired Firefighters Assoc. endorsed mayoral challenger Dwight Boykins.

Our state's leaders want to revisit the question of electing judges in partisan primaries.

After a punishing election for Republican judges, state leaders are set to take a long look at Texas’ often-criticized judicial selection system -- a partisan election structure that Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has described as “among the very worst methods of judicial selection.”

This summer, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law creating a commission to study the issue -- signaling that the GOP-led Legislature could overhaul the system as soon as 2021. That move comes after Democrats killed a sweeping reform proposal that Abbott had quietly backed.

In Texas, one of just a few states that maintains a system of partisan judicial selection all the way up through its high courts, judges are at the mercy of the political winds. They are required to run as partisans but expected to rule impartially. They are forced to raise money from the same lawyers who will appear before them in court. And in their down-ballot, low-information races, their fates tend to track with the candidates at the top of the ticket.

That means political waves that sweep out of office good and bad, experienced and inexperienced judges alike. And while sweeps are perennial problems for the judiciary, 2018’s elections “set records,” said Tom Phillips, a former Texas Supreme Court chief justice.

Democrats, riding on the coattails of Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, left the election with majorities on appeals courts where they had previously held zero seats. Republicans were entirely shut out of major urban counties. Voters, largely uninformed about judicial races, differentiated very little between well-funded, experienced candidates and those who had done little but throw their hats in the ring. The judiciary lost hundreds of years of experience.

“Make no mistake: A judicial selection system that continues to sow the political wind will reap the whirlwind,” Hecht warned lawmakers in January, exhorting them to change the system.

But reform is similarly fraught with politics. Voters don’t like having choices taken away from them, even if vanishingly few recognize judicial candidates’ names on the ballot. And any new system has to win the approval of both parties, as a two-thirds majority in each chamber is required for the constitutional amendment needed to change the system.

Those challenges have stalled reform attempts for decades. Then another sweep comes and another effort launches.

“When one of the political parties thinks they’re always going to win, they don’t have any incentive to change -- why would they?” Hecht said in an interview earlier this spring. “There’s got to be enough doubt … about which way the state is going politically, and then some stand-up people.”

This year, for the first time in many, there is at least some doubt about which way the state will go politically. And advocates for reform -- a group that includes Democrats and Republicans, vast swaths of the state bar and a number of former high court judges -- are optimistic. This year, their cause has more wind in its sails: It has drawn the attention of Abbott, a former Republican justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

The Rivard Report commemorates 80 years of Planned Parenthood in San Antonio.

The Longview News-Journal interviewed some of its residents about that New York Times story suggesting they, and other areas of rural Texas, had been passed over by the 'Texas Miracle'.

Michael Barajas at the Texas Observer writes about one of the worst racial purges that took place in the post-Reconstruction era: the 1910 Slocum massacre in East Texas, and the efforts of one survivor's descendants to unearth the violent history.

The Laredo Immigrant Alliance will host an asylum seeker teach-in this week.  LareDOS:

The purpose of the teach-in ... is to dispel misconceptions about the extensive process of gaining asylum and the immigration policies that determine asylum status.

“Seeking asylum is a legal process. There are local organizations that offer families support while seeking asylum,” said (Pastor Mike) Smith. “We urge asylum seekers to join us so that they can be better informed of the process and of local support,” he added.

The Houston Blues Museum archives have found a home at Rice University.

Known for hits like Shirley Jean, Big Walter “The Thunderbird” Price is one of the legends of Houston blues. And his original recordings, cuff links, recording contracts and other treasures were some of the first items that the Houston Blues Museum delivered to its new home at Rice University on June 19.

And Texans said goodbye to Ross Perot (founder of EDS Systems, originator of the 'no pass, no play' policy in public schools, and 'spoiler' for Bill Clinton in 1992, among other accomplishments) and Rip Torn (Artie, Zed, Judas, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and in real life Sissy Spacek's cousin, Geraldine Page's husband, Norman Mailer's assailant, and a few other things)  and Jim Bouton, Astro-for-two-seasons when his book Ball Four "scandalized" major league baseball, according to then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

Bouton used (the) knuckleball in 1969 with the expansion Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros. All season long, he jotted down thoughts and stories whenever inspiration struck -- on air sickness bags, dry-cleaning bills, hotel stationery, all of it now held at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Teammates were suspicious but figured Bouton’s book would be a typically vanilla account by an athlete, not an open invitation for readers to look behind the sanctified walls of the clubhouse. Ballplayers, Bouton revealed, could be boozing, womanizing, pill-popping, ball-scuffing rascals -- overgrown teenagers, that is. But they could also be thoughtful, curious, sensitive and vulnerable.

In other words, they are human beings like the rest of us. Not so scandalous, really.

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