Friday, September 28, 2018

Valdez v. Abbott tonight

In their one and only match of the season.

Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic opponent, Lupe Valdez, are facing off in their first and only debate Friday evening in Austin.

The hourlong event is set to begin 7 p.m. at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, and it is being hosted by the Nexstar Media Group. Nexstar will air the debate on its 12 stations throughout the state as well as broadcast partners in Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Dallas. Some Telemundo stations will also carry the debate, and a livestream of it will be available on the websites of the 12 Nexstar stations.

I'm hoping she acquits herself well.  A good showing tonight, with some further tightening of the polling, coupled with renewed interest in Latin@s turning out for her would mean the incumbent would have to a) shoot more of his giant wad on himself and less on others; b) put a little fear of Gawd into Gov'nah Holy Roller and compel him to stop ignoring his opponent, as his re-election campaigns have so often done.

But Valdez is prone to the unforced error, as we know, so let's expect that she is prepped but not overly so, calm but aggressive, cool under fire but not blase'.  A tall but not unreachable order.

I've buried the lede here: I'll be voting for Lupe for governor.  I even sent her a small contribution, her fundraising being what it is.

There were obviously plenty of reasons for me not to, and I don't feel like re-listing them.  (Gadfly will probably do that once he reads this.)  There are nearly no options beyond D, R, and L on this year's ballot for statewide candidates, and qualified write-ins are limited to a handful of downballot races.  I'm already undervoting the two federal contests at the top of my ballot, US Senate and Congressional Seventh, along with the Lite Gov and Ag Commish races.  My ballot is going to be pretty thin after I skip so many high-profile matches, employing the only tool the state of Texas allows as a NOTA vote.

What ultimately persuaded me to vote for Valdez was reading, and re-reading, this article in the Austin Statesman a few weeks back, describing her POV as a landlord (lady?).

Colin Howell and Jayme Thompson have a dream to start a mobile food truck — the Flying Pineapple Baking Company — selling retro desserts in Dallas-Fort Worth.

What’s made the numbers work on their ambition is their phenomenal rent — $700 a month for a piece of a fourplex on the outskirts of Oak Cliff’s trendy Bishop Arts District.

“This is Bishop Arts. For what?” Howell said he responded when he was shown the place and told the rent. “It’s like half the price of all the other places around here. It’s great.”

The couple’s landlord — Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff and current Democratic candidate for governor — said the low rent was about giving Howell and Thompson a chance to succeed.

“That gave them the opportunity to be able to go beyond themselves and be able to start the food truck and be able to get engaged and be able to do things they would never have been able to do if they had to spend so much to be in an area like this. It’s about giving people the opportunity to get beyond themselves,” Valdez said.

For 25 years, Valdez — alongside jobs as sheriff and a federal agent for various agencies, including Customs and Homeland Security — has purchased properties in Oak Cliff, fixed them up with her own money and muscle, and rented them at below-market rates in what she describes as an act of entrepreneurial social conscience and giving back.

“These people are getting an opportunity that somebody gave me,” Valdez said. “You’ve got to pay it forward, except I’m doing it eight times or 10 times more than it was done for me.”

My primary voting issue this cycle is single payer healthcare.  Medicare for All, if you prefer.  'Access to healthcare' is mealy-mouthed consultant-speak for "I'm not supporting that".  (I have already made an exception to this rule for Justin Nelson.)  Close behind that is not voting for Democrats who are loudly pandering to centrist Republicans for their crossover votes.

(Beto O'Rourke has been doing this tapdance on healthcare all year, and seems to have 99% of Texans fooled about it.  Lizzie Fletcher choked on both this week.  Longer post later.)

Lupe wins my vote because she cares about poor people at a time when there are precious few politicians that do.  And she has put her money where her heart is.

That is more than good enough for me.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

'A day that will resonate in history'

When Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh and his original accuser Christine Blasey Ford deliver dueling testimony (later this morning), they will conjure drama of an intensity unusual even in the Trump administration.

In Room 226 in the Dirksen Senate Office building, Kavanaugh will effectively stand trial after three women came forward with accusations about his conduct as a teenager in the alcohol-fueled youth party culture of the early 1980s.

"I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. This effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out," Kavanaugh will tell senators, while denying all the accusations against him, according to an advance excerpt of his remarks. Kavanaugh also denied new accusations released in Senate Judiciary Committee transcripts Wednesday night.

But first, Ford will step forward to tell her story -- exposing herself to the world, instantly becoming an icon of the social revolution unleashed by the #MeToo moment and putting her own reputation and her family's safety at risk.

"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified," Ford will tell the committee, according to an early copy of her testimony.

"It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth."

Thursday is about far more than a painful and compelling human drama that will be decided not by a jury, but the votes of 100 senators. It is the culmination of decades of political and societal forces that have led up to a political pivot point.

I'll be live-Tweeting the hearings; follow along by keeping an eye on the top right box here.  If your Tweet feed gets as busy as mine does, it will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Another leading character in Trump's churning political melodrama, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is waiting for his fate to be decided.

Speculation has been rife all week that he will be fired or resign in a meeting with the President on Thursday -- but Trump said at his news conference he was thinking of postponing their chat so he could concentrate on the Kavanaugh hearing.

Also covering that as well (my schedule today has been cleared).

Tomorrow night, Lupe Valdez and Greg Abbott debate, and Sunday evening is round 2 of Beto and Ted  Update: Postponed due to Kavanaugh developments.  So we're rested, ready, but not tanned for a weekend of heavy political action.  The blogs on the right, below the Tweet feed, will be updating continuously with the news you'll be looking for.  Brains and Eggs is your uncomplicated link source for the latest on everything that happens today and all weekend, mixing in a few toons and laughs to keep the tension less torqued.

Come hang out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Proposition B: Houston firefighters pay parity

The last time I blogged about this topic, over a year ago, it became the fifteenth-highest clicked post in the sixteen-year history of Brains.  I'm tempted to excerpt myself, since I said it all so well there, but I'll leave readers the choice of re-reading me.

Little has changed in the past fourteen months.  The petition's signatures to get on the November ballot were finally approved, after some typical slow-walking through City Secretary Anna Russell's office; Sylvester Turner and the Democrats on City Council -- a majority -- are still opposed and speaking ominously about layoffs of police and firefighters if it passes; and the proposition remains likely to sail through in resounding fashion, leaving Mayor Turner and Council with their bluff called.

Sunday before last, Turner wrote his op-ed in the Chron against it ...

... and so did Patrick 'Marty' Lancton of the HPFFA, obviously in favor.

Turner blames the city's revenue cap, the previous (Annise Parker) administration for leaving him this landmine, and of course, the firefighters themselves for being greedy.

Lancton makes a more compelling case.

For Houston firefighters, the last decade has been difficult as we watched our pay dramatically erode. As the city of Houston found ways to increase pay for police officers by 30 percent since 2011, our pay rose by only three percent in that time. One Houston firefighter was even featured on a poster for federally supported Section 8 housing.

By voting “yes” for Proposition B in the November election, voters can help take the politics out of public safety in Houston. Firefighters have asked the city for competitive pay and better working conditions for several years. This followed our giving the city major concessions after the economy collapsed in 2008. City promises of better pay when the economy improved were not kept.

Instead, city politicians refuse to equally value the service and sacrifices of Houston first responders. Now, too many Houston-trained firefighters are leaving for other departments around the nation, including suburban departments that pay almost twice the starting salary as Houston.

Some suggest fire and police jobs are different and should not be linked by pay. In fact, fire and police are paid equally on a rank-by-rank basis throughout the United States — including in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas. ... [I]n Houston, the pay of City Council members is linked with that of local judges. What nobody mentions locally anymore is that police and firefighters had pay parity for many years here — at the request of police.

HPD has long fought with HFD over trivial matters, like resentment over the fact that firefighters can sleep on the job, while police officers get fired for doing so.  Terminations of cops are, of course, at the heart of the police officers' objections to the firefighters' pay parity proposal.

In June, a scientific survey was taken of Houston residents. More than 75 percent of the surveyed citizens supported compensating our fire and police professionals equally. They recognized that the requirements and risks of the two jobs are similar, and they viewed the issue as urgent. The same was true of the 60,000 Houston voters that signed petitions — in record time, just over a week — to put the pay raise on the ballot.

If the city had certified the signatures on time, in accordance with the law, this election would have been held last year. Instead, some city politicians chose to punish firefighters for seeking voter help. It actually took an order from a state district judge to compel the city to obey the law and certify the petitions and hold the election.

The city of Houston has acted, and has continued to act, in bad faith throughout this years-long, multiple-administration process.  And they're about to get their asses handed to them because of it.

Here's the website supporting Prop. B and here's the one opposing it.  If you're truly on the fence, then spend some time on both.  Oh yeah, here's Turner-vanquished Bill King, wringing his hands and clucking his tongue about this sorry state of affairs as he votes for the firefighters.  His answer would never be to raise any taxes, of that you can be certain.  He's the same old monkeywrench in the gears he's always been.

I had the following Twitter exchange with former Mayor Parker in August; it encapsulates our respective thinking-- along with local establishment lackey Erik Vidor's, who chimed in to support Parker -- perfectly.  (The deleted Tweet Parker was responding to contained some animus from a firefighter about the tone of of previous negotiations. Click to open the thread for all responses.)

Mayor Turner and the Democrats on Council have everything at stake here, because they are too frightened to raise revenues, either by establishing a vote to eliminate the revenue cap or by instituting an increase in sanitation or water fees.  They cannot make the arguments in favor of paying for a fair salary increase for firefighters, so they recycle the same scare tactics used in the police pension negotiations.  Nothing but Republican-styled fear-mongering: layoffs, services cut, etc.  Neither their enemies nor their allies are buying their cowardly bullshit a second time.

Some of them will be turned out of office in 2019 because of it.  And they deserve to be.

Perhaps then we can elect some Democrats who remember how to govern like Democrats, and not like Republicans.  Perhaps we'll even elect a progressive independent or two.

Vote for the firefighters and let the neoliberals fend for themselves.