Salon has an article up telling us what most everyone already knows, Texas GOP’s secret anti-Hispanic plot: Smoking gun emails revealed.
Two years and seven months after that email exchange — and one year ago on June 25, 2013 — the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder,which struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that had allowed the federal government to “pre-clear” redistricting maps proposed by Texas and other states with a history of discriminating against minority voters.
In a follow-up email on Nov. 19, 2010, Opiela explained to Interiano that he called his proposed strategy: “OHRVS” or “Optimal Hispanic Republican Voting Strength.” Opiela defined the acronym-friendly term as, “a measure of how Hispanic, and[,] at the same time[,] Republican we can make a particular census block.”
Lawyers for the African-American and Hispanic voting-rights plaintiffs consider Opiela emails “a smoking gun.” The correspondence will play a starring role at a trial scheduled to start today in a San Antonio federal court in a redistricting case, Perez v. Perry. The litigation pits the plaintiffs, who have been joined by the Obama administration, against Texas and its Republican state leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry in his official capacity.
Clare Dyer helped gather that data for Interiano. She serves as a mapping and redistricting researcher for the Texas Legislative Council, a state agency, which provides, according to its website, “nonpartisan research” for all state players in the redistricting process.
When MALDEF’s Perales asked Dyer at her May 15, 2014, deposition about the emails, the state researcher said that Opiela appeared to be asking for “metrics,” which Interiano later sought from her office. Her interpretation of Opiela’s meaning in his emails: “[H]e’s trying to shore up — well, he says that — shore up districts so he can get — have them appear to be high Hispanic, but low Spanish surname registered voters. … You could give the appearance of having a Hispanic majority district, but it wouldn’t have the capability to elect — for the Hispanics in the district– to elect the person of their choice.”
David R. Richards, who also represents Perez plaintiffs and shares a notion or two about Texas politics as the ex-husband of the late former Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said about Opiela’s emails: “I think everyone sees them as a smoking gun.” The emails show a clear attempt “to switch out Hispanic precincts with high voter turnout and substitute them with low voter turnout” — knowing that the Hispanic populations traditionally vote Democratic — but, at the same time, wanting to meet then obligations of the Voting Rights Act, which, at the time, still were in effect, Richards said. “You look like you preserve the vitality of a Hispanic district because of the raw numbers but the reality is you have — because of substituting out the high turnout with low turnout — hollowed out the core of the district and weakened the Democratic component of the district,” Richards said.
MALDEF’s Perales believes the Opiela emails “reveal a strategy that was very much similar to the redistricting strategy of Texas struck down by the Supreme Court in LULAC v. Perry in 2006, an attempt to create sham Latino districts to prop up incumbents not preferred by Latino voters.”
Greg Abbott only has Rick Perry to thank for the predicament he’s in over his confusing statements regarding where he stands on the release of information about hazardous chemicals. Getting rid of regulations, which protect the public, and as far as the GOP is concerned hurt “bidness”, are a pillar of Perry’s policies.
In his stump speech Perry would click off what he said were the four major reasons his state had come to lead the nation in job creation—without ever forgetting a one of them. They were, he said, low taxes, low regulation, tort reform, and “don’t spend all the money.” [Emphasis added]
Abbott’s answers to the question of what Texans should do if they want to know if these chemicals are near where they live, their children go to school, or the nursing home of their aging parent, have been dismissive at best. Via Peggy Fikac, Abbott smacks into a chemical hazard.
When the DSHS ruling drew attention, Abbott first said the private facilities themselves must release the information to the public, even though the state couldn’t.
He said Texans could find the locations as they “drive around,” prompting a Dallas TV station to take him up on the idea by driving to companies and asking to see their chemical lists. It worked about as well as you’d think, which is to say, not at all.
My Austin bureau colleague, the Houston Chronicle’s Lauren McGaughy, sought the information from companies and local emergency response agencies through open records requests, with mixed results. Several gave no data or didn’t respond, some were sparing and others gave complete information. Abbott ultimately acknowledged to the Associated Press the data might be harder to get than he thought.
Last week, Abbott wrote an opinion piece that touted a Texas Department of Insurance website as one place to get general information about ammonium nitrate. But the website only discloses whether ammonium nitrate is in a ZIP code. Not how much, not where. A consumer watchdog called that useless. Abbott also said he’d propose the Legislature allow access to the information at local fire stations.
Abbott’s ignorance of what his own office had ruled on this issue, then telling folks to “drive around”, shows his indifference for what most Texans are dealing with. His main concern are ideological.
But Abbott’s efforts to contain the chemical controversy contrasts to Davis’ straightforward message. She says people deserve to know about the dangerous chemicals in their neighborhoods. She promises to make disclosure a priority.
No one is suggesting this is enough to vault her ahead of Abbott, but Rice University political scientist Mark Jones pointed out last week the contrast fits her effort to paint him as an insider who isn’t looking out for average Texans.
The West explosion highlighted weaknesses in Texas’ oversight of hazardous chemicals, said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson, so this issue “goes right to the heart of the Texas model” under GOP leaders.
Abbott’s initial answer about how people could find out about chemicals’ location “was dismissive of the legitimate interest that people have in knowing whether their families are safe,” Jillson said. “He’s been unable to formulate a better answer because to do so would fly in the face of his general ideological and political commitments – small government, low taxes, deregulation.”
If he gives in to what the people want he will start to alienate the tea party base of the Texas GOP. So this is not just an Abbott issue, it’s an issue with the entire GOP in Texas. Which is why more Democrats in Texas need to start asking questions of all their GOP opponents. Like Susan Criss is doing, Dust-up over Abbott chemical ruling bleeds into state House race.
The political scuffle over Greg Abbott’s ruling to keep chemical facility information secret is starting to bleed into local races, as the Democrat aiming to replace state Rep. Craig Eiland seeks to tie her Republican opponent to the increasingly heated debate.
“Texas families have a right to know about potentially dangerous chemicals that could harm their families,” said Susan Criss, a Democratic district judge running for Eiland’s seat. “Does Wayne Faircloth feel the same way?”
Calls to Faircloth’s wife, Susan, also his treasurer, were not immediately returned Friday.
Make them all, from Dan Patrick on down, answer whither they’re with Abbott on this issue or not?
Texas Democrats have much to celebrate this week as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro clears Senate confirmation. And as Texas Leftist discusses, his appoint brings some much needed geographic diversity to the President’s cabinet.
The most important stories in Texas last week were the border refugee crisis and President Obama’s fundraising visits to Dallas and Austin, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, assembled several of the various reactions to both.
Neil at All People Have Value posted from Cincinnati, Ohio this past week. Neil offered nice pictures of Cincinnati & wrote about seeing his friends and the passage of time. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Greg Wythe analyzes City of Houston turnout patterns to get a handle on how the attempt to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance may play out.
Texas Vox believes that US solar manufacturing could make a comeback.
The Texas Election Law blog reviews the lawsuit filed by college students challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law.
Unfair Park lauds the Texas Clean Fleet Program, which is designed to get old diesel-powered school buses off the streets.
LGBTQ Insider gives a fond farewell to former Fort Worth City Council member Joel Burns.
Texas Watch reports that workers exposed to cancer-causing asbestos have just had their lives made harder by the state Supreme Court.
Scott Braddock documents the resistance Texas business leaders face on immigration reform.
Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) is not retreating from the comments he made earlier this month at the Texas Democratic Convention, No apologies to GOP extremists.
I don’t always agree with the San Antonio Express-News, but I do respect it. It is the newspaper of record of my constituents and an important part of the social fabric of my hometown. However, its editorial comment about my keynote speech at the State Democratic Convention lacked proper context.
My statement (that the GOP stands for “Gringos y otros pendejos,” a pejorative, meaning “… and other idiots”) was clearly aimed at the top of the Republican ticket, which is currently populated by hyper-ideological, tea party zealots who are deeply harmful to the future of Texas. I don’t apologize for using vitriol against those who warrant it.
The Republican gubernatorial nominee, Greg Abbott, has called South Texas “a Third World country.” The lieutenant governor nominee, Sen. Dan Patrick, has stated that immigrants bring “Third World diseases” to the United States. Their words, beliefs and actions are not a joke aimed at exciting conventioneers. They fuel racially divisive actions and poor public policy.
Another tea party candidate, unsuccessful U.S. Senate contender Chris Mapp told the Dallas Morning News that ranchers should be allowed to shoot anyone illegally crossing the border on to their land. He referred to such people as “wetbacks” and called the U.S. president a “socialist son of a bitch.”
This is the modern-day tea party wing of the Texas Republican Party and its leadership. They are not owed an apology; they are owed a fight. And that is exactly what I will give them.
Common-sense Republicans, whom I work with every day to do right by Texas, know that I was not talking about them. I was talking about those who are destroying their party. In fact, I would bet that many of them agree with me.
The only thing I would add to this is that the only people screaming about this are the one’s on the extreme right. Most common-sense Republicans know he’s right.
Elected officials will receive a pay increase for the 2014–15 fiscal year following a vote from the Williamson County Commissioners Court on July 1.
Commissioners voted for a 3 percent increase for county judge, commissioners, treasurer, sheriff and constables; a 4 percent increase for county clerk, district clerk, tax assessor and justices of the peace; and a $10,000 increase for county attorney.
Several officials spoke out in favor of increasing county employee salaries.
GOP chairman Reince Priebus made the announcement on Fox News, scooped by a few minutes on Twitter by a communications aide at the Republican Governors Association.
“We couldn’t be more excited. It’s a city on the rise,” Priebus said, heaping praise on a host city mocked until pretty recently as a “mistake by the lake.” “If you haven’t been to Cleveland lately, it’s a real surprise how beautiful it is down by that lake.”
He maintained that politics was secondary, though he readily conceded that going to battleground Ohio was attractive.
Politics secondary? Right. This is more likely the case.
In Austin, Texas Democrats used Dallas’ setback to tweak their rival party, asserting that Texas Republicans are too extreme for the rest of the GOP.
“The choice of Cleveland over Dallas to host the 2016 Republican National Convention shows just how toxic Texas Republicans are,” said Texas Democratic Party executive director Will Hailer. “By choosing Dallas, national Republicans would have essentially endorsed the Texas Republican platform and values, including reparative therapy for the LGBT community, repealing the 17th amendment that allows citizens to elect their own U.S. Senator, and repealing the Voting Rights Act.”
Texas is money in the bank for the GOP. There’s no reason to take the chance, and nothing good that could happen to the GOP, of showcasing the crazies in Texas in 2016. It must be pretty bad if you got beat by Cleveland.
At EOW we’ve written about transportation issues so many time we’re blue in the face. This post may be a little different, more philosophical let’s say. Let’s start with the way the government is talked about, as if it’s some abstract entity we have no control over. Here’s an example from a recent article from Terri Hall, Lawmakers on collision course with taxpayers on transportation.
When the existing gas tax diversions are closer to $1 billion/year, not $600 million, and the existing vehicles sales tax is $3.3 billion/year, and since TxDOT claims to need $4 billion more per year, there is no need to build another one of these loser toll projects that can’t pay for themselves without taxpayers footing part or all of the bill. It’s never been pro-taxpayer or pro-property rights to hand our public roads to private corporations, so this notion of Nichols and other transportation leaders that $14 billion in private equity is going to ‘help’ Texas pay for our highways is a total disconnect with the people of this state. Private corporations aren’t charities, all the money they put into a deal they want back in profit and interest. What may be a good deal for state government is not a good deal for taxpayers who have to pay at the pump and again to use the road.[Emphasis added]
Think about those statements. How can something be a good deal for state government without it being a good deal for the taxpayer? Unless we’ve elected a government that no longer cares about the what’s best for the taxpayer, or the people. Shouldn’t our government and the taxpayer be thought of as the same thing. Too many of us have lost touch with the concept of the commons.
The commons is an old value that’s resurfacing as a fresh approach to twenty-first-century crises such as escalating economic inequality, looming ecological disruption and worsening social alienation.
In essence, the commons means everything that belongs to all of us, and the many ways we work together to use these assets to build a better society. This encompasses fresh air and clean water, public spaces and public services, the Internet and the airwaves, our legal system, scientific knowledge, biodiversity, language, artistic traditions, fashion styles, cuisines and much more. Taken together, it represents a vast inheritance bequeathed equally to every human—and one that, if used wisely, will provide for future generations.
Tragically, this wealth is being stolen in the name of economic efficiency and global competitiveness. As the disparity between the world’s richest individuals and everyone else grows, a massive takeover of the commons is occurring. Through privatization schemes, land grabs, excessive copyright and patenting claims, no-new-taxes policies, neocolonial globalization and the gutting of government services, we are losing what is rightfully ours. These radical policies inflict economic pain but also diminish the natural world, our sense of community and the ability to participate in decisions affecting our future.
The part about giving away our commons to for-profit corporations is certainly true. But when we allow our politicians to be funded by corporations we should not be surprised when they act in their best interest and not in the people’s best interest.
It’s clear that Hall sees the government as a separate entity from the the people, and actually working against the people – an adversarial relationship. In other words it’s clear that she sees the government as working for someone, or something, other then the people. And it’s not hard to figure out who or what that is. The politicians are working to perpetuate a system that got them in office and will keep them there. Which means doing things for their funders, which are almost always counter to what’s best for the people. For example, toll roads instead of pay-as-you -go roads.
It’s much easier for a politician to try and sell a so-called not tax toll road, over an increase in the gas tax to pay for new roads. Just like they’ve been selling the false doctrine of “trickle-down” economics for the last thirty plus years. While making every day life harder for hard working families.
In the new platform, Republican delegates removed a provision backing “the legitimate construction of toll roads in Texas” and replaced it with language opposing some aspects of toll projects in Texas, particularly the use of public money to subsidize private entities.
Yet toll roads, often in concert with private partners, remain a crucial part of the state’s transportation strategy. Billions of dollars in new projects are being developed.
At a recent state Senate hearing, transportation officials spoke about the value of public-private partnerships, often as part of toll projects, to expand highway capacity years earlier than otherwise possible. James Bass, TxDOT’s chief financial officer, noted that the state gas tax paid by Texans — and used to finance highways — had not changed since 1991, while construction costs had more than doubled.
This basically shows they’re for “some aspects” of toll roads. They’re likely for toll roads, just not corporate toll roads, which is a start. But there’s still nothing about how to adequately pay for the massive amounts needed for maintaining and building new roads in across the state.
We no longer see the value of building or creating things for the public good. If there’s not a PAC involved that’s supported by a wealthy person or a corporation, and the idea will only benefit the public good it has absolutely no chance of getting done. We’ve must make our election officials beholden to the people again.
The Texas Progressive Alliance has been driving around asking about incendiary chemicals as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff reports on the petitions turned in by opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance to require a repeal referendum on the ballot in November, and the determination of the ordinance’s backers to defend it against such efforts.
The Supreme Court ruling giving Hobby Lobby the right to deny contraception health services was a surprise to many Americans. But given how ecstatic Greg Abbott was about the decision, Texas Leftist is left to wonder just what surprises he’d have if elected Governor. Would Abbott try to ban birth control in Texas??
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
Paul Kennedy and many other defense attorneys in Harris County protested the actions of a criminal court judge that was “encouraging” defendants to do their business before him without being represented by a lawyer.
Texas Election Law Blog analyzes True The Vote’s ability to intervene in the Thad Cochran/Chris McDaniel election dispute.
Texas Clean Air Matters celebrates the recent SCOTUS ruling that confirmed the EPA’s authority to address climate pollution.
Greg Wythe shows us what signing in on Election Day may look like in the near future.
SciGuy reassures us that we are not likely to be eaten by a shark.
The Bloggess researched fireworks options so you don’t have to.
And finally, Lowering the Bar isn’t a Texas blog, but as a legal humor blog targeting Greg Abbott for his pathetic performance in the redistricting legal fee dispute with Wendy Davis, they’re welcome to be in this week’s review.
There’s more to add to yesterday’s post, GOP In Texas Is Corporate-Owned, about Greg Abbott’s indifference to the lives of Texans. Texans must understand that it’s the way of elected Republicans in Texas to put aside the concerns of Texans because of the burden that would be on corporations.
The explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas last year took much more than fifteen lives. At least 262 people were injured; twenty percent of those were brain injuries. Homes and schools were destroyed. But judging from the response of some state lawmakers charged with stopping it from happening again, preventable disasters like the one in West are just something Texans are going to have to live with from time to time.
There’s been no new regulations for fertilizer plants since the disaster until this month, but there’s been a consensus for some time about how to prevent another tragedy like the one in West: require fertilizer plants to store ammonium nitrate in non-combustible facilities or to use sprinklers; conduct inspections of facilities; and train first responders so they know how to deal with fires that may break out at sites with ammonium nitrate.
A draft bill to do just that was introduced Tuesday by state Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), chair of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. But Republicans on his committee like Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) made clear at a hearing yesterday that they’re likely going to fight new regulations proposed to prevent another West. Flynn said new rules could put “Mom and Pop” fertilizer companies out of business, and he worries that any new rules for volunteer fire departments could strain budgets.
To get an idea of how much resistance the proposed rules could face from Republicans, take a look at one of the exchanges between Flynn and Pickett. Pickett proposed training volunteer fire departments to deal with fires at ammonium nitrate facilities. Currently, they get two days of training free, but another two days of hands-on training that is needed isn’t covered by the state. Over 70 percent of the firefighters in Texas are voluntary, and don’t have the authority to inspect facilities with ammonium nitrate. Pickett wants to change that, but Flynn and other rural Republicans weren’t convinced.
“When you start requiring basic gear that a municipality has to a local Volunteer Fire Department, you’re going to put them out of business,” Flynn said. “In a rural area, I’d rather have some people that are willing to come out and … ”
“Spit on it?” Pickett interrupted.
“Well, if that’s what what they have to do,” Flynn replied. “I don’t want to be that naïve.”
“But there’s nothing in here that says they have to buy a new fire truck!” Pickett said. “We’re talking about training.”
It went on like this for some time. Pickett proposing something, with Republican lawmakers from rural areas pushing back. Pickett noted that there haven’t really been any changes at facilities storing ammonium nitrate in combustible buildings or without sprinkler systems. He said they were waiting on the legislature to see what they need to do. “Very few have done anything on their own to make it safe for their employees” and surrounding communities, Pickett said.
I know I’ve said this plenty of times but, how can anyone expect a party that thinks government is the problem to use government to fix problems? The GOP is incapable of doing anything, that would in any way, be an inconvenience to “bidness” that would make chemical storage safer for the people of Texas. This issue shows just how “owned” the GOP is by corporations and business. Kuff has a great wrap up of all that’s happening right now on this issue, Why would you want to regulate that?
The fall of John Bradley was swift and severe and justified.
The high-profile Texas prosecutor and native Houstonian lost the Republican primary for Williamson County district attorney in May 2012. It was a post he had held for a decade.
He lost because even in a blazing red county that demands tough-on-crime justice, truth is important.
And Bradley had stood in the way of truth in the case of Michael Morton, who spent nearly a quarter century in prison on a false conviction in the 1986 murder of his wife.
Although it was Bradley’s predecessor, Ken Anderson, who hid evidence to secure Morton’s life sentence, it was Bradley who belittled Morton’s claims of innocence and vehemently fought testing of DNA evidence that had the power to set Morton free. The evidence, a bloody bandana found near the crime scene, was only tested after an appeals court ordered it.
Bradley’s stonewalling prolonged an innocent man’s hell by 2,400 days. It also allowed the real killer, Mark Alan Norwood, to roam the streets.
Since losing elected office, Bradley has tried to find work. In 2012, I wrote about him applying to lead the state’s Special Prosecution Unit.
No one would take him. Until now. It seems Bradley has landed another prosecutor’s post. Not in Texas. Not in the United States. In the tiny Republic of Palau, where, according to several sources, Bradley has accepted a position in the attorney general’s office.
The former U.S. territory of about 20,000 people in Micronesia was granted independence in 1994, and now operates in “free association” with the United States.
Barry Scheck, co-founder and co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, said he learned about Bradley’s new job in a mass email from Bradley’s wife.
Scheck, at the Innocence Project, echoed that sentiment.
“He’s certainly going quite a few thousand miles away in order to reinvent himself and we’re all in favor of second acts in American lives,” Scheck told me Tuesday.
Even Michael Morton maintained his graciousness when I asked what he thought about the prosecutor who wronged him returning to prosecuting.
“I don’t wake up every morning gnashing my teeth and shaking my fist at, you know, ‘where’s John Bradley?’ I’ve literally and figuratively moved on,” he said.
“At this stage of the game, I wish him well,” Morton said. “And, you know, adios.”
Morton’s Houston-based attorney John Raley, who worked the case for free, and fought Bradley at every turn as he tried to stymie Morton’s appeals, was a tad less gracious.
“I’m not aware of any evidence that he has learned the lessons of the Morton case,” Raley said of Bradley. “His actions in the future will answer that question.”
Kuff says if pretty sums it up.
Other than one brief feint in the direction of acknowledging his responsibility in the Morton saga, John Bradley has never shown any indication that he thinks he did anything wrong. If it were up to him, Michael Morton would still be in jail, Ken Anderson would still be on the bench, and the evidence that exonerated Morton and ousted Bradley and Anderson would be in a box somewhere, if it hadn’t been destroyed. So count me in the tad-less-gracious group here. It’s fine by me if John Bradley wants to put his life back together, but he can do that outside the practice of law. Flip burgers, sell cars, groom dogs, dig ditches, paint houses – there’s tons of honest, dignified jobs John Bradley can hold that won’t put him in a position of power over someone’s freedom. If he truly wants redemption, he knows what he has to do to earn it. Grits, who is more gracious than I, has more..
The only thing I would add to that is the real killer would still be at large. And if you’re ever in Palau watch your back.