Archive for the ‘Lubbock’ Category

Carol Morgan Website Launch

Carol Morgan, Democratic Candidate for Texas House District 84, has her campaign website up and running!

Carol is already comfortable with new media tools (Carol Morgan facebook, Carol Morgan twitter), but her new website provides a consolidated way for her to connect with supporters. The website has her platform, qualifications, and opportunities for you to volunteer. Also, she writes regular blog posts on her campaign website, making her the most accessible HD84 candidate by a wide margin.

And of course, the always-important online fundraising via actblue is available as well.

If you’re sick of the Republican crop of HD84 candidates and their pissing match to see who is the furthest to the fringe right, then Carol’s website will be a welcome change.

A Saturday to Remember!

Save the date now for Saturday, January 23 — Lubbock County Democratic Party is offering a day filled with once-in-a-lifetime events!

The day kicks off with a region-wide meeting of college-age Democrats. At 11:00am at the Science Spectrum (use the South entrance off 74th St), the Coalition of West Texas Democrats hosts a meeting for college and university students from throughout the region. Johnnie Jones, president of the Coalition, will discuss grassroots campaigning and networking. At 12:00, gubernatorial candidate Bill White will join students for pizza, discussion, and informal Q&A.

At 1:30pm, in the same meeting room at the Science Spectrum, the Texas Observer party begins. The managing editor of the magazine and several reporters will be on hand to give their insights. This will be a fantastic event, and I will blog more about the details of it as the date approaches.

There will also be a press conference in the same meeting room at 3:00pm. Democratic candidates attending the banquet will be available to the press. All the statewide candidates will arrive at 3:00.

That same evening, the Lubbock Democratic Candidates Banquet is taking place:

Saturday, January 23, 2010
6:30-10:00 pm
McInturff Center
602 Indiana, Lubbock

A ticket includes beer and wine, a buffet dinner, and the chance to listen to strong and clear voices of reason! This is the Party’s big annual fundraiser, and it covers many of our vital expenses throughout the year.

Candidates coming to the event are:

Gov.: Bill White, Felix Alvarado, Farouk Shami; U.S. Senate: John Sharp; Attorney General: Barbara Ann Radnofsky; Ag Commissioner: Hank Gilbert and Kinky Friedman; Texas Supreme Court: Bill Moody #5 and Blake Bailey #9; U.S. Congress #19: Andy Wilson; Texas Rep #85: Joe Heflin; Texas Rep #84: Carol Morgan.

If you want banquet tickets, call Democratic Party HQ (2809A 74th St) at 749-8683 or I’m happy to sell you some. Leave a note in the comments and I’ll contact you via email. You can also purchase them online via actblue.

Remember: Saturday, January 23 will be a very full day for Democratic politics in Lubbock!

Let’s Talk HD83

Primary season is almost upon us. Now is the time to prepare by becoming informed.

The Texas Tribune has — conveniently in one place — all the info for Texas elected officials you need to get started with an analysis of them. Check out Delwin Jones’ House District 83. Take the time to zoom in on the map of his district within the Lubbock city limits. Notice that middle-finger-looking portion running up from South Loop 289 to 19th Street just south of Texas Tech? My understanding of that funny-shaped foray into Tech Terrace is that it was a fine piece of gerrymandering to keep former Lubbock Mayor Windy Sitton from being able to challenge Carl Isett for HD84, our inside-city-limits house district.

This quirk of HD83 brings me to my three main points for this upcoming February/March Primary elections:

1) Delwin Jones will be the Chair of the House Redistricting Committee in 2011. Republican Primary voters would be foolish to vote Delwin out when he wields so much power. Delwin Jones’ primary challengers (two so far) can’t offer advantages like that for our area.

Meanwhile, I’m holding out the possibility that Delwin will use redistricting to cap his career in an honorable way by un-gerrymandering our area as much as possibile. A dude can dream, can’t he?

2) Delwin Jones is an unstoppable juggernaut of incumbency. He’ll leave office when he retires, not before.

3) You don’t need to vote in the Republican Primary to “protect” Delwin Jones against his challengers. If you’re on the fence about which primary to vote in, see point #2 — he’s whupped all the challengers he’s had over the last decade. There are also compelling reasons to vote in the Democratic Primary this time — several statewide races that are contested, for example. Also, our area’s strength within the Party is determined by governor-year turnout. If you want to see a stronger Democratic Party and a real two-party system in our area, then participate in the Lubbock County Democratic Party Primary to accomplish that goal.

I think Delwin’s got the 2010 primary locked up. Tell us what you think in the comments!

Mental Health Day

Today, on my lunch hour, I attended a League of Women Voters panel about mental health and the criminal justice system. The panelists were Sheriff Kelly Rowe; Mary Gerlach, adult behavioral health director for the Lubbock regional MHMR; County Court-At-Law Judge Drue Farmer; and Cathy Givens from the DA’s office civil division. I was surprised at how good the panel was, and I learned a lot from it.

The panel was in anticipation of a Lubbock County mental health court that will begin operation in January. The mental health court will join the ranks of other specialty courts in Lubbock County: drug court, DWI court, and family recovery court. Budget-watchers can rejoice — the new mental health court will shift existing resources and does not add extra expense. And, if it’s successful, it should lower court and jail expenses by freeing up resources: jail beds, prosecutor time, and space on the docket to name a few.

The panel did an excellent job of illustrating how Lubbock County is working in an across-the-board (in the academic world, you might say interdisciplinary) way to address a serious problem: mentally ill people in jail. In fact, the County started coordinating MHMR, the courts, and the Sheriff’s office in the late 1990s when David Gutierrez became Sheriff.

Thanks in part to Ronald Reagan’s dumping of mentally ill people on the street, jails have become de facto mental health institutions, a task for which they are wholly unsuited. Tracking of mentally ill inmates only started recently, but anywhere from 30-70 percent (I know that’s a big range, but that’s what I heard from the panel) of inmates are in jail due to issues from mental illness or substance abuse. Most of these inmates are in jail for nonviolent misdemeanors. Also, mentally ill or substance-abusing inmates are often “frequent flyers” who, for lack of community resources and specialized programs, return to jail multiple times or remain in jail longer than necessary. In fact, the Lubbock County Jail has a few mentally ill inmates that have been there as long as seven years due to competency issues.

The courts add an additional — but necessary! — layer of difficulty with this issue of competency. The law says that a person has to be competent to stand trial. “Competent” means that they can take care of themselves physically and that they understand their situation; competency has nothing to do with sanity/insanity, which come into play at the end of a trial. For example, a defendant with mental illness or substance abuse problems may be “off meds” on their trial date; legally, they have to resume treatment before the trial can continue. Due to scheduling issues, this process can repeat itself multiple times, resulting in a legal black hole of sorts.

There are several good reforms that would help, most of which are on their way to Lubbock County:

  • At least one dedicated officer 24/7 who is trained to handle mental health issues at the time of arrest — Lubbock County Sheriff’s office has one such officer available weekdays 9-6, which is a good start
  • a non-jail or specialized-jail facility to house mentally ill inmates, also available 24/7 — the new Lubbock County Jail will feature a housing section for mentally ill inmates; only a few other jails in Texas have a similar facility
  • ID and assessment of mentally ill inmates as they are booked into jail — also in the works
  • a court that specializes in mental health issues — coming in January with a caseload of 10-15 people
  • prosecutors who are aware of mental health and substance abuse issues and options — The staff member from the civil division of the DA’s office (who was on the panel) is one such prosecutor
  • a mental illness defenders’ office with equally qualified defense attorneys
  • probation officers who can handle mentally ill probationers — Lubbock County has at least two such probation officers already

And there are a myriad of community resources that can be more tightly integrated with this process too. As I said earlier, the Sheriff’s office and MHMR have been working together on tackling this problem for over ten years. Now, LPD is coming on board as well. With the mental health court coming online in January, Lubbock County can improve this situation and be a leader in the state.

By the way, Mary Gerlach from MHMR also recommended a book for approaching/understanding the issues of mental health and the criminal justice system: Crazy by Pete Earley.

Power to the People?

It’s been another one of those weeks where I get caught up with my life. Most notably, West Texas Comic Con came and went and was a great success.

In the meantime, some nut shot up Fort Hood, health care reform passed the House, and another crooked Republican Hale County Commissioner got arrested. Also, Lubbock Power and Light bought out its only remaining competition in Lubbock, which is what I want to talk about today.

I didn’t comment as the power grab was happening, but I did spend some time listening to other media commentary about the issue. The reaction to the Lubbock Power and Light (LP&L) deal from the talk radio crowd was pretty fierce — I even got to hear Robert Pratt hang up on Gary Boren* over this issue, which is something you don’t hear every day. (*correction — I have been informed that Gary Boren said he would call back, but never did. I distinctly remember Boren’s mic / phone volume being cut, however.) Meanwhile, LP&L is running ads promoting the deal on the very radio station that expresses outrage at the deal, while newspaper and TV were mostly silent about it. Huh.

The thinking seems to be that, without competition, LP&L’s rates will go up and quality of customer service will go down — maybe not right away, but within a few years.

I agree, but not for the same reasons as the right-wing radio hosts in town.

I believe that utilities can run just fine if they are government-owned in a democratic society. Government-run utilities are even fine as a monopoly if the utilities are accountable to the people directly. (Privately owned utility companies in competition with one another are okay too, although in practice they tend to carve out little anti-competitive fiefdoms rather than compete with each other directly. So, I would rather see a government-owned utility run kinda like a coop instead of a few big corporations gouging customers whenever they can get away with it.)

However, the problem with the current LP&L deal (and it IS a done deal, announced conveniently after the November bond election) is that the structure of LP&L does not make it accountable to the people, which is necessary if you are removing private competition. LP&L is a public utility run like a private company. None of the LP&L board are elected; they are appointed by the City Council. It is more insulated from the will of the citizens than a coop, a private company (maybe), or a publicly traded corporation.

I believe there is an easy way to address this problem. Let’s start electing LP&L board members directly. We could even have a mix of appointed members and elected members, but if LP&L is going to be the only game in town while calling itself a public utility, then it ought to be more democratic.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how we got to this decision, remember back to the 2006 election:


One not-so-secret reason for the buyout is that it simplifies downtown redevelopment for private developers. Don’t get me wrong — I do want to see downtown Lubbock get redeveloped, but not at the expense of affordable/accountable/responsible utilities.

If I may misappropriate a quote from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, remember who drives the bus of civic activity in Lubbock: developers, developers, developers.

Vote today!

Today is Election Day!

Please take the time to vote, as the local and state issues that come up in special elections often have more direct effect on our lives than national elections. And these are the lowest turnout elections!

Polling locations are listed here.

A-J article is here.

Polls close at 7:00pm.

Andy Wilson Announces Today

Later today, Andy Wilson will announce his candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for Congress in Texas 19th District, currently held by Randy “Birther Bill” Neugebauer. The announcement will take place at 3pm at the Mahon Library Community Room.

Who: Anyone looking for a change in TX-19
What: Andy Wilson Congressional Campaign Announcement
When: Monday 11/2 3:00pm
Where: Mahon Library, 1306 9th St
Why: To show support for a change in TX-19, and to learn more about an exciting candidate!

Please attend if you can!

Election Time!

Early voting started yesterday. You can early vote in the usual places — most United Supermarkets, the TTU Rec Center, and Lubbock City Hall. Early voting runs through October 30th, and Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd.

What’s on the ballot this time? For City of Lubbock residents there are four bond issues, and for everyone there are eleven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. Of note, there is an important amendment relating to Tier One universities and a few relating to property tax / appraisal reform.

Today I’m going to talk about the City of Lubbock bond issues.

I have obtained some documents from West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS) about the Lubbock bond issues that may be useful to you:

Map showing City recommended bond proposals (pdf)
Map showing gateway street fund expenditures (pdf)
Gateway funds summary (pdf)

I strongly recommend reading those documents.

It’s interesting to see what made it from the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the ballot — and what didn’t make it. Example: Mahon Library needs serious repairs and upgrades, but was dropped from the bond proposal.

Also interesting is WHERE the proposals ended up — mostly in SW Lubbock. For Lubbockites, this is a familiar tune; developers guide the business of the City to their advantage. New properties (mostly outside the loop) get attention and money, while maintenance and upgrades get a pass. Deferred maintenance is how we end up with bumpy major thoroughfares and a library so moldy we have to close it.

Let’s have a look at the propositions.

Proposition 1: “The issuance of $43,085,000 general obligation bonds for street improvements”

I wish the language on this proposition in particular were more precise, and I wish it were split up into smaller, clearer projects on the ballot. Right now, the money from this proposition is earmarked $20,725,000 for 34th Street, $4,750,000 for traffic signal upgrades, and the rest for streets in SW Lubbock. I would prefer to vote for a 34th street issue separately from paving new streets in SW Lubbock, but somehow they got bundled together into a single bond issue that accounts for 2/3 of the value of all the bond proposals.

It feels like the City is saying, “We’ll fix 34th St for you, but you have to approve money for new streets in SW Lubbock first.”

Also, if this proposition passes, the work on the SW Lubbock streets will begin right away, while the work on 34th St is still 3-4 years away due to engineering and architectural studies that have to be done. With the vague wording of this proposition, I believe there’s a real possibility that the money will get eaten up by other street projects before 34th St is ready to go.

Additionally, Gateway Streets Fund money (40% of our franchise taxes and access line fees collected in Lubbock) could have been spent on 34th St, but it’s being spent elsewhere, again mostly in SW Lubbock.

Proposition 2: “The issuance of $7,500,000 general obligation bonds for firefighting facilities and equipment”

Who would vote against providing firefighting facilities? This is easily the least controversial bond proposal, and the new fire stations are in areas where response time could use improvement.

Proposition 3: “The issuance of $1,200,000 general obligation bonds for water recreation facilities”

This proposal is for four “splash pads,” which are little water parks where water shoots out of the ground and falls back down on a mat. Splash pads are basically cheap alternatives to pools. If you look at the placement of these splash pads, they suggest a line of thinking like this: “Sorry we filled in your swimming pools, North and East Lubbock. Have some splash pads!” (There is one in SW Lubbock as well, but two are in East Lubbock and one is in North Lubbock.) As far as I know, these will be the first such facilities in Lubbock.

Proposition 4: “The issuance of $9,000,000 general obligation bonds for soccer facilities”

By “soccer facilities,” this proposal is not referring to the existing Berl Huffman Complex, which needs serious repair. It refers to a new soccer complex at FM1585 and Milwaukee Ave.

Lubbock soccer has had a bumpy ride, not only because of the condition our soccer fields. For some reason, those on the political right in this town really decided that they hate soccer because it represents “communism” or some other bull.

My hope is that the new complex gets built, but can’t we maintain our existing soccer fields as well?

That’s all I’ve got about the Lubbock bond issues. Be sure to check out the WTOS documents I linked above. (WTOS will make a presentation about those documents this Sunday, October 25, at 12:15 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 4600 48th St.)

As always, the wonderful League of Women Voters voter guide is available online for free. Also, the Texas Legislative Council has an analysis of the amendments (pdf).Remember, you can take these (or any other literature you want) into to voting booth with you.

I’ll return with a post about the amendments tomorrow.

The Award-Winning Lubbock County

When government does something well, it’s worth noting. (Quick example: Lubbock City Council selecting the old Barnes and Noble location as the new home of Godeke Library.)

A friend clued me in to something that — strangely enough — local media seems to be missing or ignoring completely. And it’s kind of a big deal.

The County of Lubbock has just won (actually, back in August!) three prestigious awards from the Texas Association of Counties. They are part of the 2009 Best Practices Awards. Along with Travis County, Lubbock was the only county to win three awards. (Lubbock County’s awards are way cooler than Travis County’s awards, by the way.) Each of the three awards represents a significant, unique achievement of Lubbock County — unmatched in the State and with only a few peers throughout the whole nation.

Here’s what Lubbock County won:

CourtTools Accountability Program

Lubbock County is the only county in all of Texas to provide accountability through all ten measures of the CourtTools system. Only a few entities in the nation provide this much accountability. And 2009 is not the first year that Lubbock County has published metrics through CourtTools, either — reports go back as far as 2005.

What are the CourtTools metrics? They are:

  1. Access and Fairness
  2. Clearance Rates
  3. Time to Disposition
  4. Age of Active Pending Caseloads
  5. Certainty of Trial Dates
  6. Reliability and Integrity of Case Files
  7. Collection of Monetary Penalties
  8. Effective Use of Jurors
  9. Court Employee Satisfaction
  10. Cost Per Case

Courts Administrator David Slayton and his staff are responsible for compiling these reports.

The especially valuable thing about these reports is that, over time, they provide an objective measure for courts and the judges that run them. We’re fortunate to have a court system that takes these measures seriously.

Vote Centers

As most of you probably know, Lubbock County has been the leader in Texas when it comes to voting anywhere you like on Election Day — a concept known as Vote Centers (formerly Superprecincts). Our November 2006 election was the first such election, and we’ve done it again several times since. The November 2008 election is the one that got Lubbock County this award, not only for remaining the statewide leader in vote centers (Erath County was the only other County to attempt vote centers in November 2008 — prior to that, Lubbock was the only county to do so), but also for innovative ways to help voters find their nearest polling place. The County used text messaging, email, snail mail, radio, TV, websites — the works — to get the word out.

Elections Administrator Dorothy Kennedy and her staff at the Elections Office are responsible for implementing vote centers. (Notice a pattern of nonpartisan, appointed administrators behind these successes?)

An important note — Primary elections will continue to be precinct-driven, due to the nature of internal Party political structure (for all Parties).

Regional Capital Case Public Defender’s Office

Last but not least, Lubbock County hosts the regional public defender’s office for capital cases, for which it also won an award. The public defender’s office serves 70 counties in West Texas.

Why is this such a big deal? The costs involved in bringing a capital murder case to trial can easily bankrupt a rural county. Extra steps have to be taken for a capital trial to take place, and attorneys must have special certification to take part in a capital murder trial. (And they must maintain it as part of their continuing legal education.) Having a regional public defender’s office for capital cases is like life insurance for the counties involved.

Lubbock attorney Jack Stoffregen is the Chief Public Defender of the office, which was created in November of 2007.

Oh, and one more…

As a final note, there is one other area worth mentioning here that Lubbock County does well that didn’t make it to these awards: drug court. The drug court is a special court that hears cases involving nonviolent drug offenders and works to rehabilitate them. By doing so, it can divert the nonviolent drug offenders from the regular courts (and jail system), returning productive citizens to the community and saving taxpayer dollars. Really, the drug court deserves its own post, but I wanted to mention it here because people may not be aware that it even exists.

So, way to go Lubbock County! It’s nice to have non-embarrassing news from our area every now and then.

From the folks that brought us the weekend…

This afternoon’s Labor Day picnic was a blast! Great food and great remarks from candidates, as expected.

FOX Lubbock covered the event in their evening news tonight.

Here are a few pictures of mine, mostly vanity.

Ian with the great Employee Free Choice Act sign that he made at our Lubbock DFA meeting last week. DFA members made and brought signs for Gilbert and White too.

Yours truly with House District 85 Representative Joe Heflin. I expect that his 2010 Republican challenger will be even less qualified than the previous one…

Me again with Houston Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Bill White. Incidentally, the Bill White campaign has hired many of the good Texas Obama campaign folks — should be a well-run campaign!

I didn’t get a picture with TX Governor candidate Hank Gilbert this time around, but I did shake his hand and wish him luck. Maybe next time!

Video from the Labor Day event will be up later this week.

In the meantime, here is more video of Randy Neugebauer’s Lubbock Town Hall on August 25 from my friend Daniel. It’s properly edited and annotated. The series begins here:

and each subsequent video is a set up as a video response.

Here’s too a good, short work week, courtesy of the Labor movement!

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