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Archive for May, 2014

It is kind of nice for MLB to have this year’s Civil Rights Game played this evening at The Yard a couple of days after the H-Town City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Great timing! Yesterday, Hall of Fame greats Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson participated in a panel discussion. NFL Hall of Fame great Jim Brown and Motown’s Berry Gordy will be honored today at Union Station. GMA’s Robin Roberts will give the keynote. At the game this evening George Foreman will throw out the first pitch. In a nod to the Negro Leagues, the ‘Stros will be the Eagles and B’More will be the Elite Giants.

MLB’s Alyson Footer wrote an article earlier this week about how the Astrodome and baseball contributed to ending segregation in H-Town. It is a good read and maybe you can share with your pals. You also need to go check out Lisa Falkenberg’s column today on Wednesday’s HERO vote. Here is Alyson Footer’s article:

He prefaced the conversation with a brief caveat, emphasizing that the events happened so long ago that “my memory of the details may not be great.”

He then rattled off a list of details about one of the most important eras in the history of Houston as if it had happened just last week, and not more than 50 years ago, when the city was in the early stages of booming and was ready to take on racism in a daring, controversial and, ultimately, effective manner.

The Rev. Bill Lawson is now in his 80s, sharp as a tack, and can look back on a rich, meaningful career with enough highlights to fill dozens of pages on a resume.

It began a half-century ago when he founded the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church with no more than 40 or 50 members, and he has watched it grow to more than 5,000 congregants.

Lawson was in the thick of Houston’s efforts to integrate in a way that had no margin for error, one that had to be implemented perfectly, to the letter, with the cooperation of dozens of city leaders, all of whom had the same vision: desegregate, quietly and effectively, and reap the benefits for generations to come.

This story has a baseball tie — a big one. The Astrodome wasn’t just the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was a driving force as to why the city needed to be integrated sooner rather than later. More on that in a bit.

The premise for what was dubbed “Blackout in Houston” by Time magazine was simple. Over the course of one day, every square foot of Houston would desegregate, all at once. “Whites Only” signs would come down. Department stores would welcome African-American customers without hassle. Hotels would no longer be sectioned off for whites and blacks. Houston would integrate in a manner untapped by any other city — especially those in the South — without a smidgeon of riots or protests.

It would be swift, and peaceful. And it worked.

“It was agreed that the signs would come down — water fountains, buses, all the places where there were signs,” Lawson recalled. “And where there were no signs, like department stores, you could go in. You could go into Sakowitz, you could go into Neiman Marcus. There were no signs there. It was just understood [that blacks were not welcome]. But that practice would be stopped, on that same day. When a black person went into a department store, there would be people that were welcoming them and saying, ‘Would you like to try on something?'”

If an African-American got on a bus, they would be invited to sit in the front.

“It worked very well,” Lawson said. “Blacks were as shocked as whites were.”

Interestingly, the movement was less about doing what was right and more about making the city money. That’s how integration got started in the Bayou City — Houston was on the rise and ready to, figuratively speaking, boom.

The Johnson Space Center was newly built. The Ship Channel had expanded, allowing Houston to bid for the major oil and gas industries. And the city was granted a National League franchise, under the promise that a weather-proof domed stadium would be built, all but guaranteeing survival in a city by protecting the team and patrons from outside elements — heat, rain and mosquitoes — that could hamper the game experience.

In other words, there was a lot to be gained by ensuring all citizens of Houston — including blacks and whites — would have equal opportunities, to work, to live, and, of course, to spend.

Business leaders, noting the unrest that surrounded the riots in Birmingham, Ala., knew Houston had to take a different route to integration.

“The black business community, which of course was not as big and powerful as the white business community, helped to drive this notion that if you don’t want to have the same kind of black eye that Birmingham has, and if you do want to court the oil and gas industry into Houston, you’re going to have to do something about this Civil War mentality,” Lawson said.

And so the plan was hatched during meetings behind closed doors at the downtown Rice Hotel. City leaders met with heads of the Houston Restaurant Association, the transportation industry and department stores. Segregation was to end, fully and completely. Now.

And in the middle of everything was Judge Roy Hofheinz, former mayor of Houston and the driving force behind Houston being awarded a Major League team, to begin play in 1962, and the building of the Astrodome, which was completed three years later. The Dome would put Houston on the worldwide map, and no one wanted to see negative publicity derail the long-term vision.

“To bring in black players, like Willie Mays, we could hardly have national publicity about Willie Mays being turned down by some white hotel,” Lawson said. “It wasn’t really a moral issue. It was basically a financial issue.”

Needing a bond passed to complete the building of the Dome, Hofheinz went directly to local black leaders, guaranteeing that the building would be all-inclusive, with no tolerance for discrimination. The narrow passing of the issue can be traced directly back to the black community’s backing of Hofheinz and his vision.

Meanwhile, to integrate the city, everyone had to be on board — including the media, which was asked not to cover the story until the project was complete.

Such a secret mission could never be implemented today, not with the flurry of news outlets aching to be first to break stories through the immediacy of social media. “Please don’t run this until it’s over” is a laughable concept in modern times. Fifty-plus years ago, however, it was a reasonable request, and one that was agreed upon by all of the heavy hitters — the Chronicle, the Post, the Press and the major television outlets.

During a time when college students were organizing peaceful protests to wipe out segregation, the older, more reasoned advocates knew discretion was the key. And they were correct. “They were part of these meetings and they agreed that the best way to do it was to do it quickly and silently,” Lawson said. “The media had to agree not to publicize it. A story that big was kind of hard to silence. But if they didn’t silence it, then this would be a major story, one where the students won and the business community lost.”

With sports being the main headline-grabber, the Astrodome’s role in the integration of Houston was anything but a footnote. It wasn’t the only element to help springboard the civil rights movement in Houston, but it was a big one. And the prognosticators were correct — the Dome became a worldwide phenomenon, and it did so fully integrated, just as Hofheinz promised.

Economically, the city’s thriving nature could, without argument, be traced back to two or three specific days in the ’60s, when leaders assembled in secret, banded together and emerged with a sound, if not foolproof, plan.

Morally, the outcome was equally impactful. The city’s doors — in the stores, the restaurants and the Dome — opened with one collective swoop, never to close again.

“Blacks would say, ‘I don’t think I can,” Lawson said. “They’d say, ‘Yes, you can. Come on with me.'”

Last night I picked up my commemorative Civil Rights Game t-shirt that I will proudly wear tonight.

I skipped the MLB question today.

The team is on a six game winning streak. George Springer went dinger again last night. I hope we have a good crowd this weekend. Oh, I forgot – I snagged my fourth foul ball of the season last night and gave it to a kid. Tonight the teams will play with commemorative Civil Rights Game balls so if I snag a foul ball, it’s a keeper for sure.

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Yesterday the Secretary of State said Edward Snowden should man-up and come home to face the music. Last night NBC aired an interview with Snowden that got a lot of people to talking. This morning on the “Today” show viewers were asked to tweet on Snowden. Is he a traitor or patriot? Over 60% said he’s a patriot. This is a “Today” audience, not a Colbert audience. The President’s administration has arguably the best PR machine in the world and they are not winning the PR war against a fella hiding out in Russia. Maybe the White House ought to advise the Secretary of State to man-down.

There was another Springer dinger yesterday, his ninth of the season. Name the MLBer who holds the record for most dingers in a month by a rookie?

The anti-discrimination ordinance was approved last night on an 11-6 vote. I think I watched all of the hearings and meetings on the ordinance that were conducted this past month. Yesterday afternoon I jotted down my predictions on the vote based on my observations. I was perfect in my prediction – got them all right.

Now the opponents are going to try to get signatures on petitions to repeal the measure in November. They are also going to try to get a few council members recalled. Good luck and have fun!

The Chron has a front page analysis on what happened to the Lite Guv. What a waste of ink. Commentary and a few others said it was over for him when he got his arse handed to him by Ted Cruz back in 2012. He was dead man walking back then. The confirmation of him being a goner was when he named Dan Patrick Chair of the Education Committee.

Here is what Rice Political Science Professor Mark Jones says about the Dem candidate for Ag Commish:

“It’s really a sad state of affairs for the Texas Democratic Party when someone is able to be a statewide candidate without actively campaigning at all.”

His words, not mine.

Mark McGwire of course holds the MLB record for most dingers in a month by a rookie with 15 back in 1987.

Well, well, well! I am talking about the five game winning streak and being 22-32 when a year ago today we were 15-37. We took the roadie with 6 wins and 4 losses and we swept the Royals. Now more folks are starting to talk about the team. George Springer is leading the charge. Heck, we got three players that are All Star Game worthy – Springer, Jose Altuve, and Dalla Keuchel. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping they are the real deal.

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Well the folks in charge of the statewide Dem campaigns in the Lone Star State got their preferred opponents, bogeymen, meal tickets, whatever – you get the picture – the most extreme of the right wing, the strongest of the Tea Partiers. Now it is time to fire up the base, win over soccer moms, and get a chunk of the state’s business community to start listening. And oh yeah, start getting serious about engaging the Latino voter. This is your chance. You couldn’t ask for a fatter target. There are no excuses now.

Commentary is anxious to hear what Dem state senators have to say about what a Dan Patrick as Lite Guv looks like. On a related note check out one of Big Jolly’s latest posts on Sen. Patrick:
http://blog.chron.com/bigjolly/2014/05/allegations-of-coverup-deception-regarding-sen-dan-patricks-mental-health/.

Jose Altuve leads MLB with 72 base hits. Name the only Astro to have more than 200 base hits in a season?

Back to last night, in his concession remarks the Lite Guv gave a shout out to the 23 positive campaign ads his campaign produced. He didn’t the mention the kazillion attack ads they ran.

Politico has a write-up on Jorge Ramos. He’s the fella that keeps immigration reform on the front burner and he takes no prisoners. Check it out:
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/jorge-ramos-fusion-politics-immigration-107124.html?hp=f1.

Well the anti-discrimination ordinance will get approved sometime today at City Hall. The only drama remaining is who will vote against.

B-G-O of course had 210 base hits in 1998.

The ‘Stros have now won 21 games and last year’s World Serious champs have won 22. You may want to think about checking them out this weekend when B’More visits, after all they have won four in a row.

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There is a story today in the Chron about what the Mayor said a couple of weeks ago on the anti-discrimination ordinance. She said “the debate is about me.” With those five words folks are saying she handed the ordinance’s opponents some ammunition by promoting a personal agenda. I disagree. Those folks don’t need any more ammo. To them LGBT is a four letter word and that’s all the ammo they need. Most of them probably have never voted for the Mayor. They are already getting ready to launch a signature drive to defeat the measure in November.

This is 2014. I love H-Town. Personally, I don’t want my city to allow discrimination against members of the LGBT community. I want my city to go where the rest of America is headed. So this debate is also about me and about you.

Let’s approve this ordinance tomorrow and then let’s successfully protect it in November.

When was the last time the ‘Stros sent two players to the MLB All Star Game?

Burkablog has the best lines for the today’s election:

Dewhurst cozied up to Dan Patrick during the 2013 session, and it got him nowhere except out of office.

The ground rules of Texas politics, at least for moderate Republicans, should be clear by now: Be yourself. Don’t try to ingratiate yourself with the far right. It’s a fool’s errand.

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. The Lite Guv’s folks are probably the only folks in the universe that think he’s going to win this evening. I don’t see it happening.

If you are a Dem and have not voted, you are going to have to look up your polling location and probably drive a little further to vote today.

The hot ticket this Friday will be at The Yard, err Reckling Park as the Longhorns and Aggies play each other in the NCAA Baseball Regional. That ought to be a cool atmosphere amid a lot of maroon and burnt orange. I’ll be at MLB’s Civil Rights Game where we will be hosting B’More, err Elite Giants and we will be the Eagles.

This past Sunday the ‘Stros beat the Mariners behind hurler Dallas Keuchel’s four hit complete game performance. He faced three batters above the minimum. After the game the Mariners’ skipper said Keuchel only had “average stuff.” OK! Keuchel is carrying a 2.55 ERA, he is tied for sixth in the MLB in the win column with six, and he has pitched two complete games – only three other MLB pitchers have two or more complete games this season. If Keuchel keeps this up, the ‘Stros could very well have two players represented at this year’s All Star Game. Jose Altuve is batting .323 and leads the MLB in base hits with 71.

In 2009 the ‘Stros sent Miguel Tejada and Hunter Pence of course to the All Star Game.

What did you think of George Springer’s performance last night? 4 for 4, 3 RBIs, and 5 runs scored. He’s lighting it up for sure.

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My Dad

Growing up, my Dad, a paratrooper during World War II, never talked about the war. At the time, I did know that he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. It wasn’t until one of his granddaughters was working a University of Texas oral history project of Latinos who fought during WWII did he begin to open up and discuss his war experiences. This was in the late 1990s – 50 years after the war.

I sat in on one of his interviews and it was quite moving to see him get emotional as he discussed the war. He was a heavy machine gunner and was with the 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and saw combat in Italy, France, Belgium, and Germany. He made one combat jump. After the war ended in Europe he volunteered to go the Pacific Theatre. Japan surrendered before my Dad got there. He served from 1943 – 1945.

About that time that he started talking about his war experiences I gave him the “Saving Private Ryan” DVD, arguably one of the best war movies ever. I asked him later what he thought of the movie. He responded that there weren’t any Latinos in the movie. Years later the lack of the mention of Latino contributions during WWII was the criticism PBS would get when they aired their Ken Burns documentary series on the war.

My Dad is 90 years of age now. He’s now very open about his war experiences. When you ask him about the Battle of the Bulge he will say it was cold. Some of his stories have a bit of humor in them, like the ones involving his first practice jumps. The thing that gets me is his recall of the names of some of his fellow paratroopers, where they were from, and if they made it back – wow.

Today is Memorial Day. Yesterday the President visited the troops in Afghanistan. Some folks are complaining here locally because kids are in some schools to make-up “bad weather days”. Some teams in the MLB will wear camo gear today. Most government workers get the day off. Most retail store workers don’t.

Next week the President will go to France to observe the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Today I will call my Dad to see how he’s doing. Please take the time to observe this day.

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And Vote

Today is the last day to vote early. Here in Harris County if you don’t vote early today it is going to be a hassle on Tuesday. On Election Day the polling locations will be super combined. For Dems the Early Voting locations will be utilized plus a few others. You will have to go online to check out where you vote.

Yesterday, on Day 4 of Early Voting here in Harris County, 1,269 Dems voted in person and 203 by mail. 7,967 GOPers voted in person and 658 by mail. The totals to date in Harris County: 46,329 in the GOP column, 11,892 Dems.

It looks like the overpass versus the underpass issue on METRO’s East End Line is over. The METRO Board ignored pleas from elected officials for a 30 day postponement on a decision. No mas said the METRO Board. The voters approved the light rail extension over ten years ago. My friend Second Ward leader Jessica Hulsey says it is time to move on. It is hard to argue with Jessica. If you can’t resolve this in ten years you are not going to do it in 30 days.

Name the MLBer who holds the record for most base hits in a season?

I was sent this yesterday: http://www.RecallMayorParker.com. They are not happy with the Mayor proposing the anti-discrimination ordinance. I don’t know much about H-Town recall efforts. We recalled the red light cameras but not an elected official. At least not to my knowledge.

Somebody needs to tell the AG Abbott supporters that those “Abortion Barbie” posters and references don’t get you any new votes. Bad taste doesn’t get you votes – period! In case you missed it here is what I am talking about.

http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2014/05/abortion-barbie-posters-depicting-wendy-davis-as-a-pregnant-barbie-doll-appear-in-los-angeles.html/.

Ichiro Suzuki of course holds the season record with 262 base hits set in 2004.

Now we have lost three in a row. Just when I thought we were over the hump. OH, well.

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Who would have thought that in 2014 we would witness the humanization of Sen. Dan Patrick? Way to go Lite Guv and Jerry Patterson. The front page of today’s Chron has another positive story on Sen. Patrick.

Why do they schedule the runoff Election Day the day after Memorial Day?

It looks liked Burkablog is saying it is all over next Tuesday. We may as well forget about the statewide general election. Forget about haggling over how many debates will be held. Burkablog has no respect whatsoever for the Lone Star State Dem effort. Here is Burkablog:

This is the worst election campaign season in my memory. Everything has been organized to elect the most radical candidates on the ballot, those who are the farthest to the right. The result will be the triumph of the know-nothings. Vast sums of dark money are pouring into the state to influence the election. Michael Quinn Sullivan and the tea parties are running the show. We’re on the verge of electing an attorney general in Ken Paxton who has violated the Texas Securities Act repeatedly. But if Paxton gets enough votes to become attorney general, can he serve as A.G. despite having felony violations on his record? Can he be disbarred?

It only gets worse from there. Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor? Sid Miller as the commissioner of agriculture? Glenn Hegar as comptroller? The tea party is running the state. This is not an election about issues. This is an election about our side versus their side, “our” Republicans versus “their” Republicans. In other words, it’s the Republican civil war. It’s a proxy fight for the next election, which will determine whether Joe Straus survives to serve another term as speaker.

It’s scary to contemplate the likely agenda for the 2015 legislative session. Open carry. Sanctuary cities. Arizona-style immigration laws. Cutting property taxes, thereby leaving local governments without the resources to improve their schools or pave their streets. It’s coming, folks. The triumph of the know-nothings.

Now that’s not very comforting. I wonder if that’s the official position of Texas Monthly. If other media in the state start talking this way and if national pundits do the same, we’re in deep doodoo. Dem base voters will buy into this and will stay home. I hope we got a plan.

The ‘Stros are in Seattle for four. Name the Mariners player who holds the record for most dingers in a season?

Here is what I tweeted last night:

On the 3rd day of #EarlyVoting in #HarrisCounty 1,116 Dems voted in person and 222 by mail – 7,451 GOPers in person and 748 by mail. #Vote

10,420 Dems have voted early in Harris County. 37,704 GOPers have voted early.

Ken Griffey, Jr. of course had 56 dingers for the Mariners in 1997 and 1998.

The team lost another last night in a 2-1 close game.

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