The mayor is outraged, but Brian is dead

Brian-Cross

Brian Cross

Mayor Mike Rawlings is outraged and has issued a statement about the 911 service outage:

It is outrageous that T-Mobile still has not resolved the ghost call issue that is putting Dallasites in danger by clogging our 911 system. I’m in full agreement with our city manager that our citizens deserve better. This issue not only puts paying T-Mobile customers at risk, but it jeopardizes the safety of people throughout our city. It’s encouraging that T-Mobile will finally be sending top engineers to Dallas tomorrow morning. I can only assume that they will work around the clock until they figure out how to fix this issue.

Here’s my experience of the 911 outage on March 6:

My husband, Brian Cross, was acting disoriented and was laying down. He was snoring, but that suddenly stopped. At 9 p.m. I called 911. After a few minutes, I was disconnected. When someone calls 911 and is disconnected, 911 operators are supposed to call back. They didn’t.

I called 911 again immediately. The entire time I was trying to do CPR. Finally a 911 operator answered at 9:20. By that time, no matter how much I breathed into his mouth and pounded his chest, Brian wasn’t breathing.

Once I got through to 911, the response time was fantastic. Dallas Fire and Rescue was in our house within three minutes.

But had they been there at 9:05 rather than 9:25, Brian might have been resuscitated.

—  David Taffet

HB2 claims one more victim

Unemployed Gov. Pat McCrory

When HB2, North Carolina’s bathroom bill, passed into law in March 2016, PayPal immediately canceled expansion in the state and jobs were lost. Other companies followed and within 12 months, the state lost and estimated three quarters of a billion dollars for the year.

Now one person in particular is having trouble finding work as a result of HB2 — former Gov. Pat McCrory. According to the Charlotte News and Observer, companies are reluctant to hire him because they’re afraid he’s a bigot. Even a local university turned him down for a part-time teaching position, afraid his appearance on campus would incite protests.

So the down-and-out former governor is having to eke out a living sitting on boards and doing some consulting work. He’s even interviewed with the Trump administration, hoping they might have a position for an unqualified former governor who was thrown out of office for attempting to destroy the state’s economy.

But so far, no offers. Sad.

Meanwhile, at his State of the State address on March 13, current North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called for the complete repeal of HB2.

—  David Taffet

HRC places field organizer in Dallas

HRC-Organizer

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Human Rights Campaign has placed four field organizers in Texas through the legislative session, and Criss Ruiz is the Dallas field organizer.

The other three are based in Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

Ruiz said she’s seeking volunteers to staff phone banks, reach out to the governor and legislators and to get the LGBT community involved.

She’s just getting started and is visiting churches, businesses and LGBT organizations throughout the DFW area.

Ruiz moved to Dallas from Orlando, where she was a field organizer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Although Central Florida is majority Republican, Clinton won in the region Ruiz managed.

“That was a hard region to win, but we won it by calling, knocking and with blood, sweat and tears,” Ruiz said.

She said a number of her volunteers were Republicans who may have been economically conservative, but who also believed in fairness and equality. And she hopes to recruit like-minded allies across the political spectrum in Dallas, as well.

Ruiz said years ago she worked at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and knew many of the people involved in the massacre, so that remains close to her heart.

She also was a member of a pop group called Boys and Girls United and toured as the opening act for Britney Spears and NSYNC.

Among the businesses she’s working with in Dallas are the bars. Ruiz said she’s working on several things with Caven Enterprises, which owns four bars on Cedar Springs Road, and she is doing a brunch on Sunday, March 5, at Cedar Springs Tap House.

Ruiz said HRC’s mission is to help Equality Texas and local organizations that have banded together fight SB6 — better known as the bathroom bill — and the so-called religious freedom bills that would allow discrimination against LGBT people by claiming deeply held religious beliefs and attempts to prevent same-sex couples and transgender people from adopting.

She said volunteers are already flooding the governor’s office with phone calls about the bathroom bill and adoption. That’s something she intends to keep up throughout the legislative session.              

To volunteer with HRC’s efforts in Texas, contact Ruiz at Criss.Ruiz@HRC.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 10, 2017.

—  David Taffet

Rally remembers recent trans murder victims

About 25 people gathered in Reverchon Park on Friday evening, March 3, to remember trans victims of violence with a candlelight vigil. At least seven trans women of color already have been murdered this year. Two of the seven occurred in Louisiana over the past week and a third in Louisiana revealed last week after misgendering the deceased. Last year, at least 27 transgender people were killed in the U.S.

Shannon Walker, who organized the rally with Trans Pride Initiative, called the murders particularly violent involving stabbings and shootings.

 

 

—  David Taffet

Supreme Court sends Gavin Grimm case back to lower court

Gavin Grimm

The Supreme Court vacated a Virginia court’s ruling in favor of transgender teen Gavin Grimm after the Trump administration reversed Obama administration guidance to public schools on transgender bathroom use.

The Appeals Court ruled in favor of Grimm, a 17-year-old student, relying on Obama administration guidance that said transgender students should use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Now the court must decide if Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, extends to transgender people. If so, the lower court would again find in Grimm’s favor.

The Supreme Court was to hear the case in a few weeks. By the time the case returns to the Supreme Court, the court sill probably have at least one more conservative justice.

“Nothing about today’s action changes the meaning of the law,” Joshua Block, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s LGBT Project, said. “Title IX and the Constitution protect Gavin and other transgender students from discrimination.” Block is Grimm’s lead attorney.

“The Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to end the painful discrimination currently faced by tens of thousands of transgender students nationwide,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “The position previously taken by the Departments of Education and Justice lifted up best practices for K-12 schools to improve the lives of students and provide a clear path to opportunity.”

—  David Taffet

Trans candidate runs for GPISD school board

Johnny Boucher stays focused on teaching, not his gender identity

Boucher.Johnny

Johnny Boucher, right, at the We’re Not Going Back rally held recently at Resource Center, to protest anti-LGBT actions by the Trump administration. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Johnny Boucher said recently he has decided to run for Grand Prairie school board because he believes he can improve education in his city.

Although Boucher lives in Grand Prairie, he teaches children ages 3-to-6 at the Eduardo Mata Montessori School in the Lakewood area of Dallas. That school had been slated to close because of declining enrollment. But when the neighborhood was polled, residents said they’d return their children to public school if an innovative school opened. So after three years as a Montessori school, with mixed-age classes of children learning at their own pace, the school is looking at a waiting list longer than its total enrollment has been.

“Eccentric teaching and teachers are drawn there,” Boucher said of the school, adding that he is proud to count himself among the eccentric. But how have parents reacted to their kids having a transgender teacher? There’s been a “cool factor” about it, Boucher said.

This wasn’t Boucher’s first teaching assignment in DISD. Before finding a home at Mata, Boucher taught in a West Dallas school where students overall tested in the 33rd percentile. During his first year at the school, his students tested in the 90th percentile.

When the principal called him to the office to discuss it, Boucher said he was expecting a pat on the back. Instead, he was accused of giving his students the answers to the tests. He said he discovered that the principal had expected students to fail, and had expected Boucher’s students to fare even worse, since Boucher is transgender.

Even though he only recently announced his campaign for Grand Prairie school board, Boucher said he has quickly learned that some people in his district are suspicious. They want to know if he is running just to get protections for transgender teachers added to the district’s policies.

Grand Prairie’s enumerated anti-bullying policy is already as good as those in place in the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts so that’s not an issue, Boucher said. But he readily admits that he thinks it would be nice if Grand Prairie ISD, which does have explicit protections in place for its LGBT students, would extend those protections to its faculty and staff.

Still, that’s not why he’s running.

As a teacher, he said, he’s had success. But as a school board member, he added, he could work with an entire district to help implement the kinds of teaching methods he knows work.

Boucher, who’s been living a quiet life in Grand Prairie for nine years, married his wife Ashley in 2014, before the Obergefell marriage equality decision. When a question arose of how transgender people should be regarded by county clerks regarding issuing marriage licenses, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott said sex should be based on birth certificates. But since Ashley is also transgender, their birth certificates at the time showed them to be an opposite-sex couple.

So getting a marriage license wasn’t a problem. The couple just showed their documents at the county clerk’s office, which proved their eligibility. It was finding an officiant that proved difficult.

With marriage license in hand, the couple wanted to be married by a judge so their marriage would be less likely to be challenged. They also didn’t want to just show up and surprise a judge who might be uncomfortable with the situation, so they began making calls.

“We mostly talked to clerks who never called us back,” Boucher said. One clerk kept them on hold for more than an hour before telling them he’d get back to them — and then never did.

One judge told them he wouldn’t be comfortable doing their wedding.

They ended up speaking to a dozen Dallas County judges before they got through to Judge Carl Ginsberg, who understood the marriage was perfectly legal under Texas law. So on Valentine’s Day, Ginsburg married the couple. So many people attended, Boucher said, Ginsberg had to change courtrooms to accommodate the crowd.

At the time, Boucher was still teaching in West Dallas, and their wedding got quite a bit of publicity on local news. Afterwards, at school, Boucher noticed that he started getting written up for trumped-up infractions. So at the end of the school year, Boucher changed campuses and his former principal was investigated on a variety of issues, including accusing Boucher of giving students answers to standardized tests.

By June, Boucher will have earned his masters degree from SMU. He said he finished all required course work last semester and is currently taking a few electives. Since transferring to his current school in Lakewood, he’s been named Teacher of the Year and received two innovative teaching awards.

Boucher said he’s often thought it was “a shame that I can’t help other teachers do this better.” And he said he’d thought of running for school board before. But the tipping point, he said, was the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

Boucher said issues he would want to address include teacher pay in Grand Prairie, which is lower than in Dallas. While GPISD pays based on years of service, Dallas has a program called Teacher Excellence Initiative, which pays successful teachers higher salaries.

“That keeps highly-qualified teachers” in the district, Boucher said.

Lots of DISD teachers live in Grand Prairie, Boucher said, adding that as a GPISD trustee he would look at what Grand Prairie can do about compensation that might attract some of those teachers to work closer to home.

Boucher knows his election will be a tough battle, but he hopes people focus on his being a good teacher rather than his being transgender.             

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 3, 2017.

—  David Taffet

Senate committee votes to allow doctors to lie to women

Texas Sen. Brandon Creighton

SB25 — which would allow doctors to withhold information from pregnant women about the status of their fetus and then, if the child were born with a deformity or disability, prevent the parents from suing the doctor for withholding the information — has passed out of the Senate Committee on State Affairs on an 8-0 vote and is headed to the full Senate.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, the author of the bill, said current law sends the message that “wrongful births” are real and discriminates against children born with disabilities. “The presence of a disability in a child should not be grounds for a lawsuit,” Creighton said. “I feel that Senate Bill 25, if passed, would be in line with a large majority of Texans and their values.”

The purpose of the bill is to prevent women, who may consider an abortion if the fetus is not properly forming, from deciding whether or not to abort the fetus.

Blake Rocap, legislative director for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said, “We shouldn’t have to stand up and say that it shouldn’t be policy for the state of Texas to excuse doctors from lying to their patients, and that is what this bill does.”

Creighton has served in the Texas Senate since 2014 and voted against a bill requiring vaccines for minors and against a bill to prohibit texting while driving. I guess because he thinks contracting diseases and being killed while driving are both good things?

—  David Taffet

Democrats call on attorney general to resign

Rep. Marc Veasey

During his confirmation hearings, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had no contact with Russian officials. But The Washington Post has now reported that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice over the last year while Sessions was involved in the Trump campaign.

Republicans have called on Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. But Democrats are calling on Sessions to resign after perjuring himself during the confirmation hearings.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, is among those calling on Sessions to resign. Veasey released the following statement today (Thursday, March 2):

“Despite swearing under oath that he had no contact with Russian officials during the 2016 Presidential campaign, it is now clear that Attorney General Sessions was not honest and forthright in his responses. While I opposed Session’s original nomination based on his deplorable civil rights record, this latest revelation makes it even clearer that he is not fit to hold our country’s highest law enforcement position.

“I repeat House Democrats’ call to create an independent, bi-partisan investigation into Russian influence on the presidential campaign and within the Trump administration. Republicans have repeatedly ignored our requests and instead continued to shield the Trump administration from a fair, transparent investigation. The American people deserve answers and it is time for Attorney General Sessions to recuse him from any Russian related investigation and resign from his position permanently.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson called on Trump to appoint an independent prosecutor:

“It is not enough for Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself for an independent investigation into President Trump’s Russian ties. If it is proven that he was not truthful under oath then he cannot represent the American people because he has lost our confidence in his ability to review any question brought before him. In a written questionnaire by the Senator Leahy, a Judiciary Committee Democrat, asked ‘had [Sessions] been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.’ Sessions replied, ‘no.’ Of all the people in the Cabinet you expect to be above any question of honesty is the Attorney General. If the allegations are proven to be truthful, it does not matter if the president stands by Attorney General Sessions, the American people should not.  As a symbol of law enforcement above reproach, we need an Attorney General that exemplifies as such.

“This is all the more reason why we need to commission an independent, non-partisan entity to investigate the seriousness of these allegations with president’s political, personal and financial connections with Russia.”

—  David Taffet

Cathedral of Hope brings ashes to the Crossroads

The Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas and Pastor Erin were out on the Crossroads to celebrate Lent and offered ashes to anyone who wanted them.

—  David Taffet

The cost of winning Texas elections

Texas House incumbent Kenneth Sheets spent $548,844.71 and received 27,009 votes in the 2016 election — a cost of $20.32 for every voten he received.

That’s double what his challenger, Victoria Neave, spent to win the election. Neave spent $288,794.67 and won with 27,837 votes, which translates to $10.37 per vote.

The figures have just been released by the Texas Tribune.

North Dallas incumbent state Rep. Linda Koop spent $258,827.11 to get 31,506 votes, or $8.22 per vote. State Rep. Jason Villalba spent $256,653.15 or $6.85 per vote in his re-election bid. South Dallas state Rep. Yvonne Davis spent $2.27 per vote.

Of the two lesbians serving in the Texas House, Austin’s Celia Israel spent $122,270.80 or $2.82 for each vote she received. El Paso’s Mary Gonzalez was unopposed and no expenditures are reported in the Texas Tribune report.

Locally in the U.S. House, Rep. Jeb Hensarling spent the most money on his re-election campaign: $1,188,686.86 to garner 155,149 or $7.66 per vote.

Rep. Pete Sessions spent the most on a race that was uncontested by a Democrat. Sessions did have Green Party and Libertarian Party opponents. He spent $541,375.13 to receive 162,212 or $3.34 per vote in a district that also voted for Clinton.

In other local races, Rep. Marc Veasey spent $3.43 per vote in his re-election effort. Rep. Sam Johnson spent $1.20 per vote received. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson spent $.59 per vote.

—  David Taffet