Texas: A not-so-great state

As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell

Phyllis Guest | Taking NoteGuest.Phyllis.2

It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.

Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.

Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.

Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.

But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.

There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:

We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.

We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.

Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.

Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.

Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.

Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.

And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.

And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.

The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.

We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.

Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.

They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.

They are most certainly not creating good jobs.

So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

God help us.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Students from W.E. Greiner Middle School donate 65 frozen turkeys to HIV/AIDS food pantry

Macario Hernandez, left, assistant principal of W.E. Greiner Middle School, and Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC #4871.

Last week we reported that Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS won’t be able to offer turkeys to its clients this Thanksgiving, due to increased demand and declining donations. However, it turns out the pantry will have at least 65 frozen turkeys to give out that were dropped off last Friday by folks from Dallas’ LGBT chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. According to LULAC #4871 President Jesse Garcia, the turkeys were donated by the families of students at W.E. Greiner Middle School.

“I want to publicly thank Greiner Middle School and their assistant principal Macario Hernandez for donating much-needed protein to the Resource Center Dallas food pantry,” Garcia said. “This food pantry helps people of all ages from every part of the city who are affected by HIV. These clients have to deal with being sick and at times are unable to work. Some have to sacrifice between paying for their expensive medicine or affording a good meal. Greiner Middle School just made a big difference.”

Read Garcia’s full press release below.

Resource Center Dallas facilities manager Lionel Solis, left, and volunteer Luis Zarate.

—  John Wright

Holy ‘Trinity!’

DTC world premiere trilogy captures Oak Cliff experience

The Trinity River Plays
SET PIECES | The glorious set design of ‘The Trinity River Plays’ is just one of its artistic successes. (Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux)

THE TRINITY RIVER PLAYS
Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St.
Through Dec. 5. $15–$85.
DallasTheaterCenter.org.

………………………….

The Trinity River Plays take place in and around the kitchen of my first house in Oak Cliff. The yellow appliances and yellow vinyl chairs and table. The metal plant stand. The screen door that snaps closed with a long, thin spring. The tree too close to the house — every house I’ve had in Oak Cliff has had a tree too close to the house.

Longtime Dallas residents will probably pick up on different details —the Yahtzee game on a dresser in a back room in the first play changed out for a more modern one in the second. Designer Tony Rosenthal deserves kudos for that perfect set. It’s enough alone to recommend the play.

But it is not the only reason to recommend it. Just as good are the magnificent performances in this sweeping drama.

In “Part I: Jarfly,” Iris (Karen Aldridge) is a 17-year-old graduate of South Oak Cliff High School, Class of ’78, bound for an SMU education — and, she’s sure, greatness. By “Part III: Ghost(story),” she has evolved from aspiring writer and high school nerd to successful New York author and editor. But when she returns to Oak Cliff for a birthday visit with her mother Rose (24’s Penny Johnson Jerald), her success is not good enough. After all, no one liked her sixth book, Rose points out.

So complete is Aldridge’s transformation it takes a moment to recognize her from play to play. She’s never better than when she’s tossing lines with Jacqueline Williams as Aunt Daisy. Without understanding the irony, Daisy argues how important marriage is — which is why she’s been married three times. (Williams is also great with a garden hose. Don’t fear sitting in the first couple of rows — her aim is perfect.)

Playwright Regina Taylor, best known on Dallas stages for her play Crowns, staged by Dallas Theater Center in 2005, writes sharp and witty dialogue for this family of strong characters. When the play moves to the Goodman Theater in Chicago in January, some of the references will be lost: Born at Parkland, the Hampton Road Y, the long-gone Bishop College, going for lunch at H.L. Green’s add to that Dallas sense of place. But for locals, it simply adds to the richness. (A reference to the Trinity River Project “getting underway any day now” in a scene set in 1996 gets a big laugh from the audience.)

By opening the play in Dallas, the cast (none from here) absorbed their Oak Cliff surroundings, doing a wonderful job of conveying the place before traveling with the show. Even the thunderstorm felt like authentic North Texas weather — just more predictable.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Anti-gay TX GOP platform inspires 2 straight guys from Dallas to bike across the country for HRC

Chris Linville, left, and Justin Snider

Chris Linville and Justin Snider set out Friday morning on a training ride that will take them to Austin and back by Monday night, according to an e-mail we received from Carl L. Andrews of HRC’s DFW Federal Club this morning.

Linville and Snider, both straight Dallas residents, are training for Bike For Equality 2011, a 5,000 mile cross-country tour beginning in March to promote awareness of the fight for LGBT equality. The tour, part of HRC’s “Athletes for Equality” Program, aims to raise $100,000 for the organization.

According to the video below, Chris was raised by lesbian parents and was inspired to do the ride in part by the anti-gay Texas GOP platform.

“I recently read the Texas GOP’s platform and in that I read a lot of things that set me off,” he says. “They want to make it illegal for gay and lesbian couples to have children and have custody of children. Obviously that would have had a huge effect on me personally growing up. If that were the case my parents couldn’t have had custody of me. … When I read the Texas GOP platform it set me into a place where I felt this was what I needed to do, and if I could bring my message or bring attention and awareness to as many people as possible, that’s what I needed to do. In order to bring attention to it, you’ve got to do something that’s a little over the top. You have to really step out there and show that you believe in it, and that’s what I think we’re trying to do.”

To donate to the ride, go here.

—  John Wright