AIDS housing funding survives challenge in Houston city council

Helena Brown

The city funding for four Houston nonprofits providing housing to at-risk populations living with HIV/AIDS survived a challenge from city council member Helena Brown last Wednesday. Under consideration by the council were ordinances to dispense almost $2.5 million in federal funds managed by the city to the SRO Housing Corporation, Bering Omega Community Services, Catholic Charities and SEARCH Homeless services.

Brown initially used a parliamentary procedure known as a “tag” to delay the funding for the Houston SRO Housing Corporation and Bering Omega. Any council member may tag an item under consideration, delaying the vote on the item for one week. Brown explained that she objected to government funding of charitable entities:

“I spoke last week on this very issue on grant funds and the idea that we are, you know, fighting with other entities and other governments for grant funds that really isn’t there. The federal government is in a worse condition than the city of Houston and to continue to try to milk the system where there’s no milk, is just, I mean, we’re fighting with our brothers, as I said last week, to get credit for who is going to push a friend over the cliff… We need to continue to look at the private sector and the business sector. Because even, I attended this event where this wonderful speaker was talking about the generosity of Americans and 80% of donations to nonprofits come from private individuals, not even corporations, and we need to continue to rely on that right now because the government right now, we’re broke – we need to face that reality.”

Other council members spoke passionately of the need for continued funding, arguing that by assisting people living with HIV/AIDS in achieving independence, particularly those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness,  the programs added to the tax based and help insure long-term stability.

“We don’t live in a perfect a world,” said freshman council member Mike Laster (the first out gay man to serve on the Houston City Council). “These organizations do their very best to raise money to care for the people among us, but they still need to reach out to entities that have that kind of capital, and by the grace of God this city and this government as an entity has some of that capitol, and I’m very proud that we’re able to provide those kind of services to some of my community members.”

Council member Wanda Adams, who serves as chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, also spoke in favor of continuing funding. Council member Ellen Cohen, whose district contains both SRO Housing and Bering Omega, spoke of how her life had personally been touched by AIDS:

“One of the first young men to pass away in New York City was a cousin of mine of something [then] called a very rare form on pneumonia… which we now realize was not. So I understand the need for these kinds of services. On a personal note I worked with Bering and I know all the fine work that they do, I’m addressing all the items but I’m particularly addressing [the Bering Omega funding] and feel it’s absolutely critical that we provide the kind of funding items, and that we are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.

After Laster asked Mayor Annise Parker the procedure for overriding a tag Brown removed her tag, but raised a new concern about HIV/AIDS housing, saying that her office had requested a list of the owners of apartment units where those receiving rental assistance lived. City Attorney David Feldman explained to Brown that federal law prohibits making public information that could be used to identify people receiving assistance through the housing program. Feldman said that, in his legal opinion, revealing the names of the owners of the apartments would violate federal law. Brown said that she was concerned that their might be a “conflict of interest” with apartment owners that needed to be investigated, claiming that as the reason for her tag.

Brown eventually removed her tag, rather than have it overturned. All four ordinances providing funding passed with only Brown voting “nay.”

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Ellis County Observer publisher Joey Dauben finally gets a court-appointed attorney

Joey Dauben

Joey Dauben, the publisher of the now-defunct Ellis County Observer, finally got to see a court-appointed lawyer this week to help him fight the three felony counts of child sexual abuse that have kept him in the Navarro County Jail without legal advice for almost two months now.

Edward Jendrzey, whose office is in Waxahachie in Ellis County, received the court-ordered appointment Thursday, Feb. 16. Jendrzey accepted the case after Steve Keathley, a Corsicana attorney whose wife is the president of the Navarro County Bar Association, declined an appointment by District Court Judge James Lagomarsino to represent the journalist.

In a telephone interview today, Jendrzey said, “Yes, he knows I’m representing him,” when asked whether he had met with his new client, who reached out for help from the media this week in a handwritten letter from jail. When a defendant declares himself to be indigent and asks for a court-appointed attorney, that is supposed to occur within 72 hours. In the letter, Dauben also again claimed he is innocent of the charges.

Jendrzey said his first step in Dauben’s representation will be to conduct an independent investigation of the case to learn the circumstances and to attempt to get Dauben’s $200,000 bond set by Lagomarsino lowered. “I’ll be meeting with the prosecutor about that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben’s family and friends have been unable to raise the 10 percent (or $20,000) payment bond agencies typically charge to get a defendant released from jail.

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WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

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Administration Asks Court to Delay DADT Challenge

Last week, the Justice Department filed a motion with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking it to delay the briefing schedule in Log Cabin Republicans v. Gates, the lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The Justice Department requested that the briefing schedule for the case be suspended following the legislative action to repeal DADT in December and pending implementation of the repeal of DADT by the Defense Department.  Notably, the Justice Department’s motion pledges to provide the Ninth Circuit with a status update on the implementation process within 90 days.

Final repeal of DADT occurs after the President, Defense Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness.  Once this happens, the law will be stricken from the United States Code following a 60-day waiting period.  The Justice Department’s request asks the Ninth Circuit to put the Log Cabin Republican case on hold during this period.

Based on the current briefing schedule in Log Cabin Republicans v. Gates, the Justice Department must file their brief defending the constitutionality of DADT by January 24th.  Lawyers for Log Cabin Republicans say they plan to oppose the Justice Department’s request for a delayed briefing schedule.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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The Hammer falls: corrupt pol Tom DeLay is going to the clink

This man embodied the GOP web of corruption and dealmaking, and a jury of his peers only took 19 hours to bring it all down on The Hammer.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay – once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress – was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge.

Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send 0,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can’t go directly to political campaigns.

DeLay opted to have Senior Judge Pat Priest sentence him. Under the charges he was convicted of, he faces 5 to life for the money laundering and 2 to 20 years on the conspiracy charge.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Former GOP House Majority Leader Tom Delay Found Guilty Of Money Laundering

Former Republican House majority leader and one-time Dancing With The Stars contestant Tom Delay has been convicted of multiple counts of money laundering. Delay was found guilty of funneling almost 0,000 to the campaigns of GOP House and Senate candidates.

“I still maintain that I am innocent,” DeLay told reporters. “The criminalization of politics undermines our very system. I’m very disappointed.” Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said the verdict showed no one was above the law. “This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically, and if not they’ll be held accountable,” Lehmberg said. DeLay’s sentencing was set for December 20, and he faces a possible maximum prison term of 99 years on the money laundering charge and 20 years on the conspiracy charge. Two other men facing charges in the case are awaiting trial. DeLay, a conservative Republican, helped Newt Gingrich spearhead the GOP revival in 1994 that won control of the House and Senate in the first midterm election under Democratic President Bill Clinton.

In 2006 Delay resigned from the House in the face of the scandal.

Joe. My. God.

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California AG Jerry Brown + Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Don’t Delay Prop 8′s Extermination

California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger both asked the Ninth District Court not to issue a stay order and immediately abolish Prop 8, despite the defense team's motion to hold off on the ruling taking effect until it exhausts appeals. The American Foundation for Equal Rights' Chad Griffin agrees: "The time for the court's ruling to go into effect is now. We welcome Governor Schwarzenegger's and Attorney General Brown's opposition to a stay after their thoughtful analysis of the evidence, the court's ruling and the law." All parties involved want the gay marriages to begin stat.


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