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

Drawing Dallas

Even with a big family (3 kids and 5 grandkids), retired schoolteacher Richard John du Pont projects a dandy’s fashion sense

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name: Richard John du Pont

Occupation: Retired elementary school teacher

Spotted at: Kroger’s on the Strip

Colorful and vibrant, Richard was born and reared in upstate New York in a small town on the Mohawk River called Crescent. Retired since 2003, this tireless educator spent 30 years teaching 4th and 6th grades, and continues as a substitute teacher for the Dallas I.S.D (Sam Houston Elementary and Maple Lawn Elementary). He graduated with a bachelor’s in elementary education from the Central University of Iowa and a has masters in education from North Texas State University at Denton.

A man of taste: This silver-haired taste maker owns an exquisite collection of antiques, tastefully chosen to accent his beautiful home. He also lends his skill and expertise as a salesman to two estate sales and as a sales rep for Metrotex at the four large annual shows at the Dallas Trade Center.

Daddy dearest: This proud patriarch of two sons, one daughter and five grandsons sees family as the root of his life. His close-knit clan lives in the area so he is able to spend a lot of time with his children and grandchildren.

His hobbies include volunteer work for DIFFA, Legacy Counseling Center and Fresh, as well as traveling, reading, working out at Gold’s Gym Uptown, dancing and shopping. He collects vintage clothing and jewelry (more than 100 suits at least — he attends the Cathedral of Hope every Sunday in one of them with an antique brooch), and Converse and Vans shoes.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Drawing Dallas

Makeup artist Tony Price is hoppy to be our Easter cover boy

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Name and age: Tony Price, 20

Spotted at: Intersection of Lemmon and McKinney

Occupation: Student in cosmetology and makeup; model

Born in Tulsa, this tall, fit Virgo moved here from Tangipahoa Parrish, La., five months ago to continue his education in cosmetology and make-up. Tony grew up the middle son between two sisters, and in school excelled in track and field, and he continues to stay in shape by running and lifting weights. He enjoys meditation, dance, the arts and, of course, makeup.

Tony remembers the fifth grade very well. That was the year a cousin, who was then in cosmetology school, sparked an interest in him becoming interested in doing hair. His grandmother, a fabulous cook, tempted him to consider a career in the culinary arts, but makeup won out and Tony continues his education to become an artist extraordinaire. His goal is to own his own spa and become celebrated for his cosmetic skills.

Tony will spend his Easter with family, sharing good times and a great meal that he will cook himself.

—  John Wright

Antigay Rep Heads Education Subcommittee

Virginia Foxx x390 (fair) | ADVOCATE.COMAs states and school districts are looking for ways to reduce harassment
and bullying in the classroom, a representative who was vehemently
opposed to the passage of last year’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd,
Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will head the higher education
subcommittee in the House of Representatives.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Glee Spoiler: Special Education


Stay out of the comments if you haven’t yet seen tonight’s episode. Otherwise, dive in and dish the strangeness. (The above clip may vanish from YouTube, of course.)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Panels from AIDS quilt on display in Plano

Lavonne Barrows points to a quilt panel she made in 2004

Panels from the Names Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt will hang at Event1013 in Plano through Wednesday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

Among the 13 panels are those from AIDS Services of Dallas and the Round-Up Saloon.

Lavonne Barrows is a quilt monitor. Her son has been HIV-positive for 20 years. Along with C.U.R.E. President Rosemary Odom, she made several of the panels hanging in Plano. The panels she made honor children from the Bless Gerard’s Children’s Home in Mandeni kwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. The panels were sewn in 2004 and presented to the Names Project on World AIDS Day that year.

Odom explained that they had gotten permission to honor the orphanage’s children who died of AIDS. About a year later, the couple who ran the home was ambushed and murdered.

The display is presented by Community Unity Respect Education, or C.U.R.E., a Plano-based group that educates about AIDS through displays of the Quilt.

Event1013, 1013 E. 15th St., Plano. Nov. 29-30 until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by a reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Free parking is available in a lot across the street that is accessible from 14th Street.

—  David Taffet

Arkansas Department Of Education Condemns Anti-Gay Remarks Made By School Board Member Clint McCance

The Arkansas state Department of Education has issued a statement denouncing the anti-gay remarks made by local Independence County school board member Clint McCance, who used Facebook to celebrate the suicides of LGBT teenagers and the deaths of gay people from AIDS. The DOE’s statement does not appear in the above-linked Associate Press story other than their word “dismayed.”

The posting said to be from Midland School Board member Clint McCance came after last week’s nationwide move for people to wear purple ribbons in support of gay and lesbian youth. The posting, first reported on The Advocate’s website, said that the only way McCance would wear purple is “if they all commit suicide.” McCance couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday but told the Arkansas Times that the issue had been “blown out of proportion” and he plans to issue a statement later in the day. The Facebook page has since been disabled but a screen-grab remains on The Advocate’s website. The Human Rights Campaign has called for McCance’s resignation. The state Education Department’s statement Wednesday said it is “dismayed” over the posting.

A Little Rock-based television station is looking for McCance.

After receiving several emails alleging Midland school board member Clint McCance made disparaging remarks about gay students, Today’s THV is investigating the allegations. McCance is accused of posting on his Facebook page that several recent suicides of gay students across the U.S. were due to those students’ sin. He also allegedly made other comments bashing gays. Today’s THV has not confirmed McCance actully made the posts, but B.J. Steed is in Midland, which is just outside Batesville in Independence County, trying to contact McCance as well as other school board members. Today’s THV contacted Superintendent Dean Stanley’s office, but he is out until Friday. Midland Principal Donna Clark would only reply “no comment” to all our questions. In response to the comments on Facebook, someone set up another Facebook page calling for McCance to be removed from the board. THV’s BJ Steed will have more on this developing story on Today’s THV at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.

MSNBC is reporting on the story as I type this. I’ll have video ASAP.

UPDATE: Here’s the statement from the Arkansas Department of Education.

The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and is dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook. Because Mr. McCance is an elected official, the department has no means of dealing with him directly. However, the department does have staff who investigate matters of bullying in schools and we will monitor and quickly respond to any bullying of students that may occur because of this, as we have with other civil rights issues in the past.

UPDATE II: The Advocate reports that McCance may keep his job.

“In Arkansas law, the only way to recall a school board member is over a felony [committed by him or her] or absentee issues,” said Julie Johnson Thompson, the director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education in Little Rock. Thompson says McCance, as an elected official, answers to voters, not Midland school district’s superintendent. “[The Arkansas Department of Education] doesn’t have any control over his job,” Thompson pointed out.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

WATCH: Laura Bush speaks out against anti-gay bullying, says she’s proud of Joel Burns

Last week we noted that former first lady and Dallas resident Laura Bush, despite her stated support for equality for same-sex couples and her longtime focus on education, hadn’t said anything about the gay teen bullying and suicide crisis. Well who knows, maybe she was listening, because while Bush hasn’t yet made her own “It Gets Better” video, she did say this about the subject in an interview with ABC News (video above):

“Bullying in every kind, certainly gay teens, is really, really terrible, but any children, is terrible. And schools really need to make sure that bullying is not going on,” Bush says. “I was proud of the Fort Worth city councilmember [Joel Burns] that talked about it. I think that’s part of the ‘It’ll get better’ project. I think that’s what he said to children, to young gay teenagers is, ‘It will get better,’ and it’s really important for us to not allow bullying of any kind in schools.”

Coincidentally, Bush goes on to talk about a recent visit to North Dallas High School, which is where transgender student Andy Moreno was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen. Have a look.

—  John Wright

Dept of Education moves to aggressively curb anti-LGBT bullying

Today the Department of Education is sending out a letter to 15,000 school districts, colleges and universities nationwide providing new guidance on schools’ obligations under the Title IX Education Amendments of 1972 with respect to how those obligations apply to sex discrimination and sexual harassment directed at students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
In several cases over the last decade victims of anti-LGBT bullying have sued their schools over the discrimination and harassment they have suffered. The cases were the product of the intersection of two important Supreme Court cases from the late 1990′s: Davis v Monroe County Board of Education finding schools can be liable under Title IX for student on student harassment and Oncale v Sundowner Offshore Services finding sexual harassment can include harassment where the harasser and victim are of the same sex. Almost immediately, federal courts began finding some forms of discrimination and harassment of students by other students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation can violate Title IX. See for example Montgomery v. Independent School District No. 709, Flores v Morgan Hill Unified School District, Theno v Tonganoxie Unified School District, Ray v Antioch Unified School District and Schroeder v Maumee Board of Education.

In 1998, before both Supreme Court cases, the Dept of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had already pursued action based on Title IX in the matter of a formal complaint against an Arkansas school filed by the parents of a student who suffered anti-LGBT bullying and harassment so severe, his parents removed him from school. As a result, the school district changed a number of their policies and was required to better train faculty and staff to address harassment and bullying in the future.

But with today’s action, the Department of Education is trying to make such policy improvements nationwide by reminding schools of their obligations under the law and stressing the potential negative consequences of ignoring it, which include loss of federal funding and liability for damages in a lawsuit. From the letter being sent out:


Title IX prohibits harassment of both male and female students regardless of the sex of the harasser-i.e., even if the harasser and target are members of the same sex. It also prohibits gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping. Thus, it can be sex discrimination if students are harassed either for exhibiting what is perceived as a stereotypical characteristic for their sex, or for failing to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity. Title IX also prohibits sexual harassment and gender-based harassment of all students, regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or target.

Although Title IX does not prohibit discrimination based solely on sexual orientation, Title IX does protect all students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, from sex discrimination. When students are subjected to harassment on the basis of their LGBT status, they may also [...] be subjected to forms of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX. The fact that the harassment includes anti-LGBT comments or is partly based on the target’s actual or perceived sexual orientation does not relieve a school of its obligation under Title IX to investigate and remedy overlapping sexual harassment or gender-based harassment.

On Monday, the Department of Education announced the move and hosted a conference call with several members of the LGBT press.

Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate reports


“A lot of bullying experienced by LGBT kids is accompanied by or in the form of sexual harassment or gender-based harassment because students are perceived as not conforming to traditional gender roles,” explained the department’s assistant secretary for Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali. “We want to be sure that recipients understand that that kind of discrimination and harassment can very much be a violation of Title IX in federal civil rights laws.”



Institutions that receive complaints but fail to take action to protect students who are being unlawfully bullied or harassed could face legal action or financial penalties. Ali said those cases could be referred to the Department of Justice to go to court or they could result “in the withdrawal or termination or conditioning of all federal funds received from the Department of Education.”

Administration officials said the effort was a response to a rash of recent bullying episodes resulting in a series of suicides that have grabbed front-page headlines. Although DOE officials said 44 states have enacted basic anti-bullying laws, only 14 have laws protecting students on the basis of either their sexual orientation and gender identity, with another three protecting sexual orientation only according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Asst Secretary Ali stressed the importance and timing of the measure. In remarks reported by Dana Rudolph of Keen News Service, Ali said, “If students don’t feel safe in school, they simply cannot learn.”

Rudolph also noted “The U.S. Justice Department also intervened in January in the case of a New York teen who was bullied and physically hurt for being effeminate. Justice Department lawyers argued that the federal law against gender-based discrimination also applied to gender expression. In an out-of-court settlement, the school district agreed to pay the boy ,000, legal fees, and the cost of therapy.”

Asst Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Kevin Jennings, said that resources for schools, students and parents would be available at the web site bullyinginfo.org. Twenty years ago, Jennings, a former educator, founded the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a group dedicated to addressing homophobia, discrimination and bullying in schools and a key resource for many student lead Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) around the country that promote tolerance in schools. According to Eleveld, Jennings said the administration is trying to take a proactive role in protecting LGBTQ youth, especially in light of recent events:

“In this administration, we plan to apply the letter of the law to fullest extent of the law in order to extend the greatest level of protections humanly possible to LGBT students,” Jennings said.

There are currently two bills pending in Congress that are relevant to the topic of bullying of LGBTQ youth: the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) which is sponsored by openly gay Colorado U.S. Rep. Jared Polis. When asked by Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly whether the administration supports the bills, Asst Sec Ali responded, “We certainly support the goals of both Polis’s bill and the bill on safe and healthy schools,” but declined to give either an endorsement. “Today, though, is about using the tools at our disposal now.”


This is precisely the kind of move on LGBT issues the Administration has needed to make for a long time. Just two months ago, I said as much in a diary on Daily Kos on the administration’s lack of coherent messaging compounding a lack of sufficient action on the issues. Hopefully this won’t be the only “proactive” move the administration intends to make on LGBT issues. Several people on twitter late yesterday tweeted that a meeting would take place today between top White House officials and gay rights groups (used in plural, so hopefully that means more than just HRC is invited). Just yesterday, HRC President Joe Solmonese changed course and joined the growing chorus lead by GETEqual and Dan Choi calling for the President to drop the appeal of the DADT case and/or issues a stop loss order to halt DADT discharges. See indiemcemopants’ diary for more info on that “shocking” turn of events. Could we be in store for a new aggressive move to insure the authorization of a potential repeal of DADT in passed in Congress and some sort of plan B if attempts to pass the legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act fail? Stay tuned.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin