Congressmen urge FCC to end blocking of LGBT content

Mike_With_BullhornRep. Mike Honda, D-C.A., sent a letter to officials at the Federal Communications Commission Thursday, Sept. 25, urging the commission to ensure that federally-mandated online filtering software used at public schools and libraries do not block resources for the LGBT community, according to a statement released by Honda’s office. He was joined by 13 members of Congress and 20 other organizations.

In the letter, Honda notes, “It has been reported to me that filtering software also can be used to block much more. Regrettably, Internet content filtering software can — intentionally or unintentionally — be used to block access to particular viewpoints in a discriminatory manner.”

Honda is the founder and chair of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus.

In a statement, Ian Thompson of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Unintentionally or not, internet filtering software can be employed in a discriminatory manner that denies LGBT students in crisis a much-needed lifeline for support. The FCC now has an opportunity to address this problem, and they should act to do so.”

You can read the full letter here.

—  James Russell

FEEDBACK: Valuing our human infrastructure

Valuing our human infrastructure

For years, politicians have talked about the under-funded public infrastructure like highways, water lines, sewer systems and basic transportation.

There is another infrastructure that is being under-funded in this city and state in particular: our “human infrastructure.”

In educational terms, we are regressing.

When I was growing up, my school district supplied the basics for a well-rounded education. I took what I learned and then expanded my knowledge at my local county-funded library, and went on to graduate with honors at Angelo State University.

Today’s children receive a poorer quality education because Texas no longer properly funds public schools K-12, and our public libraries are being starved of resources. A university education that cost me $4 a credit hour has now increased 10 times or more since I went to school.

While libraries are being destroyed by budget cuts, the need for a strong library is greater than ever. The population that our schools serve face greater challenges since so many come from homes where English is not the first language in the home.

Despite this challenge for children and adults, ESL class funding has been slashed. Dallas Independent School District has a 50 percent dropout rate, and GED class funding has been slashed.

The state of Texas has eliminated funding for the online databases for K-12 and DISD has reduced the number of school librarians.

Each of these reductions by other government agencies has increased the demand by citizens of Dallas and other Texas cities to use public libraries; however, the city of Dallas has reduced our library spending by approximately 40 percent over the last three budget years.

We would be lucky were our library merely “decimated,” i.e. reduced by a tenth. We now spend less money per capita on libraries than Fort Worth, Austin, Houston or San Antonio. Despite this lack of funding, demand at Dallas Public Libraries has increased.

In the 2006 bond program, the voters approved approximately $60 million in funding for eight new or replacement libraries; unfortunately, those buildings are now short staffed and short of materials.

Each branch except for Hampton Illinois has only a branch manager for 2 ½ days a week since the branch managers cover two branches. The branch manager for North Oak Cliff also is responsible for West Dallas. By dividing their time, they barely have time to manage their branch, let alone get to know their neighborhoods.

Many branches no longer have children’s librarians even though it is critical to encourage children to love reading if they hope to succeed in life. Texas prisons are filled with men who read at a fourth grade level.

Our city is filled with unemployed men and women who lack the necessary job skills to compete in our global economy. If we do not invest in our children, our future as a community is doomed to failure.

It does not matter how much money we give in tax breaks if our citizens cannot read the English language. Companies may locate here but employ suburbanites who have better funded schools and libraries.

The choice is clear: Either we as a city invest in our library system, our cultural institutions where children and adults learn, or we are known as a city with beautiful monuments and a high unemployment rate.

If you want to change this situation, I would encourage you to contact your City Council member and the mayor of Dallas.  The proposed budget can still be changed. If you would like to help improve the Dallas Public Library System, you can join the Friends of the Dallas Public Library or your local branch Friends Group. If your branch does not have a Friends group, I can help you start a group.

Stan Aten, president, Hampton Illinois/Oak Lawn Library Friends

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Republicans won’t help economy

Why did the president of Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans give no evidence in his commentary (“Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2) as to why the GOP will help your pocketbook?

He couldn’t. They won’t. They never have.

Take stocks, the way many generate retirement, as well as current income:

DJIA up 223 percent during Clinton’s eight years, down 25 percent during the George W. Bush eight-year reign of error, and up only 46 percent during his daddy’s four-year term.

Jobs? More than 11 percent increase annualized during the Clinton presidency, under 1 percent when George W. Bush was in the White House.
How do I know the above information? I googled it.

Don’t be misled by Republicans who talk about being better on pocketbook issues. You only have to check with Google to know the Democrats have consistently done better.

Dave Gershner, Dallas
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Is Schlein nuts?

In re: “Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2, by Rob Schlein.

Is this guy nuts? Bring back “don’t ask, don’t tell?” A federal defense of straight only marriage amendment? America got it wrong in 2008?
Hundreds of millions of Americans think not.

Can we not be trusted to vote intelligently? How about we all do away with votes and have a permanent Republican government and bring back President Bush to save us from the recession he caused.

What kind of gay man would dare show his face and tell us to vote for the most homophobic party in politics? He must be very stupid, or on the GOP payroll.

Nathaniel Ash, via the Internet
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Flawed premise

Rob Schlein’s article about why he will vote Republican (“Why I will vote Republican in 2012,” Dallas Voice, Sept. 2) reminds me of the argument that many slaves were better off in bondage than they were after they were freed.

No level of economic privilege can compensate for the loss of basic civil rights. I will not live as a second-class citizen and hide in the closet, even if it buys me a nicer car and gets me a higher paying job.

Even if I accepted Mr. Schlein’s premise that voting Republican would lead to higher economic opportunities for the average person — which I don’t — the price is still too high. That’s why I will vote Democrat, no matter who is running. And I hope you will too.

Mark Swaim, Dallas

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

—  Michael Stephens

Losing our libraries

Here’s what the Legislature’s proposed budget cuts will really do to our library systems

PHYLLIS GUEST | Special Contributor

In their rush to close the biennial budget gap — brought about by a barely acknowledged statewide recession and a badly flawed statewide tax policy — the Texas governor and legislature are defunding our future.

No doubt you have read that the lege proposes enormous cuts to K-12 education and higher education. You may not have read that the same lege proposes to totally defund the Texas public library system.

Here’s what that means:

• Texshare Databases will lose $8 million. Texshare is a program through which all of the state’s public libraries, public and private universities, community colleges and libraries of clinical medicine gain access to information on topics from art to Zen.

• K-12 Database will lose $5 million. This statewide program offers thousands of full-text educational resources to students in Texas public schools. Think homework help.

• Loan Star Libraries will lose $13.4 million. This direct aid program provides grants to about 500 of the state’s public libraries, allowing them to extend hours, buy collections and equipment and offer educational programming.

• Remaining statewide programs will lose $3.5 million. This represents the elimination of money for upgrading systems, training staff and assisting bilingual learners.

When these four are cut to save the state just under $30 million over the two-year budget, a fifth source of funding will disappear:

The federal government provides $8 million in library support. But the feds only help states that help themselves; no participation means Texas forfeits all the money that now sustains interlibrary loans, job search software and hardware and outreach to rural and other underserved communities.

The Dallas Public Library System alone will lose $300,000 under the legislature’s proposals. It would be hard to overestimate the impact of such a loss, given that city of Dallas budget shortfalls over the past two years have forced cutbacks in staff and hours and that the coming budget year looks as bad or worse.

Not willing to let our libraries go down without a fight? Here are five things you can do:

• Find out more at txla.org/take-action

• Sign the petition you will find at that website.

• Call and email and write your state senator and representative.

• Write letters to the Dallas Morning News and other media.

• Check out the Oak Lawn Library (best LGBTQA collection).

• Volunteer at your local library and join its Friends group.

While our elected officials and media tell us Texas is the best of all possible worlds, we know that is untrue. We also know that it’s up to us to fight for our state’s intellectual infrastructure — and our future.

Phyllis Guest is a Democratic and LGBT activist living in Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright