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October 25th, 2012:

Carona comes out for equality

I have three things to say about this.

Sen. John Carona

In a rare if not unprecedented move for a Republican state legislator in Texas, Dallas Sen. John Carona expressed support for three key pieces of pro-equality legislation on Monday.

Carona told Instant Tea he would support bills in Texas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment; offer domestic partner benefits to state university employees; and allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both names on birth certificates.

All three measures are expected to be priorities for Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT equality group, in the upcoming legislative session.

Carona also said he is “evolving” on same-sex marriage but added that he’s “not there yet.”

“I’m very undecided on the issue and I struggle with it,” Carona said of marriage equality. “I think the whole country is evolving, and I know for a fact that our young people are evolving including young Republicans.

“I can’t say that I’m there yet, that would be dishonest, but I can say that it’s a question that I find myself asking myself over and over,” Carona added. “What is the most conservative approach? Well, I’m always told less government, not more government, is better. What is the right thing? Well, I think anything that advances, encourages monogamy is a good thing. And frankly how could you be against people who want to get their affairs in order and have a loving household? So, yeah, I’m evolving, but admittedly I’m not there yet, nor do I believe the district is there yet, but times change and things may change.”

1. First and foremost, good for you, Sen. Carona. May there be many more, from both parties, who follow your lead. And may you survive the inevitable primary challenge that will come your way in your next election.

2. With another federal appeals court declaring the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) unconstitutional, the issue of marriage equality could become salient in Texas again. Sen. Carona says he’s “not there yet” on marriage equality, but it’s clear he’s on his way and that he will arrive in good time. It’s amazing to me that less than a decade after banning marriage equality was a huge electoral priority for the Republicans, the issue has completely turned around and is now a wedge that favors the Democrats, at least nationally. I don’t know what public opinion is like here in Texas, but after President Obama came out, the shift in favor of marriage equality has been noticeable, especially among people of color. I wouldn’t bet against the ridiculous Double Secret Illegal Anti-Gay Marriage constitutional amendment passing again in Texas if it were on the ballot this year, but it would sure get a lot less than 76%. And hopefully, someday soon, when the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA and eventually clears a path for marriage equality everywhere, I look forward to seeing all the intolerant jerks who pushed that awful and unnecessary piece of crap choke on it.

3. Inevitably, more Republicans will begin to follow Sen. Carona’s lead on this. When they do, it will erode the Democrats’ growing political advantage on the issue. And you know what? I’m totally fine with that. I’m more than happy to fight it out politically over other issues. The day that there is across-the-board political consensus in favor of marriage equality, America will be a much better place.

Will the Astrodome derail our Super Bowl bid?

Heaven forbid.

Is the end in sight?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told a crowd on Tuesday that by 2017, Reliant will be 15 years old and therefore in need of some upgrades like digital scoreboards. Texans owner Bob McNair says the city must look at all its venues when wooing the NFL, and on the top of that list is the Astrodome.

At a luncheon in downtown Tuesday afternoon, Goodell talked about only one facility as he addressed Houston’s bid for Super Bowl 51.

“The stadium is critical to any Super Bowl bid. That’s our stage,” he said.

But McNair is clearly concerned about the one that sits right next to it.

“We need to come to the conclusion as to what’s going to be done with the Astrodome. It’s not a pretty sight sitting there now and it’s noticeable and people comment on it, so we need to make a decision and move on,” McNair said.

Once again, what to do with the Astrodomee; this time as it affects the city’s chance of hosting a third Super Bowl in 2017, and leading the charge for urgency is McNair.

“It’s just another issue and the better the facilities are that we can make available to the league, the more attractive Houston is as a site,” McNair said.

And the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World, as it is, is useless. It’s a costly health hazard that’s been closed for five years.

Demolition and repurposing are on the table. Harris County commissioners want the people to decide at the ballot box sometime next year. It can still fit into the bid timeline, says Greg Ortale with the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, but addressing it is a must.

“I think if we don’t address it in the bid, I think it could be a problem,” Ortale said.

That sound you hear is County Judge Ed Emmett breaking open a new case of Maalox. Commissioners Court chose to defer on a Dome-related referendum this year. We may have yet another report on what to do with the Dome, but we don’t have a consensus yet, and it’s not clear to me how a vote on the Dome’s fate would go. But since I’m sure that nobody will want to be blamed for fumbling away the opportunity to host another Super Bowl, I feel fairly confident that we’re going to get the chance to take that vote real soon.

The Chron doesn’t mention the Dome, but it does discuss the scoreboard in Reliant Stadium as another thing that Must Be Dealt With before the NFL makes its decision.

Mark Miller, general manager of SMG-Reliant Park, explained what has to happen for Reliant Stadium to get a new digital scoreboard in time for the 2013 season.

“It would be physically possible to be in by next season, but it would be an issue of whether the funding would work out,” Miller said. “Right now, we’re working with the Texans, the rodeo and the county to see what we can do to get a new scoreboard.

“We’ve got a number of issues with it, but the one (scoreboard) we have now is an older format that really causes problems with the resolution — the overall picture. We’re trying to get it back to standard, an exciting enhancement for the fans.

“Hopefully, it’ll be state-of-the-art for a long time.”

The Texans and the rodeo will have to agree on a new scoreboard, and then they’ll have to work out a plan with the county to pay for it. Representatives of the rodeo are “taking the lead,” according to Miller, and talking with manufacturers of scoreboards.

I’m thinking that with the pace of technological change, nothing is “state of the art” for long. I’d settle for “sufficiently adequate”, with the capability to up upgraded or expanded or whatever in a cost-effective manner, for a long time. The cost estimate for a new scoreboard ranges from $10 million to $30 million, and some of that money could come from a state trust fund that uses tax money to help communities play host to major sports events, of which both Reliant and JerryWorld have been beneficiaries. Frankly, the scoreboard will be the much easier obstacle to overcome than the Dome.

Endorsement watch: Lampson and Gallego

I mentioned on Monday that the Chron had endorsed Nick Lampson for CD14. Yesterday, they wrote the endorsement editorial for him.

Nick Lampson

Lampson, a native of Beaumont, first came to Congress in 1996 and served four terms from the Golden Triangle area before being defeated in 2004. He served another term from 2008-2010 in the district long represented by disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Now aiming to represent a district that includes miles of hurricane-prone Texas Gulf Coast and is the center for the nation’s refining and petrochemical industries, Lampson says he would “at least study” the Ike Dike to protect both the Texas Medical Center and the complex that makes so much of the nation’s plastics and gasoline.

We can only do so, he contends, by being less centered in one party and reaching across the aisle.

We share that view. The tradition of working out things together is the beating heart of a functioning democracy. We urge voters in Congressional District 14 to cast their ballots for the candidate who practices that virtue admirably and effectively: Nick Lampson.

There’s also the fact that Lampson has a record of outstanding constituent service as a member of Congress. He has always worked hard for the people he has represented.

Over the weekend Lampson also picked up the endorsements of the other two newspapers in the district. Here’s the Galveston Daily News:

Former Congressman Nick Lampson, a Democrat, has obviously been following issues in Galveston County closely. That attention to what’s happening here, as opposed to what’s happening elsewhere, would be welcome. The seat is being vacated by Ron Paul, who appeared to be more focused on national ideological debates than on local interests.

And the Beaumont Enterprise:

U.S. Rep., District 14: Nick Lampson, D.
Lampson has a solid track record as a moderate who works hard for Southeast Texas.

U.S. Rep., District 36: Max Martin, D.
He’s a former airline pilot with an impressive record as an entrepreneur. He’s also not Steve Stockman.

I threw in that Max Martin endorsement because how could I not? Not being Steve Stockman isn’t a sufficient reason to support someone, but it’s a pretty good head start. I should note that both papers also endorsed Romney and Cruz, each demonstrating a touching faith in the magic of business experience and the deficit-reduction fairy, so make of that what you will.

Meanwhile, out west in CD23, the two major papers there made their endorsements for Pete Gallego. Here’s the Express News.

We recommend that voters cast ballots for Democrat Pete Gallego in District 23. The veteran state representative from Alpine is challenging freshman U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco.

Canseco is too extreme for the poor district. For example, his harsh position on immigration and opposition to a pathway to citizenship is out of touch in a congressional district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso.

As a member of the Texas House, Gallego demonstrated an ability to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He will be a strong addition to the Texas congressional delegation.

And here’s the El Paso Times.

Pete Gallego

Alpine’s Pete Gallego has long been a good friend of El Paso in his role as a state representative. We now need this fellow West Texan as an ally in Washington, D.C.

Gallego is running for the congressional seat that represents about 100,000 El Paso County residents in a district that spans from a part of our Lower Valley to San Antonio.

This is a chance for El Paso to have two U.S. representatives with El Paso ties, and with El Paso’s needs on their agenda. The rest of our city, more than half a million people, are represented by the District 16 representative.

We especially like Gallego’s forte of working as a moderate. As he said, “Congress needs coalitions” to get positive actions going again.

Gallego said he will work to maintain Medicare and Social Security, citing District 23’s aging population. He said the Veterans Administration is underfunded and he will work to rectify that.

“The system needs moderate people who are practical,” Gallego said.

We urge District 23 voters to send Pete Gallego to Congress on Nov. 6.

These are the two opportunities for Democrats to win seats currently held by Republicans. Newspaper endorsements may not mean much, but I’d rather have them than not. It’s a little boost of confidence if nothing else.

UPDATE: Former President Bill Clinton will be in Texas today to attend rallies for both candidates, one for Gallego in San Antonio, and one for Lampson in Beaumont:

On Thursday, former President Bill Clinton will join Congressman Nick Lampson in support of his campaign for the 14th congressional district of Texas. This will be a Get-Out-The-Vote rally to encourage people to vote early in support of Nick Lampson for Congress. The event will take place at Vincent-Beck Stadium at Lamar University on Jim Gilligan Way, Beaumont, Texas.

The event is free and open to the public.

WHO: President Bill Clinton and Nick Lampson

WHAT: Get-Out-The-Vote rally for Nick Lampson. President Clinton will talk about the 2012 election and why Nick Lampson is the best choice for the 14th district

WHEN: 6:00 PM on Thursday, October 25th

WHERE: Vincent-Beck Stadium – Lamar University, Jim Gilligan Way, Beaumont, TX 77705

Hope you can make it.

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 22

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds everyone that early voting is now underway as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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