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August 7th, 2013:

Interview with CM Jack Christie

CM Jack Christie

CM Jack Christie

CM Jack Christie is serving his first term on Council in At Large #5, becoming one of only four people in the term limits era to defeat a sitting incumbent when he nipped former CM Jolanda Jones in a runoff. Previously, he had narrowly lost to Jones in a runoff in 2009, and removed himself from the running for what was then the open seat in AL5 in 2007 after residency issues came up. He served two terms on the State Board of Education in the 1990s – it turns out he was my SBOE representative, something I came to realize last year as I looked into the history of that SBOE district. He also served on the Spring Branch ISD Board of Trustees. He serves on several Council committees, including Budget & Fiscal Affairs and Public Safety. Here’s what we talked about:

Jack Christie interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Chron wants multiple multi-candidate debates

Don’t know if they’ll get what they want, but it can’t hurt to ask.

For the main show, mayoral candidate Ben Hall has called for six one-on-one debates with Mayor Annise Parker, albeit with three debates after early voting begins. Parker has rejected Hall’s proposal, agreeing only to one debate featuring multiple candidates.

Houston’s future is too important to limit the mayor’s race to one debate, and we’re far too diverse to restrict debates to an incumbent and a self-funded millionaire challenger. Putting multiple candidates on stage will provide a panoply of perspectives and a constructive conversation about our city’s needs. Municipal issues don’t always make for the most exciting discussions, but the horse-race atmosphere of elections provides a more compelling backdrop for topics like the city budget.

While we hope Ben Hall will use the debates to explain why he is spending his personal fortune on an uphill battle to unseat the mayor, the time for one-on-one debates is during a runoff. The general election should provide voters with multiple options for what our future will look like. Whether the race for mayor, controller or city council seats, voters are best served when candidates debate the issues and define what it means to be a city that is building forever.

See here for the background. It’s hardly clear to me that having candidates beyond Mayor Parker and Ben Hall in a debate will yield a “constructive conversation”. The candidates not named Parker or Hall would have to be running constructive campaigns for there to be some chance of that happening, and so far the evidence for that is lacking. The principle of democracy argues in favor of inclusiveness, but the principle of imparting useful information to as many voters as possible argues for limiting the debate to those that have something useful to say. Let whatever organizations that want to sponsor debates make their own decisions about who they want to invite, let Parker and Hall agree to abide by their decisions, and leave it at that. Campos has more.

Texas really needs Obamacare

We’ve always known that Texas would be a huge beneficiary of the Affordable Care Act because of our huge volume of uninsured people, but this quantifies it in a way that really brings it home.

It's constitutional - deal with it

It’s constitutional – deal with it

Texas is home to more than two-thirds of the nation’s 30 counties most in need of expanded health insurance coverage, according to a liberal group.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund ranked 22 Texas counties – including Dallas — as among the “30 worst” in the country, citing residents’ lack of insurance and poor health outcomes, such as heart attack deaths.

In a report released Thursday, the advocacy group said many Republican U.S. House members “are doing everything they can to torpedo” the federal health law despite having many constituents who would benefit from new state health marketplaces that will open on Oct. 1.

Dallas County, with 31 percent of residents uninsured, had the 14th-worst rate of health coverage among U.S. counties with more than 25,000 people, the report said.

Forty-five percent of Dallas County’s young adults — ages 18 to 39 – lacked insurance in 2011. Nine percent of all county residents have diabetes, which is a rate 13 percent higher than the national average, the group found. Nearly 15 of every 100,000 county residents die each year from stroke. That rate is 26 percent higher than the national average.

“There are just enormous human and economic inefficiencies from [having] a large number of uninsured persons in any county,” Tom Perriello, the group’s chief and a former Democratic congressman from Virginia, said in a media conference call.

While several of the Texas counties on the worst list are along the U.S.-Mexico border, the 22 were scattered in all regions of the state.

The report is here and the summary of it is here. What they did was rank the counties on six different factors:

  • Highest overall percentage of uninsured individuals under age 65
  • Highest percentage of uninsured women under age 65
  • Highest percentage of uninsured individuals ages 18 to 39
  • Highest percentage of uninsured young men
  • Highest percentage of uninsured people of color
  • Highest percentage of uninsured working-class individuals

The “bottom 30” list was then taken from the counties that did the worst overall on all six factors. Harris County scored among the worst on “Highest overall percentage of uninsured individuals” (#19, 29.9%); “Highest percentage of uninsured women under age 65” (#18, 28.8%); “Highest percentage of uninsured individuals ages 18 to 39” (#40, 43.1%); and “Highest percentage of uninsured working-class individuals” (#9, 34.2%), where that is defined as “individuals between 18 and 65 earning between 138% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Line”.

The good news is that despite the Republicans’ staunch refusal to do anything about this problem (with some honorable exceptions including county leaders and a few legislators like Rep. John Zerwas, who detailed his frustrations in this interview with the Observer that you should read), Texas will still get a great deal of benefit from the insurance exchanges. According to a report by the Society of Actuaries, Texas’ uninsured rate could drop from 27% to just under 15% if all eligible people take advantage of the exchange and the subsidies available to them; expanding Medicaid would have dropped that number to 10%, with the remainder basically being undocumented immigrants. This requires that people know about the exchanges and the subsidies, and fortunately there are various efforts underway to make that happen, since the state of Texas isn’t doing anything to help. If all goes reasonably well, many Texans could be a lot better off in another year.

Of course, there remain those who hope that nobody is any better off after the ACA kicks in.

Conservative analyst John Davidson of the free market-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation said the liberal group – and writers of the federal law – ignore Census Bureau data showing that nearly 1 million of Texas’ 6 million uninsured residents make more than $75,000 a year.

“They have the means” to buy coverage, he said. “They don’t see the value in it.”

He said the Affordable Care Act’s success hinges on whether young, healthy adults will be prodded to buy coverage, which will “subsidize older, sicker people. Proponents of the law are going to be surprised how few young people are willing to take that deal,” Davidson said.

Yes, I’m sure that a privileged old guy like John Davidson knows exactly how people with whom he has nothing in common and for whom he has no empathy will behave. He’s just rooting for his preferred political outcome. Let’s see how good he is at making predictions after we get some data on this, shall we? Progress Texas, Health Zone, the Trib, and Kaiser Health News have more.

Changing the culture

Nonsequiteuse looks at the big picture.


Let’s talk about changing the culture of the Texas legislature. What needs to happen, who needs to do it, what are the consequences, and how do we move forward.

The first suggestion that always comes up is that we should elect more women. I’m all for that.

I would expand that sentiment and say that we need a legislature that represents the great diversity of our state. Not just more women, but people of all races, all genders, all orientations, all religions, all levels of physical ability, and all socio-economic backgrounds.

That’s the long game, though, and we deserve more immediate answers and action. But what works when you’re facing institutional sexism? There are two things that will/have always made it tough to combat institutional discrimination, and, in this case, sexism:

There are those who will say it is the women’s responsibility to expose (or police, educate, train, or censure) the men.
There are those who will tell the women that we risk too much by exposing the offenders.

To to the first point: in some ways, and on a small scale, that one-on-one policing happens. Sen. Van de Putte is quoted in the article:

“At times. You know, [pornographic images] on their personal iPads or something. You just say, ‘Gentlemen, don’t bring that to the floor… Just do that at home.’”

Realistically, however, when sexism is endemic, one-on-one peer counseling and education places too great a burden on the group suffering from it while absolving those in power from responsibility. And let’s not even get into how unrealistic it is to expect a 23-year-old aide to call out a 6-term representative on gray area behavior like telling someone she looks nice today.

To the second point: if women start naming and shaming, women will be blamed for the consequences of that calling out, and, in may ways, punished more than the people being called out. Punished personally, and punished at a policy level. Because while it would be lovely if the ultra-conservative right wingers who vote regularly to abridge women’s rights were caught viewing porn or propositioning reporters, this behavior isn’t happening on only one side of the aisle.

In a time when progressives need every vote we can get, the question will be can we afford to lose an ally “just” because he (or she) participates in or tolerates sexist behavior?

In other words, when men vote to protect women’s rights or treat women equally to men at the policy level, women get told we have to put up with their bad behavior at the personal level, because collectively, we can’t risk losing their votes.

There is no quick answer. Many things need to happen.

She is writing about that Olivia Messer article in the Observer. I’m sorry to say that I took the easy way out by wishing that more women would call out the kind of behavior detailed in that story. I know better than to say stuff like that. It is of course everyone’s responsibility, first and foremost to not be the kind of person that engages in the appalling behavior Messer documents, to call it out ourselves when we see it regardless of whether it was aimed at us or not, and to support those who do call it out. We Democrats need to be asking the male legislators we’ve been voting for what they have experienced in the Legislature and what they are doing to combat the problem that their female colleagues have experienced. We also need to be prepared to perform electoral interventions on those that turn out to be part of the problem. We can’t say we didn’t know about the problem, or that we didn’t know it was that bad. It’s on all of us, and that most certainly includes me, to work to end this behavior. Human nature being what it is, it will never fully go away, but we can make it clear that it is unacceptable and comes with a high cost. I promise to do my part.

The good news is that the mainstream media appears to have taken notice of Messer’s article as well. Here’s Sharon Grigsby in the DMN:

I contacted two young women who have worked in different capacities in the Legislature — and both of whom I knew would tell me the truth. Both had the same reaction to my question about the “Sexist Little Secret” story: Yes, it’s accurate. One told me of being warned along the lines of, “You better watch out or you’re going to find yourself pregnant before the session is up with all the lawmakers walking around.” The other, despite being a well-educated policy specialist, spent a lot of her time “cutting cakes and being the office housekeeper.”

I’ve sent the Texas Observer article around to everyone on our staff to read, and I hope our editorial board will decide to write on this topic. Too often, when I finally gathered the courage to report the incidents I experienced as a young woman in the workplace, my stories were met with disbelief. “You must be exaggerating. XX wouldn’t do that” was the common feedback.

No one has any excuse for making that statement any more. Let’s keep that light shining.