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September 19th, 2017:

Interview with Elizabeth Santos

Elizabeth Santos

There’s about a two week gap between my interview with Monica Flores Richart and my interview with today’s candidate, Elizabeth Santos. In between, of course, Harvey happened, and among many other vastly more important things it affected how interested anyone was in thinking or talking about the 2017 elections as well as everyone’s time and availability. As noted yesterday, with this interview and all others going forward I’ll have asked questions that are different from those I thought I’d be asking about. I apologize for the confusion and trust everyone will understand.

Elizabeth Santos is graduate of public schools in HISD District I and of UH-Downtown, where she earned a BA in English Literature. She is now a teacher at Northside (formerly Jeff Davis) High School. Here’s what we talked about:

I have one more interview to go in District I. Please let me know what you think of these.

One more in CD32

Meet Lillian Salerno, the third major candidate to take a crack at Rep. Pete Sessions in CD32.

Lillian Salerno

Lillian Salerno, who served as President Barack Obama’s deputy undersecretary of rural development for the Department of Agriculture, [officially launched] her candidacy for Congress on Tuesday at Randall Park in Dallas.

“I have the ability to bring people together, find common ground and make sure the vulnerable are protected,” Salerno told The Dallas Morning News. “If you’re going to beat Pete Sessions, the people of the district have to believe that they’ve got somebody who’s got their back.

Salerno, 56, was born at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and raised in East Dallas. She moved back to the city this year after serving under Obama from 2012-2017. She’s a small businesswoman who led a company that developed retractable needles to protect health care workers from being stuck and infected by diseases like HIV.

Salerno, who has had a long career in politics, said that it was time to run for public office and that Sessions’ policies on health care and other issues made Congressional District 32 the right fit. “Sometimes you just do it,” she said. “The people are so much better than the politicians. … I knew I would get back to Texas.”

Salerno joins a crowded field for the Democratic nomination, including civil rights lawyer and former NFL player Colin Allred and nonprofit executive and Hillary Clinton campaign senior adviser Ed Meier.

Salerno’s webpage is here and her campaign Facebook page is here. The Dallas Observer has done some good Q&As with Meier and Allred, so I look forward to them doing the same with Salerno. In the meantime, if you want to get to know her a little better, I found this Washington Post op-ed she wrote while vying for a Democratic seat on the Federal Trade Commission, entitled “Want to rescue rural America? Bust monopolies.” Read it and see what you think.

On a side note, I am encouraged by the number of women who are running high profile campaigns for Congress in Texas. The two frontrunners in CD16 to succeed Beto O’Rourke are women, and races in CDs 06, 07, 23, 31, 36, and now 32 have leading female contenders as well. There are thirty-six members of Congress from Texas, of whom three – three! – are women. The last time a woman was elected to Congress in Texas was 1996, when Kay Granger won in CD12. Sheila Jackson Lee was elected in 1994, and Eddie Bernice Johnson in 1992. I hope we can all agree that this is maybe just a teeny bit out of whack. Before someone posts the usual tiresome comment, I’m not saying that anyone deserves a vote for being female, nor am I saying that we “have to” elect some number of women to anything. I am saying that 1) women are grossly underrepresented in Congress, both nationally and in Texas; 2) one good way to do something about this is for quality women to run for Congress and for people of good will to give them a fair hearing; and 3) at least the first part of #2 is happening this year, of which I approve. Whatever happens in this cycle, we need for that to continue to happen in 2020 and beyond.

Some schools will have longer days

Seems like a reasonable approach, all things considered.

School days will grow longer for students at 11 Houston Independent School District campuses after the Board of Education voted Thursday night to extend school days to stay in compliance with state law.

The next step is for the Texas Education Agency to grant Houston ISD nine disaster waivers for classes missed from Aug. 28 to Sept. 8 due to Hurricane Harvey. If okayed by TEA, HISD students will likely not have to make up those days during the coming school year, but a handful of schools opening in the coming two weeks will need to make up time.

Superintendent Richard Carranza said the district had three options to comply with the state law: cut short already planned holidays, tack days on to the end of the school year or lengthen the school day.

“There is no perfect situation,” Carranza said. “But we are also very committed to make sure the additional time required for students won’t just be seat time. We’re going to have enrichment activities and teachers informed in trauma pedagogy.”

The lengthened school days will only be in effect for the fall semester. Students at all schools will be on regular schedules beginning in 2018.

HISD’s statement about this, which includes a link to the revised academic calendar, is here. Five early release days were also eliminated, which includes one this Thursday. Existing holidays were kept intact on the grounds that people have made travel plans based on them. Hopefully by the end of the fall semester, everyone will be sufficiently caught up that no further alterations will be needed.

The courthouse shuffle

Justice rearranged.

Flood waters damaged several buildings in the courthouse complex , which is spread across a dozen city blocks in north downtown. The county’s shiny new underground jury assembly building flooded, but the biggest casualty was probably the destruction that has closed the 20-story criminal justice center for at least six to nine months. The loss is immense because the building housed the entire district attorney’s office, an agency of 330 lawyers and almost 400 staffers, the public defenders office and 40 courtrooms, staffed with clerks, coordinators, court reporters and others.

The reason it is such a hardship to relocate is because each of those courtrooms had holding cells and access to private elevators so inmates could be brought securely from the Harris County Jail across Buffalo Bayou in tunnels and bridges without any contact with the public.

With the loss of that building, the county’s 22 felony courts have doubled up in courtrooms in the civil courthouse, pushing the civil, family and probate courts together.

Since there are few if any holding cells in the relocated courts, the people in jail are expected to have court in jailhouse courtrooms with revolving dockets. The very few holding cells will likely be reserved for trials when jury selection resumes Sept. 25.

Jury service is suspended through the 22nd – see here for more information about that, or call the District Clerk at (832)927-5800 if you have questions about that. That same link has information about the court dockets if you have an appearance coming up, as does this link. Expect things to be a little chaotic and more than a little cramped going forward, but we will get through this.