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Diana Davila

“As the Board turns”

deep sigh

Houston ISD Trustee Jolanda Jones publicly aired personal attacks and allegations against fellow school board members in online posts this week, chipping away at the board’s efforts to present a more collegial front in the face of administrative upheaval and potentially major state sanctions this year.

In three Facebook posts, Jones alleged a newly elected trustee called a longtime board member a “thief” and a “crook” with “no moral character,” and she accused a fellow trustee of misleading her during the process of electing a school board president. Jones also claimed five trustees who rejected HISD’s proposed budget last week will be responsible for employees losing their homes — even though board members are expected to pass the budget next week, with no adverse impact on staff members.

You can click over and read the rest; I don’t care to litigate any of it. I’m just going to say this: For the first time ever, as of last November, the Board is comprised entirely of Democrats, with (I believe) a majority of members elected with the support of the local AFT. Even if the Board were firing on all cylinders, the current partisan makeup would present as a tempting target for the state for takeover, given the issues with the low-performing schools. But at least a high-functioning Board, whose membership is two-thirds new since 2015, would have a compelling argument to make that they deserve a little more time to make progress on the problem. With the way things are now, who’s going to stand in their defense when Mike Morath picks a new Board to replace them?

Looking ahead to 2019

Yes, yes, I know. We’ve barely begun the 2018 cycle. Who in their right mind is thinking about 2019? I plead guilty to political insanity, but the beginning of the year is always the best time to look forward, and just as 2018 will be unlike any election year we’ve seen before, I think 2019 will be unusual, too. Let’s just take a moment to contemplate what lies ahead.

I’ve posted this list before, but just to review here are the Council members who are term-limited going into 2019:

Brenda Stardig – District A
Jerry Davis – District B
Ellen Cohen – District C
Mike Laster – District J
Larry Green – District K
Jack Christie – At Large #5

There is an opportunity for progressives to elect a candidate more favorable to them with CM Christie’s departure, and his At Large colleagues Mike Knox and Michael Kubosh will also draw attention. Against that, I would remind everyone that Bill King carried Districts C and J in 2015, so we’re going to have to play defense, too.

It is too early to start speculating about who might run where, but keep two things in mind. One is that there’s likely some pent-up demand for city offices, since there won’t have been an election since 2015, and two is that some number of people who are currently running for something in 2018 will find themselves on the sidelines by March or May, and some of them may decide to shift their focus to a more local race. The point I’m making here is expect there to be a lot of candidates, and not just for the term-limited offices. I don’t expect Mayor Turner to be seriously challenged, but I do expect the firefighters to find someone to support against him. Finally, I expect Pasadena to be a hotbed of action again for their May elections, as Democrats missed by seven votes in District B winning a majority on Pasadena City Council.

The following HISD Trustees are up for election in 2019:

Rhonda Skillern-Jones – District II
Sergio Lira – District III
Jolanda Jones – District IV
Diana Davila – District VIII

Skillern-Jones was forced into a runoff in 2015, but she then won that easily. Lira was elected this year to finish Manuel Rodriguez’s term. Jolanda is Jolanda, and no election that includes her will ever be boring. Davila sued to get on the Democratic primary ballot for Justice of the Peace, but was not successful. I have to assume whoever runs against her will make an issue of the fact that she was job-hopping in the interim.

The following HCC Trustees are up for election in 2019:

Zeph Capo – District 1
Dave Wilson – District 2
Neeta Sane – District 7

It is too early to think about who might be running for what in Houston and HISD. It is very much NOT too early to find and begin building support for a good candidate to run against Dave Wilson and kick his homophobic ass out of office. That is all.

Davila lawsuit over ballot access rejected

So much for that.

Diana Davila

Amidst claims of illegal signature gathering and improper mailers in an East End justice of the peace race, a visiting senior judge ruled against a Houston Independent School Board trustee in her suit against the county Democratic Party for rejecting her application to be on the primary ballot.

HISD Trustee’s Diana Davila’s lawsuit, filed last week, stated that she had submitted a petition to the Harris County Democratic Party containing 310 signatures that would qualify her to be on the ballot, but had omitted printing the name of the person circulating the petitions in an affidavit on a single line at the bottom of each petition.

The Democratic Party chairwoman rejected many of the signatures on that count. She said that she could not decipher the names registered as those collecting the signatures and said Davila could not be on the ballot.

Judge J.D. Langley conceded in a Thursday court hearing that may be a technicality, but said he was hesitant to upend the election process or reverse the Democratic Party chairwoman.

“The court should stay away from it,” Langley said.

He also cited state statute that he interpreted as Davila having passed the deadline to amend her forms.

See here for the background. I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, it’s better to let candidates be on the ballot rather than disqualify them on small technical deficiencies in their applications. On the other hand, the requirements they have to meet are not onerous and the vast majority of candidates had no trouble with them. As noted in the story, Davila is not a first time candidate, and she knew what was needed. This isn’t that hard, and I can’t say I have a great deal of sympathy. Better luck next time.

Diana Davila sues over ballot rejection

There’s one of these every cycle.

Diana Davila

Diana Davila said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in state district court that her application to run for justice of the peace Precinct 6, Place 2 in the March primary election was inappropriately rejected by the Democratic Party.

The lawsuit states that Davila had submitted a petition containing 310 signatures that would qualify her to be on the ballot, but had omitted printing the name of the person circulating the petition on one line in the petition.

The name appeared elsewhere on the page and the petition was signed and notarized.

“The only thing that’s important is that this person signed their name before a notary,” said Davila’s attorney Keith Gross.

The lawsuit states that despite that omission, Davila should be allowed to run in the primary. She would face one challenger in the primary election, Angela Rodriguez.

In a statement, the Harris County Democratic Party stated that Rodriguez filed a complaint with the party about Davila’s paperwork. The party then followed up on the complaint and rejected Davila’s application because “the challenge appeared to be well founded.”

I don’t have a dog in this fight. The reason for the rejection may seem persnickety, but ballot applications have been rejected for reasons like this before. That doesn’t mean Davila won’t prevail in her lawsuit, just that the HCDP – which consulted with the Secretary of State’s office before making their decision – had a valid reason for rejecting her filing. We’ll see what the court makes of it.

Precinct analysis: Did HERO hurt Juliet Stipeche?

It’s one theory.

Juliet Stipeche

Juliet Stipeche

In the Houston Independent School District, trustee Juliet Stipeche on Tuesday became the first sitting HISD board member to lose since 1997. At that time, retired educator Larry Marshall defeated Clyde Lemon, a supporter of then-Superintendent Rod Paige.

Stipeche, one of Superintendent Terry Grier’s most outspoken critics, fell to Diana Davila, who served on the board for seven years before resigning her term early in 2010.

Davila won the District 8 seat Tuesday with 55 percent of the vote – bolstered, observers say, by strong name recognition and a high turnout of conservative voters who defeated the city of Houston’s equal-rights ordinance. Davila was listed on the candidate slate pushed by opponents of the HERO ordinance.

Making the anti-HERO slate, however, did not guarantee victory. HISD District 4 candidate Ann McCoy, also listed, lost by a wide margin, and District 3 trustee Manuel Rodriguez Jr. was forced into a runoff in his three-way race.

[…]

Stipeche said she thinks she was hurt by the anti-gay rights movement and community dissatisfaction with HISD under Grier.

“I think people are very frustrated by what is happening in HISD,” said Stipeche, who chairs the school board’s audit committee and launched audits to look into the projected $212 million shortfall in the 2012 bond program.

Davila joined her board colleagues in unanimously hiring Grier in 2009, but she distanced herself during the campaign, saying she was “one of the culprits” in his appointment.

Davila attributed her success largely to “grass-roots campaigning,” fueled by family volunteers.

“You block walk. You look for the least expensive printer. And you label at home,” said Davila, who reported raising no campaign contributions.

She declined to say Wednesday whether she supported the equal-rights ordinance.

First off, I’m not sure which slate this story refers to. I didn’t come across any endorsements at all for Diana Davila, and none of the ones I have on my Election 2015 page for Ann McCoy – who expressed support for HERO in the interview I did with her – came from expressly anti-HERO groups. It’s certainly possible there was something I missed, and I have no doubt that Stipeche would have been a target of anti-HERO forces if they were active in this race. I just didn’t see any such activity.

As for what the numbers say, HERO actually didn’t do too badly in Stipeche’s district. It was defeated by a margin of 8,922 to 7,879 or 46.7% to 53.3%, while Stipeche lost 5,370 to 6,725 or 44.4% to 55.6%. That in and of itself doesn’t tell us anything, because we have no way of knowing what this election might have looked like if HERO hadn’t been on the ballot. It could be that in such a world, fewer people who would have voted against HERO show up, and perhaps that drags Davila’s total down enough for her to lose as well. There’s just no way to know.

For what it’s worth, if you add up the vote in the precincts where HERO lost, you get a tally of 3,017 to 5,625 against HERO and 2,300 to 4,238 against Stipeche. That’s greater than the actual margin of defeat for Stipeche, so it at least suggests that there’s a relation between being anti-HERO and pro-Davila. It’s far from conclusive, however. For one thing, as noted before we don’t know what turnout would have been like without HERO on the ballot. It’s entirely possible that Davila still wins in that scenario – she did win by a fairly healthy amount, and surely there were some pro-HERO voters who also voted for Stipeche but might have stayed home otherwise. It may also be that this is a reflection of geography and ethnicity – Stipeche’s support may have been predominantly from the more Anglo parts of the district in the Heights that were also pro-HERO, while Davila’s support may have come from the more Latino and anti-HERO parts of the district. I’m not map-oriented so you’ll have to wait until Greg or someone like him takes up that question. My point is simply that what we have is suggestive but hardly conclusive.

If one looks at individual precincts, a few other interesting bits emerge. In several precincts where HERO won by a sizable margin, Stipeche won by a much smaller margin, with the difference appearing to be mostly the result of undervoting. Here are a few precincts that stood out to me:


Pcnct  Yes   No   Diff  Stipeche  Davila  Diff
==============================================
0001   470  260    210       246     253    -7
0002   307  190    117       204     136    68
0016   173  117     56       101      91    10
0030   361  239    122       215     200    15
0033   834  262    472       432     236   196
0052   407  251    156       219     162    57

0027   464  385     79       347     423   -76

0080   184  467   -283       203     331  -128
0104   162  406   -244       169     260   -91

I included those last three at the end to show that the effect wasn’t entirely one-sided. I don’t know why so many HERO supporters (and a few HERO opponents) in these precincts failed to vote in their HISD Trustee race, but even the most generous interpretation doesn’t affect the result, as Stipeche would only net 804 more votes if we assigned the HERO results in those first six precincts to her election. There may have been some effect, but if there was it wasn’t decisive.

So did HERO have an effect in this particular election? I can’t say it did, and I can’t say it didn’t. Or to put it another way, I think it was a factor, but I don’t know how much of one. It probably wasn’t a difference maker, but who knows? Wish I could be more definitive, but sometimes all you can do is shrug.

Omnibus election results post

I’m going to take the easy way out here, because it’s been a long day/week/month and I’m hoping to get some sleep tonight, and just hit the highlights. There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis later, and of course we are now officially in runoff season. There’s absolutely no rest for the political junkie.

– Obviously, the HERO result is deeply disappointing. I’ll leave the Monday morning quarterbacking to others, but I will say this: Whatever you think about this issue, get ready for Jared Woodfill to be the public face of Houston for a few days. There’s no way this is good for anyone.

– It’s Sylvester versus King in the Mayoral runoff. The runoff will basically be the campaign we should have had in November, which will be dominated by the Mayor’s race and not the HERO campaign and the avalanche of lies that accompanied it. Don’t expect the same crowd to show up in December – if I had to guess it would be turnout in the 150K range, as it was in 2009.

– The Controller’s race was reasonably according to form, with Bill Frazer and Chris Brown in the runoff.

– Four out of five At Large races will go to runoffs, with CM Michael Kubosh being the only candidate who can take November off. I suggested there might be some goofy results in these races, and we have them, in ALs 1 and 5, where candidates who didn’t do much if any campaigning are in the runoffs. The single best result of the night is Amanda Edwards’ big lead. She will face Roy Morales, who sneaked past Laurie Robinson into second place, in December.

– And the single worst result from last night, even worse than the HERO result, is Juliet Stipeche losing her race to Diana Davila. A terrible blow for the HISD Board. Jolanda Jones won easily, Rhonda Skillern-Jones leads but is in a runoff, and Manuel Rodriguez also leads but is in a runoff, with Jose Leal and nor Ramiro Fonseca. What a weird night. On the plus side, both Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo won re-election to the HCC board easily.

– Mike Laster and Richard Nguyen are both in runoffs, in J and F. I feel pretty good about Laster’s chances, less so about Nguyen’s. Greg Travis is a close winner in G, and Karla Cisneros leads in H, Jason Cisneroz holding off Roland Chavez for second place; the difference between the two was in double digits most of the night. If there’s one race on the ballot where someone calls for a recount, it’ll be this one.

– I guess if you really wanted to change Houston’s term limits law, this was the election to do it. There was absolutely no campaign either way, and for all the shouting about “ballot language” in the HERO and Renew Houston elections, I’ll bet a large chunk of the people who voted for Prop 2 had no idea what they were voting for.

– All the county bond issues passed, as did all the state props, and Montgomery County finally got a road bond to pass. Hope it’s all you want it to be, MontCo.

I will have more to say later. For now, this is all the energy I have. I’m going to be looking for national reaction stories to the HERO referendum. I strongly suspect it will be ugly, and I expect the likes of Dan Patrick and Jared Woodfill to keep lying about it in the face of such blowback. But we’ll see. Thanks for reading, and I’ll post precinct analyses as soon as I can get my hands on the canvass. On to the runoffs!

Your official slate of candidates

Yesterday was the filing deadline. Here’s the official list of candidates, modulo any challenges or subsequently invalidated applications. The highlights:

– There are thirteen candidates for Mayor. The City Secretary might consider starting the ballot order draw now, this may take awhile.

– Dwight Boykins in D, Dave Martin in E, and Larry Green in K are the only incumbents not to draw opponents. No new contenders emerged in G or H.

– Kendall Baker became the third candidate in District F. Here’s a reminder about who he is.

– Former HCC Trustee Herlinda Garcia filed against CM Robert Gallegos in I. She was appointed to the HCC board in 2013 to fill Mary Ann Perez’s seat after having served before, and was supported in the 2013 runoff by Dave Wilson.

– Frequent commenter Manuel Barrera filed in District J, joining Jim Bigham and some other dude against CM Mike Laster. You can search for his name in the archives here. I think we have our 2015 vintage “straight slate”.

– Former District A candidate Mike Knox is in for At Large #1, and performance artist Eric Dick has graced us with his presence in At Large #2. Again, “straight slate”.

– I am disappointed but not terribly surprised to see that Durrel Douglas did not file in At Large #5. He hadn’t filed a July finance report, and as far as I could tell had not screened for endorsements. I know he’s been spending a lot of time in Waller County and working with the Houston Justice Coalition on the Sandra Bland case. Sometimes the time isn’t right.

– Former District F Council Member and 2009 Controller candidate MJ Khan filed for Controller. Not sure what’s up with that, but I’m guessing Bill Frazer isn’t thrilled by it.

– Here’s the Chron story, which includes the HISD candidates. The main point of interest there is former Trustee Diana Davila running for her old seat in District 8, against Trustee Juliet Stipeche.

That’s all I know for now. I’ll be updating the 2015 Election page over the next couple of days to get all the changes in. We’ll see if anything else shakes out. What are your impressions of the candidate list?

Interview with Judith Cruz

Judith Cruz

Next week I will begin publishing interviews with statewide candidates. There’s one other race and a couple other items of interest to take care of before then. The race in question is for the open HISD Trustee seat in District VIII, which was vacated by Diana Davila in August. There are now five candidates in this race. The first one with whom I did an interview is Judith Cruz, a former classroom teacher who is now a stay at home mother. She has the support of former HISD Trustee Natasha Kamrani. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Six candidates file for the open HISD Trustee seat

Here’s the lineup for the HISD District 8 seat that was vacated by Diana Davila:

Robert Centeno, a former teacher in the Houston Independent School District.

[Judith] Cruz, a stay-at-home mom who previously was the special education department chairwoman at HISD’s Liberty High School for immigrant students and an English-as-a-second-language teacher at Lee High School.

Cheryl Moodie, a former general manager at Ritz-Carlton hotels who now consults in the fields of hospitality and international medical education.

Dorothy Olmos, a former candidate for state representative and Harris County commissioner who runs a small business focused on rental renovations and works part-time for an industrial supply company.

Peter Schwethelm, the founder of a college placement service for high school athletes and a former geography and world history teacher at Yates High School and a math teacher at Milby High School.

Juliet Stipeche, an attorney at her own law firm who got her start at District VIII’s High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, where she graduated as the valedictorian.

Stipeche ran in the Democratic primary for Civil District Court #281, losing to Donna Roth. Olmos ran in the Republican primary for County Commissioner in Precinct 2, losing to Jack Morman. She has also run unsuccessfully three times for HD143, in the special election in 2005, in which she got 6% of the vote, then in 2006 and 2008 against Democratic Rep. Ana Hernandez, getting about 26% each time. Far as I know, none of the other candidates has run for office before. As the story notes, all but Moodie and Centeno appeared at the candidate screening in August when the Board was still thinking about appointing someone. You can be approximately 100% certain this race will result in a runoff, so be sure to pay attention if you live in District 8, because in the end not a whole lot of votes will pick the winner. I’ll be doing interviews with at least some of these candidates, so I hope that will help.

Election called to fill HISD open seat

Good.

Houston ISD trustees unanimously opted today to let voters choose the next school board representative of the city’s east side.

A special election will be held Nov. 2 to serve the remainder of former Trustee Diana Davila’s term, which runs through 2011. The candidate filing deadline is 5 p.m. Aug. 30.

Trustees previously had been leaning toward appointing someone to serve the rest of the term, interviewing eight applicants earlier this week. But on Wednesday, a dozen Hispanic elected officials representing the neighborhoods encompassed by school board District VIII, including state Sen. Mario Gallegos and state Rep. Carol Alvarado, sent them a letter calling for an immediate election.

[…]

Last week, trustees voted 5-3 against an election. Community outcry swayed them to rethink that decision, which had the support of all the board’s Anglo trustees.

Apparently there was consensus in the community, and the board wisely acted on it. Took them long enough, but better to get it right slow than wrong fast. I’ll be interested to see who files for this race.

Meet the HISD hopefuls

The people who are hoping to be appointed to the open HISD Trustee seat made their appearance at Furr High School and made their pitch.

Trustees are slated to discuss their options Thursday and must make a decision by next Tuesday. They could name an appointee to serve through 2011.

The eight prospective candidates generally echoed similar priorities, agreeing with the board’s focus on quality teachers and principals.

“I think with one exception everyone read the (HISD) website and told them exactly what they wanted to hear,” said Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon, who joined more than 60 people in the audience.

“That’s not really critical of the candidates. It’s more critical of the process,” Fallon added. “If you tell them what they don’t want to hear, what would the odds be that you’re getting the appointment?”

Well, I’ve been to enough candidate forums to know that this phenomenon is not uncommon, but Fallon’s point is well taken. The difference, of course, is that there they’re speaking to the voters, not the powers that be, and that they have an incentive to differentiate themselves. I don’t know how well an artificial event like that would be at bringing that out. And I don’t know how the Board is going to decide what the consensus of the community is, though I do know that having an election is a pretty good way of determining it. More on the candidates, if that’s the right word, from Campos, Hair Balls, and School Days.

Trustees still dithering about replacing Davila

Still no action from the HISD Board of Trustees regarding Diana Davila’s open seat.

Trustee Larry Marshall called for holding an election in November but his motion failed 3-5, mostly along racial lines. The board plans to screen possible appointees during a public meeting Tuesday and might still decide to call a November election.

Three of the four minority board members — Marshall, Carol Mims Galloway and Manuel Rodriguez Jr. – voted for the election.

The five trustees voting against the election, at least for now, were Harvin Moore, Greg Meyers, Anna Eastman, Mike Lunceford and Paula Harris. Harris is black, and the others are Anglo.

[…]

The trustees voting against the election did not say they had ruled out the idea but said they wanted to meet with possible appointees first. The board must decide whether to call an election by Aug. 24 to meet candidate filing deadlines.

Moore said that he supports elections and pointed out that an election will happen in November 2011. He characterized the board’s decision as whether to call an “extra” election.

Eastman echoed Moore’s suggestion for a public forum to meet possible appointees.

Marshall had tried to make this same motion at Monday’s meeting but wasn’t permitted to do.

Trustee Larry Marshall tried to make a motion to act Monday, but board president Greg Meyers stopped him. Marshall was the only trustee during the public discussion to hint what the board planned to do. “I thought the sentiment was that we would vote to hold an election,” Marshall said.

Trustee Manuel Rodríguez Jr. responded than an election was Dávila’s preference, but said trustees really hadn’t discussed it. Marshall disagreed. “I thought we had considerable discussion,” he replied.

If the Board thinks it’s best to appoint someone, then get a process going already. I don’t know what’s taking so long. Yes, any appointee will have to face the voters next year, but he or she will have the advantage of doing so as the incumbent. I honestly don’t see the downside to letting the voters decide this year as well. The Chron agrees.

Given the unanswered questions surrounding the multiple resignations, it would be best to put HISD’s District VIII seat on the November ballot.

The Chronicle editorialized in 1993 that “a vote of the people is almost always preferable to an appointment. An election is a great leveler in that it avoids a situation of a few people anointing one unelected candidate with the advantages of incumbency when the four-year term ends.”

That sentiment remains equally valid today.

I don’t understand the Board’s reluctance on this. Hair Balls and the School Zone liveblog of Thursday’s meeting has more.

UPDATE: There will be a public forum on Tuesday at 11 AM at Furr High School for people who are interested in being appointed to Davila’s seat and for people interested in meeting those people.

What will the HISD board do with its open seat?

HISD Trustee Diana Davila announced her intention to resign on July 16. That became official on the 30th. The HISD Board of Trustees has the option of appointing someone to replace her, or to call a special election. So far, nobody knows what they plan to do.

If the board decides to appoint a successor, it must do so within 30 days of the vacancy. The vacancy technically begins Aug. 7 — eight days after Dávila submitted her resignation letter. That means the board must name a replacement by Sept. 6. The appointee would serve through the next regular election, in November 2011.

If the board decides to call an election, it must do so within 90 days of the vacancy. That puts the deadline at Nov. 5, which means the election would be held during the general election on Nov. 2. The person who won the election would serve through November 2011.

School board President Greg Meyers said trustees could discuss the issue at their agenda review meeting on Monday, and he expects a decision before Aug. 25.

Given that it would fall on the regular Election Day, my preference is for a special election. We’ll see what they decide.

Adolfo Santos

Last week, HISD Trustee Diana Davila resigned her position. It’s not clear yet whether the Board will appoint a replacement or there will be a special election, but Marc Campos is floating the name of a possible successor.

UH-Downtown Political Science Professor Adolfo Santos is expressing an interest in replacing Davila. Santos’ resume is being passed around by respected H-Town Latino business and professional leaders. In recent years, Santos has regularly submitted Op-Eds for publication to the Chron.

Here’s his UH-D page, and here’s his curriculum vita. I couldn’t find any of the op-eds that Campos mentions in the Chron’s archives, though I did find a letter to the editor in response to one of them. I also found a couple of mentions of him in various stories. Here’s one about school uniforms, from 2007:

Reactions like this don’t surprise Adolfo Santos, political science professor at the University of Houston-Downtown who studied uniform polices at HISD middle schools in the late 1990s. Poorer communities can benefit from standard dress requirements, he said, because the clothes are often cheaper than trendy ones. And minority communities, especially Hispanics, he noted, are often more open to the idea of a strict dress code. All of the majority-Hispanic high schools in the district have standardized dress.

“When you look at predominantly Hispanic schools, there is often a large immigrant population, and these are students coming from Mexico and other countries where kids are accustomed to wearing uniforms in school,” Santos said.

He was also quoted in this story about the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and this profile of UH-D. Finally, possibly the most interesting thing I found in Googling around was this think piece about the future of education, from 2005. I don’t know if Dr. Santos will actually be a candidate to replace Davila, and if so if he’ll have to run a campaign or not, but at least now we know a little something about him.

UPDATE: Via email from Marc Campos, here’s a fuller version of Dr. Santos’ CV.

HISD Trustee Diana Davila resigns

This was unexpected.

HISD trustee Diana Dávila said Wednesday she will resign from the school board Thursday, more than a year before her term ends.

Dávila, who was first elected to the school board in 2003, said she is stepping down because of “personal family issues.” Dávila is married to Abel Dávila, the former chairman of the Houston Community College board who decided unexpectedly last year not to seek re-election. They have two children, ages 6 and 8.

“There are certain things going on in our lives currently that need our attention,” she said. “We have our own personal businesses that require some of our attention. And I have two growing children that require more of mommy’s attention.”

Dávila said her husband is expanding his pharmacy business, and she and her parents own a restaurant.

She said her resignation is not related to the article in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday that said she had tried to appoint her husband to an Houston Independent School District committee that oversees a nearly $1 billion construction program, a move the district’s inspector general concluded was a conflict of interest.

Dávila then recommended her political campaign manager, Manuel Barrera Jr., to the Bond Oversight Committee. Barrera resigned from that post Sunday, complaining that the newspaper story was intended to embarrass Hispanics.

Here’s that Sunday story, which I didn’t see while I was out of town. I wish the Dávilas the best with their personal business, but after the deadline day shenanigans from last year, I can’t say I’m particularly grieved by this turn of events. I’m just curious as to what will happen to her seat.

HISD’s private attorney, David Thompson, explained that state law specific to HISD says the board “shall” appoint a replacement to fill any vacancies. The person would serve until the next regular election, which is in November 2011. But the law also says that “should the board for any reason fail or refuse to fill” an open spot, it must call a special election.

I’m rooting for the special election to happen, which Dávila says is her preference as well. We’ll see what action the board takes. Hair Balls and School Zone have more.

HISD strategic direction meetings

From an HISD press release:

HISD will be holding two interactive, live TV shows to gather comments and feedback from the community. The first will be on Monday, June 28, from 7:00–8:00 p.m., on the HISD channel, and will be hosted by KPRC’s Khambrel Marshall, Board President Greg Meyers, and Superintendent Terry Grier. Viewers will be able to phone, e-mail, and Twitter their comments during the live show.

The second show will be broadcast on Univision 45 Houston from 5:00–10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29. The program will be hosted by Board Trustees Diana Dávila and Manuel Rodríguez along with Univision on-air news talent. Throughout the evening there will be periodic updates and interviews during Univision’s regular programming.

The development of the long-term Strategic Direction is a six-month effort that started in February 2010 and will culminate in August with the release of a final plan. The goal is to create a set of core initiatives and key strategies that will allow HISD to build upon the beliefs and visions established by the HISD Board of Education and to provide the children of Houston with the highest quality of primary and secondary education.

Over the past two months, HISD has been gathering input from employees, parents, students, and members of the Houston community, including faith-based groups, nonprofit agencies, businesses, and local and state leaders. After analyzing feedback and conducting diagnostic research, a number of core initiatives have emerged. They include placing an effective teacher in every classroom, placing an effective principal in every school, developing rigorous instructional standards and support, ensuring data driven accountability, and cultivating a culture of trust through action.

For more information about HISD’s Strategic Direction, visit www.houstonisd.org/strategicdirection.

There’s more information at that last link. Please participate if you can.

Aguilar drops out of HCC Trustee race

I’m guessing the backlash for being a last minute candidate who also happens to be the brother-in-law of the suddenly-stepping-down incumbent must have been pretty strong, because Arturo Aguilar has decided to withdraw from the HCC Trustee race in District 8.

For all everyone knew, Abel Davila was planning to run for re-election to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, which he serves as chairman.

That’s what he had told supporters and fellow officeholders, and that seemed to explain why he paid $30,000 for five prominent billboards featuring a photo of him and his wife, a Houston ISD trustee, along with the slogan “Partnering for Success.”

He had more than $50,000 in his campaign account as of the latest July accounting — a significant amount for a non-partisan, down-ballot race — and he had the support of other elected and community leaders.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot. Davila never signed up. So when the deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the only candidate in the race for the District 8 spot was Arturo Aguilar, who submitted his ballot application 19 minutes before the cutoff.

Aguilar is the brother of Diana Davila, Abel’s wife. But Friday afternoon, the 34-year-old police officer said he is going to withdraw from the race. He did not explain why.

“It’s not in my best interest for me to run,” Aguilar said. “I don’t really want to say more than that. I will leave it as an open seat for those who are more interested.”

Oh, I think we know why Aguilar changed his mind. The rest of the story is quotes from State Sen. Mario Gallegos and the revelation of Eva Loredo as a write-in candidate, both of which I reported yesterday. What is not answered in this story is 1) does this mean Aguilar will not appear on the ballot; and 2) if so, can someone else be added, and under what procedures? I presume that if Aguilar’s name cannot be removed from the ballot that he intends to not take office, in which case there would be a special election to fill the seat. Perhaps some of Abel Davila’s no-longer-needed campaign funds can be used to help pay for that special election if that happens. Does anybody know what the relevant law is regarding who can be on the ballot for this situation?

Endorsement watch: We take it back

Here’s something you don’t see every election. The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, which had previously endorsed City Council Member Jolanda Jones for re-election to her At Large #5 seat, has now rescinded that endorsement. You can read their letter to CM Jones here (PDF), which is signed by union President Jeff Caynon, who are you know has been sparring with Jones lately. I think this is Round Three, but I could be miscounting that. The HPFFA has not endorsed anyone else in this race, at least as yet.

I couldn’t find a list of other HPFFA endorsements, but I do know that they endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor last week. Locke has racked up a fair number of endorsements lately, mostly from the builders and real estate communities. Today he got the nod from several Latino elected officials, including State Sen. Mario Gallegos, State Rep. Carol Alvarado, Constable Victor Trevino, and HISD Trustee Diana Davila.

Meanwhile, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats had their endorsement meeting last night, and recommended the following slate:

City of Houston Controller
Ronald Green

City Council At-large 1
Karen Derr

City Council At-large 2
Sue Lovell

City Council At-large 3
Melissa Noriega

City Council At-large 4
Noel Freeman

City Council At-large 5
Jolanda Jones

City Council District A
Lane Lewis

City Council District D
Wanda Adams

Like the HGLBT Political Caucus, the HSYDs had previously endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor. A lot of organizations are doing their screenings and making their choices around now, so look for plenty more of these notices.

Finally, according to a press release I received this afternoon, the Greater Houston Builders Association, which is one of those organizations that has backed Locke, gave its endorsement in At Large #4 to C.O. Bradford. The GHBA’s political advocacy page has not been updated yet to reflect any endorsements. For that matter, neither the HPFFA nor the HSYD pages had current endorsement information up yet. May I suggest y’all get on that, like soon? Thanks.