It's Your District. It should also be your voice.
I’m sharing with you here where I stand on the issues, but I want you to know that it’s more important for me to know where you stand on the issues. If I am running to represent you, I need to be listening to you and the issues that are important to you. So, I invite you to ask me about the issues that are important to you.
Houston is the most diverse city in the country. As a community, we have focused not on where people are from, but on what they can become, what strengths they bring to our community and how we can work together to make a better Houston.
Our country is no different. Just as Houstonians have embraced immigrants, we as a nation must do the same. Congress must pass legislation that addresses the status of DREAMers; provide a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, and reform our current system to provide balanced family reunification policies as well as continue providing visas that attract talent to our country.
There must also be fair and just options for people seeking refuge from violence or persecution. Families should be kept together when seeking refuge at our border. The asylum definition should clarify “persecution” and “particular social group” to reflect current immigration challenges in Central America. Immigration courts should be moved and operate under the federal judicial branch to provide independence from political influence.
Before any votes are cast, a lot has already been determined. Districts have been drawn to favor politicians, Political Action Committees (PACs) have lined the pockets of candidates, and voter laws make it hard for everyone to participate.
Our current system is not set up to benefit regular people. We need to end the buying out of our political system. That starts with preventing politicians from accepting PAC money in their campaign committees. The system should work for people and not special interests. We need to implement term limits in Congress to make way for fresh voices and perspectives. We can debate how long those need to be, but we’d be better served by new people in office every so often. We need to end partisan gerrymandering. Right now districts are drawn by politicians to keep people and parties in power rather than serve the community.
We need to make it easier for people to participate in the political process by implementing automatic voter registration and online registration. In addition, election day should be a national holiday to give everyone an opportunity to participate.
Our system needs help. If we ever get a chance to talk, ask me about that time in 2014 I got arrested and spent a night at the city jail. That experience showed me firsthand how our current system disproportionately affects black and latino men.
We need to comprehensively address the use of force in police departments, and promote more fair and just interactions with vulnerable and communities of color; invest in the infrastructure for community policing as a measure of prevention; implement policies that decrease mass incarceration; encourage and incentivize evidence-based community reentry programs; and reform our current cash bail system to ensure equal justice that isn’t based on a defendant’s ability to pay.
Guns. I’ve only held a gun briefly and never actually fired one. But that’s me. I know there are a lot of people out there for whom guns provide a level of personal security, or who use guns in recreational form. I want to be clear here: I am not out to take everyone’s guns or do away with the second amendment, but we’ve got to do something about gun violence in this country.
Gun violence is a public health issue; let’s treat it as one. The American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association have both weighed in and called the gun violence a public health crisis. We need to have a Congress that will take an honest look at guns and pass sensible legislation to implement background checks for all gun sales; raise the minimum age to purchase firearms; ban bump stocks, assault style rifles, high capacity magazines and close the private sale and gun show loophole; stop gun purchases by those on the federal “no fly” or terrorist watch lists; and support funding for federal research and public health surveillance on firearm-related injuries.
Every student in a Texas public school deserves a free quality education. The amount of resources a local school receives should not be determined by the wealth of the community.
Texas has experienced a growth in the number of public school students during the last 10 years, but on a per student basis, the state is providing less money than it did a decade ago. The Legislature needs to release more funding to public schools instead of putting the burden on local districts.
Teachers need to be driving classroom education, not rigid standardized tests that limit creativity and learning. Educators should feel free to incorporate modern teaching methods, standards, and the internet to supplement learning in the classroom. Teachers in this country spend an average of $500 annually on schools; we need to provide adequate funding for school supplies as well as double the Educator Expense Deduction.
Students need to be given every opportunity to succeed. We need to close the learning gaps in our minority communities. We can start with implementing incentives that close the grade level reading gap and the summer learning gap. Adequately fund Pre-K and afternoon school programs that promote learning and productivity. We also need to connect school districts with community partners and clinics to address unresolved vision and dental needs that contribute to classroom learning distractions.
Public colleges in this country need to truly be public and accessible to everyone. We need to work toward making public colleges and universities tuition free and expand the higher education opportunities and scholarships to include trade schools. If we can’t do this soon, we need to at minimum expand the federal Pell Grants and scholarships so that students don’t graduate with unpayable amounts of student debt.
Seniors deserve the same opportunities to thrive as anyone else. The tax cuts of 2017 have increased our national deficit to over $21 trillion dollars. One day the bill will come due and with Social Security and Medicare being large parts of our budget, politicians will likely seek to cut benefits. We need to protect the future physical and financial health of our seniors.
Our seniors contributed to a fund that they expected to be there for them in their retired years. To protect the benefits our seniors receive from Social Security, we need to make broad efforts to balance the federal budget, keep regular cost of living adjustments, stop privatization efforts that reduce the defined benefits and instead rely on the market. The financial crisis of the last decade wiped out $14 trillion dollars of net worth from Americans (mortgages, pensions, savings, retirements, 401Ks). If Social Security had been privatized it would have cost our seniors the ability to sustain themselves.
Nearly 57 million Americans rely on Medicare for hospital visits, doctor checkups, and prescriptions. Our seniors have contributed to this system and we cannot scale back or reduce benefits at a time when they are most needed. We cannot turn Medicare into a voucher system or premium support system because it will require our seniors to make up the difference. Without regular supportive income, they will not be able to provide for their health. We need to look at ways to increase the amount of funding available to Medicare by improving care coordination, using the size of Medicare to negotiate lower cost prescriptions, eliminating unnecessary and duplicative paperwork and bureaucracy.
Finally, we need to keep the extra standard deduction for those age 65 and older as well as the medical expense deduction. For our older workforce, we need to strengthen the laws around hiring age discrimination.
Good health should be a part of all of our lives. Houston is home to the largest medical complex in the world, but both our state and country have little to show for it in terms of health outcomes. I won’t bore you with statistics, but just know that the United States spends the most money in the world on healthcare per person, but we don’t have anywhere near the best health outcomes.
Good health starts with people having equal opportunity access to good healthcare regardless of how much money they make. The Affordable Care Act was a good start and the next step is Medicare For All, a single payer system that will cover people in our country and over the long run bring down the cost of healthcare. Health is a human right and in this country we've gone far too long without treating it as such.
If we don't get there soon, at minimum, we need to: stabilize the insurance markets, work with states to expand Medicaid, close the coverage gap, drive down costs of prescription medications, and ensure that our most vulnerable have long term access to healthcare through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But, really, wouldn't it just be better to move to Medicare For All?
Our country has a rich tradition of hard won labor rights. Labor groups have been fighting for worker rights since far before I was born. Thanks to their efforts, the workers of today enjoy basic rights and protections, including the right to organize, improved wages, reasonable working hours, and basic safety conditions.
But it is time for new labor rights. Sure, workers still enjoy some of the basic protections earned in the last century, but still many American workers don’t have a livable wage, parental leave, or even paid time off. Not to mention wage theft or that the gender pay gap its still a thing. The reality is that in 2018, other than the most basic protections, most of the American workforce still has to fend for itself. Worker rights vary widely from state to state and unlike the last century there has been no movement on federal legislation to standardize worker rights.
Workers need an hourly wage beyond $7.25, whether that's $15 or somewhere close, the point is that workers need a livable wage. We need to stop the relaxing of rules that protect low wage and immigrant workers from wage theft. We need fair chance hiring, giving workers a shot at a job before being disqualified by their past. Parental leave and paid time off needs to be part of the relationship between employer and employee. Whether you are sick or just had a child, when you are most vulnerable, your job should be there for you. Finally, we need to make clear that sexual orientation discrimination is just as illegal as discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion. I’m grateful for the work of unions and reformers in the past century, but it’s time for legislators to get on board too.
In 2001, we had Allison. In 2008, Ike. In 2015, the Memorial Day Floods. In 2016, the Tax Day Floods. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey. The last three were labeled 500-year flood events, meaning the likelihood of it happening was 1 in 500. We’ve had one each year for the last three years.
Maybe these events don’t prove climate change, but the increasing frequency of these extreme events should lead us to support the science behind climate change. We need to listen to climatologists, meteorologists, ecologists, and scientists in related fields whose work has been peer-reviewed.
My thoughts are best relayed by the American Public Health Association: “The science is clear: climate change is a serious threat to human health. Science is not an opinion. It is evidence.”
Not the most exciting topic, but federal spending and revenues are important. We can’t accomplish some of the things I am proposing, unless we also address federal spending deficits and revenues. Every year the federal government spends more money than it takes in. When that happens it is added to the National Debt. That debt right now is $21 trillion dollars. Doesn’t sound like much, but if we were to divide the debt among every person including children, we’d each owe $65,000 dollars.
One day the bill will come due and it won't be political leaders, the markets, or the wealthiest individuals who will be left holding the bill. It will be regular Americans who will have to pay. They will pay with jobs, pensions, 401ks, savings, retirements, mortgages, Social Security, and Medicare.
Until there is agreement on how to best control costs in defense and health spending, we can simply start by having everyone pay their fair share. Starting with corporations we need to close the foreign tax credit loophole, end the deferral of foreign source income so that corporations don’t delay paying taxes on global income, increase corporates effective tax rates, and end the ability for corporations to setup ‘paper’ headquarters in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Wealthy individuals also need to pay their fair share by ending the Grantor Retained Annuity Trust loophole, increase the spread and tax rate for only the wealthiest in the top three tax brackets, close excessive loopholes in the estate and gift tax, and lifting the cap on social security payments by the wealthiest individuals.
If you made it down here and still have a question on where I stand about something, here's my number: 713-855-4789. Try it. I answer. I call back. I text back.
I believe that representatives should represent. I mean that the people in the community should dictate the issues and representatives should be their voice. Representatives shouldn't represent Washington, lobbyists, corporations, donors, and as much as I hate to say it, they shouldn't even represent parties. Their purpose should be to represent the people of the communities that elected them.
I invite you to ask me about the issues that are important to you. Tell me what you think and let's have a real dialogue about issues, options, ideas and opportunities to make our community better.