A proud native El Pasoan and current Austinite, Shelby works for progressive change in Texas in government and grassroots activism. Shelby is especially passionate about reproductive justice, intersectionality, and racial and gender equality.
photo courtesy of Alberto Tomas Halpern/Newspaper Tree
Grassroots advocates, along with federal and local officials, have joined together to preserve a historical marker against continued development and forced division of the US/Mexico border. US Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection aimed to begin construction in mid-November to close a half-mile gap of the border fence in El Paso at the historic site of Don Juan de Oñate's Rio Grande crossing at Hart's Mill and Old Fort Bliss.
Congressman Beto O'Rourke has been working with other members of Congress who represent border communities and head Border Patrol officials to prevent the fence from being built. "Given that this is arguably the most historic part of the entire U.S.-Mexican border, I feel very strongly that we must do everything we can to ensure that we understand the consequences of any action we take here and explore alternatives to putting up a wall," said O'Rourke.
"This is our home and we don't believe a wall is accomplishing anything. We call it the 'muro de odio' -- the 'wall of hate,'" said Bill Addington, El Paso group representative of the Sierra Club.
Read more on the importance of this historical marker, and what's being done to preserve it below the jump.
Documents from the State Health Services Council's most recent meeting reveal that Texas' 2013 budget for reproductive health and family planning has yet again dropped in clients served since 2011. As reported by the Austin Chronicle, there was a total drop of 77% in clients served from 202,968 people in 2011. This year, just 47,322 patients were served, while the cost per patient has continued to increase.
This ripple effect continues to be felt in our state due to lawmakers' decision in 2011 to slash two-thirds of Texas' family planning budget, cutting down from what was once $100 million for two years to just $38 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. In 2012, 127,808 fewer Texans were served than in 2011, with just 75,160 able to receive Pap smears, breast cancer screenings, and contraceptive care. In 2013, an additional 27,838 clients were not served. In the past two years, the conservative attack on reproductive health care has resulted in stripping access to basic preventative care for about 155,646 Texans.
These numbers reinforce the Republican leadership's disregard for reproductive health, which has resulted in more Texans being denied access to basic, cost-effective and life-saving cervical cancer and breast cancer screenings. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated about 1.7 million low-income Texans are in need of access to family planning.
As Black Friday approaches, you have probably already been berated with sales deals urging you to consume and purchase products at unearthly hours of the morning after Thanksgiving. As that is happening, you should remember that many women working in Texas this weekend will be earning less than men. The inequality runs even deeper when you break it down by race- white women make 77 cents for every dollar men earn while black women make just 69 cents, and Latina women make 60 cents.
As you might recall, earlier this year our legislature could have done something about this inequality. The Texas Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act, sponsored by Senator Wendy Davis and Representative Senfornia Thompson, would have given legal standing to women who are paid less for doing the same job as men. It passed both the House and the Senate, and was only a Governor's signature away from being signed into law. And as we previously reported, Governor Rick Perry unfortunately vetoed the bill after he was urged by retailers to do so. Retailers such as Macy's and Kroger lied to Governor Perry by claiming the bill "duplicates federal law" despite both the Fort Worth Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court stating that the Texas law is necessary. Governor Perry chose big business over people and vetoed a bill that could've brought equal pay for equal work this holiday season for Texas families. In addition, our Attorney General Greg Abbott has been completely silent on the issue.
It's essential that you sign and pledge to boycott Macy's Black Friday sale during this Thanksgiving weekend. Encourage others who have not joined the boycott that Texans should only support businesses who will protect the right to fair pay for all of their workers.
Joining Austin, Dallas, El Paso, and San Antonio, Houston is on track to become the fifth major city in Texas to pass tighter restrictions on the payday and auto-title loan industry. Mayor Anise Parker's recently revealed regulations for payday lending reflects the minimum standard business practices for payday lending institutions that have passed in other cities as means to prevent borrowers from being trapped in a cycle of debt.
Many interest rates for payday loans, when including fees, often exceed 500 percent APR. With support from numerous advocacy groups, Mayor Annise Parker joins other municipalities who have taken the initiative in light of inaction from our State Legislature to rein in high-cost, small-dollar loans offered to individuals without credit checks, which frequently preys upon low-income Texans.
Progressive leaders have been working overtime to protect consumers while Republicans have allowed the payday lending industry take between $800 million and $1.1 billion in excess fee charges from Texas families.
What a week for GOP outreach in the great state of Texas.
First we had the UT Young Conservatives' xenophobic and disturbing "game" which made light of the daily struggle approximately 400 of their fellow classmates live with on a daily basis.
If that wasn't enough, Tea Partiers decided to continue on this week's bigoted streak by calling Senator Leticia Van de Putte "barrio boopsie."
This is equally offensive and on par with the misogyny directed towards Senator Wendy Davis by calling her "abortion barbie." Now, tea partiers are making sure their nickname for long-time public servant Senator Van de Putte, who has served in the Texas Legislature since 1990, is both misogynist and racist.
Tea Partier Rick Atkinson coined this offensive term under his blog for the McKinney Tea Party. This type of name calling isn't surprising from the hard right- Atkinson blatantly mocks the State Senator's background, and the largely Latino district she represents. Instead of giving Atkinson more hits, you can read the blurb from the blog (screenshot taken by the Austin Chronicle) here.
However, conservatives still seem think even despite this rhetoric, they can appeal to women-identified and Latino voters. As the large outpouring of support for undocumented Longhorns at UT proved yesterday, Texans are tired of the GOP making jokes and playing games with peoples' identities and struggles.
The International Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed in over 185 cities and more than 20 countries. In Texas, several events were held across the state to memorialize those who have been killed in the past year as a result of transphobia and hatred or fear of gender non-conforming people.
Entering in its 13th year, Transgender Day of Remembrance began in honor of Rita Hester of San Francisco, California, whose murder occurred on November 28th, 1998 and kicked off the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and vigil in 1999. This murder, like many hate crimes, still has not been solved. This year, about 71 individuals who died at the hands of violence had their names read and were recognized, including two from Texas: Artegus Konyale Madden of Denton, and an unknown woman from Houston.
While the list likely does not encompass all who have suffered from these expressions of hate, it shows how far our society still needs to go to find justice for trans* and gender diverse people. For allies, it reiterates what work still needs to do be done to help create safe spaces for all people. There is a great need for every one of us to be conscious of the work needed in our communities in order to make sure everyone has a voice and everyone's needs are addressed.
At a rainy event at Austin City Hall, a large crowd of people arrived despite weather to express love and respect in solidarity with trans*, gender variant, and gender diverse communities. The speakers at the event provided words of encouragement and reflection, many shared personal stories of their own, or those close to them they have lost. The event was sponsored by the Transgender Education Network of Texas, who has been a driving force to provide essential information and support services in the state to fight discrimination. The event also featured key organizations such as allgo; the statewide organization for queer people of color, AIDS services of Austin, Out Youth, Safe Place, and many more.
Read more on events around Texas, and the challenges faced by trans* Texans below the jump.
Wendy Davis was recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving in their list of '2013 Legislative Champions' released yesterday. The list includes 89 lawmakers from around the country who have committed themselves to MADD's mission through their work.
This past session, Senator Davis authored SB 1418, which would have legalized the option of sobriety checkpoints. Unfortunately, this bill that would have helped keep drunk drivers off Texas roads did not see passage.
Texas leads the nation in deaths caused by drunk driving. In 2011, 1,213 people were killed in crashes caused by a drunk driver. Most states have enforced the option to conduct well publicized sobriety checkpoints. Texas would have been the 39th state to enact this kind of law. Sobriety checkpoints have helped states see reductions in drunk driving deaths by over 20 percent.
Wendy Davis was also a joint author on legislation with Senator Watson that increased the penalty to a second degree felony for individuals fleeing the scene of an accident that resulted in death.
"MADD applauds Senator Davis for authoring legislation to give law enforcement officers additional tools to enforce our DWI law. She is a true partner in efforts to keep our streets and highways safe." said MADD North Texas Affiliate Executive Director Jeff Miracle.
Reflecting on this most recent Veterans Day, Congressman Pete Gallego spoke in support of comprehensive immigration reform, and how this is relevant to immigrants who have served in the US Military. In the speech below, he explains how many of those who have served who make the biggest sacrifices-- themselves-- to this country, are still forced to go through excessive lengths to receive citizenship status. Many, as Gallego explains, only receive citizenship status posthumously, after they have made the supreme sacrifice.
Earlier this week, a new study was revealed by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights which assesses the decimated access to reproductive health services in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Nuestro Texas report documents the consequences found as a result of the 2011 Legislature's decision to cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds- to $37.9 from $111 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The focus of this report reveals the damages the Texas Legislature has done to the health of the primarily Latino population along the border in South Texas, who even before faced immense barriers to access health services and are largely uninsured in comparison to the rest of the state. To no surprise, the report has also identified that such limited access these cuts have caused to be massive human rights violations.
"Profound barriers to reproductive health, including cost, lack of transportation, immigration status and lack of accessible clinics, mean that Latinas in Texas are systemically barred from the care they need to live with health and dignity," Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. "These conditions are dangerous to the health of Latinas and immigrant women."
The Nuestro Texas campaign is led by those most affected-- low-income, rural, women of color, to mobilize and put those voices at the forefront. Valley residents have mobilized with the help of promotoras and other their community resources, to make sure the injustices done by the legislature are known and for our state leadership to be held accountable. You can learn more about Nuestro Texas in the video below. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks to Wendy Davis' leadership, thousands of people who would have been turned away from the polls this week were still able to vote. Unfortunately, Republicans, including State Elections Director Keith Ingram, are blaming her leadership for the complications that have arisen due to their discriminatory Voter ID law.
As the Lone Star Project reported earlier this week, Director Ingram specifically blamed Senator Davis in a response to a grievance filed by a Texas voter. Obviously, this isn't the kind of leadership we should be seeing from our State Elections Director who serves all Texans, and not just Governor Perry who appointed him.
In the politically-charged letter, Ingram lies in saying that the Voter ID law only changed the way people with maiden names voted in "one important respect," referring to the affidavit. He then mentions Senator Wendy Davis by name, and describes her amendment. In purposeful oversight, our State Elections Director chose not to include that before the Davis amendment, people whose names did not match precisely with what was on the voter rolls would be denied the right to vote altogether. What Wendy Davis provided as a solution to the Voter ID law problem, Republicans are now trying to spin as an additional burden- even though they introduced this unnecessary law in the first place.