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Fred Lewis's blog

Turn Up the Vote, Turned Out the Vote for GOTV 2014

Texans Together’s non-partisan, grassroots voter network in 2014 was again a huge success. As in 2012, our organizers and grassroots leaders went door-to-door in low-propensity voting areas where Texans Together is engaging communities and developing grassroots leaders.

The San Jacinto Waste Pits Trial: A Jury Trial Without Key Scientific Evidence

And Now, A Few Words...



Harris County's trial against International Paper and Waste Management for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits' toxic contamination has just concluded. Unfortunately, the jurors had no idea what was at stake. The trial judge, interpreting Texas' rigid, highly exclusionary evidentiary laws, did not let in any evidence of environmental harm.  As a result, it was no wonder the jurors were confused and found 10-2 that International Paper, whose predecessor company generated the toxic wastes, was not liable. (Waste Management, whose predecessor company disposed of the paper sludge with dioxin at the Pits, settled for $29.2 million).
The jury never heard this evidence:
Dioxin is one of the world's most dangerous chemicals.
Furans and other dangerous chemical also were released from the site.
Galveston Bay's fishery has been under a state health advisory for 20 years because of dioxin contamination.
Scientific dioxin fingerprinting shows that most of Galveston Bay's dioxin contamination comes from the Waste Pits.
Years of sampling show high concentrations of dioxin throughout the River and Bay. 
Residents' and businesses' property values are depressed because their soil contains dioxin and furans from a nearby Superfund Site. 
The extraordinary number of nearby residents who are sick from illnesses known to be caused by dioxin.
The jury should have heard this credible, scientific evidence and weighed it against the defendant's arguments and counter-evidence. That would have been a real trial. But under our state's evidentiary laws, designed to cripple toxic torts and other cases based on scientific evidence, we have trials without evidence-- an oxymoron. 
Fortunately, the EPA also has a role to play and will decide next year based on all the scientific evidence the proper remedy for cleaning up the Waste Pits. The consequences are huge for our area. We need your involvement to ensure the EPA's process is just. Please contact Jackie Young or Chris Schillaci at 713-782-8833.

Texas Voter Photo Id Law Is Discriminatory and Unconstitutional!

In a very well written opinion piece (which you can view here), United States District Judge Norma Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi struck down yesterday as unconstitutional Texas' voter photo ID law. She also she enjoined it from going into effect for this election. In Veasey v Perry, Judge Ramos held that Texas' voter photo ID law discriminated against African-Americans and Hispanics and that it served no vital governmental purpose because there was de minimus voter impersonation fraud.

The opinion is an excellent overview of Texas' long history of intentional discrimination against minorities and repression of their voting rights. It also provides an excellent analysis of the non-existent evidence of voter fraud, and the fact, that voter fraud has been a recurrent rationalization for suppressing minority voting in Texas. I recommend everyone read the opinion, which is a wonderful history and legal lesson on Texas' sorry and malevolent voter dis-empowerment and repression. I especially recommend the opinion to Harris County's election officials who impede voting at every chance. 


The Supreme Court Gone Rogue


And Now, A Few Words…

(Today's blog was written by Texans Together's president, Fred Lewis who is an attorney and campaign finance expert.)

The United States Supreme Court’s just released decision to invalidate contribution is both a constitutional and policy abomination. The decision undermines American democracy, people’s faith in the integrity of our elections, and the legitimacy of the Court. In McCutheon vs Federal Election Commission, 5 judicial activist justices invalidated aggregate federal campaign contribution limits for individuals that restricted how much one person could give in contributions. Federal law had limited very rich individual donors from giving more than $48, 600 in contributions to federal candidates and over $74,600 to political action committees in a two year election cycle.  Now the rich and powerful can give an unlimited amount of total contributions to multiple federal candidates and political action committees, although the limits they can give to any individual candidate remain—for now.

Let The People Vote

And Now, A Few Words…

Thank you for supporting the Early to Rise petition to place an early education proposition before Harris County’s voters. Because of you, the Early to Raise Campaign submitted 150,000 signed petitions to place the measure on this November’s ballot. Mike Sullivan, the County Tax Assessor-Collector, certified yesterday that the campaign has submitted the required valid signatures.

We are deeply disappointed that County Judge Ed Emmett has refused to place the measure on the ballot—ignoring the wishes of 150,000 Houstonians, the mandatory statute, and the needs of our kids for a good educational start.

The campaign filed suit late yesterday to order the County Judge to place the matter on the ballot, and I am confident, as an election law expert, that the measure will be on the November 2013 ballot. The law is clear that if the required signatures are submitted, then the initiative must go on the ballot-- regardless of whether the elected official dislikes it or thinks it is not authorized.  Voters get to decide the matter before the courts will get involved. (I am also confident the statute authorizes the early education proposal).

Please help us win this campaign for kids and get involved. Donate for our GOTV and social media campaigns and volunteer to help us.

The battle has just begun.


Fred Lewis


Texans Together Education Fund

Donate to Texans Together!

Linda Vista Resource Center Launch Party

And Now, A Few Words…

Hi everyone!  I am sorry you couldn't make it to the Linda Vista's Apartments as Communities' opening on Saturday. Over two hundred adult residents signed in between 12-4 pm and there were many kids. We had 10 volunteers from the Mint Apartments come to the opening to discuss their work with the Linda Vista residents, and a dozen Linda Vista residents helped us run the event. There was lots of enthusiasm and ideas. The apartment management was surprised at the turnout and energy. There were a number of booths, from signing people up for Medicaid and CHIP, to promoting healthy living, to registering people to vote. There are 24 photos of the event on our Facebook page. See https://www.facebook.com/TexansTogetherEF (second item from the top)


Happy Holidays!


And Now, A Few Words…


What a year it's been!

As 2012 comes to a close, I am pleased to report that Texans Together has made some incredible accomplishments this year. We have exciting plans in store for 2013 and we hope you join us.

Why Does Texas Have Such Low Voter Turnout?


And Now, A Few Words…

Texas Public Radio's show, "Texas Matters," hosted a  piece recently on "Why Does Texas Have Such Low Turnout. See http://tpr.org/texasmatters/2012/10/txm121005.html. The host, David Davies, discusses with Professor Walter Wilson of UT-San Antonio and me why Texas has low turnout and what can be done to change it. I said essentially that to increase voter turnout Texas needs to do what has worked in other states: nonprofit groups, like Texans Together, training grass leaders and civically engaging people from disengaged communities year round. To hear the podcast, please click here. 

Why Community Organizing Matters

And Now, A Few Words…

The Texas Observer has just released a great article on why lower income minorities don’t vote in Texas and what can be done to change that: “No Shows:  Why So Few Texans Bother to Vote”.We are proud that it features Texans Together’s organizing work prominently.  See www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/no-shows-why-so-few-texans-bother-to-vote.

The piece’s author, Saul Elbein, notes that turnout is particularly poor in Texas and even worse in Harris County. For example, Latinos voted in 2008 at 57% in California, but only 38% in Texas and under 25% in Harris County. If Texas Latinos had voted at the rate of California Latinos in 2008, more than a million more Latinos would have voted in Texas! He notes that turnout has increased significantly in other states by nonprofit groups engaging lower income communities year round on concerns that matter to them.


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Texans Together Education Fund

P.O. Box 1296
Houston, Texas 77251-1296



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