Sunday, December 16, 2012

TX State Conference NAACP Quarterly Meeting

This meeting will be hosted by the Temple Unit Bill Leak, President Temple Branch NAACP 254 217-0298 on SaturdayJanunuary 26, 2013 10AM-4PM at the Hilton Garden Inn 1749 Scott Boulevard - Temple - TX - 76504 254-773-0200 - Fax 254-773-4455 in Ballrooms A & B. OPEN TO ALL TX MEMBERS IN GOOD STANDING.

Continental Breakfast

Assorted Breakfast Pastries, Coffee, Juice, Water Station

Lunch Options are $9 per person:

Maple Glazed Baked Ham, Honey Roasted Turkey Breast, Roast Beef, Assorted Cheeses, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Dill Pickle Spears, appropriate condiments and cookies. Served with White & Wheat Breads and Rolls.

Note: There are fast food eateries at lower cost within walking distances, however they cannot be brought into the Hilton Garden Inn Ballrooms or areas visible to Hilton Garden Inn customers. We do not want to be in violation of agreement.

Sleeping Rooms include:

King Room $99.00 ($109.00 with hot breakfast up to 2 people)

Two Queen Bed Room $99.00 ($109.00 with hot breakfast up to 2 people)

King Jr. Suites includes pull out sofa to sleep 2 guests $99.00 ($109.00 with breakfast up to 2 people)

All prices include an 18% service charge


Hilton Garden Inn - Temple

1749 Scott Blvd. Temple, Texas 76504

Off I-35 North or South

Take Exit299 towards 363-loop/Cameron

Take 31st street Exit off 363-loop

Turn Left onto 31st street (do not take u-turn back onto 363-loop)

Turn Left onto Scott Blvd about 0.1 mile

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 2012 Christmas Meeting

December 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm at the Downtown Meeting Place will be our regular membership meeting.

Celebrating the season; we will have a meal during our meeting and time for fellowship. Please bring ideas to add to our 2013 schedule. We have a host of new officers, just elected in November. Please all members come and get acquainted with leadership and membership.

If your are interested in becoming a member you may join at this meeting.

The Downtown Meeting Place is located at 314 E. Cotton St. Longview, Texas 75602

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HIV Awareness Day

Saturday, December 1st is World AIDS day. As you can tell from the poster below, this is an issue affecting the black community at alarming rates. 

The Special Health Resources for Texas Inc. has invited Longview NAACP President, Branden Johnson to speak during the ceremony at 4 pm December 1st at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church just off McCann Rd. 

Come learn more about this horrible virus, and also lend your support as we begin to tackle every issue of social injustice.  Read more.

Friday, November 9, 2012

High court to take new look at voting rights law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Friday it will consider eliminating the government’s most potent weapon against racial discrimination at polling places since the 1960s. The court acted three days after a diverse coalition of voters propelled President Barack Obama to a second term in the White House.

With a look at affirmative action in higher education already on the agenda, the court is putting a spotlight on race by re-examining the ongoing necessity of laws and programs aimed at giving racial minorities access to major areas of American life from which they once were systematically excluded.

“This is a term in which many core pillars of civil rights and pathways to opportunity hang in the balance,” said Debo Adegbile, acting president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Read entire article at the Longview News Journal web page.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

South Longview initiative unites businesses, youth

By Jessica Ferguson and Glenn Evans
Read entire article at the LNJ web page.

A half-page advertisement that Don and Amy Foster bought when they opened their business on South High Street drew 108 phone calls.

“Fifty of those who called said they wouldn’t come past downtown,” Don Foster said. “Thirty-five more said they wouldn’t come past (U.S.) 80 or Nelson (Street).”

More specifically, the co-owner of Sassy Sheek Salon said, the callers were saying they wouldn’t go south of those landmarks.

“We only got eight customers,” he said. “And we have lost two really good stylists because their customers wouldn’t come down here. We lost a massage therapist because of the location.”

So the couple is taking aim at turning around perceptions about South Longview that are threatening their fledgling business. One part of that effort is starting a new business group to advocate for the area. Another is joining with an established program for the area’s youth. The twin goals, Foster said, are bringing “business owners together with the community’s youth to make changes that will increase business and have a long-term impact on the youth.”

So far, the new South Longview Business Alliance has four members — and Foster said this past week another 16 have expressed interest in joining. In addition to the salon, business members of the alliance are Mobile Notary, Edible Arts and Wanda Turner of Texas Homes and Ranches.

Foster also is making contact with the Youth Action Committee, which was established in 1996 by the city’s Partners in Prevention program to engage young people and foster leadership skills. Participants do painting, landscaping, litter removal and other revitalization projects. Foster said he hopes the group’s support of young people’s engagement in the south side will begin to make the area’s businesses more attractive to potential customers from all over Longview.

“I’m hoping the community is respectful enough to do business with the businesses that sponsor that cleanup,” he said.

Efforts to revitalize the elder half of Longview have waxed and waned for at least two decades. The efforts often were the fruit of local church and service club outreaches.

In the mid-1990s, under heavy public pressure, the city cracked down on drug violence, demolishing an eyesore house and constructing Stamper Park Recreation Resource Center at Nelson and Center streets, just off High Street.

“What makes us different is taking this group of businesses, and taking it out and trying to tie the community to us,” Foster said as his wife clipped customer Brittney Myers’ hair. “As a new business owner, I felt that there was an imbalance between the north and south.”

Foster said he also has addressed the Longview City Council about his efforts and is planning to meet with LeTourneau University President Dale Lunsford.

Branden Johnson, president of the Longview NAACP and owner of Mobile Notary, said the city has needed an organization such as the alliance for some time. He likened it to the Greggton-centered Go West effort to set West Longview on a path to its own renaissance.

“I think it will be similar to the Go West campaign and draw more attention to this particular area of Longview,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to figure out how we can increase traffic from (Interstate) 20 and (U.S.) 259 to businesses in Longview.”

Read entire article at the LNJ web page.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP)

Interested in a career in Medicine? Check out the following:

The Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) is a special program created by the Texas Legislature to support and encourage highly qualified, economically disadvantaged Texas resident students pursuing a medical education.

Since 2003, JAMP has been helping highly qualified, economically disadvantaged students achieve their dreams with:
  • Scholarships every semester beginning in the spring semester of your sophomore year of college.
  • Stipends to attend summer internships following your sophomore and junior years of college at one of the participating medical schools.
  • Mentoring and personal assistance to prepare for medical school while attending college.
  • Admission to a Texas medical school if you meet all program requirements.
  • A scholarship to attend medical school.
Making Dreams Come TrueFunded through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, JAMP is a unique partnership between all nine Texas medical schools and sixty-five public and private four-year undergraduate institutions. Since 2001, JAMP has been helping Texas students become tomorrow’s medical professionals by providing:

  • Support through undergraduate and graduate scholarships and summer stipends
  • Mentoring and personal assistance to prepare for medical school
  • Hands-on experience through summer internships
  • Guaranteed admission to a Texas medical school if all requirements are met

Certification Training Offered on Nov. 13th

Office Manager Certification 
Sponsored by Kilgore College SBDC & Longview Economic Development Corporation

Tuesday, November 13 8:30 - 11:30 a.m. 
Longview Economic Development Corporation $179 to attend

Limited seating is available. Early registration highly recommended for this certification seminar.
To register by credit card,call the Kilgore College SBDC,(903) 757-5857 or (800) 338-7232.

This certificate course is a must for any office worker that supervises the activity of others. We will explore common challenges and provide proven tools that will allow your office to run smoothly and efficiently. Whether you are new to management or a seasoned office expert, this course will hone your skills so your team gets the most from each work day. Do not miss this opportunity to improve your ability to get things done! 

  • Learn 7 common administrative challenges that disrupt work flow
  • Review some Basic HR "must knows" to prevent litigation
  • Understand the most effective methods to delegate work and follow up for completion
  • Develop "effective communication" techniques to make sure people get your message
  • Review the most common steps for progressive discipline in the workplace

Saturday, September 29, 2012

LEDCO board under fire for lack of racial diversity

View article on Longview News Journal Web Page.
Posted Sept. 28, 2012
By Sherry Koonce 

Longview City Council members appeared to have been taken off-guard Thursday when representatives of the NAACP took the floor in council chambers to ask for more diversity in the board of directors and staff of Longview Economic Development Corp.

The LEDCO board of directors consists of 10 white men. All staff members are white women.

Branden Johnson, president of the Longview Chapter of the NAACP told the City Council that the LEDCO board is not representative of the city’s racial make-up.

“With the growing Muslim-owned businesses, there is no Muslim representation; with the many Asian business owners, there is no Asian representation, the question of Latino representation, if any, has been even more limited,” Johnson said.

“We need a wake-up call to encourage all who do business in Longview to create a climate of inclusitivity and multi-culturalism through cultural responsiveness,” Johnson said.

LEDCO’s board members are appointed by the City Council and Mayor Jay Dean.

The city in December approved its own workforce diversity plan, which is focused more on employment, city spokesman Shawn Hara, said.

“Though there have been topics of diversity for some time, Hara said he was not aware of any previous specific discussion concerning the LEDCO board or any other specific boards.

Mayor pro tem Kasha Williams said the council will take the concerns about LEDCO’s board under advisement.

“We have heard you this evening. We will take this matter seriously,” Williams said.

Dean, along with council members Richard Manley and Sidney Allen, were not present at Thursday’s meeting. Dean was out of town due to a death in the family, and the two councilmen joined the mayor in Louisiana to lend support.

Because a full council board was not present for discussion, District 2 Councilman Gary Smith made a motion to postpone two agenda items: approval of a five-year Capital Improvement Project plan and funding for CIP projects for fiscal year 2012-13 as well as approval of LEDCO’S 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

Because LEDCO’s existing budget has to be adopted by Sept. 30, Smith amended his motion to postpone only the CIP item.

Council approved LEDCO’s $4.9 million budget, which includes $1.3 million in the incentives fund. LEDCO is a government corporation funded from a -cent sales tax revenue.


The following two articles were published in the LNJ related to this story:

LEDCO answers call for diversity, plans to appoint Longview ISD official to board

Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:46 am, Wed Oct 10, 2012.
By Sherry Koonce

Reacting to a call for diversity on the Longview Economic Development Corp. board of directors, city officials Tuesday agreed to recommend a change in the makeup of the board filled with middle-aged white men.

Longview’s Council Appointments Committee will recommend that former Good Shepherd Medical Center CEO Ed Banos be replaced by Andrea Mayo, a black woman who serves as deputy superintendent for Longview ISD.

Mayo served two previous terms on the LEDCO board.  Banos’ employment at Good Shepherd was terminated Sept. 26. He had held the position since 2008.

“We had a situation about diversity brought up, and because Mr. Banos is out of the hospital now, this would be a chance to do the diversity thing with somebody who is qualified,” District 4 City Councilman Wayne Frost said.

Banos declined to comment on the Council Appointments Committee’s action, but said he was satisfied with his service on the LEDCO board.  Read more.


Longview City Council rejects LEDCO board pick

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:46 am, Fri Oct 12, 2012.

By Angela Ward

The Longview City Council voted Thursday to disregard the recommendations of its appointments committee, instead approving the original slate suggested by the Longview Economic Development Corp. to serve on its board of directors.

As it now stands, the board consists of five voting members and five ex-officio members, all of whom are white and all but one of whom is male.

The appointments committee, which consists of council members Kasha Williams and Wayne Frost, on Tuesday had agreed not to accept the LEDCO nominees, instead deciding to place Andrea Mayo, a black woman, on the board in place of Ed Banos. They said the change would provide the board with much-needed diversity as requested by members of the community.

Mayo is a Longview ISD administrator; Banos is former president and CEO of Good Shepherd Medical Center.

Though Frost supported the substitution Tuesday as an appointments committee member, he made the motion at Thursday’s council meeting to instead approve LEDCO’s original slate.

“I second guessed the LEDCO board, and that was wrong of me,” he said during the meeting. “I apologize for putting us in this situation, but I think we need to go with the slate as originally presented to us.”

Williams, however, did not waiver from her original stand.

“This isn’t personal; I have nothing against Mr. Banos. It’s an attempt to diversify the committee, because we had members of the community come to us with concerns about this issue,” she said. “I do not share Mr. Frost’s sentiments. I believe that we, as a council, have the right and sometimes the duty to override committee recommendations.”

Frost, Sidney Allen, John Sims and Mayor Jay Dean voted in favor of the motion.

Williams, Gary Smith and Richard Manley voted against it.

Dean said it is unfortunate the council found itself in the situation.

“One of the problems we often encounter is getting people to sign up to serve on boards and commissions,” he said. “I agree that diversity is good, but there are sometimes situations where we’ve asked people who would increase the diversity of our boards to serve on them and been turned down.”

Smith, the newest council member, said he believed it was important to bring in people with fresh views.

The LEDCO board as it stands consists of voting members Keith Honey, Lester Lucy, Steve Metcalf, Joe Bob Joyce, and Banos. Ex-officio members are Jim Kendrick, Phillip Ford, Dan Droege, Julie Fowler and Paul Stephenson.

LEDCO owns two Longview business parks, and it oversees economic development projects with the aim of creating or retaining jobs in the city, including providing financial assistance and incentives.

It has a nearly $5 million budget, which includes more than $1 million in its incentive fund.

The diversity issue was raised by Branden Johnson, president of the Longview chapter of the NAACP, who urged council members at their Sept. 27 meeting to bring more diversity to the board. He questioned why, with growing minority populations in Longview and the business community, there was no Muslim, Asian or Latino representation on the LEDCO board.  Read more.

Searching for diversity: Minority leaders urge change on Longview boards, commissions to reflect population

Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:41 am, Tue Oct 30, 2012.
By Sherry Koonce

From 2000 to 2010, the racial makeup of Longview changed — noticeably. During the decade, the city’s white majority shrank from 70 percent to 56 percent as minority populations swelled.

But a survey of the civic leaders serving on Longview’s decision-making agencies, boards and commissions found a racial diversity more reminiscent of the 2000 population.

After minority leaders recently asked the Longview City Council to make an effort to diversify the racial makeup of standing committees and boards, the News-Journal examined a broad sample of city boards, commissions and committees. The survey looked at race, gender and age of the members. The data was not immediately available because the city does not track the demographics of its appointed representatives.

Because such boards, committees and commissions are fluid — most change annually — the results of the survey reflect a snapshot in time.  Read more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Honor an Educator Today!

Texas Educators Deserve Recognition—Honor an Educator Today!

Texas AFT has joined in a new campaign to honor Texas educators,
spearheaded by the Texas PTA, and we encourage you to take part
yourself and spread the word to family, friends, and all who care about
the work Texas educators do for the schoolchildren of our state.

Last week the Texas PTA and allied organizations launched a 180-day
marathon to recognize as many Texas educators as possible.
Representatives of the various groups, including Texas AFT President
Linda Bridges and Secretary-Treasurer Louis Malfaro, joined in a rally
marking the occasion on September 12 on the steps of the Texas capitol.

The goal is to have 100,000 teachers recognized in 180 days—the length
of the current instructional year. The Texas PTA sees it as a great way for
parents and students to say “thank you” to their educators for their hard work
and dedication, especially in light of the budget cuts that have swelled class
sizes and left them with fewer resources in the classroom.

Leslie Boggs, first vice-president of the Texas PTA, reminded participants at
the capitol rally that teachers often “go and dip into their own pockets” to make
up for shortfalls in the supplies their students need. That’s just one small
example of the lengths educators go to in the effort to make a difference in
the lives of their students.

The Texas PTA’s educator-recognition project gives Texans the opportunity
to recognize a teacher, librarian, or other educator with a tribute that will be
posted on the project’s Web site, Already posted there
are nearly a thousand tributes to individual educators from Texans who know
how much the success of Texas students is due to the educators in this great state.

Invited to come up with a one-word description of their nominee, Texans have
offered a whole catalogue of heartfelt words of appreciation, including:  visionary,
caring, inspiring, dedicated, passionate, loving, innovative, insightful, patient,
trustworthy, engaging, devoted, selfless, thoughtful, imaginative, magical, tireless,
tenacious, nurturing, dynamic, brilliant, determined, supportive…and life-altering.

Encourage everyone you know to visit the Web site at
and to nominate an educator today!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

NAACP president receives award

View article on Longview News Journal

Branden Johnson, president of the Longview Chapter NAACP, was presented the Humanitarian of the Year award by the Church Women United (formerly the United Council of Church Women) at a ceremony Friday at the Post Oak CME Church in Lakeport.

According to event organizers, Johnson was selected for his years of dedicated service to the community and his commitment to social justice.

The event is in recognition of the organization’s nationwide Human Rights Celebration 2012. This year’s theme is “Embracing Our Oneness.” Church Women United is committed to the mission of liberating the world and was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s work that ushered in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Legislative Hotline Regarding Education


A Deeply Disappointing Budget Proposal from the Texas Education Agency
The Texas Education Agency this afternoon presented a deeply disappointing budget request to the budget drafters at the Legislative Budget Board and Governor’s Budget Office. The proposal makes no attempt to undo the severe budget cuts enacted last session. Reading between the lines of testimony delivered by several high-level TEA officials, it appears that new Commissioner of Education Michael Williams put his imprint on this feeble plan by making it even weaker. Reportedly he cut from the proposal a number of requests that might have begun to reverse last year’s cuts. Evidently one of these requests deleted from the TEA wish list would have restored some funding for full-day pre-kindergarten grants, for example.

In the coming legislative session, Texas AFT will fight to fix this utterly inadequate budget plan for public education. Meanwhile, Texas AFT legislative counsel Patty Quinzi offered a blunt assessment of the plan in testimony today:

“Texas AFT is committed to reversing the de-facto policy of disinvestment in public education that subtracted more than $5 billion from funding for our schools in the current budget. Texas AFT’s 65,000-plus members have seen the damaging effects of these budget cuts in their schools and classrooms, as documented in four surveys of educators and superintendents that Texas AFT has conducted since the current budget took effect.  (All of the surveys are available on the Texas AFT Web site, Our members urge the legislature and governor to change course in the 2014-2015 budget, take advantage of the new influx of state revenue greatly exceeding previous estimates, and invest in the public schools that are the key to a prosperous future for our state and its citizens.    

“The Legislative Appropriations Request submitted earlier this month by the Texas Education Agency for 2014-2015 does not even begin to restore the programs and per-pupil funding that were cut last session. Instead, this request would continue the policy of failure by design that was built into the 2012-2013 budget at the very moment our schools face rising challenges. These challenges include rapid growth in the number of high-need students in our schools. Enrollment trends reported by TEA over the most recent ten-year period show that all of the rapid increase in student population has been accounted for by economically disadvantaged students. Over the ten-year period from school year 2000-01 to school year 2010-11, enrollment of economically disadvantaged students rose by 911,795 to a total of 2,914,916, or 59 percent of all students.

“Prominent among the damaging cuts enacted last session were:  a cut in funding for school districts averaging hundreds of dollars per pupil annually; elimination of state grants supporting full-day pre-kindergarten programs for tens of thousands of children; and near-elimination of the funding needed to provide extra help under the Student Success Initiative to enable pupils who are academically at risk to pass state exams. It appears that none of these cuts that undermine school and student success would be even partially reversed under TEA’s request for the coming biennium.

“It is a sad commentary that one of the few ‘exceptional items’ requested by TEA, for which full funding would be maintained in this budget proposal, is $22.1 million ‘to fully fund the implementation of the state’s assessment system.’ This ‘exceptional item’ request illustrates vividly the misplaced priorities of the proposed state education budget. While vital programs like expanded pre-kindergarten go begging, full funding for the state’s fixation on standardized testing is kept intact. The state under this budget plan would maintain these misplaced priorities—focused on measuring achievement levels with standardized testing rather than taking the measures needed to raise achievement —even as the very design of the state test has been called into question by expert testimony taken in the House Public Education Committee during the current interim, and even as school-finance lawsuits have challenged the state’s failure to make adequate provision for the public school system, as required by the state constitution.

“Dramatically improved revenue collections reported by the state comptroller’s office and independent fiscal experts give TEA and the legislature new reason to reconsider this education budget. The state’s tax collections have far exceeded the official estimates on which the current draconian budget was based. Both a burgeoning cash balance of billions of dollars and the fast-growing Economic Stabilization Fund (the so-called Rainy Day Fund) provide the means to restore key education programs and per-pupil funding. It is time for the agency and the LBB to make contingency plans to restore the funding that was cut last session. There is a way, if the legislature has the will.” 

Attention Teachers: Free Resources

Free Classroom Resources, Plus a Chance to Win $5,000 to Pay Down Your (or Your Children’s) Student Loans—What a Deal!

Here’s an idea: What if you could win $5,000 to pay down your own or your children's student loan and gain access to free classroom resources at the same time? Register now for Share My Lesson and you could win $5,000 toward your student loans! Developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect, Share My Lesson is a remarkable new Web site with more than 250,000 free lesson plans, activities, and worksheets that educators can download and use in their own classrooms.

Registration is simple and only takes a minute--and when you register, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win $5,000 toward your (or your children's) student loans.*

Register by Oct. 31 for your chance to win! Share My Lesson offers you:

· A FREE Web site that provides more than 250,000 high-quality teaching resources that are rated and reviewed by other educators.

· The ability to search for resources by subject, topic, grade, type and format.

· A Resource Calendar to give you ideas and activities for hot topics and upcoming events.

· Resources that offer support for English language learners, students with disabilities, and gifted and talented students.

*You must register before Oct. 31 to be entered into the drawing. Anyone who is already registered on the site will automatically be eligible for the drawing. If the winner (or the winner’s child) does not have student loans, he or she will receive a $3,500 Visa cash card. Read the full terms and conditions here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

South Side: Beautifying entryways should be only a first step

View article on Longview News Journal Web Page.
Posted Sept. 12, 2012 by Longview News Journal

Those of us who call Longview home know it is a city of beautiful, tree-shaded neighborhoods wrapped around a historic downtown and lovely parks and trails.

Unfortunately, that is not the impression it gives visitors entering Longview from the south. In fact, for many of those who briefly exit I-20 to buy gasoline or a meal, the only impression they may get of Longview is blight. With one notable exception, the view does not get much better for those who venture deeper into Longview until they get near downtown, nearly five miles to the north.

So we were pleased by news of plans afoot to beautify our city’s south entryway. The effort is welcome and, frankly, long overdue.

Taking part in the push are Kasha Williams, the Longview City Council member who represents the area, the Longview Chamber of Commerce’s Keep Longview Beautiful group, Mayor Jay Dean, and others.

South Longview is the original heart of our city, and includes the city’s finest old neighborhoods. Unfortunately, as development has pushed ever further northward, we seem to have forgotten our southside roots.

That means too many of us also have forgotten the impression we give to visitors.

Imagine being a parent bringing a prospective student to LeTourneau University. The university, of course, is one of our city’s jewels. But what must those parents and young people think when they exit I-20 at Estes Parkway and cast their eyes on empty lots, partially demolished buildings and other blighted properties?

Imagine the impression business travelers must have when they’re entering the city from the airport. And let’s not forget those who might spend more time in the city if it appeared more inviting at first glance.

We can do better.

Equally as important, of course, are the benefits such beautification would have as it spreads off the main thoroughfares and into surrounding neighborhoods. We have seen exactly that happen with improvements made in downtown and elsewhere, and we believe it would happen as well in South Longview.

As reported in Sunday’s News-Journal, there are challenges even to simple first steps such as beautifying roadways with trees and gardens. There is underground infrastructure that may make planting difficult, trees planted along streets require extra work to ensure roots don’t damage the roadway, and overhead utilities could scratch some hoped-for improvements off the wish list.

But such minor issues should not derail this effort. And simply planting trees and cleaning up the worst of the blight must not be the end of it. We believe the city should be working toward a plan for comprehensive redevelopment of the area, with an eye toward increasing both residential and business uses of property.

We have great potential for growth and improvement on our city’s south side, and look forward to seeing it come to fruition for the benefit of all Longview.

Gregg GOP official: Voting maps ruling ‘dumber than dirt’

Longview News Journal Article - Click here to read.

Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 1:34 pm

Texas Republicans were dealt a blow Tuesday when a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., rejected the political jurisdictions drawn by state lawmakers in spring 2011.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals does not affect the November general election, which is using temporary boundaries reached while Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott defended the GOP-favored lines.

Abbott said Tuesday he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling affects state House and Senate districts as well as Texas’ four new congressional seats, according to Associated Press.
The justices, in a 154-page decision, held that lawmakers did not draw districts, “...without discriminatory purposes,” drawing harsh criticism from members of the GOP.
“That’s dumber than dirt,” said Gregg County Republican Chairman Keith Rothra. “We have drawn our congressional districts and duly argued we did not do it on a racial basis.”
East Texas Republican Reps. David Simpson and Bryan Hughes, the latter of whom hopes to guide the House as its next speaker, did not return messages Tuesday afternoon.
Rothra cited U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the past two decades holding that lines for political boundaries cannot use racial factors as the primary criterion.
That’s what the judges in Washington, D.C., just did, he said.
“And now the court is telling us we’re unconstitutional because we did not use race as a criterion, because we did not put proper deference into the influx of the Hispanic population?” Rothra asked.
Population growth outpacing all other states earned Texas four new congressional districts. Florida was next, with two new seats in the U.S. House.
But that growth was fueled by Hispanic populations, and to a lesser extent new black Texans. The Legislature in 2011 emerged from its once-a-decade redraw with two new Republican and two new Democratic districts, which along with state House and Senate maps were put on hold while challenges by minority groups went through the courts.
“They got greedy in their redistricting efforts,” Gregg County Democratic advocate Vic Verma said of Republicans, who held 101 of 150 Texas House seats during the session. “Instead of trying to follow the law, they thought they could take an opportunity, because of the super majority, to run roughshod over the law. Redistricting did hurt Democrats, but I think the big issue is it hurt minorities.”
Minorities historically have voted Democrat.
“When you look at the demographic changes in the state and the Hispanic growth — they did not take it into account,” Verma said. “And I think the court agreed with that.”
Branden Johnson, president of the Longview chapter of the NAACP, hailed the ruling as a victory. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“Some of the lines they drew are ridiculous,” he said, noting one congressional district stretching from Austin into San Antonio.
He noted another redraw that moved three state lawmakers physically into new districts.
“And the only three people affected were three black state representatives,” Johnson said. “Their houses were redrawn into another district. That’s the discrimination, when only one racial group is selected out.”

Texas voter ID law fails to clear court

LONGVIEW NEWS JOURNAL ARTICLE:  Click to view article.
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 1:34 pm

It was deja vu all over again for Republicans and Democrats on Thursday as a federal court tossed out a second GOP-backed law in three days.
This time it was the state’s voter ID law, but again it was Texas Republicans who took one on the chin.

And, as with the state’s redistricting plan that was thrown out Tuesday, the presiding court said Texas lawmakers were erecting barriers to poor and minority voters.
“Viva la Tejas! That’s good news twice,” Longview NAACP chapter President Branden Johnson said. “I’m excited and delighted that they stood up for civil rights again.”
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., said the voter ID law, which took Republicans three legislative sessions to push through, did not pass constitutional muster.
The ruling almost certainly means the Nov. 6 general election will remain under the old law. Voters must show either a voter registration card or one of several other IDs, including a water bill with a current address, in order to cast ballots.
The voter ID law greatly restricted those options, though it added the Texas concealed handgun ID to the list.
The Gregg County Republican chairman on Thursday reacted similarly to when the previous panel ruled on redistricting.
“Can I just say, ditto?” Keith Rothra asked. “I can’t find a logic in the court’s decision, and I hate to sound repetitive, but it’s dumber than dirt.”
Rothra’s Democratic counterpart said the national wave of state’s passing voter ID laws is contrary to the theory that greater participation promotes democracy.
“You want people to be excited and get involved in the system, but then we go and put all these rules in,” said Gregg County Democratic Chairman Bryce Bagby. “If you want to give the American people more of a say, let the people participate and vote.”
Opponents of the law, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, argued that more than 600,000 Texans could be disenfranchised, most of them poor and minority voters who traditionally vote Democratic.
The court had asked Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott for evidence to the contrary. But in writing the court’s opinion Thursday, Justice David. S. Tatel described Texas’ evidence as “unpersuasive, invalid or both.”
As with Tuesday’s ruling, which was handed down from a different panel of the same D.C. court, Abbott promised to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He had the backing of Gov. Rick Perry.
“Chalk up another victory for fraud,” the governor wrote in an email sent to media outlets. “Today, federal judges subverted the will of the people of Texas and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections. The Obama administration’s claim that it’s a burden to present a photo ID to vote simply defies common sense. I will continue to work with Attorney General Abbott to fight for the same right that other states already have to protect their elections.”
Johnson said it was Perry and Republicans who were trying to subvert the will of targeted Texans.
“I think Gregg Abbott should decide to use his energy and all his muster and might in a positive manner as our lead attorney in this state,” Johnson said. “Leave our voting rights alone.”
He added an election year caution for the GOP.
“Those voter ID laws are put in place to alienate blacks and Latinos in the state of Texas, and the people embracing voter ID law ought to be embracing blacks and Latinos,” he said. “It’s not hard for most of us to get an ID card, but you have to think about people who are elderly, in nursing homes. You also have people living in rural areas. Some people have to drive upwards of 100 miles to get to the DPS (office).”
Texas Rep. Bryan Hughes, who backed the legislation, said lawmakers had ensured its constitutionality by making the IDs free if the $22 cost proved a hardship.
“That was a big part of the debate,” said Hughes, R-Mineola. “Obviously, I’m disappointed. There have always been reasonable requirements in place in order to vote.”
Don’t go to the Department of Public Safety for a free voter ID card yet, though.
“Nothing happens,” DPS spokesman Tom Vinger wrote in an email response to questions. “We don’t offer voter ID cards at this time. Authorization would come from the court system.”
Mike Schwartz, co-founder of We The People-Longview, a tea party organization, was almost blasphemous to his no-new-tax party in his support of voter ID.
“I’m willing to pay extra taxes if it supports the structure where people can get a voter ID,” Schwartz said. “It’s a very common sense law, and if the state will provide a free voter ID, what’s really the beef? What’s the argument?”
Hughes’ fellow Republican lawmaker, David Simpson of Longview, noted the 83rd Legislature convening in January has a full plate with education funding, water issues and yet another revenue shortfall.
“I would rather not see us have to go through the redistricting process next year,” Simpson said. “I think it’s important that we have honest elections, and this was a step. It’s certainly not everything we need to do for that. ... I think these are reasonable (laws), and I’m willing to get on down the road.”

Related Content
A resident’s voter application asks for one of three identification numbers. If a resident has not received any of these, he is still eligible to register to vote but will be required to provide proof of identity.
Acceptable identification includes:
A driver’s license or personal ID card issued by Texas DPS.
A form of ID that contains a photograph and establishes identity
A birth certificate or other document confirming birth that establishes identity
U.S. citizenship papers or U.S. passport
Official mail addressed to a resident by a governmental entity
A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows a resident’s name and address

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“This administration believes it should be easier for eligible citizens to vote, to register and vote. We should not be imposing unnecessary obstacles and barriers to voter participation.”
Jay Carney
White House press secretary
“Under the proposed law, many of those without the required voter identification would be forced to travel great distances to get one — and some would have to pay for the documents they might need to do so. The Legislature rejected reasonable efforts to mitigate these burdens.”
Eric Holder
U.S. attorney general
“The Supreme Court of the United States has already upheld voter ID laws as a constitutional method of ensuring integrity at the ballot box. Today’s decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana — and were upheld by the Supreme Court. ”
Greg Abbott
Texas attorney general
“In a matter of two days, the state of Texas has had its dirty laundry aired out across the national stage. This deals with the despicable issues of discrimination, voter suppression, these are things that we’re not proud of.”
Trey Martinez Fischer
Chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Conference

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Radio Interview: Stop the Violence

President Branden Johnson interviewed on a streaming internet radio broadcast recently. The conversation is with an anti-violence campaign named, "Stop the Violence" based in South Central Los Angeles, but has nationwide  connections. 

Johnson shared what we do as a community and how leaders here are stepping up to the challenges we've encountered in Longview, Texas.

To listen go to

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

LNJ Editorial: Her example- Willis leaves broad legacy of improvement in our city

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:44 am, Tue Jul 17, 2012.
She has had a positive impact on generations of Longview residents.
And though the life of Sidney Bell Willis ended this week, we are certain her positive presence will continue to be felt for generations to come through the countless lives she touched and her official accomplishments.
As a schoolteacher for 43 years, Mrs. Willis nurtured countless young people’s minds. Using her gift as a music minister, she glorified God through song. And as a Longview City Council member, she worked to help make our city’s streets safer, to put in place a city transit system, to boost the south-side area she represented until 2011 — and to always stand up and speak out for what is right and just.
Her record of accomplishment for Longview cannot be denied. Neither can the fact her path to such distinction was not an easy one.
A product of Longview’s once-segregated public school system, Mrs. Willis preferred to focus on the movement away from that era, on the opportunities she found in Longview, and not to dwell on the past.
Receiving the Unity Award in 2009 from the city’s Race Relations Committee, she praised the community for progress away from its racist roots.
“You are sitting here today as people who want to see differences dissolved and unity achieved,” she said. “I love Longview. I would never choose to be anywhere else. This community has nurtured me and been the foundation of all my dreams.”
Because of her work, Longview has been — and will be — the foundation for many more dreams for many years to come.
The life of Sidney Bell Willis should serve as an example to all of us of how to make our lives, and our communities, better places.

Former councilwoman dies at 76

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:44 am, Tue Jul 17, 2012.

Longview lost one its staunchest allies Sunday.

Those who knew her, and many did, said they could visualize Sidney Bell Willis singing in heaven’s choir, teaching angels how to enunciate properly and, most likely, championing others.

Willis, 76, who served as District 3 city councilwoman from 2002 until 2011, died Sunday surrounded by family after an extended illness.
“She was what I call a trailblazer for justice, for education and human rights,” said Kasha Williams, District 3 councilwoman. “Mrs. Willis was involved in so many things in the community.”
Before she represented south side neighborhoods on the City Council, Willis was an educator. When she ran for political office in 2002, she was a retired teacher of 43 years with Longview Independent School District.
Friends say she was a gifted musician, having served as music minister at St. Mark CME, for more than 20 years. She also taught piano lessons.
Williams described the woman she replaced on the City Council as “much more than a political mentor. She was a longtime friend of the family who always encouraged others.
“I have known Mrs. Willis all my life,” Williams said. “She probably knew me even before I was born. Our families shared a close, personal connection.”
Photo by LNJ, Michael Cavazos
Mayor Jay Dean remembered Willis fondly, calling her a “class act who would be missed by many.
“I worked with Mrs. Willis before being elected mayor,” Dean said. “We had some very good discussions — me representing Northwest Longview and her representing south Longview, and us looking out for our districts. It was not always pleasant, but we always had mutual respect. She was a fine, classy, Christian lady.”
Willis was dedicated to District 3. In 2005, when the Lilly Street area was ripped apart by numerous drive-by shootings, Willis confronted the issue head-on.
“Mrs. Willis got right out front real quick. We got the police, the ministerial alliance and neighbors involved,” Dean said. “Mrs. Willis contacted me, we started together the Unity and Community Project to try to go into the neighborhood with focus and prayer to bring people together,” Dean said.
She worked for the people of her district, always trying to improve drainage and streets.
City Manager David Willard said he was impressed with Willis from the first time he met her.
“She was on the Council that hired me in 2007, and she was always very helpful to me,” he said. “I will remember her as a very elegant, classy woman. She will be missed.”
Since her election in 2011 to the council seat Willis held, Williams said she often sought Willis’ advice.
“I could always call on her for any kind of advisement. Even outside of politics she was always there as a mentor and a friend. She was family,” Williams said. “She always guided me in my decision making. When she spoke, people would respond.”
While Willis spent most of her last years on the City Council, she never forgot her time in the classroom and never failed to promote the value of a good education.
“One of the things that set her apart was her focus on education. She was always very smart, very articulate,” Williams said.
Willis also was a member of the NAACP, and a recipient of the city’s Race Relations Committee Unity Award.
Willis was a member of Top Ladies of Distinction and the first Top Teens Advisor.
“She was a woman of high ethical character and caliber. She was willing to serve as a leader, as a catalyst of our community and those who knew her best, know that to be so,” Williams said.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Analysis: Homicide -- Percentage of black victims above national average

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:21 am, Tue Jul 17, 2012.
Editor’s note: This is second in a series of stories examining homicide in Longview.  Click here to read the first story. Click here for more information on Longview homicides in the past five years.
If you live in the city of Longview, you are most likely to be a murder victim if you are a black male, about 35 years old, somewhere south of Cotton Street.
A News-Journal analysis of data from the Longview Police Department paints this portrait of the city’s murder victims and suspects: Although the victims are of all races, more than half of people killed since January 2008 — 54 percent — are black. Nine white victims and seven Hispanic victims account for the remaining 46 percent.
While Longview’s homicide rate is on par for a city its size — 35 victims in the past five years — the percentage of black victims is substantially larger. According to the 2010 census, blacks made up about 23 percent of Longview’s population.
“The problem that I see is that for black people to make up only a small portion of the total population, but yet make up such a large portion of violent offenses, really speaks to the cyclical problems in violence,” said Brandon Johnson, president of the NAACP in Longview.
Of 17 arrests made in connection with the 35 homicides, 12 — representing 70.1 percent — of the suspects are black.
Part of the reason, Johnson said, is that where there is less opportunity, there is more crime.
Job opportunities are limited on the south side and not everyone has a car, he said.
Based on race, the percentage of victims in Longview is disproportional to the national average, according to the FBI’s 2010 Crimes in the United States report.
Nationally, 46.5 percent of homicide victims in 2010 were white, compared with 26 percent in Longview.
Half of all homicide victims in the U.S. in 2010 were black while in Longview the percentage was 55 percent.
The seven Hispanic victims in Longview since 2008 account for 20 percent of total homicides, but Hispanic deaths were too few to be uniquely classified on the 2010 national report.
Age, gender, location
The average age of homicide victims in Longview since 2008 is 35.2 years old. Analysis of homicide data reveals the average age at the time of death is relative to a victim’s race.
The average age of the seven Hispanic victims was 27.3 years old — 14 years younger than the average 41.6 -year-old white victim. The age of black victims is 35.1 years old.
Local statistics also vary from national numbers when cases are divided by gender.
Nationally, 22.5 percent of all homicide victims were female in 2010, according to the FBI report.
The homicide rate for women in Longview is half the national average — the four female victims killed since 2008 represent 11 percent of victims, according to police department data.
The female victims were, on average, older than Longview’s male victims: The average age of a female victim was 39.5, while males averaged 34.5 years old.
No part of the city is immune from violence. Since 2008, at least one homicide has been reported in every police beat. However, data shows more homicides occur south of the downtown area.
Since 2008, three-fourths of homicides in Longview — 25 of 35 — happened in police beats 50 and 60, which roughly correspond to Longview City Council districts 2 and 3.
The remaining murders were dispersed across the city.
City Councilwoman Kasha Williams said crime occurs everywhere, and the area south of U.S. 80 can gain a dangerous reputation if residents only focus on a specific type of crime.
Williams represents District 3, a section of the area south of downtown.
“Crime is going to happen where it is going to happen,” she said. “I find it troubling that there are people who perceive that all of the crime takes place south of Highway 80, when they look at one particular crime, such as homicide.”
Williams said she was encouraged by the decrease in the number of crimes each year — a statistic borne out by the Longview Police Department data.
She credited the work of the Longview Police Department.
“Right now, year to date, there have been two homicides,” Williams said. “When you put that into the bigger picture of a community our size, that shows that we have the right kind of people on staff at our police department.”
‘Addressing the crime’
The Longview Police Department divides the city into six beats, each with a police area representative (PAR). Those beats roughly correspond with the six City Council districts, but are not designed to follow the same boundaries.
“They are addressing the crime through prevention efforts, and that is something that is crucial,” Williams said. “They have taken the time to develop relationships with neighbors. When something happens, somebody will come forward.”
Williams said people in each community need to support and encourage their neighbors to do the right thing.
“If we are going to coexist in the community we must support each other ... I want people to be encouraged to come forth and participate in our community policing and our crime watch groups,” Williams said. “The resources are out there for us to use.”