Thursday, November 10, 2011

Flier Fireworks At Tonight's HISD Board Meeting

There will be an interesting HISD board meeting later tonight at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, and one of the topics for discussion won't be education issues.

District III Trustee Manuel Rodriguez, Jr. voted for the new stricter non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies passed back in August that protects district students and employees from harassment due to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

He was one of the three HISD school board members who were up for reelection in this cycle. While HISD Board President and District IV trustee Paula Harris and District VIII trustee Juliet Stipeche were easily reelected over their opponents, Rodriguez had a more contentious race to keep his District III seat.

He was facing stiff competition from challenger Ramiro Fonseca, a Houston Community College administrator who had the backing of the teacher's unions, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Texas state Senator Mario Gallegos.

Just before the November 8 election Rodriguez unleashed a homophobic attack flier aimed at Fonseca that fellow board trustee Stipeche criticized him for and Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel A Freeman described as “trash politics at its worst.”

“A homophobic bigot like this has no business making decisions that affect our children,” Freeman said.

The building political firestorm over the homophobic flier also caused the Houston Chronicle to take the rare step of pulling their endorsement of him.
A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia. The flier urges recipients not just to vote for Rodriguez, but to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because he has been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Caucus, "the South's oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights." The flier further states that Fonseca has "spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids," and winds up with a pair of bullet points noting that he's 54 years old with no children and has a male partner.

That's obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground. It has no place on HISD's board.

Got that right.  And there's nothing wrong with "spending years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights."   By the way, Trustee Rodriguez, advocating for TBLG human rights is standing up for kids inside and outside our rainbow community.  

We have early voting here in Texas, and while Fonseca won on Election Day and probably picked up even more votes due to the homophobic flier, the ballots gained on weren't enough to offset the mail-in ballots and early voting lead Rodriguez piled up and he retained his seat by a mere 24 votes.

He apologized for the flier on Wednesday with a written statement:

"I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people." Rodriguez said.

"I think the hurt has been deep in the community," Fonseca said to the Houston Chronicle in response to Rodriguez's statement.

Fonseca is still mulling over whether to ask for a recount in the razor thin election as the calls from various quarters of the city for Rodriguez's resignation from the HISD school board mount.  

There will be probably more than the usual amount of people in the board room auditorium tonight.  They will be patiently waiting to have their turn at the mike to speak during the public comment phase of the board meeting ready to as we say in the GLBT community 'read trustee Rodriguez'.  

And for you folks in the Houston area who can't make it to 4418 W 18th Street, tonight's meeting as all HISD board meetings are will be broadcast live on public access cable channels and replayed for your convenient viewing pleasure later..

It will be interesting to see how this continues to play out.

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