Don Zimmerman owes Austin school children an apology

City council district 6 member Don Zimmerman attends a city council meeting concerning Bluebonnet Hills in Austin City Hall on Thursday, June 11, 2015. Shelby Tauber / AMERICAN STATESMAN
City council district 6 member Don Zimmerman. Shelby Tauber / AMERICAN STATESMAN

UPDATED on Monday, Aug.22:

Time, it seems, is what the majority of Austin council members needed to properly address the insensitive remarks made on Thursday by Council Member Don Zimmerman to a group of school children.

Mayor Steve Adler’s delayed response came on Saturday in form of an official statement posted on the city council’s online message board. In it, Adler called for respect and civility from all members of the council.

“We cannot let our policy or political goals, even our frustrations and disappointments, create an environment or culture where those testifying before us arrive or leave scared, humiliated, disrespected, or fearful of their interaction with us,” Adler wrote.

Also on Saturday, Council Member Kathie Tovo sent the Statesman Editorial Board the following Open Letter —a gesture I most appreciated:

An Open Letter to the students and parents of Hart and Wooldridge Elementaries, and the many other community members who were gathered at the City Council meeting on Thursday or witnessed it on television: 

We want to express our sincere apologies for the offensive remarks directed your way by another member of the City Council.

The comments were hurtful and insulting, and we want you to know we don’t agree with them or share our colleague’s views and perspective.

Later, Council Member Delia Garza eloquently condemned the remarks on behalf of many of us on Council. This experience has been a vivid reminder of a key tenet of the No Place for Hate campaign: that each of us has a responsibility to confront bigotry and prejudice and to call out hateful speech when we hear it.

Please make no mistake: the position our colleague expressed is not one we share, and we believe everyone who comes to City Hall has a right to be treated with respect.

We’re proud to live in and represent the diverse families who together make up this city we love.

The students and families who came to testify at City Hall on Thursday spoke eloquently about the need for quality afterschool programs and parent-teacher support specialists. We commend their leadership in advocating for these important resources on behalf of their larger school communities – and for their commitment to making Austin a better place for all of our families.

Sincerely,
Council Member Ora Houston (District 1), Council Member Ann Kitchen (District 5), Council Member Leslie Pool (District 7),
Mayor Pro Tem Tovo (District 9)

Council Member Delia Garza, from the dais on Thursday, addressed Zimmerman’s remarks. She posted a statement on her Facebook page on Friday, as did Council Members Greg Casar and Sabino Renteria.

As of Monday noon, Zimmerman had yet to provide a formal apology.

On Friday, Aug. 19: It’s not surprising – much less shocking — for Austin Council member Don Zimmerman to make questionable comments from the dais. But last night, during a debate over the city’s proposed budget for next year, Zimmerman’s words to a group of children in attendance were indefensible.

The children, all students of the Austin school district, were at City Hall to ask for the support of the council to approve funding for after-school programs in Austin public schools. After Council Member Sherri Gallo encouraged the students and their parents to become more civically engaged, Zimmerman offered this advice to the children:

“I want to ask you to pledge to finish school, learn a trade, a skilled trade, get a college education, start a business, do something useful and produce something in your society so you don’t have to live off others.”

Do something useful? Don’t live off others?

Let’s for a second assume that Zimmerman intended to be inspirational. He should have stopped at “start a business.” Or maybe even at “do something useful.” But he didn’t.

Related: After offensive comments, Zimmerman is unapologetic

Instead, he insulted the children, who, unlike many kids their age, were doing just as Gallo suggested – being civically engaged. Those children Zimmerman suggested be useful when they’re older, already are being useful by lending their voices to the cause of all children across this city. At least to me and many others, their presence a the council meeting signals that these children and their families are motivated and already aspiring to graduate, go to college or enter the workforce and contribute to Austin’s economy.

Luckily — after receiving input from the community during the remainder of the meeting — Council Member Delia Garza came to the defense of the children.

“We do not condone what he said,” an emotional Garza said to the audience. “We have your back, not just the ones that are brown or black on this council.”

Later, other council members took to Twitter to show their disapproval of Zimmerman’s words. Then, on Friday morning, Garza expanded her condolences in a Facebook post (posted below).

Still missing, however, are Mayor Steve Adler’s rejection of Zimmerman’s words and most importantly, an apology from Zimmerman. That needs to happen soon.

 

Below is the text from Garza’s Facebook post:

The City Council meeting last night was an emotional one. In addition to our other Council agenda items, it was also the first of a few public hearings we will have on the proposed budget before the final budget adoption.

For those who have never been to a hearing on the budget, it’s an opportunity for anyone from our community to address Council and comment on what priorities and values should be included in the budget. We had over 5 hours of speakers signed up though not all spoke.

There was a group of elementary school children there asking for funding for after school programs and one of the little boys started crying while speaking as he talked about all the great things these programs do. I always admire the children who come speak before Council. I remember the first time I addressed the Council as an Austin Firefighter and I, as an adult who professionally walked into burning buildings, was extremely nervous. Public speaking is no joke, so I always sympathize with the little ones who are brave enough to come have their voice heard.

After most of the children spoke Council Member Zimmerman chose to give advice to learn a trade and to “do something useful… so you don’t have to live off of others.” The chamber immediately erupted in loud boos. I wish I had responded quicker, but honestly, and unfortunately, I often stop listening when he starts talking because these types of comments for him are not uncommon. I did eventually respond because I felt it necessary for the public to know that the majority of the Council does not condone his hateful comments. After adjourning close to 1:00 a.m. and getting some sleep I feel the need to say a little more because this hateful rhetoric towards Latinos in our community is unacceptable and has to stop.

Mr. Zimmerman will never fully understand the privilege he enjoys simply because of the fact that he was born a white male, nor will I attempt to explain that to him here. Latino families have lived through years of institutional discrimination but continually push on and work hard to support their families.

Do something useful you say Mr. Zimmerman? Let me tell you all the useful ways the Latino community contributes to our community – they help build the roads you drive on, pick the food you eat, repair needed infrastructure, clean the buildings where you work and live, serve the food you enjoy, patrol your streets, give CPR to heart attack victims, run companies, and sit on the dais next to you. And that’s just the short list of the ways we as Latinos “do something useful.” And many who do the most back breaking work aren’t paid a fair wage and even have to deal with wage theft, followed by threats and intimidation when trying to get back those wages they have rightfully earned. So even after working long and hard days, they still sometimes can’t make enough to support their family.

It’s amazing to me that decades after Cesar Chavez marched for fair wages and safe working conditions for farm workers, I sit in a building on the street named after Cesar Chavez and have to push tirelessly for fair wages we should already by paying for our City employees but, I’ll keep up that fight for as long as I have to.

No mother wants to have to go lobby her local government to ask for help with after school programs. She does is because she knows that program will allow her to continue to work so she can have the ability to put food on the table for her family. She does it because she wants to make sure her children never have to do the same. She does it because when you become a mother, as I have learned, you put your pride aside and do what needs to get done to support her family, and sometimes that means asking for help, speaking your mind, and exposing your heart and crying in public so your children will have a better life.

As a community, we should always do what we can to support those in need and even if we disagree, at the very least, as leaders we should respectfully listen to the constituents we were elected to serve. Thank you to all who had the courage to come and speak last night. I hope you keep coming and know that your voice does truly make a difference.

 

Olympics provide united moment in divisive political campaign

Michael Phelps competes in the men 100-meter butterfly prelim during the Arena Pro Swim Series at the Jamail Texas Swim Center, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Austin, Texas. ( Stephen Spillman / for American Statesman)
Michael Phelps competes in the men 100-meter butterfly prelim during the Arena Pro Swim Series at the Jamail Texas Swim Center, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Austin, Texas. ( Stephen Spillman / for American Statesman)

With all of the negative hype in the lead up to the Olympics – I’m talking scares about the Zika virus, massive doping by Russian athletes, polluted Brazilian waters and the country’s woeful economy – I had all but given up on watching, much less enjoying, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

But then Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps raised the roof with five gold medals. Gymnast Simone Biles leapt, soared and vaulted to three gold medals. Katie Ledecky left it all in the pool, swimming for four gold medals. And Simone Manuel, a little-known swimmer from the Houston-area, made history as the first African American to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event. Manuel won a second gold, anchoring the U.S. 4×100 team relay.

Their riveting performances have captivated audiences – young and old — across the planet and given Americans something to cheer for in the midst of a bruising and bitter presidential campaign that has fractured our country in very disturbing ways.

The medal count shows the success American athletes have had at the games in Rio with 70 so far in swimming, gymnastics, judo, shooting, fencing and cycling among others, with gold making up a big chunk of the total. And there are more events, medals and history-making performances on the way.

Keeping tab of medals is one way to tally our athletes’ achievements. But sometimes looking behind the medals can give us equally compelling insights. That certainly is the case with Phelps and Biles.

In several news stories, Phelps talked openly about the problems, including repeated DUIs, excessive partying and thoughts of suicide, which nearly destroyed his swimming career as well as his life. He also talks about the changes he made to steer his life and swimming back on course with a renewed purpose and spiritual power.

It was family and friends who helped persuade Phelps to enter The Meadows, an Arizona psychological trauma and addiction treatment center, five days after his second DUI arrest in 2014, ESPN reported. While in treatment, Phelps found spiritual guidance in “The Purpose Driven Life,” given to him by friend and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Among those who have given Rick Warren’s best-seller big kudos are Oprah Winfrey and noted boxing champ, Manny Pacquiao.

Phelps’ transformation inspired in part by the meaning he took from The Purpose is inspiring others, including me, to read the book. Also worth reading are ESPN and Christianity Today articles about Phelps and his struggle back to physical and mental health, including Phelps’ coming back together with a father he thought had abandoned him as a child.

If faith helped save Phelps, then love did the same for Biles.

The 19-year-old from Spring, Texas, was born in Columbus, Ohio, to drug- and alcohol-addicted parents. It was initially left to Biles’ mother, Shannon, to raise Biles and her three siblings after Biles’ father abandoned the family. The children were, as Texas Monthly reports, shuffled back and forth between their mother’s house and a foster home.

Who knows how things would have turned out for Biles and her siblings if her grandfather, Ronald, and his second wife Nellie had not adopted Biles and her youngest sister. The two eldest siblings were adopted by Ronald Biles’ sister.

The love and care of adoptive parents made the difference for Biles and her sister. It was in Ronald’s and Nellie’s home that the four-foot-eight six-year-old was introduced to gymnastics – considered a late start in the world of competitive gymnasts. But she soon caught up and excelled. She is the only female gymnast in history to win the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships three years in a row.

If you haven’t read the Texas Monthly article on Biles, it’s truly worth a read. In the meantime, I will, like you, continue watching the Games and cheering for our athletes, in search of the stories and inspiration behind the medals. In less than a week the Games will end and we will be back full-time to a divisive political campaign; back to separating ourselves by party, class, race and religion.

My hope is that the national pride on display during the games will linger and we’ll remember how the Games and its athletes inspired and united us in a common purpose.

 

 

 

Passenger rail can move on improved track with Lone Star gone

12.20.11 Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN Joe Black, Rail Director for the Lone Star Rail District, photographed in Austin at the Amtrak station near downtown. For an update on the potential Lone Star commuter rail line between Georgetown and San Antonio. 123111 lonestar
12.20.11 Laura Skelding AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Joe Black, Rail Director for the Lone Star Rail District, photographed in Austin at the Amtrak station near downtown.

In order to save commuter rail connecting Austin to San Antonio, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization had to destroy it.

That essentially is what the CAMPO board did on Monday when it voted 17-1 to initiate the end of the Lone Star Rail District’s rail line by removing it from CAMPO’s 25-year transportation plan. Two CAMPO members abstained.

“I made the decision to take Lone Star Rail out of the 2040 Long Range Plan to advance rail in the Interstate 35 corridor, not to kill it,” said Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt in a statement this week, explaining her about-face on the issue.

No doubt some on the 20-member CAMPO board of elected officials from Central Texas cities and counties are solidly against rail, such as Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who has defined mobility solutions almost entirely in terms of building more roads.

But others, such as Eckhardt and CAMPO board chairman, Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, know the region’s mobility crisis is not fixable with asphalt alone. They, know, too, that passenger rail won’t by itself eliminate congestion in the Interstate 35 corridor. Rail must be considered as one leg of a regional transportation stool, which includes large-scale road projects, such as the one state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is advancing to overhaul Interstate 35 and the proposal by Austin Mayor Steve Adler to overhaul the city’s main roadways. Public transit, especially buses that can travel on express lanes up and down I-35 and MoPac also are part of that approach.

“Our continued economic prosperity in Austin, San Antonio and all the communities in our region, depends on mobility,” Eckhardt said. “CAMPO projections prove we simply cannot move all of our people and goods without a combination of roads and rail in the IH35 corridor.”

She is right. Between 2010 and 2014, Central Texas has been home to six of the state’s fastest-growing cities. Those cities, Georgetown, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Cedar Park, Pflugerville and Austin, are part of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, which in 2015 surpassed 2 million residents, according to the Census Bureau.

Add to that the greater San Antonio area’s 2.3 million people and the limitations of I-35 are clear to anyone paying attention. Thankfully, some are.

”I don’t believe one mode of transportation is going to resolve our problem,” Conley told me, saying that he is open to public transit solutions, including rail — but has lost confidence in Lone Star — a sentiment shared by the board.

Consider that CAMPO’s decision regarding Lone Star — three votes short of unanimous — was bipartisan, with Republican elected officials, such as Conley, who has chaired the board for five years, joining with Democrats, such as Eckhardt. The Lone Star district still will exist, as only its creator, the Legislature, can eliminate it. But after public hearings, CAMPO can and will end Lone Star’s rail project.

The no-confidence vote in Lone Star had as much to do with political accountability as fiscal responsibility, some said.

In 13 years, the rail district has spent $30 million on developing rail with little in the way of physical progress to show for it. That money, which has largely gone to studies, salaries and other professional services, came from federal and state grants, as well as various city and county governments. During much of that time, some CAMPO board members have complained of throwing good money after bad.

Lone Star might have survived pointed attacks from anti-rail board members, who skillfully, but unfairly, used Lone Star’s woes as a way of undermining not just Lone Star’s rail initiative, but all rail projects.

But Lone Star lost its lifeline – and champions — after Union Pacific in February ended negotiations over the possible use of its rail line. Those tracks, which run through the heart of Austin, had long been Lone Star’s preferred route. The idea was for Lone Star to pay to build Union Pacific a new rail line well east of Interstate 35 and that most of the freight traffic would move there, freeing up space on the prime urban corridor for passenger service.

It made sense, connecting cities such as Georgetown and Austin with San Marcos and San Antonio, running through their downtowns. That kind of connectivity offered greater employment, housing, educational and entertainment opportunities for the region.

Lone Star didn’t help itself by continuing to insist that it could resuscitate that plan. Even its influential supporters, such as Watson, who successfully kept the rail district’s state funding alive last year, recoiled at Lone Star’s inability to grasp the political ramifications of plowing forward with no route, right-of-way or financing, all at a time when cooperation with key state transportation officials has greatly improved.

Lone Star’s calamities, Conley said, threatened to “kill CAMPO’s political capital on any form of public transit.”

For passenger rail supporters, saving it meant severing it from Lone Star.

“Like many of my colleagues on the CAMPO board, I have lost faith in the ability of Lone Star Rail as an organization to spear-head this mission,” Eckhardt said. “I am committed to working with the Texas Department of Transportation and our partners in the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to complete the Environmental Impact Statement (for rail) and engage Union Pacific in partnership to effectively and efficiently move people and goods through the IH35 corridor.”

If a majority of CAMPO members are serious about creating mobility solutions that are right for the region, they should not drag their feet on rail.

Austin’s first step to combat graffiti

Is graffiti art or vandalism? That is a question that has long been debated.

According to a recent American-Statesman story by Nancy Flores about a group of artists and community organizers dedicated to restoring and preserving street art and graffiti murals, it appears that in Austin some types of graffiti indeed equate to art. (Disclosure: I’m among those who appreciate street art and see value of its presence in our communities.)

But with a recent proposal sponsored by District 7 council member Leslie Pool to tackle graffiti, it made me wonder if graffiti as art could change in this city.

The Austin City Council members approved the proposal on consent which left me with more questions.

The proposal asks that the City Manager review the city’s current graffiti abatement strategies, study nationwide best practices, and recommend changes to the city’s graffiti abatement strategies. In particular, the proposal aims to reduce is graffiti markings such as “initials, slogans or drawings that are written, spray painted or etched in any manner on property such as a sidewalk or wall of a building without consent of the owner.”

Sounds like a something anyone could, and perhaps should, stand behind. But what would happen to the plentiful pieces of Austin street art that have reached iconic status? Would the proposal make it more difficult for any such pieces to exist in the future? And why was this resolution even necessary? After all, city data collected shows that requests for graffiti abatement has dropped significantly from 3,124 in 2011 to 1,171 in 2015.  And, Pool’s district is not one of the districts with the highest request for graffiti clean-up in 2015, the top three districts are Districts 1, 3 and 9 — all located in Central Austin or east of Interstate 35.

Most importantly, how much would a comprehensive plan cost taxpayers? (This question “will be answered when the city manager comes back with recommendations,” officials told me.)

I reached out to Pool to get more details. Below are the answers she provided by email:

1.  Now that the resolution has been approved on consent by the council, what is the next step?

Next, the City Manager will bring back his recommendations and Council will decide how to act on those recommendations. We also plan on looking into whether there are resources in the budget that could be used to expand our the graffiti abatement services offered through the Health and Human Services Department, which have been at the same level for at least a decade.

2. What prompted the resolution?

We’ve heard a number of concerns from the community about graffiti vandalism – especially about graffiti that lingers for weeks. The response time is very important because from what our research shows, individuals who engage in graffiti are more likely to re-tag areas where the response is slow. Those individuals often stop tagging in areas where graffiti is removed rapidly. When we started looking into the city’s programs, we realized that the city had been using largely the same strategy at similar service levels for years, and that other large cities seemed to have more comprehensive programs that incorporated things like mural arts and other strategies, as well – so we wanted to ask the City Manager to research nationwide best practices to make sure our efforts are as effective as possible.

3. Why has doesn’t Austin have a comprehensive strategy in place?

The city’s massive growth has presented the city with a number of important challenges, and our city staff has done an excellent job working on those issues. In this case, the city has had a policy of graffiti abatement, and seemed to handle that in the traditional way, by removing graffiti where it exists. However, our city has been growing very rapidly, and I think it is time for us to revisit our current programs and examine what other big cities have done to fight graffiti vandalism.

4. How does the number of 2015 graffiti service requests compare to the three previous years?

Requests have declined thanks to better use of preventive measures and materials by our departments. This is certainly a key part of any graffiti abatement strategy, but it is not a silver bullet. The city still receives hundreds of abatement requests per month and our graffiti abatement team in the Austin Youth Development program has been at the same staffing levels for at least a decade, despite the large growth of our city. I would like to make sure that we’re implementing a program based on best practices that encourages positive forms of expression, prevents graffiti vandalism, removes it quickly when it occurs, and maintains quality of life for our communities.

5.  Could there be any overlap in the Austin Youth Development requests numbers with either Municipal Court and/or Parks & Rec requests?

Staff indicated that they coordinate who responds to what requests and route them to the appropriate department accordingly.

6.   How will the city determine what graffiti will not be allowed? As you know, some spontaneous graffiti has become iconic to the city.

This is really aimed at graffiti vandalism — unwanted graffiti that harms our community, such as foul language, lewd images, or things that have been sprayed on your property without your consent. The city already has a policy of removing this graffiti, it’s just that our massive growth has made it difficult to follow through, which has impacted our communities. We want to improve our ability to follow through on policy the city has already set.

7. What is the expected timeline — beyond the Feb. 17, 2017 recommendations deadline — to have a program in place?

My hope is that we’ll be able to organize and coordinate our existing programs and resources in a way that allows us to move forward quickly once the City Manager brings back his recommendations.

8.  The graffiti that would be targeted for removal is would be graffiti NOT approved by the property owner, correct?

Correct. We’re targeting unwanted vandalism, not art.

9.  How will the city address unsolicited ‘positive’ graffiti on city property?

City property belongs to the public — so use of public property in that way should be a community decision.

10. As you’ve pointed out, the number of requests for graffiti removal have decreased and the total square footage to be cleaned has also decreased, but the days to clean up has significantly increased. Is there an explanation to why it takes longer to clean less space than it did 5 years ago?

Regarding the decrease in the number of requests — much of the decrease appears to be due to the city’s increased use of preventive materials on the front end. This is very important to the overall strategy, but it is not a silver bullet…

Regarding the increase in the time spent cleaning — there are concerns that the data reporting several years ago was not as accurate as it could have been. Since that time, the data reporting has improved in accuracy, and we believe the current statistics are a more accurate portrayal of the time it takes to respond to requests. Currently, the average request takes, on average, about two weeks to abate.

Editor’s note: Updated correct districts — 1, 3 and 9 — with the highest clean-up requests. 

 

Trump is riskier than what?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

For months, Donald Trump has said that once in the White House, he will not only make this country better,  but greater.

The Economist Intelligence Unit disagrees.

On Monday, the EIC released its list of the top 10 risks that could have the most devastating effects on the global economy. Coming in at No. 3 on the list? The Donald. A Trump presidency, the EIU calculates, would be among the worse things to face the world.

Just how bad would a Commander in Chief Trump be? Worse than the rising threat of jihad terrorism, according to the EIC rankings.

In addition to disrupting the global economy, Trump could heighten political and security risks in the U.S., warns the EIC. Luckily for some, the research firm predicts Hillary Clinton to win this election.

Here’s the complete EIC rankings with rated risk intensity factor:

20: China experiences a hard landing

16: Currency depreciation and persistent weakness in commodity prices culminate in emerging-market corpo

16: Donald Trump wins the US presidential election

15: Beset by external and internal pressures, the EU begins to fracture

15: “Grexit” is followed by a euro zone break-up

12: The rising threat of jihadi terrorism destabilises the global economy

12: Chinese expansionism prompts a clash of arms in the South China Sea

10: Global growth surges in 2017 as emerging markets rally

9: Rising tide of political populism in the OECD results in a retreat from globalisation

4: A collapse in investment in the oil sector prompts a future oil price shock

 Clinton quickly took to Twitter to voice her opinion on the rankings:
 

Abbott speaks for Texans in defending family of Muslim soldier

Khizr Khan displays his Constitution while speaking about his son, who was killed serving in the Army in Iraq, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. Donald Trump, whom Khan memorably rebuked on stage, suggested that Ghazala Khan let her husband do all the talking because she was not “allowed” to speak; she has said that she finds talking about her son painful. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
Khizr Khan displays his Constitution while speaking about his son, who was killed serving in the Army in Iraq, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. Donald Trump, whom Khan memorably rebuked on stage, suggested that Ghazala Khan let her husband do all the talking because she was not “allowed” to speak; she has said that she finds talking about her son painful. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Kudos to Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry for breaking the silence in Texas among state leaders regarding Donald Trump’s attack on the family of a fallen Muslim American soldier, who gave his life for country and flag while serving in Iraq.

Abbott spoke if not for all Texans than for many in his statement this week to The Texas Tribune applauding the service of Humayun Khan and defending his parents.

“The service and devotion of Gold Star families to America cannot be questioned,” Abbott said. “Captain [Humayun] Khan, like many heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice, will be forever remembered for their service in protecting the freedoms we cherish in America.”

Abbott’s words are welcome as is the statement from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, a member of the Texas congressional delegation, who said he is “dismayed at the attacks Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala have endured after they spoke about their son’s service and sacrifice.”

“There is never enough honor we can show to the families of those whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” said Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. “I believe that each of us are called every day to show our deepest respect and gratitude to all of those who protect our freedom and their families.”

In defending the Khan family, Abbott and Thornberry have put some matters in their correct order, elevating country above partisanship.

It is disappointing that we have not heard (at least not yet) similar words from either of Texas’ two U.S. senators — John Cornyn or Ted Cruz — or from other statewide elected leaders, such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, or Land Commissioner George P. Bush. As The Tribune reported, former Gov. Rick Perry, who served in the U.S. Air Force, also has been mum on Trump’s war of words with the Khan family, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1980.

Those leaders have had plenty of time to figure out which way the political winds have been blowing since the controversy broke following Khizr Khan’s rebuke of Trump last week at the Democratic National Convention criticizing Trump for his anti-Muslim statements and proposal to temporarily ban Muslims immigrating to the U.S.

With grief heavy in his voice, his wife standing beside him, Khizr Khan told of his son’s heroism in 2004, when Army Capt. Humayun Khan stepped forward – while ordering his soldiers to take cover — so he could check out a suspicious vehicle approaching the gate of his compound near Baqubah, Iraq. The vehicle was full of explosives, which went off and killed the 27-year-old officer before he reached the vehicle. For his valor, Humayun Khan earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously.

“We were blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams,” said Khizr Khan. “Our son, Humayun, had dreams of being a military lawyer. But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers.”

The father continued: “Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future.”

He then pulled a worn copy of the U.S. Constitution from his jacket pocket.

“Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words “liberty” and “equal protection of law.”

It was an emotional moment that brought the Virginia couple into the national spotlight. And a moment that sent Trump once again counterpunching through Tweets and other media. But Trump’s responses attacking the couple and their religion were too cold-hearted even for many Republicans who endorsed Trump. Condemnation has come from respected GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” said VFW leader Brian Duffy in a statement.

It’s heartening that Abbott and Thornberry have acknowledged the patriotism and sacrifice of the Khan family. It’s disappointing that other Texas leaders, who readily wrap themselves in the flag when it suits their political purpose, have not come to the defense of this Gold Star family.

Yes, they are Muslims. Yes, they are immigrants. But at this moment they have more of the U.S. Constitution’s values running through their veins than Trump or his apologists.

Who made the list of Texans and Latinos at the DNC and RNC?

Texans, Latinos, and yes, Latino Texans. They were every bit present during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Their numbers may not have been large, but they made strong appearances, leaving memorable remarks.

The Los Angeles Times, which broke down the list of scheduled convention orators for us, found that the DNC had nearly twice as many and more diverse speakers than the RNC. Not surprising.

DNC had 133 speakers of which 43 percent were women and 44 percent were nonwhite, according to the LA Times. Meanwhile, the RNC had a total of 71 speakers, of which 35 percent were women and 20 percent were nonwhite.

So how many were Texan? Latino? And Texan Latino?

LA Times said six Latinos spoke at the RNC and I found more than 20 took the stage at the DNC. From Austinite Robert Rodriguez (in video above) to Ted Cruz, Latino Texans made for some of the most unforgettable appearances at both conventions.

And while the Los Angeles Times did not have a count of speakers from the Lone Star State, at least five spoke at the DNC and three at the RNC.

There’s no surprise to find the lists lopsided in Latino and minority representation. One need only look to the party platforms to see why. The parties differ on everything from health insurance coverage to college education with most Latinos favoring the Democratic positions. But perhaps the most stark difference is on immigration in which Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calls for the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and the building of a wall stretching nearly the length of the southern border between Mexico. Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ candidate, calls for comprehensive immigration reform.

So, who exactly showed up at the conventions? Here’s a list — and links to some of the speeches:

AT THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION:

From Texas to the DNC:

  • U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Houston) | Speech
  • Actress Eva Longoria (Corpus Christi) | Speech
  • Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Austin / San Antonio) | Speech
  • U.S. Representative Joaquín Castro (San Antonio) | Speech
  • Sheriff Lupe Valdez (Dallas) | Speech

Latino representation at the DNC:

  • U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona
  • U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona
  • Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti of California
  • Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, California
  • State Senate President Kevin de León of California
  • U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra of California
  • U.S. Representatives Linda and Loretta Sánchez of California
  • State House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran of Colorado
  • U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois
  • State Senator Ruben Kihuen of Nevada
  • U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico
  • U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico
  • Hillary for America Latino Vote Director Lorella Praeli
  • Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, civil rights leader
  • National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia
  • Disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza from New York
  • Immigration advocates mother and daughter Karla and Francisca Ortiz
  • DREAMer activist Astrid Silva
  • Jose Arraigada, speaking about the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting
  • Singer Demi Lovato
  • Actress America Ferrara
  • Musician Sheila E.

AT THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION:

From Texas to the RNC:

  • Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry (Austin) | Speech
  • U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (Austin) | Speech
  • U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Houston) | Speech

Latino representation at the RNC:

  • U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida
  • Kentucky state senator Ralph Alvarado Jr.
  • Libre Initiative spokesperson Rachel Campos-Duffy