“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Bell Rings True in Amarillo

Likely Gubernatorial Candidate Chris Bell spoke to a revved-up crowd of over 100 Democrats at a fundraising dinner Saturday evening in Amarillo, making the case for new leadership in Austin. Bell, who has been running an exploratory campaign for Governor for the past few months, seemed at ease, and every bit the candidate. His 35-minute speech was interrupted 14 times for applause, and afterward several positive comments were overheard from those in attendance.

Bell was joined by Texas Democratic Party Chair, Charles Soechting, who made an appeal for Democrats to become sustaining members of the state party. Potter County Chair Tim Hoffman also made clear to the assembled that their donations would be sought to support local efforts. Hoffman announced to cheers that the main point of the ongoing fundraising drive was to support a permanent Amarillo Democratic Party office, with a permanent, paid Executive Director.

Bell, a former Channel 7 news anchor in Amarillo, who has since been a Houston city councilman and Congressman, was introduced by former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, and current director of Panhandle Planned Parenthood, Claudia Stravato. Bell adlibbed that he had been introduced a lot in the past few months, but never before had the word "uterus" been mentioned.

The former Congressman noted that he had gained a reputation as a reformer for breaking the 7-year Congressional truce relative to ethics complaints when he filed complaints last year against House majority leader Tom DeLay. Those complaints ultimately led to three formal admonishments of Rep. DeLay by the House Ethics Committee. He spoke about the culture of corruption both in Washington and in Austin as one of several motivations for seeking the position of Governor. But, he said, all his reasons could really be encapsulated by his opposition to a comment that Gov. Perry made last year, in a statement at the capitol. Bell quoted Perry as saying that "...the government cannot dispense hope."

Bell cited one of his Sunday School lessons, "what we do to the least of us, we do to ourselves," in explaining his position that both the financial cost and the human cost of government policies must be considered. He called himself "a public servant who tries to do the right thing," and said that while government will never have enough money, failing to dispense hope represented a deficit of responsibility.

He reiterated his view that budgets are moral documents, and explained that cutting social services to children, raising state university tuitions, and kicking people off Medicaid, in order to provide tax reductions, primarily for the wealthy, are immoral priorities. He also noted that such priorities have financial costs, railing that credit has been claimed for saving one dollar today that will require ten dollars to fix tomorrow. He cited as an example Gov. Perry's 2003 budget that Perry had claimed credit for because of tax reductions. Bell noted that that budget had cut child protective services, forcing caseworkers to have extreme case loads that, he said, had resulted in the deaths of 500 children due to neglect. Perry's 2005 budget attempted to restore some of those funds, because of what Perry now calls a child care "crisis", Bell said.

Bell concluded by recalling the specific case of a San Antonio 4-year-old, Jovonie Ochoa, who died in late 2003 due to starvation, because an overburdened CPS case worker could not get to him in time. Ochoa, Bell said, did not receive hope. "The government must either dispense hope or reap dispair," Bell finished to a standing ovation.


Note: While I have encouraged local Democrats to reward Chris Bell for having the fortitude to openly explore running for Governor, and while I do like much of what Chris has been saying, I have not personally made any commitment to Chris; nor have I endorsed any candidate as of this writing. My efforts have been in support of the party, and I believe it is essential to have a viable candidate for Governor leading the ticket in 2006.