Saturday, July 18, 2020

Boomer Dems backlash vs #cjreform in Austin, Prison TikTok, Texas' first, truly 'progressive' DA, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Travis County elects Texas' first 'progressive' prosecutor
Jose Garza in Austin is arguably the first truly "progressive" District Attorney elected in Texas (to the extent one can be progressive in that job). Younger voters turned out in droves to support him and other #cjreform-minded candidates. In earlier election cycles, when it came to prosecutor races, "progressive" was more or less a euphemism for "Democrat." Kim Ogg in Houston defeated more progressive primary opponents and campaigned against bail reform. John Creuzot in Dallas was dubbed a progressive candidate, but he's a former Republican, also defeated a reformer-endorsed primary opponent, and governs as a centrist. In reality, Democratic Texas DAs historically have not been that progressive compared to how that term is applied nationally

Garza, by contrast, campaigned on eliminating money bail, pledged to stop prosecuting less-than-a-gram drug cases, and said he would pull the office out of the state prosecutor's association. From my personal interactions (Grits didn't know him before he ran), Jose seems like a smart attorney, his political instincts are good, and he's a hard worker. I felt like Garza learned a lot over the course of the campaign and improved as a candidate. By contrast, Margaret Moore dug in on her weaknesses and blamed her critics for not understanding instead of acknowledging good-faith disagreements with them. Moore's repeated insistence that only insiders knew what reforms were needed isolated her from all the groups that could have validated the reform credentials she wanted to claim. I think Garza would have won anyway, but Moore made the outcome much worse for herself.

In the County Attorneys race, Travis County voters also went with the better #cjreform candidate - current city council member Delia Garza defeated Laurie Eiserloh. Full props to Laurie, whom my wife and I have known since college. There are many offices I'd vote for Laurie Eiserloh to hold, but perhaps none of them are prosecutor gigs. Eiserloh enjoyed years of experience at the County Attorney's office (on the civil side) and had forgotten more about the office's inner workings than Delia could possibly know. But she was a rookie when it comes to criminal-justice reform while Garza had proven herself in #cjreform fights at city hall. What's amazing to me is to finally have an election cycle where those are the things that matter to Austin voters in a prosecutor's election!

Austin reformers face Boomer Backlash
Since Grits hasn't been shy about criticizing Austin journalists who fail to cover the real storylines happening all around them when it comes to criminal-justice reform, I should take a moment to offer thanks and approbation to Mike Clark-Madison at the Austin Chronicle for his coverage of the new group, Voices of Austin, which has been excellent. Clark-Madison called out the aging establishment Democrats populating this group, declaring that:
these voices of yesteryear are kindred spirits of the Red Team reactionaries who aim to re-criminalize homelessness, it appears. The press release announcing Voices' kickoff was headlined: "Eight Out of Ten Austin Residents Believe City Government Does Not Listen." That's according to their poll, which Barrientos describes as "extensive, professionally conducted public opinion research." The release does not disclose who conducted the poll, how many people were polled (though it does say the margin of error is +/- 4.9%, so I'm guessing at least 600), or what they were actually asked.

Having done plenty of polling myself, I'd quite like to know those things, but whatever, let's assume this is legit. It's amazing how this open-minded exploration of the real feelings of average Austinites led these boomers to the same political positions they have held throughout the years I've known and covered them. Strip away the public opinion armature Voices is using to make its silent-majority case, and we find a group that opposes investments in either transit or active transportation (i.e., road warriors), opposes revision of Austin's land development code, and opposes any efforts to defund Austin's police force.
Thank you, Mike, you nailed exactly what's going on. Read both his stories.

Texans back police reform
From that second MCM Austin Chronicle story, statewide Texas polling demonstrates that:
73% of those surveyed agreed that police brutality is a "somewhat serious" or "very serious" problem. Similar lopsided majorities feel that police departments should reform their use-of-force practices, and that non-police ("other types of workers") should be responding to "community issues such as mental health and homelessness." A smaller majority (53%) agrees with the statement, "We need to reform the police." Pluralities support reallocating police funding to health and homelessness (46%) and agree that police unions have too much power (43%) and that police don't need military gear and vehicles (48%); large numbers are "not sure" in all three cases.
Police violence driving changes in public opinion
In the national press, I keep seeing critics refer to "violent protesters." But to Grits, one of the most striking developments in the last couple of months has been that the public has now witnessed gratuitous police violence at levels never witnessed before the rise of the cell phone. IMO, that's what has transformed the terms of debate and public opinion on criminal-and-racial justice issues. Violence by police has been more frequent and widespread, by far, than isolated incidents of violence from protesters, a fact further emphasized by last night's news from Portland.

Prison Tik Tok
Contraband cell phones in prison have led to the rise of prison TikTok. Wow. I love America.


Anonymous said...

Guess what that says::: Proof positive: It's not VISITORS bringing in Contraband

Deb said...

Grits, since you didn't mention him, are we still in a 'wait and see' for Bexar's DA Joe Gonzales and where he is on the "Progressive DA" scale? He was also backed by the same PAC that gave Garza an even edgier edge, and in glancing thru GfB, I'm seeing a few things he's done right...just not seeing he's outright upset the system, per say.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I think it's fair to say that, judging from how he's governed, Joe Gonzales is less progressive than Jose Garza by quite a bit, much less Larry Krasner, etc.. IMO Jose is the first TX DA who, at least by his campaign platform, would qualify as truly "progressive" in the national conversation. No disrespect to that first wave of TX DAs, but we've been a Republican state so long, the press took any Democratic victory as "progressive." Then Jose running on an actually progressive platform laid bare many of those buried liberal/left distinctions.

Joe also had the benefit of being compared to Susan Reed and Nico Lahood, so running the office a) competently and b) less punitively gets him a lot of brownie points. I'm not a critic of his at all. But compared to Jose, e.g., saying he won't prosecute <1 gram drug cases, I think even DA Gonzales would agree the changes in Bexar County have been more modest.

Deb said...

Thanks. 2020 is definitely a new year and Jose is definitely a shining light in TX.

Anon said...

Grits refer to "isolated incidents of violence from protesters" in Portland.

Every night for the last eight weeks the federal courthouse has been under siege by rioters, or as the mainstream media call them, "mostly peaceful protesters." They throw bricks, paint, bleach, bottles of frozen water, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at federal officers. They point lasers at the eyes of federal officers, damaging their eyes. As of July 22, some 28 federal law enforcement officers had been injured during protests in Portland.

In the face of this onslaught, the feds have shown remarkable restraint.

Night after night of riots are all just casually dismissed as "isolated incidents"? Of all the absurd things I have read on Gritsforbreakfast, this statement has got to be the most risible.