That doesn’t mean the meeting wasn’t contentious, it certainly was. Those against HB 3200 easily outnumbered those for it, both in sheer numbers and in questions, probably 2 or 3 to 1. The questions were all pretty much the same, probably the only news coming out of this is that Rep. Green dropped his estimate of the number of illegal aliens in the country from his previous remarks. He has been saying that there are approximately 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, last night he dropped that to 9 million. He is also now on record as saying that he will vote against the bill if the final version includes IMAC’s (Independent Medicare Advisory Council) because these panels would have the authority to implement Medicare changes without Congressional oversight.
I arrived at 5:45 pm for a 7:00 pm meeting and there was already a massive police presence. I stopped counting at 30, I really have no idea how many were there. Most of the officers were with the Houston Police Department but there were also a handful of Sheriff’s Deputies and a couple of Constables. Rep. Green stated that he did not call HPD, only the Sheriff’s office, and wasn’t certain why so many were there. Whomever made the decision to send such a large force out made the correct call, as this meeting could have gotten very much out of control in the parking lots.
Parked directly in front of the meeting hall were the guys that go to all of these meetings to protest illegal immigration. The leader is a guy named Hayward, he has never given me his last name. His buddy, Anthony Mooney, was involved in an early altercation that resulted in the arrest of a teenager.
It is important to remember that this meeting was held at the Hartman Community Center in the Manchester area, an area that is almost entirely Hispanic. A dozen or so teenagers took exception to some of the signs displayed and brought out a Mexican flag. They started taunting Mr. Mooney, who is an experienced immigration protester. He egged them on but not in such a way that would bring recriminations upon himself or Hayward. At some point, a young man got right up into Mr. Mooney’s face, yelling and screaming at him. Mr. Mooney raised his video camera, at which point the young man slapped it away. Mr. Mooney then yelled that he was being assaulted, which enraged the young man more, he started yelling obscenities and allowed himself to get completely out of control. He was arrested by HPD.
I spoke to his father, Rowan Barragan. At least, he said he was his father, he was still there after the meeting. If my 16 year old son had been arrested and taken downtown, I’d be trying to find a way to get him out, rather than hanging around at a town hall meeting. But, he was very proud of his son for, in his words, being a “martyr”. At any rate, Mr. Barragan insisted that Mr. Mooney was cursing at the young man and that it was his fault for the entire affair. Like I said, Mr. Mooney and Hayward are veterans at this and, while there is no doubt that they did egg the young man on, I also don’t think that they were cursing because that always raises the ire of the officers.
After that incident, there was a lot of yelling back and forth but there were no further incidents. The professionalism of the Houston Police Department officers was impressive. The restraint showed by the Sergeant in not also arresting Mr. Barragan during an obscenity laced tirade right in his face is an example of that. I couldn’t do it.
The best discussions were out front, where those for and against it made their presence known.
I spoke with both Ms. Sandoval and Mr. Kenegos about their positions. Ms. Sandoval was fluent in Spanish and talking to the residents as they arrived, which piqued my curiosity enough to ask her if she was a native Texan or an immigrant. She is a fifth generation Texan from Kingsville. As you can see from her sign, she definitely thinks that Rep. Green is hypocritical to require a photo id for a town hall after voting no to requiring a voter to produce id. She was very informed on the current bill and stated that her primary reason for being against it was the total cost, it is just too expensive and will result in lost jobs and higher deficits. She also mentioned that it was a form of socialism, so I asked her what she thought of Medicare. She was for it but said there was a lot of fraud and waste in it.
I have seen Mr. Kenegos at many of these town hall meetings. He didn’t want to give me his last name, which is fine, but easily found, especially when it is on a handout he gave me later. I think he didn’t want to because I’m with LST and we do write things that we hope will either defeat the bill or, more likely, remove some of the things we find especially egregious. But he is a nice guy, he has never yelled over anyone at the meetings, other than at the meeting on 8-4 at the HPD substation on I-10, where he asked the yellers why they were acting like that immediately after a prayer. While he supports the bill and will take any progressive reform, his goal is single payer. As such, he is in favor of HB 676, which is currently winding its way through the process but is receiving no debate. His experience as a nurse for 30 years has convinced him that the injustice in health care can no longer be tolerated and that we must treat health care as a fundamental human right.
I found another person that didn’t like me because of my association with LST:
Apparently, she really doesn’t like me. After this picture, she asked me who I was with and I told her. That enraged her and she told me to delete her picture. I said…Um, no. At that point, she went over and found a sheriff, telling him that I was an impostor and not with the media and should not be allowed to go inside. When that didn’t work, she told him I was intimidating her. Some people. Then I met Perry and Leonard.
They are very nice gentlemen and long time residents. Mr. Pringle graduated from Milby High School in 1948. When I asked them what they thought about the reform bill, they both stated that it was un-American. I asked them if they were on Medicare and Mr. Pringle replied that he certainly was, he’d been paying taxes for 60 years and he was certainly entitled to get some of his money back. I also asked them what they thought of the requirement to show a photo id and they thought it was ridiculous and completely un-American.
One man, Mike Fletcher, was turned away because, although he thought that Rep. Green was his representative, his address proved to be in Rep. Pete Olson’s district.
But…Mary Ann Joeckl is admitted without any id after telling the workers that she was with her mother. The workers had her sign in on the Media sheet but again, no id was required. When I asked the young man watching the door how many people had been allowed to enter without id, he refused to answer. When I asked him his name, he refused to answer and referred me to Chief of Staff Rhonda Jackson.
So much for the strict requirement on photo id. After the meeting, I met a guy that happens to be a HUGE fan of KSEV’s Edd Hendee, Kuno Trostman, III. He told me that Edd “rocks”.
Mr. Trostman III is an employee of Continental Airlines and thanked Rep. Green profusely for his help in several areas, including a speech on the House floor about one of Continental’s anniversary. Mr. Trostman III told me that he had a great conservative question ready to go but in the rush of the moment, he forgot it. Hey, we’ve all been there, you’ll do better next time, Kuno! I also caught up with Leonard and Perry after the meeting.
I think that sums it up pretty well. Oh, and on the way out, long after the border watchers were gone, we had a Mariachi band!