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3. We Need Power to Protect What We Value

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF

3

We Need Power to Protect What We Value

Austin, 1988

Charles "Lefty" Morris and I spot Ernie Cortes walking ahead of us into the Texas French Bread Bakery and Deli. We are going to meet him for a late lunch. Morris is a successful attorney and former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association who has recently grown disenchanted with the gritty little skirmishes of political combat and has been seeking ideas about how to change the structure of the war itself. He had heard about Cortes and wanted to know more about him.

Cortes has just come from a doctor's appointment, where he was warned one more time to shed a few pounds. Only about 5 feet 7 inches tall, Cortes' genetic tendency to be overweight worries his wife Oralia, but his obvious comfort with his teddybear body belies worry and lends a surprisingly sensual air to him. It is hard not to be drawn to his dark eyes, which compete with a bushy, graying mustache to dominate his face. Physically, he is almost oblivious of himself. His attire is conservative, but he is as mindful of his clothes as a 3-year-old. During the day, his shirttail might work its way out of his trousers, his tie might be witness to his meals, or the unnoticed string of a price tag might dangle from his sleeve. No matter-to him or to anyone else. Cortes clearly does not dress to be the center of attention.

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5. The University of COPS

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF

5

The University of COPS

San Antonio, 1986

The doors to the old elementary school on the grounds of the

Immaculate Heart of Mary parish on the West Side of San

Antonio are locked. Only the small red, white, and blue lapel button taped over a doorbell gives me any assurance that I am where I want to be: at the office of the neighborhood organization COPS. A hand-lettered sign lets me know I must ring the bell to gain entrance. The parish and the West Side neighborhood are so poor and devastated by urban renewal that they can no longer support the school. So the 70-year-old building is locked, boarded up, and used only for periodic sessions of an adult literacy class-and for the COPS headquarters, located on the second floor and accessible to the West Side leaders who run the organization. After my first visit, I understood the necessity of the locked doors. There are hazards in the old building and in the neighborhood. One day I lost my footing and fell on a chipped cement stairway that had no railings.

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14. Is COPS Coming to Your Neighborhood?

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF

14

Is COPS Coming to Your Neighborhood?

New York, 1986

Texas Lieutenant Governor William P. Hobby Jr. and I share a cab to La Guardia Airport on a crisp fall afternoon. It is one of those interminable rides out of Manhattan, with the mix of high speed, quick stops, and long waits that sends most Texans in New York into orbit. But I am relatively free of anxiety because we have plenty of time before our plane departs and

Hobby is calm because . . . Hobby is always calm, sometimes even maddeningly so.

We have been in New York to see the bond rating agencies about the financial condition of the State of Texas, which has not been good since the price of oil slipped from $21 to $11 a barrel. Wall Street is wary of Texas' ability to meet its obligations, and we have been part of a delegation to reassure investment bankers and bond analysts that state officials will behave responsibly and with fiscal "prudence." No one in the state can do a better job of reassuring Wall Street than quiet, seriouseven shy-Bill Hobby, who since 1972 has stood guard against extremism in Texas government.

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1. Moses and Paul: The World’s Greatest Organizers

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF

1

Moses and Paul:

The World's Greatest Organizers

Dallas, 1986

"Anybody remember Moses?" Ernesto Cortes Jr. asks a group of farmers and farm activists from 40 states who have come to Dallas to discuss their problems and hear Cortes speak at a Farm Crisis Workers Conference. 1 A few members of the audience nod and look at each other as if to say, "Who the hell is this and what have we gotten ourselves into?"

Cortes is the coordinator of a dozen or so Industrial Areas

Foundation (IAF) organizations in Texas, such as San Antonio's COPS and the Rio Grande Valley Interfaith. Because of his 20-year community organizing career in Texas and around the nation, Cortes has become a legend among American political activists and a source on Hispanic politics for journalists from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and a slew of other publications. The prestigious MacArthur Foundation gave him one of its "genius" grants and $204,000 to do with as he saw fit. Esquire identified him as one of the people who represented America "at its best.,,2 Texas Business magazine called Cortes one of the most powerful people in Texas-along with Ross Perot and corporate raider extraordinaire T. Boone

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9. Tactics Is the Art of Taking

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF

80 / Tactics Is the Art of Taking

But TWO members are in a hurry, and when they realize they have given away their leverage to get the city to focus on the neighborhoods, they decide they have to do something drastic to get the mayor's attention.

O'Hare Airport-the world's busiest airport and Chicago's pride-becomes their target. Thousands of travelers pass through its gates each day, and most of them stop long enough to use the bathroom facilities. TWO decides to occupy the lavatories-a sure way to bring airport operations to a halt! All demonstrators have to do is drop a dime, enter the restroom stall, and push the lock on the door. It would take only a few people, armed with books and newspapers, staying there all day to disrupt the airport and create chaos. There might even be fist fights in the long lines when travelers realize they are about to miss their connections and have no place to relieve themselves. Angry passengers would no doubt shout at airport employees. Children would be screaming, "But I've got to go!"

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