32 Slices
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3. We Need Power to Protect What We Value

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF


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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16. There Is No Substitute for the Fire

Mary Beth Rogers The University of Chicago Press ePub


There Is No Substitute for the Fire

Austin, 1986

Ernie Cortes and I join Ernie’s wife Oralia and several of his Texas organizers in the bar of the Ramada Inn on the south bank of the Colorado River. The hotel is old, rather shabby, and off the beaten track for the legislators and lobbyists who flock into Austin for politics and business. So it is quiet this Friday evening. We can talk and relax. Robert Rivera, who has just become a new father, is there, along with two Catholic sisters—Pearl Ceasar and Mignonne Konecny—who are organizing in El Paso and Fort Worth. The group is awaiting the arrival of Sister Christine Stephens and other organizers from around the state who are coming to Austin for a meeting of organizers from each of the local organizations. Cortes brings them together frequently, and their meetings are both joyful reunions and serious strategy sessions. And there are reports—progress reports, book reports, research reports—even “scouting” reports for new people and new ventures. Cortes usually presides and often tells the organizers, “I’ll give you three minutes to talk if you’re good, but if you’re boring I’ll cut you off in 30 seconds.” So the meetings are punchy, packed with information, and laced with good humor. A meeting is scheduled for the next day. Tonight, the organizers are just glad to see one another, reflecting a comfortable camaraderie that has built up among them over the years.

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6. Anger Gives You Energy

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF


Anger Gives You Energy

Los Angeles, 1986

"Pastor Sinnott, please leave the room and wait in the hall!"

Edward T. Chambers, teacher, issues the command, and the

Reverend Thomas Sinnott, student, follows it.

Chambers, director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, is teaching a seminar on power at Mount St. Mary's College in the hills overlooking Los Angeles. Tom Sinnott is a Lutheran minister from New Jersey, and he is one of about 100 people from across the nation who are attending the IAF's training program for church leaders and community activists. 1

During the next 10 minutes, Chambers orders other people to leave the room as well-a youth gang social worker from East

Los Angeles, a school teacher from EI Paso, a lawyer from East

Brooklyn, a Methodist minister from St. Louis. All obey the order. After all, Chambers is the head guy, the leader, the man in charge of the program. But the program is about power, and about how most middle-class and poor people give consent to have it taken away from them.

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13. We Are Not an Illusion of the Moment

Mary Beth Rogers University of North Texas Press PDF


We Are Not an Illusion of the Moment

Houston, 1978

Houston, Texas, is a city true to its past.

It grew out of a land development scheme in a hot, humid,

mosquito-infested marsh in 1836 when two imaginative entrepreneurs-J.K. and A.C. Allen-persuaded Texas hero Sam

Houston to lend his name to the settlement in return for a few acres of free land. Sam Houston also used his influence in 1837 to help the outpost become the capital of the new Republic of

Texas. 1 In the next two years, the city's population tripled from

500 to 1,500, and the Allen brothers began to make a fortune.

With Sam Houston on their side, the developers boasted to their East Coast investors that their city would soon become the

"great commercial emporium of Texas.,,2

For the next 142 years, other imaginative developers, cotton brokers, merchants, railroaders, bankers, oil producers, shippers, and lawyers had a host of public officials on their side as well, and they made deals every bit as clever as the Allen brothers' alliance with Sam Houston. Like the AlIens, their moneymaking schemes helped the city grow.

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14. Is COPS Coming to Your Neighborhood?

Mary Beth Rogers The University of Chicago Press ePub


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, serious—even shy—Bill Hobby, who since 1972 has stood guard against extremism in Texas government.

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