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Interview with: Raul Castillo
Interviewed by: Thomas Kreneck
Date: August 23, 1978
This is an August 23, 1978 interview with Raul Castillo, Media Coordinator for Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, Houston, Texas.
TK: Raul, begin by telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, where you're from originally?
RC: (00:27) Originally, I am from San Antonio, Texas. I'm 29 years old. We moved to Houston when I was about 10, so I've been in Houston almost 20 years now. My educational background--I was educated in the Pasadena School District. I started school Steve M. Fossom State??, finished my undergraduate work at the University of Houston and my degree is in Political Science and I minored in English and Psychology. My primary emphasis in English was on creative writing. As far as my professional background, I've worked with the City of Houston in the Affirmative Active Division. I've worked for MedPAR Educational Training, Inc. with the federally funded manpower program out of Cleveland, Texas. And I've done some freelance writing before, so that accounts for my Houston politics and my exposure to the world of the media, so to speak.
TK: What are your politics? How do you characterize your politics?
RC: I would characterize my politics--if I had to label myself something, I would be towards a Democrat, very liberally oriented to liberal causes, liberal philosophies.
TK: When did you become interested in the MTA issue?
RC: Okay, well my family--my own interest with transit problems in Houston goes back several years. When I was still an undergraduate at the U of A, which was back in about 1970, I took part in some panel discussions. The way some of our urban politics courses put together concerning the problems of mass transit in Houston--some of the solutions that we came up with were the same kinds of solutions that we're seeing implemented now. We had major traffic corridors designated as to where the busiest parts of the city were and where the most congested areas of the city were. And this is just by casual observation as opposed to--then we got into the real data end of it, and then when I was with the City, I felt like transportation was going to be a real issue in the future and I tried on several occasions to try and assist myself into the staff of the Office of Public Transportation, but was unsuccessful several times and for whatever reasons, I don't know of. It had a lot to do with the political thing that was evolving at the time. But my interest has always been on transportation as well as many interests.
I've always been interested in transportation as far as it affects so many people in the city on a day-to-day basis, and on a one-on-one basis--I doubt there's anyone in the city who can't say they've never been late to work or they've never been caught in a traffic jam of some sort, or they are griping on the way home because there's too many cars in front of them and their car breaks down--there's just too much wear and tear on them. And it’s the inadequate bus service, the inadequate bus system--being from San Antonio I've never had any problems--whereas they have their problems up here, too--with San Antonio I can always get from one end of the city to the other without any hassles at all and anytime of the day or night you can catch a bus, and you don't ever have to walk that far. In a reasonably not very populous neighborhood you still have everything pretty close by and one of the inequities--and I saw in this city, even as a child I could relate to that--could related that we had a bad bus system here and those things were just prevalent on my mind and of course as the MPA issue grew with more and more frequency, then my interests just mounted one on top of the other, and that eventually got me involved in the campaign itself to get MTA passed.
TK: Can you say something about working for the City and trying to get into the Transit Department or what was this difficulty?
RC: (5:02) Well, at the time I was working in Affirmative Action Division in the city and my specific title was Administrative Assistant. I wound up being a statistician. I’d compile the EE04 reports for the City of Houston for well, three reports, or so I’ve lived here for two years, and I saw in my job, I learned it too well, I think--that happens sometimes in a bureaucracy like that, and I started relating the information that I was seeing on paper to what was going on in the community, and I could relate it to maybe a category of professionals where there was maybe one Mexican-American and close to 50 blacks, and 350 whites, and I knew who that one person was, and I could relate to it that way. So myself and some other people--mostly in Community Development--we've organized a Municipal Employees LULAC Council and our membership –although what could the competition do about the vitals of the organization? Our membership was restricted to the employees, but our purpose was just trying to facilitate the flow of information from one department to another.
Let's say, for example, we had Clerk I working in Public Works, and I work in Affirmative Action Unit, mainly in civil service—they were looking for a Clerk II. We would encourage that Clerk I to take her Clerk II exam so that we could push for her to be put into the Clerk II slot, and that way, not only improve her status and her pay, but the overall status of Mexican-American employees in general in the city. So we took on the issue of inequitable employment of Mexica--Americans in city government. We had the raw data to back us up with the EEO4 reports, and then I got caught on a conflict—funny word.
They said that I shouldn't be using that sort of information for the purpose of what we were using it for, and my comeback to that was that it was public information. It was information that was available to anyone. And their comeback to that was the information is not made available to everyone. The information is made available to no one without our specific permissions that they can use it, and even then it doesn't go out of this office. So it got to the point where maybe I was a little bit too vocal and I think probably the people in Public Transportation at the time were aware of it, and they preferred not to deal with that kind of controversy. And it's very strange now that the campaign is over, the election's over, and those same people who were put under restraints--it happens every day in political situations--but the same people who were so adamant to not let me get on board--now they're coming around because the Mexican-Americans know that during campaign we’re obviously ranking really high (unintelligible) that it would have been kind of like an overwhelming pool of the things that we handled.
I say we are Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, and it's easy for them to focus in on who the principals of the operation were because there were so few of us, and they are focused in on those individuals, and in and out they're kind of like a little fly, so to speak, and it happens all the time, before and after every election, that as things start snowballing and bandwagoning and that’s when people start jumping. That's the tie-in between the political thing of mine--at being actually hired to focus on transportation and the political aspect of my job at the time eventually resulted in my being terminated from the City Office and that was classified as a termination of tenure because I was a public employee who was in a program in public employment program pool, but I contended then and still do now that it was a political reprimand more than anything.
TK: Who are we talking about here, specifically?
RC: (9:42) Well, specifically it goes back to a lot of people. I think one of the primary parties was Albert James, who is now Social Services Director, who was in Affirmative Action, but he didn't like the bad light which I was putting on our office, because our office was supposed to be responsible for monitoring Affirmative Action in the city, and in fact, it wasn't doing a good job. I think he saw me as a threat, more than anything, and I couldn’t ever convince the man that there were just basic things that we were looking for, and I think he just felt threatened. It was very obvious to me that I was not allowed the same kind of courtesy and requisite things that go along with termination of tenure, which is one of the things that public employment put it upon themselves to transist to a city position as opposed to just dropping off the earth. I was never contacted by anyone in the Public Employment Program—I’ll refer to it as PEP for a shortness thing. I was never contacted by anyone in PEP for anything. I did--I made contact with them twice, both of the times it was contact originated by myself and at one point in time I was told--and I asked them, I would appreciate some help and that it was a manner of urgency, and as a state employee--and this was like two or three days before the termination date came. And their retort to me was, "We can't concern ourselves with manners of urgency," and so it was very obvious to me. I subsequently found out from a very high official in Civil Service who shall remain nameless for whatever reason, that there was an actual blackball happening of my name and I was not to be hired for any kind of position with the state or anything.
TK: What are the years we are talking about here, what year?
RC: This was in '76. Yeah.
TK: Were you all successful with the LULAC council?
RC: The success of council itself was then council of the year; however, what happened is it wound up to be a two or three person operation: myself, the secretary—well, basically, I sort of run it—and we were able to now represent the council as much as we conceivably could. When it came time for a show of strength, it was all in all two people, and we made sure we were represented in all meetings and that our votes would count whenever they needed to be counted, but as far as actual input, no. The council--when I was originally contacted to be part of—basically, it was controlled by the people in the Mayor's office, like George Hernandez--and who we know had a role in it as far as who is an actual in for the council--as far as what direction we thought it should go. And the first President was Ovie Menendez?? who was in community development and it was usually kind of whitewashed the meeting--this LULAC actually took place, and what we were going to do, and what kinds of things we were going to be involved in.
All of it was relatively safe, non-controversial types of things, where we just a show of an organization of the city government as opposed to really trying to do anything. And so when I ran against O.E.?? for his presidency of the Council, I ran on that basis, and I thought that the council should open up more to an actual involvement. That we should have that happen later on so we know who did it, not from our council—that we should not be afraid to address political issues because we were respected and did so by filing of the reorganization and we could not make endorsements of candidates or issues. I felt that there was a way to circumvent that.
(14:20) Like I said, the thing turned into primarily a one or two person operation and we can only go so far with those kinds of things, because things losing credibility--how many people do we have on, and who is the executive committee that winds up being the person who was warned you know? And so, when I left the City, because of the way Council was set up, I didn't feel it was fair for me to stay on as council President, so when I left the City, I resigned the presidency to the council so that I wasn't going to be going against the thing that membership be interested in (unintelligible). And subsequently, I think the council resigned out in distancing (unintelligible).
TK: Were you all successful in relaying job information within the various departments?
RC: (15:09) We tried, and it was successful to the point where we would actually hand materials out. We would hand out lists of job openings in the entire civil service structure--we would hand them out to council members or to anyone who would request them because the person that say, working in public works--would have a working “Jobs Posted” on their bulletin boards, and it may be open to public works, but then you're not going to know what’s going on in Civil Service or Community Development or Public Service or anything anyplace else. They wouldn't have them. And unless they walked over to the Civil Service Department, and looked up on the bulletin boards to see a public listings job, they didn't have it. And not every department got listings of jobs as they came out every day. I forget the code numbers now--we had 201-203, or whatever--was a job opening. That was the code number for it. We would get a 203 list, and Affirmative Action. And I would share that list with people, and I had permission of the Director to do that so that we could facilitate that flow. So he had no objections to my sharing that because he, but that was one—he didn’t objections to my sharing the list because we were told--John Hill, the Attorney General, passed a rule that all EEO4 material was matter of public record, whereas to be accessible to the public at any time upon their request. And we were told point blank at a staff meeting by the City Attorney's office at the time it was (unintelligible) at the time--that we would not make it available to anyone, regardless of what the Attorney General said. I think the reason for that was--it is, like all statistical information--can be potentially dynamic. It can really be turned around, because statistics are strange little things--you can say 3 percent and somebody can interpret it as 97 percent. It's just what you want to do with the facts, I mean, with the given material to this point.
TK: Okay. Back on the better transit business--what was the nature of your job with Mexican-Americans for Better transit?
RC: I was a meeting coordinator for Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, and my job was to as it was described itself applicably, was to coordinate all media activities for the Mexican-Americans for Better Transit. That meant preparation of all news items, preparation of all press releases, coordination of all press conferences, remain in contact with the media here in special campaign as to recent election day coverage, making sure that we had TV coverage, making sure that we had radio coverage, and in the course of the day, just in other words--my responsibilities were strictly to make sure to wit that our efforts got documented, is what it amounts to, and in best manner that we possibly could.
TK: Is there a network of Mexican-American, a community of people here in Houston; is such a thing in operation here?
RC: (18:51) There is, I think--I'm not sure--I think there's the Mexican-American News Media Association, or something to that effect, I'm really not certain. There was at one time, I don't know if it's still in existence, there--I was surprised during the course of the campaign to see the number of Mexican Americans in the media, but specifically in radio, they were just contacting these stations and these various news departments of the radio stations throughout the city invariably I would come in contact with a Mexican-American, Spanish surname person.
TK: Were they your contact people?
RC: No, not necessarily our contact people. We would go directly either--just the assignment editor or the news director of the station, TV stations, radio stations--we worked specifically with Summer Borders on Post and Hobb who were assigned that beat from the beginning-- John Clegg at the Chronicle and Carrie Klizer at the (untelligible) Post--they were more or less our contact people. But even then, we would do it through channels, we would go through and contact the City desk and say, “We want a legal advisory and are having a press conference tomorrow at 7," and then we'd issue an advisory for all documentation. We would issue a press release, which would be ready for the people, for the press when they got there at the news conference itself. And then from that point, after the press conference, then we would circulate on a large scale to Herald and (unintelligible) papers and the smaller publications within the city--any radio stations that was not there present who we felt had a representative audience at all--of any kind of an audience to reach, specifically, the big country western kick in the city who would contact the country western stations. Very seldom would they come out to actually co-represent, they would get radio interviews, but we did get a substantial amount of press coverage during the campaign period.
TK: Now, when and how did organizations of Mexican-Americans for Better Transit--when did that get started?
RC: (21:20) Okay. Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, in all actuality--was formed about a month before the election. Miguello Gramidas?? had been working with me til the (unintelligible) since the specialty of the MTA our own board, to attending all the community meetings that the board had during this eight or nine month period before the election and the formation, and he was more or less acquainted with the technical aspect of the plans so--at that point it was Miguello who came to me and asked me if I would be interested in helping him with an organization which was going to be called Mexican-Americans for Better Transit. Mexican-Americans for Better Transit was going to be a--I guess they considered it a political subsidiary for the state of Citizens for Better Transit, which was the actual campaign tool for the Metropolitan Transit Authority referendum election. They got funded by contributions, donations, by citizens, by various corporate, area businesses, and from the general fund of Citizens for Better Transit sets aside a certain amount of money for part of it. The target Mexican-American precinct and the target Mexican-American voters, and the target Mexican American response, and that's where the Mexican-Americans for Better Transit came to be. So it was actually formed underneath, or before the elections and as far as membership, I suppose we had staff people. We had three or four paid staff people who were paid by Citizens for Better Transit funds. I was one, Margaret Acosta, the campaign coordinator, was another one. Alaberto Leagues was paid. He ran the satellite office on the north side, and George Hernandez was paid. Margaret Acosta--she received a versatile amount of money for the work that she did around the campaign. So actually only four people I think got paid on payday. Miguello worked strictly on a volunteer basis and he was the chairperson of Mexican-Americans for Better Transit. So that one of the reasons for that were I think—I don’t know, I think he was initially programmed in to be a paid staff member, and I think they cut the budget considerably from what I think the initial budget was something like $24,000 or $25,000 and it got cut down to a little over $17,000 for--and most of that--the majority of that went to meetings and advertisement.
(24:35) So like I said, it was about a month before the election and it was actually announced at a press conference that we had that day--its actual formation was announced at a press conference--and from there, we started actively to reach people, get connected . By that we programmed out 20-week targeted precinct for the City of Houston, which had anywhere from 40 to 99 percent Mexican-American registered voters, and we targeted 23 precincts. Out of those 23 precincts, we hired part of the contract services, part of the moneys of the campaign went to Kelly Survey. Kelly Survey’s a practice, they did the calling for us. They contacted the voters in those particular precincts. They supplied us with what—at least every other day confirming the count, had the calls going and what the percentages seemed to be and the people actually contacted, those kinds of things. What we would do is strategically follow through, we started out with a mail-out, and from a mail-out we went to phone calls, and after the phone calls we did another mail-out. After that we did another phone call, and at the same time, and then another phone call before the actual election, so it was conceivable that some people actually didn't get contacted before the election. What we wanted to do was in those areas of importance to us was have the issue of MTA as fresh on everybody's minds as we could. The reason for that being that if a person got up on Saturday morning, he got a call that same Saturday that he should go out and vote, that he might more than likely be able to do it than if he got a call two weeks before and said there's going to be an election on the 12th of August. And so there was a lot of calling done on Thursday and Friday before the election just ahead of the early election so that we could get hopefully as many voters out as we called and as it turned out it was an incredible turnout, citywide, but the response is to count on our designated precinct.
TK: Notice that there were promises for better services and promises of Affirmative Action for the Mexican-American community or made for the Mexican-American community around the MTA issue. What types of negotiations went on for that with and between whom--
RC: (27:48) In all honesty, for just the--for what was promised in the plan that the community would receive--there was no actual negotiations that went on at all. It was the Affirmative Action policy, was drawn up by the board. What they took from the community meetings were those things that were implemented into the plan, which really excited me, personally--my involvement in things, because the community was consulted, which was unheard of heretofore in the city. You don't consult the community--you tell it what to do. And here was a chance for us to get in on something. We had a board member who seemed to represent us extremely well making sure that some very basic transportation needs of our community were addressed and incorporated a plan. There were one of the things that we used in trying to stress the importance of MTA within the Mexican-American community was try standing on the street corner, at least in Texas, see how many busses go by before you see a Chicano bus driver, you're going to be there a heck of a long time, because there were only seven out of the some-700. And it was incredible. The statistics were just incredible. And incredibly poor, I should say.
And so, when the Affirmative Action program assured almost to the point of setting a quota, the terminology is such that it says 20 percent minorities. And from that it makes very specific verbiage to Mexican-Americans. It says, and specifically, Mexican-Americans, and so those kinds of things were, to my eyes--and I had been involved in Affirmative Action before and then carried over to the community to the powers that be for several years, and when I saw those things, my eyes lit up. I said, "My gosh, we're actually incorporating what we want to do,"--and things like bilingual services to this day. Of course, most people know now that you're not supposed to smoke in public or in public places such as a bus, but to this day you can get on a Houston bus all you see is smoking, and you don't see any Spanish reference to it. And let's face it, in this part of the country, and in this part of our proximity to the border, Spanish is a big part of the culture around here. We have a large Mexican-American population here, and the projections are that in the not that far distant future, we may well be the majority of the people in this city. And the need for that segment of the population has to be met eventually, and to me, a person active in the community, I saw this as a way to start. And that's all it was, is a start. The things that we got from MTA technically, without negotiation, were simple things, like bilingual services, the commitment to hiring bilingual bus drivers, cross town routes that people on the east end could get to the north side, or to get maybe if you wanted to go shopping in the Gulf state, you'd tend to live and rely on navigation somewhere, and you wouldn't have to ride a bus for four or five hours and a taxi in between. Just go straight through and get where you need to go, and be able to get back home, and those kinds of things excited me. Those kinds of things, that were just very, very basic needs, that were being addressed, and that's --
(End tape one)
(Begin tape two)
RC: That also was well and fine that the plan was designed to give suburbanites in from the city and to get people in from the central city itself, and to get out of the central city to work in a big office buildings, and those kinds of things. And to be real frank with you, to me that was a secondary concern of this, as far as the Mexican-American community was concerned. Our concern was if we were going to get jobs out of it, if we were assured representation at all levels in the MTA system, which meant implementation, planning, design, administration, clerical maintenance and the whole bit. At all levels, at all categories of employment, we were assured by the Affirmative Action program, positions in these places, and to me that meant a generation of revenue in the community. It meant we were also assured of representation contracting out of services to MTA, which again, involves minority contractors of minority businesses, subcontractors which do exist in the Mexican-American community and again, that meant a greater generation of revenue for our own businesses were going to be used for certain things-as they are in a generic sense we invite some Americans in--so those kinds of things even if—and at the time it was a good faith thing as it is now. We don't have any guarantees that those things are going to happen, but we felt like with the representation on the board and with the strong showing at the polls they'd have to be committed to this kind of thing.
(01:51)And like I said, that precludes many negotiations that were involved because those things that the community needed from the program and the City was supposedly going to get to the program, the things that the community themselves said they wanted. The things the community themselves said that they needed. These are the things that we need, these are the things that we want, and these are the kinds of things that we would like to see. Now that our negotiation started, it was a whole different thing. That was a political end of the something that was described as a nonpolitical campaign. There is no such thing as a nonpolitical campaign--perceived we're always involved in politics and you're trying to persuade opinions of people to go one way or the other and the nonpolitical became the political and yeah, the reality of it was to destroy the effort completely of trying to get people to respond to the program. To respond to the concept of the Metropolitan Transit Authority in the community. It took a lot of work on our part to turn the people, keep the people turned on--once they got into a political hassle, so to speak, it was very obvious that there were things being cut, and there were people having personal gains from things, and when those kinds of things became so blatantly obvious that it became rather difficult to deal with the issue and at that point it became a delicate issue in the community where it hadn’t been before.
TK: Moving on to the actual precinct, grass-roots level thing, how large an area did the Mexican-Americans for Better Transit cover?
RC: (03:47) Like I said earlier, there are 23 predominantly Mexican-American precincts in the city. They range anywhere from 18 registered voters to about 4,000 registered voters in the precincts. They carry--the area was predominantly like on the north side and east end areas of Houston, like North Lane and Fulton Moody Park area and further down into the navigation of the Greenhouse area and back towards like the Chical?? navigation area, like that way. Maybe as far as like Gulf Gates to get a perspective as to where--on the map--as to where this thing might be located. But as far as square miles and stuff like that, I wouldn't have any idea of what that would entail.
As it turned out, we were going to be responsible for 23 precincts, and when PASSO, which is the Political Association of Spanish Speaking Organization, when they finally did endorse the program, they had committed themselves to something like 40 to 50 precincts, which they couldn't have done, and so realistically we approached them with the 23 precincts and said, "We need to work on this together so that we can produce the number of votes that we need to produce," and they wanted to handle everything, and we couldn't fill our goal and effort because it was already a funded thing. So the agreement was that we would work—Mexican-Americans for Better Transit--would work ten precincts and they would work the remaining 13, and that's how we targeted our effort in courting them, even though a lot of calls had already been made and literature sent in to the other precincts--the 13--the visible precincts as publicly—the PASSO/Mexican-Americans for Better Transit. So we worked the ten precincts that we had and along the lines of which I mentioned earlier, the phone calls, mail-outs with as much media coverage as we could possibly get.
TK: Specific about the media--newspapers, radios--?
RC: (06:10) Newspapers, radios--what we did, we got the widest spectrum of community representation we could possibly conceive. We got people who were known as judges and people who were known in the community as car salesmen, people who were known in the community as good community, as a good people who were known in the community because they worked in a particular location and we cut a total of 12 or 13 tapes with 12 or 13 different people, and then they got to the point where on KEYH for example, on any given day you could call, you could listen in within the span of three or four hours and hear eight or nine different people talking to you, and most of their programming for the tapes has been on a Sunday when they have the Spanish-speaking programs, the Spanish programs on KEYH. And we got a lot of feedback on that, and that was a good idea, because--or maybe if you didn't recognize one, you sure would recognize the others--and it worked out relatively well for us and I think during the campaign period including exclusive advertisements in the paper and exclusive actual print and containment in those copies. We generated over 700 inches of news coverage within a 3 1/2 week period relating specifically to activity of Mexican-Americans for Better Transit that incorporated something like nine front page stories, and it was just kind of a media blitz for us is what it was. We wanted to have our name and the issue of the MTA upfront as much as possible. We wanted it to be known that we as a working Mexican-American community were in the precincts and work in the community itself, that we were taking an actual leadership role; not only just in our community but in the entire--the whole concept of promoting the MTA, and they got to the point where people who were involved and say, for example, whose predominant target was the black community. And then they would come to us for suggestions on how they could increase their media coverage and this and that and what they could do.
(08:45) This is not to flaunt my own effort, because this was a united effort all the way down the line. There was no way we could have gotten press coverage--there's no way we could have gotten media coverage, radio coverage, TV coverage--if we hadn't been doing a good job all up and down the line. MTA of course was a hot issue, it was a newsworthy issue. It was a newsworthy item to cover, but it got to the point where by the time we got our monies cleared to actually do something with the campaign, that it was to the point where the press was almost weary of MTA. So we had to come up with as many press concepts as we could to get the press in, and whether it bordered on controversy or whatever, we wanted the thing to just be out front and out in the public as much as possible. And we were able to succeed with that.
TK: When you say you were getting individual endorsements from people who were “in places,” I believe. What do you mean, “in familiar places”? Did you use that exact term? What do you mean, by examples of these people?
RC: (09:59) Okay, well let's say for example our editorial tapes were obviously—reading off of a list of people here who cut the editorial tapes, if I can remember them all—there was judge A. Ramidas?? who was is municipal courts in the City of Houston, he's a very well-known figure. There’s Tony Alvarez, who is a Cadillac salesman, who has a clientele that just calls him up, and they never see him, they just say, "Tony, get us a car," and the people know who Tony is, he's very active. He’s very active in that way. So Tony cut a tape with Lefty Polasos, who was a member of the Office of Public Transportation staff. Lefty was instrumental in taking the word out to the community from the Office of Public Transportation standpoint. There was Reuben Geperro??, who was President, who has been (unintelligible). There is Carlos Dimina, Delores Magallo, Majero Amedez who is very well known in the community. I, myself cut a tape. Nick Colorenzo cut a tape again, who is a very big name recently in the city of Houston--and that's seven people I can think of.
You've got John De Rivera, who is the former National President of LULAC, he cut a tape, and let's see—I think there were more of them, they slip my mind. And also from actual endorsements, we got practically every city official in the city to commit to an endorsement with the exception of Ben Reyes who was still holding out as a possible endorsement at the time. We had Judge Hewitt Salazar, of course, who had a press conference—the judge gave us his ringing endorsement at the press conference. Constable Raul La Fina's endorsement at a press conference, George Edmundo Rodriguez was one who endorsed us at our press conference. Judge Richard Vara was another endorsement at our press conference.
We had every single Mexican-American elected official in the city commit to an endorsement, with the exception of--like I said--Ben Reyes, with the exception of Judge Olivios ?? who said that he thought that there might be some kind of ethical code that he couldn’t publicly endorse a political issue, and then there was Judge Nick Herrera who said he wasn't too sure if he would endorse because there were "a lot of questions about it." But he came right out front with a possible endorse, so evidently there was a tie-in there, he just felt it wasn't too safe at the time, but eventually every one of those people endorsed it.
TK: I noticed some of the news coverage that Mexican-Americans for Better Transit tried to pull in other Hispanics--Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Columbian-Americans--was this show, or were there meetings? Was there actual representation?
RC: (45:29) It wasn't show. We actually sought their support. We did a mail-out. A doctor, I can't remember the guy's name, contacted us. He did a mail-out to different organizations--to different organizations, to different citizen group organizations for Native Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, and the whole bit. W had an actual presentation for them to seek their endorsement, we didn’t just say, “Hey just endorse us and just go along with what we say," and we actually had a presentation to them and we sat down, we showed them a presentation, we answered their questions, we asked for their endorsement. They formed an ad hoc committee to kind of like circumvent the fact that every one of those people would have to go back to every one of their separate organizations and ask for their parliamentary endorsement of the thing. They formed the ad hoc committee of something like 16 people representing something like 20 organizations, and they--the ad hoc committee-then endorsed the program. So they were actively sought out and we made it a point at a press conference to say--and I still defend that we very easily say a Mexican-American in Houston and meaning Hispanic, or if we say Hispanic and mean Mexican-American, where it's true a Mexican-American is a Hispanic, it's not true necessarily that a Hispanic necessarily be a Mexican-American.
(47:15) So we acknowledge that and we still defend the fact that we were called Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, because let's face it, the vast majority of the Hispanics in this city are Mexican-American, and the name identification of the issue, the boldness of the word "Mexican-American" just lends itself better to the thing than does "Hispanic.” At no time did the Hispanic groups that we contacted say that we should change the name of the organization or that it shouldn't be called Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, it should be called Hispanics for Better Transit. No one ever made that suggestion. We were very up front with it that we wanted their support and that we would publicize their support, which we did, and we feel like it was a significant kind of type of coalition that might be formed, because heretofore, nothing like that had ever been attempted. There was never any attempt to bring in fringe Hispanic groups to speak, and we did, and we did it rather successfully.
TK: Was one group being more discernibly pro or against the MTA than any of the other groups among the Hispanics here?
RC: No, uh-uh (negative)--they were all relatively supportive. There were--a large section of their representation is non-citizen and can't vote, but the people who can vote feel like there are a lot of people--and it's true with all Hispanics, not just Mexican-Americans--they cling to their culture, and I think that's a beautiful aspect of the whole thing. They do cling to their culture, and there are a lot of people who don't speak Spanish who don't get driver's licenses or they are used to being in their native country where they don't necessarily drive cars, and so they don’t bother getting cars and they don't bother even learning to drive, and they do rely heavily on the transportation system. So the kinds of things that we were talking about, the things that appealed to them the most were the bilingual services. And that's what sold everybody--is the bilingual services—and the idea that you don't get something for nothing anywhere. You don't get anything for nothing--a double negative--
RC: (49:51)--but the old cliché that you don't get something for nothing and it's true, be it transportation, be it anything else. You have to pay for what you get and that's how we justify the increase in the sales tax. It was a necessary thing and it was a fair and equitable tax, and it was the easiest type of tax to collect. It was a visible tax--you always knew where it was coming from, how it was going to get to you--and it didn’t apply to basic items and necessities and lower income people don't buy things that many things that aren't basic items and necessities--so we were--that was our sales pitch, so to speak, to all the Hispanic groups that we addressed and they (unintelligible). I think it may be the beginning of a very significant type of coalition in the community, and I really hope that that type of effort is carried on by other people, not necessarily by us--because Mexican-Americans for Better Transit is a political and the campaign tool is no longer in existence. We feel like our role now--and we haven't formulated it as such and will probably do so at press conferences in the next week or so--we will announce that Mexican-Americans for Better Transit will be an ongoing type of thing, an ad hoc committee to help advise the board on matters of transit as they relate to Mexican-Americans and the Hispanic community. Those people that we talked about--the Hispanics that we talked about--they will also be incorporated into stuff, and we hope that that kind of can be maintained--not only in this campaign but in political campaigns further on down the road. Just so that we can present an even more unified front, which has always been our problem. A big Mexican-American political problem is that the unified front just isn't there and always it has splinter groups and it's sad because it winds up being our worst enemy as opposed to siding like the black community--they're always very unified in what they do.
TK: What type of objections did you have to overcome as a body regarding the MTA?
RC: I think that the basic thing was kind of a bureaucratic distrust. People don't understand a big multi-billion dollar program--just how is it going to get filtered down to the little people? And then the other big thing was, of course, the tax. People on fixed incomes and things like that don't like paying taxes, and people don't--I don't like paying taxes! Nobody likes paying taxes, but our problem was--the thing that was faced with--was to tell the people that there's no way in the world that we're going to get out of paying taxes. And if you don't get the taxes increased now, for better systems of transit to keep cars off the street, and people on busses to get us where we need to go, then we're going to wind up paying the taxes anyway for extra roads that have to be built and extra thoroughfares that have to be built, and extra this that has to be built to try to serve you in traffic, which is never going to happen in the city if it keeps growing like it is. And so the people in the body of say, Houston, they don't really relate that much to a traffic jam on the Katy freeway or a traffic jam on the southwest freeway because by and large, they're not headed in that direction, and they could really care less. So you have to get to--you have to relate to them at that level. You have to relay to them, look, you may not necessarily need two cars. Maybe your wife has to work, to go one direction and you have to go another, or she has to get up early to take you to work, or you have to get up early to take her to work. Now, with an adequate system of transit, you can just jump on a bus to get there and come back home the same way, and you don't have to worry about it. You save all that money, you don't buy an extra car, and those kinds of things—just things that they can basically relate to--we felt that it was a very one-on-one type contact and people in the community, for example--while they acknowledge the fact that politics does exist in their community, they don't like it, by and large. They don't like the wheeling and dealing that goes on for whoever's name. It's not that they don't like it so much as they don't understand it. Now, the community, as a whole I think, is reaching a kind of level of maturity now, where of course they're becoming more and more aware of what goes on around them, but there’s still that (unintelligible).
(55:01) We were received by that several times--just the tension in the air like, “Here’s some people trying to spring political issue on us“ and that's not how we approached it. We approached it with a very pragmatic frame, that it was a useful thing that the community itself needs and that we weren't going to get it free, that it was going to cost us some money, and this was the cheapest way out and the best way for us to do it. And the response was relatively welcome--
TK: When you talk--now, within the Mexican-American community itself, wasn’t their socio-economic level split in being for or against it? How could you discern a difference in attitude toward MTA between various socio-economic groups within the body--?
RC: (55:54) Well, it's very hard to get a breakdown on this particular campaign, this particular election, because there was a central--from my understanding there was a central polling place, I think located at City Hall, that were all phoned-in votes as opposed to computer votes and it's very difficult--in other elections they could do it very easily, could pinpoint who was a Mexican-American voter, and that kind of thing. Of course, that can be done off the polls, but not immediately the next day, the way that they usually do it. So it's very hard to classify what group of people. I know the Mexican-American blue collar worker went for it pretty heavily.
TK: Okay. Impressionistically perhaps, I'm asking you here.
RC: Yeah. Yeah, I think the people who relate to getting out of traffic jams, because the fact that they don't get on the southwest freeway or the Katy freeway or the Gulf freeway--they possibly go on the Gulf freeway--to get to work, they still catch a lot of traffic everywhere. I mean, I don't care where you go. You get a half hour for lunch and you got to go someplace to get something to eat, you'll never make it. And they related to those kinds of things. It's the kinds of things that anybody relates to, not just persons in the Mexican-American community but anyone.
TK: What about the Chicano middle class--how would you characterize them?
RC: Okay, the Chicano middle class being a little bit more of a sophisticate type, I think they went for it because the fact that they are aware, I think, by and large, of who the visible people in the community are when I say Judge Salazar or Judge Rodriguez or someone like that--and when they saw that these people came out front and said, "This is a good thing," and this is their elected official who is out to take care of their interest. While they're not necessarily--I can speak for example, I say from the standpoint of my father, who is a middle class Mexican-American--he doesn't know any of these people personally. He doesn't take a great interest in politics. He hates paying out money of any sort, be it for taxes or anything else. But when he saw that these people were up front doing it, as a matter of fact, he fought me on it, because I was supporting it so actively, and he said, "You're just out to get tax dollars," and those kinds of things. But when he saw that the people who he feels are established, people who have made it in the community and have taken their respective roles in life--when he sees those people come out and say, "This is a good thing, we feel like we should go along with it," then--then he came forth. Then he said, "You know, I think this is probably the kind of thing that we need." And there again, too, the Mexican-American middle class worker could very conceivably in many instances be on the Katy freeway or the Gulf freeway or the southwest freeway or wherever. We don't all live on the east end. We don't all live on the north side. So they could relate to it, from this standpoint, too--they're out on the streets and they see what's going on and the transit system is horrible. And they come home to some cold supper and they don't want that.
TK: I saw, I noticed in Acorn, that one of the local people against the MTA was a Mexican-American. Would you care to make a statement on that?
RC: (59:36) Yeah, I know. I've never met the man and I've never heard him talk. I understand, I don't even know what his name is, but I am familiar that there was one Mexican American--from the history that I've gotten of him is that he's always been involved in kind of fringe activities, he’s never really taken an upfront role in anything.
TK: Is he representative of the Mexican-American community, would you say?
RC: I wouldn't think in this particular issue, at any rate. (laughs).
TK: Okay, I had to throw that in gratuitously (laughs). Okay. Regarding community cooperation within the Mexican-American precincts and within the Mexican-American community, what was the greater Houston GI Forum’s relationship to the Mexican Americans for Better Transit, and to the entire MTA issue?
RC: Okay. The GI Forum was--that's a group, if I understand correctly--I think they were initially an offshoot of LULAC way back when. It's a Veteran's group, very by and large conservative. Their particular president now, Ruben Geperro, seems to be a little bit more--not liberally oriented--he's an attorney--seems to be a little bit more of a gregarious type person than you would expect an American GI Forum President to be and they initially did not endorse--the President himself had endorsed on a personal commitment type basis, to meet A. Lorenzo?? but as far as the organization itself, their endorsement came relatively late in the campaign. I think like everyone else, as a lot of other groups did, they saw that momentum was building in favor of the campaign--that it would be good for them to go on record and say that they endorsed. So they finally did endorse, and their primary reason for endorsement was that they felt that the system was needed in the community and it was a small price to pay for a better system of transit to get people to and from work. So they contacted us and asked us if we would hand out the press release, if we would kind of publicize an endorsement for them, and of course, we were more than happy to. As an addendum to that, Reuben Guerroro?? was one of the people who cut a tape for--an editorial tape--on radio. He was also one of the people whose voice we used on election day on the loudspeaker system to address the community, precinct by precinct, street by street basis, that it was election day; it was time to come out and vote, and to vote in favor of MTA.
TK: What did you all have--a truck or something? What--?
RC: (1:02:55) We had two sound systems circulating in the communities with cassette hookups and they alternated in Spanish and English so it wouldn't be so presumptuous to think that we had nothing but Spanish-speaking people living in these communities. I think the--when I am myself pleased with it, that any effort that I've always involved myself in, that I consider a professional effort, be it a work effort or an extra-curricular type effort and that involves professionalism of some sort that there is a certain acumen and a certain sophistication that I think I like to see in things, and I think that this particular campaign, the way it was handled at all fronts, I felt—
(End tape two)
(Begin tape three)
RC: Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, this is Raul.
TK: The sophistication of your--
RC: (1:04:16) I think we stress that a lot during the campaign, for a good reason. It's not just to flaunt our own activities. Well, that was part of it, because we thought we were doing a good job, and I don't think there was any one of us who were involved in the campaign that were saying, "Well, I'm doing a good job and I want to flaunt the effort." I think it was—“I have never in my life been involved with something that brought such personal satisfaction to me, and at the same time, I think is going to contribute so much to some other people.” And I was extremely happy that I involved myself in it. I don't regret it for a minute, regardless of whatever ramification may come from it, or whatever. It was something that needed to be done and I think we handled it in the most professional and sophisticated manner that we possibly could with what we had to work with. I think something--to me--it will be something that someday I can look back on and--if the whole thing works out--tell the grandkids, "Look, see that monorail system up there? We had something to do with it."
TK: Did GI Forum do anything outside the endorsement or --?
RC: No, they didn't take an active role with us, (unintelligible) you know. Ruben, of course, as a representative of a GI Forum, did cut some tapes and sat in on a couple of meetings with as far as--they did intensive precinct if my judgment is true. But no, they didn't take an active role, per se. LULAC was another one who endorsed and their role was rather limited as far as actual campaign activity. They didn’t actually (unintelligible)--
TK: Less so than GI Forum?
RC: No, I know that they did have some precinct workers out.
RC: (1:06:20) Yeah, a couple folks. So they did take, I guess, a semi-active role.
TK: Which councils? Do you know specifically?
RC: I don't know. I know 402, which is one of the older councils. I saw some of their people out at the polls. I know the deputy director who was out at some of the polls.
TK: Julia Sands?
RC: Sylvia Ross. She's a deputy director for LULAC District Eight. There were a couple of other people who I found out subsequently later on that they were working for us, so, they did get involved in it, you know—the pushcart end of it, and the actual leg work part of it--the representatives of LULAC were involved. As a whole, the organization itself didn't participate that actively in the promotion of the campaign.
TK: When and why did they indorse it, would you say?
RC: (1:07:08) They endorsed it about--I guess about 2 weeks before the election.
TK: After GI Forum?
RC: No. Before GI Forum, I think. Yeah, I think. They were being rather obstinate about it, for whatever reason they have, I don't know--they--LULAC especially the people are the principals of LULAC now--always have been. If there's such a thing as a safe controversy, that's where you'll see LULAC. That's a personal opinion of my own that I have, I think the facts will bear me out, but anything that's a bogus issue, so to speak, where it's relatively safe to say a semi-controversial thing about--that you'll see LULAC there. I think that if it involves outright controversy, are never scratched on the surface by LULAC, and I guess that's what keeps them going. Of course, they're a very established organization. They're nationwide. People know what LULAC is, you usually don't have to say League of United Latin American Citizens--it's LULAC. People know what LULAC is, as opposed to me saying "MABT," nobody knows what I'm talking about, they think I'm talking about a mayonnaise and bacon tomato sandwich or something. The organization itself does run itself that way, and like I was saying, the principals of LULAC right now in this city are such that the director himself has a background in Affirmative Action, and of course, that stands out. That was their primary concern. That was supposedly LULAC's big riot--was that the Affirmative Action policy didn't have any teeth to it when in actuality it does. I think what happened in so many instances during this whole thing that we saw as we got later on in the campaign--it became so obvious--were the people who didn't bother getting involved in the beginning all of the sudden had these questions, and if you ask questions two days before the election, on a very, very complicated issue, and it's kind of hard to get a clear answer on it. There were phrases; a redundant phrase that I got sick of hearing towards the end of the campaign was "unanswered questions." That there were still a lot of unanswered questions. Well, the people who had the unanswered questions didn't know what the questions were! Any questions that they had could be answered. I don't care what kind of question you can have. You can either give them a negative response, or a positive response, but they didn't have any questions that were supposedly unanswered. LULAC's big riot was--
TK: Was this LULAC particularly here?
RC: Well, no, LULAC--no. This is in general. You look at ACCO is another one, in Harris county council organization—Victor Marshall, for example, who is a stalwart in the black community, he --that was his big complaint. He had a talk show with him and his immediate thing was "This plan stinks!" But he didn't give any reasons why the plan stinks, and when he asked why or what he objected to, “There were too many unanswered questions,” and that was it. What were the unanswered questions? There would be a lot of rhetoric, but no actual question come about, and then that was the thing that we were facing everywhere. Not just the Mexican-American thing, but Citizens for Better Transit all the way around, kept facing that same, same response, "There are too many unanswered questions," but they were never asked.
TK: Was there a Mexican-American group that had this business about the unanswered questions?
RC: No. LULAC--like I said LULAC's big concern was the Affirmative Action, and for whatever reasons they have, they hesitated with their endorsement. They would not come out and endorse. I think what happens too often is that there is so much politics behind the scenes and in the organizational things that unless they have someone who is really--who doesn't have that much of a flair for political organizational things where they work off the top of their head and say, "Well, I think this is good, let's go with it. I think the community needs this," as opposed to saying "Well, wait, let's stop and get approval of 12 councils," and that kind of thing. But eventually, they came around. I think it took three or four--three presentations to them before they finally endorsed. And when they did endorse, it was a unanimous endorsement of the councils in Houston.
(1:12:25) So when they endorse, they endorse big. And again, we released a press release—Mexican- Americans for Better Transit, that LULAC had endorsed, their commitment to us via the press release after reading it to them and seeing that they agreed to it, that they would work with us in whatever way they could, whatever capacity they could, and like I said, they did supply some volunteers.
TK: Okay. Was the Harris County Hispanic Caucus's relationship to Mexican-Americans for Better Transit and the entire MTA issue?
RC: Okay. Harris County Hispanic Caucus, whose temporary chair is Al Leal??--there were a lot of people from HCHC who were involved in MTA. Not the planning thing of it, but involved in getting the word of MTA out and trying to understand what it was. There were a lot of their members involved in the initial stage, for a long period of time. I'm talking like six or seven months.
TK: Like who?
RC: Martha Vias was one of them. She was one of the precinct judges. There were a lot of precinct judges who belong to HCHC--you know, by and large, they keep themselves informed of what's going on, and so those people worked with the concept of what MTA was. But for whatever reasons they had, one of them was their meeting dates--I think they meet once a month--and the meeting date never came up proximally to the election. They endorsed about a week and a half--I think--before the election. And the proximity to the election came about, and they--we gave them a presentation and they gave again, a unanimous endorsement.
Again, many of their members helped with the actual campaign election date thing. Al Leal for example was one of the people on the sound system. I had another person who cut a tape, Al Leal, he's another person who cut a tape for us. And the--I think another one of HCAC members had the other sound system. There were a lot of their people working polls. George Hernandez, who's an HCAC member who was helping us at the campaign headquarters; his wife was helping, Joyce Hernandez--was helping us at the campaign headquarters, and so they took an active role--their members did, at any rate, on an individual basis. The organization itself was very well represented by members. The actual endorsement came relatively late in the campaign, I think, about a week and a half before the election.
TK: Now, to the best of your knowledge, what did Al Leal?? mean when all of his support he referred to "The prevailing boss system that exists," in Harris County?
RC: Well, Al's specific reference to that was that in essence, it was PASSO. That too often did the community--we do what we're told to do. PASSO says don't endorse, we don't endorse. PASSO says endorse, we endorse. PASSO says work actively, we work actively. It's a game like, instead of "Simon Says," It's "PASSO says." PASSO says jump, and you jump, and all you do is ask, "How high?"--and you know, those kinds of things. And I think that's what Al was talking about. The discussion that he and I had the night before, to the effect that traditions, as they exist—‘cause PASSO's statement at their endorsement press conference was that finding in a meeting with a Mayor, PASSO's statement to the Mayor was that PASSO traditionally is responsible for handling precincts. Well, tradition isn't going to cut it. Not that kind of tradition, you know? A people don't reach political progress by clinging to traditions. Fine--we have our cultural traditions which no one can take from us and which makes us that much stronger a people. But as far as political traditions, we've never had any kind of politics to speak of and how can you say that all of the sudden that you're a tradition? It's not sensible to me.
(1:17:17) Politics is a changing thing. There's a sophistication in politics that goes on to every single day. The Citizens for Better Transit campaign for all practical purposes was a media campaign. It was a media blitz. That's where the majorities of their money went to--was TV, radio, a big, Madison-Avenue-type of campaign, and it paid off. It paid off extremely well in the entire city. And PASSO's statement that traditionally it's their responsibility to handle precincts, and traditionally it's their responsibility to get the word out to the Mexican-American community. They're telling people that they are the self-appointed leaders of the community--and PASSO, or no other organization in the community, is going to tell me what I should think. I'm talking about me personally. Of course, I have an interest in politics. I have an interest in what's best for my community. But I don't foresee myself as being--I don't project myself as saying, "I speak for the community. I speak for-- I think--" is to their benefit, as opposed to just saying blanketly, "I speak for them." I don't. I can't speak for the community. There's too many people out there. The Mayor at one--someone asked me at one of the presentations that we gave if the Mayor had committed things to the Mexican-American community. But the Mayor can't commit anything to the community, if we want to get down to a basic game of semantics about the thing, which is that's what you have to relegate to sometimes, to get your point across--is how is the Mayor going to get 150,000 people someplace and tell them, "Hey gang, this is what I'm going to give you. Now let's hear a yea or nay on this thing." You can't. You can see, that's not conceivable, that's not possible. But you know, you have groups of people who supposedly represent the best interest of the community, and sometimes those groups and their interests are rather questionable. That's what Al was referring to-- that's a very roundabout answer to what Al was referring to--by the "traditional boss system." It's like a Mayor Dingy?? type-thing in Chicago, what Mayor Daley said to do, everybody did, because they were scared of him.
And the feeling was that we will get things from the City only as PASSO wants us to get things from the city, only as much force and implementation and whatever kind of levity they have to exercise, then that's how the community will be. They are the vehicle which we have to go through, and that is not the case. There's a lot of bright people in our community who are aware of what it takes to get political things through, what kind--what would initiate political motivation? There are a lot of people in our community who are aware of how to do these things. But they're not all necessarily PASSO members.
TK: What was PASSO's relationship to MABT and to the entire MTA issue?
RC: (1:20:39) Okay. PASSO, as far as their relations to Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, was a rather foul--I've thought of words to describe it--it was almost a jealousy motive there--a jealousy factor that we--Mexican-Americans for Better Transit--and it's horrible in this kind of situation to say "we" and "them" and I realize that. Basically, that's what it got down to, was that divisive a thing. It was our side against their side. The good guys against the bad guys, and here we all are supposedly fighting for the same thing. And we--the Mexican-Americans for Better Transit--endorse a campaign from the very beginning. We started actively, actively campaigning for the passage of MTA. Ben Brayus?? himself had given a verbal commitment for quite a number of people--that his name and his position could be associated with Mexican-Americans for Better Transit, that we could say that he was an active endorser of it, we could use his name on printouts and those kinds of things. And then the day before we had our first mail-out printed, he called and said he didn't want his name attached to it in any way because the community supposedly hadn't gotten enough things out of it yet. And the community technically wasn't going to get anything out of it until the thing was passed. How can we give the community a better transit system when we don't have a transit system to work with?
So Ben all of a sudden withdrew his support and felt that it was PASSO who should carry the ball on this thing and to one point--to the point that he told us that we should just disband the group completely.
TK: When did he tell you that, and how?
RC: (1:22:49) This was on a long day--he didn't tell it to me, he told it to my colleague on a long-distance phone call from Austin--that we should disband the group because we were now perceived as the enemy, those were almost his exact words, that we were perceived as the enemy. Now, PASSO perceived us as the enemy. We were trying to get to their point of dignity in the community--that we had the audacity to tell PASSO that we know what we're doing, politically. That we know how to reach the people, that we know how to go out there and get the votes that we need to get to get this idea across. And that was the whole point of it. Now that he had met with the Mayor before to try to get some things, supposedly, such as a judgeship and to appoint him department head and the Mayor had never willingly made any kind of commitment to them. Ninfa?? wrote a letter to the Mayor, and it wasn't specifically in reference to the PASSO thing, but in a very roundabout way it attests itself to that--to the effect that maybe it would be beneficial to the community and to the passage of MTA if the Mayor did make some timely announcements on or about the time of election relating specifically to the Mexican-American community, because the Mayor had been very upfront with his endorsement of MTA and if say, 2 days before the election, he appointed a department head of the city who was Mexican-American, well that would really be a feather in his cap. So the community would say, "Hey, we're getting response down at City Hall. The guy at City Hall says MTA's alright, so let's go with it," but those kinds of things never came about. And PASSO went to the Mayor and what eventually happened was that there is a part time judgeship that came out of it. The part time judgeship went to Torrence Orreas??, who was the legal counsel for PASSO. That has never been made public, as yet. The Mayor--he couldn't do it, this close to the election. He just--it would be so blatantly obviously political. That's the primary reason Torrence Orreas? was the initial appointment to the MTA board--to represent the Mexican-American community, and he was such a blatantly political appointment by Mayor Hoffman--that the city council refused it. And then Lupin--they felt that she was just a little bit less likely to be involved in politics, and as it turned out, that's what happened and that's why the community got what it got, as opposed to playing wheeling and dealing with something that didn't need to be whelt and dealt with, and it's highly possible that also Hector Garcia will be appointed to a position in the city government and there you have two PASSO members who were more or less promised--committed something, and with that, they endorsed. And to me, that is just outright selfish.
TK: You see a cause/effect relationship here.
RC: (1:28:18) Yeah. Yeah. I see an organizational gain. I see a personal gain of two people. I see nothing for the community about it. And if they want gains for the community, we want gains for the community, too. But our gains are the kind of gains that everybody has--everybody has. We're able to get from one place to another. We're able to do things more accessibly. We're able to get to points that we need to get to because we're going to have a better transit system. Then we start playing politics in City Hall. Well, there's a way to deal with that, and the way to deal with that is not to make it an offshoot of something else. Let's deal with it directly. We've got--there's plenty of statistics around, I have them right here in my briefcase, where I have copies of the E04 records to the City of Houston for the past three or four years, and an analysis and a breakdown of those things. And it's very, very blatantly obvious that we are not getting our share of jobs in city government. We're not getting our share of promotions in city government. Our pay status is ridiculously low compared to that of other people, and it's obvious where you see increases in some sections of employment. For about 42 percent of all of our Mexican-American employed in the city government are employed in service/maintenance type category. Those kinds of things are obvious. Those kinds of things are blatant. And for us to just upgrade a person from say a paraprofessional to a professional category, that's just--that to me is an improvement in the status of a person. You know, where you add a little bit of dignity to what they do and when you get a position like Torrence Orreas??, who is going to be a part-time municipal judge, and he's not known. A part-time municipal judge still has the freedom to involve himself in politics. He's not restricted by any ethical code to how much money he can make off being a judge--and I'm not saying there's a monetary thing here, but you know—Torrence?? had a law practice and it's nice to be able to call him judge and it's impressive to tell people that you're Judge Orreas??, and then you might have helped my business a little bit. Well that's great for him, and I'm glad for that aspect, that he is a Mexican-American and that he does get something from it and in the loose sense of the word, that is a gain for our community. What I'm talking about is something that affects the group of people as opposed to a little clique of people.
TK: Is this what you meant in the beginning of the tape when you spoke in terms of the MTA becoming a political issue, a political thing at the end of the campaign?
RC: (1:29:23) Yeah. Yeah. That's what happened, and the community was aware of it. When it got to the point when one of the stories in one of the local papers said that one of the commitments of the Millgate Mexican American community was to donate the land at the Millgate bus barn for a Mexican-American cultural center of some sort, or a market center of some sort, and the Mayor and Torrence Orreas?? denied it--unequivocally denied it--that was not the case. And then, from that just closing statement in the last paragraph said, "However, it would be an ideal location." Now, what does that lead you to believe, you know--and it's ridiculous! It's so ridiculous, the kind of things that went on, so blatantly obvious, and when it comes to light that Torrence?? got the judgeship and if it comes to light--that Hector may possibly get an appointment as a department head. Then those kinds of things are going to be questioned in the community like, these are our leaders, and what did we get out of it?
TK: While this was going on, did you see any discernable reaction to this within the Mexican-American community--impressionistically?
RC: I did. I did. I have been a member of the community myself, and I'm so also closely involved in this thing--I saw it. Other people saw it. Other people commented about it. The night of the campaign, the election itself, when the Mexican-Americans for Better Transit precincts delivered on 90 percent--nine out of 10 precincts--and the one that we lost, we lost by six votes. But PASSO had 13 precincts and they were able to only carry three. They lost 10 of the 13 that they were, and the margins that they lost them by--we carried all our precincts by 61 percent. PASSO lost all their precincts. The ones that they lost, they lost by something like 65 percent majority over--opposed, as opposed to Febrook?--and those kind of things were so blatant that when the figures were set down in black and white, that we had--I had people in the black community coming up to us and telling us there was something happening, there's a new trend developing here. The status quo just isn't going to cut it anymore. We need something. We need to have some things. And PASSO themselves--the whole group of PASSO people in their PASSO t-shirts--and to that kind of thing. with Ben Drays?? leading them all.
TK: Why did he fail so badly again?
RC: (1:32:12) It was just a haphazard attempt on their part. They were supposed to have a phone bank set up, which was never set up. They were supposed to do a mail-out, which the letter itself, the mail-out itself—I don’t know if you ever saw it--a kid in kindergarten could have put the thing together, it was so poorly done, so very poorly done--and then, you have to be some kind of sophisticate about how you do things, if you want people to focus in on something on a mail-out where they look at it and half the people don't read it. You know? You have to have an attention-getter. You have to make it readable. You have to do something to it. And it was just a rambling of thoughts by I suppose Hector Garcia or whoever wrote it--it was signed by Hector--and it was just--no substance to it at all. Their effort had no substance to it at all. It was noticeable. They didn't work the polls that heavily. They figured that these weren't their precincts and they could deliver their precincts without any problem, and they couldn't do it.
TK: You think then there's--do you characterize the relationship that Representative Ben Raes had with PASSO's balking and its operation during this thing?
RC: Sure, you know. Ben is a ram-rodder for PASSO. It's mostly a group, you know--PASSO does as Ben says do, and Ben is our elective representative to serve in Austin for the Mexican-American community. It says something to me when an issue that he endorsed was not carried in his own home voting precinct. That says something to me. Why did that happen? Why did the people in the PASSO precincts that they said they had such great control over--well, where were they at the time of the polls? I don't know whether that was a backlash of whatever, but it created a backlash. It was a back-backlash. That's why ACCO didn't endorse--because PASSO didn't endorse. The Mayor said he gave the Mexican-American community something, then the mayor should give the black community something for their endorsement. They run an organizational endorsement from PASSO, well let's let them have these little favors and it will be alright.
(1:34:30) And ATCO wants the same thing then. The Mayor gave you all a bus barn. What's he going to give us? And that's what happened--there was a backlash. There were some groups of black citizens and some black groups that had already endorsed that were threatening to withdraw the endorsement or the PASSO endorsement--because of the supposedly "little goodies" that were dispensed and that kind of stuff. And luckily that never came about and ATCO's big thing was with the city government also, it had nothing to do with MTA. He said that the blacks were not getting their fair share of positions in the city government and that kind of thing.
TK: And PASSO promises that they supposedly got--had a great deal to do--you say--with this?
RC: Yeah. Yeah. I think if PASSO hadn't endorsed, ATCO wouldn't have endorsed, or something like that. I don't know. It turned in, and it was sad for me to see that happen in my community because--like I said--on election night, it wasn’ we were going to win.
(1:35:47)(End tape three)