Hittner Family Passover Seder Combines Faith and Politics
April 11, 2012

Faith and politics helped set the stage for a festive evening  during the 12th annual second night of Passover Seder hosted by the Hittner family.

George and wife, Erica, Judge David Hittner and  Dr. Helen Mintz-Hittner invited friends, family and associates of all faiths to read from the Haggadah and break bread during a traditional seder dinner of bitter herbs, eggs and wine.

The memorable moment of the evening happened when George, general counsel for American Traffic Solutions, presented souvenir red light camera signs to City Attorney Dave Feldman and Paul Kubosh, who led the successful fight to take down red light cameras in Houston.

With the Texas primary only weeks away, there were also plenty of political candidates and elected officials in the crowd including U.S. Senator candidate Ted Cruz, State Representative Candidate Gene Wu and City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen.

Other VIP guests: Public Relations Whiz Cindy Clifford, Jason Fuller, former Kemah Mayor Bill King, Grant Dorfman, Carl Davis, Bob and Carol Martin and many others.

I have enjoyed being invited to the Hittner’s annual tradition. George mentioned that the event could move to Phoenix next year, where he and Erica live.

Perry Watch: Gov. Comments on Jobs Numbers
September 2, 2011

The August jobs numbers were released today and the report isn’t good.

No new jobs were created last month and unemployment remains at a disappointing 9.1%.

“President Obama’s job-killing polices continue to wreak havoc on the American economy,” said Governor Perry. “The poor national jobs picture stands in stark contrast to Texas’ pro-jobs, limited government policies which helped make us the top job-producing state in the nation. Our country cannot afford four more years of economic misery, and I will continue to travel the county talking about ways to get American working again.”

Meanwhile, Perry also announced top members of his campaign team today. These are the behind the scenes folks who will help craft the message:

AUSTIN – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has announced key members of his presidential campaign staff, including Rob Johnson as campaign manager, Deirdre Delisi as policy and strategy director, Wayne Hamilton as political director and Ray Sullivan has been named communications director. Eric Bearse will serve as deputy communications director, Mark Miner as national press secretary, Robert Black as travel press secretary, and Katherine Cesinger as state press director (working with state media across the country).

“I am committed to turning our country back into the land of opportunity as the next president of the United States, and I have complete confidence in the top members of my presidential campaign staff to help get us there,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “The individuals heading up this campaign are professional, each of them has extensive experience in running successful campaigns, and I look forward to working closely with this talented team of experts to take our message to the people of this country and get America working again.”

Rob Johnson has extensive experience in political campaigns and government relations. He recently served as senior advisor to Gov. Perry in the Texas Governor’s Office. Johnson previously served as campaign manager to the governor’s successful 2010 gubernatorial re-election campaign. Prior to that, he was chief of staff to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and also served as his deputy chief of staff and campaign manager of his 2002 campaign. He also served as chief of staff to Congressman Jay Dickey in Washington, D.C. Johnson received bachelor’s degrees in political science and public relations from Southern Methodist University.

Deirdre Delisi has most recently served as the chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the statewide activities of the Texas Department of Transportation. Delisi has more than 14 years experience in government policy. She served as chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to Gov. Perry, and served as his special assistant when he was lieutenant governor. She is a former policy advisor to the presidential campaigns of Lamar Alexander and George W. Bush. Delisi earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Duke University and master’s degree in international policy studies from Stanford University.

Wayne Hamilton is the past executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, where he was the longest serving executive director in the party’s history. Prior to that, he was a senior campaign aide to Congressman Joe Barton. For the past eight years, Hamilton has worked as a consultant, focusing on governmental affairs, corporate public affairs, political consulting, and event and project management, successfully managing projects in 15 states. After the historic Republican victories of 2002, including Gov. Perry’s election, Hamilton served as executive director of the 2003 Texas Inaugural Committee. In 2007, and again in 2011, Hamilton was again asked to serve as the executive director of the Inaugural Committees. He is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University in Dallas.

Ray Sullivan has 22 years of government and public relations experience, most recently serving as Gov. Perry’s chief of staff at the Texas Capitol. Prior to that, he operated Sullivan Public Affairs, an Austin-based public and government relations firm. Between 1998 and 2002, he worked in various roles for Perry, including deputy chief of staff, communications director to then Lt. Gov. Perry, and communications director for the 1998 and 2002 campaigns. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Sullivan served as a national spokesman for George W. Bush for President in Austin, including stints in Tallahassee and Broward County during the Florida recount. He also worked in the communications office of Bush-Quayle’92, and from 1995 to 1998, Sullivan served as deputy communications director for then Gov. George W. Bush. He also worked as a political consultant at Karl Rove + Company, and worked for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Plano) in Washington, D.C. Sullivan graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in business marketing.

A veteran speechwriter, communications consultant, and political adviser to candidates and officeholders, Bearse formed Bearse & Company, LLC in 2007, a communications and political consulting firm. Since that time, he has provided political and communications consulting services to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Comptroller Susan Combs, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams. Bearse wrote speeches for Gov. Perry for eight years (1999 – 2007), including two inaugural addresses, four “state of the state” speeches and several Republican State Convention addresses. He has also written speeches for university officials and private citizens, and directed grassroots and media campaigns for private organizations. Bearse worked for six political campaigns in Texas – including Gov. Perry’s campaigns for lieutenant governor and governor – and consulted on several political campaigns in the 2008 and 2010 election cycle. A 1993 graduate of Texas A&M University, Bearse was a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Miner served as communications director for Gov. Perry during the 2011 and 2009 legislative sessions. He also recently served as communications director for Gov. Perry’s successful 2010 gubernatorial re-election campaign. He also previously served as communications director for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the Republican National Committee and the Bill Simon for Governor Campaign in California. Miner graduated from Michigan State University in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Black has more than a decade of political and government experience, most recently serving as the director of governmental affairs for American Electric Power. He served as Gov. Perry’s press secretary and communications director from 2003 to 2008, as well as directing the governor’s communications efforts during his successful 2006 gubernatorial re-election bid. Previously, he served as the communications director for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s successful 2002 campaign and as the communications director for the Republican Party of Texas from 1998 – 2001. Black graduated from the University of Texas – San Antonio.

Cesinger has worked for Gov. Perry for nearly seven years, most recently serving as his press secretary at the state capitol. Prior to that, she served as deputy press secretary for three years. Cesinger also served as communications director for the Governor’s Competitiveness Council, and has worked in the governor’s budget, planning and policy division as well as the office’s legislative division. Prior to working in the Texas Governor’s Office, she worked for the Louisiana House of Representatives. Cesinger earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Louisiana State University

League of Women Voters Houston Celebrates 91 Years of Equality
August 26, 2011

Historic Day in History: On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution went into effect giving women the right to vote.

Earlier this week, The League of Women Voters Houston gathered to celebrate the “courage, perseverance and achievements of women who fulfill the promise of the 19th Amendment.”

The Houston League is led by President Linda Cohn and Executive Director Christina Gorcynski.

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Dozens of elected officials along with political candidates, civic and business leaders attended the Women’s Equality Day event at John Palmer Fine Art Gallery in the Heights.

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The League Houston also recognized several rising stars. Recipients included: METRO’s Russ Frank,
environmental queen Catarina Gonzalez Cron, Shelly White Millwee of the American Heart Association and Cameron Waldner, Chief Service Officer for the City of Houston.

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During the last decade, the Houston League distributed 1.5 million printed copies of its signature publication, The Voters Guide. Local League volunteers have also registered over 50,000 new voters.

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You can sign up to volunteer or learn more at http://www.LWVHouston.org.

Mayor Parker Endorsed By Some of Houston’s Prominent Leaders
August 18, 2011


Barbara Bush Endorses Annise Parker

Former First Lady is joined by prominent

Houston business and community leaders

A group of prominent Houstonians led by Former First Lady Barbara Bush today announced their endorsement of Mayor Annise Parker for re-election.

“Annise Parker is a strong non-partisan leader,” said Mrs. Bush. “Annise is willing to make the tough choices necessary to lead Houston through these challenging economic times. She is laying the foundation for a strong financial future for Houston. And Annise has been particularly supportive of family literacy, which is close to my heart. Annise Parker has my vote on November 8.”

“I am very grateful for Mrs. Bush’s endorsement,” Mayor Parker said. “We are blessed to have Former First Lady Barbara Bush and Former President George Bush call Houston home.”

Mrs. Bush is one of many community and business leaders announcing their endorsement of Mayor Parker today. Among other supporters are: Bob Borochoff; Penny and John Butler; Franci and Jim Crane; Mindy Hildebrand; Bert Keller; Larry Kellner; Nancy and Rich Kinder; Sara and Bill Morgan; Bobbie and John Nau; Katie and Patrick Oxford; Phoebe and Bobby Tudor; Donna and Tony Vallone; Diane Webb; Ronald Woliver; and Fred Zeidman.

Miss The President’s Speech On Iraq? Read It Here!
August 31, 2010

 Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Oval Office Address on Iraq

Washington, D.C.

August 31, 2010

 

As Prepared for Delivery—
Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home.
I know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many Americans. We have now been through nearly a decade of war. We have endured a long and painful recession. And sometimes in the midst of these storms, the future that we are trying to build for our nation – a future of lasting peace and long-term prosperity may seem beyond our reach.
But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.  It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century.

From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.
These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America’s longest wars. Yet there has been one constant amidst those shifting tides. At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.
The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given. They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took out terrorist leaders. Because of our troops and civilians –and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people – Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.
So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.
This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s Security Forces and support its government and people. That is what we have done. We have removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  We have closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.
This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security. U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens. Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began. And Iraqi forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in Iraqi-led operations.
This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout. A caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the results of that election. Tonight, I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt: the Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States. Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.
Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians –diplomats, aid workers, and advisors –are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.
This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq–one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest– it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people –a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.
As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.
The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.
Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11. Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there. But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.
Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who–under the command of General David Petraeus –are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin – because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.
Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone. We must use all elements of our power –including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America’s example –to secure our interests and stand by our allies. And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes –a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world, but also the limitless possibility of our time.
Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners. New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas. A new push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow. Billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict. As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction –we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

That effort must begin within our own borders. Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security. But we have also understood that our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home. And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.
And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. They have met every test that they faced. Now, it is our turn. Now, it is our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for –the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.
Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs. This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.
Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor. As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us. This is a sacred trust. That is why we have already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades. We are treating the signature wounds of today’s wars post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned. And we are funding a post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II- including my grandfather- become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy. Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.
Two weeks ago, America’s final combat brigade in Iraq –the Army’s Fourth Stryker Brigade –journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into Kuwait in the early morning hours. Over seven years before, American troops and coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time no shots were fired. It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way home.

Of course, the soldiers left much behind. Some were teenagers when the war began. Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from their families who bore a heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband’s embrace or a mother’s kiss. Most painfully, since the war began fifty-five members of the Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice –part of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq. As one staff sergeant said, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”
Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries. Along with nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never knew. They stared into the darkest of human creations –war –and helped the Iraqi people seek the light of peace.
In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation. Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar – Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own. Our troops are the steel in our ship of state. And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America, and all who serve her.

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