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David Hall, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS RIOGRANDE LEGAL AID THE TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ri 1 r Li Li I I Li i I 1:. 1,11-1-1;1_ I I ,N,,d ti Republican board member Cynthia Dunbar unsuccessfully arguing to remove Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, along with other influential progressives like Thurgood Marshall, from Texas schoolbooks. READ THE TCEQ ethics memo at uploads/TCEQEthics.pdf Cesar Chavez “lacks the stature… and contributions” and should not “be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.” Gail Lowe, chair of the Texas State Board of Education, arguing to remove the Mexican-American civil rights activist from the curriculum. “Are the Republicans that scared? Obviously, yes. The last thing they want is to have a whole new generation of children who will grow up to stand up for their rights, hold vigils and organize boycotts.” Dolores M. Bernal, on “If Thurgood Marshall had not argued the ground breaking case of Brown vs. The Board of Education before the Supreme Court, minority and white students would still be sitting in separate but NOT equal classrooms.” Anonymous comment posted on FOR THE LATEST political analysis, read Bob Moser’s Purple Texas at human, [sic] health or the environment, or otherwise does not meet applicable regulations/statutes.” By this time, three employees of the radioactive materials division had quit in protest, contending that their bosses were bending to the will of Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based companybehind the radioactive waste dump. Those who remained, the memo made clear, were expected to know their place. Agency scientists, the memo explained, have an “important, though limited role.” They “should understand how their role as reviewers assists the Commissioners and Executive Director to carry out their role as the agency decision maker.” To be perfectly clear, “Insubordination is expressly prohibited.” The deciders had decided to give Waste Control its lucrative licenses. Not long after, TCEQ Executive Director Glenn Shankle left the agency for a six-figure job lobbying for Waste Control. Pat Bobeck, a hydrogeologist who left the agency in September 2007, said the memo was meant as a threat to dissenting staff: “Basically, what they’re saying is you cannot question management. You do your review based on your professional expertise, but management doesn’t have to pay it any mind.” FORREST WILDER DEPT. OF JUSTICE Poor Defendants TEXAS’ LONG AND TROUBLESOME INDIGENT-DEFENSE record is littered with tales of court-appointed attorneys sleeping through death-penalty trials and defendants languishing in jail for years waiting for representation. In 2001, state legislators passed the Fair Defense Act, which was supposed to remedy the problems. As usual, the legislators punted the financial burden to coun tieseven as the state required them to appoint attor neys within three days of a defendant’s request. The state did offer to pay for a four-year pilot program to hire attorneys for indigent defendants if counties wanted to give it a try. Four rural border counties Val Verde, Terrell, Kinney and Edwardswere among those that took up the offer. Together, the sparsely populated counties created Texas’ only regional public-defender system in 2006. David Hall, executive director of the nonprofit Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, oversees the program. He says the results were eye-opening. Before the program, Hall says, people who couldn’t afford an attorney were “basically rotting in jail”a Del Rio jail in this case, run by GEO Group Inc. “We’ve seen people sitting in jail that have been there longer than their actual sentence would have been,” Hall says. Six months after the pilot program began, the jail’s average daily occupancy dropped from 100 prisoners to 50, Hall says, saving Val Verde County alone about $1.3 million. State money dried up in September. County commissioners are debating whether they can pick up the $500,000 tab to keep the program going. More than 1,200 letters from community members have asked the commissioners to find a way. Melissa Hagen, chief public defender for the program in Del Rio, says her attorneys haven’t been assigned a new case since summer. She says they are committed to wrapping up 140 pending cases, even though the money has run out. MELISSA DEL BOSQUE 4 j THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG