in Houston, Texas
Houston ISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez apologizes for campaign flier called homophobic
Wednesday, Nov 09, 2011, 06:41PM CST
By Mike Cronin
Rodriguez

The day after he retained his Houston school board seat by just 24 votes, Trustee Manuel Rodriguez formally apologized for a campaign brochure he distributed last week that many described as homophobic.

“I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter he released Wednesday afternoon. He said he “respect(ed)” challenger Ramiro Fonseca's “contributions to our community and his record of public service.”

Fonseca, 54, who is head of Houston Community College’s Minority Male Initiative, could not be reached for comment.

The controversial flier caused the Houston Chronicle to retract its prior endorsement of Rodriguez for the District III position in the Houston Independent School District.

It also offended Fonseca, spurred calls for Rodriguez’s resignation and caused fellow Trustee Juliet Stipeche to demand a public apology from Rodriguez.

“I’m glad he finally did this,” Stipeche said Wednesday night, when she learned of Rodriguez’s apology. “I just wish he had apologized earlier. But I hope he truly understands how the ad was hurtful and harmful. Perhaps we can use this as a means of truly understanding our total non-discrimination policy and have a better understanding of what ‘bullying’ is.”

The campaign brochure said about Fonseca, “his records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids.”  Texas Watchdog broke the story about the controversial flier on Saturday.

The flier stated Fonseca had received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flier.)

“Earlier this year, I proudly joined my colleagues on the HISD Board of Education in unanimously adopting more stringent anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that specifically protect the rights and safety of all students and employees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation,” Rodriguez, 60, wrote in his apology. “I voted for this policy because it was the right thing to do and I remain committed to creating a culture in our schools where all people feel welcome and safe.”

Rodriguez had told Texas Watchdog on Saturday that the brochure wasn’t anti-gay.

“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said, and added that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”

Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said after Tuesday’s election that he planned to confront Rodriguez about the brochure during the public comment period at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

"The fact that he was handing that flier out on Election Day tells you a lot about his sincerity,” Freeman told Texas Watchdog Wednesday evening.The controversy “blew up in the media on Saturday. He defended it. Then he made the conscious choice to still hand it out yesterday. So, we’re going to give him the chance to answer some questions we still have for him (Thursday) night.”

Rodriguez received 50.25 percent of the vote to Fonseca’s 49.75 percent. (2,401 votes to 2,377 votes), according to the Harris County Clerk’s Office.

That margin is so close that Fonseca may request a recount if he chooses.

“We have not decided yet on our next step,” Fonseca told Texas Watchdog today in an e-mail.

A recount may be requested if the difference between the winner and second-highest vote-getter is less than 10% of the votes the winning candidate received.

Rodriguez beat Fonseca by 24 votes, and Rodriguez received 2,401 votes. That means the margin of victory was just one percent of Rodriguez's vote total.

Rodriguez is an eight-year veteran of HISD’s board. He served as the body’s president in 2007.

Rodriguez owns a small business that offers services including notary work, personal and small-business taxes, and resume- and letter-writing for Latinos

HISD board members approved a stronger anti-discrimination and bullying policy prior to the current academic year. It protects district students and employees from harassment due to gender identity or expression.

***
Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Comments
HISD Flunky
Wednesday, 11/09/2011 - 09:55PM

This guy needs to be booted off the board. I'm disgusted that no large organization is up in arms about his win. This homophobic toady needed to be kicked off the board ten months ago. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me considering he's shaded by the umbrella that is HISD.

Inis Magrath
Thursday, 11/10/2011 - 12:59PM

It makes no difference that he made only a half apology. There is no apology that would make what he did OK. You can't degrade, demoralize and demonize a segment of the population, then just say "sorry" for it to be OK.

Manuel Rodriguez is a dishonorable American.

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