Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flavors of Latin America: Tequila, Ron, or Pisco?

Each year, we commemorate the National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors speak the same language with different accents and came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Spanish is the national language of 19 countries and Puerto Rico. Each one has it own standard dialect flavor.

The most common Spanish dialect taught in the U.S. is standard Latin American. It is sometimes called "Highland" Americans’ Spanish since it is generally spoken in the mountainous areas of Latin America. (Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Bolivia)

This dialect is noted for its pronunciation of each letter and its strong "r" sounds. This Spanish was spoken in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was brought to the Americas by the early colonists.

The second major type of Spanish is spoken in the Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Colombian Caribbean and some areas of Nicaragua), and in some cases in southern Spain. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the accent in Seville, Cádiz, and other cities in Andalusia, in Southern Spain, began to change. Speakers began to drop the final "s" on words. The settlers and traders of southern Spain took this dialect with them to the Caribbean and other coastal areas.

The third type of Spanish is in Central American spoken in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. In the South American Pacific comprise Chile, Ecuador and Paraguay.

A fourth type of Spanish has developed in Argentina and Uruguay. It is characterized by some out-of-date grammar, and a vocabulary and pronunciation heavily influenced by Italians who settled the area in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Generally in the Spanish world "tú" is the singular way of saying "you." In Argentina, however, "vos" is used instead. It is accompanied by a modified old Spanish verb form. It is as if part of the English-speaking world still used "thee" and "thou" in everyday speech.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Annise Parker: Hire Houston First

Annise Parker is Houston's City Controller and is running for Mayor in the November 2009 elections. We asked the four candidates to answer two questions. Here are the questions and the answers from Annise Parker's office:

LBN: The recession is affecting our small business community more severely than the larger organizations in this city. Can you share three initiatives that, in your view, can be promoted from the position of Houston Mayor to help small businesses?

AP: I have proposed a Hire Houston First policy, which will encourage the city to contract with local businesses that create local jobs. You can find my Hire Houston First policy at this website. In this tough economy, we must do everything we can to create new jobs and keep our residents working. The starting point should be making sure that jobs funded by our local tax dollars go first to local workers and keep our tax dollars circulating in the local economy. This will include a Regional Jobs Alliance. Some of us live in Houston and work in Bellaire. Some companies are based in Sugar Land but create good jobs for Houston residents. Our competition is not Bellaire or Sugar Land – it’s Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

I support the use of economic development incentives that create jobs and bring revenue to the city so we can keep taxes low. Unlike the current mayor, I support the use of tax abatements to encourage companies that provide good jobs with good benefits to locate in Houston. But, these incentives must be tied to measurable results – like the creation of jobs – and the recipients should be required to repay the money if they don’t live up to their part of the bargain.

In today’s economic crisis, we are seeing that maintaining and upgrading our aging infrastructure is more than just a problem to solve – it’s an opportunity to create good, local jobs that will power our local economy while responding to pressing needs. For example, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that $1 of infrastructure spending can boost the economy anywhere from $1 - $2.50. Moody’s Economy.com’s chief economist pegs it at $1.59. That’s why I have proposed reforms to the way we maintain and upgrade our infrastructure.

* Federal Stimulus Program & Transparency: The federal government has made it clear that, for local governments to receive more federal stimulus funds, they must demonstrate accountability with the federal stimulus dollars already in the pipeline. That’s why I created a website that allows the public to track the city’s use of federal stimulus dollars – and hold local government accountable to make sure those dollars are being used to create jobs.

LBN: The perception is that crime in the city periphery has increased in the last several months. Can you mention three proposals that can reduce the level of criminality?

AP: Although statistics show a drop in violent crimes, property crimes are on the rise. As Mayor, I will protect the police department budget in this economic downturn. Protecting our law enforcement budget without raising taxes is a difficult but necessary balancing act. I have a track record of fiscal responsibility, using tough audits to cut millions of dollars in fraud and waste – money that is now funding priorities like police, firefighters, after-school programs and economic development.

We need a police department that will protect our citizens while treating all Houstonians with dignity and respect. You can find my detailed plan for improving public safety at this website.
We owe it to the public, and to the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep us safe, to give our police officers the most up-to-date tools to do their jobs. That means using enhanced technology to get real-time crime data to the patrol officers on the street who can best utilize the information to fight crime.
We also need better coordination with the many law enforcement agencies in our area. If you are being robbed, you don’t care what uniform they wear, you want someone with a badge and gun to help you.

We absolutely need more police officers, which is why I am committed to maintaining an aggressive program of police cadet classes. In Houston’s last major economic downturn, we closed the police academy to save money. That was a big mistake, which won’t happen during my administration. And because public safety is so essential to everything we do, we have to have a chief that has his fingers on the pulse of the city. I am committed to replacing our current chief, and I believe the new police chief should come from within the ranks of HPD.