Texas According to Kinky

September 1, 2005 by  
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Kinky Friedman is an author, a musician, a humorist, an animal activist and a personality. He’s a former columnist for Texas Monthly, claiming the coveted last-page position. He’s the band leader of the Texas Jewboys, spouting out more than 20 years of melodies like “Ride ’em Jewboy” and “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” He’s an author of numerous books and novels, including his most recent “Texas Hold ‘Em.” He donated the land for the no-kill Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, giving a home to hundreds of dogs, cats, pigs and horses and encouraging adoption. He’s great friends with Willie Nelson and decent friends with President George W. Bush. And he very well may be our next governor.

Despite his quick one-liners and quirky sense of humor, he’s serious. Darn serious, in fact. This gubernatorial race risks two things he holds dear to his heart: his reputation and Texas. In order to be included on the ballot as an independent candidate, this Houston native must collect 50,000 signatures in two months next spring – and none of the signers can have voted in the primaries, local or not. (The last time an independent was on the gubernatorial ticket was 146 years ago when Sam Houston ran.)

The “Kinky – Why the hell not?” campaign is growing in popularity. Like other famous and somewhat off-beat governors Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kinky is eager become the next occupant of the Texas Governor’s Mansion. His ideas may be a bit utopian, but really, why the hell not? Texas has recently been named last in the quality of our public education. Yes, we’re behind Louisiana, behind Mississippi, behind Arkansas. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? The great state of Texas has the worst public education system in the nation, and what is Kinky going to do about it? He says he wants to make education the “centerpiece at the table.” He plans to focus most of his gubernatorial energies on improving our schools.

“The fact is that we’re in the toilet as far as education is concerned,” he says. “We can’t even say, ‘Thank God for Mississippi!’ anymore, ’cause we’re behind them. We’re 50th. That’s the problem; that’s what’s got to be solved.”

He continues to explain his unique educational funding system in a three-step process. First, he wants to set up a Trust for Texas Heroes to increase the salaries of teachers, police officers and firefighters. This money will be acquired through a 1 percent tax on oil and gas and a 1 percent tax on Texas’ big corporations.

Second, he plans to fund high school sports through corporate sponsorships. He wants to rid the education budget of sports funding altogether and offer corporations the opportunity to pay these schools’ sports budgets.

Third, he wants to create the Slots for Tots program, installing five or six video poker terminals in every bar in Texas. He claims that Texas is missing out in catching the poker bug, missing out on collecting this form of revenue. He asserts that Louisiana and New Mexico are winning Texans hard-earned gambling dollars – dollars Texas should keep in its own budget.

Kinky’s proposal to help pay for education through gambling has sparked some controversy. Although he claims that polls have indicated that more than 75 percent of Texans favor gambling, most leap to the question: Why take the stance of “if they’re going to do it anyway, might as well do it in their own state?” But that is the stance Kinky is taking, and, to most people, it does make sense. He readily explains how the people will have control over their destiny in the realm of casinos. “Now, legalized casino gambling – I’m for it, but I want local authority to vote on it,” he clarifies. He goes on to say that if a county votes down a referendum to have casino gambling in their area, they won’t have it; while if an area votes to adopt a casino, there it is.

Continuing his educational focus, Kinky speaks of reforming our school system further. He wants to stop the high-pressure TAKS testing that ranks our schools (exemplary, recognized and so on) and acts as the gate keeper for students trying to pass to the next grade.

“We’ve got to get rid of the TAKS test,” he pointedly says. “We’ve got to get rid of it. It’s not educating our children. It’s turning our teachers into Stepford Wives – all the good ones are quitting. The special-ed kids are treated like lepers. No one wants them in their class ’cause they drag the scores down. And the kids know about nothing but bubbling and using No. 2 pencils.”

He proposes different, less-stressful standardized tests. He asserts that intelligence isn’t wholly measured by Scantron-style examinations, citing that Einstein and Edison would have flunked the TAKS.

Additionally, he wants teachers to be able to run their own classrooms. It sounds simple; but if you ask a current teacher how much control he/she has over the curriculum, you’ll be surprised at how little. Many book lists and lesson plans are chosen by the school district or even the state, and the teaching-to-disciplining time ratio has become a real issue within the classroom, as well.

Minute Men are becoming a harsh reality in Texas. The people are fed up with paying for copious numbers of illegal immigrants to receive healthcare and education. Sadly (and frighteningly), some are taking border patrol into their own hands.

In contrast to this, Kinky applies a unique creativity to the state’s situation with Mexico: He proposes to change the rules. He feels that it is the Mexican government’s fault its people are crossing the border in search of an education and decent healthcare. He feels the mismanagement of money within the country has stripped its people of hope for a better tomorrow in their own lands. “Because of their corruptness and their greed – of the government and a few rich people in Mexico – we are financing the education and the health of hundreds of thousands of people for free. And we’re sending billions to PEMEX (Mexico’s oil and gas company) each month. So, I’m here to tell PEMEX, “We’re a few quarts low, and we’re not going to take care of these people for free anymore – unless we get a deal on the oil.” That’s Oil for Education.”

His Oil for Education proposal could possibly kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Optimistically, Mexico may be pushed into improving conditions for the common citizen and giving Texas the opportunity to reap the benefits of lower oil prices. Either way, it brings attention to a dire situation for Texas and encourages at least a financial solution, as well as forcing Mexico to take some ownership of this problem.

Kinky is serious about our justice system, as well. He wants to reform Death Row and to beyond-a-doubt ensure only the guilty are executed. He also hopes to reduce the number of prisoners incarcerated in the state.

More than half of Texas prisoners are non-violent or drug-related offenders, and Kinky points out that we have more prisoners in Texas than the entire population of Alaska. He stresses that there should be a major distinction between sexual predators and non-violent drug offenders. While he thinks non-violent drug-related prisoners should probably receive treatment or therapy, he thinks sexual predators should be incarcerated and “throw away the key.”

Claiming to not be against the death penalty, but “anti-the-wrong-guy-getting-executed,” Kinky urges providing justice for death-penalty prisoners and reforming the system that currently exists, stating that the current government is trying to protect and preserve an unjust system.

“When George W. (Bush) was the governor, we executed a man every two weeks; and believe me, once you’re in that system, on Death Row, nobody cares whether you are innocent or not, the system doesn’t,” he argues. “We just kill ’em and let the Lord sort it out. I always like to say that 2,000 years ago, we executed an innocent man named Jesus Christ. So what have we learned in 2,000 years? The people have learned something, but the government hasn’t learned a damn thing.”

Much of the power in Texas is in the hands of the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor. Many assert that the real power of Texas’ governor is in his/her numerous appointments. Kinky plans to use his power wisely.

He swears never to appoint political cronies or corporate lobbyists to power, helping to rid our government of the big-business politics that results in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation. “There are 3,200 appointments to make,” he says of the governor’s job. “If they are all made to people who care about Texas more than they care about the Democrats or the Republicans, that money won’t disappear in the lobbyist’s pocket.”

Refreshingly, he plans to appoint those Texans who know the issues before them. “As the independent governor of Texas, I would only appoint people (to the education system) who have seen the inside of a classroom and who have classroom time,” he promises. He pledges to appoint only “people who care passionately about Texas.”

On the other hand, he says he absolutely will not give up smoking his Cuban cigars if he becomes governor of Texas, saying, “I’m not supporting their economy, I’m burning their fields.” He wants to rid the Governor’s Mansion of such political correctness, as a part of his strengthening of the state. He plans to glorify the cowboy and lift up the teacher and suppress the coward.

“So, there’ll be a lot of political incorrect stuff happening when I’m governor, and that’s really necessary because that’s part of my anti-wussification campaign for Texas,” he says. “Setting an example, I’m more in the true spirit of Texas. I’m in tune with real Texans, more so than any politicians out there.” Kinky and his supporters believe he has a chance to become the next governor. He states that in the most recent race that elected Gov. Perry, only 29 percent of the voting population actually voted and only 18 percent of Texan voters chose Perry. He contends that his chance is based on the other 71 percent of Texas’ voters.

He admits that he didn’t vote in the gubernatorial race in 2002 because he didn’t like his choices, adding “I didn’t like the choice of plastic or paper.” He wants voters to know that he’s truly a representative of the people and hopes to ignite a flurry of not-so-often voters running to the polls. “We’re going after people, not through voter rolls like the Republicans and Democrats – we’re going at people, who they are. We’re going at teachers. We’re going at NASCAR drivers and lesbians, rodeo riders, dope smokers, musicians, people like that. We’re going after Texans.”

He knows he’s recreating a David and Goliath situation, but he trusts the system and believes in the people of Texas. “We don’t have as much money as the other guys do, but it’s becoming a classic battle of money versus ideas,” he contends. “And “no army on earth can withstand an idea whose time has come.”

“I’m here to help Texas, and with the help of my fellow Texans, who are my only special interest group, we’ll all get together and make that Lone Star shine again.” H

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