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Spotlight: Vox Public Policy Specialist!

Introducing Justin Gillenwater, Vox Culture's Public Policy Specialist! As we seek to continue to raise awareness about the issues of poverty and injustice that affect Houston, and support the artists/creatives in the city, Justin brings a great amount of expertise to the table. With a passion for politics, he is sure to bring to light what Houston is doing as a city to help promote art while also addressing the social issues that affect the local community. Be sure to check out our website and Facebook page for Justin's blogs and postings as to what is going on in Houston!

Photo Courtesy: DC Media

I'm an attorney by day and Beatle-ologist by night. I founded Gillenwater Law Firm, PLLC to serve through the fine art of immigration law. Did you know John Lennon had an immigration case that led to one of the basic tenets of immigration practice today? After three years in the Beltway at The George Washington University Law School, I'm glad to be back in Houston, the most diverse major city in America.

What is your favorite ice cream? Blue Bell's Buñuelos. I haven't had it in years. I think it may have been a limited release. Make more, Blue Bell!

What is it about politics that you are most passionate about? Politics is how we decide justice works. It can rapidly improve or harm millions of lives.

What is one thing about the world that you wish would be different? I wish our value systems were different. Instead of how much profit can one squeeze out of every transaction, I wish we examined how much suffering can be alleviated and how much love can be made. I wish people would have a much better idea of how much suffering they create, contribute to, or support in the world. People are fundamentally good and when supplied with enough knowledge, choice, and the occasional social engineering, will make love.

Do you feel that public policies can have an effect on not only social causes, but the arts community as well? Of course! Here in Houston, about 7.5% of the 7% Hotel Occupancy Tax goes to the Houston Arts Alliance to provide in grants to arts organizations throughout the city. City Council could reduce hotel taxes, spend that money on something else or make many other policy decisions, but they continue to help fund the arts via the HAA. The federal government could cut $155 million from the budget by eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts or use that money to buy one more F-22 Raptor. Either way, such a sum is a rounding error in a $3.5 trillion budget. While the NEA is hardly the only arts expenditure in the federal budget, shouldn't arts funding be much, much more than a rounding error? School time spent on testing and teaching to those tests is school time not spent on arts education. These are all policy decisions.

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