I’ll be in Los Angeles soon on vacation. I’d like to make some posts from Los Angeles with the WordPress app on my phone. It has been a few months since I used this app and this post is a test.
The picture is of Houston Mayor Annise Parker from the monthly blogger lunch today.
Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.
I’d Sit Out The Alvarado-Garcia Texas Senate District 6 Race Because It Offers No Hopeful Options—Should We Cast A Ballot For Mayor Of Houston In 2013?
As far as I recall, I’ve voted in every election since I turned 18. But I would sit it out if I could vote in the Texas State Senate district 6 runoff between Democrats Carol Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia. This is a Houston-based district.
(Above–A picture I took of Sylvia Garcia at a function late last year.)
There is little ideological or policy difference between the two, both campaigns are captive to special interest money, the campaign has been relentlessly negative, and turnout will be so low as to delegitimize the process. While ultimate responsibility lies with the electorate, it is also so that what voting will accomplish in this case is to legitimize a process that offers no real options.
As I think out my new blog on 2013 Houston city politics, one question I want to explore is why should people vote in 2013? What potentially more hopeful and useful actions can we take to help direct the course of our city?
While I suppose I’ll find at least one race that compels me to vote for whatever reason, I did in fact leave my ballot blank for Mayor of Houston in 2011.
Even with the understanding that I am just one person of 2.1 million in Houston and that I can’t always have my way, no candidate came even approximately close to my views and Mayor Parker had no credible opposition in any case.
Turnout in 2011 was something like 14%. The process has no relevance to most people. Our political leaders and the big donors who direct them are just fine with this fact.
If Ben Hall and Mayor Parker-Both Democrats-pander to the right, practice identity politics to the exclusion of substance, ignore the needs of the poor, and offer no new vision–Then why should we care who wins?
The work of freedom is up to each of us. It is past time that we take up this obligation in a serious and more imaginative way.
(My comrade Perry Dorrell has been writing about this race at his great blog Brains & Eggs. Here is the most recent post on the SD 6 race by Charles Kuffner at Off The Kuff. And here is the most recent Garcia-Alvarado post by Stace Medellin at Dos Cantavos.)
I think I caught former Channel 13 investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino a little bit by surprise under this picture of our father Sam Houston recently at Houston City Hall.
Mr. Dolcefino is currently employed doing opposition research on Houston Mayor Annise Parker for her opponent Ben Hall.
I Hope That Houston Mayoral Candidate Ben Hall’s Misspelling Of The Word “Government” Is Not Indicative Of A Hostility To The Common Good
When I have my new website up and running this April, one part of the effort will be a blog about the 2013 Houston municipal elections.
Every so often along the way to that new site, I’ll have updates here at Texas Liberal.
Attorney Ben Hall is running for Mayor of Houston against incumbent Annise Parker.
Above you see Mr. Hall discussing his agenda of education and safety for the people of Houston.
Who could argue with any of that?
While we all make mistakes—I make them all the time—I do note that Mr. Hall has above misspelled the word “government.”
I hope this misspelling is not indicative of an aversion of some kind on the part of Mr. Hall to the helpful role that government can play in the lives of our citizens.
If I were simply basing my vote on the entertainment value of the candidates, I would have to give Mr. Hall the early edge.
However, what I’ll be looking for in the months ahead is any real sign that a liberal could support Mayor Parker, Mr. Hall, or some other candidate who makes the race.
Election Day 2013 is Tuesday, November 5th.
(Blogger’s Note 2/14/13–In the first version of this post that I put on-line, I made the exact same error as did Mr. Hall. A difference though is that I am not running for anything. We are all flawed. The good news is that Mr. Hall has many months ahead to show that he offers something to liberal voters in Houston.)
Houston Mayor Parker And Police Chief McClelland Referring Possible Cases Of Houston Police Abuse To Federal Government For Investigation—This Is The Correct Course
The Houston Chronicle reports that the federal government is investigating 6 incidents of Houston Police shooting or otherwise allegedly abusing unarmed persons. The Chronicle reports that 3 of these matters were referred to the feds by Houston Police Chief Charles McClellend.
( Picture above is of Houston Mayor Annise Parker in front of an airplane.)
I have made posts on the blog about two of the incidents that the federal government is investigating.
Unarmed teen Chad Holley was beaten in 2010 by a number of Houston police officers.
Earlier in 2012, a double amputee in a wheelchair named Brian Claunch was shot and killed by Houston police.
There is no way the Chief is referring multiple cases of possible police abuse and misdeeds to the federal government without the approval in one form or another of Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
Mayor Parker and Chief McClelland should be commended for this course of action.
In the past the Mayor has addressed racism and sexism within the Houston Fire Department.
While our safety forces do many good and brave things, it is also so that some of them engage in wrong actions.
It is good for Houston that Mayor Parker has been willing to confront this fact.
I’m offering up today on the blog this nice picture you see above of planes on the ground that I took last month at the Schaumburg Regional Airport in suburban Chicago
I’m reaching a point of being tired about blogging about politics. I have a picture of grounded planes here because I’ve not yet chosen a new flight plan.
I’m not tired of the blog. I’m not tired of communicating with folks. I’m not tired of talking about my values in a public forum.
I am not dispirited by the current Presidential race. While I regret that President Obama did not choose to prepare for the first debate in a way that respected his supporters, I’m relating a feeling I’ve had for many months now. I think the Presidential race as of today is a 50-50 proposition for both major party candidates.
I will admit that I do not see the Democratic Party making major gains in Texas in 2014.
Nor do I see Houston municipal politics as offering much hopeful in the 2013 election cycle. The 2013 elections in Houston will be another low-turnout race with Democratic Mayor Annise Parker running to the right, right-wingers offering up attacks on the Mayor because Mayor Parker is gay, selfish “progressive” interest groups looking out for only themselves, and big money running the process.
Here is the link to the Green Party of the United States. The Greens at least offer some hope that things can be better.
I’ve been working on an art project—for lack of a better term at the moment— and I think there are many ways to communicate with folks and to convey your values and ideas.
We live in a big hopeful connected world. Every person has value. Every place has value. Every moment has value. The everyday work we do merits respect.
These are things I’m going to keep on saying.
I’ve got some more political posts relating to Campaign 2012 to make between now and the election. I’m certain I’ll continue to make overtly political posts when I feel they’ll be helpful.
I have some thinking to do about how to proceed with the blog and how to best move ahead.
Thanks for reading Texas Liberal and please check back with the blog often. There is a lot more to say and to share.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker Makes Strong Statement About The Right Of Working People To Engage In Civil Disobedience In The Fight For Fair Wages
Yesterday I wrote that on the blog that Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s police were reportedly ticketing people who were honking their horns in support of striking janitors. I also said that Mayor Parker was no place to be found in support of these janitors as they fight for a living wage.
I’m glad to report that Mayor Parker made a strong statement today backing the janitors.
Beyond that, the Mayor also made a broader assertion about the rights of all working people.
Here is what she said—
“I am calling on the contracting companies to go back to the negotiating table. Their unwillingness to talk has left the union with no other choice but civil disobedience. That is not good for the City of Houston or our economy and it is not how we do business in Houston. We work hard, we work together and we treat each other fairly. The union has made good-faith offers. Now it’s time for the janitorial contractors to sit back down at the table to work out an agreement that is fair and just.”
Here is the Houston Chronicle report on the Mayor’s comments on the rights of working people.
In her statement the Mayor not only backed the janitors, she also said that working people have the right to civil disobedience when confronted with the refusal of an employer to offer fair wages.
So it only seems fair to relate to the blog reading public the statement the Mayor made today about the inherent freedoms of all working people.
Let’s hope that Houston can count on more and even stronger support from Mayor Parker in the never-ending battle for decent wages and fair treatment for the hardworking people of our great city.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s Police Reported To Be Ticketing People For Horn Honking In Support Of Striking Houston Janitors—Mayor Parker & Houston Council Democrats Can’t Be Looked To For Very Much That Is Hopeful Or Progressive
(Update 7/21-12–Mayor Parker has spoken out strongly in favor of the strking janitors. Let’s hope this is the beginning of consistent support for working people in Houston from Mayor Parker.)
There are reports that Mayor Annise Parker’s police are writing tickets for illegal horn honking for people honking in support of striking Houston janitors.
This horn honking is taking place as people drive past protests by the janitors.
From Occupy Houston—
“So, in the latest attempt to stifle political dissent the Houston Police Department is now ticketing people for honking their horn in solidarity with the Houston Janitors. Way to go Annise Parker, guess you’ve got to have something to do when you’re not drafting legislation that will result in starving the local homeless population. Please show support for the Houston Janitors……”
In addition to the ticket above and the report from Occupy Houston, I’ve read another account of a ticket for the same “infraction” that was written by an acquaintance.
Each of these reports is about a pro-janitor protest that took place yesterday in Downtown Houston.
Below is a picture of the janitor’s protest yesterday in Downtown Houston. The picture is from the janitors Facebook page.
Here is the Houston Chronicle report on this protest. There were 15 arrests at the protest.
Below is Mayor Parker yukking it up Stephen Colbert. This photo is from Mayor Parker’s Facebook page.
Mayor Parker was the guest on The Colbert Report last night.
Everything is so funny!
I saw Mayor Parker’s interview with Mr. Colbert. Mayor Parker talked about how Houston is a place where you can get a job.
What the Mayor failed to mention is that Houston also appears to be a place where you can get a ticket from the police for supporting the efforts of people to be paid a living wage while working in Houston.
Burning the flag is protected speech in the United States. It seems though that honking your horn in support of a cause is a problem in Houston, Texas.
In addition to the prospect of a ticket for horn honking , there was the unnecessary and violent arrest of a pro-janitor protester at an otherwise peaceful march last month in Downtown Houston.
Mayor Parker and Democratic members of Houston City Council are no place to be found in support of Houston janitors.
If we don’t publicize these concerns of police overreach, and if we don’t ask more of the elected representatives who should be standing up for working Houstonians, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves.
The work of freedom is up to each of us.
Every Houstonian, every Texan, and every American has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, engage in acts of civil disobedience, and to run for public office.
Danny Glover Takes Up Cause Of Houston Janitors—Harris County Dem. Chair Lane Lewis Takes Up The Fight While Mayor Annise Parker Is Nowhere To Be Seen
Actor Danny Glover was in Houston yesterday to talk about efforts by janitors in Houston to be paid a higher wage, and to talk about larger issues of economic fair play in our society.
(Above–A picture from the event yesterday that was posted on the Facebook page of the Houston Janitors.)
“Noted film actor and social activist Danny Glover met with a delegation of Houston janitors at the Third Ward Multi-Service Center on Sunday to talk about fair wages for workers cleaning offices in some of the city’s largest companies. Glover, who’s best known for his roles in the “Lethal Weapon” movies and “The Color Purple,” also called upon Houston civil rights, faith and political leaders to establish a task force to protect the First Amendment rights of Houston’s janitors…Glover’s visit to Houston comes at a critical time for Houston’s janitors, many of whom make just $9,000 annually. For the last month, more than 3,000 janitors, who are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1, have been working without a contract after they asked for hourly wages to be increased from $8.35 to $10 to be phased in over four years. However, employers have offered a raise of just 50 cents an hour over five years..During Glover’s earlier meeting with three janitors in a private room, he listened intently as Adriana Vasquez, a single mother of three, explained how she cleans up 90 bathrooms in five hours as a janitor at JP Morgan Chase in downtown Houston..”On many levels, we’re talking about an epidemic,” Glover said. “We’re talking about a situation in which men and women have been reduced to objects simply for profit. In their stories, I see some of the most passionate, incredible human beings who are willing to stand up against those obstacles that are placed there and begin to build a life. I’m moved by their courage.”
It would be great to see Houston Mayor Annise Parker and our Houston City Council Democrats taking a lead role in this issue. It is difficult to understand how these folks can work hard to criminalize many acts of sharing food with the poor, but cannot work to assist hard-working people in a fight to make just a few extra dollars.
The Harris County Democratic Party and Harris County Democratic Chair Lane Lewis have been taking a role in this fight.
Here is a picture I took of Mr. Lewis at the June rally in Downtown Houston—
Maybe Mr. Lewis was on the phone here asking local elected officials and civic leaders to come on down in the fight for everyday working people.
Houston Janitors Conduct Peaceful March For A More Fair Wage—Video Of The Arrest By Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s Police
There was a peaceful protest in Houston this afternoon asking for no more than that janitors in Downtown Houston’s big office buildings be paid a more fair wage.
Below is a picture I took of these peaceful protesters marching under the Flag of the United States on this Flag Day.
What could be more patriotic and more American than the belief that a fair day’s work merits a fair paycheck?
What could be more patriotic and American than the right to assemble and to put forth our grievances?
From The Nation—
“Yesterday, the contract between the janitors and the cleaning contractors expired. SEIU Local 1 spent the past month trying to reach an agreement to raise the janitors’ hourly wage to $10 over the next three years. (They currently make $ 8.35 an hour.) But the contractors countered with an offer of a $0.50 pay raise phased in over five years and—according to SEIU spokesperson Paloma Martinez—said that they “wouldn’t budge.” The contractors claimed that the building owners and tenants—the aforementioned corporations—aren’t willing to pay anything close to a living wage…the city’s janitors are among the lowest paid in the nation, with workers in cities with far weaker real estate markets earning a significantly higher hourly wage: Cincinnati ($9.80), Cleveland ($10.30), Detroit ($10.97) and Chicago ($15.45) are a few examples.”
Here is what Houston Mayor Annise Parker- –a Democrat— recently said on her official Facebook page.
“Houston continues to be a leader in job growth!”
Everything is wonderful. Or at least everything is wonderful so long as you are content with $ 8.35 an hour.
(Below–Another picture from the rally.)
There was one arrest at this peaceful rally.
I counted at least 21 Houston police officers watching over this rally. Many of these officers were on horseback.
There was no need for this excessive presence. This was a peaceful march.
The only tension came from the excessive police presence. These were peaceful demonstrators.
Police officers are working people just like anybody else. I belive that most police officers are good honest people. At the same time, Houston police are mistaken if they see janitors making $ 8.35 an hour as the enemy.
Here is a video of the arrest—
Below is a another video of the arrest at the march that was taken by Occupy Wall Street: Houston. The arrest is at around the 2 minute point of the video.
Houston City Council–with the near unanimous consent of Council Democrats as well as Mayor Parker, recently voted to criminalize many acts of sharing food with the homeless.
Not a single Council Democrat was at the rally today. Mayor Parker was not at the rally today.
What good are these Democrats if they don’t stick up for working people?
The bottom line is clear.
The freedom of all people is connected and the work of freedom is up to each of us.
The fate of all working people is connected.
Houston janitors merit better wages and we all should consider taking up their just cause.
Chad Holley Verdict By All-White Houston Jury A Source Of Concern For All Houstonians Concerned With Justice—An All-White Jury In The Most Diverse City In America?
(Above–A scene from the 2010 Chad Holley beating.)
I was not a juror in this case and I did not hear all the evidence.
I can say that it is frustrating that the jury was all-white in what is by some measures the most diverse city in America.
Given our national history, our local history here in Houston and Texas, and the fact of strong divisions of all kinds in America, it is a given that an innocent verdict in the case from an all-white jury would provoke a strong reaction.
Given the present day role of our so-called justice system as a new Jim Crow that incarcerates black men at an alarming rate, it is a given that an innocent verdict in this case from an all-white jury would provoke a strong reaction.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Republican Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos disagree with the verdict.
Some local black activists and local black ministers have reacted angrily to the verdict.
Just imagine if these leaders spoke up consistently on a broad range of issues of justice that impact all people and not just one group of people in Houston.
If they did, they would be listened to with greater respect when issues seen in a conventional and narrow sense as mostly impacting black folks were before the public.
At the same time, where are the voices of people of all kinds in voicing concerns on this matter?
If a broader cross-section of Houston white and Latino progressives and liberals would speak up with concerns about the verdict of an all-white jury in this trial, maybe this would help lay the groundwork for a more energetic and hopeful progressive coalition in our city.
The freedom of all people is connected.
Three former Houston Police officers are awaiting trial for their roles in the Chad Holley beating.
A few hours back I went to the blogger lunch that is hosted each month by Charles Kuffner. Mr. Kuffner writes the top Houston and Texas political blog Off The Kuff.
The guest at the lunch this month was Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
Below you see a picture that I took of the Mayor at this lunch.
The Mayor has her hand raised as she takes a pledge to read Texas Liberal each day.
No–I’m making that up. I’m not sure why her hand was raised. She was making a point about something or other.
The Mayor was quite cordial and took questions for just over an hour.
In the days ahead I’m going to offer some thoughts about Mayor Parker, and issues related to moving forward in Houston.
My thoughts will be less about what the Mayor said at the lunch today, and more about the need for an effective and constructive progressive and liberal opposition in Houston.
Not an opposition that simply exists to oppose Mayor Parker when she veers more to the right than need be.
But rather a more long-term, consistent and hopeful force that helps change the political climate here in Houston, so that we don’t see again Council Democrats passing a law that criminalizes many acts of sharing food with the homeless.
An opposition can “govern” in the sense of offering hopeful alternatives to what we get from people in “official” positions of power.
An oppostion can “govern” in a fashion if it develops the capacity for disciplined and effective advocacy and leadership.
This is what I want to talk about the days ahead.
After the lunch, I took a long walk along Allen Parkway here in the city.
I’d say I walked for about five miles. This long walk gave me plenty of time to think about stuff.
While engaged in this thinking, I came across a chicken.
I do not believe there was any connection between Mayor Parker and the chicken.
Below is a photo of the chicken–
Here is a close-up of the chicken—
My Uncle Tom in Providence, R.I. saw these chicken pictures on Facebook. He insists that this bird is a Rhode Island Red.
Based on this Wikipedia entry, I think my uncle is correct.
As a former resident of Rhode Island, I’m very glad to have seen such a bird.
Thanks to both Mayor Parker and to the chicken for a good and productive day.
City Of Houston Sobering Center To Offer Options For Those Down On Their Luck—Why Doesn’t Mayor Parker Include This In The Ongoing Debate On How We Treat Those Down-And-Out In Houston?
I remain strongly opposed to the mean-spirited Houston anti-food sharing ordinance, and will continue to criticize Mayor Parker when she merits criticism.
It turns out to be fairly often that I feel Mayor Parker merits criticism.
On the other hand, the City of Houston Sobering Center announced a few weeks ago will keep people out of jail, and will help provide options to those most down on their luck.
It is also true that some of the folks on the right opposing the food-sharing law are a pack of hyenas that would not leave Annise Parker alone if she cured cancer, and who are in no respect champions of the poor.
It’s a failure of the Mayor’s political team that a larger narrative has not been put out there that includes this sobering center, as the Mayor’s support among Democrats and progressives takes a justified hit with the anti-sharing ordinance.
Talking Points To Defeat Cruel New Houston Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance—Collective Actions Must Be Guided By Individual Conscience
Houston City Council, led by Mayor Annise Parker and Councilman James Rodriguez, have passed an ordinace that will criminalize many instances of sharing food with the homeless.
Mayor Parker and Mr. Rodriguez are blind to the fact that Sojourner Truth understood many years ago—It is the shadow that sells the substance.
This new law is a mean-spirited law that is meant to harass the homeless. It is the third restriction on the homeless in nine months as we offer public subsidy to soccer stadiums and so-called arthouse movie theaters.
There is a Facebook group that is opposing this new law. They are circulating a petition to oppose this new law. Go to the Facebook page to learn more details.
Here is an e-mail to get a petition to circulate to help repeal the ordinance — Free2GiveVolunteers@gmail.com
Some of the folks in the coalition to defeat the new law are very good people who are concerned with the fate of all people.
Others are conservatives who just want to move Houston to the right, and see this as a chance to link the brutality of modern conservatism to an illusion of compassion for those most in need.
I support repeal of this law and will post on this subject a number of times in the days ahead.
At the same time, I will keep some distance from the organized opposition to this law.
Collective action is essential, yet it is individual conscience that must guide our acts.
The Keep Houston Sharing Free website has come up with talking points to discuss this cruel ordinance in the days ahead.
These points are useful if you decide to circulate the petition, or if you just want to discuss the new law with your fellow citizens of Houston.
Here are the talking points—-
1) The new ordinance will regulate a natural expression of human compassion, inhibit groups sharing food with the poor, and cause suffering. Any group or individual who drives around looking for hungry people in need of food will be immediately criminalized since they wouldn’t have prior written permission for the locations where they find people. A significant portion of Houston homeless rely on these forms of spontaneous feeding. This law will cause homeless people to suffer and become sick.
2) In City Council chambers, the few homeless service providers who supported the law were those with city contracts, every other homeless and poor service provider opposed it. At a faith-based food sharers study group conducted by Coalition for the Homeless, not one of the many diverse religious group representatives favored the mandatory and punitive aspects of this law. These compassionate people know best: this type of law will cause poor to suffer.
3) Requiring permission for groups to serve has precedent. In San Francisco in 1988, the permit requirement was used to criminalize and arrest hundreds of food sharing volunteers. Asking for permission is never easy, free, quick, or fair. These permit requirements violate 1st Amendment freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion. Since the law only applies to those sharing food with the homeless, and not those at a tailgating party, the law violates the “equal protection under the law” clause of the 14th Amendment.
4) The law was written hastily and is incomplete, declaring that “there exists a public emergency” without explaining what the emergency is. The law does not include a fee schedule or any of the criteria or processes for obtaining permission to serve. It seems it was written vaguely intentionally to require expansion later, when public attention has waned.
5) The law doesn’t achieve any clear policy objectives. The extra expenses that will be incurred are not necessary and have not been budgeted. The law creates additional work and bureaucracy for various city agencies and homeless food providers without any clearly identified benefits. The law punishes, but does not reward. There were no studies or data presented to justify a new law.
6) When interviewed, over 90% of homeless downtown indicated that without volunteer groups able to help them in the streets, they would turn to crime, begging for money, or less healthy options.
7) The permission process could be used to re-introduce all of the most hated criteria that were taken out of the earlier draft.
8) The police would be given the new job of surveillance and enforcement against good Samaritans. The amount of the fines are said to be $500, which is much more than the entire monthly income of many who help the homeless.
9) There are over 60 groups speaking out against this law. From the conservative Houston Area Pastor’s Council to the Catholic Workers, from Occupy to the Tea Party, evangelical protestants to civil rights organizations, from the Harris County Republican Party to the Green Party, from the Nation of Islam to the Hare Krishnas, the diversity of these groups may well be unprecedented.
10) We the people have a right to share food with the needy and no one has the right to make us ask for permission each time. Volunteers help feed the homeless without making financial demands on the city, and as such should be held up as examples, not criminalized.
11) Spontaneous and un-coordinated distribution of food to the needy is a proud Houston tradition and groups have done so for years without problems.
12) Mayor Parker did not offer any studies to document instances of food poisoning, significant food wastage, or the projected impact of these new regulations on homeless populations.
13) The management districts in and near downtown are funded with tax dollars to implement service plans (posted on their websites) that embrace responsibilities that warrant placement of trash receptacles, public toilets and litter removal programs to beautify and rebrand their geographic areas, and already do so to an extent.
14) No laws can eliminate the annoyances the mayor’s ordinance is addressing, and trying to do so will waste police time in a futile quest.
15) The City, through this ordinance, has converted public property to private property. Public property, paid for with tax dollars, is now the Mayor’s property that you have to get permission to use. This sets a terrible precedent: This week it is permission to feed others, next week it could easily be that you may need permission to take your child to the parks because of the liability that exist if you don’t watch your child and they fall off the swing, etc…
Houston Mayor Annise Parker Blind To The Symbolism Of The Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance—The Shadow Sells The Substance
Below are specifics of the anti-food sharing ordinance as reported by Mayor Annise Parker’s office.
The Mayor’s office was able to post these rules on the day in-between the anniversary Martin Luther King’s death and Good Friday, to tell folks how sharing food with the homeless will now be regulated.
One of the two most disturbing things about this in my view, is that public property is seen as having an “owner’ and is being treated here by Mayor Parker no differently than private property.
The other issue that bothers me most is the blindness of the Mayor and Council Democrats regarding the symbolism of restricting the sharing of food with the homeless.
The only Councilmember who seems to fully get the symbolism is Libertarian-leaning Republican Helena Brown, who will soon be holding a so-called town meeting on the subject. Ms. Brown is both smarter and more dangerous than people on various sides of this debate want to give her credit for being. Ms. Brown denies her City Hall staff fulltime hours and access to City of Houston health benefits.
In any case, you can read here the Mayor’s side of the issue as we move ahead with the petition drive to repeal the ordinance. Nothing you’ll read will change the bottom line that the sharing of the food with the homeless has now in many instances been criminalized. Mayor Parker simply does not want to understand this basic reality.
From Mayor Parker—
There is lots of misinformation about the Charitable Food Service Ordinance. Here are the facts about the ordinance adopted by City Council yesterday:
- It takes effect July 1, 2012
- It recognizes the importance of charitable behavior while still providing protection for owners who don’t want that charity occurring on their properties
- The only mandatory component is a requirement to obtain written permission from the owner before any charitable food service on both public and private property without the written permission of the owner. Organizations that fail to obtain written permission may be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to $500. The rest of the ordinance creates the voluntary Charitable Food Service Provider Program. This allows organizations to coordinate services, but without concerns about red tape. Organizations desiring to participate in the voluntary Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider Program will be required to:
- o Register basic contact information with the City of Houston
- o Cooperate with the City in scheduling any food service event at which five or more individuals will be fed
- o Follow basic hygiene, sanitation, and food safety rules provided by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services
- o Have at least one person at each food service site who has completed the free training in sanitary food preparation offered by HDHHS
- o Authorize inspections by the HDHHS of their kitchens and transport vehicles and the like
- o Implement changes suggested by the Health Department
- o Clean up after the event
- The names and addresses of organizations that abide by the above requirements will be listed on the City’s website. In addition, they will be entitled to use their designation as a Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider in their publications.
- The Parks and Health Departments are developing rules for the use of City properties for charitable food service activities.
In Houston, we identify a problem, put an idea out there to address it and then listen to the community for feedback. This time the process worked better than we expected. So many people from many diverse groups got engaged and there is renewed focus on finding ways to address our problem of homelessness. While not everything is in agreement as to the direction being taken, the process has been very productive. Mayor Parker hopes everyone will all stay engaged because there is more work to do to solve the problems that prompted this discussion: the unapproved use of private property, the lack of coordination that results in food being wasted, the health and safety issues that can arise due to improperly prepared food and the trash often left behind. In six months, this ordinance will be reviewed in the City Council- Quality of Life Committee.