Texas Liberal

All People Matter

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.

Above is one such ticket that was posted today on the Occupy Houston Facebook page.

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.

Here is the Facebook page of the Houston Janitors.

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.

The great Houston blog Dos Centavos has been covering the janitor’s strike.

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.

What Mayor Parker and many Democratic members of Houston City Council have been able to accomplish in recent months is to criminalize many acts of sharing food with the homeless in Houston.

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.

Advertisements

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Here are some details of this law from Mayor Parker’s office.

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…

April 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

Sojourner Truth had it right when she said that “the shadow sells the substance.”

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.

Here is the Facebook group that is organizing a petition drive to repeal the ordinance.   

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.

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Protests Against Cruel Proposed Houston Anti-Food Sharing Ordinance On Tuesday, April 3—Annise Parker Wants To Limit How You Can Help Those Most In Need

There are two upcoming events to protest the ongoing efforts of Houston Mayor Annise Parker and  Houston City Council to criminalize many acts of sharing food with the homeless in Houston.

Both protests are taking place on Tuesday, April 3.

Here is the first event–

Those wanting to share food with one another can gather in anticipation of the Free To Give public rally which meets @ 1:00 PM outside Houston City Hall.

Starting at 11am, feel free to come to the people’s park: Hermann Square Park around the reflection pool at City Hall. Bring homemade snacks, treats from some of our great local businesses, a blanket, and your 1st amendment right to gather with edibles.

We’re also trying to get as many of our needy friends out to share lunch with us. If you work with a community like this, please invite them out! We will be signing up people to speak at that time.

Lots of people have a lunch hour. Let’s support the people who are trying to make our government work FOR us, not against us.

Here is the Facebook page for this event.

Here is the 2nd event–

Public Rally at 1:00 PM outside Houston City Hall by reflection pool. Also, if you can sign up to Speak at Houston City Council meeting at 2 PM for 1, 2 or 3 minutes or just attend the public meeting to show support against the City’s continued effort to criminalize feeding the homeless. To speak call the Houston City Secretary at 832/393-1100 and ask to speak under the subject “Anti-Giving and Sharing Food Ordinance” Chapter 20 and choose 1, 2 or 3 minutes.

Here is the Facebook page for this rally.

Conservative Mayor Annise Parker merits a challenger from the left in 2013. This link also details Mayor Parker’s odd views about how public space in really private space.

How in these hard times can it made illegal to help those most in need? How can this be the right course at any time?

I will be at these Tuesday protests. I hope to see you there as well.

March 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 8 Comments