Texas Liberal

All People Matter

At Core Far-Right Houston Councilmember Helena Brown Is Wasting Our Time—A Woolly Mammoth’s Perspective

The Houston Chronicle reports that far-right Houston City Council Member Helena Brown may have altered the time sheets of her City Hall staff so they would not be paid for all the hours they worked.

From The Chronicle

“Houston City Councilwoman Helena Brown subtracted hours from employees’ timecards in apparent violation of federal law, according to records obtained by the Houston Chronicle. The first-term councilwoman shorted an employee by more than three hours in a day in several cases. At least six times, Brown deleted enough hours from employees’ reported workweeks that it cost them overtime by bringing their weekly total under 40 hours.”

Ms. Brown had previously  said that she would not allow her staff to work a full work week so that the city would save money on benefits for these staffers.

Sure.

I was not going to write Ms. Brown and this issue because it is so depressing and so stupid.

Ms. Brown is a far-right extremist elected in a low turnout race.  I expect little of her. There are so many hopeful things that we can respond to in life. And yet here are these people elected for no other purpose it seems but to harm the public welfare. I get tired of it.

Ms. Brown thinks the United Nations is directing City of Houston policy.

Also, many Top Houston and Texas political bloggers have written about this issue already. Brains & Eggs, Dos Centavos, Bay Area Houston and Off The Kuff  all have something useful to say about Ms. Brown. What could I add?

But as I thought about it, I recalled that I have my own Helena Brown material. I do try to use my own stuff.

The blog reading public merits no less.

Below is a picture I took of Ms. Brown last April reading a proclamation at a parade in Downtown Houston honoring Iraq War Veterans.

(The woman in the red dress to the right of Ms. Brown is my terrible State Representative Sarah Davis. Ms. Davis has done all she can to work with Rick Perry to decimate educational and environmental funding in the  Texas state budget. Ann Johnson is running against Ms. Davis in 2012 to represent Texas House District 134. Here is the link to send Ms. Johnson a few dollars.)

How about that flag shirt Congressman Al Green is wearing!

The Chronicle story was not the only news about Ms. Brown this week.

The Houston Press ran a story about Councilmember Brown and a man named William Park.

The Press says that this Mr. Park is an advisor to Ms. Brown who exerts a great deal of influence on Ms. Brown and her right-wing agenda.

Here is the Press story.

Read it and make of it what you will.

Here an excerpt from the Press story—

“Park circulated business cards…with the City of Houston seal. The cards advertised Park as Brown’s “chief adviser.” City Attorney David Feldman later stopped Park, saying the city emblem couldn’t be used on a volunteer’s business cards.”

I found this interesting because I once briefly met Mr. Park. Councilwoman Brown and I ran into each other at the Iraq veterans parade. We had met once before.  She said she’d like to to meet with me again sometime soon because she felt that I had not accurately characterized  her in previous posts I’d written. Mr. Park was with her and he gave me his business card.  I recall Mr. Park as a tall man with a cowboy hat. (Ms. Brown and I  never did have that conversation.) 

Below is a picture of the business card that Mr. Park handed me that day. The card is being shown here by Extinct. Extinct is a Woolly Mammoth and is a member of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts.

You see that this may be one of the business cards that Mr. Park was handing out after he was told to stop using the City of Houston emblem.

I really don’t know where we get all these people.

Extinct says that it never has been any different.

A Woolly Mammoth is very good at taking the long view.

He says that trouble never stops coming, and in the end the issue will be did you make your case in the time that you had and with the resources at your disposal.

All we can do is stay the course.

July 6, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Photos From Possibly Last Legal Sharing Of Food By Food Not Bombs In Houston—Annise Parker Says It Has To Stop

(Blogger’s update 3/21/12–Mayor Parker has changed the ordiance and the issue remains before Houston City Council. I’ll have more to say about this in the days ahead.) 

This evening I attended that may be the last legal sharing of food here in Houston by Food Not Bombs.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Houston City Council are considering a city ordinance that would criminalize some acts of sharing food with the homeless in Houston.

Above you see what may soon be illegal.

These proposed restrictions would be the third city ordinance directed at the homeless in Houston in nine months. 

In her inaugural address a few months back, Mayor Parker said the homeless would be a focus of her administration in her second term.

I guess she was not lying.

Councilwoman Helena Brown was at the Food Not Bombs food sharing tonight.

Above you see Ms. Brown speaking to a citizen of Houston.

While Councilwoman Brown is a right-wing extremist who denies fulltime hours and access to City of Houston health insurance to her staff, it is good that she was present this evening.

Councilwoman Brown is right to see this proposed ordinance as overreach by government.

Above you see a final photo of the events of this evening.

The American flag is quite appropriate here as people in need are offered help by their fellow citizens.

I’m sorry that Annise Parker has a problem with the scene in the photo above, and that she is engaging in a legislative barrage against the homeless in Houston.

As it stands now, the Houston City Council meeting at 2 PM on Tuesday, 3/20 will be when this ordinance is discussed and possibly voted on.

Call the Mayor and members of Council to make your voice heard.

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 16 Comments

Annise Parker’s Ongoing Legislative Barrage On Houston’s Homeless—Isn’t The Dignity Of All People Connected?

For the third time in recent months, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Houston City Council are considering regulations directed at homeless people.

From the Houston Chronicle

“Mayor Annise Parker is asking the council to adopt rules that would require organizations and people who feed the homeless to register with the city, take a food safety class, prepare the food in certified kitchens, serve only at three public parks, and leave those parks as clean as when they entered them…Councilwoman Helena Brown agreed and praised the speakers from groups who serve meals on the streets, telling them she hoped they’ll “have the freedom to do that and you don’t have to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, I have to go visit City Hall first…”It’s kind of strange and ironic that they want to stop help. We have actually been called to do this, to help those in need,” said Edward J. Sweet Sr., Strait & Narrow’s bishop. “It’s kind of sad that they would want to stop different organizations who are trying to make a change.”…If adopted, the feeding rules would mark the third time in nine months that the council has acted to contain the city’s homelessness problem, which by some estimates has 13,000 people living on the street. Last July, the council expanded the area where it is illegal to sleep on the sidewalk per the city’s so-called civility ordinance. The next month, the council forbade panhandlers from coming within eight feet of patio diners…Parker said in her inaugural address in January that making progress on homelessness would be a priority of her second term. Her administration pitched the rule changes as a way to protect the homeless from food poisoning and allergies, although opponents insist there is no evidence to suggest any health threat from donated food.”

This item will be considered again on March 21. Thanks to Councilpersons Helena Brown and Wanda Adams for delaying this issue so there can be more public attention and debate.

Here is the press release from the Mayor’s office on this issue.  

Is this how Mayor Parker feels she can best meet her inaugural pledge to help the homeless?

The way we help the construction of soccer stadiums and of so-called arthouse movie theaters in Houston, is to give them millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars.

If you feel that these are good projects for Houston, why not also allocate resources to help those most in need in our city? Wouldn’t that be a good investment as well? How does a Sundance movie house merit more concern than do human beings out on the street?

Are we supposed to believe that three council initiatives directed at the homeless in a nine month stretch are about making the lives of the homeless better?

Mayor Parker has quite correctly spoken up in recent weeks about full rights in our society for people who happen to be born gay.

I don’t assume Mayor Parker holds these beliefs for the rights of gay folks because she is a lesbian.

My assumption is that Mayor Parker sees the rights and advancement of all people as connected. This is the underlying logic of any civil rights cause.

Yet Mayor Parker appears to view one segment of our population as meriting an extraordinary series of restrictive ordinances.

Not worthy of government subsidy in the fashion that Mayor Parker rewards multi-million dollar private enterprises with taxpayer dollars, and seemingly outside her conception of who merits full concern as an equal human being in our great City of Houston, the homeless find themselves under legislative and legal assault by Mayor Annise Parker and our Houston City Council.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Republican Houston Councilwoman Helana Brown Denies Full Time Work & City Health Benefits To Her Staff—Is This How We Want To Live?

Republican Houston District A Councilwoman Helena Brown could offer her City Hall staff full time work and health benefits, yet she chooses not to do so.

From the Houston Chronicle

Houston District A Councilwoman Helena Brown, whose lone “no” votes against city spending have differentiated her from the rest of the 17-member council, also is an outlier as an employer: She is the only council member to hire an entirely part-time staff that gets no health insurance or other benefits.

“The Council Member and all her staff were offered benefits but declined, choosing to opt for their own health care coverage in the private sector where it is more cost effective for employees, and let us not forget, for the City too!” according to a statement from Brown’s office.

Sure—Part time work and buying health insurance with the fewer dollars you make when you are working part time is best for all of us.

Is that how you want to live?

The facts are in front of us about what will happen we turn our society over to these folks on the right.

Part time work and no benefits for hard working Americans ,while Mitt Romney pays a lower tax rate than do everyday people.

This is all being done right out in the open. People are just going to have to decide what kind of future they want.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 6 Comments