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Mayor Parker And City Of Houston Considering A Third Restriction On The Homeless In Nine Months—Criminalizing Sharing

A broad cross-section of Houston is opposing Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal that would criminalize some acts of sharing food with the homeless in Houston.

Below is a list of groups and community leaders that oppose this measure—

American Rights Association • Casa Juan Diego • Casa de la Fuente • Central Canaan Christian Church • Christ the Servant Lutheran Church • Dominican Sisters of Houston • Ecclesia Church Simple Feast • The Executive Council • Harris County Democratic Socialists • Harris County Green Party • The Harris County Libertarian Party • House of Amos • Houston Area Pastor Council • Houston Food Not Bombs • Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center • Houston Property Rights Association • Houston Tea Party Society • Houston United • Houston Young Republicans • IMPACT: I am the Movement • ISKCON Houston (Hare Krishna Temple) • Japhet Civic Association • Joe Williams Ministries • KHA-Atheists • Last Chance Recovery Center • Last Organic Outpost • Mosque #45, Nation of Islam • Muslims Against Hunger, Disease and Injustice • National Lawyers Guild, Houston Chapter • Noah’s Kitchen • Occupy Houston • Pat Greer’s Kitchen • Pax Christi • Ryon Civic Association • Shape Community Center • Sinfull Bakery • Stand Up for Kids • Texas Public Policy Foundation • Taxpayers  For  Equal  Appraisal • UH Fair Labor Action Committee • UH Students for a Democratic Society • UH Students Against Sexual Harassment and Assault• West Houston Assistance Ministries. • Young Americans for Liberty, HCC • Community Leaders: Deloyd Parker • Minister Robert Muhammad • Reverend Fana, Women’s Resource Center • Duane Bradley, KPFT General manager • Houston City Council Member Helena Brown • Ray Hill • Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield, Editor and Publisher, Faith That Inspires Action • Dave Atwood, Houston Peace and Justice Center

Here are details of this proposal 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.”

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

With this being the third measure to restrict the actions of the homeless in nine months, it seems that Annise Parker and at least some members of Houston City Council believe that just moving the homeless along will solve the problem.

The Mayor has in the past spoken up against payday loan operators in Houston and for the rights of Downtown office tower janitors to organize.

How can Mayor Parker see a series of punitive measures against the homeless as the right course?

As it stands now, City Council will take up this issue again on Tuesday, March 20. The Council session begins at 2 PM.

Here are some details about speaking at this session—

1) You must call the City Secretary (832) 393 – 1100 to reserve time to speak, ask for one minute, call asap during business hours to reserve your slot. Tell them you want to speak about “criminalizing public service”

2) Leave time to find parking, the session starts at 2. You must arrive with an ID, and be prepared to go through a metal detector.

If you can’t attend the session, call the Mayor and your members of council.

Here is information on contacting Mayor Parker. 

Here is information on contacting members of Houston City Council.

We seem to have plenty of money in Houston to offer tax breaks and incentives for soccer stadiums and so-called arthouse movie theaters. If we have these kinds of funds, than why not more resources to help the homeless—many of them no doubt veterans—towards work and self-sufficiency?

March 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 11 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

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee Says Funding On The Way For Houston City Pools Planned For Closing As Hot Summer Nears

Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is saying that she may be able to find funding to keep City of Houston swimming pools and community centers open this summer.

(Above–Houston is very hot in the summer and people need relief. Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)

Some pools and community centers are due to be cut in the city budget being proposed by Democratic Mayor Annise Parker and the Democratic Majority Houston City Council.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee says in an interview with a Houston TV station that she is likely to be announcing some private funding to keep these facilities open this summer.

As of June 11, we’ve already had two 105 degree days in Houston.

I’m glad that these pools and community centers may be kept open for the summer.

Though they never should have been cut. Will private funding also be available next year if needed?

If our elected Democrats in Houston balance the city budget on the backs of those least able to lose city services, than just why is it that we vote for and trust these people?

Budgets are moral documents that reflect who we are as a city. We can do better.

If some of the cuts and layoffs we are seeing in Houston had come from a Republican mayor and council, there would be many more objections from Democrats and liberals.

The people impacted by these cuts are equally out of luck regardless of what party is in control of the process when the cuts are made.

June 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts On Municipal Elections In Houston—To What Extent Should We Care?

I sometimes find it difficult to take seriously the subjects of Houston City Council, and, also, municipal elections here in Houston. I find it hard to do so for the following reasons–

1. Few Houstonians vote in city elections and given my limited resources of time, I can’t always muster much effort on something people don’t care about and that does not seem to make a big difference in the lives of people of Houston.

2. The six year term limits mean that councilmembers come and go and you really have no idea who they are.  They dance around and wait for an empty seat to run for. Just like this game of musical chairs you see below. ( No..I don’t know who those people are.)

3. Despite the fact that so-called Democrats have a majority on the Council, they don’t appear to do anything in a cohesive fashion. Does the caucus have meetings? Have they offered a vision of what they would like to see from the ongoing Texas Legislative session? Or from the Obama stimulus package? Is there any agenda all except the separate agendas of individuals?  

At least one Council Democrat, James Rodriguez, will possibly be supporting a Republican for citywide office.  What is his agenda? Can we trust Mr. Rodriguez to serve our city well?  The verdict is still out.

4. I’ve been voting for Democrats at the municipal level since I was first eligible to vote in 1985.  I feel that  often they take the votes and offer in little in return in terms of imagination and concern for people who need the most help from government. (Though I’m  glad to see that Barack Obama of Chicago is saying he has a focus on urban issues. Maybe that focus will trickle down and offer some new energy to local urban policy makers.)

What got me thinking about the topic of the Houston City Council was a post by Houston blogger Charles Kuffner. Mr. Kuffner’s post dealt with possible candidates for municipal offices in Houston in 2009. ( 50,000 page views this month Charles. I’m getting there.) Mr. Kuffner, who is one of the best sources for these things in Houston, reports various people running for the various offices.

How does the process work? Here’s what I’m seeing—Some political insider, or some person who feels they might be able to access sufficient funds to run a campaign, waits for the right moment and the right opportunity and decides to give it a whirl.  

For the average person it is all very nebulous. (Below—A nebula. Click here for information about nebulas.) Where do these folks come from? For what reason are people donating to their campaigns? What political party and beliefs do candidates represent as they hide behind the lie of the so-called “non-partisan” municipal ballot? 

What are the candidates and councilmembers themselves thinking?

Maybe they wonder why people don’t care who represents them at City Hall. They could be thinking that if the public does not trust them to serve more than six years, why then should they trust the public? 

It might be that council candidates and councilmembers are thinking that with low turnout and term limits  the public has, in effect, ceded control of city government to special interests and the personal ambitions of office holders.

(Here is a previous post where I asked if the people of Houston merit municipal representation.)

In 2009, I’m going to make some effort to listen to what our Houston municipal candidates are saying. I’ll offer my views as we go along.  I’ll be looking for a specific agenda, and for some connection between Houston and the big changes and new resources we are seeing in Washington. It won’t be nearly enough that a candidate claims that he or she is a Democrat. That is a road I have been down often before. (Below—An old road not used as much as it once was.) 

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Houston | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stricter Parking Enforcement In Houston—Real Story Behind Solar Powered Meters

The City of Houston is going to step up enforcement at Downtown parking meters. The city is going enforce the limit of two hours at a meter even if you’ve paid the $6 all day Downtown Hopper rate. Parking enforcement officers will be tracking cars with handheld devices. They’ll plug your license plate number in and see how long you hang around. Even if you have paid for more time, you will get a ticket after two hours.

It is now also illegal for someone else to put money in your meter. I could write a check to pay your income tax bill or your electricity bill (I won’t though.) , but I can’t put 50 cents in your parking meter.

I’m not a reflexive basher of city services, but here’s the thing—THE METERS SO OFTEN DO NOT WORK. (That was my first all caps sentence in two and a half years of writing this blog.)

Our Houston parking meters are solar-powered meters. Yet often they don’t function even when the sun is shining. Here is a post I made last July about the solar-powered meters not working on a sunny 95 degree day.

Since then I’ve had a number of instances where I could not use the meters because they were not working. I go downtown between one to three times a week.

Maybe six weeks ago, I called a city councilmember’s office to complain. In the week after Christmas, I had a morning where I had to go to five meters (moving my car twice in the process) to find one that worked.

In my view, it’s clear the sunbeams the meters are collecting are being diverted to some kind of new and terrible solar weapon such as you see below.  This is the only possible answer as to why Houston councilmembers Sue Lovell and James Rodriguez would talk in the newspaper about stricter parking enforcement, without talking about how the meters, time and time again, do not work.  

Maybe the more people who try to use the meters without success, the more destructive energy the meters collect. It could be that beyond sunlight, the meters are also sapping human energy given off in incidents of extreme frustration trying to get the meters to work.   

Well, it’s one thing if Ms. Lovell and Mr. Rodriguez are the henchpeople of our military industrial complex (Assuming what you see below is a weapon of American or even Earth origin). That does not by definition get in the way of my finding a place to park. I  just wish that they would find a plan that would allow people to come to Downtown Houston and use a parking meter without such hassle.  

January 8, 2009 Posted by | Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

No Union Bug, No Party ID—Why I Won’t Be Voting For Zaf Tahir For Houston City Council

I got a mailing the other day from At-Large position #5 Houston City Council Candidate Zaf Tahir.  So far, I’ve not focused on this race.

Based on the mailing, it wasn’t hard to decide I won’t be voting for Mr. Tahir.

First of all, no union bug on the mailing. 

The union bug is the small mark at the bottom of a political piece showing that what you have in your hands was printed at a union printer. Just about every Democrat will have a union bug. Most Republicans will not

There was also no party identification on the mailing. People have a right to know what party a political candidate represents. This is basic in our democracy. ( Please click here for my post on why Houston City Council races should be more aggressively partisan.) 

I then went to Mr. Tahir’s web site. He mentions crime and the tax burden as big issues.

I know they all mention crime. But what about the causes of crime? How about helping people? We have no income tax in Texas and yet we have a high tax burden? 

On the mailing in big letters it says Mr. Tahir is “A proven business leader for a smart Houston.”

Government is not a business and smart is not a moral value. Being “smart” does not tell me anything. Plenty of no-good politicans are “smart.”  

I could have simply trashed the flier when I did not see the union bug. People need some shorthand in a busy world. 

Many voters are simply left confused by people hiding their political identity while running for an office with silly six-year term-limits and a musical chair membership.        

October 20, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | , , , | 7 Comments