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Category Archives: City of Houston
We’re not even done with 2012, but it looks like there will be some excitement in the Houston City Council District A race. We’ve got some familiar faces at the ready to challenge incumbent Helena Brown.
It appears unlikely that former District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig will get a one-on-one shot at a comeback from her 2011 loss to current Councilwoman Helena Brown.
“It is my plan to run for District A,” Amy Peck, district director state Sen. Dan Patrick, told me Monday.
Stardig has said it is “highly possible” that she will try to gain the seat back next year. Brown and At-Large Position 5 Councilman Jack Christie were the first challengers in 12 years to knock off incumbent Council members when they won run-off elections in December 2011.
I’m thinking it may get a little more crowded, since this could provide a good opportunity for a more progressive candidate to join in. It is also a District with a burgeoning Latino community that needs to get empowered and involved in their community. Whether any of the challengers or the incumbent even attempt to play nice with Latinos is still a question that has been left unanswered, thus far.
Let’s keep an eye on this one.
Well, I’m happy about this.
What a mayor’s spokeswoman called a “lack of consensus” was manifest in a committee meeting last week during which several council members criticized the idea as bad policy and bad timing.
Mayor Annise Parker‘s agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting seeks approval to put the two charter housekeeping amendments and the five bond measures on the November ballot. The closed-session proposal was not on the agenda.
Mayoral spokeswoman Janice Evans wrote in an email that Parker had no pre-conceived opinion on closed sessions.
“She is able to see all of the arguments both for and against. Given the lack of consensus on Council, she decided not to move forward,” Evans wrote.
Frankly, with five bond propositions and two housekeeping ones, along with METRO and HISD, I’m a bit worried about voter education on all of this stuff. And that’s on top of my worry over all of the candidates!
Anyway, here’s what will probably be placed on the November ballot for the City of Houston at Wednesday’s meeting:
- Proposition A: $144 million bond measure for public safety
- Proposition B: $166 million bond measure for parks
- Proposition C: $57 million bond measure for general government
- Proposition D: $28 million bond measure for libraries
- Proposition E: $15 million bond measure for affordable housing
- Proposition 1: Repeal outdated provisions from city charter, including those that give the city the power to set the price of bread and appoint Houston school board members
- Proposition 2: Strike from the city charter references to the Democratic primary in city elections, which no longer exists in officially non-partisan races for city offices
I had given some mention to parklets previously during the City of Houston budget amendment fun-time a few weeks ago and thought they were a good idea from my friend CM Ed Gonzalez. The Chron seems to like the idea.
Well, what are they?
Under this plan, businesses can apply to adopt on-street parking spots and turn them into parks, outdoor seating or some other storefront extension. This means more greenspace and pedestrian friendly areas at no cost to the city. And if the parklets don’t work out, they can just be turned back into parking. The parklets can even be created on a temporary basis for times of high pedestrian traffic – imagine holiday-themed parklets during December.
Well, that doesn’t sound bad. And the Chron has given them their seal of approval.
I’ve heard from friends who like the idea and others who really dislike it.
I wouldn’t mind seeing more green space down the street from my place; perhaps it could take up some of the superfluous parking from PlazAmericas (on the back end of it). A few trees, some benches and the families in the surrounding apartment complexes would be nicely served. It could be a nice public-private effort, even.
Just a thought. Anyway, the Chron continues:
Of course, one can question whether a small park is worth the lost on-street parking spot, especially given that the most walkable areas also appear to have the worst parking crunches – lower Westheimer, for example. But because the parklet process must be initiated with neighborhood approval, it seems unlikely that parklets will replace anything but superfluous parking.
For naysayers who think that parklets aren’t a worthwhile endeavor, we encourage patience. Gonzalez isn’t proposing any massive overhaul, nor forcing parklets where they aren’t wanted. This will be a trial run to see how a parklet policy could work.
Anyway, I like the idea, too.
“It is like we’re disposable. They can use us for a while and then they just discard us, like if we were trash too.” –Hernan Trujillo, a Houston janitor tells the Houston Chronicle
“…Just because we’re janitors doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be treated with dignity and respect, but we’re not.” - Alice McAfee, a Houston janitor, tells the Houston Chronicle
Last month we shared with you the story of a group of Houston janitors, many of whom are paid less than $9,000 a year. These men and women put in a hard day’s work every day, are paid less than half the federal poverty level, and are not treated with respect.
After a month of protests, hundreds of Houston janitors walked off the job to fight for a living wage, demand a better life, and to protest negotiations in bad faith from many of the employers. On Friday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker sided with the janitors and said that their actions of civil disobedience were appropriate.
No person should be treated as if they were not a human being.
During a strike by African American sanitation workers in 1968, workers held signs with the slogan “I AM a Man.” These men were striking after their request for better safety conditions fell on deaf ears. They made the requests after two workers were crushed to death at the workplace.
It’s not hard to draw the parallels to today’s striking janitors. Economic dignity and workplace safety are civil rights. People who work hard and play by the rules should earn the opportunity to have their families live with a level of dignity. Dr. King recognized this, which is why he supported the striking sanitation workers. In fact, the speech he gave at the strike was Dr. King’s last.
Sadly, dehumanization continues today. Many of Houston’s janitors are treated like less than people, and to paraphrase one of the striking janitors, discarded like trash.
This is about a belief that working men and women should be treated with dignity and respect. The strike that began in Houston has garnered national attention and has spread to six different cities across the nation.
Thank you for supporting our brothers and sisters.
Texas Democratic Party
During this somber Friday, it felt pretty good to read Mayor Annise Parker’s statement in support of renewed negotiations between Houston Janitors and the companies which have refused to give them a much needed raise.
“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.”
After the Mayor’s appearance on the Colbert show this week, under the bit of excitement of her selling Houston and its stronger-than-most-other-cities-economy, I still felt that Houston could do much better in so many ways. The Mayor’s support for renewed negotiations gave that feeling a bit of a boost.
The Houston Janitors responded favorably despite the fact that it was Houston PD who arrested fifteen (15) activists who engaged in civil disobedience in support of the Janitors.
Learn more about the Houston Janitors by watching this video, and then give them your support.
From the Inbox to You:
The City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods Office of International Communities announces a series of Spanish language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training sessions for individual residents, social service providers and community leaders.
Presented in collaboration with the City’s Office of Emergency Management and Harris County Citizens Corps, the training will consist of eight training modules led by experts covering a full range of disaster preparedness topics. The final session will feature a mock drill, giving participants the opportunity to apply the knowledge and practice the skills they acquired through the training.
All participants who complete the eight-week training will receive a City of Houston and Harris County first aid training certificate, a CERT program identification card and an emergency response manual.
The training sessions will be held on Saturdays, from 9:00 a.m.to 12:00 p.m., at the Southwest Multi-Service Center, 6400 High Star, Houston 77074, as follows:
- July 21 — Module 1: General Disaster Preparedness
- July 28 – Module 2: Fire Safety & Suppression
- August 4 – Module 3: Basic Medical Operations – Part 1
- August 18 — Module 4: Basic Medical Operations – Part 2
- September 15 – Module 5: Light Search & Rescue
- September 22 – Module 6/7: Incident Command System/Disaster Psychology
- September 29 — Module 8: Terrorism Awareness
- October 6 –Mock Search and Rescue Drill
The July 21 opening session will provide participants with an overview of disaster and emergency preparedness. The session will feature presentations by Marni Rosen, City of Houston CERT Coordinator, Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security; Captain Homero Ponce-Lopez, HFD (retired); Captain Juan Guerrero, HFD; Any Villanueva, Volunteer Coordinator, Hispanic CERT Team; and Carlos Robles, Meteorologist, Univision 45.
Enrollment is limited. Interested persons are encouraged to register in advance. Walk-ins may be accepted, based on availability of participant slots. To enroll contact Benito Juarez, Office of International Communities, at 713.778.6503 or Benito.Juarez@houstontx.gov.
It has been an action-filled week for Houston Janitors who are on strike. With corporate employers not agreeing to a pay raise for these hard-working individuals, the Janitors have had no choice but to go on strike and demonstrate outside of Houston’s high rises in downtown.
On Wednesday, fifteen (15) supporters of the striking Janitors were arrested after blocking traffic in Downtown during the lunch hour.
The group sat in a circle in the intersection of Smith and Bell about 12:30 p.m., surrounded by about 250 supporters carrying mops and banging on drums. Police closed the street about a block away, and some traffic backed up behind the roadblocks.
The Service Employees International Union said in news releases that the people arrested came from around the country. Fewer than half are from Houston, and none are janitors themselves, according to a list included in one release.
On Tuesday, I met some of these folks and saw their organizing skills in action as Janitors protested at the ExxonMobil HQ in Downtown Houston. I also lent them my support and marched with them.
This past weekend, the children of the Janitors staged a protest.
While we get so caught up with political campaigns, we must not forget about the working people our campaigns talk about–and that goes for the candidates, too. But I will say it has been good to see a few of our elected officials out there, but more are needed.
On Thursday at 7PM, a Mass will be held at the Co-Cathedral in Downtown. Attend and show your support of these hard-working
Houstonians Taxpayers who are being mistreated by local corporations.
Mayor Annise Parker, today, proposed a $410 million bond package that, if supported by Council, will be on the November ballot. Voters may get to vote on five different measures:
The bond package also includes:
$144 million for public safety needs, including:
- Improvements at neighborhood police stations citywide
- Expansion of Fire Station 55, City Council District D
- New fire station to serve Pine Brook area, City Council District E
- Expansion of Fire Station 22, City Council District I
- Fire station maintenance/improvements citywide
- Facility security improvements
$63 million for health, sanitation/recycling, and general government improvements at city facilities not included in the other categories:
- Renovation of the Westpark recycling facility, City Council District J
- Renovation of the Central Depository, City Council District I
- Possible repair of Sunnywide Multi-Service Center, City Council District D
- Repairs to City Hall and City Hall Annex
- Environmental Remediation
$15 million for affordable housing.
- These dollars will be used for demolition of blighted properties to make way for new affordable housing.
$28 million for libraries, including:
- Renovation of the Montrose Library, City Council District D
- Replacement of the Moody Library, City Council District H
- Replacement of the Meyer Library, City Council District K
- Renovation of Robinson-Westchase Library, City Council District F
$160 million for parks, including the Bayou Greenways Project and:
- Improvements at Haden, Busby Park, Judson Robinson Sr., Jaycee, Wright, Bembry,
- Hermann, Alief, Nieto, Squatty Lyons, Gragg, Braeburn, Glen and Wildheather parks
- Pavilion replacements
- Swimming pool upgrades and replacements
- Ball field lighting upgrades
- Trail replacement and overlays
- Bayou Greenways Project
According to the Mayor, this is one of the smallest bond packages proposed and will not require a tax increase. Let’s keep an eye on this as things develop.
Update: According to a report from Chris Moran of the Chron, $116 million of the bond is not yet earmarked and is up from grabs from the various Council districts. Council must vote on what measures appear on the November ballot by August 20.
Update: Looks like the campaign to pass the City bond has begun.
The Vote for Houston’s Future Committee is co-chaired by Philamena Baird, Pam Gardner, Melinda B. Hildebrand, City Councilmember Melissa Noriega and Barron and Lisa Wallace. Finance chairs are Robert Collie, Jr., Jason Few and Neil Thomas. Dean Corgey is the campaign treasurer and Billy Briscoe is the campaign manager.
Houston ISD is in the process of debating a bond package which may also appear on the November ballot. HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche will be speaking on Thursday, July 12 at 7PM at the Tejano Democrats meeting at the Harris County Democratic Party HQ (1445 North Loop West).
It just hasn’t been a good two days for CM Helena Brown from District A, huh? First, it seems she has changed some of her employees’ timecards to keep with her little notion of only having part-time workers. A much lengthier expose’ is one from the Houston Press in which they talk about some mysterious guy who is calling her shots.
Whatever the expose’, the bottom line is that she is just not a good representative for District A, regardless of whomever is texting her what to say at Council meetings. But from all the activity in social media sites, it seems like folks will attempt to crucify her. Bottom line: Unless we educate folks in District A–beyond the Teapers who enjoy some of Brown’s bigoted ideas (and those of her shot-caller)–not much will happen. I mean, c’mon, who could replace Brown if it isn’t some other right-wing candidate who is just a kinder, gentler Helena Brown?
2013 presents itself as an opportunity to find a candidate to challenge the incumbent and who can capture hearts and minds of those who aren’t represented by the incumbent. But that just takes a lot of work. Rather than play “wait and see” on any coming indictment or any other expose’ on the mysterious Dale Gribble-looking guy, it is a time for action. And District A is there for the taking if folks are willing to do the work.
Anyway, I’m not very hopeful of any indictment since just about anyone can play dumb in something like this. As far as Brown’s shot-caller, I’m thinking that will continue. So, let’s think ahead and create something that is action-oriented.