Tag Archives: Mayor Annise Parker

Another Delay for Payday Lending Regs

Looks like a payday lending ordinance was delayed for a week at Houston City Council by Andrew Burks and Jerry Davis today after they tagged it, as reported by Laurie Johnson at KUHF today. The bigger story is how it might be tagged again next week because CM James Rodriguez was absent this week.

Mustafa Tameez is a political analyst who knows the ins and outs of City Hall.

“When something comes for a vote on city council, councilmembers have the right to tag that and what that means is that the vote is delayed for a week while they get further information. If a councilmember is not present during that tag, they have a right to tag it the following week.”

And that’s where things get interesting.

This is probably a good time to point out that Tameez has a horse in this race: he’s a consultant for the coalition of organizations that want to pass the new regulations.

“The rumors in City Hall are that Councilmember James Rodriguez wasn’t here today because it gives him the ability to tag this next week when he’s here.”

“And what does that mean?”

“Well, next week’s meeting is the last meeting for city council this year. And as of next year, there’ll be a whole new city council. The industry doesn’t have the votes to oppose this payday lending ordinance, and so there are rumors running rampant around city hall that this is a tactic being used. It’s a Washington D.C.-style tactic.”

Rodriguez who has been quite vocal against the ordinance had this reaction.

“It’s a councilmember’s prerogative to tag items, it always has been.

The Mayor, though, states she’ll pass it one way or another.

“He has the ability — through procedural moves — to throw it into the next calendar year. But I fully expect to have it passed in January if it doesn’t pass this calendar year.”

So, if Rodriguez delays it again next week, rather than allow an up or down vote, it won’t be up again until January 8.

Oh, to be a payday lending lobbyist at Christmas time.

Texpatriate has more.

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Mayoral Halloween Tips – 2013

This is from Mayor Parker and the folks at City of Houston:

“Halloween is a time for children of all ages to have a good time with family and friends,” said Mayor Parker. “It can also be dangerous for our young goblins, ghosts and ghouls who are excited and maybe not paying close attention to their own safety. We want trick-or-treating to be fun and safe for everyone.”

The mayor, HPD and HFD offer the following safety tips:

  • Always go in a group. Don’t let young children walk alone. For older children, make sure you know where they are going and that they are with a supervised group with a responsible adult.
  • Be cautious of strangers; never go into a stranger’s house or accept a ride from a stranger.
  • Only approach houses where the outside lights are on as a signal of welcome.
  • If you feel threatened or in danger while trick or treating you can go to any Houston fire or police station.
  • Have children wear light colored or reflective costumes and don’t let them wear masks that obstruct their vision. Face painting is safer than a mask. Add reflective tape to your child’s costume if it isn’t already reflective. Also make sure their costumes fit and won’t cause them to trip or fall. Costumes should be flame retardant. Carry a flashlight or glow stick so you can be seen.
  • Children should wait until they get home to eat candy. Parents should examine the candy for possible tampering; if it looks suspicious, is not wrapped or is loosely wrapped, get rid of it.
  • Motorists need to be extra cautious and watch out for trick-or-treaters – especially after dark.
  • Illuminate pumpkins with small flashlights or battery operated candles instead of real candles. If using candles, keep them away from curtains and combustible items, including decorations. They should not be placed along walkways where costumes might brush against them.

The HPD Juvenile Division and patrol officers have been busy this week checking the residences of registered sex offenders. Not all sex offenders are barred from contact with children, but officers are making sure that those that are meet the conditions of their parole or probation and are not giving out candy.

HFD reminds us that the end of Daylight Savings Time this weekend is a good time to make sure the battery in your smoke detector is working. There are now smoke detectors on the market with batteries that will last up to 10 years.

Podcast #2: Houston Politics with Rey and Stace

…or it could be Stace and Rey. We’ll have to do a coin-flip to see who gets top billing, but the good news is that we finally did our 2nd “weekly” podcast on Houston Politics…27 days later.

We have a podcast page here and our latest episode can be found here.

In the mix are discussions on the Wage Theft Ordinance, the latest attacks on Mayor Annise Parker, the big upcoming announcement coming from Wendy Davis and what is to come from 2014 Democrats, and a lot more. We even include some chisme and reports on events.

And to coincide with some of the stuff we mention during the Mayoral race segment, here’s the latest ad from Mayor Annise Parker.

SEIU Endorses Mayor Annise Parker

My favorite union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has endorsed Houston Mayor Annise Parker for re-election. SEIU’s membership consists of service workers, such as janitors, housekeepers, and food service workers, and is one of the fastest growing unions in America. This is a valuable endorsement for the Mayor because SEIU is known for getting out the vote, especially the Latino and African American vote.

“We are one of the most diverse cities in the nation and that makes us stronger. Mayor Parker understands this, that’s why she’s fought to build a city economy that works for everyone. When my fellow janitors and I went on strike last summer, her leadership helped bring about a resolution that is helping to build a path out poverty for thousands of Houston’s families, including my own,” said Houston janitor and SEIU Texas member Yesenia Romero.

In her first two terms, Mayor Parker advanced her mission to make Houston a great place to raise a family by supporting janitors’ efforts to raise wages, creating fair standards for employees who provide city services and holding irresponsible businesses accountable.

“I am proud to stand with Houston’s janitors, housekeeping and food service workers as we join together to make our city a better place to live for all Houstonians,” said Mayor Parker. “Working families helped lift Houston out of the recession – and together, we’re continuing to build a future for Houston’s children with more good jobs, safer neighborhoods and stronger schools. Thank you, SEIU, for your endorsement and support.”

SEIU joins over a dozen other worker’s unions in supporting Mayor Parker.

Mayor Parker Honors Five With Hispanic Heritage Award

I must admit, Mayor Parker and the board picked a stellar group.

From the inbox:

Mayor Annise Parker today announced the recipients of the 2013 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Awards, an honor that is part of the city’s observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

“These awards have become a time-honored tradition to highlight the achievements in Houston’s Hispanic community, which is growing more every year,” said Mayor Parker. “With the help of my Hispanic Advisory Board, we are proud of these Houstonians and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with pride.”

The following awards were announced for 2013:

Photo of Lifetime Achievement Awardee Lolita GuerreroLifetime Achievement: Dolores “Lolita” Guerrero

Lolita is a successful entrepreneur and life-long community servant. Her volunteer service to our city includes her work as Vice Chair of the Harris County Appraisal Review Board and as board member of the Houston Read Commission, National Census Board, Houston Grand Opera, Theater Under the Stars, Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, Houston Business Council, Houston Economic Summit and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Lolita has worked hard to advance the Hispanic community through her volunteerism with LULAC, where she was the first woman to serve as the Texas State Director, National Executive Director and president of a local LULAC chapter.

Art in the Community Awardee Macario Ramirez Art in the Community: Macario Ramirez

Macario Ramirez is proprietor of Casa Ramirez Folk Art in the Heights area. Macario is a long-time activist with an artistic flair. Macario is well known for his love of folk art and teaching others about traditions that reflect the Hispanic culture, such as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead.) He enjoys hosting events that promote Hispanic writers, artwork and social action.  At Casa Ramirez, he often draws crowds to celebrate occasions such as La Virgen de Guadalupe, Cinco de Mayo, Cruces y Simbolos de Fe, Diez y Seis de Septiembre and many more.

Community Activist: Mario MartinezCommunity Activist: Mario Martinez

Mario is a native Houstonian who grew up in the Near Northside neighborhood where he still lives and is actively making a difference for his community. His first passion is advocating for children and quality education.  Mario volunteers at Ketelsen Elementary as a translator, serving as a liaison between school administrators and parents, advocating for children, facilitating community meetings and campaigning for political action. Mario serves as vice president of Ketelsen Elementary’s PTA, secretary of Marshall Middle School’s PTO and is a member of the Davis High School Alumni. He was a major force behind the development of a SPARK Park that opened just last year in his community. He is also an active member of GO Neighborhoods, serving on the Steering Committee, Community Coordinating Team, GO Neighborhoods Grant Committee and is captain of the GO Safety Team.

Photo of Education Awardee Nicolas Kanello, Ph.D.Education: Nicolas Kanellos, Ph.D.

Dr. Kanellos has been a professor at the University of Houston since 1980. He is the founding publisher of the noted Hispanic literary journal The America Review and is also the founder of the nation’s oldest Hispanic publishing house, Arte Publico Press. Dr. Kanellos is the director of a major national research program recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage of the United States. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Kanellos to the National Council on the Humanities.  The first Brown Foundation Professor of Hispanic Studies at University of Houston, Dr. Kanellos has authored several books and articles; he has also provided invaluable research, and helped other writers get published. Dr. Kanellos is recognized for his scholarly achievements, receiving the Denali Press Award of the American Library Association; American Book Award in the Publisher/Editor category; Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature presented by the White House; as well as various fellowships.  He was also elected to the Spanish American Royal Academy of Literature, Arts and Sciences in Spain.

Photo of Youth Activist Awardee Nohemi ChavezYouth Activist: Nohemi Chavez

Nohemi Chavez graduated from Milby High School in the top three percent of her class and is currently attending Texas A&M where she is studying geology. In her spare time, Nohemi enjoys working with children, volunteering at the Children’s Museum and teaching Sunday school classes. Because of Nohemi’s environmental interests, she also makes time to help with recycling and clean-up efforts around her school. Previously, she was involved in numerous activities at Milby including student council, the National Honor Society, served as vice president of the English, Science, Spanish, and History Honor Society, and president of the National Honors Art Society.

All recipients will be honored at the Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Award Reception to be held October 9th from 5:30- 7 pm at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 1001 Bissonnet St.

Mayor Parker Joins SNAP Challenge

Unfortunately, I did not receive a press release with the results of the challenge, but no doubt this action by Mayor Parker caught my eye. Texas Leftist has more.

Parker also announced she has accepted the Houston Food Bank’s Food Stamp Challenge.

Over the weekend, Parker said she would do her best to turn down food at community events and eat only what she can buy for $4 a day — the average daily amount an individual receives under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

“One nice coffee at Starbucks will blow your SNAP budget for the day,” Parker said. In a press release, she noted 785,000 southeast Texans rely on the program to help them purchase nutritious food from local grocery stores. Only about half of the Houston area residents who are eligible for the assistance sign up, the mayor said.

Brian Greene, food bank president, said the nonprofit hosts the challenge every year. While food banks are important to reducing hunger, they contribute much less than the federal assistance program, he said.

“We’re actually the last thread of the safety net,” he said. “If you added up the contributions of all of the nation’s food banks it would be less than the SNAP appropriation to Texas.”

What this article really does is put to bed the right-wing notion that somehow nonprofits and churches, rather than tax dollars (food stamps), can take care of those in poverty. If anything, it’s an outright right-wing lie.

I commend the Mayor for doing this, although the article states its over the weekend (although the challenge is supposed to last a week) and didn’t include other challenges that regular poverty-stricken people experience. Our leaders have a stage on which to send strong messages about the realities of thousands of people–over 700,000 in the area alone–and I’m glad the Mayor tried to make a point. I just wish this wasn’t overshadowed by the back-and-forth with her opponent.

When my hard-working Dad was forced to leave his state-salaried and benefited job as a maintenance worker with the Texas Highway Department because of a disability, it was food stamps, government cheese, and a federally funded nonprofit health center that kept us afloat, and it lasted a lot longer than a weekend. The local Catholic Church wasn’t doing much to help families in need, and other churches required membership. No, it was the government which right-wingers love to hate that helped us, and continued to help my parents once I left for college.

So, since not much else what said about this, I figure I’d put out a post about it. We need to somehow get back to the realities of a huge number of Houstonians–whether they appear on a voter database or not.

Mayor Parker to Host MLK Commemoration Today [8/28 EVENT]

In case you didn’t know, Mayor Annise Parker and the City of Houston will be hosting a commemoration today of the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the March on Washington today.

The celebration will be held at the City Hall Reflecting Pool and will begin at 1:30 P.M. with a commemorative ringing of a bell at 2:0o P.M. The event is dubbed, “Let Freedom Ring.”

Mayor Annise Parker is calling on places of worship, schools and other Houston places where bells are available to join her in a local bell-ringing ceremony to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  The event will begin at 1:30 and culminate with the ringing of the bells at 2 p.m.  The date and time is a half century to the minute after Dr. King delivered his historic address and it coincides with a “Commemoration and Call to Action” being held on the National Mall in Washington D.C. today.

Parker Outlines Education Accomplishments

Back in 2009, one issue that came up in the Mayoral election was the City’s involvement in our local schools. It seems folks immediately gravitate toward issues involving Houston ISD (we are the big district, no doubt), but there are a lot more school districts within the City of Houston limits, so, any talk of a candidate for Mayor wanting to take over a school district disturbs me, but up to a point–the point being that it cannot happen and voters in suburban areas wouldn’t stand for it.  But these candidates will tell you it can happen, anyway, but they aren’t being honest. Mayor Annise Parker seems to be schooling her opponents on that fact.

In 2009, I said I would make education a priority – and today, on the first day of school in 2013, I wanted to let you know I’ve kept my promise.

Let me be clear: City government is not a school district and should not be in the business of running our schools.

Yet, strong cities cannot exist without strong schools. And that’s why I’ve worked to make sure that our city resources are helping to strengthen schools and help schoolchildren wherever appropriate.

This was definitely the smart approach to take on public education, and the bottom line, the City still affects our local school districts, but it doesn’t necessarily need to run it. Opponents can talk all they want about how it is a priority for them, but actions speak louder. And Mayor Parker, along with members of Council who support these efforts, have every reason to boast about these accomplishments.

That hard work and sacrifice is paying off:

  • Today, we’re rebuilding libraries and funding $7 million in after-school programs.
  • We’ve funded a new summer youth jobs program and restored Saturday library hours that were cut during the recession.
  • Our Safe Sidewalks program is building new sidewalks around elementary and middle schools and helping parents organize “walking school buses” to keep kids safe as they walk to school.
  • HISD is rebuilding, upgrading and/or modernizing neighborhood schools in every corner of our city – I endorsed and supported that bond measure because it will help both schools and neighborhoods.
  • We’re working with labor unions incentivize apprenticeship programs on many city-funded projects, including projects funded by last year’s successful bond referendum.
  • And we’ve stepped up our efforts to incentivize the development of workforce housing that is affordable for teachers, police officers, firefighters and middle-class Houstonians.

I’ve appointed Marc Cueva as my chief education officer and he’s doing a great job overseeing the many innovative ways that our city is working to help kids succeed.

I had originally proposed a formal partnership between the city and school districts. But since I’ve become mayor, we’re actively partnering with school districts, nonprofits and the business community to strengthen schools, help schoolchildren and prepare our youth to enter the workforce – and we’re doing all this without the additional cost and layer of bureaucracy of a formal partnership.

Granted, I’m more in support of raising taxes so that we can put this commitment on steroids; but, that said, I’m also a reasonable voter who prefers specifics, rather than just words, . The Mayor’s website provides a whole bunch of actions taken by the City during her tenure in support of public education.

As far as it being a “promise kept” by the Mayor, I would have to agree.

Mayor Parker Unveils FY14 Budget Proposal

The budget proposal seems practical, but once council members have their say, and amendments are added, we’ll see the end result. Here’s what was in my inbox:

Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled a $4.9 billion proposed total city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013.  The General Fund, or tax supported portion of the budget, is $2.2 billion. The budget does not require a tax increase and maintains focus on Parker’s five main priorities: jobs and sustainable development, public safety, infrastructure, quality of life and fiscal responsibility.

“This budget proposal builds upon the progress of the last 3.5 years,” said Mayor Parker.  “We’ve cut waste, made city departments more efficient and balanced every budget without raising taxes.  We have gone from necessary budget cutbacks and staff layoffs to sustainable economic growth.  This budget reflects sound and realistic fiscal policies necessary to fund the city services required for supporting that growth, while also allowing for investment in the future of our city.  In making those decisions about the city’s future, we will utilize the same strong fiscal management that safely guided us through the economic downturn.”

The budget will complete the restoration of services cut two years ago during the economic downturn.  It maintains full funding of the Rainy Day Fund, which was achieved in FY13, and includes funding for increased costs associated with employee pension and health benefits, as well as the pay increases mandated by the contracts with the city’s three employee unions.

Mayor Parker’s Priorities

Jobs and Sustainable Development

  • Hire Houston First will continue to play a role as the city strives to keep our tax dollars in Houston and build the local economy.  In the program’s first year of existence, more than $139 million of city business was awarded to certified firms, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs.
  • With aggressive pro-growth policies, city government has helped attract more than $2.2 billion of economic development since Mayor Parker took office in 2010.  Overall, the Houston region has generated 250,000 jobs, exported approximately $300 billion in locally-produced goods and services and issued permits for the construction of nearly 74,000 single-family homes in the last three years.  Every economic indicator points to more of the same moving forward.

Public Safety

  • Over two-thirds of the General Fund budget is devoted to public safety.
  • More than $2.2 million is included in this budget proposal to fund operations of the city’s new public safety radio project, which is improving the city’s capability to communicate with Harris County and surrounding jurisdictions when fighting crime or responding to natural disaster.
  • The budget also includes the creation of the Forensic Transition Special Fund to keep separate and account for costs related to the Houston Forensic Science LGC and its ongoing effort to establish an independent crime lab.
  • Thanks to voter approval of last fall’s bond referendum, we will continue to make progress on the removal of dangerous buildings from our neighborhoods.
  • The elimination of the DNA backlog, an FY13 priority, will be completed this fiscal year.

Infrastructure

  • For the first time ever, there is a General Fund line item of $2.5 million, representing approximately 2% of the average annual Capital Improvement Plan for Public Improvement Programs for infrastructure maintenance, renewal and replacement.  These dollars will be used for upkeep to existing city facilities, such as libraries, community centers, and neighborhood fire stations, to help avoid the deferred maintenance issues identified in the recent facilities assessment.
  • Through Rebuild Houston more than $180 million has already been invested in drainage and street improvements.  This is just the beginning of this pay-as-you-go comprehensive infrastructure modernization program that will transform our city over time.
  • FY2014 will also include additional progress on replacement of city information technology and fleet infrastructure, which has been underfunded for years.

Quality of Life

  • The number of Houston households with single-stream recycling will double in FY14 from about 100,000 to more than 200,000.  The first phase of the expansion will occur in July when approximately 35,000 households are added to the program.  About another 70,000 homes will be added during phase two later in the year.  The expansion will impact neighborhoods citywide rather than be limited to one specific area of town.
  • To ensure continued progress on improvements made in recent years and to prepare for completion of the new adoption center, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control (BARC) will see an increase in funding by approximately $693,683.
  • Major progress will be made on the Bayou Greenways initiative that will link parks and trails citywide.
  • The budget also includes funding to continue the Mayor’s initiative to solve chronic homelessness.

Fiscal Responsibility

  • As part of an ongoing commitment to financial transparency, work continues to improve management and oversight of taxpayer funds.  To this end, $676,000 has been included in the budget for enhanced financial controls and audit capabilities.  Most of this funding will go to the city’s finance department, but some is also allocated to the Office of the City Controller.
  • The budget also reports several funds that were previously categorized as non-budgeted funds.

The FY2014 – 2018 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which will be proposed shortly, complements the mayor’s proposed budget in its support of growth and investment in the city’s future by focusing on infrastructure and public safety.  In FY2012 the city conducted a facilities conditions assessment.  This assessment is driving many projects throughout the CIP that address poor facility conditions faced by both citizens and employees, including renovations of Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, fire stations, and many neighborhood libraries.

Mayor Parker Announces Restored Hours for Libraries

Well, this is good news.

After getting hit by budget cuts because of the recession, extended and Saturday hours have been restored to Houston Public Libraries. 41 HPL sites are now open on Saturdays and the Central Library will be open seven days a week.

The restored service hours are made possible by $3.1 million added to the HPL budget. A portion of the additional funding is expected in the current budget year from a General Appropriation request in April 2013, and full funding will be included in the HPL FY14 budget. These funds will be allocated to the hiring of 109 new staff members at HPL, making the restored service hours possible. The first wave of postings for these positions were added to the City of Houston website today. The restoration of service hours will take place in phases, as new staff is hired and trained, beginning April 1, 2013.

Mayor Parker cited the recovery, as well as HPLs management during the crisis, as reasons for bringing services back to where they once were. “We have emerged from those tough times and are now able to celebrate another major milestone in our recovery.  Not only are we restoring public services, we are adding staff, which means jobs for our community.”

And for your FYI:

Locations that will have restored Saturday hours are:
Carnegie Neighborhood Library
HPL Express Southwest
Lakewood Neighborhood Library
Looscan Neighborhood Library
Mancuso Neighborhood Library
Moody Neighborhood Library
Morris Frank Library, a HPL Express Location
Pleasantville Neighborhood Library
Ring Neighborhood Library
Robinson-Westchase Neighborhood Library
Shepard-Acres Homes Neighborhood Library
Smith Neighborhood Library
Stanaker Neighborhood Library
Stimley-Blue Ridge Neighborhood Library