Tag Archives: Mayor Parker

Mayor Signs Executive Order to Expand Access to Information for Diverse Communities

I got this in the inbox today and I must say that this will do a lot to make services more accessible to Houston’s diverse communities, especially in my part of town, where I’m pretty sure that those who speak what will be the five targeted languages live in the four-block area around my condo complex.

Here’s the Mayor’s plan (emphasis mine):

Houston Mayor Annise Parker today signed an Executive Order (EO) establishing a policy to improve the delivery of services to Houston’s diverse population.   EO No. 1-17 addresses the language barriers that many Houston residents face in accessing essential public information and services in the areas of public safety, health services and economic development.

“Whether it is to help plan for a hurricane or ways to reduce the possibility of becoming a crime victim, all Houstonians should have access to vital information that the City provides,” said Mayor Parker.  “This executive order will bridge the access gap by making it easier for residents with limited English proficiency to obtain essential public information and services.”

Over the next 60 days, all departments that provide essential services directly to the public will designate a language access coordinator charged with overseeing the development of a language access implementation plan.  City departments are to complete their respective implementation plans within six months.  The Office of International Communities (OIC), a division of the Department of Neighborhoods, will oversee and coordinate the planning process.

The language access order calls for the translation of essential public information into five languages other than English for which there is the greatest need among Houston residents.  OIC will conduct a data-driven language needs assessment, working closely with City departments, international community leaders and stakeholders and university-based experts to identify the five languages that will be adopted into the plan.  OIC will assist city departments in the provision of language access services to the public. 

The language access executive order is aligned with Mayor Parker’s commitment to strengthening the city’s economy and improving the quality of life for all Houstonians.

“We are the most diverse city in the country,” said Parker.  “That means we are a community of many languages.  This executive order challenges us to better serve our constituency, our global business community and visitors.  It’s a step toward making Houston one of the most inclusive cities in the world.”

For more information, contact OIC at 832-393-0855 or visit www.houstontx.gov/oic.

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Kuff Looks at COH Races

Thanks to Kuff for taking a look at City of Houston races that will be upon us before we know it. The Summer campaign season will hopefully arrive soon and we’ll all get to talk more on the back-and-forth between campaigns.  That said, I think Kuff’s take deserves some commentary on a per-race basis from my end, since he did all that work.

MAYOR

Other than seeing signs and signs of Facebook activity from Ben Hall and Eric Dick, not much else has caught my eye. There’s no doubt that Mayor Annise Parker has an edge provided by incumbency, so, the recent positive news items in the form of “Top” whatever lists and “best city” articles continually point to her mayoral tenure. Finally, there’s no doubt that we also look to our leaders for a sense of comfort and hope during tragedies, and Mayor Parker and her administration have provided this since the Southwest Inn tragedy, in my opinion.

At this point, any well-funded opponent should have already been on the airwaves (regular and virtual) introducing themselves to Houston. Simply relying on, as Kuff mentions, the pincer strategy, will not be enough to generate excitement for kicking out an incumbent. Finally, while Kuff mentions the parody Hall twitter, there’s also a parody Hall for Latinos twitter, whose tagline is:  “No se porque estoy corriendo para alcalde. Tambien, porque mis empleados no registraban esta cuenta?” or “I don’t know why I’m running for Mayor. Also, why my employees didn’t register this account.”

So, at least us Twitterers (Twitteritos in Spanish) will have fun with that one.

DISTRICTS

The only one I’ve given some attention is District I, and only because it has a few good candidates. Sure, there’s been controversy along the way, but for the most part, it’s all about the campaigns working away at fundraising and pressing the flesh. The biggest obstacle to winning, other than a possible run-off, will be lack of voter excitement.

I’m hoping District J is unopposed so I can keep Mike Laster without worries. As diverse as District J is, so are the issues that affect the various areas of the district. I’m glad that Harwin is finally getting the concrete and pipes it deserves, but I do hope more of my own neighborhood’s streets get some paving/flooding/ponding issues taken care of in the future (cough-Marinette-cough- Clarewood-cough-Bellerive).

AT-LARGE 3

More than likely, this will be the most interesting of the at-large races. There are at least three candidates  who have caught my eye:  Jenifer Rene Pool, Roland Chavez, and Rogene Gee Calvert. Others who have signed up are mostly bad, but these mentioned have some sort of base from which to begin; not to mention real campaigns. I supported Pool in her 2011 run for At-Large 2, and she showed up to the 2013 Kingwood Area Democrats’ brunch which I emceed, so, that’s points for her, thus far, in 2013.

HCC District I

This will be an interesting one, too, given that there are two progressive candidates trying to unseat a long-time incumbent, Yolanda Navarro Flores. Community activist Kevin J. Hoffman returns for another try after coming close in 2007, as well as Teacher’s Union leader Zeph Capo. The difference this time around is that what was once a Latino opportunity district has become a lot more iffy for a Latino to win. During the recent redistricting of 2011, a good bunch of Latino-voter heavy precincts which had gone heavily for Navarro Flores in the past were switched out with a swath of precincts in Gulfton, which, although Latino-heavy, do not necessarily have much of a voter participation rate. While some of us were arguing over Commissioner’s seats and a lack of a Congressional seat, Latino voting strength in this district got a bit diluted. Oops.

Houston ISD District VII

And speaking of messed-up districts, I keep hearing of an opponent for incumbent Harvin Moore in my district, but nothing official. My district almost seems to be part of some “cracking” expedition because somehow it has a nice swath of minority-heavy SW Houston (my part of Sharpstown and Gulfton) stuck in a district which includes Memorial and River Oaks. Meanwhile, other minority-heavy parts of SW Houston (Bellaire and the southern part of Sharpstown) are placed in a couple other districts. Another, “oops,” I guess. Anyway, I hope there’s a viable and hard-working opponent that I can support.

Those are the ones that have the eyes of DosCentavos on them. By all means, check out Kuff’s post on the rest. I do agree with Kuff that we are looking forward to the first campaign finance reports to be published. They always give a better snapshot of things.

Parker Announces Hackathon, Open Data Initative; Gonzalez to Co-Chair

This is definitely an interesting bit of news that just got into my inbox. I know Council Member Ed Gonzalez is excited about co-chairing the event, which, in my opinion, is all about innovation and a step toward a more accessible city government.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker today announced the City of Houston will host a 24-hour “Open Innovation Hackathon” on May 17-18 at the Houston Technology Center and at Start Houston. A hackathon is a day-long event in which software developers, designers, and data analysts collaborate intensively on data and software projects. Over 24 hours, Houston’s “civic hackers” will pitch ideas, form teams and develop innovative new websites, mobile apps, and insightful data visualizations to address community and city problems.

“Houston leads the nation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) job growth, and we want to leverage local talent to produce outcomes,” Mayor Parker said.  “Everyone involved has worked very hard to define high-impact projects that solve our problems and that can be completed in 24 hours.  We want to use the applications and insights that are created at the Hackathon as soon as possible.”

Mayor Parker also announced the launch of the City’s Open Data Initiative, a program that puts public city data in the hands of citizens. The open data originating from dozens of city systems will be critical for the civic hackers in using technology to build tech solutions that solve city problems.

“We’re really excited that Houston is taking this historic step toward liberating data,” said City Council Member and Hackathon Co-Chair Ed Gonzalez.  “Hackathons are a great way to engage citizens and start a dialogue between City officials and our talented analytical and software developer communities.”

Preparation for this initiative and the Hackathon involves publishing data on a publicly accessible website.  Over the last three months, the City has identified more than 25 “weekend projects” that a team of software developers, designers, analysts and others could reasonably complete, ranging from a Houston bike app that displays all bike lanes, trails, B-Cycle kiosks, and bike shops to dashboards that show citizens how the city is performing and where it can do better.

While Houston’s Open Data Initiative is modeled after programs in New York, San Francisco, Austin, and Palo Alto, Houstonwill also include a STEM outreach component designed to teach children across the city about career options.  “Sometimes, just talking to a successful software developer can inspire a child to pursue a career in technology,” Council Member Gonzalez said.

The city is expecting strong turnout from citizens, corporate participants, and members of Houston’s startup communities.

Further details about the City of Houston Open Innovation Hackathon, as well as registration information, is available at: http://www.houstonhackathon.com/.

Gwendolyn Zepeda Selected as Houston’s Poet Laureate

Finding this in the inbox perked up my day today. Houston, we have a Poet Laureate! I agree with the Mayor that there is a lot of talent in Houston from which to choose, including a few of my friends. Congrats to Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Mayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson today announced that award-winning author and poet Gwendolyn Zepeda has been selected as Houston’s first Poet Laureate.  Zepeda will represent the city by creating excitement about poetry through outreach, programs, teaching, and written work. She will receive an annual honorarium of $5,000 through the City’s Initiative Grant Program of the Houston Arts Alliance and serve a term of two years, April 2013 through April 2015.

Zepeda is a Houston-based author who is best-known for her works of fiction, including “Growing Up Tamales,” “Houston, We Have a Problema,” “Lone Star Legend,” and “Better with You Here.” However, Zepeda is also an accomplished poet. She has several chapbooks and published poems to her name, with a book of poetry due out in 2014: “It’s Zepeda Not Zapata.”

As Poet Laureate, Zepeda is committed to developing a community outreach project for Houston’s many diverse neighborhoods, as well as to local businesses. She will conduct workshops in which she will share the art and love of poetry and participate in community based poetry programs. Zepeda will also provide content to the Houston Poet Laureate Program web page and publish poetry to the Website by the community members attending her workshops.

“Selecting Houston’s first Poet Laureate was difficult due to the talent among the nominees,” said Mayor Parker.  “We were searching for a people’s poet rather than a poet’s poet – someone who can excite people about poetry.  I believe we have found just that in Gwendolyn Zepeda and her approach.”

“We are delighted about the selection of our city’s first poet laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda, and we look forward to working with her over the next two years,” said Dr. Lawson.  “Gwen’s poetry is well-crafted, engaging,  and reflects her knowledge of Houston.  We are excited about the energy she brings to this position and her plans to make poetry a community engagement activity, involving Houstonians from all walks of life.”

“It’s an incredible honor to be chosen as Houston’s first poet laureate,” said Zepeda. “I’m excited about sharing poetry with our diverse communities and, more importantly, hearing what my fellow Houstonians will express through their own writing.”

Bookish at The Chron has more, including a sample of Zepeda’s work.

It should also be mentioned that the selection committee included some heavy hitters in the literary and education world.

The Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee assisted in the nomination and selection process: Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS), Janet Lowery, Professor and Cullen Chair of English and Creative Writing in the University of St. Thomas Department of English, Rich Levy, Executive Director of Inprint, Fran Sanders, Founder of Public Poetry, Joseph Campana, Assistant Professor in the Rice University Department of English, Chitra Divakaruni, Professor in the University of Houston Department of English, Shannon Buggs, Director of Communication in the University of Houston College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Diem Jones, Director of Grants at the Houston Arts Alliance, Elizabeth Brown Guillory, Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Associate Provost/Associate Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs at Texas Southern University. Jennifer Schwartz, Program Manager of the Houston Public Library, and Minnette Boesel, Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs of the City of Houston, are the non-voting members of the Committee.

Mayor Wants to Decriminalize Foraging Thru Trash

Mayor Parker has decided to take on a pretty messed-up ordinance that makes it a crime to forage through trash bins.

The mayor said she was surprised to hear the city had an ordinance forbidding people from digging through trash cans.

“And I had to say, really?” Parker said. “There’s an ordinance about that? Give me a break.”

So her administration placed on the city council agenda a proposal to simply repeal the ordinance, which would have legalized digging through trash receptacles throughout the city.

However, over the weekend, the mayor’s staff said she decided the ordinance should continue to outlaw rummaging through recycling bins. After all, the city makes money off recyclables.

Then on Monday morning, after KHOU 11 News asked whether the proposal would basically legalize digging through trash placed outside people’s homes, Parker said she would consider that exception, too.

Within a short time, the mayor’s staff said she merely wanted to legalize digging through public trash receptacles on public property.

I understand the change from people’s homes, since those are private properties. But perhaps HPD’s Chief could make a suggestion to those on patrol to take it easy on those types of complaints. Perhaps do a nicer thing and utilize the homeless outreach team. Because, as the Mayor recently spoke about HPD’s HOT team:

“Why do we need police officers doing this? Because a lot of times police officers are the first ones called,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “There’s an angry property owner downtown, who says, ‘Somebody is sleeping on my front steps. Do something!’ or ‘Someone is urinating on my building. Do something!’ These people don’t belong in jail, they need assistance.”

Anyway…

The proposal is scheduled for a city council vote on Wednesday, but a spokesperson for the mayor indicates it may be either amended or delayed.

Let’s keep an eye on who would tag this.

Thoughts on Viernes…03082013

Mayoral Update

Well, Annise Parker earned the nod from the local cops, as well as women’s political powerhouse Annie’s Emily’s List. Annie’s Emily’s List is having a good run, having helped elect and re-elect a whole bunch of great women to the Texas House and Texas Senate nationally, so, I think this one is huge.

The opposition kicked off their campaign this week, and, if I understand correctly, he wants to cut taxes and fees, pump money into corporations (and did I understand “international” ones?), and make Houston “grander.” Well, a lot of that takes revenue, doesn’t it? I’m sure we’ll hear more about this as he rolls out his campaign.

I tend to agree with my friend Mustafa Tameez that there isn’t a case to be made to change Mayors since things haven’t been bad, if anything, I’ve enjoyed Houston a lot more since moving into the big city. I can’t say I’ve agreed with everything Mayor Parker has done, but not to the point where I’d click another name on the ballot.

We’ll see where voters gravitate during this long season.

Editor’s Note:  When you have your phone buzzing, your FB messenger popping, and people bothering you with other things, you tend to get a bit fuzzy, so apologies for the error above. 

Luis Gutierrez is coming to town

The Illinois Congressman of Puerto Rican descent has been more vocal than most, if not all, of our Chicano members of Congress on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, and whenever he comes to town, he really revs up a crowd. This time around, though, things seem a bit different with both sides in some kind of discussion. Unfortunately, the human rights factor of the issue continues to take a back seat to deportation/enforcement measures, cheap labor exploitation programs, and the usual vitriol about immigrants from some of the Republicans who refuse to budge. Ultimately, without people moving on the issue, members of Congress cannot do much. They need to hear from the people, and that’s what I’m thinking this event does–rev up the people, get them calling/writing Congress, and keep the message moving. Find out about the event here.

Congressmembers Al Green and Luis Gutierrez

Saturday, March 9 at Noon

Bayou City Events Center * 9401 Knight Road, Houston, TX 77045

MUSIC BREAK ~ Los Palominos – Siente El Amor (Urbana Records)

DCReview

Houston Seeks First Poet Laureate

This came in through the Inbox. What a novel idea–a poet laureate for the City of Houston. Talk about a great way of showcasing literary talent. Applications are due March 8. Here’s the memo from our friends at the Houston Public Library:

Houston (February 20, 2013) – Mayor Annise D. Parker and Houston Public Library (HPL) Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson announce that Houston is seeking its first Poet Laureate.  The Houston Poet Laureate Program (HPLP) celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who will represent the city by creating excitement about poetry through outreach, programs, teaching, and written work. The Houston Poet Laureate will receive an annual honorarium of $5,000 through the City’s Initiative Grant Program of the Houston Arts Alliance and serve a term of two years, April 2013 through April 2015.

Submissions are welcome from persons nominating a poet for the position of Houston Poet Laureate or from individual poets who are seeking the position. The HPLP application can be found at http://www.houstonlibrary.org/upload/13-houston-laureate-form.pdf, which includes information about all materials required and term requirements. Completed application packets should be submitted either as Microsoft Word or PDF documents via e-mail to jennifer.schwartz@houstontx.gov by 11:59 PM (CST) on Friday, March 8, 2013. (Note: All nominations submitted must be complete and fulfill all requirements. Incomplete nomination packets will not be considered.)

The HPLP is provided in partnership between the City of Houston, HPL, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA).

Houston’s diversity is its strength, and we want to tap the resource of talented individuals in our city to find our first Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Parker. “As a fellow poet, I hope everyone joins in the competition and help Houston’s reputation grow as a fine arts city.”

At the Houston Public Library we have long recognized poetry programming as a valuable and essential literary tool for the cultural enrichment of the community,” said Dr. Lawson. “We are very excited about joining the Mayor and the Poet Laureate committee to select Houston’s first Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate will serve an important role, representing the city through the written word. The Poet Laureate will help make poetry more accessible and engaging for everyone by creating original works and events about and for Houstonians.”

Mayor Parker, along with Director Lawson, has appointed the Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee, a group of acknowledged and diverse poets, scholars, and literary experts, to assist in the nomination and selection process: Robin Reagler, Executive Director of Writers in the Schools (WITS), Janet Lowery, Professor and Cullen Chair of English and Creative Writing in the University of St. Thomas Department of English, Rich Levy, Executive Director of Inprint, Joseph Campana, Assistant Professor in the Rice University Department of English, Chitra Divakaruni, Professor in the University of Houston Department of English, Shannon Buggs, Director of Communication in the University of Houston College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Diem Jones, Director of Grants at the Houston Arts Alliance, Elizabeth Brown Guillory, Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Associate Provost/Associate Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs at Texas Southern University. Jennifer Schwartz, Program Manager of the Houston Public Library, and Minnette Boesel, Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs of the City of Houston, are the non-voting members of the Committee.

The Houston Poet Laureate Selection Committee will review all applications. Finalists will be interviewed in person by the committee in late March and early April. The names of the finalists will be forwarded to Mayor Parker and Dr. Lawson for their approval and final selection. The Poet Laureate will be announced in April 2013 to coincide with National Poetry Month.

Houston Fights Crime Better Than Most Major Cities

Thanks to the Office of Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez for the heads-up. Click the image to enlarge. This info is quite encouraging.

Houston Crime

HFD’s Holiday Safety Tips

Thanks to the Houston Fire Department for posting their Holiday Safety Tips (and thanks to Mayor Parker for the heads up). Since it’s chilly these next couple of nights, here are some important ones.

Fireplace

  • Use a screen at the base of the fireplace. Use a flash arrester at the top of the chimney to keep the sparks off the roof.
  • Never use any paper or flammable liquids in the fireplace.
  • To set the fire: Make sure the damper is open before building the fire. Use aged wood and an approved product designed for igniting a fire in a fireplace. OR use a gas fired log lighter that has been installed by a licensed plumber and purchased through a reliable company. Read labels to make sure you are using the correct item for that designed purpose.

Portable Space HeatersSpace Heater Graphic

  • Do not use extension cords on electrical heaters.
  • Make sure wires are in good condition.
  • When purchasing a heater, check to see if it has a safety switch (when it falls over, it will cut off).

Gas Heaters

  • Make sure they have copper flexible threaded connectors rather than rubber hose (American Gas Association Seal).
  • Use soapy water to check for leaks. Never use a match.
  • You will want a blue flame to make sure it is not putting off too much carbon monoxide. A blue flame produces less hazardous carbon monoxide.
  • Make sure you have enough ventilation for the recommended size room and heater.
  • Keep heater away from anything combustible (at least 3 feet) and secure,so as not to tip over.