Category Archives: Houston

Mayor Turner Takes Chron to Task On Affordable Housing Debate

Across the United States, election season is coming to a fever pitch.  But one year ago, Houstonians were already preparing for a crucial series of elections which would shape the future of the city, region and beyond.  Most of the debate last year was around the defeated Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, with few other issues able to take center stage.

But even if less discussed than the tough fight over HERO, last year’s election was a critical in determining the city’s direction over one of our most difficult challenges… the rapid decrease of affordable housing.  In the next few years, will Houston still be a place where it is affordable to live?  Or will we continue to price out our citizens?

In the past few weeks, that set of challenges has landed squarely on City Council’s doorstep.  Thankfully for us, it appears that Houston made the right choice for Mayor last November.  After the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board lambasted Mayor Turner’s decision to reject a new housing development, he took the opportunity to inject some much-needed perspective in a rebuttal.  You really must read the whole post, but here is just a portion…

The “silver bullet” to eliminating systemic poverty is not moving families from areas that have been overlooked and underserved. Rather, the answer is to invest in these neighborhoods with quality affordable and mixed income housing, good schools, retail and economic development, parks and green space, transit options, and job and business opportunities. Far too often people who live outside high-poverty areas believe that the answer to eliminating poverty or improving school test scores is to close neighborhood schools and move these low-income families across town. That suggestion does not require any accountability from institutions to improve these neighborhoods and schools.

I have no problem with people disagreeing with my decisions – that comes with the job. I do, however, have a big problem with an institution that does not reflect the diversity of this city publishing a lecture on race and class that does not elevate all children, regardless of where they live. I know the people and their dreams because I was born and raised in such a community, where I still live. My dreams came true because my parents, neighborhood pastor and teachers believed in me. I choose to still live there today because it is my way of living by example for the youngsters in my neighborhood.

In an era where inequality is growing far faster than economic prosperity, and where the media often serves as our only line of defense against special interests, Mayor Sylvester Turner’s words here are an inspiration to millions of Houstonians, and those across our country.  What he says here is absolutely true… we will never solve our communities housing crisis, or the whole of issues that poverty and inequality catalyze by abandoning those communities for “somewhere else”.  It didn’t work with the first waves of so-called “white flight” in the mid 20th century, and it won’t work during the gentrification era of today. Every American deserves access to a safe neighborhood, work opportunity, living wages and affordable housing.  A big thanks to Mayor Tuner for reminding this city of that most basic American Dream.

Just one year ago, Houstonians had a big decision to make in choosing our next Mayor.  We definitely made the right choice with Sylvester Tuner.

Texoblogosphere: Week of August 8th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is feeling the Olympic spirit as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is pleased by the changes to voter ID requirements that were agreed to last week.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme, like the US Hispanic Congressional Caucus, is disgusted with the CEO of IBC bank doing business in South Texas while supporting Donald Trump.

Taking into account both real and hypothetical options, SocraticGadfly uses ranked choice voting to explain how he would vote, or like to vote, in this year’s presidential election.

The Green Party‘s presidential nominating convention in Houston kept PDiddie at Brains and Eggs busy most of the week. There’s also a CNN town hall scheduled for next week for the Jill Stein-Ajamu Baraka ticket.

Neil at All People Have Value walked on Houston’s fabulous Airline. Dr. with a sign regarding the need for respect for all people. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Pamela Coloff‘s 2006 story on the UT Tower shooting received a lot of attention on the 50th anniversary of that horrible day.

Better Texas Blog explains how Texas can support kinship caregivers.

Eileen Smith keeps trying to make sense of Donald Trump.

Dan Wallach contemplates election security as national security.

The Texas Living Waters Project argues that desalination could harm Texas’ bays.

Juanita is seeking support for Glen Maxey’s ballot by mail program.

The TSTA Blog sees through the latest school finance “reform” idea.

Last week the 2016 Summer Olympics commenced in Rio, and so far it has been a banner games for Team USA.  Texas Leftist wishes our amazing Texas athletes and all of Team USA good luck and a great competition in Rio.  The Dallas Morning News has a great interactive page tracking Texas athletes and what events for which they compete by day.  Hope y’all bring home the gold!!

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The Green Party Brings Its Mission to Houston

Even as it continues to urbanize and become increasingly diverse, it’s doubtful that anyone familiar with American politics considers Texas to be a harbinger of Progressivism.  Thanks to many factors like voter suppression and mis-education, the Lone Star state is expected to once again skew Conservative for the upcoming election.

Though the constraints of America’s often challenging two-party system would want voters to think otherwise, the terms “Progressive” and “Conservative” do not belong to exclusively to Democrats or Republicans.  In fact 2016’s two major party candidates are causing many American voters to look outside of the traditional “big tent” status quo.

This week, a major player in a Progressive politics is taking over Houston, as Mihir Zaveri of the Houston Chronicle reports…

The odds seem long for the Green Party of the United States. In a presidential election, it never has won more than 2.7 percent of the popular vote.

Right now, its presumptive candidate is slated to be on the ballot in only two dozen states.

Still, members say the November election could provide a unique opportunity for the progressive party, now in its fourth decade, to capture voters who will not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump.

That will be one of the central themes as the Green Party kicks off its three-day national convention Thursday at the University of Houston, where delegates are expected for the second straight election cycle to nominate Jill Stein, a Lexington, Mass., physician, author and environmental advocate, for president.

“I think we’re trying to take advantage of something this year,” said party spokesman Scott McLarty. “That is the widespread realization by a lot of people, among non-voters, among independents, and, interestingly this year, among a lot of Democrats and Republicans, that the two-party status quo is failing us.”

It’s been something of a ‘Powerhouse’ Political year for the University of Houston, whom not only welcomes the Green Party this week, but also played host to a Republican Debate earlier this year.

Spoiler Alert:  at this point it is unlikely that Dr. Jill Stein, or her running mate Ajamu Baraka will win this years election.  At present, they have reached the General Election ballot in 24 states and the District of Columbia.  But that situation in the Presidential race doesn’t discount the real successes that its membership has garnered elsewhere.   The party currently has 134 elected officials serving in 15 states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and yes, Texas.

Per the schedule of events, convention activities begin today August 4th, with the highlights of Keynote speaker Dr. Cornel West, the roll call of states, and the official Presidential Candidate nomination and acceptance all slated for August 6th.  There’s even a special welcome for Bernie Sanders supporters.

Will the Green Party’s mission be advanced by their time in Houston?  At this point it is uncertain.  But Texas Leftist plans to find out.  Look for more Green Party Convention coverage right here.

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Texoblogosphere: Week of August 1st

The Texas Progressive Alliance had no trouble hearing what Ghazala Khan had to say as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff wrote about the latest voting rights lawsuit in the state of Texas.

“The Daily Jackass”, a new series beginning at PDiddie’s Brains and Eggs, spotlights the unhinged, unsubstantiated rants of hard-boiled Democrats who hold something hostile against Jill Stein and the Green Party. The fist Jackass featured is Chris Hooks at the Texas Observer.

SocraticGadfly, after defending Donald Trump from conspiratorial accusations of being a Manchurian Candidate, eventually fesses up to being a Manchurian Blogger.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme says kudos to McAllen for policing their police force. Power requires responsibility and accountability.

Neil at All People Have Value noted that the NFL keeps on lying about how football causes concussions at the youth football level. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Brantley Hightower considers the evolution of Whataburger’s architecture.

The Bloggess explains how Pokemon Go helps her with her anxiety and agoraphobia.

Eileen Smith makes a triumphant return to blogging.

Paradise In Hell is excited by recent archaeological finds at the Alamo.

Anna Dragsbaek objects to “conscientious” vaccine exemptions.

Taking cues from The Bloggess, this week’s featured photo delves into the worldwide craze of 2016… Pokemon GO.  As the website Visit Houston Texas proudly proclaims on their Pokemon GO Guide, the city is ripe with a plethora of little monsters in every direction.  The ones pictured are in two of the Montrose area’s most treasured destinations… the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel.  I’ve also heard rumors of some Squirtles in the area, but for this player, they’ve yet to pan out.

Pokemon Go Houston

Texoblogosphere: Week of June 20th

The Texas Progressive Alliance looks forward to a day when it never has to mourn the victims of another mass shooting again as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the kuff sets a couple of hopefully attainable goals for Texas Democrats in 2016.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos has had it with political inaction after yet one more tragic mass shooting. Enough is enough. The carnage has got to stop. Fire the cowards who enable gun slaughter. When Political Cowardice is Lethal.

Socratic Gadfly reads Sanders’ call for election reforms and wishes he had real reform that included third parties.

The Texas Democratic Convention was held in San Antonio this past weekend, and by all accounts was underwhelming, as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs predicted.

eil at All People Have Value took his efforts to the streets to promote the value of everyday life to the corner of Cesar Chavez and Harrisburg in Houston. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Diana Wray recaps Dan Patrick’s very bad day on Twitter following the Orlando massacre.

The TSTA blog calls for educators to unite against Donald Trump.

Ben Becker has some questions for TEA Commissioner Mike Morath about the STAAR test.

Alamo Heights ISD Superintendent Kevin Brown and several of his colleagues warn that we can no longer fool ourselves into believing that just because many students seem to do well and graduate prepared for college and career, that we can sustain those results over time.

Scott Braddock peeks behind the curtain at the handful of rich radicals who were trying to buy this year’s legislative elections.

Nancy Sims mourns the tragedy in Orlando and asks what we all will do about it.

Kris Banks asserts that gun safety is an LGBT issue.

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‘Shared Sacrifice’: Houston City Council Passes Budget

If a budget is truly a statement of beliefs, then the City of Houston has just learned a lot about its new Chief Executive.

Delivering on a promise made just a months earlier, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has shepherded a 2016 municipal budget through City Council, and its been done in what appears to be record time.  The goal was to send a strong message to citizens, the business community and credit agencies that Houston is ‘taking care of business’.  After the difficulties of last year’s election with the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, this message is definitely needed.

Here’s more on the news from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle

Mayor Sylvester Turner achieved his goal of securing unanimous passage of his first general fund budget Wednesday morning, a month ahead of the typical schedule and after an unusually brief and uncontentious discussion of council members’ proposed changes.

The $2.3 billion general fund budget, which pays for most basic city services with revenues from taxes and fees, represents only the second budget cut for Houston in two decades. The first came after the 2008 nationwide financial crisis.

“It’s not my budget, it’s our budget,” Turner told City Council. “There are fewer than 20 amendments today, which I think speaks to the collaborative nature of the partnership we have. I want to thank you for the trust you’ve placed in me.”

Formerly a long and arduous process under previous administrations, the City Council’s annual budget meeting even ended in time for lunch.  For comparison, last year’s budget meeting (fueled by in part election year politics) took about 14 hours.

But just because the work was fast doesn’t mean it was easy.  If the budget is truly a set of beliefs, then it is clear Mayor Sylvester Turner believes in the principle of shared sacrifice.  Every area of city services will experience fun reductions, including City Council offices and the Mayor’s administration.  There are also approximately 40 planned layoffs, attrition and cuts to other positions.  The resultant savings of all of this difficulty?  An estimated $82 million.

Thankfully for Houstonians, these cuts are not the end of the story.  As promised, Mayor Turner and city leaders have also been working overtime to find creative solutions for the city’s needs.  Infrastructure investment will continue thanks to unused funds from METRO which will now be allocated for district street repairs.  In the wake of devastating floods which could have easily derailed any budget plan, the Mayor created the Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund to help create resources for those affected.   Turner has even went further than ever before to engage and connect the business community to Houston’s greatest resource through the Hire Houston Youth program.   All this has been accomplished with less than 6 months in office for the new administration.

Let’s hope this spirit of cooperation and good governance can continue.  If so, Houston will get through the lean times, and hopefully have great things ahead.

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As Off The Kuff points out, this truly was “an easy budget” compared to next year.  Turner’s next great task lies in trying to solve the city’s pension woes.

Houston’s “Historic Flood” Plan… Or Lack Thereof

For many residents of Greater Houston, especially those still caught in the throes of disaster, the April 18th are likely still a very sensitive subject.  Across wide swaths of the region, residents are enduring the terrible headaches of ripping up flooring, towing cars, trashing molded furniture, rewiring electrical systems and waiting for insurance companies to call. And those are the most fortunate. For the poorest citizens, the historic floods from this week have left many homeless, hungry and devastated.

But at some point, we must begin to question how and why such devastation can befall the region.  If “historic flooding” can occur twice in less than a year, just how historic is it?  According to Jon Erdman of The Weather Channel, the answer to these questions are more obvious than many Houstonians would like to admit…

 

If you’re unlucky, you may have dealt with major flooding perhaps once or twice in your life. But Houstonians, even transplants who have only spent a few years in southeast Texas, likely have experienced flooding multiple times —sometimes in the same year.

One could make a strong argument that Houston is the nation’s flash flood capital.

According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, there were 96 days with at least one report of flooding or flash flooding in Harris County from 1996 through 2015. This equates to an average of 4-5 days of flooding each year over that time period.

Of course, not all of these flood events are as severe as April 2016, Memorial Day 2015, or Allison in 2001. The fact that flooding happens with such regularity most years in an area just slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island is quite impressive.

Including the April 2016 flood, there have been at least 26 events that flooded homes in the Houston metro area since the mid 1970s, according to Houston-based Weather Research Center (WRC) and National Weather Service records. WRC documented area floods, some related to tropical cyclones, back to 1837, the year after the city was founded.

These events have happened every time of the year, even in late fall and winter.

Apart from the prodigious rainfall from tropical cyclones and their remnants, thunderstorms and thunderstorm clusters tend to slow and stall near the Gulf Coast, especially from late spring through early fall.

In case anyone was in doubt, the data is clear.  Floods will happen across Houston region and Southeast Texas.  These “historic events” are not a matter of if, but when.

Realizing this as fact also means accepting that we cannot stop floods, but we must be prepared for them.  So there’s the problem.  But what, if anything can Houston actually do about it?  Here are a few suggestions…

Close roads, save lives.  As much of a tragedy as flooded homes and businesses create, they are not the predominant cause of death in these flood events.  The far more dangerous situations occur when drivers get caught on flooded roads.  But as Harris County Judge Ed Emmett knows, these deaths are preventable.  Officials know which roads are most likely to flood in a significant rain event, because they are virtually the same ones that have flooded every time.  Closing these roads would save lives.  It’s also important to increase awareness for residents of just how Houston’s flood prevention system works.  The central to this system in large flood event?? ROADS.  Once the bayous and creeks fill up, the next place which water collects in Houston are the roads themselves.  Ever wondered why sections of all major Houston freeways are trenches?  It’s because they are meant to fill with water in a flood event.

Stop building “out” and start building smart.  Some of these changes are already occurring in parts of Houston as a result of reaching critical density, but protecting this region from flooding means a full recognition that we cannot continue to build new developments in areas designated as part of the primary flood plain. Of course, such radical change isn’t really possible without more cohesive regulation (yes I said it… ZONING).  But for those that are already in a flood plain, it’s time to seek some smart building strategies… flood gates, raising home and business levels, and massive flood protection work like Project Brays must become one of the region’s top priorities.  It would take a massive effort and lots of coordination between all levels of the public and private sector, but it can be done. Case in point? The Texas Medical Center.

Building on the example of the TMC’s innovative flood alert and prevention system, we know that mitigating flood damage in the area is possible. The only question that remains… Can we find the will to do work?

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