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Houston

Why I’m Supporting Lizzie Pannill Fletcher For U.S. Congress

in Contemporary Politics/Miscellaneous by

The other day, while at a Lizzie Fletcher campaign event, I heard someone ask a very interesting question: “What makes Houston different?” It’s a question I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about—and the answer to that is ultimately what convinced me to support Lizzie Fletcher for Congress.  I believe, ultimately, Houston’s people distinguish it from just about any other place in the world. Our people, in many ways, are largely divided. Politically, socially, and linguistically, Houston’s community is a heterogeneous blend of cultures. Yet this is true of a lot of places. However, what sets Houston apart is how these differences enrich and strengthen our community. We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, but its effects still linger: as we continue to recover from the storm, I still feel that sense of unity—despite our differences—remains pervasive in Houston. Harvey highlighted the mindset of a Houstonian pretty directly; it’s one that treats people with dignity regardless of the color of their skin, how they vote, or what language they speak. That attitude makes Houston different.  And this election is different.

This election is about more than voting Republican or Democrat. This election is about more than signaling a referendum on President Trump. This election is about Houston, our city, and the values it wants to convey to the rest of the country—because Houston has a storied history of leading the country. Our unparalleled doctors and nurses in the medical center lead America’s medical community. Our ingenious scientists at NASA lead the world in space exploration. Our city, made up of people from all different backgrounds, leads the country in diversity. We deserve a leader who can reflect the needs and values of our city instead of those of a political party. We deserve a leader who can bring Houston’s spirit of leadership to Washington DC. We deserve a leader who is not afraid to vote to protect our children from being shot at their schools. We deserve a leader who is willing to listen to the scientists who warn a that worse version of Hurricane Harvey could hit Houston if we do not address global warming. We deserve a leader that’s for Houston.

Instead, we have a representative who shows us again and again that he stands with his party before his city. Representative Culberson voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act—choosing to stand with his party instead of the thousands of Houstonians who rely on that bill for quality healthcare. Culberson’s record raises important questions. Why does our representative vote nearly 100% of the time with a President who our district voted against? Why does the elected official of the most diverse city in America have an F from the American Civil Liberties Union but an A from the NRA? Congressman Culberson has consistently used his seat in Congress to benefit his party instead of his constituency. It’s time to elect a congresswoman that will serve Houstonnot a political party.

Lizzie Fletcher will serve Houston before her party. It’s all in her catchphrase: “We need a little more Houston in Washington D.C.”

The Problem with Housing

in Miscellaneous/Political Issues by

Houston Justice of the Peace Lincoln Goodwin sums up eviction as “If you did not pay, you cannot stay.” For minority communities, specifically the African American and Latinx communities in America, the issue of wealth disparity and systematic racism has incredible impacts on the housing, or lack thereof, that is available. In “the more than 4,500 evictions in the 77090 zip code” in Houston, TX, those evicted are “49 percent black and 30 percent Hispanic.” Eviction and poor housing are commonplace, rather than uncommon. Poor housing also isn’t simply unclean living conditions, but also numerous health code violations.  While legal protections exist to keep housing safe, only those on top of their rent are able to take advantage of these; many living in impoverished conditions do not have the luxury of paying their rent every month.

After Hurricane Harvey, tenants were told to pay rent or move out by landlords for unlivable apartments. The City of Houston allows landlords to continue to charge rent if a living area is still partially livable, and so many landlords continued to charge rent and late fees to people whose homes were devastated by flooding. Not only that, but for people who were unable to work during Harvey and thus weren’t paid, rental fees were still required. Those who couldn’t pay were evicted.

Evictions have increased steadily as rent prices soar but pay remains stagnant. In total, the number of eviction cases in Harris County, TX exceeded 68,000 for 2016. According to a MacArthur Foundation “How Housing Matters” study done in 2014 by Matthew Desmond, landlords in Milwaukee, WI evict roughly 16 households per day- and those are only the evictions done legally. Even more people are evicted through what are called “soft evictions”: the renters move out once they fall behind on rent, or landlords pressure, even threaten, tenants to leave without going through the court system.

Applicants to housing programs, especially ones run by the federal government, take years to make it to the top because the housing demand is far too great for the system. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) website even says “since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods are common.” Evictions also significantly limit future housing options, as landlords are far less likely to rent to someone with a previous eviction. It seems strange that programs in place to help people who need housing box out those who have the greatest need for help.

Eviction seeps into nearly every aspect of life, through loss of possessions and constant moving. When people are turned out onto the street or move to a family’s house, they are only able to take the bare minimum of their possessions with them, forcing them to leave the rest on the street. Evicted families are also unlikely to stay in the same area, often moving as they try to find new housing. Children then bounce from school to school, leaving homework and their education by the wayside. Eviction completely disrupts life for those affected by it, and hardens the shell of poverty around the families affected by it. For the poorest renters in America, eviction is a fact of life, a cloud that hangs over their family each month. With little monetary assistance and increasingly higher rents, lower quality housing and higher rates of eviction have become the norm, rather than the exception.

Why should we, as the St. John’s community care? We spend more on school for a year than many of the people that deal with eviction spend in two years on housing. Government agencies focus on trying to stop homelessness or help people once they ARE homeless, instead of trying to confront the root of the problem- eviction. By pushing representatives — local, regional, and national— to commit themselves to creating better housing and improving rental terms, we are able to create a better city. As one of the most privileged groups in the city, we have quite a bit of responsibility to do our part.

The St. John’s community following Hurricane Harvey mobilized to help those of our community move out and begin the first steps of putting their lives back together. What could we accomplish as a community if we put that same energy towards helping those who have been affected by eviction? While we may not be able to use our manpower to the same extent, the links below can give you a forum to let you voice be heard. Write, and let your representatives know that YOU care about evictions, and the way in which it impacts our city.

Below is a link that allows you to input your address and it gives you the representatives for your district within the Texas State government, as well as national representatives:

http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/mobile/fyi/

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
https://urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu/2017/05/22/mapping-eviction-judgments-in-houston/#.Wq6mK62ZNAZ
https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/After-Harvey-Houston-Landlords-Force-Tenants-to-Pay-Rent-or-Face-Eviction-20170905-0008.html
https://www.chron.com/news/houston-weather/hurricaneharvey/article/Harvey-evacuees-being-evicted-from-still-flooded-12172011.php

Mayor Turner’s Speech

in Podcasts by

Mayor Turner’s Speech to St. John’s Students

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
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