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Only in Rick Perry's Texas and Annise Parker's Houston would it be illegal to feed the homeless while the River Oaks Country Clubs get whopping tax breaks.  As if the River Oaks Country Club needs a tax break.  

The divide between the haves and haves not has never been greater than it is today. Of course one is not surprised by Rick Perry and the Republican Party's embrace of extreme austerity measures and downright cruelty to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. But one would hardly expect the same from a so-called progressive Democrat in the fourth largest city in the U.S.

Last year Mayor Parker, as did mayors across the U.S., cracked down on folks from Occupy Wall St. groups.  Different cities had different approaches. In Houston, the occupiers fed homeless people in downtown parks.  Local business owners apparently did not like this practice.  

Cowering under pressure from city fat cats the Houston City Council passed an ordinance that imposed regulations on feeding the homeless.  In short, the regulations made it next to impossible for the occupy people to continue to feed Houston's hungry homeless.

The city also made it illegal for anyone to remove the contents of a city trash can.  In other words a homeless person cannot look for food in or remove it from the city's trash.  And so last week the Houston police ticketed a nine year Navy veteran, who has fallen on hard times, for trying to feed himself out of the city's trash cans.  

HPD issued a short statement: "The ordinance is specific to the Central Business District. It is a violation for anyone to remove any contents of any bin, bag or other container that has been placed for collection of garbage, trash or recyclable materials. An officer has probable cause to issue such a citation when a person is seen opening a lid and rummaging through contents of a dumpster or trash can."
Is this nuts or what? As one who lives in Houston I am both outraged and embarrassed.  One of my sisters lives in Newport Beach, Ca.  According to her the local police bus the homeless to a facility in nearby L.A.  It's like get the "filth" out of our safe haven and a resort for the privileged.  I am mortified that Houston seems to be practicing the same.   What on earth are you thinking Mayor Parker and Stephen Costello?  What fat cat business owner put a gun to your head? Shame on Houston for caving.  

In Rick Perry's Texas where government is small and taxes are low, state resources to offer services to the mentally ill, homeless and street alcoholics have been gutted.  What are these people supposed to do in order to survive?  

Alas it seems that Houston, like Newport Beach, in the OC of California want to shoo its downtrodden and sick out of the city, too. There seems to be a plan in the works to build some fat cat private treatment center outside of Houston, thank you, where crony capitalists will somehow profit from treating the mentally ill while ripping off the funding sources including local taxpayers.  Though the efforts sound noble and compassionate up front, this is, after all, Rick Perry's Texas where there is little if any oversight of programs such as these.  Think CPRIT if you think I am kidding.

Cross posted on Texas Kaos.

Meanwhile country clubs throughout Harris County (Houston area) have received generous tax breaks since the 1970's. Unlike country clubs, the homeless and poor do not have powerful lobbies.

Twenty years ago, the Sunday front page of the Houston Chronicle reported that in Harris County "a dozen posh country clubs are receiving a special tax break that allows the exclusive clubs to avoid paying almost $1.6 million in property taxes each year."

Chief among them was the River Oaks Country Club, whose well-tended golf course is the playground of Houston's elite. Nestled next to downtown, that property was taxed at a fraction of its market value.

Nothing has changed in the subsequent two decades, except the lost tax income - at a time when the Houston Independent School District is considering a tax hike - now exceeds $4.5 million annually.

"I was shocked and appalled," state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said of research by his staff showing that 22 Harris County country clubs now claim the exemption. "It can't be justified

Meanwhile schools in Houston and throughout Texas are struggling to make ends meet.
But they also include a tax break that's saved nearly $1 billion a year in taxes to the oil and gas industry. Called the "high-cost gas exemption," the break was passed before the industry developed economical fracking techniques.

Last session, Ellis and Villarreal both tried to undo that exemption, to no avail. But both remain convinced the exemption is outdated - and costing the state close to $1 billion in some years that could be spent on highways, education or health.

Indeed.  Think about how many jobs these taxes could have created for the homeless. Or by creating resources to help them get back on their feet again. Think about the ways in which this tax money could have been used instead to support schools, build new roads and fund research efforts for science and water conservation.  

But welcome to Republican Texas where the notion of what is good for business is good for Texas is one big fat whopper.  

Worse, based on the behavior of many of the politicians in Texas, including Mayor Parker, citizens like me are beginning to realize that most share the same view of 47% of the American people as does Mitt Romney.

Originally posted to Libby Shaw on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 06:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Houston Area Kossacks and TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am deeply disappointed in my friend Annise (6+ / 0-)

    Parker. Deeply, deeply disappointed. And to think I fundraised for her.

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 06:54:23 AM PDT

  •  Libby - do you know the rationale for the (5+ / 0-)

    country club tax break? My guess is that the clubs are taxed based on the value of the land on a "current use" basis, rather than a "highest and best use" basis. This is often done for agricultural land as well as golf courses.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:14:36 AM PDT

  •  Another good diary on this topic (5+ / 0-)

    For those interested in this topic another good diary with nearly 200 comments.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 07:17:47 AM PDT

  •  Public feeding programs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yamaneko2

    We went through some similar struggles with the issue in Dallas.  Even those of us who work with the homeless have mixed feelings. There are good reasons to prohibit groups from providing meals/food to the homeless in uncontrolled settings. It is not an unalloyed "good", by any means.

    Many of the groups who were operating here had their own proselytizing agenda that seemed to be more important to them than the actual benefit of food for hungry people. Not all groups who conducted such programs were responsible enough to clean up after their events. There is also the question of "enabling". I know some advocates for homeless mentally ill patients would get very frustrated by groups doing random feeding projects around th city, which disrupted their efforts to mantain regular contact with their clients, monitor medication, and try to get them into more safe and permanent housing.

    "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

    by Catte Nappe on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 08:02:04 AM PDT

  •  Funny, I just looked this up this morning and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1

    the paper reports the ordinance, which was passed by the city council, is working well.

    While I don't think feeding people is a proper activity to be permitted, it's not the Mayor who's responsible for laws being passed.
    Serving food without adequate hand washing and restroom facilities near by is not a good idea. One hopes that when the city issues permits, it makes note of the fact that facilities are going to be required. Indeed, more public restrooms should be on all municipal agendas. The community ought not to rely on restaurants and people who have enough money to eat out to be served privately.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 08:26:13 AM PDT

  •  In Santa Cruz CA (0+ / 0-)

    we have the grey bears giving away food to its members and if a homeless person signs up to be a grey bear they get a bag of food and a loaf of bread each week . I've handed out thousands upon thousands of bags of food .
    I wonder if I handed a bag of food to a grey bear member in houston ...

    Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11

    by indycam on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 08:52:05 AM PDT

    •  That sounds like groceries (0+ / 0-)

      Food to take away and prepare and consume elsewhere. Most cities with ordinances like Houston's are dealing with groups that come out and serve sandwiches, soup, stew, pizza, whatever; to be eaten there at the point of delivery. Trash, safe food handling (cold things cold, hot things hot) and similar issues become the concern.

      "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

      by Catte Nappe on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 09:15:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are things in the bag (0+ / 0-)

        that need no prep / cooking . In fact most things in the bag can be / should be eaten sans cooking . I'm much more concerned with people getting food to eat .

        Trash, safe food handling (cold things cold, hot things hot) and similar issues become the concern.
        If you wish to enforce anti litter laws , I don't mind at all . If you are worried that food isn't being cold or hot , I'm more concerned that people get food to eat .

        If you are concerned about litter , hire the homeless to pick up trash , feed them , give to them in return for trash .
        Around here , bottles , aluminum , plastic and glass don't last long out in the open . They are grabbed up asap .

        Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11

        by indycam on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 09:36:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They should be grateful for what they get? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BlackSheep1

          Regarldess of its quality or condition?

          A counter proposal would be to have places serving healthful, properly prepared and handled food that can be eaten while sitting at a table; instead of relying on people dishing "whatever" out of their trunk in some vacant lot.

          "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

          by Catte Nappe on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 10:01:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  ... (0+ / 0-)
            They should be grateful for what they get?
            Who said anything about what they should feel ?
            Regarldess of its quality or condition?
            Are you responding to something I said ? If you think this bullshit law in houston is to protect the people from the "quality or condition" of the food , I'll say you might need to think again .
            I've seen more than a few young ladies come out of restaurants with "doggy bags" and then hand that food to a homeless person . Damn it all if that person needs to be penalized for being a kind caring human .
            A counter proposal would be to have places serving healthful, properly prepared and handled food that can be eaten while sitting at a table;
            Go for it . I have no problem with your doing your very best to feed people . I don't know anyone who feels the need to go to all the trouble of setting up tables etc when they are getting food to the homeless , they all seem much more focused of getting food to the hungry rather than being concerned with such trivial things .
            instead of relying on people dishing "whatever" out of their trunk in some vacant lot.
            Your , "whatever" , "trunk" , "vacant lot" , tells me a great deal about you .
            If I want to give "whatever" food to people out of the "trunk" of my vehicle while parked in a "vacant lot" , you should be supporting me , lending a hand , chipping in , not getting in the way , etc etc etc .

            I've given away , handed to people , delivered , thousands and thousands of pounds of food to people .
            This is a subject I know about from personal experience .
            This is not just something I've just talked about .

            What have you done to feed the homeless ?

             

            Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11

            by indycam on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 10:34:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "not getting in the way" (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BlackSheep1

              And there is actually a key point of the whole debate. Because yes, I too am speaking from personal experience, and plenty of it. Including working with teams of people who are providing food to homeless people. Prepared in a proper kitchen using proper food handling techinques. Served to people sitting at tables. It is, however, not a case of "no questions asked". Questions are asked like "Have you seen the doctor about that infected foot? Is it healing? Do you need clean socks?"  Questions like "Are you taking your medication every day?" Questions like "Would you be interested in moving into a room at the XYZ SRO if one opens up?"  

              Personal experience also including going under freeway overpasses to try and persuade people "living" there to come in to places that have those kinds of services available. And people who are offering "whatever" over in the vacant lot are "getting in the way" of providing that broader, deeper and longer term help. Often doing so with a short sighted agenda of a weekly or monthly "feel good" and a report back at the church on how many people they prayed with last Tuesday.

              (BTW, I don't think there is such thing as "the homeless".  There are homeless men, homeless women, homeless elders, homeless youth, homeless veterans - and each individual has uniquely indiviudal problems needing uniquely individual solutions. )

              "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

              by Catte Nappe on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 11:10:19 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  What about soup kitchens, (0+ / 0-)

    or perhaps hot meals served indoors, rather than "out on the street"?

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 03:12:52 PM PDT

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