The 2013 election page is updated. Click above “2013 Election” tab, or click here to see all of the information about all of the candidates for Houston races.
As you may have heard, the City of Houston is looking to revise Chapter 42 to extend the “urban” area from the 610 loop to Beltway 8. Currently the city defines “urban” as the area inside the 610 loop and “suburban” as outside the 610 loop. This change would allow developers within Beltway 8 (used to be Loop 610) to subdivide lots to build smaller homes. Developers have been able to do this inside Loop 610 since 1999. Here is a summary of the proposed changes from Houston’s website.
As I have said before, I would only favor this kind of change as long as existing neighborhoods can be exempt (unless they don’t want to be) and as long as new development is done responsibly – only when the existing roads and drainage systems can support the new developments (or if the developer is willing to put in additional funds to make the existing infrastructure able to support the development).
Houston needs to bring in new development often to increase our tax base. To be clear, I did NOT say that we need to increase our taxes. We need to increase our tax base (i.e. more people paying in to the system) with more homes and businesses. As we have seen recently with cities like Detroit, Pittsburg, and Cleveland, when you increase services without increase your tax base, you go bankrupt (very simply put, of course).
There are many blighted apartment complexes and buildings in Houston. Developers don’t often want to incur the costs to tear down the existing building because it’s not worth their time and money if they can only replace it with X number of houses. If they are now able to build more houses per lot, we might see more developers willing to take on projects like these. As long as the infrastructure can support this, I think a lot of people would prefer to look out their window to see many townhomes rather than a building that was falling down, collecting rodents, debris, and crime.
One of the aspects of this proposal that makes me so mad is the city’s response to the Super Neighborhood Alliance’s comments. In case you aren’t familiar, a super neighborhood is a “geographically designated area where residents, civic organizations, institutions and businesses work together to identify, plan, and set priorities to address the needs and concerns of their community.” They are the eyes and ears of the community and are a valuable resource for council members. The Super Neighborhood Alliance is the group that combines all super neighborhoods.
The Alliance submitted comments to Mayor Parker about the proposed changes. You can read them here. They have really great points that should be considered; however, the cavalier response by the city makes it seem like they are not even taking their comments into account. The answer to many of the questions is that Chapter 42 doesn’t address your concerns because it falls “outside the scope of Chapter 42.” For example, the Alliance wanted to make sure that as these changes were taking place that the city adopts “modern urban street standards, or ‘complete streets,’ designed for all users.” The answer by the city was that, while “the Administration agrees with the concept of a more walkable street, Chapter 42 is not the correct vehicle.”
Yes, they are correct that this would need to be addressed in a different chapter in the Code of Ordinances, but why can’t they work on everything at once? Must they really deal with only one chapter at a time? This is one of the many reasons why there is such a huge disconnect on the city level. They don’t often see the bigger picture when reviewing a new ordinance. Years later, they will review this and realize that they should have implemented certain aspects all at once, but it will be too late by then, and they will be forced to grandfather in streets that didn’t comply.
If the proposed changes to Chapter 42 are passed, it will mean big modifications in the city. Until they can look at the bigger picture and work on all aspects at once, there will always be a disconnect rather than a smooth transition process every time overarching changes like these are passed.
I just want to clear up any confusion there might be about my stance on Chapter 42. I only support the change in very unique circumstances where the current infrastructure can support increasing the density (or if a developer is willing to pay to get the infrastructure to where it can support the density). This probably wouldn’t apply to much of District A at all. I could see this applying in unique circumstances where there is a large building that needs to be torn down. If the developer tears it down and builds townhomes that ultimately don’t add a larger concrete footprint than the existing structure, then it becomes a positive for the area. I support responsible growth in Houston, and we need to make sure that infrastructure can support any new structure, whether it is in 610 or outside of it. This includes making sure that an additional building doesn’t disperse water to another area because of its footprint.
Mayor Annise Parker was recently on the news talking about getting women more involved in politics. In the news clip, Fox 26 mentioned a report by the Women and Politics Institute that says that more men are involved in politics because men think about running for office more than women. Among 2,100 college students, “men were twice as likely as women to have thought about running for office ‘many times,’ whereas women were 20 percentage points more likely than men to never have considered it.” They attribute this to five factors:
- Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career.
- From their school experiences to their peer associations to their media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than do young men.
- Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning.
- Young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office from anyone.
- Young women are less likely than young men to think they will be qualified to run for office, even once they are established in their careers.
As a woman in politics, I can say that none of those factors applied to me, so maybe that’s why I did become involved (side note: I never really played any sports, but if you’ve ever seen me play a board game, you will quickly see that I like to win). My parents were and still are extremely encouraging. Not only did I grow up hearing my parents have discussions about current events and politics, when I was young, my dad and I used to drink tea a few nights a week and discuss a different political issue. He would take the opposite view of mine just so that I would have to argue my point of view. It is unfortunate that more girls (and boys) don’t have parents like this to encourage them to do anything in life that they want.
I agree with the study’s five factors about why women aren’t more involved in politics, but I would go a step further. I think many women, especially young women, don’t get involved in politics because of the fact that it is still very difficult to be taken seriously as a woman in politics, even for the women who have a passion for it. You have to be pretty, but if you’re too pretty, you’re not taken seriously. You have to be nice, but if you’re too nice, people think you aren’t tough on the issues. You have to be tough, but if you’re too tough, everyone thinks you’re a witch. You have to come across as strong, but you also have to have keep your femininity. If a woman running for office isn’t married, people wonder what’s wrong with her. If a man isn’t married, people think that he is just career-focused. If a woman is married, people wonder how she will be able to take care of the kids if elected. Men aren’t asked about their kids. If a woman is rich, people automatically ask what their husband does for a living. If a man is rich, people ask them about their career background.
Unfortunately more often than not, these criticisms come from women!! Ladies, until we stop being critical of each other, we will continue to be the minority in politics. Instead of knocking each other down for how we dress and how we look, we need to build each other up and offer encouragement and support. Of course, I am not advocating voting for someone just because they are a woman (or a man). If the male candidate is more qualified than the woman, then by all means, vote for the man, but don’t knock the female candidate down for putting herself on the ballot.
Not only am I a woman, but I am a young woman. I understand that most people my age aren’t running for political office, but I will not tolerate being discounted just because I am a young woman. I am a serious candidate with more experience in this field than any of my older opponents. I will fight for my constituents and for the issues that are important to them. I welcome criticism, but when I get criticized by women for nothing other than being a woman or a young woman, it makes me sad for our future generation and for the young girls out there who will have to go through the same thing if we don’t change this now.
Ladies, join me in encouraging other women to run for office and/or to be knowledgeable about the issues and involved in the election process. Politics might still be a man’s game, but it’s time to show the world that women are every bit as qualified to play the game too.
Fratelli’s Ristorante 1330 Wirt Road Houston, Texas 77055
Paid Political Ad Amy Peck Campaign; Jayson Mullin, Treasurer
Announcement of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Memorial City District Drainage Coalition Meeting:
Collusion or Incompetence: Flooding in West Houston
On March 20th, at the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Memorial City District Drainage Coalition (dba Residents Against Flooding), well-known Environmental Attorney Jim Blackburn will present Collusion or Incompetence: Flooding in West Houston, his assessment of the current state of drainage in West Houston which he believes is a microcosm of problems occurring throughout the City of Houston.
Per Mr. Blackburn, “From Addicks and Barker reservoirs to more general issues on Buffalo Bayou to the flooding associated with TIRZ 17, a pattern of governmental and private sector involvement in human generated flooding is becoming more and more apparent and troubling.”
Please join us for this important discussion:
March 20th @ 7:00 p.m.
Memorial Middle School Auditorium
I am very excited to announce my candidacy for Houston City Council, District A. Over the last few years, I have been asked to run again by many people in the district, and I am honored to accept the responsibility that comes with representing others.
Unfortunately, District A has suffered too long with a lack of real leadership. Instead, we have seen both apathy and political grandstanding that have both led to an absence of trust and progress in our community.
Real representation doesn’t mean voting yes every time, and it doesn’t mean voting no every time. It means listening to the community before each vote and evaluating each proposal based on its merits. I have dedicated the last seven years to working in government, and I know what it means to truly represent and help people.
I am running to:
- Restore trust by improving constituent services
- Responsibly care for your tax dollars
- Strengthen HPD and HFD
- Protect your homes from flooding
I appreciate your interest in my campaign, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have for me. It is time for real representation in District A.
I will continue to blog about city issues on this site. Please check out my campaign website at www.AmyPeck.org to stay updated about my campaign.
The City of Houston voted today to pay $159,684.96 in grant money to hire people to work at the Houston Food Bank to enroll Houstonians on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – more commonly referred to as “food stamps”). The Houston Food Bank will try to enroll about 1,400 more people in this federal program.
Many of the council members asked over and over again at the hearing today where the money came from and why they are paying for it out of the General Revenue Fund. The City of Houston was given this grant money for Katrina reimbursements. This money is currently in the Special Funds. No money can be distributed out of Special Funds to a particular group, so the money will be transferred from Special Funds to the General Revenue Fund and then to the Food Bank. It’s kind of like transferring money from your savings account to your checking account so that you can write a check.
Council Members Brown and Pennington voted against this measure. CM Pennington said that basically more research needs to be done on the matter and that there are housing improvement needs as well. Council Member Christie ultimately voted for this but inquired about people buying junk food with the Lone Star Card. This is a question I receive at work all the time, and it can be very confusing. The Lone Star Card (kind of like a debit card) may contain SNAP benefits and/or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money. While the two programs are both handled by the federal government, they are separate, and it can be difficult to discern which program is being used for purchases at a store. SNAP funds are restricted to certain items. These items are usually pretty healthy with a few exceptions. What is confusing is that TANF funds have less specific restrictions. So if you see someone purchasing junk food at a store with a Lone Star Card, it might not be SNAP money. It could be TANF money. (Side note: if you want anything related to SNAP changed, contact your federal representative. SNAP is administered by the state, but any change must take place at the federal level. The federal government regulates TANF as well).
The Food Research and Action Center released a report saying that only 60% of Houstonians who qualify for food stamp benefits actually receive them. While that may be true, I don’t believe that this number is quite as staggering as one might think. Many people who qualify for SNAP benefits don’t receive them because they choose not to. I’ve had countless people call my office and explain that they lost their job and don’t really want to go on food stamps and ask what other services are available instead. Maybe this doesn’t make up the other 40% of those not on food stamps, but it has to account for a considerable percentage. I really doubt that the majority of the 40% not receiving benefits (who qualify) don’t know that food stamps exist. While some federal programs are obscure, I guarantee that SNAP doesn’t need a promoter. Then when you take into account the people who the Houston Food Bank will never reach, it will be interesting to see how much they can actually increase that percentage.
A misconception about SNAP is that it is there to foot the bill for all of the recipients’ food. Rather the program is in place to supplement the bill. Many people who are already on food stamps go to the Food Bank to get the rest of the food that the SNAP didn’t cover. Therefore it is likely that most people going to the Food bank are already on food stamps.
Just so everyone reading this is clear, I am completely in favor of helping people get food. I’ve helped countless people in the Senate office with food stamps, and I will continue to help those in need. I just believe that the money would have been better spent if they donated it to the Houston Food Bank for food purchases instead. At least that way you know for sure that your tax dollars are actually being used to feed the hungry.
Rather than questioning which account this is coming from, the question the council members should have asked is why we are spending tax dollars to get more people to spend tax dollars? Trickle down government at its finest.