The Christmas holidays are now over. Several groups have packed up and exited locations in the Houston area where several charitable groups stood for several hours on Christmas day, feeding hundreds of Houston’s needy. This season is much different than seasons in the years past. April 2012, Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker along with council members Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Wanda Adams, Ed Gonzalez, James Rodriguez, Mike Laster, Larry Green, Stephen Costello, Andrew Burks and Melissa Noriega voted in favor of the ordinance that has made it illegal for any one person or more, to feed 6+ people in need of food. Council members Helena Brown, Mike Sullivan, Al Hoang, Oliver Pennington, C.O. Bradford and Jack Christie voted against it.
To date, several Houstonians are in disbelief that this law is in effect. Many more are upset because Mayor Parker has refused to address the 34,000 signatures that were turned over to the City Secretary nearly 4-months ago. Several inquiries have been made to Mayor Parker concerning the petitions and each have been met with silence as Parker continues to ignore the citizens of Houston just as she and council did months before they passed the anti-food sharing ordinance. This year, any group including individuals who wanted to feed the homeless in the city, on public property and was to feed more than 5-individuals, had to do so with Mayor Parker’s written permission, permission that can take weeks to obtain. If you suddenly had the will to serve anyone in need of food and legally share your food, you would have to wait weeks or else face the risk of fines from $500 – $2,000 or even worse, arrest.
Fed up with the waiting game that comes by Mayor Parker’s office, Paul Kubosh along with his family, have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston for violating their Constitutional Right to give, feed, etc. The First Amendment holds religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to peacefully assemble and so on in which this lawsuit would generally qualify under federal protection. Houston’s Civil Rights Attorney, Randall Kallinen, is representing the Kubosh family which also includes two high school students who are the son and daughter of Paul Kubosh. The teenagers expressed how blessed they were to have so much and unfortunately so many others do not have the same luxury. In turn, these students give up their free time to feed the homeless on many occasions rather than ignoring the needs of others. However because of this new law, the Kubosh family risks the same fines and arrests that has so many hesitant in giving.
After the law passed, several including myself, flooded city council meetings asking for Parker to respect our right to petition the law by having the city count and verify the signatures. Each council meeting was met with complete arrogance, distain for Houston citizens and without appropriate answers. Several requested that the city allow the voters be allowed to determine whether the law should be reversed. Mayor Parker bluntly said NO, citing that the city didn’t have time to count the signatures when in fact; the city had plenty of time to count and get the ordinance on the ballot. Media silence has since followed this issue. Press conferences have been called as media falls back on the issue. Parker & the city continue to ignore emails requesting feedback on the petition. Many question: Why would she do this?
Simply put, this year Mayor Parker is up for re-election. Parker is looking to save her image. Shortly after Parker survived criticism concerning the feeding ordinance, Mayor Parker was seen on the front page of a local newspaper with a smile on her face, as a homeless veteran stood next to her during a photo op and announcement that through homeless organizations in the Houston area, this vet now had a home. A great save to an unsettling muddy image of a Mayor who could be so heartless to wage war on defenseless hungry people. I expect to see further media blackouts where it concerns this ordinance and I am certain Mayor Parker will utilize the media at her disposal in an effort to wipe up all the dark spots she has concerning her image. While I am not the only person who feels as such, this is about as low as one could go as a politician, picking on the defenseless to satisfy the greed of others.
We have now entered over two-weeks since volunteers which include the local infamous Kubosh brothers, turned in over 34,000 petitioned signatures in effort to reverse the feeding ordinance passed earlier this year and became law as of July 1st. Since that point, some groups have dropped out from serving meals to the homeless. This means that other local charitable groups are picking up the slack and seeing an increase in the number of individuals fed. While doing this, these very same groups risk citation which the fine can vary from $500 – $2,000 or even be arrested if the person serving doesn’t comply with the law.
While attending these weekly council meetings held each Tuesday, 2:00 p.m. at City Hall, it has become apparent that Mayor Parker has no interest in what the public has to say. Time after time, Mayor Parker confuses her own words and the terms of the ordinance itself, nor has she given any real answers on how to obtain city permits or how long it would take to obtain these permits. The city itself doesn’t even have answers to the protocol for this law but they continue to arrogantly ignore our questions, ignoring petitioners, ignoring those of us who have relentlessly gone to council meetings each week in addressing our local leaders. It is very disheartening to see Mayor Parker writing her grocery list, laughing at comments being stated and whispering to council members to her right rather than to listen, look us in the eye and at least “act” like she carries some level of interest. However Mayor Parker is so withdrawn from the reality that she’s losing public interest in her political career and frankly, she does not care. The ice frozen over on her face is a clear indication that we are in for a hell of a fight.
Michael Kubosh advised council that their team was in receipt of additional petitioned signatures which were turned over to the City Secretary this week however she openly denied the additional signatures, refusing to deal with the Kubosh brothers. When the initial 34,000 signatures were handed over to the city secretary, one of her last statements was that they were here to serve the people but that no longer seems to be the case. In the least, they could have accepted the documents and the city legal team could dispose or count them however they choose. The city secretary chose to act as the legal team and deny voters the right to petition this law. Of course, Parker came forward with her usual excuses. Lying and exuse making seem to be her 2nd and 3rd passions in life.
In this same meeting, two gentlemen who have been recipients of the feeding addressed the council. The question was posed by Mr. Darnell, “How would you feel if the role was reversed? Why is it that you are doing this to us?” Council member Gonzalez quickly responded citing “food safety concerns” and saw to it that Mr. Darnell had a printed overview of what this law means. The city has yet to initiate any kind of research to prove that food safety is an issue. I have been very clear in prior articles how Food Not Bombs has always served healthy meals. To date not one person has come forward indicating any kind of illness due to inadequete food. I have also noted how several local shelters have served expired and uncooked food. It is no wonder why the choice is to eat meals that are hot, healthy but also served humanely. Many if not all the volunteers express the level of respect that is given by those who are hungry and those who are serving. There is no reason to dehumanize any individual because they are homeless. Having a home or a job does not make one person better than the other. There are several people who have jobs and homes however are monsters to society but are seen differently because they aren’t living on the streets. Society has conditioned us to think of homeless as dangerous, lazy, drunkened people who do not look to better their circumstances. Dangerous, lazy and drunkened people own homes as well. It is about time for the people to understand that we are all human and the only thing that truly separates us is the state of mind one carries.
We live in a country where Congress has an approval rating of 9%. People are not as trusting of leaders as once before. Local leaders are practicing the same behaviors: ignoring the people they represent & enabling special interest groups to run their way of voting. Council member Davis expressed two-weeks ago in the live and recorded council meeting that he had voted for the feeding ordinance because he followed the people he represented in District B which encompasses north Houston area. After not receiving responses to several inquiries made to his office requesting evidence that the people supported his vote, it was brought to my attention by several individuals who had been in attendence of these community meetings that either the ordinance was not brought up or if it had been, the voters were not in support of the law so this would prove that Jerry Davis while on record, openly lied about the very people he is supposed to serve and represent. Our leaders have been allowed feel inferior because what you don’t know, won’t hurt you. It is about time we hold the leaders responsible.
It is well known that Mayor Parker was not happy about the initial article I wrote via the Examiner which outlined the truth of the bill and facts behind the methods of those who voted for the ordinance and also naming examples of hypocrisy. Within a couple of weeks of the article, the Examiner nixed my writing credentials and expressed the reasons which later came out, that I was no longer allowed to write for them. Parker has taken some serious strides to keep this matter quiet. She isn’t favored upon with many local deocratic groups in Houston who have spoken out requesting the reversal of this bill. Mayor Parker continues forward, unaffected and basically does not care while finger pointing and blaming those of us who have overwhelming support of the voters in Houston by stating that we have not been telling the truth to the public of what this law is and what it means. Parker has even accused several of us in trying to impeech her from office. While it is my opinion that no person who could attack the homeless in this manner should not be in office, it is well known that my intentions along with the intentions of all others involved in this fight is that this bill is unconstitutional, they did make it criminal to feed over 5-people without permission from Mayor Parker and without that permission to feed on public space which we the tax payers own, these given volunteers who serve can be fined or arrested, just for giving a man, woman or child a meal.
We understand this fight over the ordinance is a redundant one, we cannot forget that food sharing with permission of the Empress herself is just plain wrong. The individuals who stand to make money from voting for the ordinance are the very same leaders who can be bought over and over again. At a time you bring something forward that you might be passionate about, ask yourself, can you really trust individuals who have received kick backs and monetary incentives to cater to special interest rather than serving you as the voter?