Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Well, there's a first time for everything

And today was a first for me.

As everyone knows, I am normally a very shy, retiring sort who has no political opinions whatsoever and, even if I did, would never dream of sharing those political views with others.

Yeah, well, anyway, today I just plain boiled over and did something I've never done before; I felt moved to contact the Houston City Council.

It started when I read the Chronicle this morning. The Houston City Council was set, apparently, to consider spending the $440,000 we apparently have left over from the Hurricane Ike Emergency Fund (we had LEFTOVERS???) to pay $3,000 per individual on CREDIT CARD DEBT for people who ALMOST qualify for home loans, to raise their credit scores so they could afford entry-level housing. (The vultures are swooping in on the foreclosures, buying the houses for pennies on the dollar, turning them Section 8, and selling them to first-time home buyers). Now, mind, the City already has tax credits up to $37,500 for first-time homebuyers (!), while my taxes on this place are $3,500 a year AFTER my homestead exemption.

Now, I like to help people, and I feel government definitely has a role to play in that regard. This one just left me aghast, though. I mean, come ON.

First, a quick tour of Houston (any area, pick one: Galleria, Heights, Montrose, Medical Center, IAH, Hobby, Westchase, Greenspoint, Willowbend, Greenway Plaza, South Main; even Upper Kirby, Tanglewood, Memorial, Rivah Oaks, and West U, but especially southeast Houston) will show a LOT of Ike damage still existing. If you fly out of Hobby or IAH on a clear day (as I did recently) and your flight path takes you on the "round the world" tour (as it sometimes does), when you look down the landscape is dotted with blue.

Blue? Those would be blue tarps, still covering roofs, 5 months after the hurricane. Now, some of those are slumlords who won't or can't fix the damage, but many are honest, hardworking people who can't afford the hideous deductibles.

For those who do not live in coastal areas: when Hurricane Katrina changed all of our lives, one of the changes was this: all the insurance policies were re-written to include clauses which change the deductible in the event of "named storms". Since Ike was a "named storm", the deductible on my roof (had I suffered damage, and thank you God that I didn't) would have been almost $2,000.00. Many of the disadvantaged can't afford their deductibles (and had no idea that the deductibles had gotten that high).

So, we've still got a LOT of Hurricane Ike damage.

Plus, there's bound to be a lot of damage to institutional buildings. I know many commercial buildings (whose owners have a vested interest in "return to normalcy" as soon as humanly possible) are showing damage; Greenway Plaza, some Medical Center, some on Beltway 8. You know that the Houston Independent School District, the City of Houston, and Harris County structures have sustained some damage, and that some of that hasn't been repaired.

Add to that the crumbling situation with some of our older, inner-city schools; the need for more Police, more Firefighters (these gallant individuals are stretched beyond the level of endurance), and you see why I became enraged over this plan to PAY PEOPLE'S CREDIT CARD BILLS with tax dollars.

So, I got on the phone today and called every City Councilperson's office, as well as the Mayor's office, and voiced my outrage.

With two exceptions, all said they had not ONE call in support and THOUSANDS of calls against.

I realize my voice probably didn't make a difference, but I just didn't feel I could stand idly by while this travesty was foisted on the good people of Houston.

Hell, if you want to spend the $440,000 (and why not put it in a plain savings account at Chase Bank at .025% interest for the NEXT time we have a hurricane; in case nobody noticed, we haven't moved...), why not spend it on paying the deductibles for the low-income folks who cannot afford theirs and must live under a drippy blue tarp? I wouldn't really object to that (even though, if it were me, I'd have to cough up the $2,000.00 for my deductible on my own).

In any event, a first: I called the City Council.

Next up: my arrest for some trumped-up charge. Stay tuned! ;-)


9:14 pm, addendum

Email I received from my own City Councilwoman:

The District G office received a large number of emails and phone calls today from concerned taxpayers of Houston, regarding City Council Agenda Item #21. This item, if passed, would have offered their hard-earned dollars to pay off the personal debts of those seeking affordable housing from the City of Houston. These grants would have been used to artificially increase credit scores in order to obtain mortgages. I adamantly opposed this item. Much of the current economic crisis is a result of encouraging those who cannot afford home ownership to obtain mortgages, without the ability to pay for or maintain the property. I am surprised the Administration would place an item on the Council Agenda without backup information, a committee meeting or any other prior discussion.

I am pleased to confirm that we were successful in having Item #21 removed from consideration on tomorrow's Council Agenda. As the District G Council Member, I will continue to advocate for you and oppose any action unrelated to providing high quality core services in a fiscally responsible manner.

Thank you,


Pam Holm

Council Member, District G

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