Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

April 21st, 2016:

The Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund

From the inbox:

After receiving calls from corporations and others who want to help financially, Mayor Sylvester Turner is establishing The Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund, to accept flood relief donations.

“We’ve been hearing from residents who are confused about where they should donate to get assistance directly to the residents of our city who are suffering, said Mayor Turner. “The creation of this fund will ensure the dollars donated stay in our community. The fund will focus on aiding storm victims and relief organizations in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties.”

Mayor Turner thanked Waste Management for making a $50,000 donation, the first since the fund’s creation.

The Greater Houston Community Foundation, a 501 (c)(3)nonprofit public charity, will administer the fund at no cost, so 100% of all donations will go toward helping flood victims. However, online credit card donations will be assessed a small fee, typically 3%, by the credit card companies. Donors have the option of increasing their credit card donations to cover this fee.

To donate, go to www.houstonrecovers.org and follow the instructions.

Donation instructions are here. If you’re looking for a way to help, this is a pretty good one.

Also from the inbox:

Commissioner Gene L. Locke’s crews will be picking up water-soaked debris that people re-move from their homes in unincorporated areas. Workers also will remove trees that have fallen on streets and sidewalks. Here’s how the program works:

Residents can place furniture, carpet and other items on curbside
Inform Commissioner Locke’s office about downed trees
Call Precinct One at 713-991-6881

In addition to the flood recovery that Precinct One is conducting in unincorporated areas of Harris County, Commissioner Locke has spoken with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and pledged to provide debris removal resources in portions of the city limits that are located in Precinct One.

A copy of the Commissioner’s flyer is here. Cleanup is a huge job, so if you’re in Precinct 1 and you need the help, reach out and get it.

In other news: Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said he would lead a project to develop a barrier system to prevent people from repeatedly driving into high water areas. Joke if you want, but three of the eight deaths reported in the Houston area attributed to the flooding happened in underpasses like these. If there’s something we can do to prevent them, we should.

The Addicks and Barker reservoirs are at record levels, and roads near them will be under water, likely for several days. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Mayor Turner was scheduled to give his first State of the City address this past Monday. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Sometime between now and whenever that gets rescheduled, he will be appointing a flooding czar. That person will have “the sole responsibility of pulling together all the different stakeholders and coming up with a definitive plan on how to address flooding in the city of Houston.” Best of luck to whoever that is.

Finally, if you’re still thinking about helping out, give a thought to the folks in Greenspoint who were flooded out. They could definitely use a little help right now.

Harriet Tubman will be on the new $20 bill

Good.

The U.S. Treasury has decided to keep Alexander Hamilton on the front of the new $10 bill, after encountering fierce opposition to its plans to replace the founding father with a woman, Treasury officials said Tuesday. The Treasury will feature the portrait of African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, which now features former president Andrew Jackson, while Jackson will appear on the reverse of the bill, officials said.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will announce decisions regarding several bills on Wednesday, officials said.

Last summer, Lew announced that the Treasury was considering removing Hamilton from the $10 bill, to allow a woman to appear on the front of the currency for the first time since Martha Washington was taken off the $1 silver certificate.

The Treasury was moved in part by a viral campaign in early 2015 to put a woman’s portrait on the new $20 bill in 2020, to mark the 100 year anniversary of women’s right to vote. The group “Women on $20s” received more than 600,000 online and in person votes a choice of 15 different women. Tubman received the most votes.

Treasury announced plans in June 2015 to honor a woman on the $10 bill, which was already slated for a redesign in 2020. The bills are regularly reworked to stop counterfeiting.

I like this better than replacing Hamilton on the $10, and I say that as someone who has not seen the musical. ATMs dispense a lot of $20s, so they will be more visible, and Jackson was problematic, to say the least. Now let’s see about getting more than one woman on our paper money. We’ve had multiple concurrent designs for the quarter and the dollar coin, why not have multiple designs for the various dollar bills as well? There’s already going to be an alternate design for the $5 that will have civil rights leaders on the flip side from Abe Lincoln. Why not choose one or more of these women for that, then do the same on the $1, the $2, the $10, the $50, and the $100. We’ve gone over 200 years without having women on most of our currency. We’ve got a lot of making up to do. NPR, The Intersect, Daily Kos, Kyrie O’Connor, the Slacktivist, and Kevin Drum have more.

Business as usual with the Texas Enterprise Fund

Raise your hand if this surprises you.

BagOfMoney

In July of 2013, Gov. Rick Perry announced that he had closed another deal. Chevron would build a 50-story tower in downtown Houston next to one of its existing office buildings. The $662 million capital investment was slated to create 1,752 high-paying jobs.

“The state is providing $12 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund to close the deal on this expansion and job creation,” Perry said in a press release at the time.

A Chevron executive added: “our new office building underscores Chevron’s long-term commitment to Houston and Texas.”

Nearly three years later, 1600 Louisiana Street, where the 1.7 million square foot building was supposed to rise in the Houston skyline, remains a grassy lot. The company, it turns out, was not actually required to build its new tower in exchange for drawing state funds.

What’s more, Chevron has announced layoffs of more than 1,500 workers in Houston over the past year, prompting questions about whether the petroleum giant employs fewer area workers than it did before Perry allowed it to tap taxpayer funds.

And yet Chevron remains in full compliance with its Enterprise Fund agreement with the state, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. A close examination of the 14-page contract reveals language so vague that the company does not legally have to deliver on much of what it promised publicly.

Texas has doled out more than half a billion dollars through the Texas Enterprise Fund since 2003, with dozens of firms agreeing to create jobs in Texas in exchange for a subsidy. The fund has long been championed by Perry as a way to reel in businesses that might otherwise land elsewhere. It drew close scrutiny two years ago, in the Republican’s final days in office, after an audit found the fund riddled with weak oversight. Critics honed in on the news that grants were awarded to companies that didn’t formally apply and that state agencies repeatedly failed to check whether companies were adhering to their contracts.

There’s more, but you get the idea. I’ve written plenty about the Texas Enterprise Fund and its various cousins; go search the archives if you want a taste. I’m just going to say now what I said before about tax breaks that the city hands out: There’s a place for this kind of economic incentive, but there ought to be an annual review of each deal, with a public accounting of what was promised, what’s been done, what’s still left to do, and what the timeline is for doing them. For the TEF, there needs to be a better process for deciding how they are granted as well. I don’t think any of this is rocket science, or particularly controversial. Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to elect people who will make that a priority, and then to hold them to that promise. Until that happens, why should anything change?

Texas blog roundup for the week of April 18

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the LGBT community of North Carolina and Mississippi as it brings you this week’s roundup.

(more…)