When I first read about the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation, I said I needed more information to know how I'd feel about the issue. I'm at that point now, having seen more news and yesterday's Chron editorial, with which I agree. I also had the chance to speak to a gentleman named Ed Davis, who works for a communications firm that is representing the Center. He helped me to better understand the Center's position, and after speaking to him I feel confident that a workable agreement will be reached. I think they're probably closer to an agreement than some of the initial coverage might have led me to think.
I'm not going to get into a long discussion of the merits of the Center staying where it is for an affordable price. The Chron editorial covers that ground well, and if I hadn't been persuaded before, I am now. Just a couple of observations while I have the time to blog today: One, as I said before in response to Cory's statement about Weingarten and the River Oaks Theater/Alabama Bookstop, is that while the support for preserving those landmarks is wide, as so many people have frequented those places, it's not particularly deep. If the bulldozers come tomorrow, I'll be sad, but it won't wreck my life. I daresay the same is true for most people who've signed those petitions. But in the case of the Center, while you'd expect the support to be narrower since it serves a small community, it's much deeper, since it's about people protecting their children. What was surprising to me (and to Ed Davis) was that the support has turned out to be pretty broad as well. He told me that their petition was drawing 75-100 signatures an hour, which is pretty extraordinary all things considered.
One reason why I expect a resolution that will be acceptable to the Center is that the support it has is the kind that won't give up and won't go away. What else would you expect - it's families fighting for their own? It will therefore attract high-profile supporters like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who had a press conference there yesterday and whose statement in support of the Center is included beneath the fold. Interestingly, Rep. Jackson Lee is not the representative for the Center. That would be Rep. John Culberson, as the Center falls within CD07. Given how much support for the Center has come from some of my colleagues on the right, perhaps we'll eventually hear something from Rep. Culberson on this matter. If nothing else, there may be some federal funds that could be made available to the Center to help offset any increased operating costs they may incur under a new agreement.
Anyway, bottom line is that I think we'll have a solution soon. Common sense and compassion, as well as political calculations, will likely prevail. Stay tuned.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee released the following statement regarding the current situation at the Center Serving Persons With Mental Retardation:Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 06, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston
"Today I stand before you on behalf of over 318 constituents of the 18th Congressional District and 600 total Houstonians who rely on the center serving persons with mental retardation who are among our most vulnerable citizens. I am hopeful that all parties involved will understand the importance of taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Yes, it is important to expand the city's economy and provide services for all the taxpayers; however, when the need to care for the disabled buttresses financial concerns such as making sound financial investments to expand the economy, we must understand the value in investing in the care of our disabled.
"As we all know, the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation (The Center) is a private not-for-profit United Way Agency, which has for more than 60 years served children and adults through educational, residential and work training programs. The philosophy of The Center is that every person has value and worth, is entitled to the highest quality of life, and should be treated with dignity.
"From a visionary group grew a multi-faceted organization serving a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Underlying The Center's broad array of programs and services is a guiding principle that is disarming in its simplicity: the conviction that persons with mental retardation, given opportunities for personal growth, community involvement, and the exercise of individual choice may live rewarding, fulfilling lives as growing, developing human beings.
"I have long been a strong advocate of the mentally disabled, both in terms of legislation in Congress and to the residents of our beloved city. The Houston community has a moral and social responsibility to allow the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation to remain in its' current location. They represent the most vulnerable among us who deserve our unequivocal support, and for over 40 years, the Center has provided that support.
"As I stated earlier, more than 600 Houstonians rely on the Center. The Center, which has a budget of $11 million, offers a wide array of programs including education, vocational training and job placement services. Likewise, with close to 200 adults residing at the facility, forcing the Center to move does not seem to be an optimal alternative.
"In 2002, the Center began the process of renewing its lease. Unfortunately, the negotiations were never finalized and a deal was not reached. We are all seeking a reasonable resolution of this matter. I encourage all of our civic and community leaders to join me in reinvigorating that effort.
"My commitment to the mentally disabled is sincere, steadfast, and unwavering. Thank you for your consideration, and please contact me if I can be of further assistance in the expeditious handling of this important matter."