Houston Forward Times

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25 October 2012 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney, Associate Editor

Bonds...What Bonds? You're Not Doing Us a Favor, It's Our Money! Black Community Continues to be Insulted

Over the past several weeks, one of the most asked questions has been about the numerous bonds that are on the ballot this election cycle. Our readers have wanted to know if there was any information that we could provide them or put in the paper concerning the bonds.

It was painful to have to respond to each of those readers, by informing them that we had not received any information from any of the respective entities that was focused on truly educating the Black community about the bonds.

We consistently ensured those readers that the Houston Forward Times would do our investigative research and find pertinent information to better educate them about the bonds.

The one thing that rings true with all of the bonds is that in order for them to pass or be defeated, Black people must go beyond voting straight ticket and vote on them individually.

BONDS…WHAT BONDS?

In a recent article entitled, “What’s On the Ballot? Don’t Fall for the Okey-Doke,” the Houston Forward Times challenged readers to be sure and cast their vote for the office of the President. We also challenged readers to learn more about the other races and issues on the ballot that tend to get traditionally ignored or disregarded.

Many of our readers called our office and expressed their heartfelt appreciation for providing them with this extremely important information, because the majority of them were not comfortable with voting straight ticket this year and, wanted more information on the other positions and issues on the ballot.

In doing our research, we found that there are three bonds and one referendum on the ballot. The following entities have voted to place the following on the ballot:

• Houston I.S.D. Schoolhouse Bond Election

• City of Houston Special Bond Election with 5 propositions (A-E)

• Houston Community College System Bond Election

• Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) Referendum Election

The cost of the three bond packages will be an unprecedented $2.7 billion dollars.

• Houston Independent School District $ 1.9 billion dollars

• City of Houston $ 410,000,000

• Houston Community College $ 425,000,000

Out of the three bond packages, two are guaranteed to produce a property tax increase, while the other could potentially increase taxes in the future. We have found that while many are championing the bonds, there are those that are significantly opposed to them.

CITY OF HOUSTON BOND

There are five propositions that fall under the City of Houston Bond Referendum, which means that each proposition will have to be voted on separately.

  • Proposition A – $144 million
  • Proposition B – $60 million for parks including Bayou Greenways Project
  • Proposition C – $63 million for health, sanitation/recycling, and government improvements
  • Proposition D – $28 million for improvements on various libraries
  • Proposition E – $5 million for affordable housing

The City of Houston currently “estimates” that all bonds and their interest will not require a tax increase, and as a result a tax increase has not been set at this time.

This is an issue of great concern for many opponents of the bond, such as Reverend James C. Nash, Pastor of Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church here in Houston.

“Before we pass a bond, we need more clarity,” said Nash. “We have questions like, are our taxes going to go up? The City and the Mayor are talking about the beautification of the city on the other side of town, but are you going to let us know your plans for fixing up the streets and addressing the issues in the Black community? We just want answers.”

Nash believes that if the City wants people to support the bonds, they should do what it takes to educate them.

Nash went on to say, “If we keep giving you bond money, we need to know where it is going.”

HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT BOND

The Houston Independent School District (H.I.S.D.) is asking voters to approve a $9 billion dollar bond referendum that they state will provide:

  • 20 new high schools
  • Replacement of 4 high schools
  • Renovate 4 high schools
  • Convert 5 elementary schools into K-8 campuses
  • Build 3 new elementary school campuses
  • Replace / complete 2 new middle school campuses

While ensuring the physical infrastructure of buildings is important to taxpayers in the Black community, a large contingency are concerned about what they believe to be the lack of concern with properly educating the children in the schools with a high concentration of Black students.

DeWayne Lark, President of the George T. Nelson Harris County Council of Organizations, believes that every voter should stand back and take a look at the bonds closely because voters have very low confidence in the system.

“Why should we extend a line of credit to an entity like H.I.S.D. that has promised time and time again to do things within the Black community and have not,” said Lark. “Most voters vote on perception because we don’t have inside information. H.I.S.D. promised that it would rebuild Grimes Elementary as a part of their pitch to get the last bond passed and what did they do? They closed it down. Worthing High School was promised to be built under the last bond money that H.I.S.D. received, and five years later, they are just getting around to building it and are now asking for more money for Worthing under this new bond. Promises made and promises not kept.”

If the H.I.S.D. bond does pass, a tax increase will be required.

HOUSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOND

HCC trustees approved a $425 million bond referendum that they state will help update classroom technology, build a new medical center facility, expand some campuses, and boost workforce. The breakdown is as follows:

Central College ($48 million)

Central Campus: building renovations, parking garage

South Campus: workforce building

Coleman College ($20 million)

New healthcare education and early college building

Northeast College ($73 million)

Northline Campus: instructional, parking, and multi-use space

North Forest: workforce and early college buildings

New Northeast Campus: Pinemont facility replacement

Northwest College ($63 million)

Alief Campus: campus improvements

Westside Campus: new campus

Southeast College ($42.5 million)

Southeast Campus: site acquisition and improvements

Felix Fraga: facility improvements and site acquisition

Southwest College ($78.5 million)

West Loop Campus: facility upgrade

Brays Oaks: new campus and building

Stafford Campus: new workforce building

Missouri City Campus: entrepreneurship training center and new facility

This bond has received some of the standard opposition from people like Lark, but also from one of the most unlikely opponents; a member of the HCC Board of Trustees.

Earlier this month, one of HCC’s own Board Trustee, Yolanda Navarro Flores, released a nearly two-minute video on YouTube expressing her direct opposition to the HCC bond. In the video, she cites that HCC is inflating their numbers, and is against the proposed tax increase.

If the HCC bond passes, it will result in a tax increase.

BANKING ON THE BLACKS

Voters must be certain that they are informed and educated as it relates to these issues, especially issues involving their hard earned taxpayer dollars.

Voters must think about their children and their grandchildren when making these tough decisions.

Reverend Max A. Miller Jr., Pastor of Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church and President of the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity stated that he is extremely concerned about the lack of communication and concern about the Black community. He believes that neither of the entities did enough to educate the Black community on these bonds.

“Everyone is hoping that the Blacks were just naïve and excited about voting for President Barack Obama again,” said Miller. “It’s as if they were hoping that we would go ahead and vote for the bonds without having received any information or clarity.”

Some questions that voters need to ask themselves are:

• Where is the money going to be spent overall?

• Will these bonds have a Community oversight committee established?

• How is the taxpayer money going to be spent in your community?

• Will there be accountability with your money?

• What input will taxpaying parents have on what happens in their community and at their schools?

• Will voters get an opportunity to stop the process and address any mismanagement?

• Where is the minority small business participation listed?

• What concrete plans are in place that will have a fair distribution to ensure that minority small businesses receive proceeds to help them build capacity and create jobs?

The Black community has long been sought after for their vote and not much else. When it comes to these bonds, it appears that the same approach has been taken.

The Black community continues to be insulted by the lack of communication and education, by the same entities who want their vote when it comes time to spending taxpayer dollars. There has been no clarity whatsoever.

There are two things that people in power respect: money and numbers. The Black community doesn’t always have the money, but they do have the numbers and, when those numbers come together they make a difference.

When you have $2.7 billion dollars worth of bonds on the ballot at one time, it raises serious concern. Whether these bonds pass or not, it is in the best interest of these entities to go back to the drawing board and reassess their approach to dealing with the Black community.

We, at the Houston Forward Times, have heard the concerns of our readers and we want you to make an informed and educated decision.

So remember, they aren’t doing you a favor, it’s your money…..PERIOD!