July 10, 2021
...the simplest, most transparent and most direct path to equity requires pausing projects in wealthier communities and moving all possible funding to mitigation in poor areas.
Dear Friends, Family and Supporters of West Street Recovery,
For the second year running our day team staff took a week off in July and we are back, recharged, and ready to tackle the challenges that are sure to come in the second half of the year.
Preparing Our Community for Disaster
As we move into the most dangerous part of Hurricane season we are putting a lot of energy into disaster preparedness. Northeast Action Collective members helped to pack and distribute over 50 “Go bags.” A second round of go bags is already in the works, and NAC members will be distributing these to people on their streets and in their families. In late June we started our other major prep initiative of setting up generators in the homes of residents who rely on electrical medical equipment to survive. For each generator we are working with the resident to hook up and test each device, practice starting it and troubleshoot any issues.
We think that disaster preparedness requires this type of material support, and that as a city so prone to disasters Houston is far behind where it needs to be to meet the challenges of future storms without unnecessary loss of life. During the winter freeze and during last summer’s Hurricane Laura we began this approach but had very limited resources. We were able to communicate within our network to understand needs and connect people to supplies and hotels. This worked to both keep equipment running and reduce anxiety. However, many were left rationing their oxygen supply and in the freezing cold, or out on dangerous roads trying to move resources to where they were needed most. We hope that other non profit organizations and governments take on this more proactive approach.
Continuing to Push Flood Control District for Drainage Justice
On June 29, the Northeast Action Collective held our second action at Harris County Commissioners Court. We chose that date because it was when the Harris County Flood Control District released a plan to address the funding shortfall for projects to protect Northeast Houston. The day began with a rally outside court, where we read our demands for equitable protection and infrastructure justice. NAC members then moved inside to wait for over 9 hours before being allowed to testify. While the county has blamed the GLO for funding shortfalls, it is a fact that the county spent its own 2.5 billion dollars in a way that did not advance equity goals.
Thanks to months of pressure, we do think the plan represents some degree of progress. It seeks to set up a trust funded by toll road usage to increase mitigation levels, and will apply the equity scoring system to all future projects. Despite this the changes do not go far enough. We believe and will continue to demand that the simplest, most transparent and most direct path to equity requires pausing projects in wealthier communities and moving all possible funding to mitigation in poor areas.
Overall the most exciting part of the action was seeing how much the NAC has grown since November 2019. Our members were so well prepared, spoke with strength and courage and the visuals were clear and powerful. The commissioners recognized our yellow shirts, and we think we made a strong impression. We hope you continue to support our work, and we are so happy to keep growing and learning together.
All of us at WSR