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Sen. Ellis responds to Harris County Commissioner Radack

(Houston, TX) // On Tuesday, Commissioner Steve Radack said during a public session of the Harris County Commissioner’s Court that Senator Rodney Ellis should “shut up” about criminal justice reform. Click here and scroll to the 30 second mark of the Executive Session.

 Today, Senator Ellis offers the following response:

“In an outburst more in the style of Donald Trump rather than the more staid Commissioner’s Court, Commissioner Radack called me out by name and told me to ‘shut up’ about criminal justice reforms in our community,” said Senator Ellis. “As long as I have the privilege of public service, I’m not going to shut up.”

Ellis continued: “I’m not going to shut up about our broken criminal justice system and people dying in jail. I’m not going to shut up about a bail system that keeps people in a cage just because they’re poor. And I’m not going to shut up about the fact that the attorney you can afford too often determines the quality of justice you receive.”

“This isn’t an argument about statistics –  it’s an argument about whether or not Harris County continues to needlessly destroy lives, jeopardize our communities, and waste taxpayer dollars with its broken justice system. I’m going to speak up for all people and especially the most vulnerable in our society, just as I’ve always done. And I will not be bullied by any Commissioner, regardless of where my public service takes me.”

“I challenge Commissioner Radack to sit down for a public debate about the criminal justice reforms needed in our community.”

 

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Sen. Ellis reacts to lawsuit against Harris County’s broken criminal justice system

(Houston, TX) // Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) releases the following statement regarding the lawsuit brought against Harris County due to its broken criminal justice system:

“Harris County’s overreliance on the inefficient and ineffective use of mass incarceration as a means of dealing with low-level and non-violent offenses continues to result in some of the highest jailing and incarceration rates in the U.S. and the world. It’s an approach that wastes countless taxpayer dollars, has been ineffective at making our communities safer, and has a particularly devastating effect on communities of color and the poor.
 
The County’s continued failure to follow the law and principles of basic fairness when it comes to pre-trial bond and bail practices has translated into more than 70% of the jail population consisting of people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime. A vast majority of those people are stuck in jail solely because they are poor, not because they are threat to public safety. We’ve created two separate systems of justice: one for the rich and one for the poor. A system that keeps the Sandra Blands of the world, arrested for minor offenses, locked in cages with their lives at risk, and lets the Robert Dursts, arrested for murder, walk free. It’s a violation of our basic constitutional legal principles and our moral principles of justice.
 
It doesn’t have to be this way. Someone’s danger to the community should determine bail, not their wealth. The county can start fixing the this broken bail system and advancing a fair, effective, and efficient justice system today by simply following pre-trial services recommendations, requiring risk assessments, and utilizing proven alternatives to incarceration for low-risk arrestees like personal bonds, electronic monitoring, or simple check-ins. The county must also use more PR bonds, cease using a bail schedule, comply with Texas law, and assign counsel at magistration.

It’s unfortunate the County has failed to act on its own, despite repeated warnings and attempts from advocates and elected officials to work with them. I stand with the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit and hope to be County Commissioner next January so that I can help take action to fix our broken justice system.

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Houston leaders speak out on school finance decision and treating all Texas students with dignity

(Houston, TX) // Today, Houston leaders held a press conference at Sen. Rodney Ellis’ office to discuss the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance decision and the state’s response to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance to prevent discrimination against transgender students.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited school finance decision, ruling that Texas’ school finance system was constitutional despite it being “undeniably imperfect with immense room for improvement,” as the decision stated. Also on Friday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to schools on how to ensure transgender students are not subject to discrimination. That led to threats that Texas will walk away from more than $10 billion in federal education funding.

Below please find quotes for use by your publication. Photos from the press conference are available for download here.

Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston): “At a time when the Supreme Court admits that Texas’ school finance system is barely scraping by constitutionally, we can’t afford to walk away from $10 billion in federal funding that helps to feed and educate our state’s neediest kids. Let’s instead turn our focus to investing in our neighborhood schools and treating all of our students with the dignity they deserve.”

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Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston): “The Texas Legislature already faces the enormous challenge next session of improving our troubled school finance system during a time when state’s budget is going to be squeezed by falling oil and gas revenues. The last thing we can afford to do is forfeit $10 billion in federal funds by discriminating against innocent transgender children.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston): “The Texas Supreme Court finding that our state meets the minimum state constitutional requirements is nothing to celebrate. This is not a victory for taxpayers, this is a loss for our children. Because the Court’s opinions make it clear that there is plenty of room for improvement. It is ridiculous that we have allowed our public education system to fall so low. The Texas legislature needs to properly fund our schools ─ not just settle for meeting minimum requirements. The children of Texas deserve a system that allows them to meet the high standards we place on them.”

Rep. Coleman continued: “The President’s guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as ─ is correct. School is particularly stressful for transgendered students. Their school should be a place where they can feel safe ─ not ostracized and discriminated against. President Obama’s guidance does not put students in danger, but losing federal funding for purely political gain will hurt students in Texas.”

Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston): “LGBT students are suffering from too much bullying as it is. We do not need the Lt. Governor acting as bully in chief. He should be focusing his energies on how to bring our state up from 38th in the nation on school spending.”

Houston ISD Board of Education Trustee Anna Eastman: “To me it’s all about this quote: ‘As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.’ It’s what I said when HISD was crafting our non-discrimination policy. I hope we all can get beyond a political battle in the media and make sure we are taking care of all of our kids, so they have safe places to learn. Transgender students who are more likely to be bullied, to be homeless, to commit suicide because they are misunderstood don’t want to hurt others, they just want the same assumption of safety and comfort most of us already have.”

Philip Fraissinet, partner with Thompson & Horton LLP: “Although the decision from the Texas Supreme Court last week may have been a technical legal victory for the state, it certainly was not a victory for the children, families, and taxpayers of Texas. Although the Supreme Court was highly critical of the current public school funding system, unfortunately the Court, for the first time in decades, decided not to hold the state accountable for meeting its constitutional obligations. It will be more important than ever for  citizens to engage the political process to ensure that this decision is not used as an excuse to backslide into an even more inadequate and inequitable funding system. Rather, families, educators, taxpayers, and all citizens must be the ones to  challenge lawmakers to make the serious structural improvements to our funding system necessary to provide all Texas children a real chance to succeed.”

Zeph Capo, President of Houston Federation of Teachers: “It’s shameful that the state continues to play politics with Texas children’s futures. The people who will suffer are the students and teachers who are doing the best they can with the crumbs that they can pull together.”

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Press conference on Monday re: school finance decision and treating all Texas students with dignity

(Houston, TX) // At 11 am on Monday, May 16, Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), Rep. Borris Miles (D-Houston), Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), Houston ISD Board Trustee Anna Eastman, as well as education, civil rights, and LGBT advocates, will hold a press conference to discuss the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance decision and the state’s response to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance to prevent discrimination against transgender students.

The press conference will be at Senator Ellis’ district office at 440 Louisiana #575, Houston, TX 77002.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited school finance decision, ruling that Texas’ school finance system was constitutional despite it being “undeniably imperfect with immense room for improvement,” as the decision stated.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to schools on how to ensure transgender students are not subject to discrimination. That led to threats that Texas will walk away from more than $10 billion in federal education funding.

“At a time when the Supreme Court admits that Texas’ school finance system is barely scraping by constitutionally, we can’t afford to walk away from $10 billion in federal funding that helps to feed and educate our state’s neediest kids,” said Senator Ellis. “Let’s instead turn our focus to investing in our neighborhood schools and treating all of our students with the dignity they deserve.”

Education, civil rights, and LGBT advocates will be present at the press conference, along with area elected officials.

What:       Press conference with elected officials, advocates, and subject matter experts

When:       Monday, May 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

Where:     Senator Rodney Ellis’ office, 440 Louisiana #575, Houston, Texas 77002

Who:         Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)
Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston)
Representative Borris Miles (D-Houston)
Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston)
Houston ISD Board of Education Trustee Anna Eastman
Representative from Equality Texas
Zeph Capo, President, Houston Federation of Teachers
Philip Fraissinet, Partner, Thompson & Horton LLP

###

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Our kids matter: today’s disappointing Supreme Court ruling

Earlier this morning, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision on Texas’ broken public school finance system, ruling that “it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements.”

I am incredibly disappointed that more than five million schoolchildren across Texas are being told they’re not worthy of a school finance system that properly invests in their future.

For too long, Texas has operated as a government by lawsuit: the biggest, most difficult issues facing our state are only addressed when mandated by a court. The school finance system has always been patched rather than perfected, as legislators are seemingly content to see it sputter along another two years in spite of its obvious inequities.

But our children deserve better. The legislature must fix the school finance system so that every child across the state – no matter how rich or poor – has access to a quality educational opportunity in their neighborhood schools.

After all, educating future generations of Texans is critical to ensure our state’s success. In 2014, more than five million students were enrolled in Texas’ public schools, and enrollment is projected to reach nine million students by 2050. As a parent with children attending neighborhood public schools and as a product of Texas public schools myself – from elementary school all the way through graduate school – I wholly understand the necessity of a well-funded and effective public school system.

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Regardless of today’s ruling, our state’s public education system is struggling from years of underfunding that peaked with the excessive and unnecessary cuts to local schools that took place in the 2011 legislative session. That year, the state budget cut $4 billion directly from Texas schools and another $1 billion in grants that supported investments like pre-kindergarten.

As school enrollment grows, so should the investment in our children and their educational opportunities. Yet the 2011 cuts were the first time in the history of funding public schools that Texas did not pay for student population growth. So our neighborhood schools were forced to pack students into overcrowded classrooms, fire teachers and staff, and eliminate bus routes.

The impact was real and immediate. Just one year after those historic cuts, Houston ISD, for example, saw a 51 percent increase in the number of elementary school classrooms that required a waiver from the state’s class size cap for kindergarten through fourth grade classes. Statewide, the number of elementary classes exceeding the 22-student cap soared to 8,479 in 2012 from 2,238 in 2011. This occurred despite the fact that studies have consistently shown that smaller class sizes lead to improved academic performance because students are able to receive the individualized attention that they need.

 

Not only does underfunding our public schools hurt students, but it also hurts teachers.  Following the cuts in 2011, a statewide school district survey revealed that approximately 32,000 staff positions were eliminated. Teachers that survived the cuts continued to be underpaid. Texas, then and now, ranks near the bottom of the nation on annual average teachers’ salaries, and low pay for Texas teachers is driving some of our best educators away from the profession.

After the 2011 cuts, hundreds of school districts across the state, including some in my Senate district, sued the state because they lacked the resources to properly educate their students. This lawsuit led to decisions by Judge John Dietz in 2013 and 2014 that the current school finance system “cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texans.” Yet today, the Supreme Court overruled those decisions and said the status quo is somehow sufficient for our kids.

The legislature should treat the underfunding of our children’s schools like what it is: an emergency that must be solved immediately. Texas schools are clearly underfunded and this lack of investment has real world consequences. It’s not a coincidence that schools ranked “exemplary” by TEA receive more than $1,000 more per student to spend than schools ranked “academically unacceptable.”

I encourage you to stand up for Texas children by rallying to invest in our children’s futures, fighting to raise teachers’ salaries, and rejecting failed, pseudo-reforms like vouchers that hurt our neighborhood schools.

Properly funding public education is not an extravagance, but an obligation. When describing the benefit of a comprehensive education, Sam Houston stated that “knowledge is the food of genius.” I hope you will join me in making sure future generations’ minds are well fed through public education.

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Sen. Ellis responds to Texas Supreme Court’s school finance decision

(Houston, TX) // Today, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) released the following statement in response to the Texas Supreme Court decision on the state’s school finance system:

“I am incredibly disappointed that more than five million schoolchildren across Texas are being told they’re not worthy of a school finance system that properly invests in their future.”

“I agree that for too long, Texas has operated as a government by lawsuit: the biggest, most difficult issues facing our state are only addressed when mandated by a court. The school finance system has always been patched rather than perfected, as legislators are seemingly content to see it sputter along another two years in spite of its obvious inequities.”

“But our children deserve better. The legislature must fix the school finance system so that every child across the state – no matter how rich or poor – has access to a quality educational opportunity in their neighborhood schools.”

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Flooding recovery & Texas Fair Defense Act event

Dear Friend:

These past few weeks have been trying times as our community recovers from the tragic floods that cost eight people their lives and displaced thousands of others. President Obama was quick to issue a disaster declaration for Harris County. Because of his prompt declaration, Harris County residents are eligible to apply for federal assistance to supplement local recovery efforts. Federal assistance can be used on home repairs, temporary housing, replacement of personal property, medication, funeral expenses, small loans and transportation, among other things.

Those seeking federal assistance can receive help at one of four newly opened flood recovery centers in Harris County. These recovery centers will have representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) who can help people register flood damage, apply for aid, and answer questions. City and county officials will also be available to offer referrals to legal aid and local social services.

The four recovery centers will be open 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Please review the list below to see which recovery center is closest to you:

Applicants will be asked to provide:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the damaged primary residence
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage
  • Current contact telephone number
  • Address where they can receive mail
  • Bank account and routing numbers for those preferring direct deposit of funds

As of Monday, FEMA had already approved $13 million in assistance to flood victims in four Texas counties, including Harris.  Even if you are not 100 percent certain whether you qualify for aid, please apply. You can apply at the new recovery centers or at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.  If you or a loved one is hearing or speech impaired, please call 1-800-462-7585.


Fighting for families

This past weekend, I joined the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) to fight for displaced residents in the Greenspoint area whose apartments were recently flooded. Despite the fact that their apartments are completely unlivable and full of mold, apartment managers are demanding full rent. TOP helped to organize residents to demand that managers allow residents to forgo rental payments until FEMA and insurance payments can be secured.

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As a Houston Chronicle article explains:

State. Sen. Rodney Ellis joined tenants and advocates outside The Woods of Greenbriar, a complex of more than 170 units in the 900 block of Greens Road, to encourage landlords to waive May rent. […]

Ellis, who is running for Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner, implored property owners to go further than a discount.

“It is totally reasonable to ask the landlords to give one month free rent, because there is nothing that they could do with the unit I just left and most of these units while they’re being repaired,” the state senator said. “If these great folks were not in these units, they wouldn’t make a dime. The units would be empty.”

After the managers felt the pressure, they offered tenants a 25 percent rent reduction on May rent, the first such offer from management. That’s a good first start – certainly better than the threats of penalties residents had previously received from landlords.

But let’s be clear: charging residents in crisis to stay in unlivable, mold-filled apartments is cruel. As residents attempt to secure different housing, landlords should recognize the severity of this situation, expedite repairs, and waive rent and penalties for families in unlivable apartments.


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15th Anniversary of the Texas Fair Defense Act

I want to invite you to join me at this Friday’s 15th anniversary celebration of the Texas Fair Defense Act at Houston’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals (301 Fannin St.). The event runs from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, and it is free and open to the public. Plus, attorneys can receive 2.25 MCLE hours from the State Bar for attending.

Click here to RSVP and get more information.

Fifteen years ago, I passed the Texas Fair Defense Act to improve our state’s criminal justice system and ensure that poor Texans are not sentenced to a poor defense. While the Act has helped to move Texas’ justice system forward, quality of justice is still too contingent on your wealth and the attorney you can afford. We have long way to go on the path to providing Texans the reliable, effective, and fair justice they deserve, which is why this symposium is so important.

After all, the promise that every person, rich or poor, stands equal before the law is at the root of the American ideals of liberty and justice. Ensuring that promise is a reality requires that all people have their rights equally protected by quality legal representation when they are accused of a crime.

From 12:30 to 3:30 pm, the event will include two panels and a keynote address from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Director of Access to Justice, Lisa Foster. Also in attendance will be Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, as well as numerous legal leaders throughout the state.

Following the symposium, there will be a reception at Hearsay Gastro Lounge (218 Travis) from 3:45 to 5 pm.

I hope to see you there.

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Legal leaders to gather in Houston to celebrate 15th anniversary of the Texas Fair Defense Act

(Houston, TX) // On Friday, May 6, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Senator Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen), and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller will gather in Houston at the Fourteenth Court of Appeals to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Texas Fair Defense Act.

The Fair Defense Act, passed in 2001 by Senator Ellis and Senator Hinojosa as Senate Bill 7, is landmark legislation that overhauled the state’s criminal justice system to improve the quality of justice that all Texans receive when they are accused of a crime. Senator Ellis authored Senate Bill 7, which was sponsored by Senator Hinojosa – then a member of the Texas House of Representatives.

Also speaking at the event are Lisa Foster, Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice division, and leading attorneys from across the state. This free event is open to the public.

 “The promise that every person, rich or poor, stands equal before the law is at the root of the American ideals of liberty and justice,” said Senator Ellis. “Ensuring that promise is a reality requires that all people have their rights equally protected by quality legal representation when they are accused of a crime.”

Senator Ellis continued: “Fifteen years ago, I passed the Texas Fair Defense Act to improve our state’s criminal justice system and ensure that poor Texans are not sentenced to a poor defense. While the Act has helped to move Texas’ justice system forward, quality of justice is still too contingent on your wealth and the attorney you can afford. We have long way to go on the path to providing Texans the reliable, effective, and fair justice they deserve, which is why this symposium is so important.”

When:       Friday, May 6, 2016 from 12:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Where:     Fourteenth Court of Appeals, 301 Fannin Street (North Courtroom), Houston, Texas 77002

Info:          For more information and to register, click here.

Agenda:

12:30 pm        Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Senator Rodney Ellis and Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Sponsors of the Fair Defense Act of 2001

12:45 pm        Commencement and Presentation of Awards

  • Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, Chair and Jim Bethke, Executive Director Texas Indigent Defense Commission

1:15 pm          Keynote Address

  • Lisa Foster, Director, Access to Justice, United States Department of Justice

1:30 pm          A look back over the 15 years: Programs that are making a difference

  • Moderator: Jim Bethke / Texas Indigent Defense Commission
  • Jack Stoffregen / Regional Public Defender Office for Capital Cases
  • Alex Bunin / Harris County Public Defender Office
  • Judge Elisabeth Earle / Capital Area Private Defender Service, Travis County
  • Donnie Yandell / Texas Tech Law/Caprock Public Defender
  • Jordan Pollock / Immigration attorney, Dallas Public Defender Office

2:30 pm          A look forward to challenges that lie ahead

  • Moderator: Andrea Marsh / University of Texas School of Law and Texas Fair Defense Project
  • Michael Young / Chief Public Defender Bexar County
  • Cathy Burnett / State Bar of Texas Legal Services to Poor in Criminal Matters Committee
  • Andrea Keilen / General Counsel, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
  • Jim Allison / General Counsel, County Judges and Commissioners Association

3:30 pm          Closing Remarks / Adjourn

  • Senator Rodney Ellis and Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa

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Federal assistance now available for flood recovery

Yesterday, President Obama declared a major disaster in Harris County andordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas impacted by last week’s tragic flooding. The President also issued a disaster declaration for Fayette, Grimes, and Parker counties.

I want to thank our President for his quick action to help our community in such a time of need. Working together with our local, state, and federal partners, Houston will come back stronger than ever.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance today by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

According to FEMA, the following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama’s disaster declaration issued for the State of Texas:
  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable.  Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters.  Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements. (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.  (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.   (Source: FEMA funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs; 25 percent funded by the state.)
  • Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.  (Source: FEMA funded; state administered.)
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance.  Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses.  Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.  (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact.  This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.  (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)
  • Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters.

Again, to find out more and apply for aid, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers are operating from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week.

If you have any questions, please call my Houston office at 713-236-0306.

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Resources for Houston flood recovery

Yesterday, our community was slammed by historic rains that caused immense flooding throughout the area. Houston remains under a flash flood watch until 7 am on Wednesday due to the potential for additional rain. Many locations are still experiencing extremely high water that may not subside for a few days.

As our community continues to deal with flooding, please keep in mind these important tips to stay safe:
  1. Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
  2. Head for higher ground and stay there.
  3. Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  4. Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  5. Keep children out of the water.
  6. Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
Area services
These services will help you as you begin to recover from the flood’s impact.
  1. Report flooding: the City of Houston Office of Emergency Management is asking any residents who experienced flooding inside their home or business to report it to the Houston 311 Help & Information Line by calling 311 or submitting the report online here.
  2. Legal assistance: the State Bar of Texas offers a legal hotline to help connect people with legal aid providers following disasters: 1-800-504-7030. Additional resources are available at texasbar.com/disasters and texaslawhelp.org.
  3. Abandoned car: if your car was towed during the flood, call 713-308-8580 or visit findmytowedcar.com to determine where it is currently located.
  4. No power or downed power lines: please report a power outage or downed power lines to CenterPoint Energy at 713-207-2222.
  5. Food: if you need food or water, please contact the Houston Food Bank at 832-369-9390.
  6. Free storage: U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage and U-Box container usage to flood victims. Call one of the Houston offices for more details: U-Haul of East Houston 281-377-3380; U-Haul of West Houston 281-495-6683; U-Haul of Gulf Coast Texas 713-750-7701; U-Haul Storage Centers of Houston 281-531-4022
Shelters
There are designated American Red Cross shelters available across the city if you or your family have experienced flood damage and need a place to stay:
  1. Chinese Community Center: 9800 Town Park Dr. 77036
  2. Willow Meadows Baptist Church: 4300 W. Belfort. 77035
  3. Johnston Middle School: 10410 Manhattan Dr. 77096
  4. Jersey Village Baptist Church: 16518 Jersey Dr. 77040
  5. MO Campbell Education Center: 1865 Aldine Bender Rd. 77032
  6. South County Community Center: 2235 Lake Robbins Rd. 77380
  7. Acres Home Community Development Corp: 6719 W. Montgomery Rd. 77041
These shelters are open 24 hours, providing a place to stay, food, and support.

Interested in volunteering?
Families across our community are still in desperate need of assistance even after they are out of immediate danger. If you are interested in volunteering and helping those in need, please visit the Red Cross website.

State of disaster
Yesterday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott issued a state of disaster for nine counties impacted by the torrential rains and subsequent flooding, including Harris and Fort Bend counties. This action activates the disaster recovery and rehabilitation aspects of the state emergency management plan and allows our communities to move forward as quickly as possible with recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Other questions?
Please call our Houston office at 713-236-0306 should you or your family need assistance. Additionally, operators for Houston’s 311 system are standing by to assist you with non-emergency questions.

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