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WHO WE ARE

The Houston Abolitionist Collective is a group of organizers committed to building power and a movement around abolition in Houston and Harris County through political education, mutual aid, transformative justice, and community organizing to end policing, punitive justice, and harm. HAC formed in response to the murder of George Floyd and the Uprising of June 2020. 

Abolitionist Community Organizing & Education

Houston Abolition Collective Newsletter

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

 

Happy May and Hello Summer!
 

Welcome to our fifth 2022 issue of the Houston Abolition Collective Newsletter! Thank you for reading and we are happy to have seen y'all at our May's general meeting! We hope to see y'all again at our next meeting June 13th. We meet every second Monday of the month. If you'd like to be apart of our emailing list to be notified to join with the virtual meeting link please email us at liberatehtx@protonmail.com. In this newsletter issue, we'll be politically educating about the city budget workshops and ARPA funds being used in Houston and in Harris County. Enjoy your reading and remember to stay hydrated, sun screened, and cooling during this summer's heat!

Contents

  • Houston's City Council F'Y23 Budget
  • Harris County ARPA Survey Funds
  • Local Actions
  • Local Events
  • Closing
Houston City News

City Budget FY23

Recap of last year
The City of Houston is currently working on its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023, and as most of us have come to expect, it includes even more money for HPD than the last budget. Last year, HAC organized a public survey to see what Houstonians ACTUALLY want in their city budget, finding that 91% of those surveyed agreed that HPD takes up too much of our funding. This grassroots survey reached 1,043 Houstonians between May 2, 2021 and May 16, 2021, just a few hundred respondents shy of CM Alcorn’s own budget survey. Yet, the 2023 budget proposal contains an increase of HPD’s budget by about $33M, while funding for no other department has seen such an increase in funding. The system of policing and the systems it protects must end. If you'd like, take a moment to reflect on community services and resources requested by Houstonians last year.

Budget Workshop FY23 Updates

On May 11,16-19; the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Workshop from the city has been conducted. For every city department, they present a presentation of history and projects of funds in front of city council and the public. From the first few workshops public speakers were able to directly ask with the presence of both the department's directors and city council members until directors were dismissed for the later workshops to save "time". Below you'll see a few highlights of the city's budget workshops.

CM Robinson stating to the department of Parks & Recreation after the director states how they collab creatively with other departments in order to fulfill their needs.

"How you do so much, with so little! [..] I want to appreciate what you're doing with limited dollars and in all those special revenue funds and special projects that are piled one on top of the other."
During the Houston Airport System Dpt. CM Martin responding as a directive from the mayor on how speakers to be treated when involved in the budget workshop process.
Here is Council Member Pollard and Council Member Jackson following up to answering about the public being involved in the budget workshop process, when a public speaker asked "When we're taking time out of our day from our work hours, under 1 minute we're rushed while speaking, to then just to be told to submit our comments, what is the point of  this then? This is supposed to be a democracy." 
CM Castex-Tatum inquiring after Dpt of Neighborhoods presentation to have HPD officers staffed per district.

CM Martin after HPD's workshop presentation: "In the day of defunding police, I'm proud to say we add money to your budget but we can reallocate the money in there to certain departments for the mental health components."
HPD Workshop - Chief  Finner:
"Weekend of Memorial, when you talkin to other chiefs around the nation you understand that everyone has the same problems, with one exception. Nobody has the backlog problem that we have here in Houston Harris County."

"it's a call to our entire community, to look after for one another and need to stamp out hate at the earliest moment we can, to stop it and stamp it out, and there's responsibility to family members and closed loved ones, when you see it..get your loved ones some help."
As Finner and DA Ogg acknowledge our historic backlog let's remind ourselves that the main focus groups that get incarcerated, criminalized, and policed are Black and brown lowincome community members. From 2021 we saw a number of pending cases in Harris County of over 94,000 cases, with almost half being misdemeanors being considered as backlogs.Where 87% of these individuals are pre-trial - never been convicted or have been to court. While DA Ogg holds expensive fundraisers from her donors being real estate developers and oil executives who have a financial stake in enforcing law and order. While community members are too poor to afford their own cash bail that funds the prison industrial complex. See more of how the DA, her office, and HPD continue to uphold white supremacy here. And previous backlog coverage from 2021 here
For Finner to also acknowledge that it requires community to look after for one another, is another great reminder how we must invest in care and not cops! We must invest for our other departments, from community members, grassroots organizations such as the Northeast Action Collective advocating for better infrastructure and funds for their neighborhoods from Public Works, other residents advocating for funds in Parks & Recs, Public Health Dpt, Libraries, and more all while HPD sits on over 1.018 billion. While City Council continues to weigh how to distribute $5.7 billion budgetHPD is set for $33 million dollar budget increase. 

It must be understood that policing does not stop nor end violence, but investing in community care, folks having their needs met can. Because at the end of the day, we take care of each other by investing in one another. We want to thank everyone for coming out virtually and in person of crafting budget proposals and questions to ask to our elected officials. Make sure to check out this Budget Tool from Data to Dream WorkShops as to see what community members want to see and how the budget process can be better understood. 
“All we usually hear about are the so-called responsible leaders, the ones who are 'responsible' to our oppressors.” - Assata Shakur
Harris County News
American Rescue Plan Act

Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that provides additional relief to address the continued impacts of COVID-19. The City of Houston survey seeks input regarding the City’s plan to prioritize and spend $607.8 million in American Rescue Plan funds. There is also the Harris County survey that is still open, the county will receive $915MIL. HAC had a working group hour in filling the City's survey out, please take a look and make sure you fill out the survey and let them know what you'd like to be funded in our city that benefits our neighbors. As government officials are seeking ways to use our relief funds for adding violence to our vulnerable community members for more policing and surveillance.

On May 10th, Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to use $2.6 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to create what they’re calling the “Violent Persons (VIPER) Task Force,” a multi-agency task force, led by the sheriff’s office, designed to “track down” and arrest people with warrants for charges characterized as violent. VIPER is a gross misuse of ARPA funds, which were intended for efforts to create an equitable and just pandemic recovery. The task force, like all efforts to stop violence through more policing, attacks our communities, instead of addressing underlying causes of harm, further increasing the jail population, flooding Black and brown neighborhoods with dangerous warrant enforcements, and criminalizing people with mental illness. Stay tuned to our Harris County Budget WG and the Collective's update to connect again for the County's ARPA survey actions.

Call To Action:

Shotspotter "Neighbors Against Spying" Campaign: 

We are a coalition of community organizations and individuals calling on the City of Houston and Harris County to cancel their contracts with ShotSpotter to install surveillance listening devices and cameras that increase policing and surveillance in Black, brown, and poor neighborhoods.

We urge the City and County to reinvest the $3.5 million ShotSpotter fund into existing and new gun violence prevention programs as well as funds for direct financial assistance, housing and rent assistance, and educational supports that can help address the root causes of gun violence. We also urge the City and County to invest in higher wages and more support for operations of nonviolent 911 response to ensure that people facing crises can receive more options for immediate, unarmed, nonpolicing support.


SIGN OUR PETITION & SHARE: bit.ly/stopshotspotterhtx 

If you'd like to join our meetings, the next #StopShotSpotter meeting is happening this Thursday, May 26 at 7pm on Zoom. RSVP here
Save + share our social media posts to learn more background and demands.
(For Spanish posts to share click here / publicaciones en español aqui)

Campaign to Stop the LaSalle Transfers & Depopulate Harris County Jail:  

Our next planning meetings for Cancel the LaSalle Contract campaign are on Thursdays from 4-5pm. Please email liberatehtx@protonmail.com to get involved!

This working group's effort to cancel the La Salle contract to outsource pretrial jail defendants to Louisiana and address the overpopulation crisis in Harris County jails by Kim Ogg DA. We dream and fight for a world with accountability & care without the plague by punishment, police, and poverty. We keep each other safe, not jails, as every intention & action is a step closer to a liberated world

Here's to learn the background of the campaign and previous solidarity actions

6/6 Harris County Budget Working Group:

This is a coalition of organizations and individuals working to advocate to invest in communities for Harris County Commissioner Court budget. We cover what the budget cycle is, interim budget happenings, and departments/goals with abolitionist priorities. If you would like to be included to attend future meetings email liberatehtx@protonmail.com to get involved! We will meet on June 6th, Monday at 6pm - 7pm

Council Member Alcorn's Budget Survey:

Share all of your bold and ambitious abolitionist ideas here.


Sign Petition to help Charles Mamou Jr

Charles Mamou, Jr. has been on death row for over twenty years. He’s asking for an investigation into his case, one that includes all the evidence the Houston Police Department had twenty years ago, which would make him innocent. Sign the petition to help Charles Mamou, Jr.


 

UPCOMING LOCAL EVENTS:

Data to Dream #HouBudget 2022 

Thank you to everyone who has engaged with our workshops this year! Earlier this month we released the city budget tool! Check it out and share today: houstonbudget.cool

The City's new budget proposal was released and City budget workshops ended Thursday so we’re nearing the finish line. We've finished up our workshops for this budget adoption cycle, but we'll have more coming soon!

Next step: we're continuing to develop city budget amendment proposals!  The mayor's deadline is Wednesday.

Follow BLMHTX/ImagiNoir on eventbrite to not miss future events and email liberatehtx@protonmail.com to get connected.

Photo by Quia Brown
Signing Off

Thank you for reading this issue of the Houston Abolition Collective newsletter! Let's create a world with community care without prisons, policing, and surveillance.

In solidarity,

Houston Abolition Collective
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April 2022 Newsletter

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Houston Abolitionist Collective · 2202 Alabama St · Houston, TX 77004-4314 · USA

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