After a late night phone and e-mail campaign by the Houston Young Stonewall Democrats and Equality Across America – Houston the Houston City Council, in a 10 to 2 vote (with 2 absent), voted to renew funding for Marjo House, a small residential home providing care to people living with AIDS. [The video of the meeting is available HERE]
There was a lot of debate about renewing the funds but what stood out to me most was a statement made my Councilmember Melissa Noriega, who appeared near tears:
Councilmember Jarvis Johnson who was trying to block the renewal of funding for Marjo House seemed enraged by Noriega’s statement for inclusion, he bristled at the idea that the social stigma surrounding AIDS was in anyway responsible for objections to funding Marjo House saying “No-one who has spoken to this body has talked about “those people”. So I wanted to fact check that by reviewing the public testimony from yesterday:
“Separate from all the legal arguments and this and that... what kept rolling around in my head last night was ‘those people’ we don’t want ‘those people’ living in our neighborhood, and I can’t vote for that - so I’m going to vote that these funds are allocated… it’s about ‘those people’ and I can’t do that.”
“There are stakeholders in Pleasantville who are very concerned about the value of the property, the value of their community, and the value of the people who live in their community.”
-Nicole Turner, president of the Pleasantville Super Neighborhood
“We don’t want the houses to get into our community… We beg of you not to let these houses in our community. We’re doing everything we can to keep our community safe... We don’t want [our community] to be where everything is being misplaced or degraded, so I’m begging of council, mayor – [support] us keeping our community safe.”
“If this particular agenda is advanced it means that you open up Pandora’s box, people are glad to come in and do anything they want to do … I’m proud to stand here and do whatever I can to protect a better life in Pleasantville.”
“I simply say in those communities that are not deed restricted they don’t have a leg to stand on if they decide that they don’t want a house with people with AIDS next door to them because you don’t live in a deed restricted community, I moved into a deed restricted community because I wanted that protection.”So people with AIDS are of low value, degraded, unsafe, a danger to the better life of the community and people that Councilmember Johnson has taken pains not to live next to, but Johnson is correct, no-one said “those people”, so I guess there is no discrimination or stigma at play here.
-Councilmember Jarvis Johnson
Later, during comments by Councilmember Sue Lovell, Johnson began loudly muttering and interrupting, prompting Mayor Annise Parker to remind the council of the decorum that is expected of City Council members.
Only Councilmembers Johnson and Bradford voted against renewal of funds for Marjo House.
Councilmember Wanda Adams, whose district includes the historic “gayborhood” of Montrose spoke in favor of funding, but quietly exited the room just before the issue was to come to a vote. I’m told that she was standing in the hall outside the council chambers when the renewal of funds was approved and that she was told that the vote was taking place but remained in the hall.
One wonders why Adams would choose not to vote on an issue that is important to a large number of her constituents.