Austin Common Ground Relief ATXFlood@Gmail.com 512-537-1080 Twitter: @ATXFlood
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/14/2013
City Delays Onion Creek Flood Home Buyouts For Months
Hurricane Katrina Survivor Forms Austin Common Ground Relief
Click to visit ACGR’s Facebook page.
Austin Common Ground Relief, a newly formed network of Austin organizers & residents, recently held a meeting of 20 volunteers in the Onion Creek neighborhood devastated by flooding. They began serving meals and supporting residents with volunteer labor in the days immediately after the Halloween floods.
The group met in the heart of the Onion Creek flood zone to coordinate their efforts, at the flood-damaged home of Hurricane Katrina survivor Ruth Kaplan. Common Ground organizer, Lisa Fithian, who spent a year doing relief work after Hurricane Katrina said, “Many organizations responded to the immediate needs of those most affected by the floods; but many of those groups are pulling back relief efforts. With the winter months ahead, residents are literally being left in the cold. Austin Common Ground Relief is seeking to fill that void by providing daily meals and collecting warm clothes, blankets and heaters for residents who are continuing to live and work in the flood ravaged neighborhoods.”
The group was told by a city official that buyouts of 115 homes in the Onion Creek area would be fully funded. However, neither the city official nor anyone from the contractor handling the buyouts could name exactly where the money is coming from, potentially risking a repeat of what happened years ago during the last round of buyouts when money ran out and residents were left at risk.
In 2007, the City of Austin passed a bond for 50 million dollars to help fund the buyouts recommended in an 2006 Army Corp of Engineers report, however the money ran out and the city left residents at risk. Adding to this failure, the city neglected to put adequate drainage systems in the area and failing to make sure a flood plan was in place when flooding inevitably occurred.
“We can’t wait for the city to come to the aid of our communities. People’s homes have been destroyed; many of them don’t have gas and it’s getting cold. Now the city is telling people that they have to wait between four and five months for anything to happen, when they should have bought these homes out years ago? That’s unacceptable.” says Austin Common Ground Relief’s Francisco Cortez.
According to HDR Engineering, the contractor that is handling the city buyouts, homeowners will not get any money for their homes until next spring at the earliest.
Vernon Ellison, neighborhood resident of 28 years, will meet with the City of Austin this Thursday and is unsure of where he will go if the buy out of his home takes months. “I can stay with my family for a week or so,” Vernon says, “but four to five months is too long of a time to be without a home.” Vernon says he may even consider moving back into his home, which is already gutted of sheet rock and carpet to prevent mold infestation, if the buyouts take that long.
Across the street from Vernon lived Gus Castro and his family. A car thrown around by the flood sits diagonally across his lawn and his trailer is still mired in the floodplain across from his home, tilted on its side, damaged, and abandoned. “We have found places to stay since the flood happened, but I have a family, I have children in school, we need to get this behind us. I have no idea what we will do if the buyouts take that long” Gus says. As with most residents of the area, neither Gus nor Vernon has insurance, making the situation that much more dire.
Austin Common Ground Relief is a grass-roots network of Austin residents providing aid to the victims of the Halloween 2013 floods. ACGR shares food, labor, donations and support of all kinds to residents in need.
Strike Debt, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, has abolished $13.5 million worth of medical debt, with $7.5 million of that debt coming from 1,676 people in Texas. “No one should have to go into debt or bankruptcy to pay for basic needs like health care,” said Laura Hanna an organizer with Strike Debt in New York, noting that 62% of all bankruptcies have medical debt as a contributing factor.
Hospitals, like banks and credit card companies, sell unpaid debts to debt collectors for pennies on the dollar. The Rolling Jubilee, one project of Strike Debt, used some of those pennies to abolish these medical debts. “This debt is a little piece of someone’s life, a little bit of their misery, and it gets bought and sold to make a profit,” said Hanna.
“The problem is our privatized health care system which is designed to make profits for the insurance industry while failing to meet patients’ health needs, all while burying many in debt that they’ll never be able to pay” said Hannah Appel, an organizer with Strike Debt.
Organizers in Austin are planning a debtors’ assembly on November 15 at Trinity United Methodist on November, and 16 a debtors’ carnival in Rosewood Park, near Rosewood and Pleasant Valley to call attention to they way our economic system buries ordinary people in debt—to enrich the 1%.
Texans whose debt has been abolished will receive a letter in the mail informing them of the good news. Strike Debt has raised more than $600,000 and to date has abolished over $14.7MM worth of debt.
Strike Debt started in May in New York and has now spread to cities across the country. People can download the Strike Debt Organizers Kit from strikedebt.org to learn how to create a debtors assembly. The site’s Debt Resistors Operations Manual explains how debt works, how to protect yourself, and how to fight back. It contains a chapter on medical debt.
Strike Debt is working towards building a new kind of collective power in order to challenge exploitation by the financial industry. “Debt is the way we cooperate with Wall Street,” said Thomas Gokey an organizer with Strike Debt in Tennessee, “With the Rolling Jubilee, we’ve demonstrated how little your debts are actually worth. Now that you know this, it’s time to use it as leverage. It’s time to fight back. The Rolling Jubilee needs to roll into larger forms of resistance and outright non-cooperation with Wall Street’s unjust debts.” Looking forward, Strike Debt is laying the groundwork for a debtors’ union capable of collective debt refusal.
Healthcare Emergency: It’s a Matter of Life or Debt
Actions in multiple cities are planned to mark the abolition of 13.5 million dollars of medical debt belonging to 2,693 people by the Rolling Jubilee. This is the third of a series of major purchases by the group, which abolished $14.7 million of debt in the last year. The Rolling Jubilee is a campaign that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. The Rolling Jubilee launched in November 2012 and went viral, raising over $600,000 and garnering attention in major media news outlets. Doctors, nurses, patients, and citizens are coming together to declare a medical emergency: • Our privatized healthcare system buries ordinary people in debt all to enrich the 1%. The Affordable Care Act maintains and expands this privatized system and does not solve the problem of medical debt. • 62% of personal bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. ¾ of people who declare bankruptcy due to medical bills had health insurance when they incurred those bills. • 86% of doctors begin their professional lives with medical school debt, a financial burden that pushes them away from serving those who need their help most. • Community hospitals deemed “unprofitable” are being closed left and right because they have fallen too deeply into debt In Austin there will be two events, on November 15th and 16th. Events will take place other cities. See http://strikedebt.org/n15/ for updates
November 15th Debtors’ Assembly and Press Conference 7pm Trinity United Methodist 4001 Speedway, Austin, TX 78751
Come join us for a debtor’s carnival! Bring food to share if you are able, musical instruments, and your unique talents and skills to entertain and educate fellow debtors as we gather to learn about each other, how debt operates, and Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee.
ABOUT STRIKE DEBT Strike Debt emerged out of Occupy Wall Street and is dedicated to raising public awareness about predatory debt practices, debt resistance and mutual aid. Initiatives include publishing The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual, supporting the Occupy Student Debt Campaign, and The Rolling Jubilee, www.strikedebt.org and www.rollingjubilee.org
Eric Marquez was arrested during the Port of Houston Solidarity Action back in December of 2011 while he was participating as part of Occupy Now (Dallas). The action was in solidarity with the West Coast Port Shutdown which was called by Occupy Oakland. Unlike the rest of the protesters at the port Eric stayed in prison until August of 2013, he spent roughly 1 year and 10 months in prison. Eric was a political prisoner, we believe his story makes it clear that the Dallas District Attorney acted to keep Eric in jail just as he was about to be released on a bond. It is also clear that his ability to bail out was restricted because of the severity of the charge he received during the Port Action. He would NOT have gotten that charge if it were not for the direct involvement of the Austin Police Department to entrap 7 Occupy Activists. As a result, years of Eric’s life were stolen but they never broke his spirit and now that he is released looks forward to working with Occupy or something like Occupy to help others in need. Eric is 25, he is a veteran of the War in Iraq and was diagnosed with PTSD. He joined Occupy Now in October 2011, was arrested in December 2011 and was released in August of 2013. He acted in good faith with Occupy believing his actions could help struggling workers on the West Coast and also lead to broader social change through building solidarity. If you can, please donate a few dollars to a good man who could use a little solidarity right now.
War, corruption, injustice, environmental destruction, growing economic inequality, violation of human rights: there are many problems facing the world today, which is yours? In an effort to build relations among local activist and concerned citizens alike Occupy Austin invites you and your organization or working group to join us in celebration of our two year anniversary.
As a non-ideological, non-partisan group of political activists Occupy Austin encourages those with political, social, moral, or environmental grievances to join us in a co-operative day of action: building relationships around the solutions to problems facing the world that bring can bring us together in the first place.
We meet at city hall! The birthplace of our movement and a people’s common. We will meet here with various working groups, an open mic, a DJ, possibly even a movie, and internet access. Bring yourself, your grievance; and together we will work on changing the world.
6:00pm – 7:30pm / Non-Violent Direct Action Training
7:30pm – 8:15pm / Spokes Council
8:15pm – ??? / Breakout Groups
The Republican war on women has created a moment of awakening and action. People are rising up in unprecedented numbers to be a part of direct democracy and history. Here in Austin, we are coming together across communities to stand against this injustice. We are prepared to take nonviolent action, if democracy and justice is denied.
Rise Up Texas is the name of a growing movement of individuals and allied organizations coming together to protect and maintain reproductive sovereignty in Texas. Groups formed after Tuesday’s filibuster, including Stand With Texas Women, Kill the Bill, and the Unruly Mob as well as pre-existing activist organizations are joining this work.
Rise Up Texas is calling on activists to meet at the Capitol (south steps) on Sunday, June 30, 5-8pm for trainings, poster and t-shirt making and organizing.
About Rise Up Texas
Rise Up Texas aims to educate, inspire and empower people for transformative change.
Rise Up Texas believes all women, regardless of race, economic status, disability status, religion, immigration status or where they live, must have an inalienable right to safe, affordable and accessible healthcare and the right to choose what happens to our own bodies.
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