On October 29, during the KPFT program Growing Up In America, Nick Cooper called in with a question for the guest, Mayor Annise Parker. Apparently others called too, and their calls were screened by the program staff. On the air, Host Dr. Bob Sanborn responded:
“Mayor, I don’t want to bang this question to death, but we’re getting a lot of people calling in on this. The whole feeding of homeless children. I mean, what is that all about? I mean, why are people giving you so much grief around that issue?”
The Mayor responded with her usual talking points about the new law. Dr. Sanborn responded:
“Mayor, and I think if people knew you like some of us know you, the commitment you have to children and the commitment you have to making the city better for children… I mean… it would be pretty hard to have a bigger commitment than you have, I think. That’s such an important thing.”
Since July 1, volunteers face $2,000 fines for the crime of sharing food with more than five people in public, unless they have prior written permission.
The Mayor typically describes obtaining permission as a very simple process. However, it is impossible for many Houstonians to request permission when they don’t know ahead of time which days they will have extra food, or where they will find hungry people in the streets. Others are intimidated by even the idea of police asking for papers. Now, Houston’s homeless describe going for days without food, as food providers have dropped out.
Before the law was passed, hundreds of volunteers, who feared exactly this type of manufactured food crisis, went to city council to speak out. Instead of meeting with the groups and individuals she would be criminalizing, the Mayor instead ramped up pressure to pass a law as quickly as possible.
The Mayor, and now Bob Sanborn, seem to categorize any criticism of this terrible law as a personal attack. Dr. Sanborn has let Houstonians down by dismissing legitimate concerns as “people giving [Mayor Parker] so much grief.”
This follows another incident when the concerns of the peace community were abandoned by Sanborn when interviewing Parker on August 24, 2009, when she was just a mayoral candidate. She said that the “military has been, has a long proud tradition of moving people into the middle class in our society.” Sanborn chimed in, in full agreement, saying “absolutely, and with the new G.I. Bill, it’s gonna do even more for that, but you’re right, absolutely.”
We call on Dr. Sanborn to uphold journalistic standards when interviewing people in power, and to allow callers to ask their questions directly. As journalists, we should be extra vigilant not to pander to powerful people, or let friendships get in the way of asking tough questions on behalf of disenfranchised populations.
Nick Cooper, Editor, Houston Peace News; Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs & The Houston Indymedia Radio Show on KPFT
Raj Mankad, Editor, Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston
Omar Afra, Publisher, Free Press Houston
Lee Loe, Executive Editor, Houston Peace News
Wally James, Host, Progressive Forum on KPFT
Jackson Allers, Co-founder KPFT News; Managing Editor, World Hip Hop Market, Beirut, Lebanon
Father Gerry Kelly, Maryknoll Missioners
Liana Lopez, Producer & Co-Host, Nuestra Palabra on KPFT, KPFT LSB Member
Mark Bebawi, Host and Producer – The Monitor, KPFT
Darelle Robbins, KPFT LSB Member
Nancy Saibara-Naritomi, KPFT LSB Member
Maria Jimenez, Houston United
Henry Cooper, Host, Proyecto Latinoamericano on KPFT
John Herrera, Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs & Houston Indymedia Radio Show on KPFT
Art Browning, Co-Producer, Green Watch, Green Party Candidate State Representative District 130
Jim Ellinger, Austin Airwaves
Noah Rattler, homeless advocate
Neil Aquino, Blogger, Texas Liberal
Otis Maclay, KPFT Listener Member; Producer, ‘The Barfly News’, ‘Bob and Betty’
Nicole Caldwell, Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs
Joe Marcinkowski, Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs
Judith Hoffhien, Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs; Leader in the Mennonite Church
Travis Kerchen, Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs
Debra Cornett-Elliff, Volunteer, Houston Food Not Bombs
Maria Selva, Green Party Congressional Candidate District 29
Don Cook, Green Party Congressional Candidate District 22
Alán Alán Apurim, Secty. GP-TX S.E.C.
Ernesto Leon, Video Producer, Bolivariano
Paloma Garner, Co-founder of the Houston Re-Market
Brigitte Zabak, Editor, Free Press Houston
Chuck Jackson, Ph.D.