ANTHONY MCDANIEL: Never miss a town hall meeting

Published 2:06 pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

Citizens of Port Arthur, many of us complain about the state of our city without ever taking the necessary steps to affect change.  

There was a town hall meeting at the Sacred Heart-St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the parish hall on Saturday, Nov. 17.  Flyers were distributed throughout the community; a radio show was aired on KSAP the Breeze 96.9 FM, an announcement made at the “Calling Out Ceremony” sponsored by project HOPE and CPS, held in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse downtown, and plenty word of mouth advertisement.  Despite the promotion effort, turnout left a lot to be desired.  

The meeting was facilitated by Roxanne May, a specialist for the Center for the Elimination of Disproportionalities and Disparities.  Their mission is to partner with Health and Human Service Commission agencies and external stakeholders; other systems and communities to identify and eliminate disproportionality and disparities impacting children, families and vulnerable citizens.  Disproportionality is the over representation of a particular group, in this particular case, in the social services system.  

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The keynote speaker was Joyce James, Associate Deputy Executive Commissioner for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.  It became abundantly clear to me, at the meeting, how she acquired her current designation.  This lady commissioner was the epitome of enlightenment.  James, with an objective tone and an authoritative stature, conveyed a very real illustration of the current situation of the African American and Hispanic/Latino cultures in our community.  During her presentation she provided Port Arthur demographic information, as well as PAISD fiscal year discipline comparison.  Further, James detailed the health challenges faced by minorities today and the barriers that prevent resolutions to such challenges.  

The deputy executive commissioner was followed by various social service representatives in our area.  Representatives from the Port Arthur Housing Authority, Health Department and Texas Health and Human Services were also present to offer information and direction to meet the needs of the community. Mayor Delores Prince was also present with Councilman Bob Williamson to answer questions and address concerns presented them by community members present.  One resident was concerned that her house was in need of painting and discovered that free white paint was available to her via the “One Block at a Time” program sponsored by the city.  Other citizens were concerned that the new building on west Reverend Ransom Howard Street is yet to be accessible to residents.  Then there were others who questioned the economic future of Port Arthur relative to jobs and infrastructure.

Port Arthur Police Chief Mark Blanton shared the dangers of synthetic drug usage and the effects it has had on some users that subsequently resulted in temporary incarceration.  Did you know that the over the counter marijuana that used to be legal to sell in stores is now illegal by way of city ordinance?  And did you know that the bag of weed that used to cost $20 in stores only costs $ 0.78 wholesale?  Wow, some may call it profit; I call it a rip off.  Blanton also described the occurrences of hallucinations experienced by users of this synthetic drug.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. and extended to 2 p.m. Coffee, Danish and lunch from Jason’s Deli was served over exceptionally enlightening dialogue.  It is definitely something that should not be missed in the future.  The next meeting is supposed to take place in approximately three months.  The Center for the Elimination of Disproportionalities and Disparities really wants to help find resolutions for many of the community’s challenges, as well as help minimize the barriers to finding them.  All questions were not met with acceptable answers; however, as we increase our attendance, the accountability of those powers that be is also increased.  

One thing in particular that really impressed me about Deputy Commissioner James is that she understands the need for the system to assess its responsiveness to the people it serves.  I really believe her when she says, “The primary goal of the Center for the Elimination of Disproportionalities and Disparities is achieving equity for Texas’ most vulnerable citizens.” I predict and will continue to advocate for more town hall meetings in Port Arthur.  Don’t miss them.

Anthony McDaniel of Port Arthur is founder of Concerned Young Citizens of West Side Port Arthur.