It’s Time to Take City Hall

I’ve lived in this city for two decades now, which is literally four times longer than anywhere else I’ve lived in my whole damn life. I grew up in a lot of places, but this place is my home; I’m a Houstonian. Believe it or not, I love it here, warts and smog and flat landscape and asshole drivers and all.

One of the main reasons why, if you couldn’t guess from this Website itself, is because Houston has one of the most jaw-droppingly great music scenes I’ve encountered, full of people doing amazing (and sometimes very strange; sorry, Austin, but you’re not the Weird Capitol of Texas anymore, not by a long shot) things in spite of being treated like the red-headed stepchild of the state when it comes to music. If you live in Houston and make music, you’re damn well not doing it for fame or glory — if that’s why you’re here, you need to seriously rethink your career path. People here make music because they love doing it, plain and simple, and because Houston’s scene is wide-open and talented as hell.

And yet, in the whole time I’ve called Houston my home, I’ve seen 20 years’ worth of city government that’s given bare-minimum lip service to the local music scene, if it’s paid any attention to it at all. While our metropolitan brethren like Austin and Dallas seem to recognize their own music scenes are valuable assets to the city, things to be proud of and promote, the people who run Houston have repeatedly demonstrated that they view the scene here as not much more than a nuisance.

Any time an issue that impacts bands or musicians in this city has come before the City Council, our elected representatives have sided with the other guy, whether it’s businesses or disgruntled neighborhood-dwellers. If it comes down to music vs., well, pretty much anything, music loses, every single damn time.

Which is why something like the new Greater Houston Entertainment Coalition PAC needed to happen. The music scene, like it or not, is a part of the fabric of this city, and the people involved deserve to be represented, too, right up there with the neighborhood associations and developers. It’s about damn time that somebody fight back against poorly-thought-out measures like the recently-enacted — and vague to the point of insanity — noise ordinance, and that the fight not consist of a handful of outraged people speaking before City Council and then getting shrugged off.

At the moment, the GHEC PAC’s goal is to get City Council to amend the noise ordinance (otherwise known as Chapter 30 of the City of Houston’s Code of Ordinances) to be more fair and easier to enforce or comply with, and I’ll wholeheartedly agree that that’s a goal worth taking on.

Later on down the road, though, there’s a slew of other things the PAC could push for, including honest-to-God support from the city itself. I’ve talked to people from other cities in Texas and elsewhere who are absolutely amazed that the city doesn’t do anything to promote Houston music, even when people elsewhere are paying attention to, say, Robert Ellis, Buxton, Fat Tony, or B L A C K I E (to name a few). In the city government’s eyes, the only “Houston music” that exists is ZZ Top, Destiny’s Child, classical, or country music (and hell, Ellis and Buxton are country).

And there’s really no reason for that to be the case. I heard a little while back that Austin’s declared May 24th to be The Sour Notes Day, in honor of cool, cool indie-rock gang The Sour Notes, and while I’m not 100% sure it’s for real, a part of me says, “why the hell not?” Why can’t a city decide that heck, we’re going to pick out a handful of bands or musicians, of whatever genre, each year and try to help them get more visibility? The budget for it would be miniscule compared to what the city spends on other things.

That’s one way to go, but it’s definitely not the only way; if enough people get behind this PAC, it could make the city sit up and realize it does have something right here in its own backyard that can be a draw for tourists (hey, quit laughing) and locals alike. Look at the success of the Free Press Summer Fest these past two years; Omar and his crew have proven that people do give a damn about music that’s not one of the tiny, tiny handful of acts/genres I mentioned above, and not only that, but they’re willing to drive from elsewhere in Texas and spend their hard-earned cash right here.

Beyond that, this is a PAC we’re talking about, here — how cool would it be to have an actual GHEC PAC-endorsed candidate on the ballot in 2013? It’s not that far off, people.

We are Houstonians and voters and taxpayers, too, just like the asshat NIMBYS who moved to Montrose and The Heights because the neigborhoods were “cool” (and then got upset when bands happened to be playing at the club that predated their goddamn condo next door), and we can use our cash and hard work to influence the Council just like they can/have. We live in a city where money talks, and while most people who make and listen to and write about music don’t have the resources alone to make an impact financially, if enough of us band together and pool those resources, we definitely can.

We can do this, folks. Join up, show your support — you can donate over on the PAC’s main page, or Like the GHEC on their Facebook page.

Post by . This entry was posted on Saturday, February 11th, 2012. Filed under Posts.

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