Residents bring their fight to HISD

October 9, 2009 8:06:12 AM PDT
To say the Houston Independent School District's school board got an earful from some local residents is an understatement. They live near Dogan Elementary School in Houston's Fifth Ward. The district wants to expand the school and that may be at the expense of their homes.

Residents hope they convinced enough board members to vote against eminent domain if it comes down to that. HISD hopes property owners will just sell, but residents made it clear they don't plan on it.

Every time we've spoken to Elizabeth Williams before, she's been in her chair with a remote in hand. The 86-year-old doesn't get out much these days. So for her to be wheeled up in front of the HISD Board of Trustees, it must be a big deal.

"It took a whole lot out of her, but she would have had a heart attack if we wouldn't have brought her," said resident Rueben Holmes.

After one microphone change, Williams' voice was still too weak to hear so her daughter had to take over.

"These are elderly people who will never be able to regroup from this move," said Jean Tizeno.

They were among the crowd fighting to be heard, fighting for their property. For years they've lived on Quitman just south of Dogan Elementary. HISD now wants to expand the school and to do that it needs about 10 acres. That means residents, some of whom have never lived anywhere else, have been asked to sell or possibly face eminent domain.

"Has the system's hearts just grown that cold where it doesn't even matter what the people think or what the people need?" asked homeowner Jesse Bunton.

This is the first time they've have been able to address the board. HISD says the purchases are still in the negotiation stage. Before they can take property, there has to be a vote.

"I'm not going to vote for taking anybody's home. I have never done that and I never will," said Carol Mims Galloway of the HISD Board of Trustees.

But she's only one vote. The board listened. Some left discouraged.

"They don't give a darn about us," said resident Ray Hamilton.

Williams and her family left a little more optimistic

"I'm hoping that something good comes out of it," said Holmes.

So that her rare trip out wasn't in vain.

HISD says it always tries to buy properties for a fair price. They've offered Elizabeth Williams' family $183,000 for their four properties. The family say it's not about their money, it's about their history there. Nevertheless, all indications are that the district will move forward to acquire the land.

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