Houston mayor cancels free flu shots at polling places
The mayor of Houston, Bill White, and a private foundation came up with a great idea to distribute flu shots to those in need going into this winter season - one that had been used in several other cities around the country. Provide flu vaccinations to the poor and elderly at early voting locations around the city. If and when people come in for voting, at the same time they can get their flu shots.
This was a creative mix of public and private organizations working together for the betterment of the public health of our community.
Until Republicans got involved:
Mayor Bill White today ordered a halt to a privately funded drive to offer flu vaccinations at early voting sites in Hispanic and black neighborhoods, amid conservative criticism that the effort would boost Democratic votes.
Since Monday, the city had been offering the free vaccinations at four polling places around Houston under a national grant program, used in more than 20 other cities.
White defended the program at a news conference today, saying public health was the city's only motive in launching the initiative. Still, he said he decided this morning to abandon the plan after today to avoid perception that it could be viewed as an effort to draw certain voters to the polls. ...
"There was no political motive whatsoever to do it," he said. "I don't want to have to spend more money in defending a baseless lawsuit than we're giving away in vaccine — or allow anybody to question the integrity of the political process."
Critics of the program have been discussing the issue on conservative Web blogs and talk radio.
``I think the program was completely motivated by a plan to turn out Democratic voters,'' said [county Republican Chairman Jared] Woodfill, citing White's service as party chair and as a deputy energy secretary under former President Clinton.
He said the vote-vaccination plan violated a portion of the Texas Election Code that prohibits offering anything of value in exchange for votes.
This is simply beyond the pale. Rather than worry about the health of our community - and specifically our communities most vulnerable population - the Harris County Republican party is worried about their vice-grip on power. Shameful.
This program was a bright-light, an example of EXACTLY the way private and public entities should be working together:
Stephen Williams, director of the city's Health and Human Services Department, which has touted the program in recent days, said he hopes to get permission to use the vaccine in other locations.
The terms of the grant, he and White said, required a tie to polling places in medically underserved areas where populations are less likely to get a vaccination.
The city and Amerigroup Foundation got the 3,000 doses with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic group that devotes funding to health care.
The Amerigroup Foundation, according to its Web site, is the philanthropic arm of the Amerigroup Corp., a managed health-care company with a focus on providing services to low-income communities.
A textbook example of Republican party principles - power above people.