NHI Person of the Year winners help Texas through winter storms
Texas just went through an unprecedented week due to a winter storm that left many in the state without power, water, or both in freezing conditions. But two leaders who won NHI Person of the Year honors — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — stepped up to help Texans through the crisis.
As the Houston Chronicle reported, Ocasio-Cortez reached out to her sizable online following and was able to raise more than $3 million to go to Texans in need, to distribute to Houston organizations focused on food security, elder care and homelessness.
On Friday, she flew down to Houston to meet with Representatives Sylvia Garcia and Sheila Jackson Lee to discuss how to best help Texans through the crisis, and she volunteered at the Houston Food Bank as part of her trip.
“You already have so many families in the state and across the country on the brink that they can’t afford an emergency to begin with,” Ocasio-Cortez said in Saturday’s article. “This can set people back for years, not just days.”
She also characterized the urge to help as the “New York spirit, the Texas spirit,” and “the American spirit.”
By Saturday afternoon, the fundraising total reached the $4 million mark.
A Friday article in the same paper, reporting on her fundraising efforts, noted, “Ocasio-Cortez spent more than a decade growing a bond with Texas through an education program called the National Hispanic Institute,” linking to the August article that featured quotes from Ernesto Nieto and Gloria de Leon about Ocasio-Cortez’s development as a leader.
Lina Hidalgo, in her role overseeing Harris County, provided the leadership through crisis that is becoming her hallmark. Even before the storm hit, she was warning people throughout the county, already reeling from recent weather events like Hurricane Harvey and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to prepare for the storm.
A Feb. 12 Houston Chronicle article focused on Hidalgo’s message to Harris County residents, who said, “I just want to make sure that everybody knows that if the models are right, we’re about to see an incident the likes of which we have not seen in 30 years — a very high probability of power outages, dangerous conditions outside, road closures, the same type of thing we would see in a category 5 hurricane.”
That turned out to be incredibly prescient. She was there to communicate throughout the week, mostly about how to stay safe and access resources, but as a Chron.com article noted, she also spoke out against reports of price gouging in the area.
“We’ve seen some anecdotal evidence of outrageous prices on necessary items like food and water—basically price gouging,” Hidalgo stated at a Friday press conference. “Whether it’s spiking the price of basic necessities or whether it’s posting an Airbnb with power for $1000 a night, we can’t imagine something more cruel than to take advantage of people who are suffering right now in this disaster.”
She added, “For those out there that think that they can make a quick buck out of our community’s pain, know that we will not tolerate any price gouging on our watch.”
And this all happened the week that she turned 30, something that she acknowledged via Twitter on Friday.
“Thank you for all of the birthday wishes, especially during such a difficult week,” she said on the social media platform. “Our community is, once again, not just enduring but overcoming. I look forward to seeing what our great county has in store for my 30th year.”
Hidalgo was named NHI’s 2020 Person of the Year, and we spoke to her about her work in an interview last month. Ocasio-Cortez was named NHI’s 2017 Person of the Year, while she was still just a Congressional candidate challenging incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley. (We had a hunch it would be a historic campaign.) We interviewed her in May 2018 as she was building the coalition that elected her to Congress.