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Fair Housing and Making a Murderer: Tuesday’s Show (May 17, 2016)

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the City of Beaumont agreed to pay $475,000 and change its zoning and land use practices to resolve a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who sought to live in small group homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods. The settlement stems from […]

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the City of Beaumont agreed to pay $475,000 and change its zoning and land use practices to resolve a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who sought to live in small group homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed last year charging the city violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it imposed a one-half mile spacing rule. It also criticized the city for imposing fire code requirements exceeding those required by the state.

Were those moves intentionally designed to restrict people with disabilities from living in Beaumont? On this edition of Houston Matters, we seek out the views of Lex Frieden, director of the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann, professor of biomedical informatics at UTHealth, and one of the architects of the ADA. We also talk with Matthew Festa, professor of law at South Texas College of Law and a research scholar at Rice, about what the Fair Housing Act and the ADA require of municipalities — and the challenge of balancing local government authority over land use with federal fair housing requirements.

Also this hour:

How Stafford, Texas Gets By Without Property Taxes

The small town of Stafford, Texas, 30 minutes southwest of Houston, has no property taxes. And yet, the city manages its own municipal school district and lays claim to nearly 50 churches spread out over its seven square-mile radius. Houston Matters producer Edel Howlin learns more while touring the town with longtime Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella.

‘Making a Murderer’ Defense Attorneys Visit Houston

The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer made a lot of headlines around the holidays (released Dec. 18, 2015) for drawing attention to the two criminal cases against a man named Steven Avery. Avery is a Wisconsin resident who was wrongfully convicted for a rape and attempted murder in the 1980s. He served 18 years in prison until he was exonerated and set free. Then, about two years after his release, Avery was charged with a different murder, for which he’s currently serving a life sentence.

The series examines both cases, and calls Avery’s latest conviction — and local law enforcement — into question. Avery’s defense attorneys, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, who feature prominently in the documentary, will speak in Houston at a future date to be determined at Cullen Performance Hall. Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty talks with Strang about the case.

Main Street Theater Explores ‘Working’ in the 21st Century

We visit Main Street Theater, as it prepares to present a production of Working, opening Saturday (May 21, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.) and running through June 19, 2016. It’s an adaptation of the 1970’s musical updated for the 21st century.

The original Working was based on a best-selling book of the same name by legendary Chicago talk show host Studs Terkel who, in 1974, interviewed everyday people — from cashiers to firemen to stone masons — about the work they did and how they felt about it. Popular songwriters of the time, including James Taylor, Stephen Schwarz, Mary Rodgers and Craig Carnelia contributed songs for the musical adaptation that first ran on Broadway in 1978. Main Street Theater’s production is a revision of that show, and it nixes some 1970s era jobs in favor of more modern work and features new songs by Hamilton writer and star Lin Manuel Miranda.

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