Axios Houston

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☁️ Today's weather: Foggy with a slight chance of rain. High of 72.

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Today's newsletter is 831 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: City Council members voice support for Gaza ceasefire

Pro-Palestinian organizers protest at City Hall in December. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

Five Houston City Council members have voiced their support for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Why it matters: As Israel prepares for a possible ground assault in Rafah, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering, pro-Palestinian activists in Houston have continued to push for the city to take a stance and to keep the attention on what's happening in Gaza.

Driving the news: Earlier this week, council members Joaquin Martinez and Edward Pollard released statements calling for a ceasefire, joining council members Tiffany Thomas and Letitia Plummer, who showed their support last year. There are 16 City Council members.

  • Plus: In a video posted on Instagram, council member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz seems to say, "I certainly support the ceasefire," to a member of Houstonians for Palestinian Liberation at a town hall Monday. Evans-Shabazz confirmed her support with Axios.

Details: "I stand with all individuals advocating for peace and the cessation of violence. It is through our collective calls for action and dialogue that we can hope to influence positive change," Evans-Shabazz said in a statement to Axios.

  • In December, Thomas told activists at City Council, "We have very limited ability to address what's happening at the federal government, but your presence here today is duly noted and is necessary, and don't keep your foot off the gas."

Zoom out: At least 48 U.S. cities have passed symbolic resolutions calling for a ceasefire, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit, per a Reuters analysis.

  • Yes, but: No cities in Texas have passed such a resolution.

The other side: Then-state Sen. John Whitmire and council members Abbie Kamin and Amy Peck attended an event at Congregation Beth Yeshurun after Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks.

  • Whitmire, now Houston's mayor, supported the Texas Senate resolution that backed Israel last year and said he looked forward to leading a delegation to Israel as mayor, according to Houston Landing.
  • The mayor's office declined Axios' request for comment.

Of note: Houston has one of the largest Palestinian populations in the U.S., per Zip Atlas.

What we're watching: After Proposition A passed last fall, three or more council members can now add items to City Council's weekly agenda, a power previously wielded exclusively by the mayor.

  • This means council members in support of a ceasefire could force a vote on the issue.

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2. Thousands apply for limited Uplift Harris spots

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

More than 82,500 residents applied for Uplift Harris, Harris County's guaranteed income pilot program, in which selected families from 10 low-income ZIP codes will receive $500 monthly cash payments for 18 months.

  • About 50% of the people who applied are eligible, per the county.

Between the lines: 88% of applicants identified as Black or Hispanic.

What they're saying: "The huge amount of interest in this program shows how great the need is in Harris County for a program like Uplift Harris, especially among vulnerable communities. Reducing poverty and helping families who are struggling to meet basic needs should not be a political debate," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement.

  • "We'll be looking into how we can fund this program long-term and hopefully help even more families in the future."

The intrigue: A similar guaranteed pilot program in Austin found that most of the additional income was spent on meeting the city's high housing costs.

The other side: In January, Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt questioned the program's constitutionality and asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue an opinion.

  • Bettencourt's question centers on whether the program violates a clause in the Texas Constitution that addresses local governments funneling public funds to individuals.

What's next: 1,928 eligible families will be randomly selected and notified by Feb. 26. The first cash payments will be distributed April 3.

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🏈 Texans owner Janice McNair won't have to undergo an independent medical exam as part of an ongoing guardianship case brought by her son Robert Cary McNair Jr., a Harris County judge ruled. (Houston Chronicle)

🏡 The Houston City Council delayed taking a vote yesterday on 19 new affordable housing projects related to the Housing Tax Credits program. (Houston Public Media)

💵 PNC Bank plans to add 15 new branches in the Houston market as part of a $1 billion national expansion effort. (Houston Business Journal)

📝 Computers, not people, will most likely score students' STAAR essay responses. (Dallas Morning News)

4. Weekender Guide

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🪴 Take a free gardening class Saturday at Third Ward's Alabama Gardens.

  • Lessons from master gardener Terry Garner start at 9am.

ğŸŽº Enjoy the rescheduled 30th annual MLK Grande Parade in Midtown on Saturday.

  • The parade kicks off at 10am.

🛍️ Shop at the Montrose Day Market on Saturday and Sunday at the corner of Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road.

  • Vendors will be open from noon to 6pm both days.

ğŸŽ¸ Rock out with No Stairway, a Led Zeppelin tribute band, at Leon's Lounge on Saturday.

  • The music starts at 9pm.

🤘 Find your next obsession at the Insomnia Gallery's Punk Rock Garage Sale at Near Northside's Bad Astronaut Brewing on Sunday.

  • The market runs from 2pm to 6pm.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Khalid Adad and Carolyn DiPaolo for copy editing this newsletter.

🍄 Shafaq is eating a vegan Philly cheesesteak.

🧑‍💻 Jay is reading about a Russian disinformation campaign to promote calls for a civil war in Texas.