January 2, 2020 -- Four years ago, the focus was on shared sacrifice. The City was facing serious financial challenges requiring all of us to make tough decisions and institute major pension reforms. And we did.
Four years ago, the unfunded pension liability was $8 billion. Today, it is a little more than $4 billion. We have balanced four city budgets under the revenue cap, not without sacrifices and unmet needs.
In the Solid Waste Department, our employees were driving trucks that were purchased in 2006 and were on the road during Hurricane Ike, the Memorial Day Flood, Tax Day Flood and Harvey. Constantly being repaired, those trucks eventually said, “we have had enough.” Come March of this year, we will have replaced 50% of the entire front-line fleet.
More people in our City are employed. Working with labor and the business community, associated with the City, janitors, security guards and airport employees with the airlines are making more now than four years ago, with my goal of getting them to $15 an hour.
Four years ago, the City’s Hire Houston Youth Summer Jobs program was made available to 450 students. Four years later, 11,400 students, 16-24, were working. The goal this coming summer is for 15,000, with job opportunities for some students during the entire school year.
The private sector (spearheaded by GHP) and the Workforce Commission were responsible for 11,000 of those jobs. And I want to thank them for partnering with the city.
Four years ago, I said the City would access and address potholes by the next business day. Public Works has filled more than 250 thousand potholes and they have responded to your calls by the next business day 96% of the time.
But in many cases, it is not just about potholes. The streets are in bad condition and need panel replacements or need to be totally repaved. I have instructed Public Works to present to me within 60 days a systematic plan that identifies those streets that need to be seriously rehabilitated, a potential funding source and an estimated timeline for work to commence. You should see a noticeable improvement by the end of this term.
In some case, the City is already partnering with Harris County Commissioners Jack Cagle, Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia to repair city streets in their precincts. I want to thank them for their cooperation.
The passage of METRO NEXT will also help us design and construct a City that is more pedestrian friendly and provide more transit options for people to move throughout the metro region, especially as our city densifies.
The focus of our transportation/transit network must be moving people safely and quicker on bus or light rail faster than they would move in their cars or trucks while they conduct their business on wi-fi; connecting them to major employment centers, retail, airports and other neighborhoods; transit-oriented development; and building major highways that mitigate the risk of flooding, minimize the adverse impact on historical neighborhoods, enhance parks and greenspaces connect rather than divide communities and is transformational in its construction.
While there are pending administrative and litigation issues, we are hopeful that construction of the high-speed train from Houston to Dallas will start in the Third Quarter of 2020.
As the City densifies, those who are sleeping on our streets become even more noticeable. In conversation after conversation, people talk to me about the homeless problems. Pedestrians don’t feel safe about walking to the bus stop; the homeowner is concerned about them sleeping close to their neighborhood; the business owner is worried about them driving away their customers. And then there are those who believe the City is not being compassionate enough.
Since 2011, the City has housed approximately 17,000, working with our Homeless Coalition Partners under the umbrella of “The Way Home.” Today, there are nearly 4,000 homeless persons living on our streets throughout the Houston region. They require more than food and shelter. They need mental and behavioral health care; substance abuse treatment. They require housing with supportive and wrap around services. As the federal funding through the 1115 Waiver is reduced, the burden on local governments is greater and we must find ways to fill the gap.
Though Houston is a model across the country on how to address homelessness, by Houston’s standards we must do more, and everyone must play a part. Over the next two years starting today and ending on Dec. 31, 2021, I am asking the private sector, nonprofits, the philanthropic community and individuals to contribute $50 million to The Way Home over and above your normal giving for supportive and wrap around services for the homeless. At the same time, it will be the City’s goal to reduce the homeless population to 3,500 or less by the end of the year and under 3,000 by Dec. 21.
The Bible says in the 25th chapter of Matthew: “Then the King will come to those on his right, come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came and visited me.”
Whether we are living in homes or on the street, flooding has no respect of persons. We saw that with the Tax Day Flood, Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda. That is why we are building a City that is stronger, more resilient and more sustainable. We are doubling the number of storm water projects in every City Council District; Public Works is implementing our Green Infrastructure Initiative; Project Braes will be completed by the 4th quarter 2021.
We are providing more detention. Three of four priority infrastructure projects have been approved by FEMA and fully funded and should be completed while I am in office: Inwood Forest Detention, Kingwood Spillway Gates, and North Canal Storm Water Project. We are working closely with the County on the 240 projects funded by the public approved bonds and we are working closely with the County asking the State – GLO to spend proportionally more of the $4.3 billion HUD infrastructure dollars in the geographical areas impacted by Harvey. To keep those projects on track as well as others, we are paying special attention to the City’s permitting process, streamlining systems, outsourcing where needed and using more online applications.
We are committed and are working diligently to repair and/or rebuild peoples’ homes damaged from Harvey as quickly as possible. To expedite the process, the City and State-GLO have entered into a collaborative agreement starting Monday which we both hope will expedite the review and approval of people’s files.
Harvey shined even more light on communities/neighborhoods which were already underfunded, under-resourced for decades. Many of the residents in these communities were already living on the margins, Harvey pushed them down even further.
Four years ago, I said I didn’t want to be the Mayor of two cities in one: the have and the have nots. In the 1st term, we talked about building Complete Communities with the goal of making every neighborhood a neighborhood of hope, promise and inspiration.
For a community to thrive you need housing, quality grocery stores, parks, greenspace that would accent any neighborhood in any part of town, good neighborhood schools, retail, financial and business opportunities, safe and clean community free of illegal dumping.
Ambitious? Yes. Can we transform every community at the same time? No. We started with five and we now have 10.
Sunnyside/300 Acres/Solar Farm
50 Neighbor Parks
HEB MacGregor Market
We ask financial institutions, businesses, developers, nonprofits, endowments to leverage t heir resources with the City and with one another to share the risks and expedite the transformation. Though many have stepped forward to assist, we are still missing that level of support, the investments that will serve as game-changers for those under-served communities in our City. I personally look forward to visiting with CEOs of corporations and banks to seek your participation in the Complete Communities Improvement Fund.
How do we all benefit? A community made better produces a stronger, resilient and sustainable City. Though we have added 200 police officers over and above the number that existed four years ago, and we are committed to adding another 400 over the next four years, a community of hope and promise working with law enforcement produces a safer city and a city that inspires, especially for our children. (10-year old kid)
Over the last couple of years, we have been working together to transform Houston into #Silicon Bayou.
We currently have over 20,000 students studying computer science within a four-mile radius of the ION. We will create and attract high-paying tech jobs, so that those 20 thousand students can stay and work right here in their own communities in Houston. Over the next four years we are going to put that talent to work.
In early 2018, Rice committed $100 million to build out an innovation hub for Houston worthy of the 4th largest city in the U.S. Twelve months from now, the Ion will open as a center for innovation, research, investment and workforce development and as the heart of a 16-acre innovation district.
In 2019, Microsoft committed several million dollars to the development of Smart Cities Technology for the City of Houston through its support of the Ion Smart Cities Accelerator. This program will be launching 15 pilots with the City, leveraging technology for everything from waste water management to traffic mitigation and student safety.
Houston is making rapid progress to become the Clean Energy capital of the US. The 1st climate action plan will be presented in a month.
In 2020, the Texas Medical Center plans to break ground on its forthcoming 37-acre TMC3 research campus – ushering in a dynamic new era of collaborative healthcare research and leading the way for the region to continue to earn the moniker of the Third Coast for life sciences.
TMC3 will break ground in April and will be the largest life sciences development project in the world.
We have begun to attract leading nationwide accelerators. We’ve attracted Plug and Play, MassChallenge, Generator, and Capitol Factory.
50 years ago, from Houston, we landed a man on the moon. Four years from now, from Houston, a woman shall take that walk.
Last year, Travis Scott was nominated for a Grammy for his album Astroworld. It is my hope in Houston we can make Astroworld 2, another major amusement park, come alive.
Four years is not a long time, but I firmly believe that what we do together in the next four years will set the stage for this decade.
I look forward to working with you over the next four years and with city council, including the record number of women who will serve as leaders in our city.
When my parents moved to Houston in 1954, they never imagined that their son, some 62 years later would be sworn in as the 62nd mayor of the 4th largest city in the U.S.
(I have Dreamed…….)
For as it is written:
No eye has seen,
No ear has heard
No mind has conceived
What God has prepared for those who love him.
God give us wisdom to direct our path as we seek together to lead your City.
God Bless, Houston.
God Bless, America.
CONTACT THE MAYOR
Mayor Sylvester Turner
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, TX 77251
Phone: 311 or 713.837.0311
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or to request an appearance: www.houstontx.gov/myrscheduling
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