Mayor Turner went from sharing one room with eight brothers and sisters to attending the University of Houston and Harvard Law School, founding his own business and then becoming a champion for every voice in the state legislature and now in Houston’s City Hall.
Mayor Sylvester Turner knows every voice matters in our city. That’s why he is working every day to lift every voice in Houston – so we can do great things for our city.
Below are just some of the highlights of Mayor Turner’s first term at City Hall. Houston is a city that never sleeps— and this is a story that continues to be told every day, by every one of us.
- Ordered a targeted evacuation in west Houston that saved countless lives after the U.S. Corps of Engineers released an unexpectedly large amount of water into neighborhoods from reservoirs.
- Provided administrative support and coordination for the rescues of thousands of people from their flooded dwellings by boats, helicopters and special trucks.
- Shifted personnel and emergency resources to the Northeast Water Plant, thus avoiding a plant shutdown that would have required an advisory saying the city’s tap water was unsafe to drink.
- Co-founded the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which collected and distributed more than $114 million to proven non-profit organizations that provide direct aid to victims.
- Won City Council support for an ordinance that requires new and substantially remodeled houses and other buildings to be built higher to prevent flooding.
- Opening and operating the George R. Brown Convention Center as an impromptu shelter that held as many as 12,000 people benefiting from services by thousands of volunteers and the American Red Cross.
- Creating and operating Neighborhood Recovery Centers, which became one-stop recovery service centers close to where victims lived, and later a set of resource centers through which victims could apply for federal housing repair aid.
- Convincing FEMA to create a credit against the city’s financial obligations for volunteer services that address the recovery.
- Successfully lobbying Congress to increase FEMA funding and related funding for Houston’s recovery. The lobbying effort included work by former Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum, who served for 15 months without pay as the mayor’s chief recovery officer.
Municipal Pensions: Brought Republicans, Democrats, business people, labor unions and working families together to save our city from bankruptcy by fixing the looming pension crisis.
- Cut city spending by at least $80 million without tax hikes or layoffs of city workers before the passage in November 2018 of Proposition B, which required salary increases for firefighters totaling at least $113 million in the first year.
- Worked with county officials, non-profit organizations, private companies and foreign diplomats for them to provide funding that augments city services and programs. County Commissioner Rodney Ellis concentrated street and sidewalk resources on city neighborhoods, for instance. Other partners included, but were not limited to, Microsoft, Verizon, Facebook, The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, Bloomberg Associates, the nations of Qatar and United Arab Emirates, the Kinder Foundation and the Astros Foundation.
- Began steps to reduce the city’s Other Postemployment Benefits liability with an approach like the one he took with historic pension reform.
Crime and Safety
- To keep a lid on crime, Mayor Turner appointed proven crime-fighter Art Acevedo as Houston police chief and provided the police force with all resources available under the constraints of the city budget.
- Reported crime has declined in Mayor Turner’s three years in office, in the violent crime and non-violent crime categories.
- Worked with schools, students and neighborhoods to focus on solutions to violence against and by youth.
- Appointed a Commission Against Gun Violence, composed of people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, that made policy recommendations now under consideration.
- Appointed proven public safety leader Samuel Peña as fire chief with the goal of restructuring the department to meet modern-day demands and work within budget constraints. Following the retirement of Dennis Storemski, Mayor Turner chose veteran law enforcement leader George Buenik as director of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
- Challenged businesses and potential business leaders to establish Houston as the next national frontier for computer-based tech innovation by creating a fertile environment for start-up companies.
- Soon after the mayor issued his challenge, an “ecosystem” for the tech industry began to flourish with plans for a bio-research campus at the Texas Medical Center, the designation of the former Midtown Sears building as an innovation hub, Verizon’s delivery of 5G service to commercial customers in Houston before doing so in any other city, and much more.
- Created more than 100,000 new jobs in the region last year with a focus on startups, technology and innovation. The Houston Business Journal called this fast-growing sector “Silicon Bayou.”
- Led Houston’s successful bid to host the World Petroleum Conference in 2020.
- Led international missions to nations that trade heavily with Houston, including China and India, resulting in increased Houston commerce, tourism, and cultural ties.
- Fostered the Office of Business Opportunity’s Turnaround Houston, which helps “hard to employ” residents position themselves for job opportunities.
- Created the Hire Houston Youth program, matching Houstonians age 16-24 with summer jobs in the private, non-profit and government sectors and positioning them as talented full-time employees ready to take their place in the future Houston economy.
- The target number of HHY jobs for 2019 is a record-high 10,000.
- Promoted Houston’s number one ranking in the U.S. for ethnic diversity, which serves as a welcome mat for commerce, culture and tourism.
- In connection with economic development as well as infrastructure and cultural development, Mayor Turner created Complete Communities, an award-winning initiative combining private and non-profit investments with funding from city and county government to improve conditions in underserved neighborhoods.
- The initial pilot programs, based on community input, are in Acres Homes, Gulfton, Near Northside, Second Ward and Third Ward. More will be added this year.
- Established the Mayor’s Office of Education, which works with school districts to administer the Hire Houston Youth program and provide city support for successful education programs.
- Created a City Council subcommittee on education.
- Participated in the creation of a non-profit organization poised to provide philanthropic resources and policy input to the Houston Independent School District.
Potholes: Established a pothole repair initiative that led to same-day repairs of many potholes reported to the city by the public. More than 165,000 potholes have been filled on Mayor Turner’s watch.
Recycling: Forged a money-saving contract that will re-establish the curbside pickup of glass as recyclable items in March.
Garbage pickup: Ended several years of financial neglect of the Solid Waste Department’s aging fleet by winning council approval for purchasing new trucks that will replace half the department’s mobile equipment.
Public transportation: With the Houston area slated for massive population growth, Mayor Turner challenged Metro, whose board includes members he appointed, to carry out a “paradigm shift” that will provide the public with more alternatives to using private motor vehicles for mobility. Metro responded and will ask the voters in November 2019 to fund a plan that will help transform how the Houston region moves.
Climate change: The mayor has become a leading local government figure in the nation’s moves to control and reverse man-made climate change. He forged the city’s Climate Action Plan and preserved the city’s number one standing in the U.S. for municipal government use of renewable and/or cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind power and natural gas.
Homelessness: Mayor Turner has advanced the astoundingly effective effort to reduce the city’s homeless population, working with nonprofit coalitions and HPD’s Homeless Outreach Team. The homeless population has shrunk by more than half since 2011.
Open and accessible government: Using technological tools, Mayor Turner oversaw an overhaul of the city’s public website, houstontx.gov. It now features the public’s most popular interests in city services, such as animal adoption and job opportunities. He also established a Nextdoor.com account, allowing him to provide city service updates to more than 270,000 households.
Diversity and excellence: Mayor Turner’s appointed executive staff includes two leaders who garnered international recognition for their work for the city. Maria Town, director of the city’s Office for People with Disabilities, received an international Henry Viscardi Achievements Award, which “honors exemplary leaders in the global disability community who, through the example of their professional accomplishments and advocacy efforts, are reshaping societal perceptions and making significant changes in the quality of life of people with disabilities.” Minal Patel Davis, Mayor Turner’s special advisor on human trafficking, received the prestigious Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons during a White House meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons chaired by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.