This past Monday, I was privileged to deliver my fourth State of the City speech.
Before 1,600 people–the largest crowd for a State of the City speech in all the years the Greater Houston Partnership has sponsored this event–I shared what we have accomplished together in my first term as mayor. We also looked to the exciting future of Houston as we move forward.
From a booming economy to budgetary responsibility to flood mitigation to multi-modal transportation, Houston has proven to be strong, resilient and sustainable.
In case you missed it, you can watch the event here:
I’ve also laid out the highlights below. First, though, a heads up: this is a very long post because there are a lot of very good things happening in Houston!
- In the past year, 86,200 jobs have been created in the region, leading to the lowest unemployment rate in the city since 1981. The technology sector in particular has exploded with a 140% increase in technology jobs. Verizon established its first 5G phone system in the world in Houston. Microsoft considers Houston one of its top three accelerators. We are not walking, we are sprinting to become Silicon Bayou. And we have expanded Hire Houston Youth from 450 jobs when I took office to more than 10,000 jobs this year.
- Since 2016, City Council has approved three balanced budgets. My fourth budget, which is under consideration now, will fund five police cadet classes and will have no layoffs. Pension reform has lowered the unfunded liability from $8.2 billion to $4 billion and the city is now paying the full annual pension costs for the second year in a row.
- Infrastructure remains a top priority. Rebuild Houston has been renamed to Build Houston Forward. Now we want to accelerate the repair and rehabilitation of drainage and streets, with a greater focus on neighborhoods and not just large major thoroughfare projects which severely limit the extent and impact of improvements.
- To prepare for and prevent future flooding, we have added more high-water rescue assets and more technology and sensors. The city borrowed $46 million from the Texas Water Development Board to help the Harris County Flood Control District complete Project Brays, which will widen the channels of Brays Bayou and retrofit bridges. New regulations will require higher construction of buildings in the floodplain.
- Flood hazard mitigation grant funding of $275 million will focus on four projects: More gates in Lake Houston to protect Kingwood; improvement to the North Canal to reduce downtown flood risks from Buffalo and White Oak Bayous; a detention basin project in northwest Houston in cooperation with TRIZ 17; and turning the old Inwood golf course into a detention basin. It doesn’t require a hurricane to flood a community; it can be a system that dumps ten inches of rain in a six hour period, as we saw recently in Kingwood.
- I want to create park equity in Houston. We have big, signature parks that are absolute gems. But we can’t have complete communities without parks and green space; parks can transform a neighborhood for the better. I have created the 50-for-50 program and am asking corporations and other organizations to adopt a neighborhood park and work with the local community with both dollars and volunteers to transform their park.
- And on transportation, the population of our city increases by 27% every day as people come into Houston. That’s like adding a Nashville or Atlanta into Houston every day. We must have multi-modal transportation: re-designing our city for pedestrians; two HOV lanes on freeways operating all day; more park and rides; bus rapid transit; and rail. We added roadway capacity over the years and more people came. Houston has changed. We must go bold.
If you made it through this post, thank you: It’s worth it!
We are building one complete city and when we work together, Houston, we win!