The Hottest Address
Tightening the corset: Mayor Parker details an optimistic State of the City
Remember when the city froze over in February? Canceled during that frightful mercury drop was a State of the City address by Mayor Annise Parker, which was finally realized Friday at its rescheduled time. In her address, Parker spoke of her accomplishments in her first 15 months in office, and, in what at times sounded like a campaign speech for re-election, detailed a bright future for Houston.
Rather than allowing budget cuts to choke the city's infrastructure, Parker suggested that "a tight budget is like a corset — it holds things up!" Despite cuts, not a single police officer or fire fighter has been laid off, she said.
Overall violent crime is down 7.3 percent for the first two months of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Parker attributed the decline to programs like 2010's Demolition Day that resulted in 186 crime-ridden properties being demolished in a single day. (This year's Demo Day comes in May.)
Parker also credited the contracting of the East End Management District for graffiti removal as pivotal in reducing crime.
The mayor was eager to tout the city's economic progress as the recession recedes. She said Houston has the largest five year employment gain, the title of best city to start a new career and the highest level of entrepreneurial activity of any of the nation's largest metropolitan areas.
Parker also mentioned policies targeted to help everyday Houstonians. She cited such programs as Hire Houston First, which encourages local companies to hire local contractors and workers on taxpayer-funded projects, and an executive order signed on Veterans Day that requires veterans to be given preference for city jobs when their qualifications are equal to the qualifications of non-veterans competing for the same positions. Another economic engine set for ignition is the Dynamo Stadium "in the area now known as EaDo."
"I've done my part," she told the crowd at the Hilton-Americas Houston, citing the $654 million in new economic investment in 2010. "Now, it's your turn to do your part. The economy has turned, and it's time to start hiring again."
Parker also patted herself on the back for accelerating volunteer programs, making strides in historic neighborhood preservation and the founding of an office of sustainabiliity. In the weeks ahead, her office will inaugurate its first all-electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf. She said her administration has made transparency key — the city's entire budget is available online on the City of Houston website.
The State of the City address was presented under the auspices of the Greater Houston Partnership, which welcomed over 1,500 attendees to the midday event. Following Parker's speech, the mayor received a standing ovation from the roomful of business leaders, many of whom seemed to be in her corner.
"That was a great speech," said Kathleen Diamonon of marketing firm The Turning Point Group. "In her speech, she defined the hard times for Houston and how we're moving forward. She realizes that the partnership that exists between government and business is critical."
"She's keeping business in Houston at the foreground," said attendee Kevin Hardaway. "I think she did a really good job laying out the issues that she's confronted in the first 15 months and what she plans for the future. One of the things that really struck me is that she's not looking for short changes. She's looking for long-term solutions."