This mayor is quite proud of his great big city

July 1st, 2017

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, left, and BAHEP Chairman Dr. Greg Smith thank Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for coming down to Clear Lake to address the BAHEP luncheon at the Clear Lake Hilton.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Listening to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, you can easily tell how proud he is of the city. As he addressed the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s June 1 luncheon, he couldn’t stop boasting about America’s fourth largest city, and how it would be the 23rd largest in the world if it was a country.

How it added 18,000 jobs in April – its best growth in 35 years, how the Texas Medical Center is growing, how it is the most diverse city in the country with 140 languages spoken, how we hosted the most watched Super Bowl ever, and how “The Los Angeles Times wrote ‘New York City is in Houston’s rear view mirror.’”

Looking around the ballroom at the Clear Lake Hilton at the smiles on everyone’s faces in the sellout crowd, it was easy to tell his audience was enjoying listening as much as he was enjoying his storytelling – giving him a standing ovation.

Webster City Manager Wayne Sabo, right, stops to visit with Ron Servis of Judge Ed Emmett’s office and Carla Medlenka, Houston Methodist St. John Hospital marketing manager, at the BAHEP luncheon at the Clear Lake Hilton.

Several area mayors were in the crowd, including Mark Denman of Nassau Bay, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Carl Joiner of Kemah. Houston City Councilman Dave Martin introduced him. Other elected officials included City Councilors Amanda Fenwick of Clear Lake Shores, Jack Christie and David Robinson of Houston, Bob Warters of Nassau Bay, Pat Van Houte of Pasadena, Theresa Vasquez Evans of Kemah, Nancy Ojeda of La Porte and Andrea Wilson of Webster.

Others BAHEP President Bob Mitchell welcomed included Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa, San Jacinto College Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer, Ellington Airport Director Arturo Machuca, Barrios President Robbie McAfoos, GeoControl Systems President Rose Zarcaro, MEI Technologies President David Cazes and Space Center Houston President William Harris.

60 U.S. mayors representing 35 million vow to lead fight against climate change

June 2nd, 2017

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, Mayor Sylvester Turner joined over 60 “Climate Mayors” from across the U.S. in vowing to honor the Paris Agreement’s goals to fight climate change.

“Cities are front and center in the fight against climate change and we have to take action,” said Mayor Turner. “We must not let the President’s decision today slow our efforts. As the energy capital of the world and the nation’s largest municipal purchaser of green power, Houston is leading by example and living proof that large, industrial cities can have a robust economy and also fight climate change.”

Houston has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent since 2007 and was named the nation’s largest municipal purchaser of green power for 2017 by the U.S. EPA.  Mayor Turner is vice chairman of the Climate Mayors, a network of U.S. mayors working together to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policy making. In response to the President’s decision, over 60 mayors representing more than 35 million Americans have vowed to honor and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement in the statement below.

“The President’s denial of global warming is getting a cold reception from America’s cities.

“60 Mayors representing 35 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.

“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.

“The world cannot wait — and neither will we.”

Houston Pension Solution takes historic step forward in Texas Legislature

March 21st, 2017

After hearing testimony from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and many others, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee Monday, March 20 voted to send the Houston Pension Solution to the full senate for approval.  With one exception, the measure passed out of committee is the same reform package supported by a 16-1 vote of City Council and forwarded to Austin by the City of Houston.

“This is a historic day,” said Mayor Turner.  “With today’s vote, the state affairs committee joins the growing list of supporters for the Houston Pension Solution.  Our plan eliminates $8.1 billion in unfunded liability, caps future costs, does not require a tax increase and is budget neutral.  There is no other plan that achieves these goals and has the same consensus of support.”

The state affairs committee measure includes a provision requiring a vote for the issuance of Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs).  The agreement between the city and the Houston Police Officers Pension System (HPOPS), as well as the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System (HMEPS), includes the issuance of $1 billion in pension bonds to replace existing debt the city already owes HPOPS and HMEPS.  They will not result in new borrowing.

“We oppose the inclusion of this provision and will continue to fight for its removal,” said Turner.  “As my father taught me, a deal is a deal.  We have kept our word to the police and municipal employee pension systems.  Now I am asking the Texas Legislature to do the same.”

The mayor is reiterating a call to the Houston Firefighter Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) to provide data on the true costs of providing firefighter pension benefits.

He was joined in that call by Texas Sen. Joan Huffman, who is sponsoring the Houston Pension Solution in the Texas Senate.  Both the mayor and Huffman indicated willingness to revisit the proposed changes in firefighter pension benefits if HFRRF will provide the cost analysis it has, so far, refused to release.

Mayor Turner will travel to Austin again next Monday to testify before the Texas House Committee on Pensions.  The House version of the bill does not include the requirement of a vote for POBs.

Houston mayor asks Clear Lake for patience

April 1st, 2016

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

By Mary Alys Cherry

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wants everyone to know he had nothing to do with Houston’s annexation of Clear Lake, getting quite a laugh as he addressed Councilman Dave Martin’s Town Hall at Space Center Houston.

Attempting to be honest and forthright with the Clear Lake crowd of about 200, he pointed out the many problems he faces – such as 10,000 potholes and other street deterioration, financial problems because of a $126 million deficit and an aging police force with 1,900 out of 5,300 eligible for retirement.

But he wanted Clear Lake residents to know they are a part of the City of Houston – a part of its 640 square miles — and have not been forgotten. While there are currently no city projects planned in the area, he asked for patience, promising to work with Councilman Dave Martin to rectify the problem. “I don’t want Clear Lake to feel left out,” he said, asking residents “to give me some time. We have some tough issues to address, but working collectively, I believe we can get it done.”

As for the financial problems, he said he hopes to come up with an answer by the end of the year. Meanwhile, as he looks for a new police chief, he is using overtime to have enough officers on duty and asking for their shared sacrifice, he said. “I’m asking them not to retire.”

One man in the audience told of a burglary across the street from his home, adding that it took 3 and ½ hours for the police to arrive to investigate, telling the mayor that his No. 1 job should be public safety. The mayor agreed, adding that public safety was his No. 1 priority and that he already was meeting with other law enforcement agencies to accomplish this. “But it’s going to take the HPD, the sheriff’s deputies, the constables, the metro police – all on deck.”

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell was the next speaker, discussing at length the lack of action on a storm surge protection plan for the prevention of future hurricane damages. An editorial outlining his thoughts may be found on page 13 of this issue.

Afterwards, several city officials spoke, describing the work of their departments. Unfortunately, none of their projects involved the Clear Lake area, leaving residents a bit puzzled as to why they were overlooked but hopeful they might be remembered in the future.

Martin spoke at the end of the town hall, wondering out loud how old does a district have to be to get some funds and telling the crowd that the city’s treatment of Clear Lake was “fundamentally not fair,” saying he had asked for equal distribution of funds over all districts.

“The mayor realizes the distribution has been unequal in the past and has promised to try to correct this,” he added.