What is the state of Houston?

January 25, 2008 4:50:43 PM PST
Managing city growth and increasing safety are two things Mayor Bill White says need to be done over the next few years. It's all part of his state of the city address he delivered Friday. Now in his third and final two-year term, Mayor White focused on seven issues the city of Houston needs to work on. There were the expected, like public safety and drainage, but his focus was clear. He wants to tackle the development debate.

First, let's cut the violent crime in this city," said Mayor White.

Mayor White emphasized once again that he is working to hire more police officers to keep Houstonians safe. But in front of a crowd of more than 1,700, White spent the majority of his speech talking about quality of life issues.

"There will be friction between the people who want to move closer to the employment centers and the people who live closer to employment centers right now," he said.

Without mentioning the Ashby high rise controversy by name, White says one of the biggest challenges facing a still growing city is how to balance the preservation of neighborhoods and continued urban development. Attendees we talked to agree.

"We've got to come up with a way of providing for the densification of this city as we mature," said developer Ed Wulfe.

Ideas like recycling and planting more trees are expected to face little resistance. But getting a high density building ordinance passed will be a big challenge for the mayor and fellow council members. The mayor is asking for help from developers and neighborhood activists.

"The people who do real estate development who listen to the people who have invested in real estate next to them will do better developments that are more commercially viable," said Mayor White

Despite the challenges ahead, Mayor White pointed out many of the city's problems stem from its continued growth. And with so much talk about recession around the country, the Houston economy at least looks resilient.

"I think given the economic climate of our country, the city of Houston is a shining light," said Oliver Luck, owner of the Houston Dynamo.

By the way, the Dynamo is still in discussions with the city on a new soccer-only stadium. And the city of Houston is working on a high density building ordinance. That's expected to go before council in a few weeks.

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