Houston mayor suggests investing in underserved communities could 'reduce shock and stress'

Tom Abrahams Image
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
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Mayor Turner believes among the many things we should take from this past year is a better understanding of underserved communities.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A year ago, two crises overlapped: the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of longtime Houstonian George Floyd were dual challenges for the city of Houston.

"Since I've been mayor, I've dealt with one crisis after another," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told ABC13. "You try to allow people to express themselves, but you do it in such a way that you continue to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved, including those who are marching and demonstrating."

Turner remembers the challenges well. Unlike some cities, which saw the demonstrations devolve into violence, Houston remained relatively peaceful and Turner believes he understands why.

"I give a lot of credit to the Floyd family, because they were very instrumental in helping to keep people peaceful," Turner said. "They wanted people to stand up and march on behalf of their loved one; their brother, their father, their uncle. But at the same time, they also encouraged people to do things peacefully."

Sixty thousand people marched through downtown in late May. Peacefully, they protested. They called for systemic change.

For Mayor Turner, it was a moment of light amidst the darkness of 2020.

WATCH: Mayor Turner reflects on Houston's 'home' support for George Floyd

"This was the home of George Floyd. This was home. And it was important for everybody to recognize what had occurred. Not to try to hide it. And people stood up," Turner said. "But I can't understate the importance of George Floyd's family and how they handled that situation. But, for the position that they took and the way that they took it, things could have been a lot worse."

This past year has not only shined a spotlight on interactions between law enforcement and people of color, but also underserved or marginalized communities. During the in-depth conversation with Turner about the last year, he spoke about community investment. Born in Houston's Acres Homes, Turner still lives there, and understands the need.

"I recognize the conditions that exist," he said. "That's why, when I came into office in 2016, on Jan. 4, 2016, when I was sworn in, I didn't want to be the mayor of two cities in one. Cities of haves and have nots. And that's why we started this initiative called Complete Communities."

He pushed for public and private partnerships to invest in housing, shopping, schools, and parks to narrow the gap. Issues that became part of the central argument from demonstrators across the country and those here in Houston, who demanded change peacefully.

"There are areas, there are communities that have been underserved," Turner said. "Marginal communities, and unless we invest in these communities in a real, substantive, transformational way, the next time, it could be worse."

He believes among the many things we should take from this past year, as we move forward, we should bring along a better understanding of those communities. He said there is an investment opportunity everywhere.

"We've gotten more attention though since the death of George Floyd," he said. "And when you invest in these neighborhoods, then you reduce the shocks and the stresses in these neighborhoods, which will reduce your need to have even greater policing."

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