Mayor defends remarks about undocumented Gulfton residents, calling criticism 'misrepresentation'

Shannon Ryan Image
Thursday, May 30, 2024
Houston mayor defends remarks about undocumented Gulfton residents
Houston Mayor John Whitmire stood by remarks about Gulfton residents to the non-profit newsroom Houston Public Landing after facing criticism.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Mayor John Whitmire faced criticism on Wednesday for commenting on Gulfton residents while discussing public transportation in the area with the nonprofit newsroom Houston Public Landing.

Gulfton, often referred to as present-day Ellis Island, is just 3.5 square miles where more than 50 languages are spoken, and more than 40% of residents are below the poverty line.

"I was disheartened by some comments that were made," District J Houston City Council Member Edward Pollard told Whitmire.

Pollard, who represents both Gulfton and the Galleria, read Whitmire's remarks aloud during Wednesday's council meeting as they were printed in the Houston Public Landing.

"They're largely undocumented immigrants. They just want basic services. They don't want to be part of the Galleria," Whitmire said to the publication. "You think they're going to be welcome in the Galleria?"

"You know, and I know that that was a wrong representation of my comments," Whitmire told Pollard on Wednesday.

The mayor commented while talking to the Houston Public Landing about expanding bus service in the area.

He said residents told him they "need reliable METRO buses to get to the Baker Ripley Center."

The nonprofit center offers everything from immigration to nutrition services.

However, the mayor said a rapid transit bus line to the Galleria was unnecessary, citing the above comments in his argument.

"I will match my record with immigrants with anyone. It's a calling, I care, and if you want to use misrepresentations for your political purposes, have at it, but the public knows better," Whitmire said, addressing Pollard.

In a statement, Whitmire told ABC13, "We spent a lot of time in Gulfton speaking to residents about whether they have a strong demand for shopping in the Galleria area. The response was overwhelmingly no. In fact, residents claim no one has asked them what their preferences are. We plan to change that practice. We are designing transit solutions for Gulfton that meet the community's needs and not what special interest consultants think they want."

"I'm working with the county commissioner to give basic service to the Gulfton area, so there's a time to campaign, and there's a time to go to work. You choose the campaign method, that's fine. I want to go to work," Whitmire told Pollard on Wednesday.

Pollard replied, "Work with me. I'm sitting here with you. You don't have to go outside of the city."

Whitmire said, "I've been out there all day Saturday."

Pollard responded, "I was there before you."

"I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with your schedule, and you're not familiar with mine, but I've got a big city I'm serving," Whitmire said. "Thank you. I shouldn't even engage you, but I did want to clear up the misrepresentation."

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