The Texas Tribune recently hosted a “Conversation with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner,” where Houston’s CEO discussed current city issues and his plans for his last year in office.
Here are excerpts from that Q&A which was moderated by the Tribune’s editor-in-chief Sewell Chan.
POLITICAL LANDSCAPE THEN & NOW
Things are more difficult now than when I started as an elected official, even as a legislator. And even now as mayor, things are a lot more extreme. Those are the realities. Things are more extreme. And it’s not about being conservative. You can be conservative. That’s fine; not a problem. The question is when you become extreme; when you’re operating on the shoulder of the road, and not in the right lane. And right now, we have too many elected officials that are operating on the shoulder. So, it makes it very difficult to reach a consensus or to talk through or work through problems. When I was in the legislature, the biggest issue was urban versus rural. It wasn’t even Democrat versus Republican. And then even when it became more partisan, there were times we could work things through.
LAST YEAR IN OFFICE
I want us to go out strong. There are a number of projects council members have, I know I have, that I want us to get done. I don’t know who the next mayor will be, but I do know we have 13 months to get a lot of stuff done. I’ve got 22 parks that we are working to revitalize across this city. Almeda Multi-Service Center, Sunnyside Multi-service center. We’ll cut the ribbon on that. I want them to get done. There are a number of infrastructure projects I want us to move forward on. It is important for us to build a more resilient city. There are a number of priorities and projects that I have on my board, so to speak, that I want us to be able to check the box on.
I want us to finish with a bang. In the last six months, my goal is to have the “Mayor’s Farewell to the City of Houston.” Every month we’re going to have a major event where I’m saying farewell. It’s going to be a six-month farewell party. This is an energetic, kinetic sort of city. And, the vibe is good, and it’s important that we celebrate that and we keep it going. But I will say, I want us to set the bar very high, and then the next mayor that comes in, will have to build on top. That’s my goal.
ENDORSEMENT FOR HOUSTON’S NEXT MAYOR
Can you believe that these people have announced that they’re running for mayor while I’m still mayor? I mean, that is so disrespectful <laughs>. They could have at least waited until next year. They are already running. And then I’ll be waiting for the question, “What will you do that the mayor hadn’t done?” Or “How can you do things better?” And then I’ll be listening very carefully to what they say. Let ’em criticize me if they want to. Whoever criticizes me, I ain’t helping you at all <laughs>. But no, I mean, it is good to see people running and interested. And I’m sure that there will be more getting into the fray. I’m going to let them do what they do. You all hired me for two terms: eight years. I’ve got 13 months left on my job. I intend to focus on my job and completing my job for the next 13 months. The people who are running for mayor, they’ll have an opportunity once I’m out.