By Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
Remember the Alamo?
The most famous piece of history in Texas is not located in a ghost town or on a dusty plain. It sits in the very heart of San Antonio, a dynamic and bustling place that has surpassed Dallas as the state’s second most populous metropolis.
Our governor and lieutenant governor do. They weren’t born in Houston, but they got to Houston as soon as they could.
Following a life-changing accident, the governor sought and received treatment at Houston’s top-ranked Institute of Rehabilitation and Research Memorial Hermann, one of the many pioneering medical institutions that have made Houston a global mecca for healthcare.
Now it’s time to remember what big cities mean to Texas and what Texas means to big cities.
By the way, Austin is a big city that, according to Texas Monthly magazine last year, is one of the safest cities in the state.
It’s time to focus on the truths that make the super-cities of Texas the successes that they are.
With Houston in the lead, urban areas of Texas are the economic engines of the state. Every single day the magnet that is Houston pulls in newly minted college graduates, start-up entrepreneurs, eager laborers, free-spending tourists, business developers, home-buyers, conventioneers, legal eagles, artists, would-be astronauts, chefs, chemists, geologists, rodeoers and more.
It didn’t surprise me in May when the U-Haul moving company announced that Houston had been the No. 1 destination in 2016 for people moving from one American place to another.
Houston is ranked the second-best city in the world (as reported by Business Insider magazine) due to relatively low living costs and ease of settling in; the fourth-best U.S. city for young entrepreneurs (MoneyRates.com); and the No. 1 “coolest” American city (Forbes magazine).
These rankings should make Texans wonder: If Houston and other big cities in the Lone Star State are thriving, why are some of our most powerful elected leaders so determined to trash and thrash them?
It’s their job to explain themselves. My job is to keep Houston going and growing, by restoring the financial health of city government, improving core city services, spreading quality of life improvements to all neighborhoods, expanding international trade and cultural exchanges and leveraging our glorious diversity, among other things.
I’m the first to acknowledge we have challenges and obstacles at the local level when it comes to transportation, public safety, economic inequality, infrastructure and other fronts.
But Texas and Texas governments also face one crisis after another. Sadly, our state is last or near last in the United States for the percentage of residents with health insurance, maternal health, mental health care funding per capita and elder care. We’re among the 10 least-educated states, as shown in multiple studies and surveys. As a member of the Legislature, I worked to help the state grapple with these problems. We made progress, but against my stands the state also shifted huge costs and burdens to local governments.
Issues like these ought to keep state leaders busy enough that there is no time left for them to throw unjustified scorn at big Texas cities.
Also, it’s time for some state leaders to stop trying to set up big Texas cities for failure with the intention of later blaming local leaders for that failure.
It’s unfair and underhanded for state leaders to underfund public education and then criticize school district leaders for trying to make up the difference with local tax levies – or leaving students without proper staffing and resources.
The same goes for health care for our less fortunate neighbors. After refusing to take advantage of federal programs to expand state funding for health care for the working poor, state leaders should not criticize urban counties and hospital districts for trying to raise enough money to meet their moral and legal obligations to keep fellow Texans alive.
It’s also unfair and underhanded to draw the Texas Department of Public Safety away from its core missions and then cynically portray the top Texas cities as havens of crime.
No Texan should be fooled by these shell games.
I’m proud to be a native Houstonian and a native Texan. It’s time for all of Texas to celebrate and support all of Texas, from the towering wind turbines of West Texas and the towering statue of Sam Houston in Huntsville to the gleaming towers of Houston’s downtown, Medical Center and Galleria area.