Houston, We Are Not Slowing Down!

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By Mayor Annise D. Parker

I love this city!  Thank you for trusting me to continue in what I believe is the best job in America.  To serve you is my greatest honor.  I remain excited to go to work each and every day.  As Mayor, I am the public face of our city.  I celebrate the triumphs and articulate the pain.  I calm protests and invite action.  I must have the big picture, knowing where our ship is sailing, the route we take, and the dangers we may face. I must be able to convey these to the dedicated men and women who make our city run, and to you, the Houstonians who depend upon our work, so that together we face the dangers as they come.

The details matter as well; where the nearly 21,000 women and men who are our city workforce perform the complex choreography necessary to a city in motion.  All cities have challenges and sometimes fail to meet them, but we wouldn’t be America’s 4th largest city unless, day in and day out, our city team gets the job done; even when it involves great difficulties and real danger.

This last year, we lost four of our own in a devastating fire that also left a fifth firefighter permanently impaired.  Theirs was a sacrifice beyond measure or understanding and the worst loss of life in the history of the Houston Fire Department.  We continue to ask you to keep these firefighters and their families in your prayers.

I also ask you to recognize the Solid Waste employee who cleans an illegal dumpsite by hand, the Public Works employee who repairs a plugged sewer line in the freezing rain, and the Houston Police officer who patrols our streets on Christmas Eve.

Why do people gravitate to cities?  Cities have people and possibilities.  A city is a place where ideas can rub against each other and perhaps strike a spark.  People come to cities seeking education, entertainment, employment, emancipation, and companionship.

For all the reasons someone may have come here, I believe that there are shared values that make us Houstonians, wherever we were born, whatever our native language, and however we came to be here.

My family taught me to accept responsibility, to live with integrity, to work hard, to finish a job begun, and to contribute time, talent, and treasure to my community.  Those are the same values on which Houston was founded, and the values that continue to shape our future.  Those values are wrapped in optimism that this is a city in which anything is achievable, shaped by men and women from every corner of the world who come believing it is possible for anyone to succeed here, and imbedded in the shared truth, that all are welcome in this most diverse of cities.

But diversity by itself is chaos.  Diversity where ideas meet and those seeds germinate can be a garden of plenty.  To ensure the full participation of every Houstonian in the business and civic life of this great city, it is time to pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the protections most Houstonians take for granted.

Houston is a city in motion; an international city of energy and dreams, but dreams fueled by hard work and grounded in common sense.  Houston is where grand ideas take hold if they relate to the basic competencies of the city.  We like to do big things.  We can always figure out a way to get it done.  From creating America’s largest exporting port where once was only a muddy stream, to putting a human being on the moon, to opening our arms to embrace the Katrina evacuees, it has always been about doing big things.

We excel at emergency preparedness and storm response but to protect the vast economic engine that sustains us, it is time for all of us in this region to come together and take concrete steps to create storm protections for our coastal communities with the proposed Centennial Gate or Ike Dike and we will.

Houston is a city that works, blessed with a booming economy.  Of the 100 largest world economies, the Houston metro area is #32.  We have the 4th highest GDP that the US but not everyone benefits from the blessing of that strong economy.  Two years ago, I announced that we would tackle homelessness in ways never done before.  Our success has been such that I say today that it is time for us to eliminate chronic homelessness within the next two years and we will.

Houston is a city that invests in itself so that business can flourish and families can build their lives.  We will continue to rebuild Houston.  It is time, and you will see real progress in the street and drainage system improvements.

Each time I have stood before you, I asked for your prayers.  I asked for your patience and I asked for your perseverance.  I ask this again for all of us who serve you as your city workforce.

We rise or fall together.  We succeed or fail together.  The ordinary becomes extraordinary when you add something extra.  A great city imagines its own bright future—and sets about to make that happen. I continue to imagine all the possibilities of our great city.  Please join me as we create the future of Houston together.

Thank you.

Annise D. Parker is the current Mayor of the City of Houston.  She has been elected Houston Mayor three times, serving since January 2, 2010.

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