2012 Inaugural Address
Mayor Annise Parker
January 3, 2012
I love this city!
I thank Houstonians for again honoring me with your trust, your hopes. To serve you remains my highest aspiration.
I congratulate our City Controller and our City Council Members. This is a Council representing the amazing diversity of our city, with two new seats to reflect our increasing population. For all our differences, we share the values of faith and family and community. Those values will unite us as colleagues.
I salute, and thank, the women and men who make our city run. I know that the city's workforce is one of the best anywhere. I see them every day; I know many of them - and I know the commitment they have to doing a good job. A global metropolis like Houston operates 24/7. It is a complex organism that requires intricate coordination and choreographed actions. We rarely notice the smooth workings of this city - how much of it goes right.
But running a city is like riding a bicycle: you keep moving forward or you fall down. We rode long and far during the first term in office, and I am proud of what we accomplished together. But sometimes it helps to put things in perspective.
This August the City of Houston was 175 years old. And we are America's 4th largest city. Thatss a pretty amazing fact. We are a city that by conventional logic should not be. We were founded at the confluence of two muddy streams meandering through the flat Texas coastal prairie in 1836. It was hot, humid and the land was dotted with ponds of stagnant water where mosquitoes bred in abundance.
The city was rife with yellow fever for the first 60 years of its existence. There were no veins of gold in the earth, and precious little oil or gas. No scenic vistas. No sheltered harbor.
Well the mosquitoes are still here…but today we are home to the largest medical complex in the world, world capital of the petroleum industry, and the largest foreign tonnage port in America.
We pioneered the artificial heart, and revolutionized heart transplants. We are the home of NASA. The first word spoken from the moon was ... "Houston." (And one day the first word spoken from Mars will be "Houston!")
Everything we have done as a city has been a matter of vision and will, of taking what we have and deciding what we want, setting an impossible goal, and then creating it. Vision, commitment, hard work and a leap of faith.
That's why Houston, in the middle of the recession, is still the number one job creating city in America and the best place to live, work and raise a family. And that’s why we must do even better in the future.
My number one job for the next two years is to continue to bring more jobs to Houston. We will expand the programs we have already started to stimulate small business with access to loans and training. We will continue the Hire Houston First policy. We will work tirelessly to increase our role as the energy capital of the world and a world leader in the next high tech industrial revolution.
Hard times prompt us to chart the latitude and longitude of who we are. Hard times test our character. The economy still dominates every conversation, and colors everything we do. Too many Houstonians are struggling to find jobs, to make ends meet. Our city workforce has also felt that pain. City employees have been furloughed, and more than 750 were laid off. We are doing more with less.
We did not raise taxes. We did not mortgage our future with debt. We did not compromise public safety. We did not lay off a single firefighter or police officer. Many of our civilian employees stepped up and volunteered additional furlough days to help save the jobs of their colleagues.
We took bold steps to address our aging infrastructure - finally recovering the full cost of this precious asset, emphasizing conservation, and setting aside funds to complete long neglected maintenance. In doing the responsible thing, we unknowingly prepared ourselves to be able to respond to the worst drought in our history.
And I cannot envision voters in any other city in America, in the midst of a recession, doing the right thing, the prudent thing, and creating the funding to invest in critically needed flooding and drainage infrastructure. This is a visionary step akin to that in the 1950's and 60s which created lakes Conroe and Houston and secured the water rights which sustain us today, or the commitment to set aside land and other incentives to encourage medical institutions to locate together and so lead to the largest medical complex in the world.
As we navigated this city through the toughest economy in generations, I built my administration on 5 pillars, and focused the work of the city around them:
- Jobs and sustainable development,
- Fiscal responsibility,
- Public safety,
- Quality of life.
Those will remain our strengths - there is progress yet to be made on pension security for both the city and our retirees, an independent regional crime lab, phasing out the city jail and progress against homelessness - these are challenges we are committed to address and have already begun.
Two years ago I asked of you three things: I asked for your prayers. I must have had them, for though I knew there would be challenges ahead, those challenges seemed to grow in depth and severity each day. It is telling that the task I had feared would be the hardest, redistricting, was actually one of the easiest and most successful.
I asked for your patience. And I suspect that we tried it at times. But I have always believed in a principled compromise that achieves progress.
And I asked for your perseverance. We rise and fall together. We succeed or fail together.
And you have shown that through your deeds. You have committed your time and energy to Houston. You, the people of Houston, have collectively given more volunteer hours than ever in our history.
When Fast Company magazine selected Houston as the City of the Year for 2011, there was a reference to us as “one of the world's next great cities". Houstonians know that future is already here. It is the blessing and curse of Houston to never be satisfied with where it is, to always be reinventing itself. Ours is a city of opportunity and optimism --never stopping at why we can’t do something, but always seeking how we can get it done.
We are a city that knows how to turn potential problems into possibilities.
We dream great dreams, but then make them happen.
Whether you find your strength in God, in family, in friends, or in your own two hands, Houston deserves no less than our shared vision, our firm commitment, our hard work and a continued leap of faith.
Let us greet our future together!