2021 State of the City Speech
Hosted by the HoustonFirst Corp
This is the mayor’s speech as written, the mayor often deviates from prepared remarks, 10.13.2021
Thank you very much. Let me start off by thanking Cindy and Elizabeth, the State of the City 2021 hosts.
I want to thank Houston First and the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. All the partners who came together to make this happen. Please give it up to that entire team.
To members of the Consular Corp, I will see many at the Consular Ball on Saturday, and to all the elected officials and the members of city council.
Let me give a special shoutout to CM Carolyn Evans Shabazz, it is her birthday. And too all the elected officials on every level, members of the congressional delegation, state leaders who are here, local leaders, superintendents, leaders from our colleges and universities and independent school districts, thank you for being here.
And then let me give a special shout out to all who sponsored tables. Your presence here today is not about me, as it is an investment in our city.
Quite frankly, it says you very much believe in our city. As I look across this room, it signifies that this city is resilient, this city is still open for business and ready for people from around the world to come visit our city.
The last 19 months, we have faced multiple challenges on many levels. About 3,500 Houstonians have lost their lives to COVID-19, including 13 City of Houston employees – police officers, firefighters and municipal workers.
COVID has been like a house guest that wouldn’t go home. No matter how hard you tried to push him out the door.
We have faced social-civil unrest, but at the same time, the city did not burn, there was not much vandalism in our city and we never implemented a curfew in our city.
We faced Winter Storm Uri and it shut the city down. We faced Hurricane Nicholas this summer. It was not a rain event, it was a wind event.
At the same time, we have faced rising crime, from 2020 – 2021. Homicides are up, domestic violence is up. And on an annual basis, 3,800 guns are stolen from vehicles in our city.
We have faced multiple challenges, but at the same time, this city has proven to be resilient and we have pushed through.
Let me offer a sincere thank you to some people for your work during pandemic:
- Healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists
- Frontline responders, police, fire and EMS
- And a group that is often overlooked, let me thank our grocery store workers (cashiers, stockers, truck drivers)
- Let me thank people who drive our transit system: METRO, Transit workers
- Educators (principals, teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers)
- Let me thank a group of people who took it on the chin, but they innovated and managed to stay open: Restaurants, businesses managed to say open
- Moms and Dads – major adjustments when schools shut down
- Kids: they missed their proms, graduations, away from their classmates. Many did not understand what they were experiencing or what they were going through.
- The students like those on the stage earlier today, have proven to be resilient. And even when we were at our worse, our kids reminded us that there was still work to do. Let’s give it up to our children.
Despite our challenges, we did not stand still, and in our city, we did not turn back.
- We balanced two city budgets in June 2020 and June 2021. We never laid off a single person and in part that was due to President Biden and members of our congressional delegation, because of the federal dollars - CARES Funding and ARPA funding that was provided. So, I want to thank our federal delegation for standing up for the City of Houston and helping our city out.
- Our Resilient Houston/Climate Action Plan and Complete Communities Initiatives have gained momentum
- Innovation centers are exploding across our city.
- Spaceport, TXRX, Ion, Cannon, Greentown Lab Houston, TMC 3
- HPE, NRG relocated principle headquarters
- Spaceport is building this ecosystem at Ellington Field with 1,300 jobs coming into the city. And while they are talking about flying into space, they are talking about building the first space station right here in the city of Houston.
- TXRX started out as 10-12 thousand square feet facility. Just this year, we cut the ribbon on 300,000 square feet where the focus is on innovative manufacturing and technology.
- The Ion will soon open. It started off as just a small spot, but now it will be a leading component in the city’s innovation hub.
- The Cannon in west houston is off and going.
- Greentown Labs, the largest incubator on the north American continent, has expanded from the Boston area, now in the city of Houston, focused on cleantech and Climatech.
- TMC, the Texas Medical Center, already the largest in the world, is seeking to expand.
- HPE and NRG have relocated their principle headquarters to the City of Houston.
- And over the last 19 months, we never shutdown residential and commercial construction, and as a result, we opened the doors to the Houston Botanic Gardens.
- The Museum of Fine Arts is another destination venue for our city, completing a $450,000 million major capital expansion for our city. If you have not seen it, you need to see it.
- Memorial Park is now an urban oasis
- The Houston Open debuted in 2020 and will be the place to be next month
- Anime Matsuri and Comicpalooza drew record crowds this summer.
- The Downtown Post Office, the old one shut down and is not being totally reimagined, and now there will be innovative workspace, restaurants and a roof top garden, concert hall, hotel.
- Sunnyside, a low-income community with a landfill that was opened in the 1930s, closed under protest in the 1970. It left 240 contaminated acres, pulling down Sunnyside for the last 50 years. The city is now working with energy companies. We are reimaging that space. We now plan it to be redeveloped into the largest Urban Solar Farm in the country, to generate power for e 5000 homes, take out 120 million pounds of emissions, an investment of $7 million, create equitable and green jobs and lift up Sunnyside and transform it for the better.
- Top Chef will be filming in the city of Houston – and there is talk about building the largest sound stage for studio and film production in the country. And we can say to L.A., Atlanta, you’re the Hollywood’s of yesterday. Look out, the city of Houston is on its way.
- The Alley Theater – since March of 2020, not one ticket was sold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The employees, the staff, took a 10-15 percent reduction in their salaries. The patrons and sponsors raised $13 million to assist the staff and employees. And last Thursday, they opened the 75th season, partnering with the Ensemble Theatre and now they have said to the rest of the city, the show must go on.
- The Astros – they carried the city of Houston on their jerseys on their backs and in their gloves during Harvey. And now again, coming after 19 months of COVID, they have said to the Chicago White Sox, its not your turn, and they will be saying to the Boston Red Sox, not your turn, HOUSTON IS ON THE RISE, ONE MORE TIME.
Last week, the Houston Hispanic Chamber packed a room with over 1,200 people. I cannot say enough about what they did last week. And today, I am looking over this room and I see a lot of tables and a lot of people at a sold-out crowd. It says to me and I hope it says to you, that in this city, challenges will come, and there will be a lot of things we cannot prevent. But we can say, we will continue as a city to work together, our diversity will not be a liability, but together we will work to make things happen.
I want to close with something Krish Radhakrishna said. He said, “There is much to be learnt from yearly seasons. Does a tree mourn the leaves lost during autumn? Does the garden mourn the flowers that have wilted. See how they all bounce back with the advent of spring and fill our lives with new freshness. It is time for us all to create a brighter more hopeful future. Let us cheer the new dawn!”
HOUSTON, WE RISE in the dawn of our future. Whatever we have faced in the past, that is the past. And now, today, the sun is shining, Houstonians are finding their mojo and we have decided that we do not seek to be second. We seek to be first. We do not want to be a city of two in one. We want to be one city that no matter where you come from, no matter your language, no matter your religion, no matter your religion, no matter your faith, no matter your age or your sexual orientation, in this city, we stand as rise as one.
Welcome to the new dawn of our future.