December 30, 2022 -- Before setting our goals and resolutions for the new year, please join me in reflecting on 2022. This year has been marked by significant challenges and tremendous accomplishments.
We launched One Safe Houston, which has decreased violent crime, made considerable progress on enhancing our neighborhood parks, opened more libraries, and won EPA approval for converting an abandoned landfill into the Sunnyside Solar Farm, which will be the largest in the country. We assisted more individuals experiencing homelessness and strengthened the city's flood mitigation efforts.
Our city also came together for an unforgettable celebration honoring the second Astros World Series Championship in five years.
The past 12 months have been spectacular in many areas of achievement, and Houston is stronger and more resilient today because of my administration's work with each municipal department.
On a personal note, I was diagnosed with cancer midyear, and after major surgery and months of rigorous radiation, I am cancer-free today! During the journey, I did not let my health setback deter me from working on your behalf and moving our city forward.
As we walk boldly into another year, let's remember that we have been blessed with the things that matter, including good health and the love of family and friends. I encourage you to look around and find that moment that gives you your greatest joy.
As we look to the future, I thank you for allowing me to be your mayor for the past seven years and for joining me in making our city the best in the nation.
Happy New Year!
Reflections on a successful year!
JANUARY The year began on a solid note. We signed a historic agreement with the Bezos Academy to host tuition-free preschool in the Denver Harbor Community
The 10-year lease agreement with Bezos Academy was signed to open a tuition-free, Montessori-inspired preschool in the Denver Harbor area in 2023. The other Bezos Academies, two of which are located in Complete Communities – Sunnyside and Magnolia Park- Manchester.
By focusing on underserved communities like Denver Harbor, we are ensuring that every child will have equitable opportunities for education that propels them to a meaningful and successful future.
The City of Houston and Harris County announced an unprecedented investment to house the homeless.
The $100 million program will house more than 7,000 additional people by 2024 and build critical infrastructure to end homelessness.
One Safe Houston
In February, I launched One Safe Houston, a crime reduction initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
It focuses on four (4) key areas:
Violence Reduction and Crime Prevention
Crisis Intervention, Response and Recovery
Youth Outreach Opportunities
Key Community Partnerships
The City held two gun buyback events in 2022.
One Safe Houston also invested $1 million to remove more illegal or unwanted firearms from the street that could ultimately be used as crime guns. We held two gun buyback events in 2022, one in partnership with Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and the second in Alief, which we believe to be the largest one-day gun buyback collection in U.S. history. In total more than 2,000 guns were collected. At the end of 2022, violent crime in comparison to 2021 is down in every single category including homicides and aggravated assaults.
Feb. 16, 2022: Mayor Sylvester Turner signs an executive order to raise the minimum wage for Houston airport workers to $15 an hour by 2023
APRIL Parental Leave Policy Adopted
Marking a historic day in Houston, City Council unanimously approved a paid parental leave policy for municipal employees. Full-time employees with at least six-months tenure can request paid parental leave instead of relying only on saved vacation time or unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. By offering paid, prenatal, parental, and infant wellness leaves, the City of Houston will be able to attract and retain top talent while supporting families and children.
Sunnyside Solar Farm
On April 22, we announced that the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality had given permit approval for the Sunnyside Solar Farm. When completed, this 240-acre former landfill will generate enough clean energy to power 5,000 to 10,000 homes and will be the largest urban solar farm in the country. The solar farm will also bring new life to an area held down by the blighted and decommissioned landfill and create hundreds of new jobs in the rapidly advancing solar tech industry.
City Council passed my seventh balanced budget in as many years in a move that includes a healthy budget stabilization fund, operating expenses for new facilities, and across-the-board employee pay raises. This year's budget has no property tax rate increase, deferrals, or one-time land sales.
Over the summer, my signature Hire Houston Youth initiative provided a record 14,108 job and empowerment opportunities to youth aged 16-24.
This program gives business, nonprofit, and government partners a chance to work with today's young people and set them on the right path to a successful future. When we create pathways for youth to access opportunities, they no longer see crime as a solution to their problems. In 2023, the HHY program will create opportunities for 20,000 young people.
Collins Aerospace Ribbon Cutting The expansion of Collins Aerospace at the Houston Spaceport is a crucial next step in the city’s journey to be the country’s premier next-generation aerospace and technical hub.
The innovative technologies created at this facility will also serve as the critical systems to support humankind’s future space exploration and habitation. We look forward to fueling the future of aerospace right here in Houston. Approximately 10,000 square feet of the facility will be dedicated to Houston’s first-ever spaceflight incubator, where startups, universities and industry professionals will collaborate using robotics, medicine, additive manufacturing, and more to solve complex space technology challenges.
In August, we also rolled out Open Finance, a new financial transparency initiative that will provide residents a clearer picture of the City's finances. The three-features of the initiative include:
Open Budget dataset is structured by two different aspects: revenue and expenditure data depicted as both budget and actual.
Open Payroll will provide employee payroll data that can be filtered by payment period, department, function and other dimensions
Open Checkbook (coming soon) will detail expenditure-level payment information; detailing expenses remitted to various vendors and/or payment recipients
Hosted the Africa Energy Summit, welcoming over 50 leaders to Houston to showcase the position of Houston as the energy capital of the world and a global leader to help build opportunity to support Africa's growth.
Houston City Council voted to help accelerate implementation of the Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan by unanimously approving the Buffalo Bayou East Ten-Year Plan and Tri-Party Agreement with Harris County and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
Two days earlier, I joined Nancy and Rich Kinder to announce a $100 million gift from the Kinder Foundation to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership for the transformational development, which will include parks, trails, affordable housing, cultural destinations, and infrastructure improvements over the next 10 years. Watch a video recap of the announcement.
The City of Houston continued to work closely with its partners in the Houston Recycling Collaboration to significantly increase plastic recycling rates. The partners Cyclyx, ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell, and FCC Environmental Services announced a $100 million investment in a facility that promises to sort and process plastics that would otherwise be discarded in landfills. The Collaboration's hopes to leverage new technologies and infrastructure, such as this Cyclyx facility, to recycle nearly all plastics.
I delivered my seventh State of the City to a sold-out crowd of1,600 Houston business and civic leaders.
During my remarks, I Launched Dinner to Home, a partnership with Bread of Life Ministries to help individuals experiencing homelessness embark on the path to being housed. The pilot program offers free meals at a safe, clean, and appropriate location, while helping individuals through the social services delivery network.
The Houston Astros won a 2nd World Series and the City of Houston hosted the 2022 World Series Champions Houston Astros parade
Voters approved $478M in bond referenda that will help shape the future of the City of Houston without an increase in the property tax rate.
Projects include neighborhood parks and trails, the BARC animal shelter, libraries, and more than half of the bond money goes to public safety.
DECEMBER On December 19, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) regarding the $10 billion North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP). This marked a significant milestone in moving the project forward in a way that should benefit the City of Houston, Harris County, and the greater Houston region.
Signed an MOU with TxDOT on the North Houston Highway Improvement Project
TxDOT is committed to net zero housing loss for public housing units, providing rental assistance up to 42 months and the funding to relocate homeowners remain within their respective communities. The project would be compatible with all modes of transportation, including driving, biking and walking, while also addressing flooding issues along Interstate 45. You can view a copy of the MOU and read more about the agreement here.
I received an Honorary Doctorate from Texas Southern University and TSU President Lesia Crumpton-Young following my commencement address to graduates. You can read more here about two major initiatives I announced that will strengthen the partnership between the city and TSU.
Increased funding to cleanup illegal dumping
The City Council approved a three year contract for $1.3 million of ARPA funds with a one-year option to renew. The City's Southwest Management and Waste Department (SMWD) will perform litter abatement services which includes trash pickup, waste disposal and PPE Litter. In FY 2022 we spent $17.1 million on addressing illegal dumping and have budgeted $19.2 million in FY 2023.
Attended President Joe Biden’s first formal State Dinner with special guests French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron. I enjoyed seeing distinguished guests including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
As we prepare to end the year, CNBC put a national spotlight on Houston as a Power City. Our diversified economy is strong. I am very proud of where the City is and prouder of where it is going.