Houston in the national mediaI finally caught up on some of my email newsletters, and came across a couple interesting blurbs on Houston buried in some Hurricane Katrina articles from the national media. They probably don't tell you anything you don't already know, but it's always interesting to follow the national image of Houston in the media.
The first is from the Christian Science Monitor on the post-Katrina migration:
It goes on to talk about how the relative impact on Baton Rouge will be much more visible and substantial than in a city like Houston, where a 100,000 potential new residents added to a metro of 5 million is not as noticeable.
Texas has long received the largest share of New Orleans' outmigration, notes Mr. Berube. It's true for Katrina evacuees as well. The Lone Star State now has more than half of the shelter-based displaced population.
At Houston's Toyota Center this week, thousands of evacuees came to inquire about jobs, apartments, legal aid, and medical care. At a job fair people were getting help with their resumes, browsing bulletin boards, and slurping free ice cream.
Gaston Duronslet is standing in front of the bulletin board, scanning it for information technology postings. A single dad with three kids, he worked for DuPont in New Orleans before the storm.
His children are already enrolled in Texas schools. He's received an apartment rent-free for a month while he looks for a job. So far, he's been overwhelmed by Texan generosity; noticing his Louisiana license plates, one couple followed him until he stopped at a deli for dinner and paid for his meal. "I've already written New Orleans off," says Mr. Duronslet, whose family has lived there since the mid-1800s.
A big city like Houston is unlikely to be changed very much by an influx of Louisianans. Urban areas in the US are already largely populated by people transplanted from elsewhere. But the smaller the community that receives new residents, the larger the corresponding effect.
"The impact in cities like Houston and Miami won't be very big," says Chris Girard, a professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Florida International University. "But in rural communities and states that are more homogeneous, there will be a much bigger impact and there will be some culture shock."
The second is from an article in the Washington Post on New Orleans' future:
You can also thank annexation for that last one, otherwise it could have been "Clear Lake, the Eagle has landed." How goofy would that have sounded?
This is not the first time that harsh realities have reshaped cities along the Gulf of Mexico.
The historic analogy for New Orleans is Galveston. For 60 years in the 1800s, that coastal city was the most advanced in Texas. It had the state's first post office, first naval base, first bakery, first gaslights, first opera house, first telephones, first electric lights and first medical school.
Then came the hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900. As yet unsurpassed as the deadliest natural disaster in American history, it washed away at least 6,000 souls. Civic leaders responded with heroic determination, building a seawall seven miles long and 17 feet high. Homes were jacked up. Dredges poured four to six feet of sand under them.
Galveston today is a charming tourist and entertainment destination, but it never returned to its old commercial glory. In part, that's because the leaders of Houston took one look at what the hurricane had wrought and concluded a barrier island might not be the best place to build the major metropolis that a growing east central Texas was going to need.
They responded with an equally Lone-Star-scale project, the 50-mile-long Ship Channel. It made inland Houston a world port. In the wake of the Spindletop gusher that launched the Texas oil industry, Houston became the capital of the world petroleum industry. As the leaders of the "awl bidness" were fond of saying, "Don't matter if the oil is in Siberia or the South China Sea -- you buy your rig in Houston or dig for it with a silver spoon." Houston went on to become a finance, medical, university, biotech and now nanotech center. The first word from the surface of the moon was not "Galveston." It was "Houston."
The national media frequently mentions energy, NASA, and the medical center when talking about Houston, but this is the first time I've ever seen us acknowledged for our bio and nanotech. Hopefully it will just be the first of many.