Carroll on Houston's self-imageI'm back from Colorado and hope to put some Denver/Boulder city observations into a post soon. I've noticed a huge backlog of comments in my inbox, and also hope to get to them soon. Please be patient. The to-do list always seems overwhelming after a vacation, even a short one.
Today we have a guest post from Carroll Robinson, former City Councilmember and currently Associate Dean of External Affairs for Texas Southern University's Barbara Jordan – Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs. It talks about Houston's status as a great city. On a related side note, I came across a copy of "Monopoly: USA Greatest Cities Edition" this weekend in a Boulder games shop on the Pearl Street Mall. Guess what? Hasbro doesn't consider Houston a great city. San Antonio, Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Seattle, and St. Louis are, but not the fourth-largest city in the country. We get lumped with Detroit as the only cities in the top 12 metros to get left out. Needless to say, I was a little miffed. On to the op-ed:
Houston Let’s Show Them Who We Are
Carroll G. Robinson, Esq.*
Houston is a great city; it is not a small town or a bedroom community. It is a city full of generous people with great hearts who are active volunteers who care about their city, its people and its neighborhoods.
Houston is an old city (established in 1836) that is still growing and that is not as physically rundown (unattractive) as many of the old urban cities of the Mid-West or Northeast.
Despite all its detractors, Houston is a city blessed with great year-round weather. (Not great weather year round. No city has that.)
People complain that Houston has no planning and has no character because we have no zoning. That is just not true.
The character of Houston is opportunity. We may not have zoning, but we do have some land use regulations and there is planning. There is great cooperation between the public, private and civic sectors.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (buyer?). If Houston lacked beauty and character, it would not be a city with a growing population of people moving in from other places across the country and from around the world.
Houston is ostracized for the impact on our community of being home to the heart of the nation’s energy and petro-chemical industry.
Which communities across the country are willing to give up their consumption of the energy and petro-chemical products produced in Texas to help reduce the level of our air pollution and its health effects on Houstonians?
Being able to walk around a town does not make it a great city. Nor does the presence of cars detract from the greatness of a city.
No one walks from one end of Manhattan to the other. No one walks from one end of Boston or Philadelphia or D.C. to the other.
Without their historic sites, no one would be visiting Boston or Philadelphia to walk around. In fact, most of the walking in those cities is confined to rather small geographic areas.
All the great cities in America are dominated by motor vehicles even where they have outstanding mass transit systems including rail.
Houston is a city of diverse neighborhoods inside the Loop and outside of it. Southwest Houston and Northeast Houston are two unique and distinct places in the city. Mid-Town is different from China Town on Bellaire. Downtown Houston is not the East End or Sunnyside Houston.
Each area of Houston has its own physical and historic character, beauty and needs.
Houston is a diverse and international city. It has one of the largest Hispanic, African-American, Asian, African and Caribbean populations in the nation.
It is home to an extraordinary number of minority entrepreneurs and businesses.
Houston is America’s gateway to Mexico and Latin, Central and South America. The Port of Houston is one of the busiest ports in the world and Houston has one of the busiest airport systems in the country.
Houston is a home to the arts and culture as well as The Texas Medical Center, one of the world’s greatest Medical Centers.
Houston is going to continue to grow and become more densely populated. Our rail system will grow, more of our neighborhoods will become more walkable and our air will get cleaner, and our city will get greener because Houstonians as a community, individuals, government, businesses, and civic organizations are committed to making our city a better place to live, work and raise a family now and in the future.
Its time to stop looking down at ourselves, to stop worrying about what people outside of the city are saying or writing about us.
Houston’s success has come from what we have done and continue to do, and not what others have said about our city. Our “can do” attitude is where our success will continue to come from.
The rest of America will know Houston is a great city when our children’s performance in school is the best in our nation. They will know Houston is a great city when our children are the healthiest in the nation. They will know Houston is a great city when we are the safest, cleanest, healthiest and among the greenest big cities in America.
Let’s get back to work showing America who we are in Houston and let’s stop worrying about what they say. Actions speak louder than words.