#1 in Everything, State of the County, MetroRail budgetsJudge Emmett gave a good State of the County address at a GHP luncheon today (Chronicle coverage, Examiner coverage). Some highlights:
- The county is financially in good shape, certainly far better than most governments across the country
- "71 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. in recent years have been created in Texas." Wow. That stat just blows me away every time I see it.
- Big plug for the port as a cornerstone of international trade, which is our future.
- Plug for commuter rail in the Hempstead Corridor and along Route 3 to Galveston.
- Plug for UH Tier 1 status.
- His biggest worry sounds like the Harris County Hospital District, and figuring out how pubic and indigent health care is going to be handled and paid for (details here). I think he's right that it needs to get figured out, but it might make sense to wait until after whatever Obama does on health care.
- Transtar did well did Hurricane Ike, but needs some expansion and improvements to do better.
- Ended with a great story of heroic all-night efforts by tug boat crews during Ike to keep a large ship that came unmoored from crashing into the 610 Loop Ship Channel bridge, which could have brought the whole thing down. He thought their story kinda got lost in the noise during post-Ike recovery. They have been nominated for U.S. Homeland Security Certificates of Valor. "It highlights our greatest strength - private individuals withe a work ethic and a value system that will see us through good times or bad."
Speaking of Metro, I just came across this Chronicle story today that Metro only got half the federal stimulus funds they expected. They asked for $410 million for the north and southeast rail lines, expected $180 million, but only got $92 million. Given that those two lines alone are estimated to cost over $1.2 billion, I'm curious what Metro's plan is to fill in the budget gap. Are they just keeping their fingers crossed for more federal money for these lines in future years?
Finally, the item that really jumped out at me at the luncheon was this page of Houston #1's they included in our packets. It's kind of mind-boggling when you read it. We've been ranked the best city for living, working, playing, earning a living, keeping your job, buying a home, recent college grads, fastest job growth, hottest labor market, lowest cost of living, largest IT service economy, top U.S. manufacturing city, best cancer hospital, highest population growth, and more. This one came out today calling us the healthiest housing market for 2009 (hat tip to Christina), and the Texas Triangle cities made a clean sweep of the top five positions. Wow. Are we "world-class" yet? ;-) All, I can say is, be thankful you're in the right place at the right time during this global recession.