Monday, January 04, 2016

Our food beats NYC, increasing METRO's P&R ridership, canal expansion impact, solving civic problems, Katrina refugees did better in Houston, and more

Happy New Year everyone!  New year, new mayor, new 4-year term - it'll be interesting to see how the city addresses its challenges and goes forward from here.  Time for some fiscal new year's resolutions?  Lots of small items stacked up over the holidays:
"Houstonians know our city offers great food, and now the rest of the country is learning that, too. In an article published Monday, Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema ranked the Bayou City as the fifth best food city in America.
That puts Houston ahead of traditional powers like New York (eighth) and Chicago (seventh) and just behind New Orleans (fourth). Portland tops Sietsema's list.
And there were plenty of surprises on the journey. I can’t wait to eat in Houston again, but New York let me down, at least for the present.
Houston, where have you been all my (food) life? Your best Vietnamese cooking returns me to Saigon, and some of your Chinese menus rival those I’ve dipped into in Beijing. As for Mexican, the seafood-themed Caracol and Cuchara, staffed by female chefs from different regions of Mexico, set the pace. Meanwhile, locals of all persuasions gather around the city’s signature: not fajitas, but Asian-Cajun seafood boils. Few food scenes enjoy the easy, Texas-size camaraderie found in the country’s fourth-largest city; the chef of the popular Underbelly goes so far as to promote the competition by sharing a list of his favorite eats with his customers. As one discerning palate put it, “If L.A. and New Orleans had a baby, it might be Houston.
"Higher tax-free benefit for mass-transit commuters: One of the expiring tax breaks the huge new federal spending bill has made permanent is a gift to those who pay for mass-transit commuting costs. The bill raises the monthly amount allowed to be paid with pretax income to $255 starting in 2016. The current limit is $130, so this will be a big benefit. The same amount will also apply to the pretax monthly amount car commuters can use for parking costs (which was $250 per month)."
"The women weren’t going to Fayetteville but, rather, to places like Houston. “For low-income people in the South, Houston is a pretty darn great place,” Hendren said. “It’s not a beacon of phenomenal upward mobility like Salt Lake City. But it’s kind of the Salt Lake City of the South.” The odds of going from the bottom to the top in Houston are 9.3 per cent, which puts it fifteenth out of the top fifty U.S. metro areas.
Those who preferred Houston saw things very differently:
Better schools in Houston: 35%.
Found a better job in Houston: 35%.
Overall quality of life in Houston: 33%.
Lower crime in Houston: 31%.
Better housing in Houston: 27%.
Better access to health care in Houston: 21%."
Lots more where those came from, but that's enough for this week. More next week.  Good luck to everyone with their new year's resolutions!

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