March 18, 2007
Time for a task force

Missed this on Friday: Mayor White met with a bunch of the other mayors in the area, following their complaints about his air-cleanup plan.

"It's a really big day in the region," White said after the closed-door summit with the mayors of Pasadena, La Porte, Deer Park, Baytown, Morgans Point and Galena Park. Precinct 2 Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia also attended.

White's push for regional action in the past has proved unsuccessful.

In 2005, in response to evidence that concentrations of carcinogenic chemicals in Houston neighborhoods exceeded levels considered safe, White unveiled a clean-air plan that covered a broad area.

The lack of response to that proposal, by companies, the state and other officials, in part led the city to pursue strategies to clean up its air alone.

Following the two-hour session, Pasadena Mayor John Manlove announced a consensus had been reached on a three-prong agreement with the main plank being formation of a regional task force. This group, which is supposed to be formed within a week, will come up with a plan based on scientific data that would result in cleaner air, better health and economic growth.

When asked how this would affect his plan to negotiate voluntary reductions of carcinogenic benzene emissions at seven area plants, White said: "We have a draft plan and want the task force to take a look at it. We want them to review and make suggestions."

"Forming a task force" is usually code for "we want to make it look like we're doing something even though we're not". In this case, at least, we know that Mayor White really really does want to do something, and I can't see him bowing to these other guys on this. So for once this may be a task force worth watching. Let's see who's on it and what their time line is. That should give us some idea of how serious everyone besides White is.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 18, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston