The state of the city 2009

Mayor Bill White gave his last State of the City address yesterday.

Mayor Bill White used his last “State of the City” address Thursday to reassure Houstonians that they and the city will weather the coming economic storm, just as they survived Hurricane Ike last year.

“We emerged more durable, with a tighter sense of community and with a real pride,” White said during the annual luncheon sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership. “We can weather this economic storm if we keep that spirit intact in Houston and build on it.”

White warned that the city will not escape the economic downturn in 2009. But he called Houston a resilient “comeback city” that would find ways to constructively deal with hardship. For example, he said, landlords may bemoan office vacancies, but start-up businesses may welcome a period of lower rents.

White spoke before a crowd of more than 1,400 business and civic leaders at the downtown Hilton Americas-Houston. White, 54, mentioned nothing of his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat and declined to outline any new projects for his final year in office, except for expanded recycling efforts.

But the speech offered hints at how the former Wedge Group CEO will frame his six-year mayoral legacy for the Senate bid. White began by praising the region’s economic muscle, citing 380,000 new jobs in five years, and built from there. He tied the success of the public sphere to “partnerships” and “bridges” with the thriving private sector — emphasizing his political philosophy that government can improve life, but only with the help of committed citizens.

You can read the whole speech here. The Mayor has a lot of accomplishments to tout, and when he goes out on the road to run for his next office, whether he continues to pursue a Senate bid or changes course for Austin, he’ll have a very good story to tell. I wish he had mentioned mass transit in his speech, just as I wish that after five successful years of light rail in Houston there was more of it to talk about. There’s still time for further achievements on this front during Mayor White’s tenure, but the bulk of it is going to be left for his successor to do.

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