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The state of the city 2019

There are still things to do that don’t have to do with the endless fight over Prop B.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner used his fourth annual State of the City address Monday to announce a plan aimed at drawing private investment to city parks in underserved areas, while casting the state of the city as “strong, resilient and sustainable,” a depiction his mayoral opponents swiftly rejected.

Turner, who is up for re-election in November, also renewed his call for a multimodal transit system with rail and bus rapid transit, urging residents to give Metro borrowing authority for its long-term plan in November. The agency is expected to put a multi-billion-dollar bond request on the ballot.

“This is not the city of the 1990s,” Turner said. “This city has changed. The region is changing. People are demanding multimodal options, and we have to give it to them.”


Speaking to a packed crowd of elected officials, city staff and the business community, the mayor pitched Houston as a prime location for technology startups, touting steps the city has taken to expand its tech presence. He acknowledged that “Silicon Bayou” has played catch-up to other cities that were faster to attract talent.

“It makes no sense why the (tech) ecosystem in Houston should not be No. 1 in the world,” Turner said, pointing to the city’s large medical center, multiple universities and reputation as the world’s energy capital.

Several minutes into his address, delivered at the Marriott Marquis hotel downtown, Turner announced a “50-for-50” plan aimed at revitalizing city parks “primarily in communities that have been underserved.” Under the plan, Turner said, 50 companies would each “partner” with a city park, volunteering to “take ownership” of the park and maintain it for about five years.

[H-E-B President Scott] McClelland, who chairs the Greater Houston Partnership, committed onstage to participate in the program.

You can see the text of the Mayor’s address here. There’s some stuff in the story about the other Mayoral candidates, which, whatever. I’m more interested in seeing Mayor Turner give full-throated support to the Metro referendum, which we are very much going to need. We can go from a city and a region that has okay transit to a city and a region that has good transit, if we want to. The only person running for Mayor that I trust with that is Mayor Turner.

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  1. David Fagan says:

    It’s funny to think that if firefighters were paid comparable to their professional counterparts, all of this would fall apart. At city council there’s no money for nothing, in front of Greater Houston Partnership, they’re swimming in it. It is obviously not the mayor, but GHP who doesn’t want a fair and equitable raise for firefighters. So, GHP should support more of the public side of this public/ private partnership that is crumbling and has all but been recognized as a crisis.

  2. Ross says:

    David, the firefighters make more than enough. If they don’t like their pay, they can hit the street and go elsewhere.

  3. David Fagan says:

    Even the fire chief in his own way said the same thing. There is no reason to stay in this department the way it is. These fire fighters saved a building appraised at $30 million bringing $575,000 of taxes to the city. This property has to belong to someone in the GHP, though the ownership is buried, and the GHP is secret.

    Learning from the GHP, and business practices, it is not getting paid enough, it is valuing one’s own contribution and being paid equitably.

    There is a Turner hired Fire Chief from El Paso that says the fire fighters do an exceptional job, with questionable equipment, demanding conditions, and he says these men and women of HFD do not get paid enough.

  4. Ross says:

    David, who even cares about the value of a building the firefighters allegedly saved? That’s their job. What’s next, refusal by firefighters to save buildings owned by people they don’t like? What building are you talking about?

  5. David Fagan says:

    If the GHB takes tax dollars and claims value in growth and sustainability, the fire department is an investment with paid value also. The process of planning and construction of property easily takes credit for addition of value and tax base. The relationship of property value and tax income does not include firefighters’ contribution. If the fire department is expected to be ‘run like a business’, then the dollar amount of their investment and return could be measured. $30 million is the value of the latest apartment fire on the west side, $575,000 is the taxes collected. The city’s investment in the fire department allows them to continue to collect the most taxes, and prevents the city from collecting less. So, fire fighters provide a provision of loss prevention, resulting in tax revenue preservation. With the development of Houston skyrocketing, the value of property tax revenue preservation grows proportionately. Thus, as development grows, which the GHB drives, the value of firefighters, and their work as tax revenue preservation, grows as well.

  6. C.L. says:

    WTF are you talking about, David Fagan ? Tying in the value of what’s being saved from burning down to the salaries of HFD employees has to be the best…no, WORST reason anyone has come up yet.

  7. Bill_Daniels says:

    If we are just going by which department brings the most value to Houston, then the sanitation department getting rid of the trash should be the highest paid folks, bar none. With no trash service, Houston would crumble in a month, mounds of rotting garbage would be everywhere, people would be sick and dying of disease, business would grind to a halt and property values would be in the toilet. So maybe the firefighters should demand pay parity with the sanitation department. Guy who rides a firetruck gets the pay of the guy who rides on the garbage truck, and the chauffeur on the fire truck gets the same pay as the guy driving the garbage truck.

    Seems more than fair to me, based on the respective contributions of both departments.

  8. David Fagan says:

    Did not see anywhere where salaries were mentioned, it even alluded to, feel free to point out salaries or compensation between two quotation marks and use requisite paragraphs.

    Thank you for your input

  9. David Fagan says:

    Hilton Americas-Houston hotel had a fire. Hey, Houston First, tower eighteen’ s crew would have been laid off and that tower would have been dispatched from 20’s fire station. How much more damage would have been done to the structure?

    Fire station 18 is 2.2 miles from Hilton of Americas, fire station 20 is 4.4 miles from Hilton of Americas. Fire station 20 is twice the distance, maybe twice the time. Google maps says it takes 9 minutes for a civilian to get to Hilton from station 18, divide that in half and that would give 4.5 minutes (which is better than the reported response average fire Houston). Station 20 is 14 minutes away and, dividing that in half for an emergency vehicle, would be 7 minutes, but 2.5 minutes longer than 18’s location.

    The Hilton Americas is valued over $200,000,000. The parking garage at that place is more expensive that the same elsewhere, so an estimate of damage from the time the fire started, to the time it was put out could be figured in dollars/minute of fire. That figure could be used toward the longer response time difference of 2.5 minutes and come up with a value of property saved. Not to mention the extra damage to other people’s vehicles.

    While researching the value of Hilton Americas it shows they have a total exemption and pay no taxes, including no school taxes. With the higher demand of resources on a property that pays no taxes, they need to be sent a bill for services rendered, it’s common sense business practices. Pay for services rendered.

    Houston First and the Greater Houston Partnership, and anyone who enjoys a total exemption, or uses a loophole from paying for there share of public safety services, TIRZ, are one of the greatest problems and pressures experienced by public safety budgets. This is proof of it.

  10. Steve Houston says:

    David, your creative math antics aside, Houston First who owns the hotel is merely a paper shuffle for the city of Houston. It was the city that issued the bonds to pay for the hotel when private hotel chains shied away from building a hotel on their own. So your solution amounts to government entities taxing each other, not generating any new money.

    An important point to make would be that your starting point in calculations takes the existing $500 million plus already spent on HFD, not including anything purchased via bonds or coming from grants, donations, and the like, as the “floor” rather than the sum total of what those in power have determined HFD is worth. Like it or not, the companies comprising the GHP already pay taxes toward your services, typically subsidizing the many locally who do not pay much.

    Now if you want to argue many companies/corporations use the state tax code to avoid paying their fair share in property taxes, I’m sure Charles would agree with you. And as much as the TIRZ program has remained a state allowed boondoggle, many would agree with you in getting it dismantled but with Houston’s revenue cap, it won’t provide a penny more in general fund revenues by doing so, actually reducing city spending by the amounts mayors have strong armed from the program over the years. And most of the TIRZ’s have built up enough bond debt that the city would then become responsible for, so don’t hold your breath waiting for them to end.

  11. David Fagan says:

    The interesting thing about your comment isn’t the content, but the timing. A comment replied so quickly on an article that is 4 days old, ancient in internet terms, when most threads are dead after about two days, and this is your first contribution to the thread.

    I don’t know if the interest in that figure is flattering, or questionable. Questionable as to your interests.

    Defending your interests is one thing, but replying so quickly would probably require the offthekuff app with notifications turned on. I would think you would know Charles kuffner at least. Your defense of your interests is expected. BUT,

    There are people who answered the call of those interests whom you’ve freely called freeloaders. Anyone can look up a $200,000,000 property that is valued at $0 for tax purposes, spends $0 in taxes and come to the easy conclusion of the true freeloader. It’s the Hilton hotel that pays no taxes, and it doesn’t matter if it is a paper shuffle or not because it occurs in the special revenue funds, not the general fund. The cost of public safety comes from the general fund, so paper shuffle some of that special revenue, which the PFM report says needs to be reduced, over to the general fund and pay for services rendered.

    So, all this reasoning and discussion only makes me think, maybe I’ve got a point, and a valid one at that.

  12. Steve Houston says:

    David, if it helps your understanding, please note that not everyone who comes here reads the blog every day. Some of us even enjoy holiday weekends away from the computer so looking at the last topic commented on is a pretty reasonable thing for a person to do. That you provided your usual series of gadfly responses is nothing new and the others commenting covered it well enough except to point out that your screwy math assumed the half billion a year already being spent on HFD was somehow a sunk cost unworthy of consideration in your personal calculus of worth.

    To simplify it for you, area leaders decided Houston needed another hotel downtown, convinced enough voters to approve the bonds, and agreed to grant the publicly owned building the same tax free status other publicly owned buildings enjoy. I voted against the bonds on the premise that 1) if it was such a good deal, the private sector would build one on it’s own, and 2) I didn’t trust the numbers put forth at the time for how many would use the blasted thing, time proving me correct. If you think public safety needs so much more money, by all means start a referendum to lift the revenue cap, force a public safety tax on area residents, or elect people that will change spending priorities even more in your favor, just be careful what you wish for because the spending is not likely to be exactly how you wish things to be.

    Considering your early comments imply conspiracies and secret ownership of commercial buildings, your continued hatred of the GHP as the root of all your ills, and all sorts of other questionable assertions, you’re lucky HFD isn’t run like a business and that you aren’t compensated per imagined savings in damage. That’s because the bulk of what HFD currently does is related to EMS services, close to 90% according to city sources, and false alarms comprise a sizable amount of the rest. You’re already paid over a half billion dollars in protection money yet think you can convince folks to drop another few hundred million if you fought a few large fires. So I’ll defer to Ross and the others as to the worth of your latest money grabbing scheme.

  13. David Fagan says:

    Once again, if there is any mention in my comments of moving more money toward the fire department Feel free to put them between two quotation marks. The whole reasoning is to put a dollar value in terms of tax money on services provided by HFD. Why? Because money is the only thing that gets people’s attention. Why the funny math? Because no one has come up with a usable equation.

    It’s funny how people say you cannot put a value on saving people’s lives, that’s true. When someone wants to talk about putting a value on saving people’s property, there’s push back. There is a value in each of these fire fighters service. When that service is in relation to saving property only, I believe it can be calculated.

    If false alarms are such a big waste of money, figure how many of those are in the medical center, or downtown.

    If you want to mention $500,000,000 dollars as money in a hole, I would think you would be the first one interested in the value that money preserves.

    This is what it takes to preserve a $30,000,000 structure that contributes $575,000 of property taxes, and thanks to HFD And the $500,000,000 tax payers invest in it, that investment will continue to pay off, and so will the apartment complex.

    These firefighters preserve property tax income, they are all an investment that pays off in property tax preservation, what is that value? Well, on this day it started at $575,000. How much is it at the Hotels America? Apparently $0, cause they don’t pay it. Why aren’t you criticizing the use of city resources on a structure that doesn’t pay for it? Instead of criticizing the people and organization that is doing it a favor. In the end it is the tax payers that pay for Houston First’ s share, but everyone defends this action by Houston First.

    That’s bad business practices.

    I’m sure that if a dollar amount of property tax preservation could be related to response times, that would just piss EVERYONE off, and your head would explode, you’d need HFD then.

    I’m glad it makes a controversial subject, that means no one is used to it, or wants it. If the idea proves to be false, it will prove itself false. No one commenting has provided any math as to why the idea doesn’t have any validity. From what you’ve pointed out, Steve, is that people are not that good at math anyway, in that they voted to approve Houston First’ s idea, but the mayor doesn’t fight it either. What would this world be like if the mayor used tax money to fight the voters will? Maybe that hotel would pay for services rendered.

  14. Steve Houston says:

    David, throughout your responses, you’ve suggested that others do not “value” HFD and the services it provides. I pointed out how untrue that is by virtue of the city paying over half a billion dollars a year to retain those services. Given there are over 2.3 million people residing inside the city, and a great many more with capital investments inside the city who happen to live outside, your singular focus on the small percentage that voted for Prop B as the be-all, end-all of discussion when it comes to residents is interesting.

    You even go so far as to suggest HFD employees are doing people/organizations “a favor” by engaging in fire fighting when they are paid to do just that. This isn’t controversial either, we expect cops to catch bad guys, librarians to tend to books, and garbage men to pick up trash. In return, the city pays you all a check because that is how it works. If you want an estimate of value, go look at the city budget because that is what those responsible for making the decisions have deemed you are worth. Out in the county, firefighting is considered less valuable by virtue of the county’s reliance on mostly volunteers to fight fires-much like the majority of fire departments across the country, so be happy Houstonians value you so much.

    As someone who has criticized sport stadiums, 380 agreements, the TIRZ program, and other forms of corporate welfare, I can understand why you’d be confused with all this. If every resident could be charged $50 each, you’d have your raises, except that many individuals are largely exempt from property taxes, many more are already living in poverty, and like it or not, government buildings don’t pay taxes, people do.

    If the article and resulting commentary were tied to us criticizing Houston First, the way Texas and it’s governmental organizations tax and/or pay for services, or why we should feel the need to place a specific value on each city department, there’d be many more opinions. As it stands, only you haven’t figured out that what you are paid is the value placed on you. Just an opinion…

  15. David Fagan says:

    The best thing I like about your comment are that there are no quotation marks. I’m glad you’re listening, just not following instructions. I don’t know where this line of reasoning is coming from, but if you just want to express your opinion about the person you are communicating with, I don’t believe I asked your opinion. That is not an argument, that is a judgment. Judgments are like walls people try to build around others, but in their passion, they only build it around themselves. As long as you see me as the person you described, you will never see me differently.

    I have freedom, freedom to make any point I choose, freedom to use math in any way I deem fit to express, or describe the world around me. My opinions are my own, if they describe a world you do not agree with, one in which you do not see, or one in which you are not a part of, you could be right. This is the entirety of the value of communication, to communicate an idea, a point of view, or a new world. You cannot make me feel defensive, or ashamed of that, you do not have the power.

    If I’ve made you feel judged because I’ve used judgmental words toward you, I’m sorry. But if you cannot find judgmental words in my communication, why would you feel it necessary to judge another?

    “Judge not and you shall not be judged, for whatever judgment you judge, you shall be judged”

  16. Steve Houston says:

    David, you invite responses when you comment on publicly open blogs. Further, no one is judging you, merely analyzing the flaws in your suggested proposal regarding public employee valuations. I assure you my goal is not to personally attack you, make you feel defensive, or to belittle you and I don’t take your comments in that light either. So don’t take it personally when someone questions your belief that mayors are puppets of the GHP, think your math skills are questionable, or think you might focus more on providing proof of your many assertions, just roll with it and come up with something better.