Parker Makes Complete Streets a Houston Priority

Some fantastic news out of the Mayor’s office today…

Mayor Annise Parker Announces Visionary Complete Streets Policy for Houston

At the site of Texas’ first certified GreenRoads projects in Midtown, Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled a transformative new approach for Houston streets that will accommodate the needs of all users, not just those behind the wheel. The mayor’s Complete Streets and Transportation Plan is meant to provide safe, accessible and convenient use by motorists, public transit riders, pedestrians, people of all abilities and bicyclists. The new policy, detailed in a draft executive order from the mayor, will be achieved over time as improvements to existing roadways and redevelopment occur.

“This executive order is a major first step forward,” said Mayor Parker. “Many groups have worked hard to get us to this point, including The Complete Streets Coalition, Scenic Houston, AARP and BikeHouston. I am thankful for their input and steadfast commitment. Houston is a city that embraces its diversity. This Complete Streets policy applies the same approach to our mobility system by meeting the diverse needs of all Houstonians while also creating more accessible and attractive connections to residential areas, parks, businesses, restaurants, schools and employment centers.

The Complete Streets and Transportation Plan recognizes that all streets are different. The function of the road, current and projected adjacent land use and travel demands, availability of right-of-way, community input and the level of vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic must all be considered in decisions regarding enhancements. The ultimate goal, where appropriate, is walkable and bike-friendly neighborhoods with amenities such as trees and landscaping, public art and street furniture.

“As we work to build a healthier community, it is more important than ever to reimagine our approach to streets, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, public transit, bike trails and lanes,” said Mayor Parker.

Mayor Parker intends to sign the executive order following a City Council briefing on the plan. Houston is joining other cities that are already utilizing a Complete Streets approach including Chicago, Baltimore, San Antonio, San Diego, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and New Orleans as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation and numerous state transportation agencies.

The Plan will build upon and utilize tools such as the city’s Mobility Planning already underway. It will create new definitions found in the city’s Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan Policy Statement and the Infrastructure Design Manual. The city’s Rebuild Houston program will also ensure that all future roadway construction utilizes the principals contained in the mayor’s Complete Streets Executive Order.

The City of Houston’s Planning and Development Department, Public Works and Engineering Department and METRO will be responsible for administration of the plan. There will be annual reporting to City Council to ensure transparency and accountability.

Houston’s transportation infrastructure spans 640 square miles and consists of 6,000 center lane miles of streets, 1,100,000 traffic signs, 2,450 signalized LED intersections, 1,600 school zone flashers, 180,000 streetlights and 1,800 freeway lights.

As someone who frequently rides a bicycle on Houston’s streets, I can attest that this is sorely needed. Some Houstonians may be skeptical of the need for such an “expensive investment”, but to the naysayers I issue a challenge… Go for a walk on a major thoroughfare like Westheimer or Richmond. Walk the sidewalk, or bike along the far lane. Then try that same activity on the Greenroads projects of Bagby or Pierce. Once you spend some time outside of the car and actually experience these places in human contact, the need for complete streets is obvious. 

The order also fulfills part of the promises made regarding Council’s passage of significant changes to the city’s development code, better known as Chapter 42. The complete streets initiative will prove to be a critical need as Houston becomes a denser city, and more people seek a range of transportation options other than their cars. In my opinion, complete streets are safer, healthier and better for all. It’s to see these projects starting on Pierce and Bagby… and even better that the Mayor recognizes these projects shouldn’t be the exception, but must become the norm. 

Hope in Haltom City

Hope was born in Haltom City, Texas.

Last week, on the very same stage that she received her high school diploma, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis took a huge leap of faith, and entered the race for Texas Governor. She did this already knowing the basic facts of the race, and of the right-leaning Texas electorate. She did this knowing that a Democrat hasn’t won a statewide office in Texas for 20 years. She did this knowing that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, with $25 million cash-on-hand and the ability to raise upwards of $80 million, could out-spend her into the next millennium. Wendy Davis knows that in the Governor’s race, the odds are against her.

But Wendy Davis has beaten the odds her entire life. She was a poor, single mother at the age of 19, with no college education. Even then, Davis saw that her life could be more than her immediate surroundings. She put herself through community college, earned a scholarship to Texas Christian University, graduated with High honors, and went on graduate from Harvard Law School. All the while, raising a family. After becoming a successful lawyer, Davis felt the call to public service, and was elected to the Fort Worth City Council. When she finally decided to run for State Senator of District 10, Davis once again faced a tough road. As a Democrat in a solidly Republican district, she beat the male, Republican incumbent Kim Brimer in a nail-biter race. Also worth noting, her former City Council seat is currently held by the wildly popular LGBT politician Joel Burns.

So that’s how Davis became a State Senator in 2008. Most GOP operatives blamed her victory on the “Obama wave” (eventhough John McCain clearly won her district) and saw Davis as a novelty that would be easily beaten in 2012. They of course thought wrong. Senator Davis won reelection in 2012 from a tough campaign battle. Here’s an excerpt from the Texas Tribune’s 2012 election night article…

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, narrowly clung to her seat on Tuesday night, fending off Republican state Rep. Mark Shelton in the most-watched legislative race of the Texas election…

Her win kept Republicans from coming within one vote of the two-thirds majority needed to render Democrats virtually powerless in the upper chamber. And it gave hope to Texas Democratic Party officials, who see Davis as a rising star and a potential a statewide candidate.

The Tarrant County district was hardly a certain bet for either candidate. It has traditionally leaned Republican: Gov. Rick Perry won the district in the 2010 gubernatorial race; U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won the presidential vote there in 2008.

“I think it’s really a reflection of people wanting a bipartisan voice,” she said. “People rose above partisanship in the way they voted tonight. They voted for integrity, for a fighter.”…

What is critically important for Texas Democrats, and national Democrats to understand… thanks to the make-up of HD 10, Wendy Davis is well-practiced for a statewide race. The district is virtually a microcosm of Texas as a whole, and she has figured out what Democrats need to do in order to win there. That’s why you’re not going to see her spewing hardcore “left-wing” ideology. Instead Davis carefully speaks about Texas values, and limited, but effective government. She has carefully crafted a message that allows her to appeal across party lines and political philosophies. This is exactly why I wrote back in February that Davis is the top Democrat prospect for a statewide victory. She’s a pro at this stuff.

Just imagine all of the hope that started last week… hope for a true pathway to LGBT equality in Texas, with no more living in the shadows, or being second-class citizens. Hope for millions of Texas families to have healthcare through the Federal Medicaid expansion, and not have to live in fear of financial ruin if they get sick. Hope for Texas women to be able to make their own family planning decisions without the interference of big government. Hope that our children’s education will be a viewed as a top priority for Texas, instead of a budget line-item awaiting the chopping block. In Haltom City, all of these seedlings of hope were planted.

But Wendy can only become Governor if Texans take a stand and commit to the cause. She definitely cannot do it alone. So today affords you, loyal readers an opportunity. Texas Leftist is honored to participate in a blog fundraiser for Wendy’s campaign. Together, by spreading the word, and giving of our time, money and service, we can get Wendy elected. If you’d like to donate to the Wendy Davis campaign, you can do so right here via Act Blue. The more people like Wendy Davis we bring to office in Texas, the less chance we’ll have of ever going through another government shutdown, or threatening the livelihood of millions thanks to immature political brinksmanship. It starts right here, right now. Along with your gift, please share this blog post with your friends, and use the hashtag #GiveToWendy on Facebook and Twitter. If you’d like to learn more about Wendy, check out the video below.

It’s time for a real change in Texas. Wendy Davis FOR THE WIN!!

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