Across the United States, election season is coming to a fever pitch. But one year ago, Houstonians were already preparing for a crucial series of elections which would shape the future of the city, region and beyond. Most of the debate last year was around the defeated Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, with few other issues able to take center stage.
But even if less discussed than the tough fight over HERO, last year’s election was a critical in determining the city’s direction over one of our most difficult challenges… the rapid decrease of affordable housing. In the next few years, will Houston still be a place where it is affordable to live? Or will we continue to price out our citizens?
In the past few weeks, that set of challenges has landed squarely on City Council’s doorstep. Thankfully for us, it appears that Houston made the right choice for Mayor last November. After the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board lambasted Mayor Turner’s decision to reject a new housing development, he took the opportunity to inject some much-needed perspective in a rebuttal. You really must read the whole post, but here is just a portion…
The “silver bullet” to eliminating systemic poverty is not moving families from areas that have been overlooked and underserved. Rather, the answer is to invest in these neighborhoods with quality affordable and mixed income housing, good schools, retail and economic development, parks and green space, transit options, and job and business opportunities. Far too often people who live outside high-poverty areas believe that the answer to eliminating poverty or improving school test scores is to close neighborhood schools and move these low-income families across town. That suggestion does not require any accountability from institutions to improve these neighborhoods and schools.
I have no problem with people disagreeing with my decisions – that comes with the job. I do, however, have a big problem with an institution that does not reflect the diversity of this city publishing a lecture on race and class that does not elevate all children, regardless of where they live. I know the people and their dreams because I was born and raised in such a community, where I still live. My dreams came true because my parents, neighborhood pastor and teachers believed in me. I choose to still live there today because it is my way of living by example for the youngsters in my neighborhood.
In an era where inequality is growing far faster than economic prosperity, and where the media often serves as our only line of defense against special interests, Mayor Sylvester Turner’s words here are an inspiration to millions of Houstonians, and those across our country. What he says here is absolutely true… we will never solve our communities housing crisis, or the whole of issues that poverty and inequality catalyze by abandoning those communities for “somewhere else”. It didn’t work with the first waves of so-called “white flight” in the mid 20th century, and it won’t work during the gentrification era of today. Every American deserves access to a safe neighborhood, work opportunity, living wages and affordable housing. A big thanks to Mayor Tuner for reminding this city of that most basic American Dream.
Just one year ago, Houstonians had a big decision to make in choosing our next Mayor. We definitely made the right choice with Sylvester Tuner.