Tag Archives: Houston

Let’s cut Mayor Turner some slack, eh?

Imagine being in Sylvester Turner’s shoes … for just a moment or two.

You are the mayor of Houston, the fourth-largest American city. A killer storm is bearing down on you and your constituents, not to mention millions of other residents living nearby.

Do you order a mass evacuation, remembering what happened the last time a mayor issued such a call in your city? Or do you hope the storm might miss your city and then hope your city’s emergency response teams can react accordingly?

Mayor Turner has been getting a lot of grief of late from those who believe he should have shooed residents out of his city in the path of Hurricane Harvey.

I’m trying to give the mayor the benefit of the doubt.

Houston resident Kam Franklin, writing in Texas Monthly, has explained why she believes the mayor made the right call.

Read her article here.

Franklin recalls heading north on jammed-up freeways in 2005 as Hurricane Rita was drawing a bead on Houston. Rita was the second act in that terrible Gulf Coast twin-bill drama that featured the tragedy and devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina to the greater New Orleans area a month earlier.

The evacuation order didn’t go well as residents sought to flee Rita’s wrath. Franklin tells a story of horrific traffic jams (see the picture attached to this post) that kept people on highways for many more hours than was necessary.

She has no tolerance for those who live far from Houston but who think they know how to respond in the face of pending disaster.

As Franklin declares: “It’s very easy to judge people who are in a situation you’ve never been in. Right now isn’t the time to argue over who said what and when, because we’re still in the middle of this. Unless you’re here trying to help people, I don’t think you should be preaching about it. I’m know I’m going to try to help the best I can.”

Houston backs away from needless fight

I’m a bit late getting into this tussle, but Houston city officials did the right thing in backing away from an effort to get some local pastors to turn over their sermon notes regarding their opposition to some gay-rights matters.

What we had going, of course, was a serious infringement on some First Amendment guarantees of free speech, freedom of religion and the right to practice both without government interference.


The city and its openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, had subpoenaed the pastors, who had expressed opposition to a law that banned discrimination against gays and lesbians. Conservatives got riled over the demand. Indeed, the fight seemed unnecessary.

According to the Texas Tribune: The subpoenas, sent to some outspoken pastors and religious leaders who had opposed the ordinance, had asked for ‘all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.’”

That looks for all the world to me like a dose of City Hall bullying of pastors who were speaking from their heart about a critical public issue.

HERO is an acronym that Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which expanded rights for gays and lesbians. I would support such an ordinance if I lived in Houston. However, I honor the Constitution of the United States enough to know that it grants equal rights to those who oppose such an ordinance.

Parker has backed off. Good for her. As President Gerald Ford said at the end of a grave political crisis in August 1974, “The Constitution works.”



Cassidy personifies courage

The current Bravest Person in the World is a 15-year-old Texas girl named Cassidy Stay.

She has just witnessed the worst act of cruelty any human being can ever imagine: the slaying of her entire immediate family, her parents and her four siblings, ages 4 through 13. Cassidy also was a target of the shooter. She was hospitalized in critical condition but she’s now out of the hospital.


Cassidy today stood before friends and family members gathered at a memorial service and quoted Dumbledore from the Harry Potter stories. “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,” Cassidy said, citing J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

How does anyone — let alone a teenager — stand before the world and offer comfort to the rest of us?

Cassidy lives in Spring, a Houston suburb. Ronald Lee Haskell is charged with capital murder. He allegedly barged into the Stays’ home and opened fire. He was seeking his estranged wife, who wasn’t in the house.

Her strength and courage defy description. “I know that my Mom, Dad, Brian, Emily, Becca and Zach are in a much better place, and that I will be able to see them again one day,” Cassidy said at the gathering.

My goodness. How does one summon the strength to say such things in public so soon after witnessing what no one ever should witness?

The nation should pray for this little girl. I’m doing so right now.

Houston leads way … in recycling

Recycling hasn’t yet reached way-of-life status in Texas.

Too bad. It should, given all the material we waste every hour each day. It costs lots of money to make containers from scratch; it costs a lot of trees to make all that paper that ends up in the trash bin.

Enter, Texas’s largest city, Houston, which is considering a plan to increase dramatically its recycling program.

Houston, we may have a solution.


Houston might start doing away with the program that requires residents and business owners to separate their recyclable material. The idea is to just toss all the recyclable stuff into a single bin and let the city pick it up and sort it out. The plan is going to cost millions of dollars to implement, according to the Texas Tribune. It also carries some risk to the employees hired to sort the material, some of which might contain hazardous material, such as chemical-based liquids.

Houston was awarded a $1 million grant from a foundation created by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That was the prize for the city’s bold new recycling plan. Some environmentalists are concerned, according to the Tribune, that a non-sorting program might discourage residents from considering what they’re tossing aside.

Houston’s population of more than 2.2 million residents hasn’t yet gotten the recycling bug. Only a small percentage of residents recycle there. The idea under consideration is intended to boost that number significantly. Austin — one of the few hotbeds of environmental awareness in Texas — only registers a 24 percent recycling rate among its 800,000 residents, the Tribune reports.

What about Amarillo? Pardon me for laughing, but we aren’t in the game. The city used to have Dumpsters stationed around town for folks to toss paper. The city gave up on that program because officials had grown tired of people tossing non-recyclable trash into the containers. It wasn’t worth their time or trouble to maintain the program. So, the Dumpsters were removed.

Beaumont, where I used to live, had a pretty good curbside recycling program years ago. Residents would put plastic and aluminum containers into a bin, along with newsprint. The recycling truck would pick it up outside of your home and send it off to be recycled. The program didn’t last, but it was worth the proverbial college try.

I’m hopeful Houston can pull this new no-sort program off.

It might be quite an irony that a city with no zoning laws and some of the worst air quality in the Western Hemisphere could develop a solid waste recycling program that saves energy, trees and creates a little bit of efficiency in an otherwise wasteful world.