New Mayor Sylvester Turner's Priorities
Mayor Sylvester Turner, two months into his new gig, is ready to take on budgets, public transportation, and the biggest sporting events in the country to put Houston back on the global stage. We snapped him at IREM’s breakfast Friday, where he told the crowd Houston’s nearly $150M deficit is his first order of business. The NCAA Final Four in April and 2017 Super Bowl should be big revenue drivers; the Super Bowl alone is expected to bring more than 1.1 million people to the city, and hotels, shopping and tourism will benefit.
Transportation is the next critical concern on Mayor Turner’s list. Over the next 10 years, 3 million more people will migrate into the Houston area. Although 97% of Houston residents are in single-occupancy vehicles, continuing to expand our roadways is not fixing congestion. (I-10 was bulked up to be one of the widest highways in the world, reaching 26 lanes, including the feeder and HOV in some parts of Houston, but it's the seventh-most congested highway in Texas.) Mayor Turner says there must be other choices, including commuter rails and incentivizing park and ride.
We snapped the mayor with IREM’s George Griffin and 2016 Houston president Laura Krupowicz. Mayor Turner’s focus on potholes and flooding are already well known; pothole repair was his first big action. He immediately redesigned the repair system, and since Jan. 12, the Public Works Department has repaired 13,000 potholes in the Houston area. To address flooding, he enlisted a special task force as well as the Texas Water Board to assist in raising homes in Meyerland.
Mayor Turner also spoke on public safety, saying we have 5,200 police officers covering the 676 miles of the Houston area, and 1,900 officers are eligible to retire today. He plans to submit a budget that will add another cadet class on top of the current one, which will offset those retiring.