Things to know: Houston mayor delivers annual State of the City address

By Brandon Walker - Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered his annual State of the City address Tuesday. 

"The state of our city is strong," Turner said, starting out his address. 

The State of the City address was hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership and held at Hilton Americas-Houston downtown. 

Tuesday's address marked the mayor's third State of the City. His first since Hurricane Harvey eight months ago. 

Here's what you need to know: 

State of the City on Harvey recovery:

Turner said the city has learned from Harvey and is stronger because of it. Still, Turner says the road to recovery remains ongoing, with flood mitigation being the city's biggest challenge going forward. 

Turner said he will continue to push for federal dollars to aid the need for housing and flood mitigation. 

Turner also applauded the City Council's recent approval of changes to city code, known as Chapter 19, toughening building rules in areas probe to flooding. 

Turner said the council will continue to review requirements, considering the city saw three 500-year floods between 2015 and 2017, including Hurricane Harvey. 

State of the City on Houston Police Department being short on officers:

Turner called for the need to "... increase the number of police officers and provide more resources for police and fire."

Doing so requires money the city does not have, yet more officers are needed, Turner stressed, citing similar cities like Chicago. Police there have less ground to cover, Turner said, yet has more officers on the ground than the HPD.

"The city of Houston has 5,100 police officers covering 640 square miles," Turner said. 

How to pay for more officers?

The mayor says the HPD could use a good 500-600 more officers, at a cost of anywhere between $85 million and $90 million. 

To pay for that, Turner said the city can't just cut its budget. Rather, the revenue cap needs lifting, or at least voters may need to approve more money on top of the current cap. The latter point is similar to a plan former Mayor Bill White pushed in 2006. 

"It's quite clear people want to maintain the revenue cap. OK, fine. What I'm simply saying is we need to find a way to generate some additional dollars on top of that revenue cap," Turner said. 

Turner said he is consulting community leaders about how to do that. There is no timeline, however, as to when Houstonians may be asked to vote on the matter. 

"Whether it's this particular concept or some other, I don't care how we get there, I just know we need additional resources for law enforcement purposes," Turner said. 

State of the city on public education: 

The largest school district within the city is the Houston Independent School District, which had been hit with the need to reduce its budget, amid a shortfall.

Ten schools flagged as failing by the Texas Education Agency also took center stage, after last week's HISD board meeting erupted in protests and arrests, over a plan to turnover those failing schools to charter school organizations. 

HISD has since backed off the proposal -- for good reason -- said Turner, who suggested turning to the nonprofit world to help organize an improvement plan.  

"Hopefully, at the end of this academic year the schools will come out of the (failing) status, but the to the extent that a certain number of schools remain in it, then this is a possible model I would look at," Turner said.

HISD does not report to the mayor and is an independent body. Turner said Houston's success is dependent on good schools and he is willing to help HISD achieve that common goal. 

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