Houston: Prophetic City – What Houston Can Teach the Rest of the Country


So welcome, everyone, to
tonight’s conversation on Houston, Prophetic City– What Houston Can Teach
the Rest of the Country with our four
distinguished panelists– Professor Stephen Klineberg from
Rice University, Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards,
Texas State representative Armando Walle, who is on
his way, stuck in traffic– joining us telepathically
at the moment but will be here
in person soon– and Watson Institute senior
fellow Angela Blanchard. I am Susan Moffitt, the
director of the Taubman Center for American
Politics and Policy. It is so good to have you
all with us here tonight. And tonight would not
have been possible without the fabulous work of
the staff at the Taubman Center and the Watson Institute, our
program coordinators, event managers, our technical team,
and our student ambassadors. These are Samantha Griffin,
Ellen White, Eli [? Doyle, ?] [INAUDIBLE],, Sam Pelletier,
and Scott Forbes. They are the heart
and soul and backbone of what we do here at
the Watson Institute. Could you join me in giving
them a huge thank you? And tonight would also
not have been possible without the financial
support of the Anton Lippert at the Taubman Center and
also the Brown foundation of Houston. So we’re thankful to them
for making tonight possible. But really, the inspiration
and the connective tissue behind tonight’s event
is Angela Blanchard. We are thanking our lucky
stars that she joined us here at Brown University last year. She brings not only
invaluable expertise but a model of what
can be accomplished when public and private
and nonprofit organizations work together. And that is the spirit of
our conversation tonight. So we’re delighted to
have the opportunity to engage in conversation
with four experts on how the evolving economic and
demographic and physical terrain in Houston has
occurred and then how Houston’s politics, policies,
and practices have also evolved to support inclusion. I hope you’ll take
some time to read about our participants
in the program that you received
as you walked in. Our time together is all
too brief, so let’s dive in. We are going to begin with
30 minutes of conversation with Stephen Klineberg
about his work that has been gathering survey
data over the last 38 years, 10 minutes per year– [INAUDIBLE] And then we’ll
move on to comments from each of our panelists–
again, City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, State Representative
Armando Walle, and Senior Fellow Angela Blanchard. And then we will open up
the floor to your questions. And then we will take our
conversation out into the foyer when we’re done to
continue our conversation. I do need to remind you
that tonight’s event is being recorded, and that
includes the question and answer period. Now will you please
join me in very warmly welcoming Stephen
Klineberg, Amanda Edwards, Armando Walle in spirit,
and Angela Blanchard? Thank you so much, Susan. It’s great to be here. I grew up in Westchester County. I went to Haverford
college and then Harvard and then taught at Princeton. So home is somewhere between
Philadelphia and Boston. It’s just great to be
back in New England. And I really felt this is
where I was supposed to be. I went for a couple of years
to Houston and to rice, and I was going to come back
to this, my home territory. And I never got away. And in 1982, we began a survey. We did a one time survey. I was a young man teaching
a research methods class of sociology majors at Rice. Houston was booming. 1 million people had
moved into Harris County between in 1970 and 1982– 1 million coming in at the
rate of 1,380 people a week, 230 cars and trucks
everyday being added to the streets and
freeways of Harris County– greatest boom
anyone had ever seen brought about by the tenfold
increase in the value of oil. This was a one company town. 80% of all the major
jobs in Houston were tied into the price of oil. Price of oil increased tenfold
in value from 1970 to 1982. Boomtown America– it was
also a city world-famous for having imposed the
least amount of controls on development of any
city in the Western world. Who cares if it’s ugly? So what if it smells? It’s the smell of money. Come on down. So we did a one time
survey to measure how are people balancing this
incredible growth with growing concerns about pollution,
crime, traffic. What kind of city
are we building with all this affluence? One time survey– never
occurred to us to do it again. Two months later, the
oil boom collapsed. The price of oil had gone from
$3.20 cents in 1970 to $10, $15, $20, $32 in 1982, suddenly
fell down to $28 by the end of 1983. But Houston had been
building and borrowing on the basis of $50 oil. And 100,000 jobs were lost in
Houston at the end of 1983. I said, my gosh. We better do this survey again. And for 38 years,
we’ve been taking a representative random
sample of Harris County residents reached by
random telephone numbers– 50% landline, 50% cell
phone these days– asking people identical
questions over the years. How do you see the world? What is happening in your life? And we have sat back and
watched the world change. Houston went into
major recession with the collapse
of the oil boom and then recovered
into the new America, a new economy where blue
collar jobs have increasingly disappeared, where growing
inequality is predicated above all else on access
to quality education, an epic transformation
in the ethnic composition of the Houston, the Texas,
and the American population, and a new awareness of the
critical importance of quality of life issues. If Houston is going
to make it, it has to become a
destination of choice, a place where the best and the
brightest people in America who can live
anywhere will say, I want to live in Houston, Texas. It’s a little bit of
a stretch for Houston. I’ll come back and touch on– I want to touch on these three
big themes that are really the themes of
America surprisingly, with no one ever expecting
it, nowhere more clearly seen than in the experience
of Houston, Texas. The new economy– here are the
30 years after World War II. When a rising tide
lifts all boats, the poorest 20% of
American families more than doubled their incomes
in the years between 1945 and 1980, basically. The richest 5% doubled theirs. This was a world
of big government, big business, big labor. We emerged out of that war
the sole economic power on the planet. All of our potential
competitors were decimated by the war experience. We were building 40,000
miles of highway systems we had the GI bill. This was boomtown, broad-based
economic prosperity. And these were the
years when we celebrated the stay-at-home housewife
mother in suburbia. The average American woman
between 1946 and 1964 gave birth to 3.6
children on average. And the baby boom was launched
upon the land preceded and followed by baby
bust generations. So for 60 years, there’s
been a bulge going through the American system. Demographers talk
about like a pig being swallowed by a python– not very comfortable either
for the pig or the python. On the leading edge of
those 76 million babies born in that incredible period
after World War II, the leading edge, turns 74 this year. And we are going to
watch a literal doubling of the number of Americans
over the age of 65 in the next 25 years. Every day between now and
2030, believe it or not, day after day
between now and 2030, 10,000 Americans will turn 65. And by 2030, the youngest
of those 76 million will have turned 65 heading
off into the proverbial sunset being replaced by a very
different generation of Americans. It’s a truly epic
transition occurring across all of America
nowhere more clearly seen than in cities like
Houston, Texas. Here are the last 35 years. And virtually all the
benefits of economic growth have gone to the richest 5%. The bottom 60% of
American families have basically
stagnated, have gone down in income, growing inequalities,
increasing wealth and poverty simultaneously. What happened? Why did the economy
change so profoundly? Two big things happened
and then a total failure on the part of our political
system to address these issues and to help people cope
with the new realities that the 21st
century has brought. Number one, of course,
globalization– companies can produce goods
anywhere, sell them everywhere. If you are doing a job that
I can train a third world worker to do and I pay
that third world worker $15 a day to do that job, I’m not
going to pay you $15 an hour. And if you are doing a job that
I can program a computer to do, I will soon be
replacing your job with an intelligent machine. We are suddenly in
a new world where education, always a
nice thing to have, has become absolutely
essential to a person’s ability to find a job that can support
a family in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century. And we’ve been watching
that understanding emerge and develop in
the general public. But here’s a data
before I get to that. This is the Georgetown
University assessment of the educational requirements
for jobs in America. In 1973, there were 91
million jobs in this country. Of those 91 million
jobs, 1/3 you were eligible for as
a high school dropout. Another 40% required no more
than a high school diploma. 70% of all the jobs that
existed in America in the 1970s required high school or less. And here’s the jobs since then. And the projection is by
2020, not so far away anymore, just one year from now,
65% of all the jobs that will exist in America will
require some kind of education beyond high school– not necessarily four
years of college but one or two years
in a community college to acquire the
technical skills that connect you to the jobs
of the 21st century. There’s a shortage in
Houston of skilled welders, of skilled electricians,
of skilled plumbers as the baby boom generation
goes off into retirement. Those are now technical jobs. You can’t just learn
them as an apprentice. You have to acquire
those technical skills. And I tell people the
most important institution of higher education
in Houston is not Rice University, wonderful
and important as Rice is. It’s the community
college system where we take kids coming out
of high school with no skills and connect them to
the technical jobs of the 21st century to
the extent that we do. And the public has
understood that. This is a question we asked
last year that said in order to get a job that pays
at least $35,000 a year, you need to have at least
one or two years of education beyond high school. So when we asked that of the
general public last year, 54% to 46% said, yes, I agree. You do need education
beyond high school to get a decent paying job. I fight a losing battle in
Houston with people who say, if only those African-Americans
and Latinos valued education and understood its
importance the way the Anglos and the Asians do, we
would have no problem. Everyone would get the
education they need. So I can break this
down by ethnicity. And here’s what you find. It’s US-born Anglos who
overwhelmingly alone believe there are plenty of
jobs out there for anybody willing to work hard with
the right kind of energy and values, and it’s blacks
and Latinos, especially Latino immigrants, who recognize
you’ve got to get education beyond high school. If African-Americans
and Latinos in Houston are not getting
the education they need to succeed in
the new global economy of the 21st century,
it is demonstrably not because they don’t
value that education or understand its importance. It’s because of what
concentrated poverty does to your ability to succeed
in the public schools with all the deterioration of
the communities that surround the inner city overcrowded,
underfunded schools, with lack of access to health
care and dental care, and all the things, and then continual
disruption as families struggle to try to find a place
that they can afford. The result is a massive
inequality in education that is now critical
in determining life chances in the 21st century. And two questions
that were surprises in our survey last year that
were very interesting– one was a question. We said, which of
these comes closest to your feelings about the
public schools in Houston– the schools have enough
money if it was used wisely to provide quality
education or the schools would need
significantly more money to provide a quality education. If it was used wisely– everyone says, yes, the
money is being wasted. Of course, they have
all the money they need. And that’s what we found in
the early years of the 1990s. When we first asked
that question, it was the majority saying
they got all the money they need, a minority saying
they’re going to need more. And then during the next
period of 10 years until 2009, it was a 50-50 split. So we stopped
asking the question. And here’s what we got in 2009. And we thought, let’s
go back and ask it again 10 years later in 2008. And when we came back, clear
recognition– the schools will need more money to
provide a quality education. And this is one of
the powerful messages that the surveys are giving
out to the politicians. People understand today that if
we don’t invest in education, we’re going to be
in real trouble in terms of providing
opportunities for people in the 21st century. And the other was this
question that surprised us– we said in favor or opposed to
increasing local taxes in order to provide universal preschool
education for all the children in Houston– increasing local taxes. You start any question
with that, no, stop. We thought, well,
maybe 50%, 55%. This was a shocker. 40% say they were
strongly in favor. 67% were in favor
of increasing taxes to pay for universal preschool. Only 30% opposed. And the public is right
about this, right? All the evidence
tells us, you know, one of the moments of
truth in education today is third grade reading. If you’re not reading at third
grade level in third grade, you are four times more likely
to drop out of high school. And the single most
powerful predictor whether you can read
at third grade level– did you start kindergarten
ready to learn to read? And rich kids start
kindergarten in Houston 1 and 1/2 to 2 years
ahead of poor kids. And that gap
continues to expand. And it is a central
part of any strategy that cities like
Houston are going to need to put
into place if they hope to be successful in the
new world of the 21st century. The only way to improve the lot
of the poor in this new economy is not to accelerate
economic growth but to invest in their skills. And it’s particularly
interesting in Texas because you didn’t need
education big money in Texas. You guys up in the Northeast
understood that education was– one of my favorite examples
in this book I’m writing is in 1620, the Puritans
landed in Boston. By 1636, they founded
Harvard University. By 1820, large numbers
of Anglos were settling in the territory of Texas. And by 1900, they had
founded one public library– totally different since
you didn’t need education to make money in Texas. The great fortunes of
Texas remained from land, cotton, timber, cattle, oil. The source of wealth
was natural resources. We are now in a world where
the central source of wealth is no longer natural resources
but human resources– knowledge and skills. And investing in skills is
the critical requirement for building the base of
wealth in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. And here is the great challenge
for cities like Houston. This is probably true– it’s not that far from
what’s in America. We followed everybody who is
starting eighth grade in 2006 in all the school systems, the
24 major school systems, that surround Harris County. So it’s not just inner city. It’s the 24 school
districts of the 75,000– is there working here? Yeah, there it is. Oh, it’s not coming out here. Of the 75,000 who started the
eighth grade in 2006– oh, it’s not working here. But is working there. OK, so 75% graduated
from high school. So already, 25% of the
children of Houston have dropped out of high school. You drop out of high
school in today’s world and you don’t have special
skills as an athlete or performer or an artist and
you just say, put me to work, America, you’re not
going to find a job. And if you find a
job, it will not pay you enough to
support a family. The only way, again, to
improve the lot of the poor is to invest in their
skills, to make sure that they’re prepared to
compete in the global economy of the 21st century. Yuck, I got to come
back over here. Let’s see if I can find a
way to keep turning around. So 55% enrolled in some kind
of program after high school– so this looks good. And then 11 years after
starting eighth grade, a grand total of 22% got
any kind of certificate 11 years at the
starting eighth grade in a world where
65% of the jobs will require that kind of education. So this is an emergency. This is an urgent challenge
facing all of our cities, particularly here in
places like Houston where the source of wealth had
nothing to do with education in the old days and
now is absolutely essential to that reality. And one other thing
I want to show you before I leave this theme is a
growing recognition of the need to invest– to reduce the inequalities
in America so. This is one question that
said, are you in favor or oppose to federal
health insurance to cover the medical
expenses of all Americans? Went from 60% gradual
but unmistakable to 72%. This is alternating
years from 2010 to 2018. Government should take action
to reduce income differences between rich and poor– percent agreeing with
that went from 45% to 65%. And do you think that most
people receiving welfare are really in need
of help, or are they taking advantage of the system? And the percent saying they’re
really in need of health went from 31% to 47%– not dramatic but
unmistakable, consistent. Houstonians and
Americans in general are increasingly
coming to recognize that these inequalities
need to be addressed. And it’s one of the
central challenges. A great first theme
of this research, and of what we’re all dealing
with here across America– first great theme is
growing inequality is predicated, above all else,
on access to quality education. Theme number two– this
remarkable, fundamental, irreversible transformation
in the ethnic composition of the Houston, the Texas,
and the American population. Why here? Why now? Why is this happening? Here’s a quick history lesson. This is the number of
documented immigrants coming to America in each of the
decades from the 1820s to 2010. This is the national
figures from the census. And the big story
of our lifetimes is that between 1492 and 1965,
82% of all the human beings on the face of this earth who
came to American shores, 82% came from Europe. Another 12% were Africans
originally brought here as slaves to serve
the Europeans there’s a handful of Chinese
and Japanese working as farmers and laborers
in California and Hawaii. This nation was an amalgam
of European nationalities, deliberately so. We were operating
under the last 40 years that period between
1924 and 1965 under one of the most
viciously racist laws the US Congress ever passed– the National Origins Quota Act. And it came out of the great
anti-immigrant, racist backlash that accompanied the last
great wave of immigration when 15.9 million
immigrants poured into this country between 1890
and 1914 coming from Europe but not coming from
Northern Europe. They were coming from
Southern and Eastern Europe. And they weren’t Protestants. They were Catholics
and Jews, and they had no history of democracy. They’re coming to take our
jobs and destroy our country. We’ve got to stop them. In 1924, we enacted
this incredible act that said basically, only
northern Europeans from now on will be allowed to
come to this country. Used a new science of psychology
and the IQ test to declare, in the act, science has proven
that there are three subspecies of the white race– the Nordics, who are
biologically and intellectually superior to the
Alpines who in turn are superior to the Mediterranean. And all of them are superior
to the Jews and the Asians. And the law codified the
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in California, the gentlemen’s
agreement with Japan in 1906 to declare, in the act, Asians
are an inferior subspecies of humanity ineligible from
ever becoming American citizens. And Asians were banned entirely
from coming to America. Isn’t that incredible? Just to think about coming
out of this racist world of American in the
’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s. The law could not survive
the shifts of consciousness with the civil rights movements,
Kennedy’s assassination. Kennedy was a great
champion of immigration. Last book published after he
was assassinated posthumously was called A Nation of
Immigrants– a Celebration of How Much Immigration Had
Brought to This Country. And partly in tribute
to him, in 1965, Congress changed the
law thinking, OK, sorry about that racist law. We’re no longer racist. We’re going to give
every country recognized by the UN 20,000 visas a year. Get off my back. We’re not racist,
but we’re going to continue the hallmark of
American immigration policy, which is family reunification. If you’re the father,
mother, sister, brother, son, or daughter of an
American citizen, you can come to the
head of the line. We’re in the business in our
policies of reuniting families. Therefore, said Congress, first,
we think immigration has ended. But if it hasn’t, we’re
going to give preference to people who are already here. They then added
another provision that said, well, if
you’re a professional of exceptional ability or if
your skills are demonstrably needed and in short
supply, you too can come to the head of the line. And in its debates,
Congress was saying, we need to open the door for
some more British doctors, some more German engineers. It never occurred
to anyone that there were going to be African
doctors, Indian engineers, Chinese computer programmers
who would be able, for the first time in the 20th
century, to come to America. The law was changed in 1965. It’s been called one of
the great inadvertent acts that the US Congress ever
passed in a body known for its inadvertent acts and
its unintended consequences. We thought nothing would change. Everything changed. During the 1960s, 3 and
1/2 million immigrants came to America. Only 34% were from Europe. 1970s, 5 million came. Only 18% were Europeans. 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s, 10
million immigrants per decade had been coming to America– 88% coming from Asia,
Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. And the United States, which
throughout all of our history had been an amalgam of
European nationalities, is becoming a microcosm
of the world– the first nation in the history
of the world that can say we are a free people, and
we come from everywhere. It’s a truly remarkable moment. At the same moment as the
American economy is becoming fully integrated with a single
global world economic system, America uniquely a microcosm
of all the world’s peoples, of all the world’s religions– immigration, of course,
is network-driven. So it’s not happening at
the same rate everywhere. You go where you know people,
where you have a cousin that could help you find a job. So the big immigration
capital is still New York just given sheer numbers
followed by Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, followed
right after Chicago by Houston, San Francisco,
Washington DC, and then Dallas, Boston,
Atlanta, San Diego spreading out to every city
and town across America. No city has been transformed
as fully, as completely, as suddenly, as irreversibly
as Houston, Texas. This city throughout
all of its history was basically a
biracial southern city dominated and controlled in an
automatic taken for granted way by white men– in the space of
the last 35 years has become the single
most ethnically diverse major metropolitan area
in the entire country. Here are the census figures. Here is our bi-racial
world in 1960. There were 1.243 million people
living in Harris County, Texas, which is, of course,
where Houston is. 74% of us were Anglos,
20% African-Americans, 6% Hispanics. Less than 1/2 of 1% were Asians. Biracial world
during the oil boom years of the ’60s
and the ’70s, it was Anglos pouring into
Houston from everywhere else in the country. This is where the jobs were. And by 1980, Houston had
become the fourth largest city in America, and we
surpassed Philadelphia still an overwhelmingly Anglo city. After the oil bust of
1982, the Anglo population of Harris County
stopped growing. And all the growth of this,
the most rapidly growing city in America, has been the influx
of African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians. Here are the last three decades. I’m getting it
there but not here. Oh, there it’s coming. And the last one, the
final estimates– whoops. I just lost [INAUDIBLE]. Ah, OK. The most recent
estimates, Harris County is now 42% Hispanic, 31%
Anglo, 19% African-American, 8% Asians. Anglo population actually has
dropped in the last 30 years. African-American population
has kept pace at about 20% per decade fueled by African
and Jamaican immigration, fueled by the great
re-migration of middle class African-Americans who’d gone
to northern cities in the 20s, 30s, and 40s coming back
to southern cities– Atlanta first, Houston second. African-American population
keeping pace and surging populations of
Latinos and Asians. And several things–
there’s plenty here. One is I tell people,
just think how different the story of Houston would’ve
been had Houston not become one of the great magnets for the
new immigration of the last 35 years. That city would have
lost population. Houston would’ve
had the same fate as other major American
cities across the country that are beginning to lose their
status as major cities because they basically
stopped growing for 35 years– Philadelphia, Baltimore,
Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland,
Cincinnati, Buffalo. Houston is instead one of the
most vibrant, rapidly growing cities in America purely because
of the tremendous energy, vitality, commitment to
hard work of immigrants point into the city from
Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean. No city, I claim, has
benefited more from immigration than Houston, Texas. And it’s ironic but I
guess not surprising to see anti-immigrant attitudes in
Houston where you think just how different the story like
Houston would have been had we been like Philadelphia’s. We were in 1980 the same size. For one reason or another,
Philadelphia never became the magnet that Houston
became for the new urban growth of America in the 21st century. Here’s another way to
envision this very quickly. Am I doing OK? Here is Harris County in 1980. In blue are all
the census tracts There were 1,223 census
tracts at the census counts in Harris County. And in blue are all
the census tracts that had majority Anglo populations. In red are the
census tract in 1980, there were majority
African-American. It’s basically the third
ward and the fifth ward, what we sociologists call the
African-American corridor. And along the ship channel
is a Segundo Barrio where the Latinos were
and then a few places around the beltway in that
olive color with no majority. That’s Houston, 1980. Here’s Harris County, 1990,
surging population of Latinos heading north and east and now
more and more census tracts with no majority around the
beltway, that second loop. Here it is in 2000,
and here it is in 2010. Isn’t that incredible? I tell people, no
one consulted with me before all these people came. Houston finds itself
at the forefront of the demographic
transformation that’s occurring across all
of America nowhere more clearly seen or more
sharply articulated than Houston, Texas. And this is not something anyone
in Houston would have chosen, wouldn’t be wonderful
to have happen? This is Houston’s destiny,
whether we want it or not, to be where
all of America will be. And I’ll show you that
figure in just a second. But here is why
we make the claim that Houston is
the most ethnically diverse major metropolitan
area in the country. Here are the eighth most
diverse large metro areas. It’s not going to
be up here again. Let’s see. Hm. OK. Uh– oh. I think you’re– Darn. –it’s out of sync. OK. Two things to
point to here– one is this is happening everywhere,
right, this diversity. But what’s the best measure of
how diverse is a population? So there are two
ways to measure that. One is what
percentage are Anglos. If the Anglos are [INAUDIBLE],,
who cares what the others are? That’s ethnically diverse. A better measure,
we think, is what’s called the entropy index. How close does a population
come to one fourth Asian, one fourth Latino, one
fourth African-American, one fourth Anglo? And by that measure,
Houston and New York are by far the most
ethnically diverse. Chicago has way too
many Anglos Los Angeles. Has way too few
African-Americans. Miami has virtually no Asians. Houston is one of the places
where the four communities meet in greater balance, greater
equality, all of us minorities, all of us called on to build
something that has never existed before in
human history– a truly successful,
inclusive, equitable, united multi-ethnic society made
up of all the peoples, all the ethnicities, all the
religions of the world gathered together in
one remarkable place. So it’s an interesting
sort of moment in Houston. And then we can ask, well, how
are people dealing with this? I’ll show you that in
just one more second. But before that, I
want to remind us it’s not just numbers. It’s also ages. And this brings me back
to talking about the baby boom at the earlier remarks. Here, let’s see. I’ve got– darn it, I don’t
trust this picture here at all anymore. OK, I’ve got babies on the left
and old people on the right. I’ve got 12 different
age categories from under the age of
five to age 75 and older. And here, somewhat
to my chagrin, is where the Anglos are. We call them Anglos, right? What do you guys call them? Room gets mad at me
for saying Anglos. It’s non-Hispanic whites. Here’s where the
non-Hispanic whites are in Harris County, Texas. Ladies and gentlemen,
the baby boom– it’s not until you reach people
in Harris County age 63 older that the majority of
folks are still Anglos. And at each younger age group,
the percentage of Anglos plummets. Percentage of African-Americans,
Asians, and, above all, Latinos surges. Here’s where everybody else is
in Harris County, Texas, today. So this is about as powerful
a picture I can show you of Houston. And in fact, I’ll show
you the American story in just a moment. But this is Houston’s
destiny, Houston’s future. This is a given. And the key point
is that if everybody in Harris County, Texas
today under the age of 20, if everybody who will be
the children of Houston, will be the leaders
and the voters and the citizens and the
taxpayers of Houston, everybody under the age of 20
in Harris County Texas, 51% are Latinos. 19% are African-Americans. 9% are Asians. 21% of everybody
under 20 is Anglo. So two big points to make–
number one, 70% of everybody in Harris County
under the age of 20 is African-American,
Latino, the two groups overwhelmingly the most likely
to be living in poverty. We know what poverty
does to your ability to succeed in the
public schools. It is a safe statement
to make that if Houston’s African-American
Latino young people are unprepared to succeed
in the global knowledge economy of the 21st
century, it is difficult, if not impossible, to envision
a prosperous future for Houston. That is who we are and will be
as the 21st century unfolds. And the other point to make
is that this is a done deal. Close the borders. Build your fence. Close off America. Round up those 10 million people
you think are here illegally and send them wherever you
think they’re supposed to go. Seal off this country. 63-year-old Anglos
are not going to be making a whole lot more babies. That’s for dang sure. We’ll do the best we can. We’ll work on it
every chance we get. So you can go to
the bank on this, I tell people in Houston, right? No conceivable
force in the world is going to stop Houston
or Texas or America from becoming more
African-American, more Asian, more Latino,
and less Anglo as the 21st century unfolds. Nothing in the
world can stop that. So the only question our
generation has been given– OK, how do we make this work? How do ensure that
this diversity becomes a tremendous asset that can
[INAUDIBLE] position ourselves in the global economy and
make sure it doesn’t end up tearing us apart and
becoming a major liability? Much depends on how
this generation speaks of this remarkable convergence
of these two forces that have transformed the 21st
century in our lifetimes– a new economy where
education is become critical and a demographic revolution. So we’ve been asking people– I got to go– I’m getting into the
guts of my talk now. How are people dealing
with these things? Here’s the United States today. So the same pattern, right? It got too fast again. Here you go– the Anglo baby
boom, the aging of Anglos, is one of the central
realities of our lifetimes in that same pattern. But the majority of everybody
in America is still Anglo. And the census about
four months after we got these figures said, OK,
now all of our estimates, as we prepare for the 2020
census, all of our estimates tell us across the entire
country of everybody in America under the age of
nine, the majority now are African-American,
Latino, and Asian. [INAUDIBLE] said,
you want to know what America will look like in 2050. Let’s assume virtually
no immigration. So we’ll just go buy those
damn actuarial tables. Here’s what they say America
will look like in the projected population in 2050. And that’s actually
pretty close to Houston. This actually looks exactly
like Texas looks today. Houston is a little bit more– gone a bit further
than the United States. But it’s a really powerful– I tell people in Houston
it makes a difference, and how we and Houston,
who are there first, navigate this transition will
have enormous significance not just for the Houston future
but for the American future. Houston is one of the places
where the American future is going to be worked out. By 2050, all of America will
look like Houston looks today. We’re there first. And so it’s– and again, with
no one having chosen that, that’s a really remarkably
interesting sort of challenge that a city like Houston faces. So how are people
dealing with this? Here are some quick questions
we’ve asked over the years. It is striking to see–
this is you’re looking just at US-born Anglos, right? So don’t tell me that the
composition of the population is changing. These are Anglos over the years. Three questions we asked
about immigration– immigrants generally contribute more
the American economy, they take, or do they take
more than they contribute? The US should admit
more, the same number, or fewer legal immigrants in
the next 10 years [INAUDIBLE] in the last 10? The increase in immigration
into this country today mostly strengthens
American culture or mostly threatens
American culture. Moving back and forth, all
kinds of fluctuations– there’s margins of error. There’s a population of 1,000
that moves back and forth but unmistakable direction
for every one of these toward increasing embrace of
the diversity among Anglos. Is that because they
are changing their minds about immigration,
or is it because not of intra-cohort change
but cohorts secession? Are younger Anglos coming into
the world with different views than older Anglos? And so the answer is
the latter, right? Here as we looked
at baby boomers asked these questions of
four different years and very little change. There’s a change here
in terms of admitting more of the same number
largely because immigration has basically ended, right? What we’re dealing with
today is not new immigrants. We’re dealing with
refugees seeking asylum. The great growth in America
today of Latinos and Asians is no longer new immigrants. It’s 100% American kids who are
the children of the immigrants of 25 and 30 years ago. That changes everything. Will they ever learn English? Will they ever become American? We are falling in
love with each other, marrying, making
multiracial babies, moving toward a
transracial world. Sociologists don’t like this. We want to put people in
nice, separate categories. We’re getting [INAUDIBLE]. Immigration is a whole
different experience today than it was 10 to 15 years ago. And here it is by three
different cohorts. Folks born in 1960s, the
baby boom generation, born in the 1970s,
the Gen X, born in 1980s, the early period of
the millennials, all when they were 25 to 35 years old and
answering these questions asked exactly the same way, the
same position in the survey, and here’s what you
find, what sociologists call a robust finding. However you ask the
question, younger Anglos are coming into the world
taking for granted what we older Anglos are
struggling to accept. And it’s a reminder
of what it means to be at a time of such change. And here’s one quick example
of what this looks like. This was a kind of fun
question we asked of Anglos. We said, have you
ever been involved in a romantic relationship
with someone who is not Anglo? And of Anglos under 40, 58%,
61% said, thank you for asking. Yes, indeed, I have. Here it is for
Anglos 40s to 60s. And then here it is
for us older Anglos. I’m afraid the hearts are going
to get a little smaller here. A powerful reminder that
we older Anglos grew up in a different world– the world of the 1960s
and ’70s was simply a different place than the
world of the 1990s and 2000s. There’s a law of
human nature that says, what I am familiar
with feels right and natural. What I’m unfamiliar with
fields unnatural and somehow not quite right. Every question we ask about
comfort with diversity, support for immigration
shows this pattern with age, younger folks
coming into the world saying, this is what I
love about America. This is who we are. And I tell you, they got to be
gentle with those older Anglos. This is a big change in
a short amount of time. But all of us are beginning
to move in that direction. And it particularly
[INAUDIBLE] to remind us of what it means to be
alive and be thinking about the world at a time of
such tremendous revolutionary change. Two minutes left. Third theme– third theme
is, how does Houston become a destination of choice? Houston is intrinsically ugly. There’s no great
redeeming virtues there. It is flat, hot,
mosquito-infested, prairies. But we’ve been doing
all kinds of things to make it more beautiful,
largely because we’ve understood Houston is not going
to– if Houston is perceived by people outside the city to be
not only flat and hot for much of the year but also ugly
and dangerously polluted, forget it. Houston was not going to
make it in the 21st century, and the business committee
understands that. I have a whole set of
things I could show you. Here’s a reminder
of why we flood. These are the bayous. This is bayou city. It’s also a reminder of
a transformative event in Houston’s history that
happened in 2012 when the citizens of the city of
Houston voted to tax ourselves $100 million to be matched by
$150 million in private monies to take the nine major
bayous in the city and turn them into linear parks. The bayous were concretized
in the cheapest possible way by the Army Corps of Engineers
to serve as drainage ditches for our funding problems. We voted to build 150
miles of linear parks to restore 30,000 acres. And once the bayou greenways
initiative was completed, 65% of everybody who
lives within the city limits of Houston
will be within a mile and a half of a bayou trail. And Houston will be one of the
greenest cities in America. Would have been
inconceivable 10 years ago. This is a city reinventing
itself for the 21st century. And one final thing
I want to show you is particularly
strange about Houston if you come from the Northeast
is this is the most spread out, least dense, most
automobile-dependent city arguably in all of America. This is the city of Houston. It contains 600 square miles
and has 2.2 million people. 600 square miles– you
know how big that is? You could put inside the
city limits of Houston, Texas simultaneously, I kid
you not, the cities of Chicago, Baltimore,
Detroit, and Philadelphia. Those four cities cover
the same geographical space as the city of Houston, and
they contain, among them, 5 and 1/2 million miles. The city of Houston contains– I’m sorry, 5 and
1/2 million people. The city of Houston
contains 2.2 million people. Then you go out to the greater
Houston metropolitan area, the CMSA of Houston, the nine
county metropolitan region– covers 10,000 square miles. This is– Harris
County’s in the middle. Fort Bend County where
Sugarland and Missouri’s– Fort Bend County, we think,
is the most ethnically diverse county on this planet
Fort Bend County today is 20% Asian, 24% Latino, 21%
African-American, 34% Anglo. Can’t get much closer than one
fourth, one fourth, one fourth than that. And then meanwhile, Montgomery
County up in the north where the Woodlands are
is, by some measures, one of the most Republican
counties in America. So we have a nice
diversity of folks, but the greater Houston
metropolitan area covers 10,000 square miles. That’s the CMSA–
that is almost as large as the entire
state of Massachusetts and considerably larger than
the state of New Jersey. This is the blob
that ate East Texas. Houston was built on
a crummy little bayou 50 miles from any
natural barrier in any direction, no mountains,
no forests, no rivers– a developer’s
dream built by Ford on behalf of the
automobile, made possible by air conditioning. And we spread everywhere. And we’ve created a
civilization totally predicated on the automobile. And we’ve been asking
people in our surveys, if you could live anywhere
you wanted in Houston, what would you prefer? And here are two
sets of questions. What kind of
neighborhood would you like to live in– a single
family residential area or an area with a mix of
developments, including shops, workplaces, and restaurants? 50/50 split. It’s actually increased
dramatically last year to this year. And what kind of
home would you like to live in– a
single family home with a big yard where you were
you would need to drive just about everywhere you
want to go, or a smaller, more urbanized home within
walking distance of shops and workplaces? Reminder that we have
become in Houston, as in America, a different folk. In 1970, 2/3 of all
American households had children living at home– 2/3. You have children at home,
still part of the baby boom. You have 3.6 children. Got to go out in the suburbs. You need big, open spaces. You need yards. Today, about one third of
all the households in America have children at home. And by 2020, the census
thinks about one fourth of all the households in
America will have children. Whole bunches of us
are empty nesters. The kids have grown up. I’m in my late 40s, early 50s. I work downtown. I love the ballet
and the symphony. Do I still want to have to
drive two hours every day? Do I want to have
to mow the lawn? Give me a choice, Houston. The census thinks there will be
as many households consisting of a single person living
alone than households that have children at home. And the fastest
growing aged segment of the American population
are men and women over the age of 80– growing faster than any other
segment of the population. We have not seen anything yet
as the baby boom turning 74 this year moves
rapidly into that set. But I’m not sure I want all
those 85-year-olds driving anywhere near Houston, Texas. So this is part of a
broader picture of a city self-consciously,
without having chosen it, aware that it needs
to reinvent itself if its going to succeed
in the 21st century. And it’s a fascinating
place to watch. And what the surveys tell us
is that underneath the tensions and the fights and the
divisive political rhetoric, people, when you ask them in
the privacy in their homes how do you see the
world are increasingly coming to embrace
that diversity, increasingly recognizing
the importance of education and the importance of spending
more monies to improve the educational process,
the importance of improving the public schools, enhancing
the region’s amenities. The real question is,
can this city so famously resistant to any kind
of government programs to move anyone forward– we
believe in free enterprise. Can this city make
the investments to position Houston for
success in the 21st century? So the jury is out, but it’s
a fascinating place to watch. And it really
does, I think, give a picture of what’s happening
across all of America. Again, without anyone
having planned it, suddenly, Houston this is
where much of that change is happening first. Thank you all very, very much. [INAUDIBLE] pleasure to be her. Thank you. And we’ll leave this up here
as we move to other panelists to talk about the
politics of Houston and what Houston
is doing as it’s transforming in this new space. So we’ll begin next
with Amanda Edwards. OK, I will stay seated. I don’t have a wonderful
slide show presentation like Professor
Klineberg, but I will say he is such a dynamic
jewel in our city because he’s a wealth
of information. But he’s also able
to communicate across a broad spectrum of
folks who may not otherwise care about issues of
education or population growth or the importance of
inclusion and diversity. So again, I want to
applaud you for your work because it’s a
huge asset when you have the PhD behind your name. That always helps because I
can say Dr. Klineberg said. But good evening, everyone. My name is Amanda Edwards. I’m an at-large Houston
city council member. So what that means is that big
blob you saw on the screen, I cover that entire
area as my district. So I have about 2.2
million constituents. I’ve been in office since 2015. And when I took– I got elected in 2015
and took office in ’16. When I was serving
out the beginning of– or I guess about the
beginning of my first term, one of the things, of course,
that you all are probably familiar with that
happened in our city was 51 inches of rainfall
came across our city. We knew, just so that you
know, those of us that are elected officials,
we knew that we were going to have some flooding. We didn’t know it was
going to be 51 inches, OK? Nobody knew it was
going to be that bad. And the challenge is to
really look and dissect the question of, one,
recovery, making sure that our city and our
region has fully recovered. I think that is the
open question for us. In the aftermath of
the storm, you probably witnessed this can-do spirit
of a community that united. Whether it was a neighbor
helping a stranger, neighbor helping a neighbor,
co-worker letting someone stay in their home,
our response was impeccable. People were trying to make
sure that there wasn’t an inordinate amount of damage
that not only took place in terms of property but
in terms of people’s lives. We didn’t know how many
people could be dead. And we managed, after
having that type of– it was the second worst
storm in US history in terms of dollars and cents. And we ended up having
less than 100 people die in that entire region,
which sounds terrible that you had a lot of death. But in terms of volume
of water and the peril that people faced and
the basis of that– and what I want to
highlight to you is that it’s a very unique
place in terms of community. It is one that was predicated
on a very kind of wildcatter experience, you know? I think some of our
origins were, you know, that came to a pretty terrible
place in terms of plot of land and decided to
make it up in terms of what it was that
they were going to paint the picture
of Houston to be and eventually kind
of got close to that. We built– we dredged
a port 50 miles inland. We did some pretty
creative stuff. And we also did
this in partnership with the private sector, public
sector, non-profit community. We were also able to do things
like build the world’s largest medical center. And it’s exponentially larger
than others because of the fact that someone had the foresight
to say, why can Houston have a place where medicine
and the advancement of medicine is pervasive? I’m going to donate some land
and trust for that purpose. And of course that
grew and grew and went well beyond what I think anybody
could have ever imagined. Similar, the eighth wonder
of the world, the Astrodome, which is now a subject
of much debate– so we’ll talk about that. But I can go on and on–
energy, all those things. But the point of it is we have
this unique community that has this wild and
crazy imagination but yet a very subdued
personality that really connects to community. Most people, when
they come to Houston, say, I’m here because I
really love the people. And it’s the people. It’s the spirit that
helped us or enabled us to have the immediate response. And something that was
really unique was– and I’m going to
pick on Angela here. But something that
was really unique was the immediate response
to Harvey wasn’t that we as the government thought
we could do it on our own. The immediate response
to Harvey wasn’t that the nonprofit
community thought it could do it on its own. The immediate
response wasn’t that the corporate community–
all of these communities are extremely robust. You didn’t see any
slides about how philanthropic the
city of Houston is, but it’s one of the most
philanthropic cities in the country. And we have all of
these rich resources. And the first thing that we
did was pick up the phone and start calling each other. We knew that this was
way over our heads independent of each other. We knew this was going to really
take a multifaceted approach just for the response. When I say response, I mean
the days after the storm. That’s when you
stabilize things. But the recovery as a
whole different animal. That is getting people in
the same or better position than they were
prior to the storm. And I will commend
groups and organizations like Baker Ripley that helped
to set up a shelter for us, but not just a
shelter where people felt like they had
no dignity, they had lost all their belongings– this was not my home,
I’m in a shelter– but more so relating to a
space of really feeling safe, feeling respected,
feeling well-regarded, feeling a sense of peace. And that was the
approach that we took but only because we
were able to partner as a very strong can-do
community that knows the value of collaboration. And I’ll close on this. There was a slide that talked
about how green Houston will be and showed you all the
investment, the massive amounts of investment, that have
been made in our community. Well, that massive
amount of investment was actually the result of
public-private partnership. Private sector pitched
in millions of dollars. The public sector pitched
in millions of dollars. And that’s when
you see communities forming real long term solutions
to complicated problems. And so I would just
highlight that being the way that our community
operates and works. It’s innovative but yet
and still understands the limitations that we
have when we work in silos. And I think that’s the
beauty of our diversity. In Houston, people
don’t necessarily ask you where are you from,
who’s your fill in the blank. And I’ve lived in various
cities around the country, and that certainly has been a
much more significant question elsewhere. People really want to
know where you’re going, how can you contribute,
here’s my idea. And that’s the way you
bring people together is being inclusive
and understanding the value despite
the differences that you might have. And that’s been,
I think, the focus that we have to
stick with if we’re going to continue to progress
and our diversity remain as an asset to our city. Thank you. Thank you. And now some remarks from State
Representative Armando Walle. Good evening. [SPEAKING SPANISH] Good to see everybody. I’m sorry I was tardy and
didn’t catch the reception. Many of you guys
that are from up here maybe have a negative– not a
negative but a misperception about being from Houston, Texas. We all don’t ride up here
on a horse and buggy, but I did leave
my horse outside. But my name’s Armando Walle. I’m a member– I’m a six term member of
the Texas legislature. We are considered a
part time legislature. We are a body of 150
members of the legislature. We represent roughly,
each one of us, about 180,000 constituents. On the Senate, there’s
about 31 senators. We are actually– each one
of those represents roughly about a million people. And we are actually in
session as we speak. I’m actually taking a day off. So thank you, Angela, for the– actually two days
from the session. But I couldn’t say no
to Angela and the work that she’s done in Houston but
for being a more than a friend, has become family
for the things that– for the meetings that she
took when I was initially elected to try to
build a community center in my district, went
in her previous capacity as the CEO and chairperson
of the Baker Ripley nonprofit, one of the
largest non-profits in the city of Houston. There is no other city– and I don’t want to keep
it necessarily about me. But I do want to tell you,
give a little bit of background about myself, because we are– all four of us here are
the city of Houston. There is no other panel that
you can go to that you can say, that looks like the
city of Houston. And we are it because,
you know, I was born– give you a little
bit of biography. I was born to a single mom. She was 16 years
old when she had me. My daddy, a
graduate, [INAUDIBLE] came here from Mexico. Many of us are of
Mexican descent Houston. We have blended families. We have families that have
been here generations, like my wife’s family has
been in Texas for four or five generations when Texas
was part of Mexico. The border didn’t– they
didn’t cross the border. The border crossed them. But we also have folks like my
dad that came over in the 1970s in that initial wave
of Mexican immigrants, particularly Mexican
males that came over to work in the railroad, to work
in the petrochemical industry, to build roads. And so my dad came from Mexico. He was born in [INAUDIBLE],,
came through [INAUDIBLE] [? Tamaulipas, ?] as a
young man, came to Houston, met my mother. And obviously, I
was born in 1978. But he made a lot of mistakes,
served some time in prison. And so that upbringing in my
household of lack of health care, lack of educational
wherewithal or sophistication, was something that
in my home was– we lived that poverty. We were that poster child of
a family living in poverty because we were on Medicaid. We were off Medicaid. We sat sometimes,
you know, 18 hours in an emergency
room trying to see a doctor because I suffered an
appendectomy at 14 years old. And so it was through really
the work ethic of folks like my grandfather in 1983. Actually in ’82, when the
oil bust actually occurred, my grandfather was
working at Hughes Tools. It was an oil services company. Now it’s KBR, now Halliburton. And at the time,
he was doing well. He was a steel worker. He was a union steel worker. He was a welder and
actually got laid off in that early ’80s,
Dr. Klineberg, when the oil bust hit Houston. And so what was he going to
do next after being laid off? Well, resourceful
man that he is, he opened up a welding shop
right next to the house. And we built burglar bar fences. We built burglar
bar doors for a lot of actually those new immigrants
and the businesses that are along [INAUDIBLE]. On Southwest part of Houston,
a lot of the Asian population– Asian population, I mean that,
all of it, from South Asian, East Asian, a lot of
the Asian population that lives in South
and West Houston. We built a lot of their burglar
bars for their businesses, for their shops. And so that gives you a little
bit of background about myself. But Houston is one of the– for me, I agree
with everything what council member Edwards
just mentioned, and she’s a dear friend. We actually grew up not
too far from each other. We actually attended
the same public– not the same public schools but
the same district, the Aldine Independent School District. She attended
Eisenhower high school, and I attended
MacArthur high school, which is of some of the
high schools in our area. And– Eisenhower is the
superior in the district. I know y’all beat us
in football, but– We went to state. But you know, this is the– that
type of banter is kind of love that we have– we obviously
are great competitors for the things
that we believe in and the high schools we go to. High school football
is a big deal in Texas. But we are also a family. In Houston, we are a family. We try to take
care of each other. And I would just
echo what the council member said during Harvey– for us that experienced
Harvey, we also had two prior floods that kind
of were starter floods for us. They were the
starter kits for us. We had the Tax Day floods
and the Memorial Day floods. And then we had Harvey. Every holiday, there’s a flood. There’s been a flood in– [INAUDIBLE] 4th of July one too. And believe you
me, it was really an eye opening
experience to witness that, to see how
we came together but also the challenges
that we have as a city but particularly, I
think, as a country when we’re talking
about emergency response and natural disasters,
man-made or otherwise. And for us, I think
we did show the world that we were a can-do city,
that we rolled up our sleeves, and that we tried to
take care of each other. I actually, because of the way
that our emergency response is, and it’s probably like
that in most states around the country,
most of us that are in kind of elected office
other than the executive level positions, we really
are in a support role because the way that
it’s structured, your county judges, your
local county judges, which is your county executive
and your mayors, they’re really in Texas are
your emergency response folks. We have to kind of pitch in. And I think the only way I
knew– and during the flood, I actually had to put
my two boys on a boat because the water kept
creeping up close to the house. And I was trying to figure out,
OK, what am I going to do next? I don’t want to sit
here in my house that’s potentially flooding. The waters didn’t come in. What I ended up doing
is getting on conference calls with our
emergency services folks and our mayors and
our county judges to say, hey, we have people
that need to be rescued. And so I got a legal
pad and started– because I was– the power of
social media during that time was huge. And so you heard about
folks like the Cajun Navy. These guys with these
airboats from Louisiana– My peoples. –came and rescued a
lot of people that– brought their boats because
there was a call out. The mayor and the
county judge both said, look, we can’t do this alone. We need your help. We need the public’s help. And all these boats, all
these recreational boats, all these folks came in to help. And I had to put both my boys,
my seven and my now 8 and five year olds on a boat. And so the social media also– I was getting pinged all the
time from constituents saying, hey, can you get my grandmother,
or people from out of state that were in school or
working out of state– I still live kind of
roughly in the neighborhood that I grew up in. They were saying, hey, Armando. Can you go check
on my [SPANISH]?? Can you go check
on my grandmother? And so it just became a– my sheet just kept on growing. And so I had to get on the phone
with emergency services guys and said, hey, I need you
to go check on these people. And luckily, because of the
relationships we all have, we would send fire trucks
or the National Guard, the state guard, that
had their big trucks. And we were actually
literally knocking on doors, wading through water
trying to find people so that they were rescued. That’s just an example of
what happened during Harvey. For us, we’re a very proud city. We’re folks that– I’m always proud to say
I’m from Houston, Texas. And I wear it on my sleeve. If you follow me on
Twitter @repwalle, you will know that I
am from Houston, Texas. And so you know, I want to
transition real briefly, and I’ll close on this. The state of Texas, we are
in session, as I mentioned. I sit on the
Appropriations Committee. And so the last three
sessions– and this past cycle, I was selected by the Speaker
of the House Dennis Bonnen to sit on what they
call the conference committee for the state budget. So there’s five
members from the house, five members in the senate. Both those chambers’
appropriations committees, they get selected
to basically hash out and reconcile the two budgets. I was selected as one of those
five members on the house side. And we are just about to
reconcile a $250 billion budget. So we have the 10th largest
economy in the whole world. It’s a huge budget
that we– and we’re trying to take care of the
needs of the state of Texas particularly for Harvey
recovery, for education needs. We’re about to infuse about– hopefully about $9 billion
into public education, which hasn’t been done other
than by a court order– this is the first time we’re
going to do it in 30 years where the Texas Supreme
Court hasn’t mandated us, hasn’t told us, Texas
legislature, politicians, you need to take
care of these kids. So this is the first
time probably in history, in recent history, that we’re
going to infuse about $9 billion in public education. On Harvey, we have
what we call– for some states,
particularly up here– obviously, we’re
an oil rich state. But for that
industry, we would not be able to fund a lot of the
resources, a lot of the needs that we have, because
we have a system called the economic stabilization fund. And real briefly– and
frankly, the way it works is we assess an assessment
on oil and gas reserves. So this economic stabilization
fund, also called the rainy day fund, is funded primarily by
the oil and gas severance taxes. And so there is going to
be about another $12 to $15 billion in the next couple of
years in that rainy day fund that we are about to tap to be
able to fund the things that we need, particularly,
Dr. Klineberg, a lot of these resiliency
issues along those bayous to reinforce or enforce
some of the mitigation projects that we need to build
around the city. And the city right
now, to its credit, we just voted probably 70%,
80% to fund $2.5 billion in bonds to do flood mitigation
projects in the region. So I’m going to end it there. I know that you might
have some questions. But I love being able to
represent the city of Houston. And I’m honored, honestly, to
be to be next to these folks here because there’s
no other city that can claim these folks its sons
and daughters than the way we love to represent this city. [INAUDIBLE] So we’ll
conclude with some comments from Angela Blanchard,
and then I’ll open it up to your questions. And remember, we can take
the conversation then out into the Agora. For a reception. I’ll be super, super– like,
I’ll be the closer here. I just want to say that– the first thing I
really want to say is Houston is not a failed
attempt to be another city. We’re not some accidental place. It works the way it does because
that’s the way we like it. And when we don’t
like it, we change it. And that’s one of the
nicest parts about– the size of the city, to
me, the beauty of that, it’s a wonderful
container for ambition. I believe that the best
measure of a great city is not how diverse it is. It’s not who’s there. It’s who’s welcome there. What is the possibility
that person born there at the bottom of the
economic ladder can move up? That’s the only measure
that matters to me. So for years, Stephen and I
have bookended many panels. Stephen gives
everyone the numbers, and I tell the story
of who’s in Houston. People bring their
aspirations to Houston. And wherever they
come from, we find at the peak of the
immigration period, we also– it was right
around the time Katrina hit New Orleans. So we had people from
all over the world. And then we had our relatives,
in my case, and friends from New Orleans
and settling in some of the exact same
neighborhoods in Houston. And it brought us to this very
keen and acute realization, the universal aspirations– earn, learn, and belong. Everyone wants a
job, wants to feel there’s something
they can do that is valued by the world for
which they can be paid. Everyone wants to learn,
wants to be treated as not a finished product but
a person with potential. And they are extremely concerned
that that possibility might exist for their children
if it hasn’t for them. And then the third
thing, we all want to be welcomed on the
ground we stand upon. And I believe that
one of the things we do in Houston without
even thinking about it is pretty much you’re
here, you’re welcome. And I think also the
flat social structure– you know, Jonathan makes
fun of you for saying this, but you know, I’m a Cajun
girl from Beaumont, Texas. That’s not a special place. Don’t go there. It’s a refinery town,
and I wanted out so bad, I stuck out my thumb at
18 and hitchhiked out. I was desperate. But the deal here is
that when whether you’re coming from Houston from
a small town in Texas or you’re coming to Houston from
a small village in Pakistan, you’re united by those common
dreams and aspirations. So what we thought
at Baker Ripley, as we saw these flows of people
and we saw them settling in next to one another– And. By the way, our great,
big, warm welcome sometimes is perfect and
precious and wonderful. And sometimes, we
get it all wrong. When we had a major influx
of people from Somalia, we thought, Somali people– great. We’ll help them all
resettle near one another. This will be good. And of course, these
were people that were trying to kill each other
where they were coming from. And it took a bit
of work to make it a warm, cozy
environment for them when we settled
them all together. We don’t all– we’re
not always fancy. We’re not always sophisticated. We didn’t have a lot of time
to think about these things. They were human
beings in front of us that resembled us in terms of
their hunger and aspiration. So at Baker Ripley,
we were looking at all of these groups of
people in the same neighborhood mixing it all up together. And it became incredibly,
exquisitely clear. We needed more landing places. We needed to rebirth the
settlement house movement that was a part of the
mass immigration period in the late
1800s and early 1900s. We knew if you were
coming to a new country, a new city, a new culture,
you needed a starting place. That meant you need a
place to make friends. You needed a place to
learn the language, figure out how to get a
job, feel like you belonged. So with philanthropy
and government funding, we’ve built– Baker Ripley has built a
number of these places that are the starting places for
people who arrive in Houston. It’s the place where
you can make a friend. You can meet with
your neighbors. You can talk about
what’s possible for you and how you can help one
another, what you can actually create for yourself. I think the view of people– the biggest change we need to
make in this country and one I relentlessly insist
upon is to move from a deficit
model of policing, a deficit model of policy
making, a deficit model of help that starts with what’s
wrong and what’s missing and what’s lacking, and then
we try to fill in the gaps so that we can
somehow make people into the version we imagine they
should be as opposed to saying, who’s here? What’s here? What are they hungry for? What are they aspiring to? What have they been able
to achieve on their own? And let’s make the
smart investments in what keeps them up at
night and gets them up in the morning. We found at Baker Ripley,
that works and not only works the people
we’re trying to help. It’s a different
narrative for the people that we’re enlisting to help. The notion that we can just
fill a deficit hole of misery and problems and struggle
forever and ever just doesn’t work for philanthropy. What really works is saying,
we’re glad they’re here. And they’re getting a lot right. Let’s show you what’s
working, and let’s see how we can elevate and amplify that. So I think it’s not easy
to take these approaches, especially not easy in Texas. And quite frankly, we’re so
glad the Texas State legislature is a part time affair. What my dear friend Armando’s
colleagues come up with, I can’t imagine if they were
up there all the time what we’d have to suffer through. And so we breathe
a sigh of relief when the session closes,
and we think, gosh, dodged those bullet, literally. So you know, we exist
as a city, Houston, in a state much like
cities around the world exist in states that
are not friendly to us. Increasingly, the
world is being reshaped by a rise of cities with a keen
grasp of the flows of people as being a benefit and an asset,
making you a globally connected city, making you a culturally
fluent city, all strengths. So all around the world,
this is happening. At the same time,
countries are growing more fearful, more
inclined to walls, more resistant to these ideas. So we’re a city working
against our state government and now increasingly
our federal government. And we’re not alone
in that respect. The four factors, the four
trends worldwide reshaping the world, are mass
urbanization– so we crossed the threshold of being a more
urbanized society than we are a rural one. And we did that,
I think, in 2009. More people now live in cities– the majority of
people live in cities. I think by 2050, some 75%
of people in the world will live in cities. So mass urbanization,
then mass migration– because once you get to the
big city, you go anywhere. The third thing that we
can tell you all about is climate change. The water is here. The water is not rising. The water is here. For a five year period,
for every nine months in the last five
years, Houston’s had a federally
declared event, flood– the July 4 flood, the Tax Day
flood, et cetera, and then Harvey. And by the way, for
those of you who imagine that a zone city
would not have flooded, had we been a zone, city we would
have been a flooded zone city. The amount of water
that fell from the sky, had it just spread
all over Texas, would have been five inches deep
over the whole state of Texas. You cannot build for that. So the water’s here,
and we’re going to have to learn
to live with water. And we haven’t even
yet had the hurricane that we all fear the most,
which is the one that comes up the ship channel. And you’ll know
that because when you try to put gas in your
car, there won’t be any. Just saying. Oh, it’s an interconnected,
interdependent world. And these cities where people
are flowing and congregating, those are the
cities like Houston where we need to figure
out smart ways of welcome because I agree with Stephen. it’s really all about human
resources and the investments we make in people. And I think those are the
ones that actually last, and those are the ones
that deeply matter. So more landing places, more
on ramps to opportunity, and a special thank you to
these elected officials. Armando asked for a meeting
with me some years back. And you know, when an elected
official asks to meet with you, you just never know, you know? What did I do wrong
is the first question. But he came to tell me that
we not only we, Baker Ripley, but other institutions
in our region had overlooked a
part of his district. And I was sure he was wrong. I said no, no, we have a
center here, here, and here. And then we realized
there was this hole, which was Aldine, a part
of the city that is actually not a
part of this city that we had annexed around. And so I went with Armando. I looked at the– I looked at Aldine. I listened to him
tell his story, what he was able to do because of the
carrying community and teachers he had in Aldine. And we put it immediately
near the top of our list at Baker Ripley for the next
big project that we would do. And by the way, I want
to make something clear. I realized today
as I was teaching. We say neighborhood, and you
probably think, I don’t know, a couple of thousand people. So Gulfton, which we talk about
because it’s the new Ellis Island of the
country in Houston, is a neighborhood
of 65,000 people. And I think– what is Aldine? 50 to 60. Yeah. So we’re talking large
neighborhoods or small cities depending on how you
want to look at it. So these partnerships, the
willingness– anyone in Houston will take my call. And it’s not because
I’m powerful. I’m not the CEO of Shell. I’m not CEO anything now, and
they still will take my call. We help one another. We do for one
another what we can. And we work together on the
things that really matter, especially those that impact. Our neighbors. Thank you. So let’s take a
couple of questions to start our conversation,
and then we’ll move the conversation
into the Agora. There’s a mic if you’d
like to go up to the mic. Hi. First of all, thank you all. I really enjoyed
all the comments. I’m fortunate to be
friends for many years and a super fan of
Angela and her work. She dragged me down to Houston. I got to see Baker– People always say dragged
me down to Houston. The work is amazing. here’s my question. Then they’re happy they came. Can you comment briefly about
growth, growth mentality, and an abundance mentality that
leads to some of the behaviors that you were
talking about before? We’re not alone here
in Rhode Island. It’s not unique to us. But I feel like we have
a zero sum mentality– not a lot of growth,
population, you know, struggling to find out
where growth comes from. And zero sum mentality is
very different than growth mentality. We’re trying to [INAUDIBLE]. It’s a great question. Houston came out of 150
years of unrelieved growth, of just automatic growth. We were sitting on the resource
of the industrial era from 1900 to 1982 where you
couldn’t not make money. They used to talk
about you could dress a gorilla in a business,
send him downtown, he’ll become a
millionaire in a week. So there was this– and then you buy a house. You think, why didn’t
I buy five houses? Each one of them has gone
up in this incredible boom that happened almost
automatically– not quite, but almost. You just– and so I
think you’re right. I think it’s given a mentality
of abundance and of opportunity that even now when, in
fact, the challenges are much greater,
when our future depends on specific investments
that we make today to prepare for what’s coming in the way
that you didn’t need to when oil was the basis for wealth,
that that provides still a sense of optimism that
is there despite the fact that it’s now a much
more complicated economic environment. I think that’s fair to say. You just automatically–
this was Houston. We’re going to be richer next
year than we are this year. Oil just kept
increasing in value, and all you had to do was
dig a hole in the ground, and there it was in a way
that was very different from the Northeast and all the
long history of challenges. So Houston now faces
much greater challenges but continues to have
this underlying confidence that we can do it because
of that history, I think. And to add to that, I would
just say one of the things that I focus on is trying to
build the tech and innovation part of our economy. And we have it but not
in the realm of startups. And for the first time
that I’m aware of, we had the public sector,
meaning government, the private sector, the
corporations, the academia. We had the startups
and investors all in the same room at the
same time with the same interest to build this arm
of our economy. And I started this task
force about three years ago. And at first, I think kind
of patted me on my head and say, oh, that’s cute. You know, the young council
members has a task force. And no one really
paid attention. But at that time, the price
of oil wasn’t doing too well. And so you had folks in a
room that normally would never have focused or fixated on
this issue of trying to build a new arm of the economy. And so from that work,
we are now at the stage where we formed new
convening entities We’ve got an innovation
district that’s presently under construction. And we’ve got a multiplicity of
companies, venture capitalists, folks that are interested
in investing in Houston because we’ve always
been innovators, right? It’s just that it hasn’t
been in the startup realm. So now we’re trying to
cultivate that here. And so you see that
it’s a healthy– I think a healthy ability
now to see that there may not be an infinite amount of
supply for growth, for example, with regard to energy. And so people are
beginning to say, I’m willing to look
outside of the box. They won’t say anything
like gloom and doom, but you can tell by the
fact that these folks are in the room whereas they’d
never be in the room before– and I’m talking about folks who
are part of some of the large Fortune 500 companies in the
city are now beginning to say, OK, now what’s this stuff
y’all are talking about again? And they’re buying into it. And so again, they’ve tried
in the past to have it. And so it was a
fortune of timing. But now, you know, we’re
seeing that we’ve got to make some other investments. I’ve not been so successful
yet on the transit piece. That is my Achilles heel. One day, I will get people
out of their trucks and cars and get on a train. But in the meantime, baby
steps in the direction of understanding that
you’ve got to be flexible. You’ve got to diversify. We’ve done it already
with regard to– it used to be just an
oil energy economy. We’ve diversified
because we said, you know how it felt in 1982? That didn’t feel so great. Let’s not have
that happen again. So they’ve tried to
diversify over time. And so this is another
attempt to do so. Another question? Yeah, Please. Hi. Terrific conversation–
very enlightening. I think in many ways,
we in Rhode Island and metro Providence have
a lot in common with you and a lot in which we’re
almost exactly the opposite. You’re talking about
natural disasters. I saw an encouraging survey
for Rhode Island that– for metro Providence. Metro Providence
is the metro area that is least prone to
natural disasters of any metro area in America. So we don’t have– we ave little
floods but not big floods. Anyway, my name’s Scott Wolfe. I’m executive director of
a group called Growth smart Rhode Island. We are trying to promote
growth– sustainable, smart growth. And I know one of the
dynamics in Rhode Island and in many other places in
America, many other states, is tension between
the city itself and the surrounding metro area. You’ve got– I’m
kind of a data nerd. So I notice you get 2.2
million in Harris County, which I assume is primarily Houston. And then you’ve got 6.5
million in the greater metropolitan area. You missed it. It’s 2.2 are in the
city of Houston. Right. 4.8 are in Harris County. Oh, OK, so– And 6.9 is in
[INAUDIBLE] County. OK, all right. So I guess what I
want to understand is how do the people outside
of the city of Houston but in the metropolitan
area relate to the city. Is there tension? Yes. You folks are presenting
a very nice, warm– Right. –fuzzy– not fuzzy, but
a nice esprit de corps, and everybody’s rowing
in the same direction. And I just want to be
a little provocative and find out if that’s true when
you get into the place that’s heavily Republican, you know– Yes. –areas, and how
does that all work? Have you have you
found the magic formula that the city isn’t viewed as– No, there are
tremendous problems. –the evil place by the people– I mean, even in our little
state, you go down to places 30 miles from here, they think
Providence is a crime ridden place, and they would
never step foot in it. The difference is that
in our city, [INAUDIBLE] diversity in our [INAUDIBLE]
is almost 95% white. Yeah. Oh, that sounds– yeah,
that has changed in Houston. [INAUDIBLE] tremendous
changes in the demographics in your area. So that would– Right, and Harris County is– and also, poverty is now
as much in the suburbs as it is in the cities. It’s a very different
dynamic that’s going on with structures
that are totally obsolete. And that’s the great challenge. [INAUDIBLE] Go ahead. No, I mean, it’s not a
provocative question at all. I mean, obviously, we’re
very proud, but it would be– I can’t speak for
all of us up here, but I think we’d be
naive to say that it’s all milk and honey, right,
that everything is hunky dory. Because we do have challenges
with the tension between– in the past, you’d
always have tension even amongst governments,
amongst your county judge and your mayor, that
traditionally has been always– there was always been
tension between those two executive level
positions regardless who those people were. I think recently,
these disasters have shown that we probably
need to work together on these type of issues. But you’re right. I mean, part of the area that I
represent, more than half of it is unincorporated Harris County
where we don’t get any city services, where
there’s no police protection other than from
the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. We don’t get sewer
and water connections. You got all these problems. You know, the mechanisms
for adjusting– And so what the challenge
for me and for folks that represent districts like
mine in large urban areas– in my district right now, we
have people in Houston, Texas, one of the most prosperous
cities in the whole world, that still have septic tanks,
if you know what those are. You have people that actually– the world renowned
Texas Medical Center where [INAUDIBLE] two miles
down the street, down the road, they don’t have health coverage. Where women are– we have a
maternal mortality problem or challenge in Texas but
particularly in Houston, where we’re having a lot of
African-American mothers dying, OK? So a zip code just two zip codes
from the Texas Medical Center, with all its educational
institutions, the medical school, the nursing
school, the Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of
Medicine, UT, Prairie View, all these institutions that
are there, down the street, you have people that live
in abject poverty, that don’t have access
to health care, don’t have access to
those educational means. But the tension, yes,
there are some tension. There is some challenges
that we need– there are some
challenges that we need to meet head on
particularly as it relates to growth. To kind of your question, we’ve
been growing at a rapid place. I think this past week,
we’ve had either– probably three of the top
largest growing metropolitan areas [INAUDIBLE] Texas– you know, the Austin region,
Dallas-Fort Worth area, and we kind of come third or
fourth in the Houston area. So there’s extreme amount
of challenges that put– it really taxes your
infrastructure, transportation. We don’t have a mass– we have a bus system. We don’t have a mass transit. And we have a
train, one little– The little choo choo that could. It could cost us– if we were to
build out like an optimal grade separation system, it would
costs us over $100 billion. The delta between what we have
access to now and what we need is about $75 billion. Billion dollars. Yes. With a B. Billion. With a B. Right. For the region. And we also have a 800
at-grade rail crossings. And we have, in terms of
foreign tonnage, largest port in the country. And so the port and
logistics, the medical center, and oil and gas are
where we’re making money. That’s where the
growth is coming from. And there is no– all of those are vulnerable,
in some way, to climate change. And you know, here’s
a conundrum too. I mean, the Gulf
Coast is going– we have nothing but expansions
planned and refineries and drilling and fracturing
and LNG storage– nothing but expansions,
mass expansions along the Gulf Coast. This last thing is
like two years old, but it says like $72
billion just in Texas. So we’re going to keep
growing in petro chem while the whole world’s thinking
we should be moving away from petro chem because
the demand is there. And we’re going to
also be front line for the results of climate
change in every city on the Gulf Coast. So that’s an enormous challenge. And that one, we probably– I don’t think we’re going to
get that all sorted tonight. But let’s continue
sorting it out in the reception in the Agora. Will you please join me in
thanking Professor Klineberg, Councilman Edward, Armando
Walle, and Angelga Blanchard? Thank you.

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