John Wagner has an interesting post up about men who made a difference in Houston, specifically the Chronicle‘s former publisher Richard J.V. Johnson and Texas Commerce Bank’s former chairman Ben Love, both of whom died recently.
Wagner wonders if we’ll see Houstonians like those two again:
The concept of the deep-rooted, “business leader as icon” who uses his or her influence, connections and access to funding to drive significant social change in the local community seems so last century.
For example, the New York Times reported yesterday on the efforts of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen to transform Seattle, but his activities appear to be based more on his personal beliefs about urban lifestyles than on making a difference for the city and its residents.
In fact, his “transformation” is geared to small subset of society — the highly educated and wealthy — to the exclusion of families with children and the middle and lower classes.
As I look around Houston today, I see much of the same … people with a personal vision but not a civic one. And I wonder who — if anyone — can be the “get it done” leader the city has relied upon for so long.
If the vision includes spending plenty of taxpayer dollars for the benefit of a select few citizens, then we have people like that in Mayor White, David Wolff, George DeMontrond, Billy Burge, etc. I don’t think that’s necessarily a civic vision that benefits Houstonians in the short or long term, but feel free to set me straight if you disagree.