Houston: An unevenly regulated mess whose elected leaders have forgotten basic services

Image credit: Pixabay

On a recent business trip to Denver the rental car company messed up and assigned me a minivan with no GPS system to guide me around town. As a result of this mix-up, with an assist from some calm protestations, I wound up with a BMW 528i for the few days I was in town. By any measure, this is a great car. Easy to drive with tons of power and, for the most part, good on fuel economy. I enjoyed the climate control, heated leather seats, and comfortable ride when I had the traction control set in “Comfort” mode.

It only took me a couple of minutes to figure out that “Sport” mode was not going to work. Not on Denver’s roads. After a few miles of potholes I decided to make a change, so I turned the traction-control system off. This didn’t work either so I went with the Comfort setting and found myself easily navigating Denver’s spotty freeway system. For a city like Denver, dodgy pothole repair is unfortunate but at least somewhat explainable. While I was there the temperature was in the 60s and the recent heavy snowfall was still piled up on the side of the road. Given that the next storm was fast approaching, I wasn’t surprised to find pothole work done as if the repairman poured in a bag of Quickrete and evened it out with the back of a garden rake before moving on.

The problem is that you don’t just see this in “Northern” cities such as Denver, but in relatively mild-climate cities such as Houston as well. This is a problem because, if you’re not lucky enough to drive a BMW 528i set to Comfort on Houston streets you run the risk of self-homogenization. Seriously, you could churn butter on some Houston streets right in the back of your car. Then, when I come back to Houston I notice a group of news stories that (partially) explain the situation.

Over the last few days we’ve seen that a Houston jury granted residents near the Ashby High Rise $1.7MM in damages that haven’t occurred yet, and apparently a large portion of citizens think this is a good thing. I’m willing to bet (although I have no proof) that many of those in favor of such events are also proponents of re-making the near North side, and displacing those without sufficient incomes to put up a legal fight. On top of this, we find that our non-gay-rights-spokesperson Mayor is facing lawsuits over her very gay-rights-vanguard policy that appears to run counter to both the City Charter and existing State Law. We also find out that several anti-human-trafficking groups have serious issues with the 16 strip club bribe settlement that allows those clubs to resume lap-dancing and eliminates the 3 foot rule in favor of some handy cash payments to the Houston Police Department. This settlement brings an entire new meaning to “Pay to Play”.

And still, Houston’s roads look more similar to a picture of the moon than something indicative of a first-world transportation system in a city that touts itself as a place “where business gets done.” One thing that’s not getting done is audits from the City Controller’s office. Remember during the election when (then candidate) Ronald Green announced a flurry of audit findings after being questioned about not doing them? Of course then, as Candidate Green, he ASSURED you that the timing of those audits wasn’t political. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that we have gone back to not hearing a peep from him since he got re-elected as well. Given his prior history I think you can say there won’t be much from Green’s office until he decides to run for office again. It’s an open secret that he wants to be the next Mayor, and I’ve a feeling he might win should he run.

Why is that you ask? Houston’s current Mayor didn’t really distinguish herself as a fiscal watchdog during her stint as Controller. Green is just taking a page out of the Up-the-Houston-Political-Ladder playbook.

Taken on their own, each of these examples reveals a stunning lack of focus among City of Houston elected officials in the area of basic services. Public Works is a travesty, the “rain tax” fund is collecting piles of money, but has yet to roll-out any projects, and for all of the magazine accolades about Houston, a real, meaningful point is always overlooked: The infrastructure and regulatory environment in the city are getting worse, not better.

Normally, if things were falling apart, I’d turn to the media to fulfill their watchdog mission and report on these issues fully and in a forthcoming manner. In this case, we live in Houston, where the former newspaper of record seems content to inundate us with odd anti-male rants, missives that things are grand despite several warning signs that they may not be doing that fine after all, and a continuing flood of sex and Side Boob! pictorials.

And we can’t even blame snowfall and de-icing chemicals for our bad roads.




Cross-posted from Your Drink Order Please.