“Together, let’s move forward to make this the best city that this world has ever seen, and God bless us all!”
In what seemed like the close of a sermon on a Sunday morning, this was but one of the many powerful and motivational statements delivered this past Monday by Sylvester Turner – the newly elected mayor of Houston.
Turner, the former state representative representing District 139, took the oath of office and delivered a stirring inaugural address during a public ceremony held on Monday in downtown Houston at the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts.
Turner defeated Bill King in a December runoff election to become Houston’s 62nd mayor and succeeds former Mayor Annise Parker, who was term limited. He formally resigned from his office as state representative on January 1, after serving in the state legislature for over 26 years.
As required by the City Charter, Turner was officially sworn in this past Saturday, January 2, at Houston City Hall to meet legal requirements, according to the city of Houston website. Turner decided to hold the public ceremony on Monday for the purposes of avoiding overtime costs for police and other city employees, due to the city’s current financial challenges.
Turner emotionally began his roughly 20-minute speech by sharing his often-mentioned stories about his hardworking father, who passed away while he was young, and his late mother who raised nine children and motivated Turner to dream big and work hard to achieve his goals. He found a way to masterfully weave together his family’s personal story to make it relatable and comparable to every resident across the entire city of Houston.
“I remember the words of my mom – ‘Tomorrow will be better than today’,” said Turner. “If we dare to dream beyond our current conditions and if we work hard and we put aside our individual biases and recognize that no one person can do it by himself, we can be a bigger Houston.”
During the speech, Turner also made it a point to hit on many of the city of Houston’s key issues and challenges he planned to address as mayor, such as dealing with the city finances; addressing areas of town with food deserts; increasing the number of police officers on the streets to address crime; drainage and flooding; the lack of affordable housing; fixing the potholes on the streets; and something that got him a standing ovation – dealing with the disparities related to income inequality in the city.
“I am committed to rebuilding neighborhoods. We should not have two cities in one. I am committed to making sure that we do not have two cities in one of haves and have-nots,” said Turner. “I am committed to this city. We are all Houstonians and we all deserve the right to improve and move forward together. I’m committed to that.”
Turner also detailed a plan to fix the potholes that have plagued Houstonians for years, specifically highlighting his plan to fulfill his campaign promise of having a program that mirrors Harris County’s 24-hour road maintenance program.
“I want to announce this morning that two weeks from today, potholes that are properly reported to the city’s 3-1-1 help and information line will be assessed and addressed by the next business day,” said Turner.
Turner also stated that his administration would develop a more focused, long-term plan to address the city of Houston’s financial challenges and the need for younger Houstonians to remain in Houston and consider Houston home.
“Too many of our young people are moving outside the city,” said Turner. “We need to provide affordable housing. I want them to live within our city.”
At the conclusion of his inaugural address, the diverse audience of attendees rose to their feet – moved by the words of motivation delivered by Turner.
In addition to Turner, new City Controller Chris Brown and the members of City Council, which includes five new members, were also sworn in.
Both Turner and Brown were sworn in by the Honorable Vanessa D. Gilmore, U.S. District Judge Southern District of Texas. Once sworn in, Turner administered the oath to the following City Council members – Brenda Stardig, Jerry Davis, Ellen R. Cohen, Dwight A Boykins, Dave Martin, Steve Le, Greg Travis, Karla Cisneros, Robert Gallegos, Mike H. Lester, Larry V. Green, Mike Knox, David R. Robinson, Michael Kubosh, Amanda Edwards and Jack Christie.
The public inauguration featured music and entertainment from The Houston Symphony with Guest Conductor, Chelsea Tipton II; four-time Grammy-Award winning singer Yolanda Adams; the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Chorus; The Church Without Walls Choir; The River Performance Troupe; and the Carver High School Dance Department.
Chau Nguyen served as the Mistress of Ceremonies and Pastor Ralph Douglas West of Brookhollow Baptist Church delivered the Invocation.
After his inaugural address, Mayor Turner called, what is traditionally supposed to be a ceremonial first city council meeting, to order.
The first thing on Turner’s agenda was nominating his Mayor Pro Tem – incumbent Council Woman Ellen Cohen and Vice Mayor Pro Tem – incumbent Jerry Davis. These nominations don’t usually draw much fanfare or attention, but two council members – Michael Kubosh and Dave Martin – protested Turner’s nomination and tried to tag the vote, which the city attorney informed them they could not do. The vote to nominate Cohen was a close one, but it passed.
In his objection to the nomination, Kubosh surprisingly said, “We’re here to give counsel, and that’s the purpose of council – we’re not just supposed to go a long to get along.”
If the actions by members of city council, at the first city council meeting of the Turner administration are any indication, it would appear that he will face some pushback from within.
But as Turner said during his inaugural address, “I am honored to have been sworn in with Chris Brown and the other 16 council members. We all have one common goal: to make Houston great. What matters to me is that we are all Houston and we work together.”
On behalf of the Forward Times, we salute Mayor Sylvester Turner, and stand in the hope that we, along with the other Houstonians in this great city will indeed ensure that “tomorrow will be better than today” in the city of Houston.