Mayor Warns of Rough Economic Road in Final City Address

Mayor Bill White delivers his final state of the city address before a packed house downtown. He used the response to Hurricane Ike as an example of how Houstonians have what it takes to weather the coming economic storm. Pat Hernandez has more.

Hundreds waited patiently to enter the main ballroom of the Hilton Americas Downtown. They all wanted to hear Mayor White speak at the annual event presented by the Greater Houston Partnership. New chairman Dan Bellow encouraged the crowd after White was formally introduced.

“This is his last address as the mayor, so…give it to him.”

White talked about how Houston’s crime has dropped to the lowest in two decades, how we’ve lead lead the nation in job growth the past five years, and how city government has become more efficient.

“The city of Houston itself, is the largest energy consumer in our whole region. It’s the largest power consumer in the Centerpoint grid. And within the city of Houston, despite the fact that we’ve experienced double-digit growth in our population, now get this, through wise management, in the last five years the amount of power that we have consumed has gone down by six percent. Not bad, huh? And that’s good for taxpayers, I’ll assure you that.”

But he warned that even Houston would not be immune to the expected economic downturn.

“There will be businesses that struggle, struggle with their finance. Some may not make it. But investors and bankers should realize…I could look around this room…and some of the most successful businesses and entrepreneurs in this community were in insolvency a little over twenty years ago. We’re a comeback city with a spirit that can be done.”

He later told reporters he was amazed at how the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Ike brought people together.

“I can’t tell you that I’m glad that there was any hurricanes either here or New Orleans. But what did surprise me is how those events, both the Katrina response and the Ike response, uh, people were able to convert tragedy into triumph. We saw the same think with Ike where neighbors helped neighbors. I don’t wish the community another hurricane or any other, but what did surprise me, and what I tried to share with people today, is that if you had a positive attitude about it and you get to work, and you came together, and our community realized that we’re all in this together, and that our diversity is an asset — then we could do amazing things.”

White said he’s focused on finishing his final term as mayor and made no mention of his political future, like his possible run for the U.S. Senate.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.