Houston, though, boosted funding for its police department using pandemic relief funding. Why do that?
I marched in the largest protests, a march that we had after the murder of George Floyd. Quite frankly, I wasn’t hearing people say ‘defund police.’ I heard them say that we should not just place our funding in law enforcement, but we should be investing in communities that have been underserved, under-resourced for decades. And that’s what we are doing in this city.
When I came in, I said I didn’t want to be the mayor of two cities.
At the same time, in the city of Houston, we have 5,300 police officers. We need even more. The goal is to make sure that our communities have the law enforcement resources and presence that’s needed to serve them. And the two need to be on the same page working together to address crime and other elements.
I tell people, let’s not get confused. It’s not about dismantling or reducing law enforcement, but it’s making sure that we are investing in real ways, in real dollars, in communities that have been underserved and under-resourced.
Houston is the country’s energy capital and you’ve talked about the importance of the switch to renewables. But jobs in renewable energy are often lower paying than in oil and gas. How do you think Houston will drive that change and are you worried about the political consequences of disrupting the city’s economy?
It’s about making sure we’re in a position to continue to wear the energy capital crown. Yes, we’re the energy capital of the world, we’re proud of it. I don’t run away from the energy industry, but it’s about working collaboratively to move the energy sector forward. We’re not burying our head in the sand.
Now we want to lead an energy transition. There are a number of things that are taking place right here because we recognize we have some of the largest emitters in the world headquartered in Houston.
Our Resilient Houston plan was underwritten by Shell. Our climate action plan was underwritten by CenterPoint Energy. In one of our low-income communities, there was a landfill that left 240 contaminated acres over the last 50 years, that’s been pulling down this primarily African American community. We are working with our energy sector to turn those 240 acres into the largest urban solar farm in the country, enough to power 5,000 homes, take 120 million pounds of carbon out of the air annually, invest $70 million in those communities and provide green, equitable jobs in this low-income community.
What happens here can have not only local benefits, but the benefits can be global. [We] have nine to 11 major energy companies that are now engaged in carbon capture utilization and storage that can take literally millions of tons of carbon emissions out of the air. I’m also working with a number of these energy companies to engage in a major recycling program as it relates to plastic.
Have you talked with Beto O’Rourke about whether he will run for governor?
You know, in fact, he called me a week or so ago. I’ve been busy, but I intend to call him back.
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