HOUSTON — Mayor Annise Parker delivered sobering news at her first State of the City address, but she also made a minor blunder that was not caught by her staffers, but by 11 News.
Parker said the state of the city was strong — but that serious challenges were ahead.
In a blunt assessment at the Hilton Americas in Downtown Houston, the Mayor reminded a crowd of 1,500 that unemployment was high, businesses were hurting and so was city government. Sales and property tax revenues were still dropping, she said, and just like a savvy shopper, every cost-saving measure would be on the table.
She said she didn't intend to lay off police officers or firefighters, but that each city agency and department would see a top-to-bottom shakeup. She also said each had to reign in spending. Vital and essential city services could cost more, but she pledged not to raise property taxes.
“With all the hard work we are doing and all the challenges we are confronting, it’s easy to forget that we’re all in this together. We rise or fall together. We prosper or fail together. We solve our problems, or we don’t – together,” said Parker.
Despite the challenges, the mayor put forth a bold vision for the city's future centered on job creation.
In the address, she announced the city had inked a deal for Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG Energy to move its headquarters to Houston. A fact check of the statement found Parker was wrong. A spokesperson for NRG Energy told 11News that the company was not moving its headquarters to Houston.
Instead, the spokesperson said some of the company's existing Houston operations would be moved to the Houston Pavilions in the central business district.
The mayor's office confirmed the mistake and told 11News it wasn't caught ahead of time.
During the address, the mayor spoke about an operational overhaul of the police and fire departments.
She said 35 police officers were being reassigned from police headquarters to street patrol to increase public safety.
Parker said her next fire chief would adopt a zero-tolerance policy for racial and sexual harassment.
She also announced plans for a “Demolition Day” in May to tear down more than 200 abandoned, drug-infested and dangerous buildings in Houston.
Marko Garcia, owner of 100% Taquito in the 3200 block of Southwest Freeway, said he was optimistic about the city's future.
“Houston is a great city to encourage entrepreneurs from all over the country. Not just the ones that are over here that want to start up a new business, but bringing in money from other places that aren’t growing anymore," he said.