Mayor tells UHLC students she is most excited by the quality of life in Houston Mayor Parker

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Sept. 11, 2013 – Mayor Annise Parker combined her job description for running the nation’s fourth largest city with unabashed civic boosterism in a lunch-hour discussion Tuesday with University of Houston Law Center students.

“I happen to think that being mayor of the city of Houston is the best elected position in the country,” said Parker who is seeking a third and final term. Under the city’s “strong mayor” form of government, “the mayor actually gets to make law,” she said, unlike, for instance, county commissioners, county judges, and other office holders.

As mayor, Parker said, she “leads, runs, markets, and loves” the city and undertakes duties as far ranging as salving diplomatic feelings over an international incident to trying to mediate an ongoing sports television impasse.

The two most critical functions of city government, according to the former city council member and controller, are public safety and trash pickup.  The number one complaint, not surprisingly, she said, is the state of the city’s streets. “You can’t make up for years of neglect overnight,” she added by way of explanation.

Parker said she is most excited about the quality of life enjoyed by Houstonians with multiple parks, outstanding restaurants, and expansive hike and bike trails approved by voters. She jokingly said it is “almost embarrassing” to open magazines and read the number of Top 10 lists naming the city in a wide range of categories.

During her discussion sponsored by the American Constitution Society and Women in Law, the mayor cited a number of ongoing programs and projects, including:

  • An environmental initiative that has seen a doubling of households with curbside recycling.
  • A campaign to raise awareness and crack down on texting while driving, which, she said, is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
  • Establishing a Sobriety Center where people taken into custody for public intoxication can sleep it off without being arrested or charged.  Parker said an average of 17,000 people are arrested and jailed each year for public intoxication, costing the city millions and reducing the time police are patrolling. She said the Sobriety Center could cut the number of arrests by 6,000.
  • A combined effort with federal agencies to help and reduce the number of homeless people on the streets, especially veterans. She said there are an estimated 8,500 homeless in Houston, 85 percent are men, 2,500 of whom are chronically living on the streets. Many of the homeless have criminal records, health issues, or suffer from mental illness, she said.
  • A campaign to raise awareness and increase prosecution of human traffickers who prey on illegal immigrants desperate to cross the border.

Parker said she is proud of the city’s accomplishments and its positive reputation that is changing national perceptions. “People say, ‘Really? That’s Houston?’ I want to pick them up and shake them,” she said with a laugh.

She acknowledges that her election as the nation’s first openly gay mayor of a major city went a long way to change preconceived notions of Houston and its electorate. In introducing her as “the best mayor that Houston has ever had,” Law Center Professor Anthony Chase said, “I feel so good about what her election and re-election says about this city.”

For more information: 
Media Contacts: Carrie Criado, UH Law Center Executive Director of Communications and Marketing, 713-743-2184, cacriado@central.uh.edu; or John T. Kling, UH Law Center Communications Manager, 713- 743-8298, jtkling@central.uh.edu.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation's best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 40,700 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

About the University of Houston Law Center
The University of Houston Law Center is the leading law school in the nation's fourth-largest city. Founded in 1947, it is a top-tier institution awarding Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees. The Law Center is fully accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools.

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