Why Houston will suffer until we define it and act upon it.Houston has the can-do attitude, but won't. This is sad.
Yesterday was one of those days that my wife and I can best describe as a “recharging of batteries day”. That’s the “PC” name, the literal name is the “get the heck out of Houston day.” Don’t get me wrong I love this city, but at times I need a fresh perspective.
Austin it is.
I love Austin. Since the first time I visited the place, I’ve often wondered why I don’t live there. As of yesterday I am still asking myself that question. The list of why Austin does it for me is too numerous to list here, but I will focus on the main points.
I like Austin because of its youthful vibrancy, its can-do attitude, and its “already-did implementation” I like Austin because its beauty far outweighs its sweltering summers.
I like Austin because of the details. I like Austin because they can support 24-Hour restaurants that are not a part of a chain.
A funny thing happens when a person enters Austin for the first time. That person could be a native-Texan or a person with a pre-conceived perception of Texas. Austin is like a journey to a place where everything is similar, but everything is different. The last time I experienced this was crossing the border from Vermont to Sutton, Quebec. It was a completely different sense of time that was occurring there.
Now before you think, “ohh boy, sounds like he was smoking veggies not eating veggies in Austin”, stick with me because this relates to Houston.
I hear people describe Austin as the San Francisco of the south. I can see that, I’ve spent time in both places. Both have the live and let live attitude, both a cultural and artistic scene without rivals, both have natural beauty and both have the can-do attitude despite their crushing liberal-bureaucratic-red-tape governments. Austin juxtaposes the conservative and liberal in a unique Texas way. Two friends of mine used to live in Austin but moved. The first left because Austin was “becoming way too liberal”. The second one left because Austin was “becoming way too conservative”. Ha! You have got to love a city that elicits a perception like that.
The things that I am jealous of in Austin:
· A sense of ownership in the city
· Town Lake and the people rowing and sculling on it.
· The eclectic mix of retail development
· A bus system that is intuitive
· “Rinse and Re-use” in a construction sense.
· Youthful naiveté in entrepreneurs
· Long red lights, and equally long green lights
· Places to eat past 11:00pm
· A sense of Healthiness that exudes into all functional facets of the city.
…And now Houston.
Houston, Texas: 4th largest city in the USA, placing men on the moon, developing buckyballs, defeating cancer, energy capital of the world, can-do attitude…but won’t.
Houston is a working town. It is a town designed by companies and corporations. It is a town to make money, lots of it. There is a tremendous financial wealth here in this city. I remember as a child in the go-go oil days of the late 70’s knowing each and every variation of the Porsche 911, not because I had an interest in them, but because there were so many here! Working towns have a bias towards the companies they support. It’s a climate where the quality of business is more important than the quality of life. Don’t get me wrong, I am the last person you would consider an anti-capitalist. Working towns are great when you are there on assignment, as you know that it’s a temporary situation. Those of us that live here, are like the frog that is slowly boiled to death, were too naïve to know the difference.
Houston has rested on its laurels while a new type of person has emerged. The New Economy/Dot.Com bust/Post-911 prefaced this. This person wants a great job, but they don’t want to sacrifice quality of life as a tradeoff, and in the end quality of life will win.
Above I listed items that make me jealous about Austin. These items are a brief list that I would consider Quality of Life issues. Houston needs to define this for itself if it wants to succeed in the future.
Why don’t we have a college drag like Austin, bustling with shops?
Why can’t we support a restaurant that is 24/7 ala Magnolia Café or Kirby Lane?
We have UH, TSU, Rice, Saint Thomas, UT Med, but the positive impact of a youthful student culture is barely felt.
Why is it so easy for a city to stamp building permits, but wallow about in indecision when it comes to quality of life issues?
Why is it going to take 25 years to build 65 miles of rail?
Houston will always go on. You could clear-cut River Oaks and West-U of trees and people would still live there. But the city will lack the vibrancy of youthful blood in the form of new residents choosing to live here.
Lacking the ability is forgivable. Having the ability, but doing nothing about it is unforgivable. Houston has the can-do attitude, but won’t. This is sad.