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Houston Mayor Parker cites success, outlines goals in State of the City address

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On Thursday, April 3, Houston Mayor Annise Parker delivered the annual State of the City address to more than 1000 guests at a luncheon sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership at the Hilton Americas Hotel.

The ceremony began with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the Travis Elementary School choir and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Sergeant First Class Nancy Lee. GHP President Bob Harvey opened the program/ Following the lunch break, the program resumed by recognizing elected officials. Bob Borochoff, owner of Cafe Adobe restaurant and a long-time friend and supporter of Mayor Parker, summarized her successful political career from her first campaign for City Council, then City Comptroller, to her recent third election as Mayor.

After asking for a moment of silence in honor of those slain in the recent shooting at Fort Hood, Mayor Parker reviewed the many accolades the City of Houston has received for its strong economy and vibrant, diverse culture.

She devoted particular attention to the accomplishments of the Rebuild Houston program, and acknowledged that much needed street and drain repairs still have a long way toward completion.

The Mayor also pointed to impressive success in reducing chronic homelessness, summarizing the progress she explained in more detail the day before at her press conference following the weekly City Council meeting.

In the closing portion of the speech, Mayor Parker outlined her goals for her third and final term as Mayor. Continued work on reducing greenhouse gases, expanding the bike share program, expanding biking infrastructure and publishing a comprehensive bike path plan, protecting and replanting city trees. She also proposed a new human rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination to be enforced by a Houston Human Rights Commission. The ordinance would incorporate federal anti-discrimination laws with misdemeanor fines and add sanctions for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The Houston I know is accepting, tolerant, diverse, inclusive,” said Mayor Parker. “We simply don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or who you choose to love. Yet, Houston is the only major city in the nation without civil rights protections for its residents. It’s time to change that.”

“A young African American should not be turned away from a club on Washington Avenue,” said Parker. “A returning veteran with a service dog should not be denied service at a local restaurant. An elderly woman should not be denied a job with the city. And, yes, a gay or trans-gendered individual should not be denied the same rights enjoyed by all other Houstonians. It’s long past time that we ensure equal protection for all of our residents.”

At least 185 cities and counties have some sort of non-discrimination laws in place. Mayor Parker called on attendees at the State of the City luncheon to join her in support of this landmark legislation.”

Following the speech, the mayor held a press conference, mostly fielding questions about the proposed new human rights ordinance.

The Mayor's office later released more details on the proposal. “The mayor’s time line envisions presentation of the draft ordinance to public stakeholders and City Council committee on April 30, 2014 and placement on the council agenda for May 7, 2014. Although the exact language is still being finalized, the ordinance will prohibit discrimination in city employment and contracting, housing and public accommodations. This would include bars, restaurants, retail stores and businesses that provide services to the public. Complaints about violations of the ordinance would be reviewed by the City’s Office of Inspector General and a new seven member board known as the Human Rights Commission.”

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