Mayor Bill White got some publicityrecently
when he toldThe New York Times
the reason Houston really, really sucks at recycling is because "Houstonians are skeptical of anything that appears to be oversold or exaggerated." Or things that are "trendy or hyped-up."
Some Houstonians, it turns out, are skeptical of obviously lame excuses.
At any rate, we were intrigued by White's analysis that Houston refuses to do stuff just because other places are doing it, even if it might be all hype.
The record truly supports his theory, if by "supports" you mean "doesn't support."
Let's look at the trendy, over-hyped, oversold or exaggerated things Houston as a city has stoically refused to get involved in.
Light Rail -- Portland has light rail, and Portland is the hippest city in the world, man. Portland is also tightly compacted around a central downtown area, but, but -- have you ever seen how sleek and modern a light-rail train is as it rolls down the tracks? (At least when it's not ramming into hapless drivers.) Many cities would look at light rail and be seduced by the hip factor (See The Simpsons, "Marge and the Monorail"), but Houstonians would never buy the hype that "It's more of a Shelbyville idea." Right?
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Downtown Stadiums -- Cities all over the nation have been held up at gunpoint by billionaire sports-team owners asking for handouts to build fancy, superbox-laden playpens. Economists argue pretty convincingly that such humongously expensive projects never bring back in development and investment what it costs taxpayers to build them. As anyone who wanders delightfully through the shops, bars and apartment buildings that surround Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center can tell you, Houston definitely didn't buy into any hype with those two projects.
Tasers -- A space-age city deserves space-age weapons. It's as simple as that. There is no hype involved, nothing that is oversold or exaggerated when it comes to the Taser company pushing these gizmos on police departments nationwide like their boss is Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross. HPD chief Harold Hurtt made a studied, responsible decision when he ordered millions of dollars' worth of the things, which would be used only when other methods had failed in subduing suspects. It's not at all like officers use them just to save themselves from having to sprint after someone. And if there's more electricity in the air in Houston than ever before, that's a good thing, right?
Going Green -- The City of Houston has an official "Go Green" page. "The City of Houston is working harder than ever to make Houston green," White says in a welcoming message on the site. "We have made a lot of progress, but more is needed." In putting up a "Go Green" webpage, Houston is demonstrating as powerfully as possible the mayor's proclamation that we never do anything that is trendy. Because no one is out there doing that kind of gimmicky thing to prove how ecologically aware they are, not Vanity Fair magazine, not NBC, not every electric company in the country. Houston, independent-minded to the last, truly leads the way.
-- Richard Connelly