On October 14th, Senator John Whitmire, Dean of the Texas Senate, was warmly welcomed with a standing ovation in a packed house of the West Houston Association membership and their guests for a State and Local Politics update at Westin-Memorial emceed by Howard Cohen, Chair of the WHA Government Affairs Committee and Partner at Schwartz, Page & Harding LLP.
Whitmire spoke about his entry into Texas politics while still a student, even putting himself through law school while also a member of the Texas Legislature. He spoke about the many changes he has seen during his tenure of almost five decades of public service. One of those changes has been the increase in polarizing rhetoric. Despite this, he emphasized that a great deal more unites us than divides us when it comes to policy. Known for his pragmatic, citizens first approach to policymaking, Senator Whitmire spoke at length about crime, regional mobility, and infrastructure projects in West Houston.
“Senator Whitmire’s luncheon was an enlightening look behind the curtain of the Texas political scene. He acknowledged the rapid growth of Texas and the Houston area and the growing urgency to prepare our infrastructure for the surge of new residents. His passion and servitude to the Houston area were felt throughout his presentation, touching on tough subjects such as crime and the need for a more robust police presence on our City and County streets,” said Taylor Reed, current WHA Rising Leader and Project Manager at Vogler and Spencer.
Senator Whitmire has long been a proponent of safe communities in the state of Texas. He stressed that safety is an integral part of infrastructure and resiliency of any community, and this is an issue on which all political persuasions can agree. Providing law enforcement with the resources they need to fully do the job, whether it be equipment, training, or more specialized personnel to address more complex situations, is important. Whitmire also talked about the growing population in Houston and the mounting challenges that come with that growth. This includes the need for expanded and consistent regional mobility and connectivity, be it roadways, mass transit, trails, or other infrastructure. Additionally, flood resiliency and the question of a third reservoir versus flood tunnels, as well as the necessary funding for any of these solutions, will continue to be of importance for the years ahead.
Senator Whitmire closed out the luncheon with a second standing ovation after taking questions from the audience and stressing the need for active citizen engagement through voting and holding our elected officials accountable to their constituents.
Thanks to Lee Lennard, Howard Cohen, and Taylor Reed for their contributions to this summary.