Bill White (politician) - Mayor of Houston - Second Term

Second Term

In 2005, White was challenged for re-election by minor and perennial candidates and won re-election with 91 percent of the vote–the highest percentage received by a mayoral candidate in Houston in 60 years.

During his second term, White focused his work on improving graduation rates in the city's high schools, enforcing air pollution standards, reducing the possibility of flooding in newer areas, adopted a more flexible system of working hours, and to create public-private initiatives with private business and community organizations to stimulate growth in the city's most neglected subdivisions.

In 2005, White formed the Mayor’s Wellness Council and launched the Get Moving Houston fitness campaign. Houston had previously been rated “Fattest City in America" by Men’s Fitness magazine.

In 2006, White proposed a series of eight city propositions aimed at improving infrastructure without a tax increase. All eight city propositions passed in a November 2006 election.

White worked to create the Discovery Green park in Houston, which held its groundbreaking in October 2006. Mayor White's 2008 inauguration was held at the park. The park officially opened to the public in April 2008 with a ribbon cutting led by White.

In 2007, the FBI released a report showing an increase in Houston's murder rate. While some speculated about the impact of Hurricane Katrina victims who settled on the Southwest side of town, Mayor White released a statement concerning the FBI's findings:

"With the regard to the 2006 figures now being reported, the FBI calculated a murder rate per 100,000 people for Houston based on census estimates of a 2,073,729 population as of July 1, 2005. That was before Houston’s population swelled by well over 100,000 people. On the basis of U.S. Post Office change of address information we estimated the 2006 population at 2,198,755. While it is normally fair to make year-to-year comparisons based on population estimates that lag crimes by a year or more, the unusual increase in Houston’s population for 2006 makes our City’s figures for the murder rate per 100,000 not quite comparable to the rate in other communities in 2005."

Energy conservation topped the Mayor's list of concerns in 2007. Via the City's Power to People Web site, Mayor White encourages energy conservation through tips and tools, education about tax incentives, and raffles.

In 2007, White was honored the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his service during Hurricane Katrina. He was also awarded the FBI's Director's Community Leadership Award for lowering Houston's crime rate stating that "Mayor White made public safety one of his highest priorities, as evidenced by Houston's decreasing crime rate."

Mayor White proposed closing The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation. Mayor White's position was that the Center's lease of one dollar per annum to the city of Houston was not legal. Seven previous Mayors had honored the lease. White felt the city's revenue stream could be enhanced by evicting the Center and its mentally retarded clientele and using the land for commercial purposes. The Center will have to borrow 6 million dollars and relocate in the settlement reached with the city.

During White's second term he focused on reducing the number of car accidents in Houston. To do this, he started a campaign to stop drunk driving. He led a summit, hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He also presented a plan to increase enforcement, education, and public awareness. This included installing signs around the Houston area warning of drunk driving and urging people to dial *DWI if they suspect someone of drunk driving. In 2007, he also launched the "Mobility Response Team", a task force staffed by traffic officers that patrol within the loop fixing traffic problems. They also report traffic light outages, issue parking citations, help clear and direct traffic around minor accidents.

Also, at the recommendation of Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt, White had 50 red-light cameras installed around Houston. Originally four intersections were used to test the traffic cameras in September 2006. The trial cameras met the requirements and were approved for using throughout the city. The red-light cameras caused controversy, though, even leading to some lawsuits. Many people argued that this was just a way for the city to make money at the expense of public safety. However, White has stood behind his decision to keep the red light cameras. Studies have revealed mixed results of the effectiveness of red-light cameras. A study in Houston in 2008 revealed an increase in accidents at intersections with red light cameras, although it also revealed a decrease in citations. A city-financed study of red-light cameras at Houston intersections shows traffic accidents doubled at those intersections in their first year. The study also found that citations decreased. However, other studies have found that red-light cameras reduce accidents and citations. A study by Texas A&M University found that accidents were reduced in Texas by 30%. Several studies funded by insurance trade groups which study traffic safety, have found the cameras had a dramatic effect and reduced accidents by as much as 30 percent. A study released in 2008 from the Texas Transportation Institute found a 30 percent reduction across the state. A study in Lubbock, Texas of red light cameras showed a 52% increase in accidents, so the City Council voted against installing them. A news investigation found that the Houston intersections with cameras often had yellow lights that were too short, and violated Texas Department of Public Safety recommendations. Houston suburb Sugar Land found that the combination of lengthening yellow lights and installing cameras reduced violations by 96 percent. This finding is consistent with a March 2005 Texas Transportation Institute study of 181 Texas intersections during a three-year period which found that increasing the length of yellow-light time by one second reduced violations by 53 percent and crashes by 40 percent.

He was rated Governing Magazine's Public Official of the Year in 2007.

Read more about this topic:  Bill White (politician), Mayor of Houston

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