NEWS Houston City Council approves new budget in record time
By unanimous vote and in record time, Houston City Council today approved Mayor Sylvester Turner’s first City budget. In stark contrast to budget discussions of years past that lasted into the wee hours of the next morning, the vote came just before noon today and nearly a month ahead of the normal schedule.
“Passage of this budget sends a strong message to the credit rating agencies about the importance we are placing on City finances,” said Mayor Turner. “This was accomplished not by putting hundreds of hard-working City employees in the unemployment line or by cutting critical services that Houstonians rely on and deserve. Instead, it was done via shared sacrifice and laser fine attention to fiscal management.”
Cost increases, voter imposed revenue limitations, a broken appraisal system and the economic downturn combined to create a $160 million budget shortfall, the worst fiscal challenge the City has faced since before The Great Recession when hundreds of City workers had to be laid off. The mayor’s budget eliminates the shortfall, maintains the City’s healthy savings account and cuts overall spending by $82 million, when compared to the current budget year. Library and park services were maintained and there were no layoffs of police and fire fighters. There is also funding for an additional police cadet class, for a total of five classes, the most in recent memory. For the first time in years, the number of police officers at HPD is starting to inch up.
“Each City department, the employee unions, City Council, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones and various other parties worked together to identify cost savings and efficiencies while also minimizing employee layoffs and maintaining the critical services our residents rely on and deserve,” said Turner. I want to thank everyone for coming to the table to work together.”
Early in the budget process, Mayor Turner asked City Council not to tinker with his budget proposal, warning that even one small change could upset the delicate balance achieved as a result of shared sacrifice and put the City at risk for a credit rating downgrade. In the spirit of working together, council heeded his request, submitting very few amendments, none of which had a budgetary impact. This also contrasts with previous years when there have been dozens of amendments put on the table.
The budget adopted today is for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.
NEWS Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn to deliver commencement address at Rice
Rice University’s 103rd commencement will be held on May 13 and 14. On Friday night, beginning at 7:30 p.m., undergraduate students will cross the stage to receive diploma tubes and be congratulated. The Friday evening event will be the only opportunity to photograph the students crossing the stage and will culminate in a fireworks display.
The commencement address will be presented Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., and degrees will be conferred to the group as a whole.
Sheryl WuDunn will deliver the commencement address during the Saturday morning ceremony. Named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World,” WuDunn became the first Asian-American reporter to win a Pulitzer Prize when she and her husband, New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, shared the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for their coverage of the mass movement for democracy and its subsequent suppression in China.
Currently the co-founder of FullSky Capital and a senior managing director for Mid-Market Securities, WuDunn raises capital for men and women entrepreneurs in new media, media technology, health care and social enterprise and advises several growth companies.
NEWS Annise Parker to Teach at Rice
Rice University alumna and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker has returned to Rice to teach.
Fresh off a semester as an Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Parker joined the Rice faculty May 1 as a professor in the practice. Parker will work with students through Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders, where she has been named a Doerr Institute Fellow and will teach for the School of Social Sciences.
"During my 20-year career in the oil industry and 18 years in public service, my attachment to and affection for Rice were always evident,” Parker said. “I am honored and excited by the opportunity to return and work with students who will shape our world. Each of us faces challenges; all of us are called to lead in some way. I look forward to helping Rice students realize and develop their leadership potential."
A native Houstonian, Parker graduated from Rice in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, psychology and sociology. Parker served as Houston’s 61st mayor from 2010 through 2015 – the maximum allowed under the city’s three-term limit. She also served Houston for six years as a City Council member and for six years as city controller. The first openly gay mayor of one of the nation’s largest cities, Parker was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2010. She also was ranked No. 7 on the 2014 list of the world’s top 10 mayors by the City Mayors Foundation.
“What an honor to have such a distinguished alumna return to Rice to share her expertise and experience with our students,” Rice Provost Marie Lynn Miranda said. “We’re delighted to welcome Mayor Parker back to campus. She has extraordinary insights derived from her deep commitment to public service. We are very excited about the wonderful contributions she is bound to make to our campus community.”
Tom Kolditz, director of the Doerr Institute, said lessons that Parker learned as mayor of the country’s fourth-largest city should prove invaluable. “Annise Parker is the perfect person to bring realism to Rice students’ understanding of the leader experience -- successes, frustrations, the full spectrum of a leader’s journey,” he said. “The Doerr Institute values Annise’s perspective on the nuances of elected leadership, and with hundreds of elected student leaders on our campus, she will be a uniquely valuable asset in developing Rice’s new leaders.”
The Doerr Institute was established in 2015 with a $50 million gift from Rice alumni Ann and John Doerr through their private family foundation to maximize the leadership capabilities of all students at Rice by empowering them with the skills, training and confidence to make a true difference in the world.
NEWS MFAH and HCC to present Fashion Fusion May 19
The roadway meets the runway in this year’s Fashion Fusion, a fashion competition inspired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, exhibition Sculpted in Steel: Art Deco Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1929–1940.
Open to young designers in the award-winning fashion program at Houston Community College, Fashion Fusion challenges students to create original garments as contemporary responses
to the automobiles on display in the exhibition. Presented by the MFAH and HCC, Fashion Fusion culminates in a
professional fashion show and awards presentation on Thursday, May 19, in the museum’s Cullinan Hall.
Twenty garments created by HCC’s emerging designers will be featured. A distinguished panel of judges will assess the students’ work based on theme, construction, and overall presentation, and announce the top four winners. Winning garments will be displayed in the MFAH’s Kinder Foundation Education Center for 10 days following the announcement.
The Museum’s Happy Hour Thursday moves to Cullinan Hall in celebration of Fashion Fusion, with extended hours from 6 to 9 p.m. Before and after the fashion show, visitors can enjoy cocktails and visit Sculpted in Steel, on view in the Brown Foundation Galleries in the Beck Building.
Admission to Fashion Fusion is free. VIP tickets for seating are available for $25 and include one free drink at Happy Hour Thursday. Exhibition tickets for Sculpted in Steel are available for $23. Tickets are always free for MFAH members.