Dear City employees,
Hurricane Harvey left an imprint on every Houstonian, creating a ripple effect that impacted every city employee, the work we do and the way we view public service. When the flood waters receded and the national spotlight dimmed, we knew our work had just begun.
Over the past year, we have faced the challenge of addressing the city’s immediate issues and repairing damage while simultaneously finding proactive and sustainable solutions to strengthen our city and mitigate the effects of future storms.
While many Houstonians have returned to their homes and reopened their businesses, recovery is still a distant dream for displaced residents living in temporary housing, experiencing job losses and those who are medically fragile and financially vulnerable.
Over the past year, our services have evolved to efficiently aid our residents. Even as the months have passed, your dedication has never faltered.
As city employees, we worked together fostering communication and collaboration between departments, breaking down silos, finding ways to stretch the budget and eliminate duplication of services. Our employees have been patient and accommodating as the General Services Department continues to repair our damaged city facilities.
Our recovery and prevention projects are too numerous to list comprehensively, but I want to recognize a few of the many contributions many departments have made over the last year. One such example is the Housing and Community Development Department’s $1.15 billion Local Action Plan for long-term housing recovery that was approved by City Council. The department also created the Home Repair Program for Harvey survivors and continues to hold Long-term Recovery Community Engagement Meetings.
Our public safety departments are analyzing emergency response procedures, conducting rescue and safety training for employees and introduced a new emergency notification system. Through donations and city funds, we have nearly doubled the total fleet of high water vehicles and rescue boats between Houston Police Department and Houston Fire Department.
Houston Public Works employees served as first responders and within weeks of the storm inspected over 11,000 impacted structures and 4,000 apartment complexes. The Houston Permitting Center has since issued over 9,000 storm-related permits. To protect the city moving forward, Houston Public Works partnered with the Chief Recovery Officer to seek community input and amend the city’s floodplain ordinance (Chapter 19) and design standards (for property outside the floodplain).
Houston Water also partnered with AccelerateH2O to launch an Innovation Hub to support future resiliency and emergency response. To help customer with unusually high water bills after the storm, Houston Public Works created a direct hotline, delayed water bill payment penalties, and helped pass an ordinance that provided billing adjustments to thousands of customers. HPW also introduced the Adopt-A-Drain program to engage the public in a do-it-yourself drainage solution and launched a cross-training program with the Houston Fire Department for high-water rescues.
The Solid Waste Management Department cleared more than 2 million cubic yards of debris and is currently removing more than 150,000 cubic yards of debris from Lake Houston. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities helped replace storm damaged durable medical equipment and assistive technology for flood victims. The Houston Health Department is surveying community health through the Post-Harvey Health Registry.
The Department of Neighborhoods and the Health Department continue to help residents through Neighborhood Restoration Centers. Thanks to the efforts of the Department of Neighborhoods’ management of our post-Harvey volunteer program, Finance and our Recovery Team, volunteer hours and donated materials will be able to now go towards the local match required for disaster recovery grants. This a monumental shift that will help local governments who are hard-pressed to come up with a 10 percent match after a disaster.
Meeting the needs of unemployed flood victims, the Office of Business Opportunity and Human Resources hosted Turnaround Houston Disaster Recovery hiring events to provide temporary jobs. Hire Houston Youth and the Summer Jobs Program supported struggling families by providing paid internships to 7,500 Houston youth.
A year later, we can reflect on how far we have come, but we are nowhere near the finish line. We have made incredible progress, but we cannot rest on our achievement. We must stay focused on the future and move forward with the greatest degree of urgency.
I want to say thank you to all city employees. Your contributions, your hard work and sacrifices are valued and appreciated. We can hope that Houston will never see a storm like Harvey ever again, but with your help, we can make Houston stronger, more resilient and prepared for the next weather emergency.
Thank you for all that you do,
-Mayor Sylvester Turner
View this August 24 periscope video of Mayor Turner, city leaders and employees commemorating the anniversary of Harvey. The crowd also paused for a moment of silence in honor of Sgt. Steve Perez and Public Works employee, Joseph Dowell, who both died while reporting to work during the storm.
Watch this HTV tribute to the enduring spirit of Houstonians:
Read this press release for more detailed information about post-Harvey city projects.