Today I got to know my fellow team members who I will work with over the next three weeks. We are a strong team with a diverse background. We spent several hours going through orientation to ensure we all understand the roles and responsibilities plus the ground rules for the engagement.
In the afternoon, we were introduced to Mark Cueva Division Manager of Education Initiatives for the City of Houston who took us for a city tour. The goal of the tour was to provide the team a sense of how Houston is trying to meet the needs of their students and the challenges faced. We visited many areas of Houston including Independence Heights, the Third Ward and the Fifth Ward.
For someone who grew up in a small town with little to no poverty, visiting a large city like Houston is somewhat eye opening. I have not personally been exposed to poverty like this very frequently in my life time. Mark shared some facts about the different areas of Houston with the team. I was most stunned to hear the average income for a family of four: $15,000 per year. With this an other facts, I am beginning to understand the challenges Houston faces.
One of the more interesting facts for me is the lack of zoning laws. Growing up outside of Boston, I took it for granted that we have well defined zoning laws with commercial, residential and mixed use etc…. Houston does not have such regulations. Developers can pretty much decide on their own what they want to build and where. This, as you might imagine, brings a whole set of challenges with it.
Tomorrow is a very busy day: Mayor Parker is holding a press conference to kick off the Smarter Cities Challenge. We will then meet with several stakeholders in the afternoon wrapping the day with Mayor Parker.
To get a sense of Mayor Parker’s style, I recommend watching this video clip from her interview with Stephen Colbert