What the City of Houston Will Do, Post-Harvey

IN THE WAKE OF HARVEY’S DESTRUCTION, we have heard so much from the national media about the ways Houston has screwed up—how our lack of zoning resulted in over-eager developers building in flood plains, how the Katy prairie, which once acted as a huge sponge, is now almost entirely paved over. How our city, state, and federal governments all have missed multiple opportunities to protect us from a storm like Harvey. How we failed to pull together the budget—and the political willpower—to build the large-scale infrastructure projects that are just sitting there, designed and waiting to be executed. As 100-year storms become annual occurrences around here, we’ve been lambasted around the country for being too late, too slow, and too pro-development-at-all-costs to think of our long-term health as a city. Fine; guilty as charged.

But here at the Department of Optimism, we’ve decided to look on the bright side of disaster. After all, the best of our city was also on display across the nation—our Texan resourcefulness, which allowed so many lives to be saved, coupled with our Houstonian spirit of entrepreneurship, generosity, and genuine kindness, which helped so many get back on their feet after their homes and lives were upended.

This storm, which resulted in the highest rainfall totals in U.S. history but is likely not the last of such magnitude, affected so many people of different neighborhoods, parts of town, socioeconomic classes, nationalities, and races, that we are choosing to believe Houston will do the right thing this time and heed some of the great advice we received long before Harvey came along. Remember, Houston’s home to some really, really smart people who have been thinking about solutions to these problems for years.

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