HOUSTON - Mayor Sylvester Turner made his fifth State of the City address. Typically, the event hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership is a luncheon with hundreds in attendance. This year, it was virtual.
The key topics in Turner's speech were the economic toll of the COVID19 pandemic, civil and social unrest that has prompted the calls for police reform, and Houston's path forward as an international hub for innovation.
Turner laid out the grim reality facing the city's once-vibrant hospitality industry. Downtown hotel occupancy, he said, is only 17 percent.
"Since March, 196 meetings, conferences, and conventions have been canceled or rescheduled," Turner stated.
The economic loss to the city is estimated to be $332 million.
However, he says most of the events were rebooked for the future.
"The Houston First sales team immediately pivoted working with clients to rebook Houston into the future," Turner said. "They have been able to recapture 23 out of 24 key city-wide programs and 92 percent of the contracted room nights for future years."
In the Houston metropolitan area, Turner added 350,000 employees were laid off in March and April and less than half of those jobs have been recovered.
Turner also noted plans for Houston to become "Silicon Bayou" through young entrepreneurs, start-ups, and partnerships with universities and businesses.
Regarding the calls for racial equity sparked by the death of Houstonian George Floyd, Turner announced he supports most of the recommendations submitted by his police reform task force.
"Up-to-date body cameras, restructuring the independent police oversight board, expanding our crisis intervention response teams," he listed.