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Houston Area Survey

Kinder Houston Area Survey 2017

Here’s the press release.

The majority of area residents don’t just feel okay about living in Houston – they would choose to stay in the Bayou City even if given a choice to move, according to the 2017 Kinder Houston Area Survey. The 36th annual survey also revealed that traffic continues to be the dominant concern, people are less worried about crime and are increasingly supportive of immigration and gay rights.

Rice University Sociology Professor Stephen Klineberg, founding director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, conducted the survey and will publicly release this year’s findings today at the annual Kinder Institute Luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston. Tom Bacon, founder of Lionstone Investments, will be the inaugural recipient of the new Stephen L. Klineberg Award for his work as chair of the Houston Parks Board and his leadership of the Bayou Greenways 2020 Project. The award recognizes an individual who has made a lasting positive impact on Greater Houston.

Life in the Houston area

Traffic continues to be the biggest problem facing people in the Houston area, according to 24 percent of this year’s survey respondents. Another 16 percent mentioned the economy and 15 percent crime. Despite these concerns, more than two-thirds of all area residents in 2017 said they would stay in the Houston metro area even if they could choose to move away.

Area residents’ preference for alternatives to car-dependent sprawl continues to grow. By 56 percent, the respondents in 2017 were more likely than at any time since the question was first asked in 2007 to say that they would prefer to live in “an area with a mix of developments, including homes, shops and restaurants.” Forty percent would prefer a “single-family residential neighborhood.”

“These shifts reflect the very different life circumstances of Americans today,” Klineberg said. “The number of families with children living at home continues to decline across the country – replaced by empty nesters and young creatives, and by single-person and elderly households. So it’s not surprising that, even in Houston, people are looking for more compact urban neighborhoods.”

There’s a lot more, beginning with the 2017 survey homepage here, multiple Urban Edge posts about the survey here, and two Chron stories to boot.

The Donald is spurring people to register to vote

Just another data point for your consideration.

Registration among Hispanic voters is skyrocketing in a presidential election cycle dominated by Donald Trump and loud GOP cries to close the border.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials, projects 13.1 million Hispanics will vote nationwide in 2016, compared to 11.2 million in 2012 and 9.7 million in 2008.

Many of those new Hispanic voters are also expected to vote against Trump if he is the Republican nominee, something that appears much more likely after the front-runner’s sweeping primary victories Tuesday in five East Coast states.

[…]

Many of the newly registered Hispanic voters are in California and Texas, relatively safe states for Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

In fact, because so many Hispanic voters live in those states, the effect of the rising registration numbers will be somewhat undercut, according to Vargas.

Still, rising registration rates among Hispanics in Colorado, Florida and Nevada could make it easier for the Democratic candidate to retain those swing states. Even Arizona could be in play, say some poll watchers.

Registration is a game-changer with Hispanic voters.

Only about 48 percent of eligible Hispanics vote, but nearly 80 percent of registered Hispanics go to the ballot box.

Emphasis mine. The story is primarily about swing states, because this sort of story always is, but as you know it’s the effect on Texas that interests me. Here’s a subsequent Chron story that adds a local angle.

Across the nation, non-profits say they are registering Hispanics and helping residents become citizens at faster rates than ever before, many of them mobilized by a desire to vote against the billionaire developer.

“That’s the No. 1 name that comes up all the time,” said Claudia Ortega-Hogue, vice president of the Houston-area League of Women Voters. “There is fear, and there is anger.”

Since last summer, when Trump first referred to Mexicans as criminals, Ortega-Hogue said her organization began registering more than 80 percent of new citizens at naturalization ceremonies compared to the 60 percent that is average. Many have long held green cards but told volunteers they naturalized now to vote against Trump. The process, from turning in an application to the final swearing-in ceremony, takes about six months, making May crunch time for those seeking to participate in November.

“The comments that Trump has made has really increased the numbers of people wanting to be involved,” Ortega-Hogue said.

Average monthly citizenship applications across the country spiked nearly 15 percent to about 64,800 between August and January, the most recent government data available, compared to the same period the year before. In Texas, some 66,000 immigrants became citizens in 2015, about a quarter more than in the previous year.

[…]

In the past, volunteers had to approach people and “almost twist their arms” for them to sign up to vote, said Carlos Duarte, who oversees Texas for Mi Familia Vota, a national group focused on boosting Latino voter registration.

“What is different now is that people approach us,” Duarte said. “They would always make these comments, and it was very heavily a reaction against Donald Trump.”

[…]

A sizeable Hispanic push could impact down-ballot elections, particularly in Harris County, which has the country’s largest Latino population after Los Angeles, more than 1.9 million.

The county went to President Barack Obama in 2012 by only some 970 votes, and for the first time in over three decades now leans majority-Democratic, according to a survey last month by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Tellingly, most of that pickup for Democrats is among Latino respondents who are eligible but not registered to vote, said the report’s author, Stephen Klineberg.

Mobilizing these and other Hispanics could imperil two dozen Republican judges in the county and more than 50 around the state, as well as the Harris County District Attorney and sheriff, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.

“With Trump’s track record thus far of making statements portraying immigrants as racists and murderers and building a wall, it’s a ready-made campaign commercial against him for Univision,” Jones said. “Trump on the ballot could really be serious trouble for Harris County Republicans.”

It could also hurt a few Republican legislators in strong Hispanic districts in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, including Gilbert Peña in Pasadena. And it might add a Democratic congressional seat in the 23rd district, which is currently represented by Republican Will Hurd and stretches from San Antonio to the Mexican border.

See here for more on the Houston Area Survey. I’ve written about this before, so add this to the collection. I will be very interested to see what voter registration numbers look like when they come out. Anything that Democrats can do to abet those efforts will be well worth it.

Houston Area Survey 2016: Harris County becoming more Democratic

Whoa.

A majority of Harris County residents lean Democratic for the first time ever, propelled by plummeting support for Republicans among Latinos, according to a survey released Monday by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

The finding, in the midst of a particularly divisive presidential campaign, could signal an important shift in arguably the nation’s largest swing county, which narrowly went to President Barack Obama in 2012 by only about 970 votes. It might also portend that the long-sleeping giant of Latino voters will, finally perhaps, be roused from slumber in an election that has featured decidedly anti-Latino and anti-immigrant rhetoric, particularly from billionaire Republican contender Donald Trump.

“Frankly I’m not all that surprised,” said Jim McGrath, a Republican political consultant in Houston and spokesman for former President George H. W. Bush. “These are the fears realized by those on the Republican side who are worried about the irresponsible rhetoric surrounding the illegal immigration issue.”

According to the annual survey, which was conducted between January and March, 52 percent of Harris County residents said they identified more with the Democratic Party compared to 46 percent in 2012. Only 30 percent of residents leaned Republican this spring, about the same as in 2012, meaning that it is the share of undecided and new potential voters whom have swung largely Democratic.

[…]

Support for the GOP has stayed steady among white and African-American residents for the past decade, with 54 percent of the county’s white population swinging Republican and 39 percent Democrat, though there was a slight increase in Democrat support among Anglo voters in the county over the past two years. Similarly 82 percent of African-American residents lean Democratic and 8 percent Republican.

Among Latinos, however, there has been a sea change.

From about 2000 to 2008, some 40 percent of the county’s Hispanic residents identified as Democratic compared to fewer than 30 percent who felt Republican, Klineberg said. That began to change around 2009 when their support for Democrats increased to nearly 50 percent and the share of those leaning Republican dropped to 25 percent.

The gap widened once more around the 2012 presidential election when Republican Mitt Romney received the lowest share of the Hispanic vote — 27 percent — than GOP nominees had tallied in the previous three election cycles in a campaign during which immigration was particularly divisive.

This spring, Harris County’s Hispanic residents registered the lowest amount of support ever for Republicans — only 18 percent — compared to 68 percent of Latinos who said they lean Democrat.

“It’s a powerful message to the Republican party, reach out to these Latino voters, don’t push them away,” Klineberg said. “And for the Democrats, get out the vote.”

The survey is conducted by land line and cell phone calls among a statistically representative sample of 808 residents, not eligible voters, in Harris County. Among 604 Harris County residents who can vote, 46 percent leaned Democrat and 41 percent Republican.

See the Urban Edge blog for more details on the poll. There’s quite a bit more to the 2016 Houston Area Survey than this, but for now we’ll just focus on this particular data point, for obvious reasons. This is not a poll in the standard sense – it doesn’t ask which candidate you will support, nor does it try to determine who is a “likely” voter – but it is consistent with what we are seeing in national data as well as swing states. Latinos were slightly more likely to vote Republican in Texas in 2012 than they were elsewhere, though that was partly a turnout function, as polling data at the time showed that lower-propensity voters were more strongly Democratic. If – the big if – Latino voters are more strongly motivated to turn out this year, it is consistent for them to be more Democratic even without taking the Trump factor into account.

What could this mean in practical terms?

Some advocacy groups, such as the William C. Velásquez Institute, a national Latino public policy research group in San Antonio, predict Hispanics in Texas this year will account for more than 3 million registered voters and cast more than 2 million votes, both of which would be records. Overall, the state has about 14.2 million registered voters.

Their expectations are largely predicated on population growth. Since 2012, Texas gained 600,000 eligible Hispanic voters, expanding to 4.8 million – second only to California, according to the Pew Research Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C. The Latino share of Texas’ eligible voters increased 2 percentage points in that period, to 28 percent.

Bearing in mind all of the usual disclaimers, let’s do a little back-of-the-envelope math for the fun of it. Here are three statewide scenarios for this year:


Total votes    Latino  Not Latino     Pct
=========================================
  4,650,000    480,000  4,170,000  58.75%
  3,350,000  1,120,000  2,230,000  41.25%

  4,570,000    400,000  4,170,000  54.40%
  3,830,000  1,600,000  2,230,000  45.60%

  4,670,000    500,000  4,170,000  53.00%
  4,230,000  2,000,000  2,230,000  47.00%

Scenario 1 is basically what happened in 2012. No change in Latino turnout, which based on 2012 polling is 20% of the total, or Latino propensity for voting Democratic, which was about 70% that year. Scenario 2 is the “two million Latino voters” possibility that the Velasquez Institute mentioned. For that, I’m assuming 80% Democratic support, which is consistent with the polling data we have so far for matchups against Donald Trump, and with the data noted above that lower-propensity Latino voters are more heavily Democratic than Latinos overall. Sure, this may be a bit optimistic, but I’m playing a what-if game here, so stay with me. Scenario 3 is the bluer sky version of #2, where Latino turnout is 2.5 million at the same 80% Democratic rate. Note that in all cases, non-Latino turnout and propensity is the same. This is mostly to make the calculations simple; basically, I’m isolating the Latino voting variable. One could play around with the hypothesis that a Trump candidacy might also depress base Republican turnout, but I’ll leave those calculations to you. In scenario 2, Latinos make up about 24% of the voter universe, while in #3 they are 28% of total turnout, which as noted is about their share of total eligible voters.

I’m not arguing any of this is likely, or even realistic. I am showing that the ground is shifting, and even a relatively modest change could have a sizable effect. It’s not enough to turn Texas blue, but the state would be a lot less red. As noted before, that effect would surely be felt downballot, with Harris County likely being an epicenter. The bigger question would then be if any of that might carry over into a non-Presidential year, or if the same patterns we have observed in recent elections would persist. That’s beyond my scope here, and depending on how things end up may be irrelevant. But clearly something is happening. Even if it’s not enough to change the state, it’s more than enough to tilt Harris County, whether there is a concerted turnout effort (which I hope there is!) or not. Campos has more.

The 2013 Houston Area Survey

The 2013 Houston Area Survey shows that tolerance is prevalent in our region.

The results, according to institute co-director Stephen Klineberg, may reflect the region’s growing ethnic diversity, younger residents’ acceptance of change and the emergence of live-and-let-live “tolerant traditionalists.” Part of a larger survey of attitudes in the 10-county Houston metropolitan region, the 32nd annual poll queried 991 county residents in February and March. The margin of error is plus- or minus three points per 1,000 respondents.

“The theme is one of new realities across the board.” Klineberg said. “There’s a kind of recognition that we’re in a different world, that the 21st century is a different place.”

Some of the poll’s most significant findings centered on immigration. In results influenced by younger participants, 83 percent of respondents favored offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, providing they speak English and have no criminal record. That is up 19 points from just four years ago.

On other immigration-related questions, 68 percent supported admitting as many or more immigrants in the coming decade as were admitted in the last; 61 percent said immigration strengthens American culture; 51 percent said relations among Houston’s ethnic groups are good or excellent.

Respondents endorsed mandatory background checks for all firearms by an overwhelming 89 percent. They told pollsters they favored equal marriage rights for same-sex couples by 46 percent, up nine points from 2001.

You can see more on the 2013 survey here and here, and more on the Kinder Institute, including archives of previous surveys, here. The Chron story begins by characterizing Harris County as “consistently conservative”, which may come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the 2008 and 2012 election results, but never mind that. The trend is what matters, and it’s pointing in the right direction. That’s good news for all of us.

Laura Spanjian – From Industrial to Green Revolution: The New Houston

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks.

Laura Spanjian

Bike Share kiosks in downtown. Electric vehicle charging stations at the grocery store. Over 15 miles of new rail lines being constructed. Wind turbines and solar on rooftops. Solar-powered mini-offices at schools and parks. E-cycling and polystyrene foam recycling. Urban gardens surrounding office buildings. LEED-certified historic buildings. Complete Streets in urban neighborhoods. Accessible and recreation-oriented bayous.

What City is this you ask?

The New Houston.

Innovation, creativity and a black gold rush spirit dominated industrial Houston at the turn of the last century – putting Houston on the map as an economic leader.

Today, Houston is at an historic juncture. Decision-drivers for the city and the region are no longer only economic. There is an emerging recognition that the city has the building blocks to be one of the most livable, equitable and sustainable places in the nation, and lead the next revolution: the green revolution.

What are these building blocks? Recently, Forbes Magazine placed Houston as the number one city for young professionals. And young professionals drive innovation and use new thinking to solve old issues. Houston has a business-friendly environment and a plethora of large companies conducting business in new ways. Houston has high average incomes and a concentration of graduates from elite colleges from across the country. Also, for the first time in thirty years, the Kinder Houston Area Study revealed a significant increase in the number of residents who support mass transit and prefer a less automobile-dependent, more urbanized lifestyle. And Mayor Annise Parker’s forward-thinking and innovative approaches and initiatives are putting Houston on the map as a national green leader.

What’s most exciting about Houston is that few people think it will lead the green revolution. But this sleeping giant is starting to awaken. Houstonians love a good challenge and love to save money.

At the turn of the last century, rich resources made Houston a national economic leader. At the turn of this century, rich resources will do the same. Texas has, by far, the largest installed wind power capacity of any U.S. state. The City of Houston capitalized on this and has been recognized by the EPA as the number one municipal purchaser of green power and the seventh largest overall purchaser in the nation.

The City has a robust partnership with the University of Houston’s College of Architecture’s Green Building Components Program. Their innovative faculty has designed the first movable solar powered office/generator, and the City, through a grant, has purchased 17 of these units for emergency preparedness and other uses. Houston also recently received two large grants to reduce the cost of solar for residents and test out new types of rooftop solar technology.

Houston Green Office Challenge

Houston does not only create cleaner ways to use energy, Houston actually uses less energy. The City knows about energy efficiency: over 80 City facilities are expected to achieve guaranteed energy use reductions of 30% with paybacks of, on average, less than ten years.

The City also wants energy efficiency to be part of the urban fabric of Houston. Through our Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP), led by the General Services Department, the City has helped 13k Houston residents weatherize their homes, resulting in 12-20% kWh reduction and $60-125 savings each month. On the commercial side, the award-winning Houston Green Office Challenge and the City’s partnership in the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge are encouraging building owners and property managers to find innovative measures to reduce their energy and water consumption and decrease waste.

We also know that equally important to encouraging high performing buildings is looking at our codes. In January 2012, the City, with leadership from the Public Works and Engineering Department, set the bar high by adopting the Houston Residential Energy Code. This code makes Houston’s standards 5% above the state code for residential energy efficiency standards, and also requires all new residential buildings to be solar ready. And Houston is poised to adopt another 5% increase above state code this year.

It’s not just about energy efficiency. Houston also embraces green buildings. Currently Houston is number four in the nation in the number of LEED certified buildings with 186 certified projects. That’s up from #7 just a year ago.

One of the most impressive pieces of the green revolution is the emphasis on public transportation and new transportation technologies. Under the leadership of METRO, Houston will soon have three new rail lines, adding over 15 miles to the system.

Houston is at the forefront of the electric car movement. Houston was one of the first cities to receive EV cars for a City fleet, which now includes 40 Nissan Leafs and plug-in hybrids. And with partners such as NRG launching the first private investment in public EV charging infrastructure, Houston is leading in electric vehicle readiness.

In addition to electric, CNG is offering cleaner, cheaper fuel for additional options: In a partnership with Apache, the Airport’s new parking shuttles at IAH are being powered by natural gas.

With the launch of Houston B-cycle, the City’s bike share program is now a reality with 3 stations and 18 bikes in downtown, with $1 million in committed funding to grow to 20 stations and 225 bikes by the fall of 2012. This grant-funded program offers a transportation alternative for citizens and will help address pollution issues, traffic congestion, and rising oil costs.

And the City, under the leadership of the Houston Parks Board and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, recently won a $15 million highly competitive U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2012 TIGER grant. This project will assist in eliminating gaps in Houston’s bike grid: the project includes building 7.5 miles of off-street shared-use paths, 2.8 miles of sidewalks, and 7.9 miles of on-street bikeways.

And the dream and vision behind the Bayou Greenway project is becoming more of a reality. This proposed linear park system is unrivaled in its breadth and scope.

Finally, sustainability must encompass urban agriculture. The City Gardens and Farmers Market Initiative supports urban gardens and markets: the City has planted numerous new vegetable gardens (some of which are highlighted in First Lady Michele Obama’s new book, American Grown) and, with its partner Urban Harvest, has encouraged the sale and purchase of local food by starting a weekly farmers market at City Hall, with over 40 vendors.

In addition, the Mayor’s Council on Health and the Environment created an obesity task force to look at the importance of healthy eating and exercise. The Healthy Houston initiative will review and implement sustainable food policies for Houston to create work, school, and neighborhood environments conducive to healthier eating and increased physical activity. And under the leadership of Councilmember Stephen Costello, Houston is working to minimize food deserts and increase food access.

These initiatives are helping to make Houston a growing, thriving, modern, green city of the future, a destination for visitors, a magnet for new residents and a city well positioned in the global market.

The New Houston is here, and it’s on a roll.

Laura Spanjian is the Sustainability Director for the City of Houston. Learn more at http://www.greenhoustontx.gov, http://www.facebook.com/greenhoustontx and http://www.twitter.com/greenhoustontx.

Houston area transit preferences in 2012

The 2012 Houston Area Survey is in the can, and though the data has not been published to their website yet, there have been a few preview tidbits tossed out to whet everyone’s appetite. One of them has to do with attitudes about transit and neighborhoods.

But perhaps the most dramatic change, [Rice professor Stephen] Klineberg said, was the desire of Harris County residents for a less car-centered, more urban lifestyle.

Just more than half of people – 51 percent – said they would choose a smaller home within walking distance of workplaces and shops, rather than a single-family home with a big yard, which required driving almost everywhere they wanted to go.

That was up from 39 percent in 2010, the last time the question was asked.

Klineberg attributed the increase to exasperation with traffic, new and refurbished residential buildings downtown, in Midtown and east of downtown and the action in and around Discovery Green. But it also could reflect revamped suburban developments in Sugar Land, The Woodlands and elsewhere that combine homes, shops and entertainment, he said.

People in Harris County and in the surrounding counties offered support for mass transit, including a majority who said they would prefer the current diversion of transit taxes for street, drainage and landscaping projects be spent instead on transit.

“That is completely consistent with what we are seeing,” said Gilbert Garcia, chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority board. “Everyone wants more service. We know people want to see their tax dollars spent on mobility and transit.”

That would be a big deal, considering that Metro will almost certainly have a referendum on the ballot this year to continue the work from the 2003 referendum, and a question about the diversion of sales tax revenue to the cities in Metro’s service area for road work may well be part of it. There’s no guarantee that what was expressed in this survey will translate to victory at the ballot box, but I for one would rather start out ahead than start out behind.

You can see previous HAS questions and responses for city versus suburban living, traffic and congestion, and for planning and land use, which has the question about smaller homes nearer work versus larger homes. I’m either not seeing the question about diverting sales taxes to transit or they’re interpolating from a question with different wording. In any event, as I said the 2012 data is not up yet. Keep that in mind as you read one of the more amazing accomplishment in idiotic quotes I’ve seen in years:

Paul Bettencourt, former Harris County tax assessor-collector and a frequent critic of government spending, said he suspects the survey reflects support for solutions like natural-gas buses and even high-speed rail, rather than more light rail.

“I hear a lot of discussion about, ‘Hey, why don’t we use natural gas buses. Let them go everywhere, as opposed to just tracks on streets.’ ”

How stupid is this? Let me count the ways.

1. Bettencourt is neither an elected official nor an expert on transit. He’s Just Some Guy who happens to dislike Metro and is always willing to provide an “I’m agin’ it” quote whenever a Chron reporter needs one. I sometimes think he pre-emptively calls them himself to see if they’ve got something in the works that might need a few droppings of his wisdom.

2. Bettencourt hasn’t seen any of the survey data, but it doesn’t matter because he knows what the people really think, and what they really think is exactly what he thinks. I presume he also has the phone number for Tom Friedman’s mystical cab driver along with that of every Chron reporter in his contacts.

3. Not to get all technical or anything, but high speed rail has pretty much nothing to do with commuting, unless you’re one of those people who lives in one city and works in another. It certainly has nothing to do with getting around a city.

Other than that, what he had to say was insightful and added value to the story. I can hardly wait for his next quote opportunity.

Stephen Klineberg, superstar

I want to see this.

Dr. Stephen Klineberg

David Thompson and his colleagues at ttweak are best-known for their work on the quirky “Houston – It’s Worth It” campaign, paying homage to the yawning potholes, soul-sapping humidity and all the other things that help to define the sprawling city.

But they may have found the quintessential symbol of Houston in the star of their new film, “Interesting Times: Tracking Houston’s Transformations Through 30 Years of Surveys.”

Since 1982, Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg has followed the city’s economic fortunes, changing demographics and enduring belief that Houston is a better place to live than almost anywhere else.

His basic pitch after decades of study: “We are the most ethnically diverse city in the nation, a city reinventing itself for the 21st Century.”

He argues that Houston’s future depends upon raising the education levels of its growing Latino population, as well as improving parks and other urban amenities to attract knowledge workers and innovators who could live anywhere.

The film premiered earlier this week at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It’s a 30-minute sweep of skyline, streetscapes, archival footage and bits of data from the surveys.

Mostly, it shows the 71-year-old Klineberg, alone on stage in an empty auditorium at Rice, barely containing his enthusiasm as he talks about his life’s work.

I can’t find anything on this on the MFAH films page, but this will be shown at Discovery Green on April 27 after the 2012 Houston Area Survey is released. In light of recent news, I hope they’ve asked questions about attitudes towards marriage equality. No matter the case, the HAS is another great thing about Houston, and Klineberg deserves the accolades.

Local food

One of the more interesting results from this year’s Houston Area Survey was the attitude expressed about locally grown food. From a Houston Tomorrow press release:

An overwhelming majority of Houstonians feel that it is important to be able to buy locally grown food, with 42% responding that it is “very important” and 41% that it is “somewhat important.” Only 16% of Houstonians report that access to locally grown food is not important to them. Rice University sociologist Dr. Stephen Klineberg released the new Houston Area Survey today, revealing these results for a question that he asked this year for the first time.

The local food movement in the 13-county Houston region has been gaining strength following the Food & Sustainable Prosperity conference hosted by Houston Tomorrow in 2008. A broad coalition of nonprofits, government agencies, growers, and engaged citizens meets monthly as the Houston Food Policy Workgroup, hosted by Houston Tomorrow. The mission of the workgroup is to nurture the growth of a sustainable local food system, accessible to all, through education, collaboration, communication, and creation of a food policy council for the Houston region. Interested parties from across the region are welcome to participate.

You can read the full release here. As I’ve mentioned, my wife is the Chair of the Central City Co-op board, so this is near and dear to her heart. She was very happy when I showed her the release. For more information about local food in Houston, visit Central City or Urban Harvest; the Chron had a nice story about one of their more successful projects this past weekend.

A gloomy Survey

The 2010 Houston Area Survey is out, and not surprisingly the results are pretty gloomy.

Harris County residents this year offered the bleakest assessment of their personal finances, past and future, in the 29-year history of the Houston Area Survey.

Just 20 percent said their financial circumstances had improved in the past few years, half the level of two years ago. Meanwhile, 48 percent said they expected their finances to get better in the next few years, a decline of 10 percentage points from 2008.

Both numbers were the lowest recorded since the surveys began in 1982.

[…]

Asked to name the biggest problem facing people in the Houston area today, 38 percent mentioned the economy, 25 percent said traffic congestion and 18 percent replied crime — the same concerns in roughly the same proportion expressed by respondents the year before.

In 2008, however, before the effects of the recession were evident, just 15 percent said the economy was the biggest problem.

Economic worries surfaced in other, more subtle ways as well: More respondents said people who work hard and live by the rules aren’t getting a fair break; a greater percentage agreed that few good jobs exist for people without a college education; and fewer than half agreed that enough good jobs were available for welfare recipients who wanted to work.

You can see the highlights of the Survey here, and the whole enchilada here. I haven’t had a chance to really peruse it yet, so I don’t have anything deep to say. The Survey is always a fascinating read, and a continually updated moving picture of where we are as a metropolis. It’s a heck of a resource to have.

Gay rights support in Houston

  • Good news.

    [A]ccording to the latest Houston Area Survey, fewer than half of Harris County residents believe homosexuality is morally wrong, 61 percent believe it’s an innate characteristic rather than a lifestyle choice, and 43 percent believe gay marriages should have the same legal status as heterosexual ones — up from 32 percent just two years ago.

    Every measure of support for gay rights has increased significantly in recent years, said Stephen Klineberg, the Rice University sociology professor who has directed the annual survey since 1982.

    He attributed the change partly to changing individual attitudes, but mostly to the emergence of a new generation that grew up amid positive images of gay men and lesbians who no longer felt the need to conceal their sexual orientation.

    Younger respondents to the survey, Klineberg said, were more likely to believe gay marriages should have the same legal status as heterosexual unions, to support allowing gays and lesbians to be school teachers, and to say they had a close personal friend who was gay or lesbian.

    Anglo voters over 60 were most likely to oppose increased rights for gays, Klineberg said.

    That’s basically in line with polling data all around the country. Slowly but inexorably, the bulk of the people who think homosexuality is wrong are dying off, and they’re being replaced by a generation that knows better. Great for the country, not so good for the Republican Party. I figure the GOP will eventually adapt. If not, their ultimate demise will have been well earned.

    Note, by the way, that Kilneberg’s survey covers all of Harris County. The City of Houston is surely more liberal than the county as a whole.

    Ray Hill, a Houston gay activist, said he vividly remembers the disappointment felt in his community on the night of Jan. 19, 1985, when Houston voters overturned the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of greater than 4-1.

    Hill said gays and lesbians drove the change in attitudes by coming out of hiding, allowing heterosexuals to see how they could contribute to families and communities.

    “It’s not about what they think about us, it’s about what we think about us,” Hill said. “There is almost no reason in the world for anyone to be closeted any more.”

    I had the opportunity a few months back at a panel discussion to ask Ray Hill when there would be an effort launched to try to undo City Charter Amendment 2 from 2001, which denies health care and other employment benefits to same-sex domestic partners of city employees and which passed by a narrow 51.5 to 48.5 margin (PDF) at the time. He said the votes were there now to do it, and I have to agree. We’re likely still a decade or so away from attitudes being sufficiently different in Texas as a whole, but we’ll get there. Time is on our side.