Former Houston Mayor Parker highlights cities’ challenges, opportunities

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker ’78, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Victory Institute, spoke at Rice’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies Jan. 28 on how Houston and other cities are shaping the world and highlighted the challenges urban areas are facing.

“The biggest issue I see confronting cities right now is immigration and migration,” Parker, a Rice alumna, told the capacity audience gathered in the Glasscock School’s Hudspeth Auditorium. “Next, I would say climate change, air pollution, access to clean water, legacy debt, income inequality, education challenges, infrastructure, health care, traffic and transportation or logistics, demographic shifts, growth and decline in specific industries, housing and homelessness. On almost every one of these issues, we’re failing. It may not be every place at the same scale or the same level, but we are failing on those issues across the globe.”

Half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and one-third of urban dwellers live in slums, Parker said. “Elected officials … are going to have to lead,” she said. “It’s not just about government, it’s about all of us in this room: public, private, academic, philanthropic leaders stepping up to try to figure out solutions. There are opportunities to get together and make things happen. And it’s happening every day, because cities have to function.”

Parker’s presentation also served as a kickoff to a new public Glasscock School short course beginning Feb. 18, Innovative Houston: Local Solutions to Global Challenges, which will convene Rice scholars and other community experts to explore how Houston is serving as a civic laboratory, piloting novel approaches to social, educational, health, economic, environmental and other challenges.

(Photos courtesy of the Glasscock School)

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.