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Mayor John Whitmire’s first week of office focuses on public safety

Sworn in under oath on Jan. 1 and publicly inaugurated on Jan.2, Whitmire delivered a speech where he expressed that his top priority is increasing public safety. |Courtesy of Houston Public Media

During Mayor John Whitmire’s first week in office, he met with Houston police and firefighters, promised to address citywide concerns and voted with City Council. 

Sworn in under oath  Jan. 1 and publicly inaugurated  Jan.2, Whitmire delivered a speech where he expressed that his top priority is increasing public safety. 

“If we do not address public safety, the other quality of life issues will not matter,” Whitmire said. “The first solution to solving the problem is acknowledging you have one.” 

Jan. 4, Whitmire met with Houston Chief of Police Troy Finner to discuss public safety concerns. Whitmire promised to increase the number of police and bring in 200 troopers from the Department of Public Safety to Houston.

Although statistics show that Houston has decreasing crime rates, Whitmire said that a few years of statistics do not explain the fullness of the problem. 

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make people feel safe,” Whitmire said. “I’ll commit myself to recruiting more officers.”

In addition to expanding law enforcement, Whitmire wants to focus on getting repeat offenders off the streets.

Currently, there are over 35,000 pending felony cases and over 1,500 people are waiting to go to court for murder charges in Houston, according to the Harris County District Courts website. 

Whitmire claims over half of the people waiting to go to court for murder are on the streets of Houston and are the main contributors to crime.

“That’s a small group that is raising havoc that you see on the 10 o’clock news. We’ve got to address that,” Whitmire said. 

After pledging his support for first responders during his inauguration speech, Whitmire met with the Houston Professional Firefighters Association Jan.3.  After the meeting,  he ordered the city attorney to end ongoing legal proceedings against Houston firefighters. 

“Within 72 hours of taking office, Mayor Whitmire is moving forward to implement the promises he made to Houston firefighters during the campaign,” HPFA President Patrick M. Lancton said in a press release. “After eight years of acrimony, we are finally headed in the right direction. It is hard to express how much it means to Houston firefighters and their families to have a leader who respects them and will follow through on what he says.”

During a City Council meeting on Jan. 9, Whitmire and the City Council collectively decided to defer the city’s plan to relocate residents in the Fifth Ward who live near a Union Pacific Railroad site showing elevated levels of creosote, a carcinogenic contaminant. 

Whitmire appealed to the newly-elected council for additional time to scrutinize the relocation initiatives, highlighting that he had recently been briefed on the matter, leaving him with minimal time to make informed decisions regarding the relocation efforts.

“We’re trying to do it right. I’m sorry that these questions were not answered before we commit the resources to it,” Whitmire said. “Who in the world thinks $5 million’s enough? Let’s do it right and be responsible. In a month from now, I’ll be the first to say we need to move forward.” 

Houston City Council will meet again to vote on funding Feb. 7.

“There is so much to do. I have no patience, no time to waste,” Whitmire said. 

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