Longtime state lawmaker Sylvester Turner delivered his first inaugural address on Monday, two days after becoming Houston's 62nd mayor, promising to build a better city that embraces its diversity.
But the city's new chief executive – who replaced Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city – didn't mention the LGBT voters who helped put him in office or the failed non-discrimination ordinance that roiled city politics throughout the campaign season.
Turner made calls to build a world-class Houston – "a city that embraces diversity, culture and differences, and sees that as our strength and opportunities."
"We all have one common goal this morning and that's to make Houston the best place to live on this planet," Turner said during his more than 20-minute address at a packed Jones Hall.
"It matters not to me whether you're a Democrat or Republican, whether you're black, brown, white or Asian, whether you're rich or poor or in between, whether you're educated or uneducated, what matters to me is that we are all Houston and we will stand and work for Houston and its future," he added.
Similar to his election night speech in November, Turner didn't mention the city's LGBT community specifically but did give nods to diversity and inclusion. Turner was endorsed by the GLBT Political Caucus.
On Monday, Turner also issued a challenge to invest in the city so it won't take a back seat to other municipalities across the country.
"We need not take a second seat to New York or L.A. or D.C. or Atlanta. And if you give me the opportunity to be your mayor, as you have, and if City Council we work with one another, Houston can be the city not only in this county but the city in terms of the global international city that we are destined to be," he added.
But those cities – New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta – all have in place non-discrimination ordinances that include gender identity. Yet Houston's ordinance, HERO, was rejected by voters in November and Turner, in his runoff, kept his distance from the non-discrimination ordinance and whether he would revisit the issue as mayor. The cities Turner wants to compare Houston to also score dramatically better on HRC's Municipal Equality Index, an annual report card grading cities on LGBT policies. New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta scored a perfect 100. Houston's score? A 48, its third consecutive flop.
City council members who supported HERO – including Mike Laster and Ellen Cohen – and political analysts don't expect Turner to champion a new version anytime soon. Via Outsmart:
“My anticipation is that there will be a time period of reflection, and I’m hoping that time of reflection will mature into a period of active discussion about what happens next and how that might happen and when it might happen, but I don’t see a current push to rush into any new options at this point in time,” Laster said.
But Cohen pledged that if Turner doesn't eventually revisit the issue, she will. Via Outsmart:
“I’m not the new mayor, and the new mayor’s going to have to decide what he puts on his agenda, but I would say that if I continue to be granted these four years, then somewhere along the way I certainly am going to revisit equality,” said Cohen, who’ll be term-limited in 2019.
During his public inauguration on Monday, Turner also administered the oath of office to the 16-member Houston City Council. The panel includes two openly gay members – Laster and Robert Gallegos – who won their re-election campaigns. Anti-HERO challenger Jim Bingham pushed Laster to a run-off, though he easily won that race.
Turner officially took office on Saturday when he was sworn in during a private ceremony at City Hall.