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Brown Seeks Mayor’s Office in Houston Stressing Wide Architectural Experience Peter H. Brown, FAIA, announced his candidacy for mayor of Houston in February. With more than 30 years’ experience practicing in Houston, the architect also has served on the City Council since winning election in 2005 and re-election in 2007. He recently sat down with AIA Houston Executive Director Barrie Scardino to outline his objectives should he be elected when voters go to the polls on Nov. 3. How will your background as an architect influence the way you would manage the City of Houston?

It was my background in both architecture and urban planning, because in my mind the two go together, that inspired me to run for office in the first place. I was concerned about the quality of the built environment and how that affects our quality of life and ultimately our economic competitiveness. I decided if I really wanted to make a difference, I should run for City Council. I was elected in 2005 and have served four years, so I know how to get results in city government. My training as an architect is the best training you can possibly have for this job because it is a broad, multi-disciplinary kind of background. I have designed a whole range of public buildings from fire stations to libraries, and I believe there is no better experience in learning how the city operates. For example, when you design a police station, you get to know how policing works. I don’t think there could be a better preparation, technically and in terms of experience, for the mayor of a big city. Architects are problem solvers, and that is exactly what the City of Houston needs in its next mayor. We are problem solvers with creativity and know how to go through a logical process of conceptual thinking. Of course, there is always a challenge. Many times that boils down to how to do more with less in terms of a budget. Creativity and innovation are very often a part of effective management in the city, particularly in current economic conditions. What measures would you take as mayor to help shore up our local economy? A huge part of Houston’s workforce, from developers to subcontractors, is connected to the design and construction industry.

We aren’t going to spend money we don’t have, but, there are two hundred million dollars worth of public authorized bond monies that haven’t

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‘Architects are problem solvers,’ Brown says, ‘and that is exactly what the City of Houston needs in its next mayor.’

been spent because project management in the public works department can’t squeeze these projects out of the pipeline. My number-one item is to get projects that are already funded online. We have a detailed list of requests from the federal stimulus package with an emphasis on both infrastructure and vertical projects that would require architects. The second thing is that we need a six-year business plan to grow our economy. This would be a catalyst for growth that would not otherwise happen. We’ve been waiting for people to come and knock on our door, and it’s not just going to happen. We need to go out nationally and internationally and recruit new businesses. The role of the city is to understand the marketplace and encourage growth in the best possible ways. We need to streamline our government and make our city even more business friendly. As we talk about growing our city, do we need huge investments in our infrastructure?

The problem now is that we have a reactive program where improvements are made on a case by case basis – if there is flooding over there we rush to fix it. What we need to do is figure out where the growth wants to happen and provide infrastructure that is needed to encourage that growth. Fannin South is a great example, there is a huge amount of land along the transit line that has no infrastructure to encourage development.

What do you think can be done to redevelop more urban areas, particularly along established and proposed transit routes such as in midtown?

My basic proposal is to form a Parking and Redevelopment Authority, like every other city has, and partner with private developers to build shared parking. That is what will make higher density, mixed-use, pedestrianfriendly, transit-oriented development work. Having great urban places in the City of Houston would be a major goal of my administration. What is the role of architects in all of this?

As we move forward to build an even better Houston we are going to need the vision and creativity of architects and planners. We will certainly need to hire more design professionals. I want to see architects more involved in shaping the future of this city. I believe in Survival Through Design! That is the title of a book by Richard Neutra [1954]. We also need more architects on boards and commissions, and, as mayor, I would be in a position to make some of these appointments. Lastly, I would also like to call on architects all over the state to get behind Peter Brown for Mayor because Houston can set an example statewide.

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Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2009: Design Awards