January 2, 2008 5:35 AM

Sometimes, I miss Houston. Ah, hell...who am I kidding??

Why Houston? Ask Beyoncé, Brian Ching or Bush: City hopes our stars — not slogans — can better tell the world why we shine

The Bottom Line: A commentary in images and numbers

It’s official. Texas worst place to live in US.

After trotting out and discarding a series of slogans over the years, Houston’s official marketing agency is taking a new approach as it prepares to launch a $3 million campaign to enhance the city’s national image. Instead of a snappy catchphrase, advertisements soon to appear in national publications will feature earnest testimonials from well-known current or former Houstonians such as singer Beyonc‚àö¬© Knowles, soccer star Brian Ching, heart surgeon Denton Cooley and former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Starting in February, the campaign will feature ads in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Continental Airlines’ inflight magazine, Texas Monthly magazine and other publications, said Lindsey Brown, marketing director for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Broadcast ads also are in the works, she said.

OK, so once you get past the humidity and the mosquitoes and the traffic and the pollution and the chemical plants, Houston…well, it really DOES suck. I can say this with some authority because I recently left Houston after living there for 10 years. Oh, sure, the cost of living (particularly when it comes to housing) is significantly less than it is here on the West Coast. And the winters are nicer (yeah, I know; Houston actually has sunshine during the winter). Big deal. I generally don’t mind Houston’s heat at all. If it wasn’t for the oppressive Gulf Coast humidity (and the pollution, the traffic, and the mosquitoes), the city might actually be something close to livable.

Then again, there’s fact that Houston in particular, and Texas in general, is just a miserable place in many respects. How bad? Well, according to John Cobarruvias:

  • Has the highest rate of people living in poverty.

  • Texas ranks 50th for the highest teen birth rate.

  • Texas ranks 50th in the nation for the most people without medical insurance.

  • Texas has the second highest income gap between rich and poor.

  • Texas is the first in the nation for cancerous emissions into the air and toxic chemicals released into water.

  • Texas is home to three of the most polluted cities in the U.S.

  • PortArthur, Beaumont and Orange have the highest rate of cancer incident and death in the state. (hydrocarbon toxins and emissions)

  • 5.6 million do not have health insurance.

  • Texas has the highest teen birth rate and the most repeat teen births in the nation. (Texas requires middle schools to teach abstinence as the only method that is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy.)

  • 80-90% of the homeless population living on the streets are affected by mental illness. One in four is a veteran.

  • Texas is home to three of the poorest counties in the nation.Texas leads the country in executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

  • Texas has the second highest rate of incarceration.

  • Percentage of Uninsured Children: 1st

  • Income Inequality Between the Rich and the Poor : 2nd

  • Percentage of Population without Health Insurance: 1st

  • Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Scores: 47th

  • Percentage of Population over 25 with a High School Diploma: 50th

  • Percentage of Non-Elderly Women with Health Insurance: 50th

  • Rate of Women Aged 40+ Who Receive Mammograms: 44th

  • Rate of Women Aged 18+ Who Receive Pap Smears: 47th

  • Cervical Cancer Rate: 5th

  • Women’s Voter Registration: 43rd

  • Women’s Voter Turnout: 49th

  • Percentage of Eligible Voters that Vote: 44th

Yeah, I know…lies, damn lies, and statistics, right? The sad reality is that all of these statistics paint a picture that isn’t pretty. For a long time, I convinced myself that Houston really was a good place to live. There are days, particularly during the winter, when it really can be an amazing place. I’ve played golf in Galveston in my shorts…in December. You’re certainly not going to be able to do that here in the Pacific Northwest.

There are people and things I miss in Houston and the surrounding area. I’m really going to miss going to Astros games at Minute Maid Park, f’rinstance, which for my money is the best stadium in baseball. I already miss Tex-Mex. And I do miss 75-degree days in the dead of winter. Even with all of that, I have to finally admit to myself that I spent 10 years living in a place I grew to detest. Portland may not be Paradise, but I can feel the difference here, and I like the change. It has it’s own issues and problems, of course, but at least I’m not having to deal with oppressive humidity and an army of mosquitoes.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on January 2, 2008 5:35 AM.

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