Friday, May 20, 2011

Houston


City of Houston
—  City  —

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Nickname(s): Space City (official)
City of Houston is located in USA
City of Houston
Location in the United States of America
Coordinates: 29°45′46″N 95°22′59″W
CountryUnited States of America
StateTexas
CountiesHarris, Fort Bend, andMontgomery
IncorporatedJune 5, 1837
Government
 - TypeMayor–council
 - MayorAnnise Parker
Area
 - City601.3 sq mi (1,558 km2)
 - Land579.4 sq mi (1,501 km2)
 - Water22.3 sq mi (57.7 km2)
Elevation43 ft (13 m)
Population (2010 US Census)
 - City2,099,451(4th U.S.)
 - Density3,897/sq mi (1,505/km2)
 - Urban3,822,509 (10th U.S.)
 - Metro6,108,060 (5th U.S.)
 - DemonymHoustonian
Time zoneCST (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST)CDT (UTC-5)
Area code(s)713, 281, 832
FIPS code48-35000
GNIS feature ID1380948
Websitehoustontx.gov
Houston  is the fourth-largest city in the United States and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of 579 square miles (1,500 km2). Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area—the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with a population of approximately 6.1 million.
Houston was founded on August 30, 1836, by brothers Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou. The city was incorporated on June 5, 1837, and named after then-President of the Republic of Texas—former General Sam Houston—who had commanded at the Battle of San Jacinto, which took place 25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established. The burgeoning port and railroad industry, combined with oil discovery in 1901, has induced continual surges in the city's population. In the mid-twentieth century, Houston became the home of the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.
Rated as a beta world city, Houston's economy has a broad industrial base in energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, and transportation. Houston is also leading in health care sectors and building oilfield equipment; only New York City is home to more Fortune 500 headquarters in the city limits. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. The city has a population from various ethnic and religious backgrounds and a large and growing international community. It is home to many cultural institutions and exhibits, which attract more than 7 million visitors a year to the Houston Museum District. Houston has an active visual and performing arts scene in the Theater District and offers year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.

History


Sam Houston
In August 1836, two real estate entrepreneurs from New York City, purchased 6,642 acres (26.88 km2) of land along Buffalo Bayouwith the intent of founding a city. The Allen brothers decided to name the city after Sam Houston, the popular general at the Battle of San Jacinto, who was elected President of Texas in September 1836.
Houston was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, with James S. Holman becoming its first mayor. In the same year, Houston became the county seat of Harrisburg County (now Harris County) and the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas.In 1840, the community established a chamber of commerce in part to promote shipping and waterborne business at the newly created port on Buffalo Bayou.
Houston, circa 1873
By 1860, Houston had emerged as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston and Beaumont. During the American Civil War, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder, who used the city as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston. After the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston. By 1890, Houston was the railroad center of Texas.
In 1900, after Galveston was struck by a devastating hurricane, efforts to make Houston into a viable deepwater port were accelerated. The following year, oil discovered at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont prompted the development of the Texas petroleum industry. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt approved a $1 million improvement project for the Houston Ship Channel. By 1910 the city's population had reached 78,800, almost doubling from a decade before. An integral part of the city were African Americans, who numbered 23,929 or nearly one-third of the residents. They were developing a strong professional class based then in the Fourth Ward.
President Woodrow Wilson opened the deepwater Port of Houston in 1914, seven years after digging began. By 1930, Houston had become Texas's most populous city and Harris the most populous county.
Downtown Houston, circa 1927
When World War II started, tonnage levels at the port decreased and shipping activities were suspended; however, the war did provide economic benefits for the city. Petrochemical refineries and manufacturing plants were constructed along the ship channel because of the demand for petroleum and synthetic rubber products during the war. Ellington Field, initially built during World War I, was revitalized as an advanced training center for bombardiers and navigators. The M. D. Anderson Foundation formed the Texas Medical Center in 1945. After the war, Houston's economy reverted to being primarily port-driven. In 1948, several unincorporated areas were annexed into the city limits, which more than doubled the city's size, and Houston proper began to spread across the region.
In 1950, the availability of air conditioning provided impetus for many companies to relocate to Houston resulting in an economic boom and producing a key shift in the city's economy toward the energy sector.
The space shuttle, atop its Boeing 747SCA, flying over Johnson Space Center
The increased production of the local shipbuilding industry during World War II spurred Houston's growth, as did the establishment in 1961 of NASA's "Manned Spacecraft Center" (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973), which created the city's aerospace industry. The Astrodome, nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World", opened in 1965 as the world's first indoor domed sports stadium.
During the late 1970s, Houston experienced a population boom as people from Rust Belt states moved to Texas in large numbers. The new residents came for the numerous employment opportunities in the petroleum industry, created as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo.
The population boom ended abruptly in the mid-1980s, as oil prices fell precipitously. The space industry also suffered in 1986 after the Space Shuttle Challengerdisintegrated shortly after launch. The late 1980s saw a recession adversely affecting the city's economy.
Since the 1990s, as a result of the recession, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy by focusing on aerospace and health care/biotechnology and by reducing its dependence on the petroleum industry. In 1997, Houstonians elected Lee P. Brown as the city's first African American mayor.
Hurricane Rita evacuation. (With contraflow lane reversal.)
In June 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 40 inches (1,000 mm) of rain on parts of Houston, causing the worst flooding in the city's history; the storm cost billions of dollars in damage and killed 20 people in Texas. By December of that same year, Houston-based energy company Enron collapsed into the third-largest ever U.S. bankruptcy during an investigation surrounding fabricated partnerships that were allegedly used to hide debt and inflate profits.
In August 2005, Houston became a shelter to more than 150,000 people from New Orleans who evacuated from Hurricane Katrina. One month later, approximately 2.5 million Houston area residents evacuated when Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast, leaving little damage to the Houston area. This was the largest urban evacuation in the history of the United States.

Geography


A simulated-color image of Houston
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 601.7 square miles (1,558 km2); this comprises 579.4 square miles (1,501 km2) of land and 22.3 square miles (58 km2) of water. Most of Houston is located on the gulf coastal plain, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland and forest. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie, which are all still visible in surrounding areas. Flatness of the local terrain, when combined with urban sprawl, has made flooding a recurring problem for the city. Downtown stands about 50 feet (15 m) above sea level, and the highest point in far northwest Houston is about 125 feet (38 m) in elevation. The city once relied on groundwater for its needs, but land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston and Lake Conroe.
Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. Buffalo Bayou runs through downtown and the Houston Ship Channel, and has three tributaries: White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Heights neighborhood north of downtown and then towards downtown; Braes Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel continues past Galveston and then into the Gulf of Mexico.


Geology

Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from river deposits formed from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic matter, that over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath the layers of sediment is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into salt dome formations, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. The thick, rich, sometimes black, surface soil is suitable for rice farming in suburban outskirts where the city continues to grow.
The Houston area has over 150 active faults (estimated to be 300 active faults) with an aggregate length of up to 310 miles (500 km), including the Long Point-Eureka Heights Fault System which runs through the center of the city. There have been no significant historically recorded earthquakes in Houston, but researchers do not discount the possibility of such quakes occurring in the deeper past, nor in the future. Land in some communities southeast of Houston is sinking because water has been pumped out from the ground for many years. It may be associated with slip along faults; however, the slippage is slow and not considered an earthquake, where stationary faults must slip suddenly enough to create seismic waves. These faults also tend to move at a smooth rate in what is termed "fault creep", which further reduces the risk of an earthquake.


Climate

Allen's Landing after Tropical Storm Allison, June 2001
Houston's climate is classified as humid subtropical (Cfa in K√∂ppen climate classification system). Spring supercell thunderstorms sometimes bring tornadoes to the area. Prevailing winds are from the south and southeast during most of the year, bringing heat across the continent from the deserts of Mexico and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
During the summer months, it is common for the temperature to reach over 90 °F (32 °C), with an average of 99 days per year above 90 °F (32 °C). However, the humidity results in a heat index higher than the actual temperature. Summer mornings average over 90 percent relative humidity and approximately 60 percent in the afternoon. Winds are often light in the summer and offer little relief, except near the immediate coast. To cope with the heat, people use air conditioning in nearly every vehicle and building in the city; in 1980 Houston was described as the "most air-conditioned place on earth". Scattered afternoon thunderstorms are common in the summer. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 109 °F (43 °C) on September 4, 2000.
Winters in Houston are fairly temperate. The average high in January, the coldest month, is 62 °F (17 °C), while the average low is 39 °F (4 °C). Snowfall is generally rare. Recent snow events in Houston include a storm on December 24, 2004 when one inch (2.5 cm) fell and more recent snowfalls on December 10, 2008. However, more recently on December 4, 2009 an inch of snow fell in the city. This was the earliest snowfall ever recorded in Houston. In addition, it set another milestone marking the first time in recorded history that snowfall has occurred on two consecutive years, and marks the third accumulating snowfall occurring in the decade of 2000–2010. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 5 °F (−15 °C) on January 23, 1940. Houston receives a high amount of rainfall annually, averaging about 54 inches a year. These rains tend to cause floods over portions of the city.
Houston has excessive ozone levels and is ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is Houston’s predominant air pollution problem, with the American Lung Association rating the metropolitan area's ozone level as the 6th worst in the United States in 2006. The industries located along the ship channel are a major cause of the city's air pollution.

Cityscape


Houston was incorporated in 1837 under the ward system of representation. The ward designation is the progenitor of the nine current-day Houston City Council districts. Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside the Interstate 610 Loop. The inside encompasses the central business district and many residential neighborhoods that predate World War II. More recently, high-density residential areas have been developed within the loop. The city's outlying areas, suburbs and enclaves are located outside of the loop. Beltway 8 encircles the city another 5 miles (8.0 km) farther out.
The Downtown Houston skyline
Though Houston is the largest city in the United States without formal zoning regulations, it has developed similarly to other Sun Belt cities because the city's land use regulations and legal covenants have played a similar role. Regulations include mandatory lot size for single-family houses and requirements that parking be available to tenants and customers. Such restrictions have had mixed results. Though some have blamed the city's low density, urban sprawl, and lack of pedestrian-friendliness on these policies, the city's land use has also been credited with having significant affordable housing, sparing Houston the worst effects of the 2008 real estate crisis. The city issued 42,697 building permits in 2008 and was ranked first in the list of healthiest housing markets for 2009.
Voters rejected efforts to have separate residential and commercial land-use districts in 1948, 1962, and 1993. Consequently, rather than a single central business district as the center of the city's employment, multiple districts have grown throughout the city in addition to downtown which include Uptown, Texas Medical Center, Midtown, Greenway Plaza, Energy Corridor, Westchase, and Greenspoint.

Government and politics


Houston City Hall
The city of Houston has a strong mayoral form of municipal government. Houston is a home rule city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan. The City's elected officials are the mayor, city controller and 14 members of the city council. The mayor of Houston is Annise Parker—a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan ballot who is serving her first term as of January 2010. Houston's mayor serves as the city's chief administrator, executive officer, and official representative, and is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced. As the result of a 1991 referendum in Houston, a mayor is elected for a two-year term, and can be elected to as many as three consecutive terms. The term limits were spearheaded by conservative political activist Clymer Wright.
The city council line-up of nine district based and five at-large positions was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979. At-large council members represent the entire city. Under the current city charter, if the population in the city limits goes past 2.1 million residents, the current nine-member city council districts will be expanded with the addition of two city council districts.
The city controller is elected independently of the mayor and council. The controller's duties are to certify available funds prior to committing such funds and processing disbursements. The city's fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. Ronald Green is the city controller, serving his first term as of January 2010.
Houston is considered to be a politically divided city whose balance of power often sways between Republicans and Democrats. Much of the city's wealthier areas vote Republican, while the city's middle class, working class, and minority areas vote Democratic. According to the 2005 Houston Area Survey, 68 percent of non-Hispanic whites in Harris County are declared or favor Republicans while 89 percent of non-Hispanic blacks in the area are declared or favor Democrats. About 62 percent Hispanics (of any race) in the area are declared or favor Democrats. The city has often been known to be the most politically diverse city in Texas, a state known for being generally conservative. As a result the city is often a contested area in statewide elections.

Economy


The Top Fortune Companies
in Houston for 2010
with Texas and U.S. ranks
TexasCorporationUS
2ConocoPhillips6
6Marathon Oil41
7Sysco55
8Enterprise GP Holdings92
12Plains All American Pipeline128
16Halliburton158
18National Oilwell Varco182
19Continental Airlines183
20KBR193
21Waste Management196
25Baker Hughes243
31Apache Corporation271
32CenterPoint Energy275
33Smith International277
35Kinder Morgan315
39Calpine338
41Enbridge Energy Partners364
45Cameron International399
49EOG Resources434
50Spectra Energy437
51El Paso Energy447
52Group 1 Automotive457
53FMC Technologies467
56Frontier Oil488
Notes
Revenues for year ending before April 2010
Energy and oil (19 companies)
Source: Fortune 
Houston Ship Channel
Houston is recognized worldwide for its energy industry—particularly for oil and natural gas—as well as for biomedical research and aeronautics. Renewable energy sources—wind and solar—are also growing economic bases in Houston. The ship channel is also a large part of Houston's economic base. Because of these strengths, Houston is designated as a beta world city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.
Considered to be the energy capital of the world, five of the six supermajor energy companies maintain a large base of operations in Houston (international headquarters of ConocoPhillips; US operational headquarters of Exxon-Mobil; US headquarters for international companies Shell Oil (US subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell located in London and The Hague, Netherlands), and BP whose international headquarters are in London, England). The headquarters of Shell Oil Company, the US affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell, is located at One Shell Plaza. While ExxonMobil maintains its global headquarters in Irving, Texas, its upstream and chemical divisions as well as most operational divisions, are located in Houston. Chevron has offices in Houston in a 40-story building originally intended to be the headquarters of Enron. The company's Chevron Pipe Line Company subsidiary is headquartered in Houston, and more divisions are being consolidated and moved to Houston each year. Houston is headquarters for the Marathon Oil Corporation,Schlumberger, Halliburton, Apache Corporation, and Citgo and alternative energy companies such as Horizon Wind Energy.
The Houston area is a leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of Houston's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy man-made ship channel, the Port of Houston. The port ranks first in the United States in international commerce, and is the tenth-largest port in the world. Unlike most places, high oil and gasoline prices are beneficial for Houston's economy as many of its residents are employed in the energy industry.
The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown MSA's gross area product (GAP) in 2008 was $440.4 billion, slightly larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Belgium, Malaysia, Venezuela or Sweden. Only 21 countries other than the United States have a gross domestic product exceeding Houston's regional gross area product.Houston's MSA gross area product for 2007 is estimated to be 416.6 billion, up 13.8 percent from 2006. Mining, which in Houston consists almost entirely of exploration and production of oil and gas, accounts for 26.3% of Houston's GAP, up sharply in response to high energy prices and a decreased worldwide surplus of oil production capacity; followed by engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.
Data from city-data.com
The Houston area added 42,400 private-sector jobs between November 2007 and November 2008 and registered the nation’s largest gain in private sector employment among the nation's cities, according to employment statistics of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate in the city was 3.8% in April 2008, the lowest level in eight years while the job growth rate was 2.8%.
The University of Houston System's annual impact on the Houston-area's economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, 3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated. This is in addition to the 12,500 new graduates the UH System produces every year who enter the workforce in Houston and throughout Texas. These degree-holders tend to stay in Houston. After five years, 80.5 percent of graduates are still living and working in the region.
In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the Category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine. Foreign governments have established 89 consular offices in metropolitan Houston. Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here and 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations. Twenty-five foreign banks representing 13 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.
In 2008, Houston received top ranking on Kiplinger's Personal Finance Best Cities of 2008 list which ranks cities on their local economy, employment opportunities, reasonable living costs and quality of life. The city ranked fourth for highest increase in the local technological innovation over the preceding 15 years, according to Forbes magazine. In the same year, the city ranked second on the annual Fortune 500 list of company headquarters, ranked first for Forbes Best Cities for College Graduates, and ranked first on Forbes list ofBest Cities to Buy a Home. In 2010, the city was rated the best city for shopping, according to Forbes.