I am vehemently opposed to and perplexed by the decision made by Mayor Turner to sign an Emergency Health Declaration (EHD) which, effectively, will cancel the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the first time in over eighty years - in addition to cancelling many other public events across the city.
I, and many of my council colleagues, were absolutely blindsided by this news. This decision was made behind closed doors with no consultation from City Council, nor was it hinted at during this morning's weekly council meeting.
As I listened to today's press conference, I was astounded to learn that this decision appears to be predicated on a single case in Montgomery County. Simply put, your local leadership is extrapolating, making presumptions, and envisioning worst case scenarios. This leads to making important decisions out of fear.
Today's decision unfortunately only serves to perpetuate the artificial panic being proliferated by the media and deals a huge blow to the Houston economy. Essentially, this action acts as gasoline on the fire of hysteria. After all, this is not the Zombie Apocalypse.
Every year, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo contributes over half of a billion dollars to the local economy. Area students depend on over fourteen million dollars in annual scholarships generated by funds from this event. Additionally, substantial losses will likely be incurred by thousands of vendors, temporary and seasonal workers, and students who have invested significant amounts of money in livestock animals in order to participate in the shows.
Cancellation of our city's main event not only affects the livelihood of our residents, but it sets a troubling precedent. Losses from the abrupt cancellation of this year's rodeo will have an impact that stretches beyond this fiscal year. Further, where does this lead? Do we shut-down movie theaters, shopping centers, grocery stores, or even churches?
Texans are tough and Texans are resilient. Texans are proudly individualistic, and I trust that the residents of this city are wise enough to understand the risks associated with COVID-19 and determine for themselves whether or not public activity is a worthwhile gamble. In other words, we are all big boys and girls, and are capable of making these kinds of decisions for ourselves and for our family. We do not need a nanny state.
That said, no one should minimize the impact of the current situation. I urge all Houstonians to take reasonable precautions to avoid the transmission of COVID-19 and the many other, more common, ailments that persist in our area: practice good hygiene by washing hands thoroughly; staying home if feeling ill; heeding advice from medical professionals; and keeping informed about the conditions in our area by carefully avoiding sensationalist news sources.
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is more than an annual event - it is an important part of our city's identity and our city's history. With the Mayor signing today's EHD, not only will we be altering that history for the wrong reasons, but we will undeniably be altering the future of a long-standing institution that is uniquely Houston.