Wherefore Art Thou, Houston?

HOUSTON – (By Ralph Bivins of Realty News Report) – Is Space City coming back? It could be, if Houston can re-harness the legendary can-do spirit that made the city great. Opportunity awaits Space City, which needs to regain its economic footing in short order.

Did Space City lose its undefeatable attitude and entrepreneurial fire? Maybe Houston’s leadership became obese and kicked back in the La-Z-Boy, satisfied with making a multitude of excuses while Dallas and Austin scored win after win in economic development. Houston failed to make the top 20 list of possible cities in Amazon’s search for its HQ2.

Houston still calls itself Space City and NASA’s Johnson Space Center still operates in Houston’s suburbia.

A year ago, two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, climbed on a SpaceX rocket and blasted off from Cape Canaveral.

It was the first American “manned” launch in almost a decade and it was completed by a partnership of NASA and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has emerged as the key entrepreneurial leader of the world.

The United States, with help from SpaceX, is getting back into human-staffed space launches – and that re-opens a door for Houston.

In 1961, the NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center was established on 1,700 acres in southeast Harris County. Our first astronauts lived nearby.

Astronauts were Houston’s celebrity/heroes in those days – the explorers who ventured off into unknown voids in mysterious parts of the universe. While space travel was the talk of the town, the city built a stadium – the world’s first air-conditioned domed stadium called the Astrodome, Houston staked its claim to title of Space City with the new stadium. Astronaut Gus Grissom, fresh from piloting a Gemini III flight, attended the first Houston Astros baseball game on April 9, 1965.  The Astrodome’s female ushers were called “Spacettes.”

With the new nickname of Space City, Houston had the can-do spirit in those says. Doubters said the Astrodome couldn’t be built. Houston did it. Grass wouldn’t grow in the stadium. So Houston invented Astroturf. Innovation was everywhere.

At NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center – it wasn’t renamed after President Lyndon Johnson until 1973 – Houston’s space heroes worked on the Mercury and Gemini programs. They were motivated.

Visionary Leadership

NASA was busy trying to fulfill the vision articulated by President John F. Kennedy in a speech at Rice Stadium on Sept. 12, 1962. American astronauts, Kennedy said, shall set foot on the Moon before the end of the decade.

Space City supported Kennedy’s goal and NASA put a man on the Moon in 1969. Kennedy’s vision prevailed, even though the assassin robbed us of his physical leadership.

True vision thrives beyond the leader’s life span. An organization, a nation, or a city must have it. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” says the Book of Proverbs.

And you may ask, “Where is Houston now?”

What is our mission? What is the core of the city’s identity?  Does it ring true to our bus drivers, our nurses, and our school teachers?

In the 1960s, Houston knew itself. Houston was Space City. We built Mission Control. Judge Roy Hofheinz built the Astrodome. The Texas Medical Center rumbled. Space City rose from the launchpad with so much power that the whole world was watching.

A Collect Call to Houston’s Next Leader 

Houston needs a new vision. The city needs a new leader. Is there someone who can embrace the entire region in a way that the city responds without the fear that they will be left behind?

Houston has such a leader. I know who it is. But I won’t call you out by name here. So, I am asking you, sir, to step up. Give Houston a sense of direction, a new mission, and a fresh identity.

Houston doesn’t need a manager. Houston doesn’t need a leader who hangs on to the status quo so tightly that blood leaks out of their fingernails.

No fear allowed. The year 2030 is approaching quickly. It’s going to take more than a slogan. Soon, Houston will surpass Chicago to become the nation’s third largest city. Without strong leadership at the controls, Houston could become a train wreck.

Unity must reign. We don’t want to know if the new leadership is a Democrat or a Republican. No presidential endorsements needed and none should be given. Step away from partisan politics. This challenge is beyond politics as usual. Just love and lead the city and its people.

May Houston’s next leader rise up and point the way to the next future.


The Words of Kennedy

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” – President John F. Kennedy at Rice Stadium in Houston, Sept. 12, 1962.


June 16, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021


Commentary by Ralph Bivins, Editor of Realty News Report


Photo Credit: Ralph Bivins, Realty News Report Copyright 2021


Caption: The Sam Houston Monument in Hermann Park. Sculptor Enrico Filiberto Cerrachio, completed in 1924. Commissioned by Women’s Club of Houston. General Sam Houston was the first President of the Republic of Texas.


For more about Texas, check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon  http://tiny.cc/4a2g6y  

Ebook version  https://tinyurl.com/4xm7z8b5  


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