Mayor Turner, organizations provide 3K people with food and water

"I know we've faced one challenge after another, but I would not trade this city for any other city on the face of the earth," Turner said.

Video Transcript

SYLVESTER TURNER: The massive distribution. It's water, it's food, it's cleaning supplies. And I want to thank a number of people. This is a-- we have partnered with NA-- the National Association of Christian Churches and ACC. Pastor Ortega and his entire group.

And where is General Diaz? That's general-- that's General Diaz right there with NACC. General Diaz called me yesterday morning and said, look, we've got-- we've got enough supplies and food available to meet the needs of about 3,000 people. And Mayor, how can we get it done?

And so I want to thank-- I want to thank the National Association of Christian Churches, NACC, Pastor Ortega, General Diaz. And then he said, I want to partner-- was partnering with a number with the Teamsters. And so there are a number of people that specifically I want to thank. In addition to NACC, and Pastor Ortega and General Diaz, I want to thank the Teamsters Local union 988. The principal officer is Robert [? Maley. ?]


And let me just stop in there. I go back to Hurricane Harvey, the Teamsters were front and center. And so, I can't say enough for the Teamsters. They pretty much staffed the warehouse that we had during Hurricane Harvey. Now we find ourselves recovering from this winter storm. So Robert, thank you so very much, and all of the Teamsters.

I want to thank Teamsters Local Union 919. The business agent is Mike Silver. Teamsters Local Union 19, the principal officers is Robert Clever. Teamsters Local Union 19, and then the AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. I want to thank him, the AFL-CIO.

I want to thank the Communication Workers Of America, District 6. President Ray Rodriguez. I want to thank Dean [? Corgey, ?] the vise president of the Gulf Coast Seafarers International. And look, we've heard a lot about the plumbers and the need for plumbers.

So let me thank Rick Lord, Plumbers Local 68. And look, and Rick has been with the plumbers a long time. You know, Rick has come-- he has gotten active, and now he's going through the attics, and underneath the houses.

So Rick, thank you so very much. I can't say enough for the plumbers, OK? They have been very active. And then of course, we have a Council Member David Robinson, at large. Council member, thank you for being present. I've got a number of my city directors that are here, that are working to make this happen.

So give it up to all of our city workers. And then, where's Roy [? Gillipsi ?] of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters? Roy, come on, Roy. This guy, Roy, I cannot say thank you enough.

Over, and over, and over again the Teamsters have just stepped up. Thank you so very much, appreciate you. Neighbor, I mean, we've got we come from the same hood.

But Roy, thank you. I really appreciate the support that we've gotten. Over 3,000 people can be served up to today. All of the municipal workers, the staffers, police officers, all the-- there are over 100 volunteers. I want to thank them.

And then Commissioner Rodney Ellis and his staff. I want to thank Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and the volunteers like Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. My Alpha brothers, I certainly want to thank them for being present. The recognition is-- I mean, the realization that we are now in the recovery phase.

I mean, the winter storm is now over, gone. But at the same time, we are still dealing with people whose lives have been substantially, significantly disrupted because of the winter storm. So even though the power is on, the water pressure is normalized, the reality is that there are literally thousands of homes, including apartments, that have been affected because of busted pipes, and they still don't have water. And are still tremendous needs.

Even as this event is taking place, there are other city employees, council member Tarsha Jackson and others, who are not this far away at an apartment complex where there is no water because of the busted water pipes. And I'm trying to get over there as well. But we are all over the city, all over the city today.

It will not, could not happen without the volunteers, the spirit of Houstonians again stepping up. And look, I know we face one challenge after another. But I would not trade this city for any city on the face of the Earth.

OK? And the reality is, I wish we could control the weather, but that's not within our power. But how we respond to it says a lot for our city. And we are responding in a very positive way, because we are coming together as a group, and that's labor, businesses, volunteers, government workers all coming together to make it happen.

So again, I want to thank each and every one of you for making that happen. At this point, I'll stop and take whatever questions anyone has?

- Mr. Mayor, tell me a little bit about the effort that went into getting all of these groups together, making sure all this got together. And I know that putting together the individual meal kits, water, pillows, cups, that's not easy. And it's happening all around the city.

SYLVESTER TURNER: No, it's not easy. General Diaz, why don't you come forward. This guy called me yesterday morning on this event, so look. General Diaz, explain.

DAVID DIAZ: We had less than 24 hours. We were able to put together a massive distribution event. I called the mayor and I asked the mayor for some help. And I said we need your help.

We need you to make some calls and let's put together something massive for the city, because there's a lot of recovery still to be done. So I said, I have 3,000 to 5,000 units of water, meal kits. We have blankets. We have pillows. We have a lot of other good stuff that we're giving people so they can feel a little bit, you know, better.

At ease, right? I mean, they're not going to be fully satisfied yet until they get everything done in their homes. But at least we could put them at ease. But the mayor stepped right up. He hit-- batted a home run once again. And we did this in less than 24 hours.

The lines are thousands and thousands of cars, all the way back up to Greens Road. And I thank everybody. This is not a one association or one organization effort. This is a community effort, and this is a partnership. And I thank you mayor, 100%, for coming up to the plate and betting that 100% home run, slam-- slam dunk-- grand slam. Hallelujah, thank you.

- Could we get-- can I get your name first real quick and how do you spell it.

DAVID DIAZ: My name is David Diaz Kaplan, and I'm called the general, General Diaz of NACC.

- All right.

- I execute it. We get it done.

SYLVESTER TURNER: But let me take this opportunity to really brag on labor. I have to brag on the working men and working women in this city. This type of effort has been replicated all over the city. The plumbers, the plumbers union, literally they are all over the city helping people that don't have the means.

I can't say enough for the plumbers union in this city. Can't say enough for the teamsters in this city. Can't say enough for AFL-CIO, the Seafarers, the Communication Workers of America. This city is a city built on the backs of working men and working women. And let me tell you, when your back's up against the wall and you don't have the means, you can count on working men and working women to make that happen.

I am so proud of labor and what you all are doing. So thank you all so very, very much. My solid waste workers, Carolyn Wright. Well, my solid waste workers. So we have people who are picking up recyclables and trash Monday through Saturday, and then on Sunday they're out here having to volunteer. So I can't say enough for them as well.

- Mayor, do you have a number of how many people are still without water here in the city you?

SYLVESTER TURNER: I would venture to say it is still by the thousands, but our vast Public Works to do is to kind of look at our system to determine where the water is not flowing into people's homes or in people's apartments. We think we are able to make that determination.

We need that anyway for the FEMA aid that we are going to be receiving, to kind of get a sense of the extent of the damages. But I think we are still talking about, in this city, I think you're talking about probably into the tens of thousands, that people with busted water pipes, and literally or in their homes are in their apartments. The apartment that's right down the street, Janice can you recall the name of the apartment that we were at today?

The name of the mother-- the apartment where we were? Stirlingshire. For example, like Stirlingshire Apartments of of Mason Road. Another group is over there literally carrying water and supplies to people apartment units. They don't have water at all.

And it's because of the pipes that have burst. I do want-- I don't want to leave out my pastors and the faith-based community. Pastor Broussard, Pastor Decker. I want to thank them, Pastor Bishop Dixon. I want to-- Pastor Lewis.

Pastor Lewis. Because I do-- this is a collective effort when you combine labor and the faith-based community, you will meet a whole lot of needs. So I want to thank all of these pastors, and all of these faith-based leaders for really stepping up to make it happen.

- Mayor, do you know exactly why? I know it's just overwhelming-- why it's taking so long to get some of these full communities reconnected to water?

SYLVESTER TURNER: Well one of the reasons is that we're needing-- plumbers are being stretched thin. Licensed plumbers, let me just say this. Because not everybody can do this work, so you really need licensed plumbers. And then there's a shortage of materials and supplies.

We've made that request on FEMA for more materials and supplies. And the need is so overwhelming. So it's one thing if you're saying-- one section of town. And like Harvey, let me put it this way-- licensed plumbers, materials, and supplies are literally needed all over the state of Texas.

So it's not like you can pull from Austin, or pull from San Antonio. I was just on the phone call this morning with Mayor Adler out of Austin and Mayor Ron Nirenberg out of San Antonio. We're all facing some of the same issues. So because there are so many pipes that have burst, literally people are still without water, and that includes single-family homes as well as apartment-- apartments themselves.

- Mayor, let me switch over just real quick to COVID, and how the site is going now. With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine receiving its ability to be distributed now, how will this impact the vaccine distribution here in Houston?

SYLVESTER TURNER: Well, J&J with that being approved by the FDA, that will be a game changer as well. Because there will be more vaccines available in a shorter period of time. We anticipate that probably we will be getting a shipment in sometime this week.

That will add to Pfizer that we are using at NRG. Because at NRG, the Pfizer vaccine is being given there. At our other clinics in the city of Houston, we're using Moderna. With the J&J vaccine coming, it could be kept at regular temperatures, you only need one shot.

It is still highly effective. That will add to our numbers and we'll be able to increase the number of people that are getting the vaccine. So more people will be getting the vaccine much sooner than was previously anticipated.

- Do you know how soon we'll be getting it here, and how many doses the city will receive?

SYLVESTER TURNER: I don't know how many doses, but I'm expecting that we will probably be getting some-- some quantity probably before the week is out. That would be my best guess.

- We heard of some people, very few, having reactions to the vaccine, especially sometimes second shot. Is there a place people can report that that you know of?

SYLVESTER TURNER: If you have any sort of reaction to your vaccine, beyond for example a slight headache, slight discomfort, maybe some slight chills. All of those things would dissipate probably within 24 to 48 hours. If you have a more serious reaction, please don't hesitate to report that to the city of Houston Health Department. We would love to keep that and track that. So if there is a more serious reaction, please report it to the city of Houston health Department.

- Does the FEMA allocation for the 6,000 vaccines received daily there, does that pull from the county-- or does that pull from allocations to the local health department and clinics at all?

SYLVESTER TURNER: No. That is in addition to, OK? So that sixth-- up to 6,000 at the FEMA website at NRG. That is in addition to the regular allotment that we have been receiving in the city of Houston. So that is why we are anticipating that we will be able to do-- would be able to double our efforts, OK? Starting-- starting last week, and then with the J&J vaccine coming, we ought to be able to add to that as well.

- Right. Bayou City is ramping up, had another 1,000 that they could add there. And then you also have the sixth-- how is how is the entire process working here in the city? I mean, are we getting better as we go?

SYLVESTER TURNER: We have learned quite a bit. On the NRG-FEMA site, those vaccines will go directly to that particular site. And that's the phase Pfizer vaccine. With respect to the state is still shipping-- providing the shipments to the county, to the city, to the hospitals.

And then there's a direct shipment that's going to what we call the federally qualified health clinics, that's from FEMA. They are going directly to those federal qualified health clinics. And then you've got a direct shipment that's going on to your pharmacies as well. So there are multiple locations where you can sign up to get this vaccine.

The pharmacies, the federally qualified health clinics, city of Houston Health Department, the Harris County Health Department, and of course, the FEMA site. And on the FEMA site, we are pulling from the county's list as well as from the city's wait list for the FEMA site.

- And sometimes we forget when we go through an ice storm, or a hurricane, or something, that we've been in a pandemic now for almost a year. Could you talk to you a little bit about the people standing behind you, and the efforts they put together? Not just for what happened last week, but because we are in the middle of a pandemic, and how that makes it a little more difficult, and maybe a little more special for what they're doing?

SYLVESTER TURNER: The pandemic has complicated-- has complicated everything. It has added to our-- it's added to everything else that we are needing to address and to deal with. Bear in mind that there are a lot-- there are many people who are on the margins, because they've had to deal with Harvey.

They've had to deal with the coronavirus, and now they're having to deal with the impact of the winter storm. But for all of these individuals and organizations coming together, the city of Houston by itself could not meet those needs. So I can't say enough, thank the faith-based community enough, churches, members of these churches, non-faith-based institutions.

I cannot thank enough labor, all of these different groups coming together to make it happen. Boots on the ground, providing the necessary supplies, the meals. Can't-- I cannot thank our volunteers enough, different organizations pulling together. The business community have joined in.

You know, the relief program that we put together for the city of Houston and Harris County. They have already started providing dollars from that relief fund to assist people already. And so we are pushing them along as much as possible. But look, we've faced in this city many challenges.

Most of them and not because of our own doing. It's out of our control. But the reality is, no matter how many challenges we face, the city of Houston is still standing tall. We're still strong, and we're still moving forward. And so I'm very proud of that.

I know I've been on some calls from people from outside. And they have said, mayor, I tell you, your city has gone through quite a bit. And I said, yeah. The reality is, God sends his-- he gives his hardest exams to his best students. Houston is a darn good student.

And I'm proud of the fact that no matter what comes our way, we will deal with it, we'll stand tall. We'll build stronger. We'll prepare better, and we will move forward. But the point that I do want to emphasize, and this goes to what happened during two weeks ago with the winter storm.

I am concerned about the calls that will flow to customers if the state of Texas and the Legislature doesn't get it right. Because this last-- two weeks ago, that was a multibillion-dollar storm. And the question is who will pay the ultimate cost?

Will those bills, for example, that your power generators are going to be charging ERCOT, will those-- the cost of that be flow to your transmission and distribution companies, and then ultimately to your retail electric providers, and then ultimately to the ratepayers themselves? That question still needs to be determined.

And what those calls will exactly be, or whether or not the state of Texas-- because what happened two weeks ago was foreseeable and preventable, whether or not the state of Texas will assume those added costs. I was just on the phone with a mayors of Austin and San Antonio. And in San Antonio, for example, their city is looking at probably more than a billion dollars costs. And the question is, who will be responsible for paying those added costs?

And so there needs to be-- as we focus on who's to blame, people need to realize the costs are going to be coming into the system. And the question is who will pay the ultimate cost? Ratepayers, customers, should not be left to pay these exorbitant costs by a storm that was foreseeable and preventable.

The state of Texas ought to assume those costs. So that-- I don't want to lose sight of that, because that's very important as we move forward. And no one should just place the blame just on ERCOT, the Public Utility Commission has a large role to play, and so does the leadership of the state of Texas.

And that's-- that's the big issue that's remaining, who will be paying the tab for what happened two weeks ago? And if we are not careful a month from now, two months from now, those bills will be coming through. And the question is, will they land in the mailbox of consumers having to pay that exorbitant cost that should not take place? And while the Legislature is in session, they need to make very, very clear who will be assuming the cause of that catastrophe, that system-wide, statewide failure that took place two weeks ago. Robert, before we leave. Please come. Come share [INAUDIBLE].

ROBERT NELE: So I am from the Teamsters, but I'd like to speak on behalf of all of organized labor. I saw one of your questions was about COVID. I want to make it absolutely clear that organized labor, almost entirely whether you're public services or private services and organized labor, we are considered essential workers. We have been working from the very beginning of this pandemic.

We have been delivering your food. We have been the police officers, the firefighters, the plumbers, the seafarers. We're the ones-- when people couldn't get out of their homes, we're the ones that delivered packages to your house because that's how you were able to get your stuff. I'm so proud of all organized labor that have stood firm throughout the pandemic.

Thank you. But I'd like to go one step farther. We formed a coalition back when Harvey was here. It was by necessity. It was not only organized labor, but again, like the mayor said, the faith-based organizations.

We formed a strong bond with the National Association of Christian Churches, organized labor in the city, who we have one of the best mayors capable of when there is a catastrophe, that he gets us all together. He makes sure that we're all together. And it's for the citizens of Houston.

So I think it's important that we acknowledge that the leadership of the mayor, also the faith-based organizations. They help us tremendously. The Teamsters were the first ones in this catastrophe to actually talk about bringing in supplies. We started over a week ago with trucks from all over the United States, Teamster trucks, bringing in supplies just to make sure that our city had the services and the needs that they needed.

I'd like to say thank you. Thank you, mayor.

- Say your name?

ROBERT NELE: Say that again? It's Robert Nele. I'm the president of Joint Council of 58 of the Teamsters Union and Teamsters Local 988.

SYLVESTER TURNER: And if you will, before we break away, because this storm relied so heavily on plumbers, I mean this is one of those-- I mean, that's the specialty that we're leading. Rick, you want to come and say something on the plumbers?

- My name's Rick Lord. I'm a business agent with the plumbers local. And like the mayor said in his speech, one of the issues that we're having, we have manpower. And a lot of people are working.

But we're having problems with materials. When you look at it, all these homes that have broken pipes, all homes are built with half-inch and 3/4 pipes, whether it's picked, galvanized, it doesn't matter. It's all the same size.

And so right now you, have an overrun of people needing the same materials. And in fact, my international went out and bought a bunch of materials and had it shipped in from Kansas City to Dallas, and I went and picked it up on Wednesday.

All the stuff we picked up on Wednesday, three truckloads of stuff, is gone already. And just right now, at this point it's overwhelming. And without leadership and a plan like the mayor set in place, these things don't work.

And what we do appreciate, what Robert Mele has established, and with the NACC, you have to have an organization. You have to have a base. And with the faith based and labor going in one direction, I think we'll get things back on track. But it's going to take time.

And most of the people in Houston we've been able to call them, and at least tell them when someone can come by. It's unnerving to know that your house has been torn up by water, and you don't have water to provide for your family. So just-- at least having a lot of communication. But we have not been able to get to everybody.


- Well, I'm going to go back to the material issue. Even the larger contractors, the big guys, they don't have any material. They can't get material. So until we get assistance from some other organizations to ship it in from other areas, there is nothing to be had.

And I kind of tell everybody a story of when I went to a hardware store on Wednesday during the freeze, it looked like a Black Friday on steroids on the plumbing aisle. It's just everybody needs the same thing. And with that issue, we just have to get with people like the mayor, and get us help to supply stuff from other parts of the nation.

There is nothing in Texas. There is nothing in Louisiana. And you know, so it is going outward and trying to get what we can, where we can. And I go back to my organization. They spent almost a half million on materials, and it's already gone since Wednesday. And it's just overwhelming, the need for certain materials. And that's the issue, because all houses are built to the same standard, basically. And that's-- it's just so many homes that have busted pipes.

But I do want to say one thing on the COVID issue. We always kind of have our barometer is our members. Our members come by and tell us what they think about things, and we listen to them. And we get back with the officials about those, and the plan that the mayor has put in, that super center, the COVID center.

I've heard people report to me that they were in line for 30 minutes, and it really is nice to say that they got their shot. They went through a process. It was just unbelievably friendly, and so smooth. And I just got to commend you on how well that super center is working. Thank you, mayor.

SYLVESTER TURNER: Now, did I miss anybody? Dean. Dean Corgey who also says as one of the port commissioners as well. Dean Corgey. And I see Councilman Robinson from the Urban League.

DEAN CORGEY: As most of us know, the city of Houston was founded on maritime commerce. And it continues until today. And maritime commerce is what gets us out of all these pandemics and natural disasters. And I can tell you, the first link in the supply chain is the port.

And thanks to the mayor, I have the honor of serving on the port. And we have kept that supply chain moving. In fact, we've ramped it up, mayor. And we're moving more cargo down there than we ever have.

And we're going to continue to do that. And everybody working together is truly a thing of inspiration to me. And today, I'm so excited-- what I'm seeing today. Faith, labor, just everybody. Government, everybody working together. But I can tell you, mayor.

The port is going to be there. And we're going to continue. And my members, they've been out there in rough seas, and ice over conditions. We're going to continue to get that cargo to the dock. Thank you.


DEAN CORGEY: Dean Corgey. C-O-R-G-E-Y. I'm with the Seafarers International Union. Thank you.

SYLVESTER TURNER: All right. And then Carolyn, you want to give a report? Because people are still going to be putting stuff out, trash debris out. You want to tell them what they need to do?

CAROLYN WRIGHT: Thank you, mayor. Good afternoon, I'm Carolyn Wright at the Solid Waste Department. Just want to remind our homeowners, as soon as you make your repairs and you place your debris out on the curb for collection, please call 311. They're prepared to take your call. Let them know that it is storm debris.

It is not the same collection as you would with your junk waste collection. But it is storm debris. They're prepared to take the call. We know that many have not called in, and we're prepared to come and remove your debris.

So we just want to remind everyone, again, call 311 and make sure that you report storm debris, your request to have you storm debris collected. And Solid Waste will prepare to remove your debris as quickly as we possibly can.

- You have to call?

CAROLYN WRIGHT: You need the car to get it removed, because this storm is unlike the other past storms. It's not city wide. It's isolated to individual homes, and so the only way that we would know that there's a need for your debris to be removed, you need to call 311 and report it. That's the only way we would know. Thank you.

SYLVESTER TURNER: All right. Let me thank Janice Weaver. While she's coming, Susan Christian, special events. You know, all of my directors. You want to--

JANICE WEAVER: On behalf of the HER task force, which is Help Equity Response, when the mayor actually called at 9:45 yesterday and said call General Diaz, I said, OK. This day is over with. So I want to thank all the labor leaders.

Y'all give yourselves a hand. And oh my God, all the volunteers that have come out. Many, many volunteers. So we just want to say, as Director Wright just said, call 311. We're servicing you as quickly as we can.

And again, thank you to our hosts here. The most-- the fourth largest city of the United States of America, mayor Sylvester Turner, who knows how to do it. Yes.

SYLVESTER TURNER: Oh your. Your name.

JANICE WEAVER: Actually, they call me Queen Balls, but it's-- that's good. It's Janice Weaver, W-E-A-V-E-R.

SYLVESTER TURNER: Let me thank HPD. Let me thank HPD. I appreciate all of that. When you have all these cars, and as you can see the cars. The cars just keep coming in, let we thank them. Let me thank Justin Robinson and the Houston Area Urban League.

I can't say enough for them. Appreciate that. And again, let me give a special shout out to all of our ministers, Bishop Dixon, Pastor Broussard, Pastor Decker, all of our ministers. And having said that, I think that to wrap this up. OK? Appreciate it.