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Houston: Guide to Power

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Who are the groups and agencies who hold power in Houston? Who predicts the future of the city, and who plans the present?

Houston’s vast and bewildering array of public and private partnerships can make understanding the city difficult. Here, we attempt to discern the broad outlines of networks of power and influence in Houston. This is by no means a comprehensive map of organizations, only a draft that will hopefully evolve and develop over time.

But what this map makes clear is that many organizations exist toward essentially the same purpose, and that stronger or more numerous connections could be formed. It’s worth asking whether a lack of connectivity creates a Balkanized condition of fragmented efforts.

To make matters worse, the City's decades old official "hands off" policy causes many projects to be built without regard to actual existing conditions—allowing an owner to build whatever they think is the best and highest use of their property. The vacuum created by selective or no planning allows for myriad non-profit and public/private partnerships to resolve planning issues. In theory, this sounds like freedom, but is it?

A disclaimer: the graphics here are based only on publicly available information and may not reflect very real, but perhaps hidden, connections between organizations. All of the information gathered here is readily available in the public record: partnerships and collaborations listed on websites and promotional materials. Many other channels of power exist—both direct and indirect, public and hidden.

In addition, this guide does not attempt to be a comprehensive list of every public, private, and non-profit organization operating in Houston. For instance, we did not map foundations, simply because they are too numerous and diverse in their missions. Likewise, we didn’t examine health care, social services, or private/for-profit companies. Many housing and urban development and arts organizations were left off. And we may have inadvertently left off key organizations that should be represented. For that, we apologize in advance. Future iterations and future guides will hopefully contain a complete map of these organizations.

GRAPHICS & TEXT: Matt Johnson

CONCEPT: Matt Johnson, Monica Savino, Susan Rogers