Urban and Metropolitan Governance (U&MG) 

The Urban and Metropolitan Governance (U&MG) Program will conduct research on emerging governance issues, convene stakeholders in the region to discuss this research, and then work to implement the most promising solutions. Although more specialized topics may later be advanced in other ways, the program will initially lay out a series of framing reports covering governance issues associated with both Harris County and the City of Houston.

There will be some overlap with the Urban Development, Transportation, and Placemaking Program described above. For example, the Rice Village pilot project includes the examination of special district options and other regulatory mechanisms that may help communities assemble the needed political and economic resources to implement solutions. 

U&MG Projects, 2015-2016

"The Houston Pension Question" 

Houston today faces an increasing unfunded liability for its employee pensions that totals at least $3.9 billion, as of 2015, up from $212 million in 1992. If no action is taken, that unfunded liability is expected to continue growing. However, the city has some options, however painful, that can reduce the unfunded liability and restrain its future growth. This report is designed to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the future of Houston's pensions by: 

-Clarifying the specific nature of the challenges affecting each of Houston's three pension systems.
-Putting Houston's pensions in greater budgetary context.
-Comparing and contrasting the position of Houston's pensions to those of other large U.S. cities.
-Identifying potential options for reform and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each of those approaches.
-Highlighting the experience of several large U.S. cities that have pursued strategies to address their pension systems' liabilities.

Ship Channel Framing Reports

(In Progress)

The Houston Ship Channel, despite its economic importance to the City of Houston and larger metropolitan region, is, to many Houstonians, invisible. The channel is geographically removed from much of the city and greater region. Those Houstonians who do not live adjacent to the channel or whose work is not linked to the industries operating there are often unaware of the benefits and risks associated with work and life along the ship channel.

When public attention is drawn to the channel, it often occurs at moments of crises. Oil spills, chemical accidents, and ship collisions, bring the presence of the ship channel to the fore. During these brief glimpses into the operation of the channel, the Port of Houston Authority is often placed at center stage, when in reality the governance of the channel is a complicated matrix of local, regional, state, and federal actors.

Two white papers, with accompanying maps, will help frame the importance of the Houston Ship Channel to the city and demonstrate the complicated nature of its governance.

  • Ship Channel Governance:

This white paper will frame the complicated network of government and non-government entities who have a role in the governance or operations of the Houston Ship Channel.

  • Private vs. Public Ports:

The Houston Ship Channel and the Port of Houston Authority have a unique relationship. The Authority controls a much smaller portion of the active port area than other major Port Authorities in the United States, yet it is often highlighted as the most important actor in the channel's governance.


Regional Governance Projects

(In Development)

The Kinder Institute is currently engaged with a wide variety of city, county, and regional actors to discuss what types of work needs to be done to study potential solutions to a number of issues.

This work could include everything from a look at governance and service provision in unincorporated Harris County to cooperation between regional government entities.