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Houston leaders, citizens honor quality of life catalysts

2014 Catalyst Awards recap

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Houston leaders and citizens from across the region gathered on the evening of October 1st to celebrate the 2014 Houston Tomorrow Catalyst Awards and honor the awardees whose efforts are helping to improve the quality of life for all Houstonians across the region. Held at CenterPoint Energy Plaza in Downtown Houston, this year’s awards gala celebrated Emeritus honoree Eleanor Tinsley, former Houston City Council Member and community activist. Over 200 people gathered to remember and honor Tinsley and her many accomplishments as an elected official, as well as the accomplishments of 14 other category finalists.

Tinsley began her public service career as an advocate for education, including as a leader on the Houston Independent School Board (HISD) where she fought for the integration of HISD as well as the creation of magnet schools and Houston Community College. She was the first elected female at-large Houston City Council Member (and the second female ever elected to Houston City Council), where she was instrumental in policies including the first development ordinance, the smoking ordinance, gender equality, and GLBT rights. Tinsley was also a staunch advocate for scenic beauty and the environment, supporting policies such as billboard controls, the tree and shrub ordinance, and parks on school grounds. The Houston Chronicle described her as “a force for dragging Houston into modern times with her focus on ‘quality of life’ issues.”

“Eleanor Tinsley anticipated our tomorrows and Houston is a better, grander place for her service to it,” said Council Member Ellen Cohen. “She was indeed a Catalyst for civic change.”

Tinsley’s daughter Kathleen Ownby accepted the Emeritus award on behalf of her family.

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More event photos here

Stephen Klineberg was announced as the award recipient in the Excellence category, given to the nominee best judged to be a long-term champion of quality of life who is now a recognized provocateur. Dr. Klineberg, of Rice University and the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, has led the annual Houston Area Survey since it was started in 1982. The survey has tracked the changing patterns, life experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of Houstonians across the region over the last three decades. His work has helped to show that “quality of life is crucial to Houston’s future,” as he often says. Houstonians are becoming more interested in living in communities within walking distance to neighborhood amenities and are becoming less interested in commuting everywhere by car. Through Dr. Klineberg’s tireless efforts, we have a better idea of the direction Houstonians desire the region to move toward.

Other Excellence category nominees were Bob Eury, President of Central Houston Inc.; Felix Fraga, former Houston City Council Member and Vice President of External Relations for Neighborhood Centers Inc.; and Bob Randall, founding Executive Director of Urban Harvest.

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Keiji Asakura was announced as the Engaged category winner, which is awarded to the nominee best judged to be a thought leader who has a clear change agenda. Asakura, principal of Asakura Robinson, has served as a landscape architect and community planner dedicated to community service in Houston for over 30 years. His work has included partnering with the Houston Public Works and Engineering Department to develop the Adopt-a-Ditch program and update the Adopt-an-Esplanade program, both programs designed to improve water quality in Houston. Asakura has worked tirelessly to promote environmental justice, including reaching out to underserved neighborhoods through programs such as LISC’s Go-Neighborhood program, Texas A&M’s Coastal Citizen Planner program, and USGBC Galveston’s Hurricane Ike Recovery Initiative. He currently serves on the City of Houston Planning Commission, where he works to promote safe and smart urbanism in the city.

The three other Engaged category nominees were community activist Dr. Teddy McDavid of Southeast Houston’s Old Spanish Trail Community Partnership; Anne Olson, President of Buffalo Bayou Partnership; and Christof Spieler, Vice President of Morris Architects and board member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO).

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Carra Moroni was voted as the category winner in the Evolving category, given to the nominee best judged to be new on the scene and shaking things up. Moroni manages chronic disease prevention initiatives for the City of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services. In that role, she brings together diverse stakeholders to shift their attitudes and thinking about improving health outcomes while also leading efforts to make Houston a more livable, healthy, and sustainable city. Moroni has been involved with many City programs, including Sunday Streets HTX, the Houston Healthy Corner Store Network, and the Go Healthy Houston/Houston Restaurants Week partnership. She has also been involved with the Houston Food Policy Workgroup, a coalition hosted by Houston Tomorrow which is dedicated to nurturing the growth of a sustainable local food system that is accessible to all.

The other finalists in the Evolving category were Amanda Edwards, local attorney and President of Project Row Houses; Lisa Helfman, Founder of Brighter Bites and Harris County Healthy Living Matters Collaborative Member; and Michael Payne, Executive Director of BikeHouston.

Awards were also given to the winners of the high school and college video and essay competitions. Solomon Conner II from Dawson High School (see winning video here) and Justin Raine from Rice University (see winning video here) took home the honors in each category, respectively.

The Houston Tomorrow Catalyst Awards is the largest annual fundraiser to support the work Houston Tomorrow does to make the Houston region the home of the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous people in the United States by Houston’s 200th birthday in 2036.

If you wish to partner with Houston Tomorrow by supporting the organization’s work to improve the quality of life in the Houston region or if you wish to honor the work of one or more of the 2014 Catalyst Awards nominees, donations are accepted here.

More event photos here

Photos: Slyworks Photography

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