Overheard in the File Room

Posted on February 27, 2023

File room with a narrow walkway between tall shelf units filled with file-filled boxes.

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What I’m Listening to: Maggie Rogers’ Surrender

What I’m Reading: Just finished Remarkably Bright Creatures followed by Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives.

What I’m Watching: Maggie Rogers play live at the 713 Music Hall in Houston, TX


When I visited my hometown of Houston, TX for the weekend, my Dad shared a piece called “Overheard in the Gallery” from INSIGHT magazine. “In this series, we listen in on the conversations between artworks in the museum and transcribe what they say to each other when they think no one is around.” I began to wonder, what might all of those grand plans at City Hall say to each other?


Housing Master Plan (HMP): Oh, hi! I didn’t know you were here. Hard to see in the dark. Name is Housing Master Plan, but you can call me ‘HMP’ for short. Which is, ironically, the sound that some people make when they see me, hmmmmph.

Regional Transportation Plan (RTP): Hello! I sure have read a lot about you – er, rather other versions of you – although I don’t hear about you as much these days. How is it going?

HMP: Honestly, I’ve been better. 

RTP: Do go on.

HMP: Well, if you must know, it seems I have been shelved again. Was it something I said?

RTP: No, HMP, it was the poor font choice. Yes, of course, it was something you said.

HMP: What? About addressing diverse housing needs? Investing in the community? Establishing multigenerational wealth? Identifying new funding streams? The importance of working together and collaboration? Ensuring people have a safe place to live, work, and play?

RTP: And the pesky zeroes. They can make people a bit fussy.

HMP: What do you know about zeroes?

RTP: Oh, nothing. Just that when you add an extra few and suddenly it goes from “million” to “billion,” people seem to have opinions. BIG DEAL. That and the term “long-range planning.” Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.

HMP: What’s your strategy?

RTP: Strategy? Strategies. There are 47 of them.

HMP: 47?! There’s your problem. It didn’t end in an even number.

RTP: Right, that must be it. Not the proposed action of removing parking spaces, expanding bike infrastructure, additional transit stops which will certainly bring in “those people” or the threat of orange cones for an undefined time. Not to mention the perceived list of “indirect effects.” Nobody ever wants to look at the good stuff: increased mobility, cyclist and pedestrian safety, addressing climate change.

HMP: Seriously though. 47?

RTP: Okay, okay. So maybe they were a bit optimistic. Gotta hand it to the staff though. They keep trying, again and again, despite the ever-changing tides of local government.

HMP: Perhaps we could all use a little more optimism.

RTP: HMP, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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