Headlines: Financing Williams Tower Purchase; Proposing a Safe-Passing Law for Houston

Photo of Rockefeller Hall at Washington Ave. and Heights Blvd.: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool

13 Comment

  • The NPR article is one-sided. There are lots of different jobs on a construction site, and some of them are very well paid. A tower crane operator makes about as much as an associate in a law firm. Master plumbers, electricians, IT installers – they’re all skills laborers and making good money. As in any organization, the unskilled laborers make less – but it’s on them to get the skills they need to move up on the pay scale.
    As far as worksite safety. This really depends on whose worksite you’re on. A good general Contractor runs a site that’s clean and safe. In commercial and institutional projects, bonding requirements and the bidding process keep the bad contractors mostly away.

  • Re: Katy hospital…that equates to over $900k per new bed.

  • They can probably get that 900k back in a year or 2.

  • You have to wonder if it may make more sense for Galveston to not take the money. It’d be tough, but Public Housing really led to Galveston’s demise in the 70s and 80s and they are still trying to recover.

  • Perhaps METRO busses will no longer honk me off a 4-lane road? No, that’s asking too much.

  • If I hadn’t self-contracted and used “independent contractors” on my project, I’d have declared bankruptcy and made it the bank’s problem, and Houston would’ve lost one more historic building. Its as simple and straightforward as that.

    Yeah, my workers’ circumstances kind of sucked (I pulled them out of the Harrisburg Mission), but so did mine and they knew that. I can say with a straight face that they were living a better and more fulfilling life than I was; not in material terms, but in terms of the economic utility of their compensation relative to the burden of employment.

  • Unfortunately, Crag, they can’t just say “no thanks” to the money. There’s too much at stake, and even if there weren’t – HUD would take them to court to try to force public housing on the island. (And make no mistake, the General Land Office is doing HUD’s bidding on this).
    HUD has gone to war with cities and towns instead of helping them build better, more livable, more diverse communities. I’s not just Galveston. Westchester County New York and St. Bernard Parish Louisiana have also fallen prey. (Interestingly, in Westchester County, HUD is arguing for the opposite of what they want in Galveston). It’s enough to make me want to rip my hair out.

  • @ Craig, you are exactly right

  • Niche, you say they’re living a better life due to the economic utility of their compensation relative to the burden of employment.

    Exactly which part of their compensation were they able to utilize for standard healthcare and retirement funding to ensure they don’t become a future burden on the state due to said employment?

  • and ZAW, there may be many construction jobs that are well paid, but none are very well paid (ie. six-figure plus) outside of management. regarding working up the pay scale, i’d bet that the average tower crane operator has more certifications and on the job training than any average law associate has, though i’m sure law associates are provided much better job benefits with health care and retirement funding to compensate for the cost of their education.

    can’t say i’ve put much time into the general contracting industry but regarding worksite safety i doubt many of them perform hazard risk analysis with their clients, continually track incident and leading indicators and regularly employ TOPSET investigations for lost-time injuries. not that all of this is required relative to the hazards of some of this work, but exactly how you define the safety record of an industry without these data is beyond me…..especially considering the vast amounts of anecdotal references both in person and on the internet that speak to the opposite.

  • @ joel – I’m sure you already know this, but how much time/effort/money is put into the risk management tools you’re referring to is, in my experience, almost entirely a factor of just where in the general contracting food chain a particular outfit may be. The practices (or lack thereof) at a typical SFD jobsite would probably cause the construction manager for one of the better run channel industries or a high rise builder to go off the deep end. See some of the metal stud comments for some examples.

  • As a contractor who does both commercial and residential projects, I can tell you that the worker pay is dictated by the buyer, as is the safety, and as is everything. I can’t advertise that I pay my subs more, that I have a safer work environment, and that I’m more fair than my competitors, so YOU should pay more for my product. Especially if it is essentially the same product. I think I do pay my guys more, and I do have a safer work site, but I still cringe at some of the things that go on and I wish 5 guys didn’t have to live together to make a living. I just make less than my competitors and sleep better at night. If people were REALLY concerned about that we would have union laws like New York and California, and we would regulate the safety aspect more heavily.

  • @ joel: Oh, cry my a river! My American laborers were burdens on the state to begin with.

    Hell, they might not even live long enough to claim any benefits; one of them, who had become sort of a foreman, became a missing person within a few months of construction winding down. The circumstances were really fishy, too. But between the start and the end of it, by working for me, he was able to pull himself up out of the mission, have his own housing and his own basic stuff. For a brief time, he had dignity, hope, and income; I had despair, worry, obligation, and no money. There were many days that I’d be working right alongside him (to save the expense of another day laborer, because yeah you think I’m some arrogant entitled bourgeois prick, right?) and thinking to myself how much I envy his position in life, that he was laboring for weekly compensation, beer money, and I was (at that time) unemployable and a slave to the bank, working for the idea that maybe I could put off bankruptcy just…barely…long enough to find a job and arrange to pay my debts.

    Well sir, I accomplished that. My debts are paid, my property is sold, the bank’s balance sheet is stronger, and finally free of my bank obligations, I am nobody’s indentured servant. But I took the lessons learned to heart, sold everything I had, and moved to a third-world country to live among the “global poor” (and to pirate their high speed wifi, apparently). I’m happier now on a shoestring budget than I had been attempting to live up to a self-imposed fiction of success.

    I have no human rights or entitlements here, I have no lucrative job, I can’t speak the language. And yet I feel free and normal and human. If I died tomorrow, I’d die happy.

    So yeah, I stand by what I said previously regarding the utility of compensation. I’m living the dream.

    From where I’m standing, your notions of fairness seem so…contrived and hollow.