September 17, 2020

Automated License Plate Reader Pilot Project

Criminals beware.  The City of Bellaire will soon be installing automated license plate readers (ALPRs) along major thoroughfares to assist police in apprehending suspects and solving crimes.  Funded by the Bellaire Police and Fire Foundation as a pilot project, the system will be evaluated over an initial one-year period to determine whether it will be continued in future police department budgets.

August 31, 2020

Hurricane Laura Response Debriefing

To say we really dodged a bullet last week is a colossal understatement.  With 150 mph winds at landfall, Laura is tied for the fifth most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. since 1900, and is the strongest storm on record along its particular track in the Gulf of Mexico.  Our relief at having been spared from great devastation and destruction this time around is matched only by our compassion and support for our neighbors to the east, which was on display this past weekend with several local supply drives and other assistance efforts.

Though it ended up being a nonevent for us, the run-up to Laura was hardly much ado about nothing.  It was a very, very close call.  It was also an opportunity to demonstrate and evaluate our overall disaster preparedness.  The Bellaire emergency management team’s post-incident review gives us at least some idea of what’s involved in a response like this, and shows that we were indeed ready for any potential impacts.

August 24, 2020

Preparing for Tropical Storm Laura

Over the past several days the forecast models for Tropical Storm Laura have seemingly been all over the place, made even more unpredictable by the influence of Hurricane Marco (now downgraded back to a tropical storm).  Today the picture is a bit clearer, and while neither Laura’s path nor intensity are yet certain, experts are telling us we need to be prepared.  Based on what we know now we should anticipate at least moderate impacts, and potentially severe should the storm shift more in our direction and strengthen into a major hurricane, both very much still possibilities.

August 20, 2020

Safely Support Bellaire Restaurants by Dining Out, Outside

In time for (hopefully) cooler weather, Bellaire restaurants now have the option to convert some of their currently underutilized parking spaces to provide additional outdoor seating.  Largely modeled after the City of Houston’s More Space pilot program adopted earlier this month, Bellaire City Council has approved issuing temporary use permits to participating restaurants subject to certain minimum standards and safeguards.  Fees for the temporary permits will be waived.

The intent is to give our restaurants some much-needed relief from the prolonged economic effects of the ongoing pandemic, while allowing residents to begin dining out again, safely.  COVID-19 public health guidelines will apply the same in these expanded outdoor dining areas as they do inside.  There will also be specific requirements for the permitted spaces, such as seating layouts for social distancing, traffic plans, and physical barriers at the perimeter to keep cars separate from people.

Though we don’t know for how long restaurant occupancy restrictions will remain in effect, Council provided this temporary authorization until May 1 of next year.  That’s in recognition of the fact that even after the governor lifts those restrictions many people still won’t feel completely safe in crowded dining rooms.  Plus, it gives restaurant owners added flexibility as they make their plans, including any upfront investments.

Bellaire residents have always valued and supported our local businesses, and this pandemic is no exception.  In fact, it’s now more important than ever that we do so.  We hope this initiative will help our restaurants in their economic recovery and make it easier for residents to Stay Loyal to Local, while also staying safe.

July 30, 2020

Working Smarter, Not Just Harder

Though we were unable to have our pre-budget planning retreat this year as we normally would, from the outset of the process the City Council expressed its expectations and defined some parameters for the development of a proposed budget.  That direction to staff was what you’d expect, particularly given current economic conditions:  No new taxes from existing properties, no reduction in services, and make that happen by continuing to find efficiencies and cost savings.  What staff have come back with not only meets but exceeds those criteria, by cutting taxes rather than simply keeping them flat.

July 24, 2020

Severe Weather During COVID-19

The City of Bellaire is actively monitoring Tropical Storm Hanna, which brings the potential for heavy rainfall and high winds starting later today and continuing through the weekend.  While the forecast track does appear to be shifting further to our south, we’re still expecting plenty of rain as we’ll be on the “dirty” side of the storm.  Street flooding is considered the most likely threat here in our area.

City crews have been busy making our usual severe weather preparations, such as inspecting and clearing out storm sewer inlets, and staging equipment and vehicles at strategic locations for ready deployment.  Emergency operations personnel have been participating in daily briefings and are on standby to activate the Emergency Operations Center if needed.

Importantly, we know we won’t get a free pass on COVID-19 should this turn out to be a significant weather event.  First responders will continue to take all appropriate precautions and will have on hand additional personal protective equipment for anyone who needs it.  Residents are encouraged to help each other out and to check in on their more vulnerable neighbors, while still practicing social distancing and observing the public health guidelines we’ve all by now gotten used to.

Please begin making your own preparations to protect your family and property if you haven’t already.  Solid waste and recycling are being picked up today as usual, but all other loose items should be secured so they don’t end up in the storm drains.  Visit our hurricane preparedness resource page for helpful information, sign up for the City’s Notify Me and PrepareBellaire e-mail and mass notification systems, and stay tuned to local media for the latest updates.

June 29, 2020

Upgraded Threat Level a Step Back for Non-Essential City Services

In response to an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases throughout our area, Judge Hidalgo and the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management have upgraded the current public threat level to Severe (Level 1).  Hospitals have been reported to be at full ICU base capacity, and the numbers of daily cases and hospitalizations are at their highest since the beginning of the pandemic.  Level 1 signifies a “severe and uncontrolled” outbreak, prompting the County to reurge its Stay Home, Work Safe guidelines in an effort to flatten the curve once again.  For his part Governor Abbott has announced a temporary pause in his strategic plan to reopen Texas, and has rolled back some of the activities he’d previously allowed to resume.  Because of this change in circumstances and in keeping with now more restrictive guidance, the City is reverting back to the suspension of certain non-essential services.

June 24, 2020

Transition at the Top as City Manager Accepts New Opportunity

Last night, the Bastrop City Council publicly announced their newly hired city manager, Paul Hofmann.  By all accounts Bastrop is poised to take their city to the next level, with a clearly defined and well-supported vision for its continued growth and future direction.  They specifically sought out, and found in Paul, an experienced and capable administrator to help them implement their vision and make it a reality.  He’ll do great there, and we wish him and the City of Bastrop all the best.

June 8, 2020

Continuous Improvement and Best Practices in Police Use of Force

It’s not often I find myself at a loss for words.  Like so many of our fellow Americans, and people all around the world, as I’ve read the accounts and watched the footage of George Floyd’s final moments I’ve struggled to make sense of it.  How could the excessive and dangerous neck restraint have been allowed to go on for nearly nine minutes, and long past the point Floyd was even capable of resisting?  Knowing how the story ends, it’s particularly painful hearing Floyd’s voice as he begs for his life, handcuffed and motionless, pinned facedown on the ground.

What happened to George Floyd while in the custody of those entrusted and sworn to protect him—and all of us—must not be tolerated anywhere.  At the same time, the repugnant actions of the very few must not be allowed to diminish our respect and gratitude for law enforcement generally.  It behooves officers everywhere to learn from this and other incidents of excessive force, to embrace all efforts for continuous improvement, and to commit to open dialogue and to working together toward regaining the public’s trust.

June 5, 2020

In-Person Public Meetings to Resume, With Precautions

Our local approach from the outset of the COVID-19 crisis has been to follow as closely as possible state and federal public health guidelines, with a bias toward maintaining services where safe and responsible to do so.  As the situation has progressed, we have increasingly relied upon the executive orders of the governor as he implements his strategic plan to reopen Texas.  On Wednesday he announced the start of Phase III, and his accompanying order is much different from previous orders and significantly expands permissible activity, though still subject to health protocols like social distancing.

We’ve been looking forward to returning to in-person City Council meetings, and following this latest order are now preparing do so beginning with our next Regular Session on June 15.  City boards and commissions may soon start meeting in person again as well.  Specific arrangements are still being worked out, but will include capacity limitations to ensure appropriate distancing, plexiglass separators at the dais, and perhaps the use of alternative venues such as the Civic Center for more space.  Everyone present will be asked to wear face coverings in common areas and to avoid close contact with others.

We recognize that some members and attendees may not yet feel comfortable coming to meetings in person, especially those at higher risk who are still strongly encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.  For so long as the governor's temporary Open Meetings Act suspension remains in effect, which allows us to give them the option, we will accommodate their continuing to participate remotely.  We’re still working out those details, as well, but what you can expect is a hybrid meeting of sorts with some in person and some by phone.

This public health emergency is by no means over, and Phase III is not an immediate return to business as usual.  It’s an initial step in that direction, and as restrictions have been relaxed somewhat we’re pleased to be able to make your local government more accessible again, with appropriate safeguards.  We thank you for your patience, and hope to see you in person soon.

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