September 25, 2018

National Night Out:  100 Years of Service

The events of a year ago brought us closer together than ever before, neighbors helping neighbors get through the worst of the storm and on into the recovery.  For many, it was their first time really getting to know the people down the street or even right next door.  Our first responders and other Bellaire Brave were out in force, in many instances working alongside civilian volunteers, further cementing their relationships with the community they serve.

Next Tuesday, October 2, is National Night Out, a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with those neighbors and emergency personnel.  Block parties throughout the City not only build friendships and enhance our sense of community, they also promote public safety awareness and law enforcement partnership.  Block leaders are encouraged to sign up to have a police car, fire truck or ambulance come by—always a big hit with the kids!

National Night Out takes on special meaning this year, both after Harvey and as we celebrate the Bellaire Police Department’s centennial with the theme “100 Years of Service.”  Officers will be on hand to discuss upcoming commemorative events and to solicit suggestions for items to be placed in the Department’s time capsule, which will be sealed and incorporated in the new Police Station in July.

For more information and to organize a National Night Out block party on your block, please contact BPD Community Resource Officer J.W. Edwards at (713) 662-8103 or jedwards@bellairepolice.com.

September 20, 2018

A Game Plan for Sidewalk Decision Making

It seems the perpetually intractable issue of sidewalks has surfaced yet again, igniting an intense but respectful debate among neighbors equally passionate for and against.  Monday night I addressed City Council and the public, not for the purpose of taking sides, but to openly acknowledge that our decision making process is not working for us as a community and to urge that we take a step back and reboot.

For as long as the answers have eluded us, in my observation we’ve not actually been asking the right—and hardest—questions.  Our decision making should start with those, and lead to the development of a plan that’s deliberately inclusive of a variety of viewpoints.  We’ll never get anywhere if we don’t attempt to find common ground and build consensus, and yes, that will take time.  Moreover, many people, on both sides, feel it’s not our highest priority right now and that our time and current resources are better spent on other, more pressing matters.

August 27, 2018

One Year Later:  Bellaire is Still Bellaire

As we pause to reflect on the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, we remember the devastating, life-changing personal losses; heroic, life-saving rescues, by first responders and civilians alike; the kindness and generosity of others far and wide; and a community that came together like we’ve never before seen.  Each of us has our own individual story to tell, and collectively we look back on our shared experiences both during and after the storm.  Taking stock of how far we’ve come in so short a time, through our ongoing recovery and planning for the future we’ve proven Bellaire is still Bellaire.

August 16, 2018

2015 Disaster Grant Application Update

We spend a lot of time and effort disseminating information and communicating with you on issues important to our community, and are constantly looking for ways to improve on that.  (My blog for example, which I thank you for reading and hope you find helpful.)  As difficult as it can already be to reach people who are busy with their own work, family and personal lives, it's unfortunate just how much misinformation there is out there that we have to contend with on a seemingly daily basis.  Social media, never known for robust fact-checking, only exacerbates the problem by perpetuating inaccurate reports rather than living up to its potential as a means of sharing good information with others.

This week, some have expressed concern after hearing that the City of Bellaire has been awarded a quarter-million dollar disaster grant relating to the 2015 flood, but won't actually receive that funding because we haven't applied.  And they'd be right to be concerned—if only it were true.  It's far more complicated than that, and in fact, the City has been actively engaged with county and state officials for months now, working with them to increase our chances.

August 8, 2018

At the End of the Path(ways)

After several months of patiently waiting for the proposed Community Pathways Plan to work its way through the public process, in which there was no shortage of input from all sides even before the Plan was actually presented, the City Council has finally had its opportunity to weigh in.  But not until after one last round of input, and it was a marathon session indeed.  Council heard four hours of public comment plus nearly 140 written comments, not even counting all that had previously been submitted to the planners in the course of the project and to the Parks Board and Planning & Zoning Commission, in addition to numerous individual e-mails to Council and postings on social media.

By the time Council got its turn to speak, after all that, it turned out that the views of the overwhelming majority of those we heard from were already shared by Council.  While it was not agendaed for formal action, Council’s clear consensus was that the Plan not be brought back for a vote, thus concluding the matter.

July 30, 2018

Judge Emmett to Speak About Flood Control Bond Election - Aug. 6, 7:00 pm

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
Flooding is obviously not unique to Bellaire, and we’re not going to solve the problem all on our own.  We’re in this together with the rest of Houston, Harris County and surrounding areas.  The extreme rainfall events that have now become routine show just how dependent we are on regional flood control improvements, and how important it is that we be informed participants at every opportunity.

With the August 25 special election coming up, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett will give a presentation on the bond proposal at our next City Council meeting, August 6, at Bellaire City Hall.  The bond election, which coincides with the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, seeks voter approval of up to $2.5 billion to be issued over 10 to 15 years to fund flood mitigation projects throughout the County.  The long list of potential projects will continue to be developed and refined for individual consideration by the Commissioners Court on the recommendations of the Flood Control District.

Given the significance of this county bond election for the future of our region, we hope you’ll take the time to get the information you need to be prepared to cast your ballot.  In addition to his presentation at City Council next Monday, Judge Emmett will also be speaking to the Bellaire Business Association over breakfast on Thursday, August 9 (registration required).  For details about the bond election, including an interactive map showing potential projects identified for each area of the County, see the Flood Control District website.

July 23, 2018

Budgeting Resiliency

Hurricane Harvey and the extent of its impact on the City of Bellaire remind us that strategic planning is not about predicting the future.  We didn’t have a crystal ball when developing and adopting a budget last year, nor do we have one now.  But thoughtful consideration of our past and current experience, with careful analysis of key metrics and trends, inform the decisions we make moving forward.  The City Manager’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 starts by looking back at the events of the past year, and from there prioritizes our ongoing recovery with reference to our established focus areas, emphasizing that Bellaire is still Bellaire.

The proposed budget reflects our serious commitment to flood mitigation, and continued tax rate sensitivity especially as so many have been hit with significant financial burdens from the storm.  Specifically, it would not raise any new property tax revenues from existing property (i.e., it would maintain the effective tax rate).  It also puts on hold the water and sewer rate increases that would otherwise be phasing in this coming year.

June 22, 2018

Bellaire Incorporated 100 Years

Ten years ago the City of Bellaire commemorated the centennial of our founding in 1908.  We now mark another important milestone, the 100th anniversary of our incorporation as a city.  On June 24, 1918, the people of Bellaire made their town official, and it was that defining act that makes us what we are still to this day.  Though we didn’t obtain full self-government until 1949 when the population reached 5,000 and adopted a home-rule charter, incorporation established Bellaire as its own independent city, free from annexation by Houston as both grew.  (It didn’t stop West U from trying, but that’s another story.)

Special thanks to our community partners who kicked off the festivities this morning at Evelyn’s Park, complete with birthday cake and refreshments provided by H-E-B Bellaire Market.  Photo courtesy of Dee Zunker Photography

Incorporation was a coming of age for our small town, a significant achievement worthy of recognition this year.  Starting next month we’ll also be celebrating the Bellaire Police Department’s own centennial, as it traces its roots to the appointment of the City’s first law enforcement officer two weeks after the local government was formed.  The opening of our new City Hall later this summer, and Police/Courts building in the fall, also coincide nicely with these 100-year occasions.

This historic weekend, the weather has cleared up just in time for you to enjoy the self-guided Bellaire Centennial History Walk.  Or take a Bellaire history bus tour.  You can also read more about our early years in the Handbook of Texas online, and check out the Bellaire Historical Society when its programming resumes in September.  Happy Birthday, Bellaire!

June 19, 2018

“Kolter North” Permit Amendment Approved

When Hurricane Harvey struck only days before school was supposed to start last year, it left the Houston Independent School District scrambling to find temporary arrangements for several campuses that were too badly damaged to open.  Fortunately, the former Gordon Elementary/Mandarin Chinese school building had not yet been torn down to make way for the new Bellaire High School baseball and softball facility previously approved.  It provided a convenient option for the temporary relocation of Kolter Elementary from nearby Meyerland, and has since come to be known affectionately within that proud and grateful community as “Kolter North.”

Helping our neighbors, school children no less, was without question the right thing to do.  The City of Bellaire fast-tracked a certificate of occupancy for the building, insisting only on health and safety inspections and administratively deferring on a temporary basis the requirement for a formal zoning application, since HISD intended for Kolter to stay only one semester while its own campus was repaired.  However, when the school board decided instead to replace the old Kolter with a new building, and to continue operating Kolter North in the interim, the temporary administrative zoning approval would no longer suffice.

June 4, 2018

The Planning and Zoning Two-Step

I’ve written previously about the importance of public hearings in the planning and zoning process, including some of the reasons we have two, first at the Planning & Zoning Commission and then at City Council.  As Mayor, I feel compelled once again to raise this subject, to call your attention to a worrisome trend that has surfaced in recent years.  Increasingly, it seems many residents are bypassing P&Z’s public hearings and bringing their comments straight to Council, presumably thinking it’s the second hearing that really counts.  While it’s true that only Council decides the final outcomes, quite often it’s the public input at the P&Z stage that makes the biggest difference, as proposals are further refined in response to that input before even getting to Council.

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