December 30, 2021

Making the Most of 2021

After 2020 was pretty much canceled by the pandemic, it was wonderful throughout 2021 to be able to get back together in person again and to enjoy a return to somewhat normalcy.  Unfortunately COVID isn’t going away anytime soon, as the current Omicron surge underscores, and we don’t know what the future holds.  But looking back, despite a few setbacks along the way we’ve made the most of our situation over the past year and are poised for an even better year to come.

We kicked off 2021 by introducing our #OneBellaire initiative, to encourage and inspire some civic pride in this time of increased political polarization and hostility, and as a reminder that at the end of the day we’re still a community.  That by bringing people together and choosing to celebrate what unites us we can begin to heal our divisions and find common ground.  From our big citywide events to smaller neighborhood gatherings and block parties, however you’ve participated in #OneBellaire it has been great being together again.

February’s freak winter storm and statewide electrical grid failure, and our water service disruption locally, were anything but pleasant.  Our Bellaire emergency response team rose to the occasion as they always do, and while we suffered widespread property damage to varying degrees, we did not have any loss of life.  It was quite a successful incident response, and one from which we also take some lessons learned in striving for continuous improvement.

Over the past year city staff have dealt with some other significant challenges as well.  In organizations of any size mistakes are going to happen; the real test is what's done about them and how they get fixed.  The temporary downgrade of our Community Rating System classification and loss of flood insurance discount was a colossal failure and entirely inexcusable, but staff have taken ownership of the situation and are doing an outstanding job in restoring our CRS status as quickly as possible.

The staff have also been strained by a number of vacancies, including at the very top in the City Manager position.  Yet despite the uncertainty this has created, and even with several of our departments shorthanded, staff have remained focused on maintaining a consistent level of service delivery.  Their dedication and professionalism have not gone unnoticed, and are much appreciated.  We’ve been well served by highly capable Interim City Managers, and Council is committed to working together in hiring our next permanent City Manager early in the new term.

Among the exciting progress we can look forward to in the coming year are the opening of Evelyn's Park Phase 2 (which, with our gratitude to all the donors, is 100% privately funded), and completion of the new Bellaire High School and offsite baseball/softball complex.  Redevelopment of the former Chevron property may soon take shape, but only after careful planned-development review and subject to zoning constraints adopted this past year to maximize neighborhood protections.  The Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan report is now being finalized for delivery in a matter of weeks, and will guide our regional flood mitigation efforts moving forward.

We’ve made the most of 2021 and welcome the opportunities 2022 will bring.  I’m eager to get to work with our new City Council and, before too long, our new City Manager, and I hope each of you will remain engaged and look for ways to get involved.  #OneBellaire belongs to all of us, and together we can overcome our challenges and make this next year our best one yet.