January 5, 2024

The Honor of a Lifetime

As I prepare to pass the gavel Monday evening, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for having had the privilege of serving our wonderful community.  When I started on this journey 17 years ago, never could I have imagined where it would lead.  For a job I wasn’t looking for but somehow found me, my eight years as Mayor have been a positively transformative and meaningful time in my life.  I am forever thankful to you, the people of Bellaire, for allowing me this opportunity.

December 28, 2023

Ready for Another Busy Year Ahead

The city organization is in a really good place right now.  We’ve filled a ton of vacancies over the past year, which has allowed our departments to thrive rather than just survive.  Among recent new hires is an Assistant City Manager, who as a licensed PE will also serve as in-house City Engineer.  For the City Manager, being all set with her team is huge as she’ll finally have some breathing room to focus on the big-picture strategy that’s central to her job description.  As we welcome a new Mayor and Council at the start of 2024, city staff have already turned the page and are eager to get after it and tackle the work at hand.

December 21, 2023

New Standards for New Lighting

As challenging as it was coming up with our noise ordinance a few months back, the companion subject of lighting proved even more difficult.  It’s a bit of a different animal in that offensive noise is generally an occurrence, whereas light trespass is continuous until corrected.  One is more behavioral in nature, the other physical.  Also, while it is still Council’s intention to see how things go and later make adjustments as needed, that approach doesn’t work as well with lighting as it does with noise.  For now, we’ve adopted new lighting standards on a prospective basis only, as we have yet to figure out how to address existing light sources without imposing undue burden on their owners.

December 11, 2023

Relocating METRO’s Bellaire Transit Center

It’s a question I’ve been asked from time to time, and more often of late since it was brought up on the campaign trail and got people talking.  Now that we’re through election season, a blog post on the subject is in order.

The City of Bellaire does not have authority to relocate the Bellaire Transit Center; if METRO is going to do so, it’ll be because it makes sense for METRO.

That we may feel it no longer benefits us isn’t what’s going to move the needle.  Rather, it’s that it would work better—for METRO—if it were situated further west.

Many in Bellaire will be glad to know METRO gets that, too.  While plans could still change and there are no guarantees or commitments as to timing, the future of the transit center indeed looks to be headed in that direction.

November 30, 2023

Elevating Our Drainage Standards and Flood Damage Prevention Regulations

There are three aspects to our flood mitigation efforts:  local, regulatory and regional.  While, as the name implies, our ongoing Regional Drainage Improvement Program fits squarely within that third category, one of the deliverables in the first phase scope of work is very much regulatory in nature.  Over the past several months the Program engineering team has assisted staff and our citizen Building and Standards Commission in proposing revisions to our drainage design and flood damage prevention regulations, which have now been adopted by Council.

It was, candidly, a tedious and highly technical (some would say boring) deliberation, which made it easy to lose sight of what these amendments are all about.  The major takeaways are that (1) based on best available science (i.e., the most updated floodplain maps), new homes will generally have to be built one foot higher than the minimum required currently; and (2) we’ve now formally incorporated the commercial drainage standards, borrowed from the City of Houston, that we’ve historically utilized but not previously codified, to go along with our existing residential drainage standards.

November 13, 2023

Euthanasia Policy, Dog Pound Update

Our city departments work hard, day in and day out, to deliver the high quality of services residents and stakeholders expect.  They are committed to doing so with transparency, and often in close partnership with the community when appropriate.  Which is why it can be so frustrating that they frequently find themselves having to battle misinformation and dispel rumors, time that could be better spent providing services.

The latest example comes in the form of online postings falsely claiming there’s a new policy under which more dogs would be euthanized at the Bellaire Pound.  It’s a scare tactic, plain and simple, employed by some dog advocates to elicit an emotional response and sense of urgency for fosters and adoptions.  Sure, we all like seeing dogs rescued from the pound, but this isn’t the way to go about it.

October 11, 2023

In Solidarity With Israel

Hagit Bibi Photography
I was proud to represent Bellaire, along with Mayor Pro Tem Frazier, at the Houston Community Gathering in Solidarity with Israel a few nights ago.  I was proud to see so many of our Bellaire neighbors in attendance as well.  I was proud to hear Mayor Turner speak on behalf of the City of Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the nation, taking an unequivocal stand in condemning the unspeakable atrocities being perpetrated against innocent civilians and calling out evil for what it is.

Regardless of one’s political views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism and mass murder are wholly indefensible and all of us, as members of a civilized society, have a moral obligation to denounce such heinous acts.

The event, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, drew more than 2,100 people of all faiths, races and backgrounds, with several hundred more participating by livestream.  Dozens of community leaders and elected officials from both political parties were there.  And it was just one of many such gatherings taking place across the country and around the world.  As dark as these days have been, witnessing diverse groups of people coming together to support one another, united by our shared humanity, has provided a bit of light.

Video of the event is available for replay online.  For those who are moved to contribute, a local emergency fund has been established to accept donations that will directly benefit victims and their families.

September 22, 2023

A Smooth Budget for FY 2024

The development and adoption of the fiscal year 2024 budget was described by more than one participant as “one of the smoothest budget processes in recent memory.”  Between the push and pull of Council’s direction to hold the nominal tax rate flat and ongoing inflationary pressure, the budget was largely already spoken for before it even began.  Just to maintain existing service levels within those constraints left relatively little else to talk about.

September 18, 2023

Council Pilots New Noise Ordinance

In furtherance of our strategic emphasis on Quality of Life, Council labored through multiple hours-long workshops and a town hall meeting trying to figure out how to better regulate noise in the City.  Just as the Planning and Zoning Commission and staff wrestled with it in developing their recommendations.  It’s a notoriously difficult subject to legislate, and even after all the effort we put into it we probably still didn’t get it exactly right.  As such, our newly adopted noise ordinance will be implemented as a pilot of sorts, with the express understanding—if not expectation—that we're likely going to have to go back later and make some adjustments.

September 1, 2023

Bellaire Foodie Fest

The Bellaire food scene is hoppin’ with exciting new restaurants as well as longtime favorites.  Come celebrate and discover what they have to offer at the 2023 Bellaire Foodie Fest, presented by the Bellaire Business Association and H-E-B.

Sample a variety of food, wine and beer, enjoy live entertainment and cooking demonstrations, and have fun visiting with friends and neighbors at what has become a quite popular annual event.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Bellaire Police and Fire Foundation.

These local businesses serve our community in more ways than one.  They contribute greatly to our quality of life and have played a key role in promoting the revitalization of our commercial areas, a major focus of our Comprehensive Plan and a consistent theme we’ve heard from residents in our ongoing Plan ReviewThe BBA encourages everyone to Stay Loyal to Local, for the mutual economic benefits derived from keeping more of our spending right here at home.  The Bellaire Foodie Fest is a wonderful way to showcase and support our area restaurateurs.

Food!  Wine!  Beer!  Fun!  Come on out for a delicious evening September 30, 5:00-8:00 p.m., at the Civic Center.  For tickets and information, including sponsorship opportunities, visit bellairefoodiefest.com.