January 18, 2022

Introducing Our New Mobile App

Come across a pothole to report?  See something that’s broken or doesn’t look quite right?  Snap a pic and send it in!  The City of Bellaire’s new mobile app, powered by SeeClickFix, makes it easy to submit non-emergency service requests for these types of issues and many more.

All you need to do is open the app and follow the prompts.  Specify the location on the map, or, if you’re still there let the app find you.  Select the issue by category, type a brief description, and submit.  If you’ve entered your e-mail address the system will automatically send you status updates as city staff work to resolve your concerns.

SeeClickFix-Bellaire replaces our old, sometimes clunky Resident Request Center, providing an improved, intuitive user interface and the convenience of submitting requests directly from your smartphone.  It can also be accessed online at bellairetx.gov/seeclickfixbellaire.  For staff on the receiving end, request tracking and workflows are more automated and efficient.

The app also includes some links to helpful information on the City website, like the holiday trash and recycling schedule.  The SeeClickFix platform supports other functions as well, and over time we’ll look to upgrade the app with additional features.  It’s still somewhat of a work in progress, and your feedback in that regard is welcome.

Download SeeClickFix for free on the App Store or Google Play.

     

January 12, 2022

Expanding Our ALPR Network

Flock Safety
Bellaire’s first ten automated license plate readers (ALPRs) were installed as a pilot project in January 2021.  Deployed at strategic locations along our major thoroughfares, special cameras capture license plate data and send out an alert to the police department whenever they record a hit on a “hot list” vehicle.  The program has been such a success in its initial year that (1) those original ten ALPRs are now being funded in the police department budget on an ongoing basis, and (2) we’re acquiring ten more units as a Phase 2 pilot project, supported once again by a grant from the Bellaire Police and Fire Foundation.

The system has proven its value as a law enforcement tool in Bellaire.  Over the course of this first year we got 996 hits on wanted vehicles, of which the police apprehended 452; these stops resulted in the recovery of 66 stolen vehicles.  Not included in those statistics, of course, are the crimes potentially prevented by those stops, and by the deterrent effect of the cameras generally.

The ALPRs have also been useful in tracking down vehicles wanted in connection with crimes that have been reported in Bellaire.  When witnesses provide only generic descriptions, such as “a late model white sedan,” for example, officers can use that information in searching the database for any matching vehicles that were picked up by one of the ALPRs around the time of the offense.  The department credits the cameras with helping increase case closure rates, and improving efficiency by automating what is otherwise a tedious, manual process of pursuing such leads in an investigation.

At an annual cost of $27,500, budgeting for the continuation of the first ten ALPRs beyond the Phase 1 trial period was a no-brainer.  For the next ten, the plan is to install seven of them at strategic locations not already covered, and the remaining three will be mobile for use in investigations and for traffic counts as part of the City’s traffic management program.  As before, we’re under no obligation with respect to the second set of ALPRs after the Phase 2 pilot, and will simply wait and see how things go before making that decision.

January 3, 2022

A Consensus Vision for Organizational Alignment

I’ve always looked forward to the beginning of a new Council term as an opportunity for a fresh start.  To candidly assess what we’ve been doing well and what we could be doing better.  For me the biggest takeaway from the last term is that we as a Council never quite managed to coalesce around a consensus vision and policy direction.

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.

December 8, 2021

#OneBellaire 2022 City Calendar Photo Contest

2021 City Calendar
How would you like to be featured in our official city calendar?  Now’s your chance!  Residents of all ages are invited to participate in the second annual #OneBellaire City Calendar Photo Contest.

The 2022 calendar theme is Celebrate Bellaire—photos reflecting how you celebrate our community and highlighting the quality of life here, while acknowledging this place we call home means something different to each of us.

Entries are being accepted through December 20.  For contest rules and to submit your photos please visit the Calendar Photo Contest page on the City website.  A panel of judges from our citizen Culture and Arts Board will select the winners.  Good luck to all participants and have fun!

November 22, 2021

Thankful for Our City Staff

Last week Interim City Manager Brant Gary announced his resignation, having accepted a job offer elsewhere.  His last day with the City of Bellaire will be December 3.  We appreciate his service to our community over the years, as Public Works Director in his prior stint with us, and then as Assistant City Manager and Interim City Manager.  Brant truly rose to the occasion in leading the City through some tumultuous times—made all the more challenging by his indeterminate status in the role, and on top of his regular duties no less—quite capably and always with the utmost poise and professionalism.  We’re better off for it (as is he), and we wish him all the best in his new position.

While at first his leaving may seem a major disruption to the organization, it really doesn’t change things all that much considering we’re about to begin the hiring process for our next permanent City Manager anyway.  With a new Council set to take office in January, this is already at the top of our to-do list.  Brant’s departure does mean that the current Council will need to appoint a replacement to serve as Interim in the meantime.

It also highlights, along with other high-profile resignations of late, we’re at a critical juncture with our staff.  It’s no secret that morale is low, and has been for some time.  The organization has surely been affected by all the prolonged uncertainty (16 months is an unusually long time to operate with an Interim City Manager), an often-hostile political climate, and more recently a particularly dispiriting budget process.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  The opportunity to hire our next City Manager is also an opportunity to begin repairing our relationship with staff, to rebuild mutual trust and respect, with an appreciation of our respective roles in working together on the same team.

This week of Thanksgiving let’s remember how fortunate we are to live in Bellaire, and acknowledge the hard-working, dedicated professionals who help make our special town what it is.  The people who show up day in and day out, to provide the municipal services we all rely on but frequently take for granted.  Let’s assure them their efforts don’t go unnoticed, and that we value each and every one of them.  Want to recognize a staff member who has gone above and beyond?  I know they’d love to hear from you!

I wish you and your families, and our staff and their families, a Happy Thanksgiving and a blessed holiday season.

November 17, 2021

CRS Restoration Update

City staff have been working diligently toward the restoration of our Community Rating System classification, and with it our flood insurance discount.  They recently provided an update on their progress.  As shown below all of the required activities are proceeding on schedule and according to plan.

October 26, 2021

Bellaire Citizens Academy Finance Presentation:  How Do We Compare?

After taking a year off because of COVID-19, the Bellaire Citizens Academy is back in session.  Last week the group received a presentation from the Finance Department, which included among other details some comparative data showing how we stack up against other cities in terms of taxes, water and wastewater rates, and indebtedness.  Given there’s been a lot of interest recently in this very subject, I thought I would share the comparative data handout with the broader audience.


October 18, 2021

Let’s Get Out the Vote, Bellaire!

Though it doesn’t always get the same amount of attention as the state and federal, your local government has more of an impact on your overall quality of life than at any other level.  It’s all the things we rely on day in and day out, without even thinking about it.  Public safety, water and wastewater, trash collection, streets, drainage, parks and recreation, and so much more.  And, it’s at the local level your vote counts the most.  So don’t you owe it to yourself to take just a few minutes to ensure your voice is heard?

In addition to the City of Bellaire general election, featuring three contested City Council races, our ballot also includes the HISD District V trustee election and eight propositions to amend the state constitution.  Please take the time to carefully study all of the candidates and issues, so that you can make an informed decision in choosing those that best represent your views and preferences.  Check out the candidates’ individual websites, read their responses to questionnaires in local media, and watch the recording of last week’s Bellaire Candidates Forum.

Early voting is now underway, today through October 29, at any of 90 early voting locations across Harris County.  Election Day is Tuesday, November 2, again at any countywide polling place.  Voters who are eligible to do so may also vote by mail.

One of the major advantages of living in Bellaire is that we control our own destiny.  As an independent home-rule municipality, we enjoy the privilege of self-governance and can make our own decisions on the local issues that most affect our daily lives.  With that privilege comes the responsibility of participating in the electoral process, and I urge you to do so.  The future of our town belongs to all of us.  Let’s get out the vote, Bellaire!

September 28, 2021

Workshops Streamline Budget Adoption

The perhaps surprising takeaway from Council’s adoption last week of the fiscal year 2022 budget is how little discussion there was, and how few amendments were offered, before the final vote.  Of course, Council had previously spent long hours thoroughly reviewing and debating various aspects of the draft budget through a series of workshops, and in doing so certain cuts had already been made.  There’d been a lot of talk about further cuts, setting the stage for a contentious vote, but ultimately when the time came virtually none were proposed, even by those who voted against the budget.  And of the two that were, the one amendment that didn’t pass represented less than one half of one percent of the total.  Overall, the process worked and led to a fairly straightforward outcome.

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