October 11, 2017

Charter Amendment Propositions on November Ballot

When Bellaire voters go to the polls on November 7, in addition to the usual races for Mayor and City Council we’ll have the opportunity to amend our City Charter for the first time in 11 years.  The Charter is what makes us a home-rule municipality and is the foundational instrument of our self-governance, in essence our “constitution.”  As such, it belongs to and can be amended only by the people at an election called for that purpose.

October 6, 2017

Cumulative Flood Repair Costs and the 50% Rule

Fear and uncertainty breed speculation.  Speculation is passed on as hearsay.  Hearsay becomes rumor, and—especially when repeated and amplified in the echo chambers of social media—rumor is commonly accepted as fact.  I simply cannot stress enough the importance of visiting the Permit Office to get information specific to your individual circumstances, and reliable information at that.  The decisions flooded homeowners are having to make are just too important to be based on advice, however well-intentioned, from people who don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

October 5, 2017

For Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force, All Options Are on the Table

The City Engineer’s post-Harvey analysis largely confirms collective expectations based on our experience and observations during the storm:  the singular importance of Project Brays, the continuing validity of our approach to local drainage improvements, the obstacles impeding overland flow, and the success of our current building code elevation regulations.  It stops short, however, of actually making any specific recommendations.  That’s because at this point all options are on the table for thorough review and consideration.

Following and in conjunction with the City Engineer’s presentation, the City Council adopted an amending resolution to expand the charge of our Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force.  By sheer coincidence Council had previously adopted the first resolution less than a week before Harvey.  It established the Task Force as a more or less routine planning activity required for our continued participation in the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program, to be composed of appointed citizens including some with certain subject matter expertise.

Post-Harvey, our thorough reexamination of every aspect of flood control is anything but routine.  The amending resolution, therefore, additionally charges the Task Force “to develop actionable local, regulatory and regional policy recommendations for the prevention of future flooding.”  It will do so in close consultation with the City Engineer, building upon his findings from this and prior work to come up with solutions for implementation.

October 3, 2017

The FY 2018 Budget Story, Epilogue:  Restoring Balance

The fiscal year 2018 budget went into effect on Sunday.  The story began with a proposed budget that was forced to cut back on non-recurring expenses to avoid breaching our 60-day minimum fund balance requirement.  It concludes with an adopted budget that goes even further than that, with deeper non-recurring expense cuts that will allow us to begin replenishing the ending fund balance instead of finishing the year right on the number.  Responsive to public input concerning the tax rate, Council proactively took this step to get things back on track for this and coming years.  The budget also sets aside some unallocated funds in anticipation of unreimbursed hurricane recovery expenses.

Hurricane Harvey’s unwelcome arrival in the middle of the FY 2018 budget story ultimately did not change the plot all that much.  That’s not to suggest the City’s priorities have not been affected; they most certainly have as nearly everything else is taking a back seat to disaster recovery and future flood prevention efforts.  But those less essential items, such as branding, Comprehensive Plan updates and new parks projects, weren’t in this year’s budget to begin with.