March 30, 2020

Sidewalks Charter Election Postponed to Nov. 3

As you’ve probably heard by now, the sidewalks charter election previously called for May 2 has been postponed to the next uniform election date, November 3, on account of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.  In Council’s deliberations during its telephonic Special Session last week, a unanimous vote to postpone the election was never in doubt.

Instead, the discussion centered on a proposed “moratorium on any further sidewalk construction on residential blocks until after the election.”  Following constructive debate, by a narrow 4-3 vote Council decided against the moratorium, in favor of maintaining the status quo for the time being.  I have since received a few questions suggesting there may be some confusion—and outright misinformation—out there, about what the status quo actually is, and so I take this opportunity to clear things up.

March 26, 2020

Maintaining Continuity of City Services Through COVID-19

Life these days is anything but ordinary—yes, I know, understatement of the year—but our dedicated city staff are doing all they can to keep things running smoothly.  Garbage and recycling are still being picked up, clean water continues to flow, and first responders keep responding.  Maintaining these basic city services, on which we rely daily and that we typically take for granted, helps make at least those aspects of life feel as ordinary as possible in this extraordinary time.

The manner in which we’re providing services is obviously not business as usual, however, with necessary modifications following CDC, state and federal guidelines to protect the public health and welfare, and that of the city workforce.  Even the emergency response itself is impacted, as our Emergency Operations Center is hardened against threats like severe weather, but viruses not so much; essential response personnel are meeting elsewhere when required, to ensure appropriate distancing.  Our public facilities are closed, but for those services and programming that don’t necessarily have to be delivered in person, we’re adapting and finding new ways to stay in touch with you.  For example, Library staff are working on bringing our ever-popular Story Times online for young families to enjoy remotely.

With all of these changes our staff have even had a little fun this week, recording videos to showcase what their departments are working on and how they’re continuing to serve you, and to introduce some of the people who make it happen.  These videos are being posted to our COVID-19 resource page on the City website and will be updated as new content is created.  We invite you to take a look, and welcome your questions and feedback.

Given all they do for us day in and day out and their demonstrated commitment to public service, it’s no surprise our city staff are once again rising to challenge.  I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this team and grateful to each and every one of its members.  It’s in times like these we’re reminded that the quality and responsiveness of our city services, and the people who provide them, are among the things that really make Bellaire special.

March 20, 2020

Telephonic Special Session of City Council, Monday at 6:00 p.m.

There have been a lot of firsts brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Add to that list our first telephonic City Council meeting.  This past Monday (but announced after my last post discussing our upcoming Council meeting schedule) Governor Abbott temporarily suspended certain provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act in order to allow governmental bodies to meet telephonically or by videoconference in an effort to reduce in-person meetings that bring together large groups of people.  All such meetings will still be open to the public.

This coming Monday’s Special Session, which will be conducted telephonically, has been called for two purposes:  to ask the City Council to (1) extend beyond seven days our local public health disaster declaration, and (2) postpone the sidewalks charter election from May to November.

March 16, 2020

City Council Meetings Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

As we practice social distancing and avoid public gatherings to limit the spread of the coronavirus, some of you have been asking about Bellaire City Council meetings.  Tonight’s meeting is still on, but the schedule for upcoming meetings could be impacted.

While Council meetings are always open to the public, and public attendance and participation are encouraged, those who prefer to observe remotely may do so by tuning in to our live broadcast online or on local government access channels (Comcast 16, U-verse 99).  Public comment may be submitted to the City Council in writing, rather than in person, in care of the City Clerk.  I trust it goes without saying that anyone experiencing symptoms or who feels they may have been exposed are urged to stay home and avoid contact with others.

Our Charter provides that the City Council shall meet “not less frequently than twice each month.”  Regular Sessions are held on the first and third Mondays of each month (except when there is a legal holiday, in which case the meeting is moved to the following Monday).  Absent a formal disaster declaration, the City Council will continue to meet on its regular schedule.  As this month happens to be a five-Monday month, we’ll have three weeks between tonight’s meeting and the next to continue to monitor and see how things develop before making any decisions with respect to the upcoming Council meeting schedule.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through these challenges, with the public health and well-being at the forefront of our decision making.

March 12, 2020

Local Coronavirus Preparations

Bellaire emergency management officials have been closely monitoring and preparing for potential local impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  While the City is not under a public health disaster declaration at this time, we have developed an incident action plan in coordination with other area agencies to ensure our readiness.  Our team is in close communication and participates in daily briefings with Harris County Public Health, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The recent news of a presumptive positive case in Montgomery County that was not travel related has led to heightened precautions throughout the Houston area.  As a result, many local events have been postponed or canceled.  Here in Bellaire these include the Touch A Truck event that was scheduled to take place at Evelyn’s Park this Saturday, the Patrons for Bellaire Parks’ Wine and Tapas fundraiser on March 28 (you’ll still be able to support our parks through an online auction instead), Party at the Pavilion on April 3, and the Bellaire Trolley Run on April 4.  Decisions have not yet been made concerning other upcoming events as we continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation.

Employees in all departments are making arrangements to avoid or minimize as much as possible any disruptions to city services.  We’re planning for the contingency that some of our workforce could be affected, whether directly, or indirectly such as those with childcare responsibilities in the event schools are closed.  Maintaining uninterrupted Police, Fire, Public Works and other essential services will remain our top priority.

Our foremost concern is to protect the health and welfare of the community.  All residents are urged to do their part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 by familiarizing themselves with and following CDC recommendations.  Please stay informed through local news outlets and check the City website frequently for updates as they are available.

March 11, 2020

Contemplating Continued Progress on Streets and Drainage

By the early 1980s, Bellaire’s original, post-war era infrastructure was reaching the end of its useful life and in serious need of attention.  At that time and in the years that followed, the City undertook individual maintenance and rehabilitation projects as annual budgets would allow, but the available cash on hand was nowhere near enough to keep up with the demand.  Having allowed conditions to deteriorate to that point, without having set aside any funds along the way, by the year 2000 it had become clear that continuing the pay-as-you-go approach was simply no longer an option.

The Bellaire Millennium Renewal bond program was the first comprehensive package of citywide infrastructure improvements and was approved overwhelmingly by the voters to begin tackling our most critical needs.  Through the successor 2005 Rebuild Bellaire and 2016 Better Bellaire bond programs we’ve continued that work, including the systematic replacement of streets and drainage systems in order of relative priority.  Our progress has been steady, but at only about a third complete we still have a long way to go.  Assuming we remain committed and intend to stay on course, it’s time to identify and begin planning for the next round of projects.