Heights | River Oaks | Montrose Edition - May 2021

HEIGHTS RIVER OAKS MONTROSE EDITION

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 2  MAY 1JUNE 4, 2021

ONLINE AT

Ballotmeasure could shake up CityHall politics

IMPACTS

6 TODO LIST

GOVERNMENT

CRAFT BEER GUIDE

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11

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More than ever, county’s appraisals drawprotests

Violent crime, including murders, is up in Harris County, but data from other large cities shows similar increases. A national trend Murders in 2019 Murders in 2020 Chicago 55.35% trend

THE SHARP INCREASE INHOMICIDES IS PART OF ANATIONAL TREND THAT STRUCKMAJOR

BY MATT DULIN & HUNTER MARROW

Alex Younes, a First Ward resident for six years, said he has an annual ritual with the Harris County Appraisal District. “Every year they raise [the property appraisal] like $25,000 or $50,000. They bring it up; I push it down,” he said. “It’s like a little dance we do every year.” While he has had success ling protests on his own, he said he might consider hiring a tax professional if it helps get himmore savings. “The county doesn’t explain how they arrive at their value number. Instead the burden of proof is on us, rather than the other way around,” he said. “It’s mys- terious and arbitrary.” Younes’ home was one of over 415,000 Harris County accounts that appealed their values last year—a record number and part of an upward trend of residents pushing back on their property tax bills. CONTINUED ON 18

U.S. CITIES IN 2020 ... SOCIOECONOMIC PRESSURES FELT

Los Angeles

24.81%

ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE CAUSING CRIME TO RISE ACROSS THE U.S. COLIN CEPURAN, SENIOR JUSTICE RESEARCH POLICY ANALYST, HARRIS COUNTY JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMENT

Unincorporated Harris County

27.84%

Dallas

*PRELIMINARY

24.14%

SOURCES: HARRIS COUNTY, CITY OF HOUSTON, DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

City of Houston

41.35%

Local ocials take aimat violent crime rise A rise in violent crime in Harris County has local ocials urgently seeking solutions to combat the trend. However, a debate over the origins of the increase—which has resulted in a 41% year-to-date increase in murders in the city of Houston—has sparked questions of what is to blame and what should be done. bond system an emergency item during the 87th Texas Legislature, citing the increasing crime rates. But when it comes to the actual bail reform that has taken place in Harris County—which has exclu- sively pertained to misdemeanors—a recent study found no compelling relationship between bail reform and the violent crime trends, said Colin Cepuran, a senior justice research policy analyst with the county’s Justice Administration Depart- ment, which presented ndings from the study to Commissioners Court in March. “There is some evidence that misdemeanor bail CONTINUED ON 16 BY SHAWN ARRAJJ Some law enforcement and elected ocials have attributed the rise in murders to a mix of the COVID-19 pandemic and bail bond practices in the county. At the same time, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made xing what he called a “broken” bail

Curbed taxes

SOURCE: JANUARY ADVISORSCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER Memorial area are some of the most successful property tax protesters. Homeowners in the Washington Avenue/

of homeowners protest

43%

4.6%

median reduction in property value

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2021

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HEIGHTS  RIVER OAKS  MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2021

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

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er Theater building, the former location of El Real. The seafood restaurant closed briefly after the first weekend following a surge of interest then reopened April 14. 346-571-2071. www.acmeoyster.com 4 Greystar’s luxury high-rise apartment Ellison Heights , 510 W. 20th St., Hous- ton, opened in early April. The 152-unit, 12-story building offers 27 floor plans ranging from 737 square feet with one bedroom to 1,925 square feet with two as well as five penthouses ranging from 1,691 to 2,290 square feet. Rent starts at $1,875. www.ellisonheightsapts.com 5 A new steakhouse inspired by the 1920s has opened in the Montrose area and will soon be joined by a companion cocktail bar. Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse opened in the former BB Lemon/Pax Amer- icana space at 4319 Montrose Blvd., Hous- ton, in mid-March, while Daisy Buchanan is expected to open in May at 4321 Montrose Blvd. Gatsby’s steakhouse experience is under the direction of General Manager Luis Rodriguez, who has had stints at Mor- ton’s, Truluck’s and Mastro’s Steakhouse. www.gatsbysteakhouse.com 6 Locally owned boba milk tea shop Hella Bubble held a grand opening for its Heights location, 2015 Yale St., on April 25. In addition to milk teas, the shop offers fruit teas, lattes and smoothies, with a va- riety of drink toppings, including boba and milk foam. Guests can enjoy free wi-fi and board games. Online ordering is available. The shop also has a location in River Oaks. www.hellabubble.com 7 Local chain Nara Thai opened its sixth location in mid-March at 4601 Washington Ave., Ste. 100, Houston. The restaurant accepts online orders as well

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NOWOPEN 1 Offering a collection of distinct, connected shops offering ethically and sustainably sourced goods, the Asch Building , 825 Studewood St., Houston, held a grand opening weekend April 24- 25. The Market is a coffee shop offering a selection of groceries, including prepared foods, pasture-raised chicken and Texas produce. The Atelier, a women’s store, features clothing from South Africa,

2 Howdy Hot Chicken opened April 13 at 3520 S. Shepherd Drive, Houston, offering spicy fried chicken sandwiches, tenders, french fry baskets, mac and cheese, and more. The restaurant, which uses 100% halal chicken, also opened a

vintage Western boots and accessories from women-owned companies. Lastly, Home is a shop offering natural cleaning products, daily necessities and home decor from around the world. The space also includes two “micro shops”: Fuzz, a low-alcohol/nonalcoholic bottle shop, and Four Circle Studio, a ceramics studio. The shop also hosts a market on the last Sunday of each month featuring local

Sugar Land location in July. www.howdyhotchicken.com

3 The New Orleans-based restaurant Acme Oyster House opened April 10 at 1201 Westheimer Road, Houston, after an extensive renovation of the historic Tow-

vendors. 713-505-1447. www.aschbuilding.com

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Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse

Tin Drum Asian Kitchen

COURTESY GATSBY’S PRIME STEAKHOUSE

COURTESY TIN DRUM ASIAN KITCHEN

as dine-in service with a menu offering Thai staples including noodles, curries, soups and satay. 832-530-4069. www.naradining.com 8 Sugar Land-based Pacific Coast Tacos opened its first Inner Loop location, 6329 Washington Ave., Houston, in early March. The restaurant serves scratch-made tacos and other items with West Coast, Asian and Pacific influences. 281-888-4885. www.pacificcoasttacos.com 9 Clutch City Coffee , a locally owned and -operated drive-thru coffee shop, opened in March at 4733 Richmond Ave., Houston. The coffee shop, which features double-sided drive-thru lanes, sources its coffee and food from Houston-area vendors. 346-718-2197. https://clutchcitycoffeehtx.com 10 Shandy’s , a longtime Rice Military neighborhood restaurant, opened its new location in the Heights at 315 W. 19th St., Ste. A, in February. The cafe serves a vari- ety of homemade menu items with fresh ingredients, including salads, sandwich- es, burgers, soups and pasta dishes in a friendly atmosphere. Its original location opened in 2005 on Memorial Drive. 713-485-0705. www.shandycafe.com COMING SOON 11 Tin Drum Asian Kitchen , an Atlan- ta-based pan-Asian cafe, has signed a lease for what will be its first Houston location at 1111 Shepherd Drive, Hous- ton, part of the Interpose development. The chain announced plans to expand to Texas in August 2019 with at least five locations. The restaurant serves a mix of Asian-inspired dishes, such as tikka

masala, ramen and Korean fried chicken sliders. An opening date has not been an- nounced. www.tindrumasiankitchen.com 12 Al Quick Stop , a Montrose corner store/Mediterranean cafe, plans to open a Heights location at 518 W. 11th St. by the end of the summer. The shop originally had plans to open within the Railway Heights project on Washington Avenue but has since changed plans. www.alquickstop.com 13 Massage therapy spa chain The NOW is opening a Heights location at 373 W. 19th St. with plans to open in June. Its offerings include Swedish massage techniques, a stretch-focused therapy for athletes, and a mind/body treatment focused on healing, as well as add-on services such as deep-tissue massage and gua sha, a Chinese skin treatment. www.thenowmassage.com 14 Village Emergency Centers will open a Heights location this summer at 1324 N. Shepherd Drive, Houston. The local-based chain has locations in River Oaks, Katy, League City and Jersey Vil- lage. The clinics handle emergency care cases, pain issues, infections, orthopedic care, falls and injuries, and other medical issues. www.villageec.com IN THE NEWS 15 Houston-based Weingarten Realty In- vestors, owner of the River Oaks Shopping Center, among 150 other properties across the U.S., announced April 15 it was enter- ing a merger agreement with Kimco Realty Corp. After the merger, Weingarten , head- quartered at 2600 Citadel Plaza Drive, Ste. 125, will be absorbed into Kimco, creating

Jane Kim’s “Confluence” mural depicts Houston’s migratory birds.

COURTESY HOUSTON PARKS BOARD

FEATURED IMPACT IN THE NEWS “Conuence,” a new mural by the nationally recognized art studio Ink Dwell, was completed April 8. The 223-foot mural spans a section of the trail along the conuence of Bualo and White Oak bayous alongside the University of Houston-Downtown campus, 1 Main St. The project was commissioned by the Houston Parks Board with the help of philanthropists Tom and Laura Bacon, the Houston Audubon and the Bualo Bayou Partnership. “What it captures is a celebration of the birds who migrate here—there are three on the right that winter in Houston and three on the left that arrive in the spring to breed. We like to think of the bayou greenway as a yway and celebrate the incredible position Houston is in with respect to birds and wildlife,” HPB President Beth White a combined portfolio of 559 open-air grocery-anchored shopping centers and mixed-use properties comprising about 100 million square feet, according to a news release. www.weingarten.com CLOSINGS 16 After a 15-year run, Montrose coffee shop Inversion closed March 26, a

told Community Impact Newspaper . “It’s also just incredibly beautiful. It is so important to use art to lift everyone’s spirits and look at the world in a dierent way.” Ink Dwell founder Jane Kim and three other artists worked over 29 days to complete the mural. The studio specializes in large-scale depictions of nature and wildlife with work spanning California, Utah, Arkansas, Florida and New York. www.houstonparksboard.org

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representative with Art League Houston, which serves as the landlord for 1953 Montrose Blvd., confirmed. A new tenant was expected to be announced soon, but details were not ready as of press time, according to ALH. The shop, named after an art installation created by the “inver- sion” of two bungalows, was also known for featuring local art. www.instagram.com/inversioncoffee

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2021

TODO LIST

May events

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN

MEMORIAL DAY Memorial Day, May 31, recognizes those who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces. Visit one of these sites to learn about some of Houston’s fallen.

MAY 08

PUPPIES FOR BREAKFAST EAST RIVER

MAY 1416

ART CAR EXPERIENCE ORANGE SHOW CENTER FOR VISIONARY ART

The 10th annual event by Neue Creative oers dog lovers an opportunity to bring their pet to an outdoor party with local vendors, food trucks, a costume contest and a 2,500-square- foot dog play area. This year’s event is hosted at Midway’s 150-acre East River. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is requested to support the Freedom Fence Project, which provides dog enclosures for low-income households. 100 Clinton Drive, Houston. www.puppiesforbreakfast.com (Courtesy Puppies for Breakfast)

In lieu of the Art Car Parade, The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art will host three days and two nights of activities at its 5-acre campus. Day events oer family-friendly fare with 80 art cars on display, walking tours and children’s craft stations. At night, the venue oers live music, including The Suers and Bayou City Funk; costumes; illuminated art cars; and food and drinks. Day: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $10 (adults), $5 (children). Night: 7-11 p.m. $40. 2334 Gulf Terminal Drive, Houston. www.artcarexperience.com (Courtesy Visit Houston)

World War II Memorial (Courtesy Houston Parks & Recreation)

29 THROUGH 31 SCAVENGER HUNT The Houston Heights Association hosts its 16th annual bicycle scavenger hunt event with 15- and 5-mile route options. Participants receive a map and various clues to guide them through the route with completed entries submitted to the Houston Heights Fire Station by 5 p.m. May 31. $30 (15 miles), $20 (5 miles), early bird discount of $5 per ticket available through May 22. 107 W. 12th St., Houston. www.houstonheights.org World War I Monument 1100 Bagby St., Houston World War II Memorial Heights Boulevard and 11th Street, Houston VietnamWar Memorial 11360 Bellaire Blvd., Houston Harris County War Memorial 3535 War Memorial Drive, Houston Fallen Warriors Memorial 13703 Vintage Centre Drive, Houston HEIGHTS BICYCLE RALLY&

12 ‘J: BEYOND FLAMENCO’ FILM SCREENING The Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston continues its “Our Music, More Than a Language” lm series focused on musical themes with a presentation of “J: Beyond Flamenco,” a documentary by director Carlos Saura about la Jota, traditional dance and folk music from his homeland, the Aragon community in Spain. 8 p.m. Free. 3315 Sul Ross St., Houston. www.ihch.org 16 RAIN BARREL SALE Houston Public Works and the city’s Green Building Resource Center are accepting orders until May 16 for a semiannual sale on rain barrels. The rst-come, rst-served $52 barrels have sold out, but barrels priced at $72 can still be ordered, and residents can join a waitlist for future sale opportunities. The 50-gallon barrel’s retail price is $129. All rain barrels must be picked up in person May 22 at Houston Botanical Garden, 8210 Park Place Blvd., Houston. www.codegreenhouston.org

MAY 06 13, 20AND 27

Texas Ave., Houston. 713-655-1912. www.heritagesociety.org 08 ANNIKA CHAMBERS AT THE MUCKY DUCK Houston-based soul and blues singer Annika Chambers performs a virtual and in-person show at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. The virtual performance is streamed live through an exclusive YouTube link. 9:30 p.m. $30 (virtual); $120 (table for four at the venue). 2425 Norfolk St., Houston. www.mcgonigels.com 08 HEIGHTSMERCANTILE MOTHER’S DAYMARKET Dozens of vendors will be set up at the Heights Mercantile shopping center, oering a wide range of locally crafted gifts just in time for Mother’s Day, May 9, including plants, jewelry, clothing, home goods, pet treats and baked goods. Parking at the event will be limited, organizers said, so walking, biking and ride-sharing is encouraged. Free. 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. 714 Yale St., Houston. www.facebook.com/HeightsMerc

CHILDREN’S BINGO Levy Park hosts these socially distanced bingo events for kids ages 4-12, a fun way for children to practice their letters and numbers while earning prizes. The Levy Park team provides all the materials needed, including bingo cards, markers and prizes. Blankets are requested for participants. 4:30 p.m. Free. 713-522-7275. www.levyparkhouston.org 07 NOTSUOH CORONATION GALA The Houston Heritage Society continues its annual revival of the NoTsuOh festival, a late 19th-early 20th century Houston tradition, with the coronation gala at The Ballroom at Bayou Place, which will recognize this year’s King Nottoc (“cotton” backwards) and Queen Ailongam (“magnolia” backwards), who are Justice Ken Wise and Sara Wise, respectively. Proceeds support the Heritage Society. 7 p.m. $250 (individual ticket). Table sponsorships available. 500

Find more or submit Heights-River Oaks-Montrose events at communityimpact.com/event-calendar. Event organizers can submit local events online to be considered for the print edition. Submitting details for consideration does not guarantee publication.

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TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES

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REGIONAL PROJECTS

2 M-K-T trail bridge repair The Houston Parks Board’s plans for the repairs of the M-K-T trail bridge at White Oak Bayou moved closer to construction. The Harris County Flood Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers have reviewed the plans, which are now under review by the city of Houston. The bridge has been closed since Aug. 19, when it was damaged in a fire. Timeline: start date TBD; 45-60 days for repair Cost: $100,000 Funding source: Houston Parks Board 3 Montrose walk-bike improvements In April, was set to begin on a set of street and sidewalk improvements as part of a series of walk-bike projects in the Montrose area. Work along Com- monwealth Street and Waugh Drive will include new asphalt road surfaces; wider sidewalks; code-compliant ramps; and wider, protected on-street bike lanes. In addition, work on a portion of Montrose Boulevard from Fairview Street to Haw- thorne Street will include new pavement markings, pedestrian ramps and spot repairs of sidewalk problems. Reytec is the construction firm with management Funding sources: Montrose Redevelop- ment Authority, Harris County Precinct 1, Houston City Council District C 4 River Oaks water line As part of a project to decommission the Sleepy Hollow Lift Station, city of Hous- ton crews are in the process of replac- ing a sanitary sewer line along Buffalo Speedway and Claremont Lane in the River Oaks area. The four-phase project will reroute wastewater using a 36-inch sewer line. Once all sewer and tunneling work is completed, road surfacing work will be done along the work area. Timeline: summer 2020-fall 2021 Cost: $12 million Funding source: Water and Sewer System Consolidated Construction Fund by Gauge Engineering. Timeline: April-October Cost: $2.6 million

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Airline/Montrose bus route improvements

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The first phase of what will eventually be a 23-mile overhaul of the Airline/ Montrose bus route began in March with crews working on a 1.5-mile seg- ment of Studewood Street between White Oak Drive and Cavalcade Street. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County project will bring sidewalk and pedestrian crossing improvements as well as 14 upgrad- ed bus stops with lighting, seating, trash bins and digital bus information displays. In addition, traffic signals will be modified at key intersections to improve bus travel time. The proj- ect is part of the BOOST program— Bus Operations Optimized System Treatments—under the bond-funded METRONext Plan. Work on the rest of the Airline/Montrose route, which extends from the Texas Medical Cen- ter Transit Center to the Greenspoint Transit Center, is expected to enter the design phase later this year and will take 12-18 months followed by a 12-18 month construction time frame. Timeline: March-December (Stude- wood segment only) Cost: $1.18 million Funding source: METRONext bonds ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF APRIL 28. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT HRMNEWS@COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

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ONGOING PROJECTS

water line work north of I-69. In addition to a complete road surface replacement, the project will install updated drainage facilities and move utility lines under- ground. Brick-paved crosswalks, widened sidewalks, lighting and landscaping are also slated for the corridor, which will include UKRA branding and design standards. Work will continue on the northbound lanes through the end of the year, followed by southbound lane work in 2022. Lanes will be closed during various phases of construction. Timeline: 2021-23 Cost: $20 million Funding source: Upper Kirby Redevelop- ment Authority

1 South Shepherd reconstruction The Upper Kirby Redevelopment Author- ity’s rebuild of South Shepherd Drive began in March with crews starting with

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HEIGHTS - RIVER OAKS - MONTROSE EDITION • MAY 2021

DEVELOPMENT UPDATES

Inner Loop project updates

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN & EMMAWHALEN

WHITE OAK STATION A Houston homebuilder is planning to bring as many as 87 townhomes to a former Union Pacic Corp. property in the Washington Avenue corridor. Preliminary construction work was underway in April. Billed as White Oak Station, the development is a project by the builder City Choice Homes and Happen Houston, the broker for the property, which has similar projects across the Houston area. “It is super preliminary at this point, but we’ll be looking to bring a high-end product tailored to the area,” Happen Houston adviser Michael Afshari said. White Oak Station will likely oer designs and nishes similar to those from its Heights-area Park at Northwood development, which is in the process of building out, he said. The 4.5-acre property sits at the southwest corner of Hicks and Studemont Streets, putting it near the Lower Heights development and adjacent to several townhome and multifamily oerings. The demolition of a nearly 3-acre shopping center at the corner of Montrose Boulevard and Westheimer Road wrapped up in early April as international developer Skanska prepares the site for a potential mixed-use project. Demolition permits for the site at 1001 Westheimer Road, Houston, were secured March 26, according to city records. The shopping center formerly held a longtime Half Price Books location, a Spec’s liquor store and Chinese restaurant 369 Oriental Bistro, among other tenants. A SignatureCare Emergency Center located there has relocated to 3209 Montrose Blvd., Houston. MONTROSEWESTHEIMER DEMOLITION

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HUNTER MARROWCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

HERITAGE SENIOR RESIDENCES COURTESY HERITAGE SENIOR RESIDENCES

Heritage Senior Residences, will oer 135 one- and two-bedroom units and serve seniors over age 55 making between 30% to 80% of the area median income. It will be located at 1120 Moy St. According to the development’s website, it is slated to break ground this month and open for residents in the fall of 2022.

A new 135-unit aordable senior living complex near Washington Avenue will receive a piece of the city’s Hurricane Harvey recovery funds targeting multifamily development. The Houston City Council approved April 7 an allocation of $14 million for the project, which is also receiving funding from Texas’ 9% low-income housing tax credit, among other sources, to cover the $40 million construction. The complex is the rst to receive a low-income housing tax credit in the Washington Avenue and Rice Military area in 30 years, city documents state. The development, known as the toward aordable housing initiatives. A groundbreaking ceremony was held March 24 at the project site at 702 Girard St., near the former Barbara Jordan Post Oce building, which is undergoing a redevelopment into a mixed-use campus called POST Houston. The 14,000-square-foot building will include space for 128 beds, a computer lab, a community kitchen and an on-site clinic.

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HARMONY HOUSE Construction is underway on a dormitory- style project for the nonprot Harmony House that will provide homes and support services to men experiencing homelessness. The city of Houston is providing $6.8 million—about 75% of the project’s cost— from its tax increment reinvestment zones, which allocate a portion of their proceeds

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

Here are four questions voters might have about the proposal: PUSH Houston voters could be asked later this year to consider a proposal to give more power to City Council members to inuence what gets on the agenda.

for power Proposed charter amendment

GOVERNMENT Houston political groups seek shift inmayor-council dynamic

BY EMMA WHALEN

acquainted with each other and reasonably minded enough to not use the agenda as a weapon, but it could be that in certain moments that will happen.” So far, only two of the council’s 16 members have publicly backed the campaign: District A Council Member Amy Peck, who represents parts of Northwest Houston, and At-Large Council Member Michael Kubosh. Among other advocacy groups, the Houston Professional Fireghters Association, Indivisible Houston and Houston Justice support the measure as well. Aparallel push Although Houston is the only large city in Texas with a strong-mayor form of government, several others across the U.S., including New York City and Los Angeles, follow a similar format. “The mayor likes to run a tight ship, and that means controlling the agenda. This is totally common in places where you’ve got a strong- mayor system,” Rottinghaus said. Opponents of the petition said it will lead to lengthy debates and will push more partisan ideas to the forefront. “One of those things could be defunding the police, and I nd that horrifying,” Travis said. “This is a pandora’s box that doesn’t need to be opened.” In some sense, Travis’ prediction has played out in Austin, where council members do have more input into agendas. Its meetings typically run into the late evenings, and the city was one of the only in Texas to reduce police funding last year. Despite this, a local progressive group in Austin is leading an eort to establish a strong-mayor form of government there. Proponents there have said it will streamline policy- making and reduce the power of the city manager, who is appointed by the mayor, not elected. JimWick, co-founder of Austinites for Progressive Reform, the group leading that push, said the proposal would still leave power in City Council members’ hands and called the end result “the weakest strong mayor of any big city in the country.”

Representatives from local political groups—from the Houston Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America to the Harris County Young Repub- licans—have reached a milestone in their eort to limit powers held by the Houston mayor’s oce. Members of the Houston Charter Amendment Petition Coalition announced April 5 they passed the 20,000-signature threshold to get a proposal on the November ballot. Under Houston’s “strong-mayor” form of government, only the mayor has the authority to place items on the City Council agenda. The proposed amendment would allow council members to place an item on the agenda if at least two other members back the eort. “All of us ... have not and will not agree on every single issue that comes before City Council, but we all agree that we should have the right to have whatever concern we have discussed if our council member is willing to bring that forward,” said Charles Blain, coalition organizer and founder of conservative policy blog Urban Reform. Although he often disagrees with Mayor Sylvester Turner, District G Council Member Greg Travis, a conser- vative member who represents much of West Houston, said he worries the proposal will make council proceed- ings inecient and distracting. “The problem is you’re going to get some crazy ideas,” Travis said. “Some of these council members only got a couple thousand votes. ... I just don’t know if I want those people making decisions over a mayor who has gotten 180,000 votes.” Requiring only three members to get an item on the agenda could lead to more conict, said Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political science professor. “The more progressive members may try to push a more progressive agenda, and more conservative members would gum up the legislative process or include more conservative policies to move the city in a more conservative direction,” Rotting- haus said. “They’re all well enough

THIS EFFORT? 1

WHO IS ORGANIZING

The coalition presented the results of its petition drive April 5 at City Hall.

The Houston Charter Amendment Petition Coalition includes:

EMMA WHALENCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

• Charles Blain, founder of conservative policy blog Urban Reform • Indivisible Houston • Houston Justice

• The Houston Professional Fireghters Association • Houston Democratic Socialists of America

• The Harris County Republican Party • Houston Young Republicans

Houston follows a “strong-mayor” form of government, which means City Council votes on agenda items proposed by the mayor. In Houston, City Council members cannot place items on the agenda. DOES HOUSTON HAVE NOW? 2 WHAT FORM OF GOVERNMENT

Mayor sets agenda Council members vote

Other cities that follow this format include: • New York City • Los Angeles • Chicago • Philadelphia

3 WHAT CHANGES ARE PROPOSED?

The city secretary will verify petition signatures. City Council approves the verication. If veried by Aug. 16, the petition will go for a public vote in November. 4 WHAT DOES THE PETITION NEED TO GET ON THE BALLOT?

The charter amendment coalition hopes to reduce the mayor’s authority so the city’s political process more closely follows the governing style in cities such as Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Phoenix, where a city manager appointed by the mayor dictates much of the agenda. Instead of instating a city manager, however, the coalition wants council members to share in the agenda-setting process.

Mayor sets agenda + any 3 council members can add items

Council members + mayor vote

SOURCE: HOUSTON CHARTER AMENDMENT PETITION COALITION COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

The opposing pushes from similar groups suggest frustration with local political dynamics, Rottinghaus said. “It turns into ‘best laid plans’ terri- tory for political engineers who want to change how things are done and sometimes unknown consequences occur,” he said. Austin voters had the charter amendment on the ballot May 1. On theballot In Houston, the petition’s sig- natures will be reviewed by the city secretary and then sent to City Council for certication. If certied by Aug. 16, a proposition calling for the

amendment will go before Houston voters in November. “We’re not looking at a primary; we’re not looking at a general, where it’s Republican versus Democrat,” Blain said. “It’s about nally having eective representation at City Hall.” Prior to the election, the Houston City Council Ethics and Elections Governance Committee may review the details of the proposal, Letitia Plummer, committee chair and at-large council member, told Commu- nity Impact Newspaper . A date for the meeting was not set as of press time. Christopher Neely contributed to this report.

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EDUCATION BRIEFS

News from Houston ISD

COMPILED BY MATT DULIN

Montessori renamed for Ella J. Baker HOUSTON ISD The board of trustees made ocial a decision that has been in the works for several months—renaming WoodrowWilson Montessori, 2100 Yupon St., for Ella J. Baker, a civil rights leader. The decision was unanimous at the trustees’ April 8 meeting. “I absolutely support this name change and look forward to combat- ing racism—structural racism, too—in the future,” trustee Elizabeth Santos said. The process began when parents began asking administrators about a change after Princeton University opted to do so in the summer of 2020, when it removed its former president’s name from its School of Public and International Aairs as well as one of its residential halls.

District proposes campus-level funding cuts, teacher pay bump

HOUSTON ISD The district’s 2021- 22 budget projections include a $77 million decit, $24 million in pay increases and stipends, $20 million in new special education resources and $20 million in cuts to campus budgets, according to gures presented to the board of trustees. “As we start to add costs in, we have to start redirecting dollars we already have in our budget,” Chief Financial Ocer Glen Reed told trustees March 25. The proposed $2 billion budget assumes no tax increases but does bank on regaining 5,000 of the almost 12,000 students Houston ISD did not enroll in 2020-21 amid the pandemic. The proposed raises include $150 step increases for most teachers, based on years of service, and a $500 retention bonus. However, health care costs are also expected to rise.

A $123 cut in the per-unit allocation, or PUA, which sets campus-level funding based on enrollment, drew concerns from trustees. In April, administrators proposed sparing campuses with high proportions of economically disadvantaged students or having an “F” rating. “I’m extremely concerned about any PUA reduction to any school, especially in the time of COVID[-19],” trustee Judith Cruz said. The next budget workshop is scheduled for May 20. The nal budget vote is expected in July. The Houston ISD board of education will next meet at 5 p.m. May 6. Meetings are streamed at www.houstonisd.org. MEETINGSWECOVER

As an advocate for civil rights and economic justice over 50 years, Ella J. Baker provided leadership to the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

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“Princeton’s decision allowed us to take a look at this a little bit sooner, but based on what I saw of our com- munity’s involvement, this would have happened either way, eventu- ally,” Principal Shameika Sykes-Sal- vador said. “I am very proud of our community and was honored that they brought this to me.”



The better question may be, is it safe not to? Ignoring health issues for fear of catching COVID-19 can put your health in real trouble. So, please, take care of yourself. See your doctor regularly and let us help you manage conditions like high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Sometimes, a virtual office visit is the perfect solution. Other times, seeing your doctor in person is the best choice. We have taken important steps to keep you safe when you visit. We understand your concerns. As your partner in good health, we’re always here with answers. Visit our website anytime, or call us at 713-526-4243 for an appointment. Is it safe to see my doctor yet?

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harrishealth.org

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CITY& COUNTY

News from Houston & Harris County

CITY HIGHLIGHTS HOUSTON A $500,000 grant application was approved by City Council on April 21 that could fund the creation of a parks master plan for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. The previous master plan was completed in 2015. HOUSTON The Texas Medical Center is acquiring 3.6 acres of city property at 1115 S. Braeswood Blvd., Houston, after City Council approved the $15 million sale April 21. The TMC plans to build a new electrical power substation on the site. HOUSTON The city announced an expanded partnership with the nonprot Solar United Neighbors on April 21 that allows any homeowner to opt into a co-op program that can be used to secure discounted solar panel installation for their property. The move is part of the city’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2020. Information on joining is available at www.solarunitedneighbors.org. HOUSTON City Council will consider a 12-year revenue contract agreement with IKE Smart City LLC on May 5 that will bring as many as 125 digital kiosks to high-trac public spaces along city rights of way. According to information presented to council, the contract, which can be renewed for up to 10 more years, could generate over $37 million in revenue. Houston City Council meets weekly at 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays for public comment and 9 a.m. Wednesdays for regular business at 901 Bagby St., Houston. Meetings are streamed at www.houstontx.gov/htv. Harris County Commissioners Court will meet at 10 a.m. May 11. Live meeting video is available at www.harriscountytx.gov. MEETINGSWE COVER QUOTEOFNOTE “IT IS A TIME TOBE REFLECTIVE AND ASKWHATWE CAN DO TOMAKE OUR CITY BETTER, OUR COUNTRY BETTER, AND FINDWAYS TO WORK TOGETHER.” HOUSTON MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, SPEAKING APRIL 20 AT A PRESS CONFERENCE FOLLOWING THE NEWS THAT A JURY CONVICTED FORMER POLICE OFFICER DEREK CHAUVIN ON COUNTS OF MURDER AND MANSLAUGHTER IN THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD

Federal judge approves $2 billion sewer overhaul

BY EMMA WHALEN

bill rates. The city of Houston was also required to pay a $4.4 million settle- ment to both the state of Texas and the federal government. Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock told Houston City Council members in 2019 that water bill rates would increase by less than 1%. Representatives for clean water advocacy group Bayou City Water- keeper, a plainti in the lawsuit

triggering the consent decree, said the plan is a good rst step but does not go far enough. “It does nothing to help our low-in- come neighbors x problems that lead to sewage backing up into their homes, pooling in the yards where their children play, and dirtying our local bayous and creeks,” Waterkeeper Legal Director Kristen Schlemmer said.

HOUSTON A lawsuit alleging that persistent sewage overows in Houston violate the CleanWater Act has resulted in a 15-year, $2 billion infrastructure plan approved by a federal judge April 2. The plan, outlined in a federal consent decree, includes 430 sewer system improvement projects and will be paid by an increase in water

NRGPark vaccine site opens towalk-ins

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BY SHAWN ARRAJJ

being saved. We want to do everything possible to make sure that, when it comes to beating COVID-19, we’re not leaving anything on the table.” Since opening in February as part of a partnership with the Federal Emer- gency Management Agency, the NRG Park site has been vaccinating about 6,000 people per day, Hidalgo said. However, that number fell in April to about 2,000-3,000 per day. Almost 30% of county residents over age 16 have been fully vaccinated, but experts say around 70%will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. The FEMA site was originally set to close in April, but ocials convinced FEMA to extend operations. If vaccine demand stays below supply, Hidalgo warned FEMAmay decide to shut down the site earlier.

HARRIS COUNTY Public health ocials at NRG Park began adminis- tering COVID-19 vaccines on a walk-in and drive-in basis in April, but the site is slated to close May 18. With walk-in availability, appoint- ments are no longer necessary. However, people will still be required to make appointments at other vaccine sites run by the county. As of April 21, hours for the NRG site are noon-9 p.m., a change from the 8 a.m.-5 p.m. schedule to allow for more people to get shots after work and later in the day. “Right here at NRG Park we have a precious resource that we can’t aord to waste,” County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at an April 19 press conference. “Each day this site is running, lives are

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Vaccine rollout

2.9 million doses allocated As of April 26 in Harris County: 1.12 million fully vaccinated 2.7 million doses administered

32% of 16+ population

SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

“I’m hopeful that the community will take advantage of it because there are just still so many folks who haven’t been vaccinated,” she said.

BCycle expands footprint with $150K in city funds

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19TH ST. BCycle locations More Houston BCycle stations are coming to several Inner Loop neighborhoods.

new rental

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HOUSTON The bike-sharing network Houston BCycle will soon add 11 new rental stations, thanks to $150,000 from the city’s Parks Consolidated Construction Fund. City Council approved the expendi- ture April 14. Houston Bike Share, the nonprot that manages the system, will receive funding for nonfederal share costs, nongrant equipment and installation costs for bike stations located on city property or right of way. Houston BCycle has a network of over 100 stations and 800 bicycles.

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