BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION
VOLUME 3, ISSUE 1 MAY 1JUNE 2, 2021
West University considers lower speed limit
4 TODO LIST
CRAFT BEER GUIDE
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
A United Kingdom expat, Jonathan Elton had a dif- ferent expectation of how to interact with the govern- ment when he decided to start protesting his property valuation in Harris County. “It’s a more adversarial process there,” Elton said. He said he shows up to his protest meetings armed with a two-page report detailing his own research and data to refute the county’s assessment of his three-bedroom, two-bathroomMeyerland home. Not only has Elton protested his value every year since moving here in 2015 as a manager for Shell Oil Co., he is also successful at doing so, including in 2019, when he reduced the value of his home by $40,000. His secret: “You need to come prepared,” he said. Elton’s property was one of over 415,000 Harris County accounts whose valuations were appealed last year—a record number and part of an upward trend of CONTINUED ON 18
U.S. CITIES IN 2020 ... SOCIOECONOMIC PRESSURES FELT
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
SOURCES: HARRIS COUNTY, CITY OF HOUSTON, DALLAS POLICE DEPARTMENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
City of Houston
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
“They’ve gotten bigger, these prices, andbecause it’s such a bigoutgoing cost for homeowners, thenwhynot try for a reduction?” JONATHAN ELTON, MEYERLAND RESIDENT
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BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • MAY 2021
Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding
R I C H M O
WEST UNIVERSITY PLACE
HERMANN PARK DR.
COURTESY VELVET TACOS
5 A new steakhouse inspired by the 1920s has opened near the Museum Dis- trict and will soon be joined by a compan- ion cocktail bar. Gatsby’s Prime Steak- house opened in the former BB Lemon/ Pax Americana space at 4319 Montrose Blvd., Houston, 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 had stints at Morton’s, Truluck’s and Mastro’s Steakhouse. www.gatsbysteakhouse.com 6 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 items from Houston-area vendors. 346-718-2197. https://clutchcitycoffeehtx.com 7 Cafe Leonelli opened April 16 in the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Hous- ton at 5500 Main St, Houston. Led by Michelin Star chef Jonathan Benno, the cafe showcases Italy’s culinary culture while partnering with local purveyors, including Lonestar Mushrooms, Houston Dairymaids and Homestead Gristmill, and uses seasonal ingredients in each dish. 713-714-3014. www.cafeleonelli.com COMING SOON 8 Meal prep company MyFitFoods , at 3329 Southwest Freeway, Houston, will open by June, offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options. MyFitFoods offers healthy, affordable meals cooked fresh daily through its local kitchens.
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NOWOPEN 1 Dallas-based Velvet Taco opened its new location in Rice Village at 2525 Rice Blvd., Ste. A, Houston, on April 26, bringing its take on tacos that incorpo- rate Asian and Indian influences as well as traditional Tex-Mex flavors. The fast-ca- sual taco restaurant serves premium food with fresh ingredients and a menu that pushes multicultural boundaries. All of its food is served from scratch. 346-200-8081. www.velvettaco.com
2 U.S. Dermatology Partners opened April 12 at its new location at 5420 W. Loop S., Ste. 4500. The dermatology prac- tice has 94 locations across eight states, including Texas, and offers comprehensive treatment and refinement for the skin, hair and nails with services including skin cancer treatments and Mohs surgery, acne treatments, cosmetic dermatology such as Botox and laser therapies, annual skin examinations and more. 713-360-1329. www.usdermatologypartners.com 3 Max’s Restaurant opened its 20th location in North America on April 6 with its restaurant at 8011 S. Main St., Ste.
100, Houston. The restaurant chain brings Filipino cuisine including lumpia, kare-kare as well as its own batchoy and made-to- order fried chicken. 713-664-7227. www.maxsrestaurantna.com 4 British design and interiors retailer OKA opened its first U.S. store in April at 3461 W. Alabama St., Houston, in Houston’s Upper Kirby area, with more locations planned in cities in the South and the East Coast, according to the company. The store features showcase rooms highlighting how the store’s global collaborations can offer fresh design inspiration. 281-377-4877. www.oka.com
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Miller Outdoor Theatre
COURTESY MILLER OUTDOOR THEATRE
Food can be picked up in-store, preor- dered online or delivered to select gyms. The business moved its headquarters to Austin in 2013 and closed its stores in 2017. www.myfitfoods.com 9 YogaSix , a Yoga studio that com- bines a sensory experience with classes targeting strength, agility, flexibility and balance, will open a new location in the West University area in late June/early July at 5170 Buffalo Speedway, Houston. The studio currently hosts pop-up out- door sessions outside the building, which is under construction. In the meantime, owner duo Tiffany Nambiar and Mahendra Nambiar are offering a 25% discount for life for unlimited monthly yoga. www.yogasix.com 10 ReadyPet Animal Hospital , a full-service veterinary hospital, will open this spring at 8423 Stella Link Road, Houston, in the Walgreens shopping center at North Braeswood Boulevard. The hospital offers a host of services for pets including preventive care, spay and neuter, diagnostic services and surgeries along with pain management, microchips and an in-house pharmacy. In conjunction with the opening of the new hospital, the ReadyPet Vet Clinic at 4031 S. Braeswood Blvd. will be closing. https://readypet.webflow.io RELOCATIONS 11 Longtime bicycle shop Cyclone Cycles moved from its location at 4213 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, to 6715 Stella Link Road, West University Place, at the end of March. The owner moved the most
modern stock to the new space instead of paying for drainage improvements for the city of Houston as it looks to enlarge the flood control culvert under the old shop’s building. 713-668-2104 SCHOOL NOTES 12 Braeburn Elementary School , 5550 Pine St., Houston, held a virtual grand opening celebration April 19. The school was one of four to be rebuilt by Houston ISD after their original campuses suffered damage in Hurricane Harvey. The $30 million building has 52 classrooms, two floors and 112,000 square feet. It opened to students in fall 2020, but it has been closed to visitors amid the pandemic. “It’s very important to us for the community to be in the building,” Principal Amanda Rogers said. “But we’re working and trying to figure it out and can’t wait for the day that they’ll be able to visit.” 13 Miller Outdoor Theatre , at 6000 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, brought back in-person performances when it kicked off its 98th season May 1. The announcement came after the outdoor venue space canceled in-person events for the entirety of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Theater-goers can secure tickets in advance online one week prior to the performance through the theater’s website. Face coverings/ masks are required for all attendees, both in the covered seats and on the hill, unless eating or drinking. All seating is socially www.houstonisd.org IN THE NEWS
The WillowWaterhole, south of the Meyerland area, marked 20 years in April.
COURTESY WILLOW WATERHOLE GREENSPACE CONSERVANCY
FEATURED IMPACT ANNIVERSARIES WillowWaterhole Greenspace Conservancy , at 5201 S. Willow Drive, Houston, celebrated its 20th anniversary with an April 1 ribbon cutting for the grand opening of its newest project, the Naturescape Garden. Included in the garden are eight tree sculptures from sculptor James Phillips, representing what is commonly seen at the greenway: birds, sh, turtles, wildowers, dogs and people. In addition to Phillips’ eorts, Eagle Scout Alex Schwarz and family laid the foundation for the logs as part of his distanced—including hill seating—and cleaning and sanitizing protocols have been updated along with all the latest disinfecting technologies and compliance with local and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 832-487-7102. www.milleroutdoortheatre.com 14 The Houston Museum of Natural Science , at 5555 Hermann Park Drive, Houston, announced plans in April for a new permanent exhibit, presented by the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Founda- tion. “Matter & Motion Chemistry and Physics Hall” will immerse visitors with a touch-free experience, including an interactive, animated showcase showing the ways chemistry and physics are inte-
Eagle Scout project. The Conservancy rst started in 2001, after the Harris County Flood Control District received $75 million in funding for Willow Waterhole from the Army Corps of Engineers as part of Project Brays. www.willowwaterhole.org
gral to Houston, a floor-to-ceiling video presentation on quarks and quasars, and more. It is slated to open in March 2023. 713-639-4629. www.hmns.org CLOSINGS 15 Children’s toy, book, and shoe store Imagination Toys & Shoes , located at 3851 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, in the Braes Heights shopping center, is set to close in the coming weeks, the business first announced on its Facebook page March 16. The store’s boutique section offering gifts, greeting cards, women’s apparel, and more—CardSmart—will also close. www.imaginationtoysandshoes.com
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THROUGH MAY 16
‘ELECTRIFYING DESIGN’ MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON
‘BARKANDOPENAIRMARKET’ EVELYN’S PARK
FANTASTIC FISHMINI CAMP NATURE DISCOVERY CENTER
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston exhibit “Electrifying Design: A Century of Lighting” celebrates lighting as a transforming force in daily life, industry and design, from the early 1800s to energy-ecient bulbs in the 21st century. Access is included with general admission. $19 (adults), $16 (seniors), $12 (ages 13-18), free (children under 12). 1001 Bissonnet St, Houston. 713-639-7300. www.mfah.org (Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)
Evelyn’s Park will host the ‘Bark and Open Air Market,’ a chance for dog-related vendors and dog enthusiasts to come together in an open-air market. Regulations that would normally have prevented dogs on the park grounds have been temporarily suspended by Bellaire City Council. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Free. 4400 Bellaire Blvd, Bellaire. 281-946-9372. www.evelynspark.org (Courtesy Evelyn’s Park)
As part of the Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center’s Summer Science Mini-Camps, children ages 4-7 can experience what summer science camp is all about with hands-on activities, games, art projects, new friends and more. 9 a.m.-noon. $35 per day (members), $45 (nonmembers). Limit 10 campers. 7112 Newcastle Drive, Bellaire. 713-667-6550. www.naturediscoverycenter.org (Courtesy Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center)
MAY 06 NIGHT ROOMS Brazos Bookstore will host a virtual author conversation with Gina Nutt, author of “Night Rooms,” a collection of personal essays that draw on horror lms and cultural tropes to meditate on anxiety, depression, suicide, grief and other traumas across a mix of subgenres. 7 p.m. Free. 713-523-0701. www.brazosbookstore.com 06 13, 20AND 27 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. Participants should bring their own blankets. 4:30 p.m. Free. 3801 Eastside St., Houston. 713-522-7275. www.levyparkhouston.org 08 PUPPIES FOR BREAKFAST The 10th annual event by Neue Creative invites dog owners to bring their pet to an outdoor party featuring dozens of 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 fencing and enclosures for low-income households. 100 Clinton Drive, Houston. www.puppiesforbreakfast.com 12 THROUGH 14 ‘CRESCENDO’ The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center hosts one of its virtual programs with the lm “Crescendo,” directed by
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 THROUGHMAY 21 ‘ABRAHAM: OUT OF ONE, MANY’ Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston hosts a virtual exhibition surrounding Abraham’s story about living together more harmoniously. For this exhibit, three celebrated Middle Eastern contemporary visual artists from the faith traditions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism created ve paintings that interpret Abraham’s journey. Free. 713-533-4900. www.imgh.org 22 BELLAIRE FIT FEST At least seven tness-focused businesses from the Bellaire and West University Place area are partnering together with area food and smoothie businesses for a community event that includes health-focused outdoor tness classes, like rowing, stretching, yoga, boot camp, and more. The goal is to get people moving and commit to healthy habits as they begin to recover from a long year of stress and isolation. Bellaire’s Row House leads the event. 10 a.m-2 p.m. Free. 6700- 6708 Ferris St., Bellaire. 281-971-3242. www.therowhouse.com 29 ‘THE PHILADELPHIA SOUL SOUND’ Produced by the Community Music Center of Houston, the Miller Outdoor Theatre hosts “The Philadelphia Soul Sound,” a concert featuring tunes accompanied by string and rhythm section arrangements. This music was shaped by groups such as the O’Jays, The Spinners, The Delphonics, and soloists, including Dionne Warwick
Dror Zahavi. The lm tells the story of the trials and tribulations of a world-famous conductor as he tries to create an Israeli- Palestinian orchestra, get them to play in harmony and soothe any rising tensions. Check the website for prices. 713-729-3200. www.erjcchouston.org 14 THROUGH 16 ART CAR EXPERIENCE 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 14 THROUGH 16 CLASSICAL OVERTURES The Houston Symphony’s Andrés Orozco- Estrada conducts overtures by Mozart, Beethoven, Weber and others. The symphony oers both livestream and Jones Hall ticket options. Purchasing a single in-hall ticket or for a group of three or more must be done by phone. 8 p.m. (May 14), 8 p.m. (May 15), 2:30 p.m. (May 16). $20 (livestream), $34-$76 (in person). 615 Louisiana St., Houston. 713-224-7575. www.houstonsymphony.org 16 RAIN BARREL SALE Houston Public Works and the city’s Green Building Resource Center are accepting orders until May 16 for its 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
and Teddy Pendergrass. 8 p.m. Free. 6000 Hermann Park Drive, Houston. 713-523-9710. www.cmchouston.org THROUGH JUNE 05 2021 WORLD TRANSPLANT GAMES Through a sponsorship with the Texas Medical Center, the Harris County Houston Sports Authority will hold the 2021 World Transplant Games 5K AnyWay Virtual Race, beneting the World Transplant Games Federation. This virtual global event raises awareness and unites transplant survivors, donors, their families and supporters from around the world. Participants can complete a 5K any way they prefer, including running, walking, swimming, biking or any other activity, from May 28 through June 4. $25 plus $2.50 sign-up fee. www.wtg2021.com 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. 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
Find more or submit Bellaire-Meyerland-West University 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.
BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • MAY 2021
COMPILED BY HUNTER MARROW
N S T .
HIGH STAR DR.
N. BRAESWOOD BLVD.
S. BRAESWOOD BLVD.
South Rice, Chimney Rock bridges The South Rice Avenue and Chimney Rock Road bridges over Brays Bayou are on track for an end-of-summer demolition, part of the $480 million Project Brays. The project calls for new higher, longer and wider bridges to allow for water ow. To make way for demolition, the contractor is ex- pected to have new bridge beams set by July. North and South Braeswood Boulevard have been limited to one lane each during beam construction. Timeline: February-early 2022 Cost: $11 million Funding sources: Army Corps of Engineers, Harris County Flood Con- trol District
Gulfton trac safety project Construction began in April on a vehicular and pedestrian safety proj- ect on Hillcroft Avenue. The project will focus on three areas: Hillcroft from Bellaire Boulevard to High Star Drive, the intersection of Hillcroft at High Star and Westward Street, and Westward Street. The project aligns with the city’s Vision Zero goal, which seeks to reduce trac-related fatal- ities and injuries. The project will be completed through four phases with Phase 1 targeting Bellaire Boulevard
West University Place speed limits The city of West University Place is proposing to lower its standard speed limit citywide to 25 mph from 30 mph. An ordinance calling for the change was slated to go up for a rst reading at City Council April 26, but a second vote will be needed to formally adopt the measure. Under the proposal, Bualo Speedway would remain at 30 mph, as would a segment of Bissonnet Street. The city was also reviewing speed limits around the recreation center and Wroxton Road, be- West University’s speed limit could soon drop to 25mph with twomain exceptions. HUNTER MARROWCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
tween Bualo Speedway and Kirby Drive, at the time of the April 26 meeting. The proposal for speed limit reductions came from recommendations from a trac study that analyzed trac volume, speed, and crash history of reported incidents at 64 locations throughout the city. Timeline: April-third quarter 2021 Cost: $70,000 (study), $75,000 (implementation) Funding source: city of West University Place
to Dashwood Drive. Timeline: April-fall Cost: $3.4 million
Funding sources: city of Houston, Southwest Redevelopment Authority
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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.
BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • MAY 2021
DEVELOPMENT Group launches public feedback campaign onAstrodome plans
Residents can sign up to share ideas on the future of the Astrodome at www.astrodomeconservancy.org
BY SHAWN ARRAJJ
a plan that did not involve public input. Prior to Emmett’s plan, a dierent plan to repurpose the Astrodome into a multipurpose events center was rejected by county voters in 2013. Wiedower Jackson said the con- servancy has worked with Hidalgo and county commissioners on how to proceed. “What we learned during that pro- cess was that, to date, the plans for the Astrodome put forth have been created kind of around the kitchen table,” she said. “There has yet to be an opportunity for the general public in Harris County—the taxpayers who own that structure—to have a say or have their opinions voiced through a process. We felt very strongly that that needs to be part of any develop- ment plan going forward.” The conservancy raised about $90,000 in private donations in 2020, which helped it bring the consulting and engineering rm Huitt-Zollars on board to craft the public engagement process, Wiedower Jackson said. Throughout the campaign, which will run for a six- to eight-week period, people can submit feedback through online surveys at www.astrodomeconservancy.org. A virtual opinion session is also to be announced. Although the conservancy is in the beginning stages of developing a plan, Wiedower Jackson said some constraints have been identied that are intended to keep the cost of the project in check and to take
After a 2016 attempt to revive the Houston Astrodome for $105 million failed to launch, ocials are moving forward with a new eort to once again turn the vacant structure into something useful for Houston resi- dents. This time, ocials are seeking input from the public rst. The Astrodome Conservancy—a private nonprot formed in 2016 with the goal of redeveloping the dome— embarked on a public engagement campaign in April to solicit feedback on what the dome should become, Executive Director Beth Wiedower Jackson said. “This is an opportunity to think holistically—how can we be smarter, greener [and] more creative around the reuse and redevelopment of the Astrodome,” she said. The conservancy is not a branch of Harris County government, but the group does have an agreement with the Harris County Sports and Con- vention Corp. to work on the future development of the Astrodome, Wiedower Jackson said. A $105 million plan to renovate the Astrodome championed by former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett fell by the wayside after Lina Hidalgo took over as county judge in 2019. That plan called for raising the facility’s oor 30 feet to ground level, providing 9 acres of open space for events and adding two levels of underground parking. Hidalgo has since raised questions about the use of taxpayer dollars on
Members of the public gather for a tour of the Houston Astrodome in 2018. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
contractual obligations into account. “There are some wonderful pie-in- the-sky ideas, but they are not possi- ble because of the limitations on the Astrodome,” Wiedower Jackson said. “We have done our due diligence in collecting and analyzing what those parameters are so that when we open this up to the public, we can craft specic questions, [and] we’ll be able to get some real concrete information from the public that will actually be useful to guiding the future develop- ment of the Astrodome.” Ocials with the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. and with Hidalgo’s oce did not imme- diately respond to requests for comment. In addition to the public engage- ment campaign, Wiedower Jackson said the Astrodome Conservancy also completed a nancing study and is raising private funds to complete a market assessment that could start before the end of the year. Following the campaign, Wiedower Jackson said the conservancy will spend two to three months turning the feedback into a vision for the Astrodome that can eventually be presented to commissioners.
DOOMEDDOME? While the Astrodome made history by opening in 1965 as the world’s rst air-conditioned domed stadium, advocates are keeping hopes alive that the structure will not become history.
2009: The dome is closed seven years after its last event was held.
2013: The National Trust for Historic Preservation names the dome a National Treasure. The same year, voters reject a $217 million referendum to repurpose the building into a convention center. 2016: Harris County Commissioners Court approves $105 million to redevelop the stadium. The Astrodome Conservancy is founded.
2019: The county halts the redevelopment plan to study other options.
2020: The conservancy raises $90,000 in private funds to support further study and development. SOURCES: ASTRODOME CONSERVANCY, HARRIS COUNTYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM
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.
“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.”
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BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • MAY 2021
News from Harris County, Houston, Bellaire & West University Place
DATE TOKNOW The Bellaire City Council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance creating the North Bellaire Special Development District zone, which would allow for a range of uses at 4800 Fournace Place, from movie theaters to restaurants to doctors’ oces, subject to development permits. MAY 3 CITY HIGHLIGHTS Bellaire The Bellaire City Library, 5111 Jessamine St., reopened April 7 with capacity restrictions, social distancing and mask requirements. Bellaire The City Council on April 5 approved $180,000 in grant funding from the Texas Division of Emergency Management to install a diesel generator at Feld Park to maintain water pressure and continuity of operations during power outages. 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. Bellaire A lawsuit from developer MM One Bellaire LLC has been resolved, the city conrmed April 20, allowing the demolition of the parking lot at 4300 Bellaire Blvd. to proceed. Additional terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Bellaire City Council meets the rst and third Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. at 7008 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire. Meetings are streamed at www.bellairetx.gov. West University Place City Council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. at 3800 University Blvd., Houston. Meetings are available via teleconference. Find details at www.westutx.gov. 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
FEMAvaccine site at NRGPark expands availability towalk-ins
BY SHAWN ARRAJJ
said at an April 19 press conference. “Each day this site is running, lives are 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 vacci- nated, 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
HARRIS COUNTY Public health ocials at NRG Park began admin- istering 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, people seeking vaccines no longer need to sign up for appointments if they go to NRG Park during its hours of operation. 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
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
demand stays below supply, Hidalgo warned FEMA may decide to shut down the site earlier. “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.
Council OKs Virtual Gate second phase
BCycle bike rental programadds 11 stations
BY HUNTER MARROW
funding for nonfederal share costs, nongrant equipment and installation costs for bike stations located on city property or right of way. Otherwise, Houston Bike Share would have been fully responsible for those costs. Houston BCycle has a network of over 100 stations and 800 bicycles. In March, the network marked its 1 millionth ride, six months ahead of projections.
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 Funds set aside for the Houston Bike Plan. City Council approved the expenditure April 14. Houston Bike Share, the nonprot that manages the system, will receive
BY HUNTER MARROW
WEST UNIVERSITY PLACE At a cost of $1.7 million, City Council approved a contract for the second phase of the Virtual Gate camera system. Installation will begin in May with completion expected by the end of the year. The Phase 2 contract was approved 4-1 on April 12, with Council Member Ed Sobash voting against. “Is the cost of moving forward worth proceeding with what we have?” Sobash asked the council. Phase 1 remains delayed as West University Place waits for the city of Houston to approve permits for the eight remaining locations, put- ting the project behind schedule by a few months. That portion of the project was originally estimated to be completed by December 2020 but will instead be completed in the second quarter of this year. The total cost for both phases of the project is $4.5 million, paid for through a certicate of obligation bond to be paid back over 15 years.
19TH ST. BCycle locations More Houston BCycle stations are coming to several Inner Loop neighborhoods.
SOURCE: CITY OF HOUSTONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
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