In a departure from our usual practice, Essentials asked the mayoral and council candidates each to come up with three questions for consideration. We reviewed and selected them to cover as many issues and philosophies as possible, then assigned limits to each on length of response. The author of the question is identified after their question. In rare instances, when candidates exceeded the word limits, the answers were edited, indicated by ellipses (…)
There are separate sets of questions for the candidates for mayor and the candidates for City Council. The responses are published in the order the candidates’ names will appear on the ballot, determined by a drawing at City Hall following the close of candidate filing.
Here are the questions and responses in the council races:
Questions submitted by the candidates (when necessary, edited to meet stipulated length; indicated by ellipses…)
What aspects of the current comprehensive plan are most important to residents and how should we clarify and adjust those details in the new comprehensive plan? (Georgiou) 75 words
Is Bellaire a “city” or a “small town”? (Newman) 50 words
How does your prior and current experience on city boards help you understand the way the city government and management functions? (Tavor) 50 words
How would you enhance community involvement in the decision-making process of Bellaire governance? (Stanton) 50words
Describe what you believe the residents of Bellaire want for the development on the current Randall’s location in town center. (Georgiou) 50 words
What knowledge and experience do you bring to the table for mitigating the risk of flooding in Bellaire? What plan can you propose to lower our flood insurance rate? (Lewis) 75 words
What are one or two example(s) of where/how more money should be allocated for departmental operations or city services or infrastructure? (Newman) 50 words
What have you done to help and support BPD in their efforts to prevent crime, make our neighborhoods safe at night, and enforce traffic laws? (Lewis) 50 words
What are one or two past examples where a lack of council’s transparency, accountability or receptiveness to citizen input prompted you to emphasize the need for such? (Stanton) 50 words
Would you be willing to collaborate with neighboring municipalities to learn and find ways to improve Bellaire and, if so, how would you do that? (Tavor) 50 words
- Residents have expressed a strong desire for accessible, walkable areas with restaurants and retail, including plenty of green space. Suggestions of “more vertical profile,” zero lot line (no setback), and denser development need to be clarified where they contradict the small town atmosphere and need for green space. As we address future uses in proximity of homes, the impact of traffic, light, noise, runoff from pavement, and types of activities need to be considered.
- Bellaire is a small town, where people speak to their neighbors regularly, engage in activities together, maintain years-long friendships with people on the other side of town, and are gracious to newcomers. As a small town, council members are just neighbors, responding to those who bring their problems to council.
- As council liaison to the Environmental Sustainability Board, I understand the myriad of concerns that board members bring forward for action. I’ve seen creative solutions bloom when introduced by others and experienced the negotiations required to move forward in our decisions.
- Boards and commission are opportunities to participate; residents encouraged to apply. Public comment is welcome there and at every council meeting. I go out and talk to those near to proposed developments and always learn from community expertise. I keep media outlets informed early about upcoming development proposals.
- Residents and future customers/clients want plenty of retail and restaurants in a walkable setting, along with green space and trees – meaning setback from streets, avoiding the canyon effect. Make it like Bellaire Town Center: retail below, offices above; also protect our trees on Bellaire Blvd. and manage traffic impact.
- As a geologist, I understand why flooding occurs and how to mitigate it. Having worked with porosity and permeability for years, I know how soil permeability is lost to compaction and wrong materials for subsurface preparationss, which increases runoff. FEMA sets the standards for the CRS flood insurance rating, and our building official and BSC members are working to meet those standards, clarifying rules that limit fill and enforcing flood vents and permeable crawl spaces.
- Our budget is very tight and allocating more money means more taxes, unless we take away from another service. If anything, code enforcement, police on streets, major drainage systems, street repair, and the library may need attention. The city manager is responsible for managing services and notifying council of needs.
- 1. I listened and learned from Citizens Police Academy and ride alongs. 2. Provided latest technology in traffic cameras, body cams, body armor, specialized drone, 3-D imaging, etc. 3. Encouraged city manager that police should be more visibly present at all hours, in all areas, and engaged in enforcement as deterrent to crime.
- •I asked for public notices for zoning proposals, specific use permits, and planned developments to be more descriptive. •Distributed flyers and sent emails about Comprehensive Plan meetings, new developments, Light & Noise town hall, etc., because notification was limited. •Sent developer presentations and applications (Mapleridge and Methodist proposals) to media outlets.
- I have learned from other cities’ leaders: Mayor Sample of West University and council members for Houston and Pearland, and others. I studied their ordinances, most recently on light and noise. Since Cypress Ditch that receives our street drainage is in Houston, we must cooperate on flood mitigation.
- We are spending a ton of $$$ on studies and presentations on yet another Comprehensive Plan. Intellectually honest and effective Council Members actually implement, listen to, public input. They must be “followers” rather than simply claim to be “leaders”. Among 1,122 residents, 854 have answered. In order of priority: 1) Storm water management; 2) Public safety services; 3) Infrastructure; 4) Neighborhood integrity; 5) Pedestrian, biking, traffic safety. Source: Bellaire Comprehensive Plan
- 19 years ago, one of my clients called his driveway a motor court. I’m sure that most of the candidates will point out that we are lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of both, without the disadvantages of either. Count me in — somewhat. My driveway is still a driveway.
- Four decades of experience in construction management have uniformly proven that politics, bureaucracy and human nature inevitably tend toward dysfunction rather than function. I’ve been equally effective in working with the City of Dallas and Bay St. Louis, MS. “City” or “small town”, Bellaire is no different.
- Honor public requests to be placed on Council meeting agenda(s). Proactively solicit, and respond to, polls online and in local publications on a regularly scheduled basis. Campaign to double voter turnout in local elections. Comply with our own Code of Ordinances, state and federal laws regarding FOIA .
- We have been, and continue to, ask them that very same question over the past two months. And they are continuing to respond. The consensus, in general, is similar yet with even more consistent concerns: traffic congestion, aesthetic impact, pedestrian/bike safety, litter, both permanently and during construction.
- Dr. Lewis asked 2 questions. I only have 75 words. I have built dams, temporary and permanent levees, canals, pumping stations, surface water irrigation channels, retention ponds and pipelines. Specifically, I designed a private lake for a sustainable real estate development wherein the water level hasn’t fluctuated more than 2 feet over the past 50 years. Insurance premiums are a function of risk. Example risk reducers can be Zoning. Levees, Natural Storage, Enforced Building Codes.
- Traffic noise and speed enforcement. In a 4/27/22 meeting with Chief of Police, Mo Lopez, one topic was budgeting for the Dog Pound. I noted that there had been a substantial decrease in annual traffic citations and the revenue derived therefrom. Mo expressed extreme reluctance that tickets fund anything.
- Individual police officers have done an extraordinary job of crime prevention and enforcement, in spite of having only ordinary resources. I have concealed surveillance cameras installed in my home. I report the pattern of habitual traffic violations and plead for speed trailers – to no avail.
- In my direct experience as one of a few hundred participants in, “It’s All About the Dogs.”. Councilmembers’ continuing claims of any commitment to any transparency, accountability or receptiveness to citizen input, especially during Election season, is insulting. The phrase has become trite and a stale cliché’.
- Of course. I’ve already approached West U., all of our current councilmembers and relevant department heads, as well as Bellaire’s NGO’s, on at least 3 different issues. Mayor Andrew finally complained of my persistence and the rest of them just began to ignore my FOIA requests.
- What seems to be one of the most important issues is the portion of the city designated as the Urban Village, notably the Methodist site. To fix things, we need to go beyond clarifications in the new comprehensive plan. If we want clear, defined parameters, we have to update our zoning ordinances. A plan is an idea, an ordinance is law.
- Bellaire is a city. La Grange is a small town. We are an enclave of a major metropolitan area – Houston – but we are a city within a city with many homes, schools, emergency response services, a busy Interstate cutting through the middle, corporate offices, a Centerpoint Electric Service Center, etc.
- While on the Environmental Sustainability Board and currently with the Building and Standards Commission, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with city staff and council members learning about their roles and limitations and what council members can and cannot do so I don’t over promise and under-deliver if I’m elected.
- Talk to the residents and get to know what they are thinking. Throughout this campaign, I’ve been holding these Breakfasts in the Park. I’ve gotten a chance to meet so many people with different visions for Bellaire, but one thing remains constant: we all want a better Bellaire.
- The end result would be something that fits with the character of the city. Currently, Planning and Zoning is working with Council to let Methodist know what would be more acceptable on that site. Let’s wait and review what Methodist brings back to the table and see if it works.
- As a home builder and Building and Standards Commissioner, I’ve gotten very involved in Bellaire’s FEMA issues over the past few years. The solution is two-fold. First, we close the loopholes in our building codes through flood hazard mitigation ordinances requiring permeable surfaces in crawl spaces amongst other fixes. Second, we utilize Development Service’s new software, Forerunner, to try to lower our Community Ratings System level to further give residents a higher flood insurance discount.
- I would venture to say the Forerunner floodplain management software system for Development Services, which cost $30,000 (FY 2024 budget), was a significant investment, but a well thought out one with the ability to help the city improve its CRS rating and lower flood insurance premiums further for our residents.
- Me? Not speed and I don’t break into anyone’s car. All jokes aside, as a councilman, I will meet weekly with the city manager to check on all city operations, including the BPD, emphasizing the need to have our officers patrolling the streets more and return to enforcing traffic laws.
- I would be lying if I told you I could point out a specific instance, but as your councilman, I would deliver communication, accessibility and accountability. I am elected to serve you, the residents, not the other way around and I would be honored to have that opportunity.
- Yes and I already have. While working to get our tree ordinance in line with West University’s, I got their Urban Forester to speak at a Building and Standards Commission meeting. That played a role in our recommendation to council a review of acceptance of the West U tree ordinance.
- We have learned through Bellaire’s recent resident survey on the comprehensive plan (where we received over 1100 responses) that the priorities for residents are safety services, flood mitigation, infrastructure condition and capacity, protecting the integrity of Bellaire’s residential areas and walkability. The key words that bubbled up in the word cloud and most used in the survey were “safe, friendly, walkable, family and green.”
- Bellaire is such a beautiful, charming and family-friendly city and I love being part of a community that is commonly referred to as “The City of Homes”.
- In addition to serving on the Parks Board and chairing several community events, I am a graduate of the Bellaire Citizen’s Academy and a current Bellaire Ambassador. Attending the academy is crucial to understanding our municipality, all our city services and the council’s role in governing the city.
- I encourage residents to attend public meetings of the city council and of our boards and commissions. It is the best way to learn and have the opportunity to voice opinions. Most importantly, I encourage everyone to vote. Electing capable and reasonable leaders and decision makers is our responsibility.
- The City of Bellaire does not currently solicit businesses. We do, however, respond to inquiries and welcome businesses to make proposals to the council. It is my hope that we see more businesses approach us and want to partner with our community in the near and distant future.
- Fortunately, Bellaire has a Task Force already in place with experts to evaluate and achieve the city’s mitigation goals on an ongoing basis. Our flood insurance rates are back in line to where they were prior to the increase and FEMA has complimented Bellaire on our efficiency and professionalism in the complicated process. Our team on this is solid.
- The budget for 2024 is already in place and is public information. It can be found on the city website, or on the OneBellaire app. Our City Manager has done an excellent job of running the operations of the city, managing the budget and making recommendations and decisions.
- The #1 priority is always the safety of our citizens. I have supported this by casting my vote in each election to elect leaders that are in favor of supporting our police department with resources and are supportive of the department and our city manager’s role.
- City council meetings (with rare exceptions) are open to the public and residents can attend and comment. The same applies to all our boards and commissions meetings. Citizens can attend and comment at all public meetings. I believe the council, boards and commissions have been transparent in their processes.
- Our City Council is already a member of the Harris County Mayors and Councils Association (HCMCA), which is a collaborative association consisting of many municipalities in Harris County. They meet regularly to share ideas and best practices. I support the continuation of this and the council’s representation as a group.
- This election carries immense significance due to the potential for the mayor to shape the city’s trajectory over the next eight years. With the mayor holding the power to influence and guide the City Council, their decisions will profoundly impact our community’s future. The direction set now will affect everything from infrastructure and development to social policies and public services. Choosing the right leader is vital to ensuring a prosperous and harmonious path for our city.
- Bellaire is a unique blend of both…I will do everything I can to maintain its small-town charm while strategically managing growth. Bellaire was just voted 12th most family friendly city in America, and we should do everything possible to create an all-inclusive atmosphere. Bellaire should be the place where anyone can visit, shop, or just play.
- My experience on a city board, particularly with BLife where I was Vice Chair, has been invaluable. It revealed the intricacies of city government, highlighting the slow pace of change and the significance of aligning projects with the council’s priorities for funding. This knowledge equips me to navigate and advocate effectively within the system.
- I will utilize a diverse range of communication channels, from traditional methods like door-to-door interactions and phone outreach to modern tools like emails and the city app. I would even explore employing creative methods like carrier pigeons, to ensure residents have a voice in decision-making. The council forgets it is the residents who make Bellaire. We have to do better.
- While it is impossible to gauge every resident’s opinion, it is clear that we need to amplify community outreach. Residents likely desire thoughtful, inclusive development at the Randall’s location in town center. Open dialogue and broader engagement are vital to understanding diverse perspectives and shaping a development that aligns with our collective vision.
- My personal experience of having endured five floods has given me an intimate understanding of the traumatic impact and urgency of flood mitigation. To lower our flood insurance rates, I would prioritize hiring highly competent staff skilled in efficiently processing paperwork within deadlines, ensuring our community qualifies for favorable flood insurance terms. My commitment stems from a deep understanding of the emotional and financial toll flooding takes on residents.
- Allocating more funds to provide a living wage for public works employees and police dispatchers is paramount. It is essential to recognize their invaluable contributions to our community and ensure they can make a decent living. Additionally, increased investment in addressing decaying infrastructure is imperative to maintain the city’s long-term functionality and safety.
- I have been a staunch advocate for higher police pay since 2015, recognizing the importance of fair compensation for our officers. I also lend support to the Bellaire Police Officers Association and I am currently enrolled in the Bellaire PD citizens academy, deepening my commitment to strengthening our PD’s ability to prevent crime, enhance neighborhood safety, and enforce traffic laws effectively.
- Two distinct ideologies are vying for control of the City Council: the Pappas, Frazier, Witt, Gordon, Friedberg coalition versus Wesley, Lewis, Tavor, Georgiou. Amidst this divide, I stand as the sole true independent candidate, committed to advocating for the well-being and diverse needs of all Bellaire residents, transcending party lines.
- Absolutely, collaboration with neighboring municipalities is essential for collective growth. Building on our reciprocal agreements already in place with Southside and West University, I would establish regular forums for sharing best practices, pooling resources, and fostering a strong network for problem-solving. Together, we can ensure a brighter future for Bellaire.
- The comprehensive plan should reflect the desires of the citizens of Bellaire and ensure that it satisfies Bellaire residents’ aspiration to remain a City of Homes. It is a forward vision and a plan of action on the balancing of land uses. The vision of a walkable urban development with access to adequate retail and green space in Bellaire’s downtown is essential to our excellent quality of life and in harmony with the strength of our residential community.
- Bellaire is uniquely both a small city and a small town…an enclave city. An enclave city is independent in its government, city services and actions from the larger city. It distinguishes itself with its own charm and character for the well-being of its residents through its own policies, self-determination and self-governance.
- I have been an active citizen in the Bellaire community all my life. But it is my experience in the business world which gives me an advantage. I have the ability to establish a strong vision and the courage to see it through…the strength and courage to tackle issues and will work… to modify those situations for the benefit of Bellaire residents.
- In this small city, we are privileged and honored to have a close relationship with our government body and that our voices can be heard by Council. It is my hope to be a part of our responsive Council. I want to ensure public access to the discussion of all government activities and decisions and encourage attendance at City Council meetings or viewing video streaming of those meetings and all public forums. I also will encourage individual contact between me and the residents as to the desires of the citizens for Council’s actions. I will maintain open communications and represent the interests of Bellaire residents.
- The residents of Bellaire want the vision provided to them in the Comprehensive Plan of a walkable urban development that “spurs greater foot traffic and extended visits that are essential to a vibrant mix of retail”. They want this accessible urban development that will include, under the current Methodist proposal, medical offices that will support our community and also provide sufficient retail and green space for the enjoyment and quality of life of the community. Commercial and residential property values will rise, and a healthy tax base will be established, as homeowners, developers and retailers want to be a part of this wonderful town.
- We need to develop a strong relationship with Harris County Flood Control District to address our specific issues in Bellaire. One of the main flooding problems in Bellaire, to a great extent, is due to the inability of Cypress Ditch, to discharge stormwater to Brays Bayou. Since the ditch is in Houston and the majority of storm water in Bellaire drains in that direction, additional capacity in the ditch is needed. Utilizing aspects of Bellaire parks to help with retention/detention is also a course of action.
- The two main areas of focus for financial need in the City of Bellaire should be on public safety and flood water management…Virtual gate security cameras strategically placed and additional support and funding for those who protect our families and our homes is pivotal. Working with Harris County Flood Control District and considering additional retention/detention opportunities in Bellaire parks is essential.
- If I were so honored to serve on Bellaire City Council, I would work to ensure adequate funding was available to support all appropriate police functions. Bellaire residents are fortunate to have the City of Bellaire’s police, fire departments and emergency medical services. Appreciation and support must be shown for those who protect our families and homes.
- Generally, we have had effective Bellaire City Councils. There are certain instances that require greater emphasis. In those cases, I have found that active citizen participation modifies Council’s direction for the betterment of the community. The more actively engaged citizens are, the more Council will understand the desires of the citizens and provide direction to meet those expectations and needs.
- We should share public safety and emergency services with West University Place, Southside Place and Bellaire. And we need to maintain an appreciation for community cooperation with the City of Houston. That cooperation, especially during emergencies, is invaluable. We complement each other not only in our emergency services but as neighboring cities. As Bellaire is a better community, West University and Southside are better communities as well, and we are always grateful for services provided by the adjoining cities.