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 mayor’s race.
- What is the most important issue facing Bellaire and how would you address this issue? (Perry)
Perry: I believe crime/public safety is the most important issue now and for our future. If you cannot contain crime and homelessness in your city, you have no city. Look nationally at what is happening in cities that coddle crime or are not proactive. Our incredible police and fire departments need support and funding to secure our city and keep us safe. We must actively push to relocate the METRO transit center out of our commercial area.
Wesely: There is no single issue. The city must be responsive to issues facing all residents. Each resident may have a different most important issue, but all issues should be addressed the same way. Seek resident input, research solutions, and then the council weighs the costs and benefits of those solutions to reach a solution that is affordable and sustainable. Throwing money at problems or doing something just to be doing something are not solutions.
Pappas: The most important issue facing Bellaire is the ultimate implementation of the Flood Control Drainage Plan. Its size, scope, magnitude and its impact on our lives cannot be overstated. While many were just happy to have survived it, I can still smell the effects of Harvey and the looks of despair on people’s faces as they faced the prospect of rebuilding their homes, lives, and dealing with the loss of most everything they possessed. Enough said. Our continued safety and the quiet enjoyment of our town is next.
- What is your motivation for running for mayor of Bellaire,and what is your future vision for the city? (Perry)
Perry: I love Bellaire. I want to serve our community and our children. We have a duty to our children and community to protect and preserve Bellaire. We have challenges that must be addressed. Crime and public safety must be a priority in securing our neighborhoods. Having a plan for drainage and securing outside funds to execute that plan is crucial for our future. Maintaining fiscal responsibility is vital for our long-term plans and infrastructure improvements.
Wesely: I am running because hard work is required to ensure the city is run well, and I am willing to do that work. I will increase communication, fiscal responsibility, accountability, and transparency. With fewer divisive issues more energy can be spent building a positive community and a better quality of life for all Bellaire residents. I envision a city that people want to move to because of Bellaire’s great sense of community.3. The mayor and council have two primary duties: hire a city manager and set policy. The mayor also (obviously!) runs council meetings. I agree with the approach of the current mayor – allow free discussion among council members while generally limiting my own discussion to the end of the debate. With respect to staff, the current city manager is focused on metrics for each department. The mayor and council must stay informed on the activities of staff (and metrics are invaluable) to evaluate the effectiveness of the city manager. Sometimes this requires asking hard questions and doing independent research.
Pappas: My motivation for running is the completion of the work I was a part of for 8 years, and the joy of achieving that work.
- What do you consider the mayor’s role on council and how does it differ from a council member’s role? What do you believe council and, independently, the mayor’s role with staff should be? (Pappas)
Perry: The mayor and council are equal members who both represent the will of the people. The mayor should always work with the council and respect each other’s positions, even in times of adversity and disagreement. The mayor, however, is the leader of the council and should be exactly that, a leader. A leader should not want to hear the sound of his voice but should advocate and echo the voice of the people. Both council and mayor should be supportive and respectful of staff. The city manager should be supported in carrying out her job for the citizens of Bellaire.
Wesely: The mayor and council have two primary duties: hire a city manager and set policy. The mayor also (obviously!) runs council meetings. I agree with the approach of the current mayor – allow free discussion among council members while generally limiting my own discussion to the end of the debate. With respect to staff, the current city manager is focused on metrics for each department. The mayor and council must stay informed on the activities of staff (and metrics are invaluable) to evaluate the effectiveness of the city manager. Sometimes this requires asking hard questions and doing independent research.
Pappas: The Mayor is the leader and face of the city. While the Mayor has no more voting power than any other city council member, the role is paramount to its success, to include its relationship with city staff. A symbiotic relationship must exist between city staff and Mayor and Council, marked by mutual respect. The Mayor could best be described as the first among equals, the first to receive praise, but, likewise, the first to field criticism. The first to accept responsibility, and the first to protect others from unfair blame. The first to set an example, but also the first to see the best in others. The first to listen and the first to follow.
- What are three things you would focus on as mayor in the next two years if you are elected? (Perry)
Perry: Crime/Public Safety, Drainage and Fiscal Responsibility will all be addressed. If you don’t protect your city, you have no city. We must support our wonderful police department and send a clear message, do not come to Bellaire to commit crimes! We must secure outside funding from state/federal officials to help with drainage improvement projects. The city of Bellaire needs strong advocacy to receive these funds. We must cut the fat and reduce/eliminate our 99 million debt issue in Bellaire. Wasteful spending cannot occur, and we must maximize our business relationships with partners to help reduce our debt in deals we make.
Wesely: 1) Better communication with Bellaire residents. Our messaging needs to be consistent and clear. The city also should improve mechanisms to receive feedback, such as polls or forms on the city website. 2) Planning for financially sustainable, long-term, infrastructure needs – such as flood mitigation, street replacement, and building replacement. 3) Completing the comprehensive plan revision and following through with implementing zoning changes. For example, if walkability is important in the comprehensive plan, the zoning could prohibit uses such as drive through businesses in that area.
Pappas: Just three things? Fully staffing the city which touches all aspects of city life from safety to street lights, see 1 above, and setting the stage for what the city will look like for our children.
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses, and how would they impact your being a good mayor? (Pappas)
Perry: My greatest strengths are that I am passionate, hardworking and I believe in God. I will always advocate for the City of Bellaire and do what is right. My weakness is realizing some people cannot change and will always harbor vitriol and hate. We must move on from that negativity! (Edited)
Wesely: I am focused on getting things done, I am willing to listen and change my mind based on new information, and I run an efficient meeting. I can be blunt – which can get in the way of good communication.
Pappas: I am sincere and I like people, and with me you get what you see. I have been told that can be a weakness. Perhaps, but most people can live with transparency and sincerity.
- What are one or two example(s) of where/how more money should be allocated for departmental operations or city services or infrastructure? (Kevin Newman)
Perry: I will never compromise public safety as Mayor of Bellaire. Our police and fire departments will have the funding they need to operate and protect us. How amazing is it to know we live in a city with such a quick response time from our first responders! This candidate will always back the blue. High retention and competitive benefits for our first responders in Bellaire must be prioritized and advocated for.
Wesely: 1) Tools to help staff be efficient, such as improved document management systems. 2) Infrastructure planning so we are not, for example, repairing streets and then replacing them.
Pappas: All of the departments could all use more money, so reallocating is not the answer to any of their needs. Prioritizing our needs each year is workable and effective.
- Several new developments or proposed developments were strongly opposed by the people of Bellaire. What should be done with the Comp Plan to encourage developers to make plans more compatible with the small-town atmosphere and walkable downtown that residents desire?(Catherine Lewis)
Perry: It starts with the voice of our community. I’ll stress it again as this is a crucial point. The will of the people is what drives our city and the community of Bellaire, not council members or developers. The people have the final say as this is our community, and we must protect and enhance it. The comprehensive plan should be followed, and our citizens are the ultimate decision makers.
Wesely: The comprehensive plan and zoning need to be clear so that developers can develop as of right in a manner that is consistent with the goals outlined in the comprehensive plan. In most situations this means the zoning must be more detailed so that development meets the expectations of residents and probably needs to be reviewed in a shorter time frame.
Pappas: The Methodist development was not green lighted in large part because it did not comport with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The residents have the opportunity to review the CP and revise it if necessary, which signals its desired look. Invariably, little will likely change in that regard. What can change is the message that City Council sends and the support it provides to the business community. We are a zoned city and within the confines of that zoning and our CP, we should support city development and business. That would be a helpful message.
- Describe what you believe the residents of Bellaire want for the development on the current Randall’s location in town center. (Jackie Georgiou)
Perry: I can tell you what the residents don’t want. Crime, loitering, trespassing and a vacant parking lot that is an eyesore for the city. Our city deserves a walkable, green space area that is warm and community friendly. I would also like to see the METRO station relocated out of the area.
Wesely: The residents have been clear that they want restaurants and retail on the first floor of mixed-use development in similar fashion to Bellaire Town Center. Feedback also has been clear that if there is a parking garage it must not be the first thing you see driving down Bellaire Boulevard.
Pappas: I think the residents want a destination spot to see, socialize, shop, dine, which reflects the image of the town in which they live.
- How would you enhance community involvement in the decision-making process of Bellaire governance? (Mike Stanton)
Perry: Our community should always have a voice and be engaged in our city decisions. The council’s role should always be to represent that voice. We can never forget this. As Mayor, I would always welcome our citizens to speak at our meetings. I would also meet with city leaders and encourage them to continue to let our community know what is happening. We must continue to use social media to inform our citizens of events.
Wesely: Improving communication is a never-ending process. The first step is improving our communication of issues to residents. Communication needs to be clear and consistent. The next step is soliciting feedback. I am in favor of using polls and providing a means to simplify feedback on the city website.
Pappas: Notice and communication is always the key, but the most difficult to achieve, and not everyone feels the need to get involved. Making sure to listen when they do and when they don’t they are represented nonetheless.
- 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? (Elan Tavor)
Perry: Yes, I absolutely would! I truly believe that successful people and organizations can always seek to learn more from others who are having similar successes/challenges. I have spoken about having a joint task force to improve our safety and security in our neighborhoods. Good relations with our neighboring municipalities can only benefit us.
Wesely: The city manager currently meets regularly with the city managers of neighboring municipalities. I would encourage that process and also look to not only neighboring municipalities, but also Houston and cities around the state, to evaluate the efficacy of their solutions to our issues.
Pappas: We should always be willing to work with our neighbors for our mutual benefit, but we must, likewise, march to the beat of our own drum.