A scheduled Zoom forum tonight (Oct. 6) on Bellaire’s three ballot propositions on sidewalks has been canceled because of a dispute over format and questions that led to withdrawal of the opposing group.
The Bellaire/Braeswood Democrats forum had been in the works “for weeks,” according to one of the organizers, Patrick Durio of Bellaire, who explained that both sides were given questions in advance to allow them to prepare. He said his organization — which has sponsored a number of similar local forums for candidates and issues — is “very disappointed in the group’s decision.”
“The ‘against’ group felt it was inappropriate for the Forum to ask a question regarding the group’s claim that Proposition A ‘requires immensely expensive design and hydrological studies,’” Durio said. “They stated that the question was unfair because they are unable to provide a basis for such claim, or to provide an estimate of such costs.”
Patricia Bernstein of Bellaire, who has served as spokesman for “Safe Bellaire,” which opposes the propositions, said “perceived bias” was the reason for the pullout. “In short, the moderators significantly changed the rules and parameters of the debate, and gave us very little notice of this (less than 48 hours),” she said.
Of concern to Safe Bellaire, she said, was changing the format to allow questions from the public only if time permitted at the end of the event, and inserting the cost question, which she said would have taken additional time to prepare properly.
“We are perplexed that the group felt the cost question was unfair, since that was their major argument against Prop A,” said Durio.
Propositions A, B and C were more than two years in the making after a number of issues related to sidewalk planning, placement and size blew up at City Council, dividing the community. A grassroots petition drive succeeded to put the three charter amendments on the ballot.
Proponents say they will allow “sidewalk choice,” outlining strict procedures for when and how residential sidewalks can be built in Bellaire. Opponents claim the measures are so complicated and restrictive that they will make sidewalk installation a near impossibility, if enacted.