Five West University residents are vying to fill four seats on City Council — two of them incumbents. They are (in the order they will appear on the ballot), Clay Brett, Shannon Carroll (I), Buckley Morlot, Matt Hart, John Montgomery (I).
This year’s Essentials candidates’ questionnaire on the issues contains questions from them and from the two mayoral candidates, incumbent Susan Sample and Councilmember John Barnes.
(Editor’s note: This post has been updated with Buckley Morlot’s response to the final question, about infrastructure and drainage, which was inadvertently omitted from the print edition of Essentials and the original post. We apologize for the error.)
West U is a family-centric city. What have you done to improve our city’s park system, help our kids sports program, make our city more walkable and safe? (Question from Susan Sample)
Clay Brett: I championed the Edloe Street Pathway for the past year, working with City Councilmembers and speaking before City Council to support a new, beautiful, and safe way for pedestrians, strollers, scooters and wagons to travel north and south through the heart of our neighborhood.
Shannon Carroll: On council, I advocate for park improvements, sidewalk repairs, Edloe Street Pathway, and serve as Senior Board Liaison, (division of Parks/Rec). I’m on West U softball auxiliary, volunteer for Fathers and Flashlights, and support Park Lovers Ball. I’m an active volunteer mom of three in WULL, WUSA, and RISE.
Buckley Morlot: As a mom of toddlers, West U parks are a major part of my daily life and a huge reason why I love this city. To pay it forward, I co-chaired the auction for the 2022 Park Lovers Ball, helping to raise funds to keep our parks safe and fun.
Matt Hart: My wife, kids and I have been active supporters and participants in youth sports and West U Elementary School. Through supporting these institutions, I’ve been proud to give my time and resources, together with my neighbors, to ensure that West U is a great place for families.
John Montgomery: I voted for: 1) a new walking path along the Poor Farm Ditch that will help keep kids out of intersections, 2) a new agreement with our youth sports partners, 3) new intersection stop signage, and 4) I worked as the council liaison to our Parks and Recreation Board.
Do you believe that paid political consultants, political action committees and the like have a place in West U elections? Why or why not? (Question from John Barnes – edited to balance the question for either response)
Clay Brett: West U has a long history of political organization, formerly the “West U Party” that organized voters and candidates. I celebrate our neighborhood’s civic engagement in all its forms within our highly educated population, and hope it continues to increase among neighbors in a civil manner.
Shannon Carroll: Public service is a rewarding, time consuming commitment, and engaging support is a personal decision. I have never employed a political consultant or taken financial contributions from a PAC. I, with my husband and three children, take pride in having personally knocked on over 3,000 doors to earn your vote.
Buckley Morlot: I believe in the 1st amendment and therefore have no issue with PACs being involved in campaigns. It is also standard operation for a candidate to have paid staff and volunteers helping them. Nonetheless, I am not in favor of negative campaigning, especially in a local election.
Matt Hart: I want to get to know my neighbors and serve them in government. I’m running an independent, self-financed campaign. I signed the “Fair Campaign Pledge” and won’t say anything negative about any of my fellow candidates. I will donate any compensation back to the city because I’m running for you.
John Montgomery: I have not employed a paid consultant for this election, or for the 2021 election, but I don’t have a problem with any candidate doing so if they feel they need help getting their name and message out in the community.
In the last election, the major issue involved the relationship between the city and the Tri-Sports Association. Has the new agreement between West U and Tri-Sports been a success for the city and youth sports, or is it problematic in any way? If so, how? (Question from John Montgomery — edited to add background)
Clay Brett: The renewed support for Tri-Sports reiterates bedrock principles of West U: support for families and the outdoor activities of our children. I grew up traveling all over for soccer, baseball, and basketball, and in doing so built teamwork and leadership skills while making lasting memories. These are wonderful experiences to share with every new generation of West U kids and the city will continue to steward our youth sports organizations with me on Council.
Shannon Carroll: Any agreement between the city of West U and our vendors should be transparent, public, and beneficial to our residents. The new agreement between West U and TriSports requires that invoices be provided to the city in exchange for reimbursement, with a lower cap than in years past. By entering into this agreement, residents can be sure their city is operating in fiscal transparency while supporting the youth sports leagues that make West U special.
Buckley Morlot: The agreement has been a success. West U and Tri-Sports have a long-standing partnership, dating back to the 1980s, one that has been positive for the community. The new agreement was unanimously approved (with one member being absent), and I agree with the vote.
Matt Hart: Many families choose West U for its great schools and city amenities, including youth sports. Supporting these institutions help ensure that West U is a desirable, prosperous and safe place to live. Our neighbors make significant personal investments of time and resources in supporting senior and youth activities and West U parks. It’s wise for the city to also support institutions that keep West U a great place to live and raise a family.
John Montgomery: The new agreement with our youth sports partners is a success for the city for three important reasons: 1) the agreement helps reestablish the trust between Tri-Sports and the City of West U that took decades to build, 2) the agreement fairly establishes a cost sharing arrangement with a maximum spending cap, and3) the agreement requires our partners to submit transparent receipts for worked performed, with capital projects approved separately by Council.
What have you done to improve the West U community prior to seeking higher office? (Question from Clay Brett)
Clay Brett: My experience advocating for the Edloe Street Pathway was not easy, but it was the right thing to do. Families on Wroxton and the north side of Albans did not have a safe path south from Albans to Edloe, and I was proud to be the voice for those families in the face of organized opposition, in the face of a push poll, in the face of outright indifference bordering on hostility to children’s safety.
Shannon Carroll: As an incumbent, I’ve spent the past two years serving my current term, in addition to being Council Liaison to the Senior Board and a Good Neighbor Team volunteer. I’vealso served West U and our greater community through West U Softball Auxiliary and WULL, teaching Sunday School at St. Luke’s United Methodist, and serving as a volunteer for Harris County Meals on Wheels, Kid’s Meals, Fulfilling Families, ACE Scholarships, The Forge, and Breakthrough Houston.
Buckley Morlot: I am an active member of the West U community. I’m a graduate of the West U Citizens Academy, a program I highly recommend. I have also organized three trainings at the Children’s Assessment Center for West U parents about keeping our kids safe online. Last election cycle, I hosted and organized several speaker series featuring energy and education policy experts and candidate forums in an effort to keep residents informed and involved.
Matt Hart: My son has attended West U Elementary for five years, and we’ve been proud to work with our neighbors to support the school. We’ve also enjoyed participating in and supporting our kids in WU Little League, WUSA, SFL, the Piranhas swim team and RISE soccer. I’ve also served in government, working for a federal judge in Houston and as a consultant for the Department of Defense, and I’ve provided pro bono legal services.
John Montgomery: Being a good neighbor has always been a high priority for my family, and it is the driving force behind everything I vote for on Council today. I have four young children living in this community, and my wife and I hope to set a good example by participating in sustainable initiatives, contributing to the future of the parks we use, and by showing respect for the space of others.
If elected, what will be your top priority on day 1? (Question from Shannon Carroll)
Clay Brett: From day one I will improve street and sidewalk safety to continue to grow as a modern, walkable city. I will move to expand our sidewalk renewal program and paint new crosswalks where pedestrian traffic is highest, while implementing driver safety signage in areas where our pedestrians are most vulnerable.
Shannon Carroll: The recent Citizen’s Satisfaction Survey showed drainage and safety are resident’s top concerns. Continuing work on East and West Side drainage projects and ensuring recent first responder pay increases are maintained are my priorities. Additionally, ensuring all residents – children to seniors – are represented in decision making is of utmost importance.
Buckley Morlot: My top priority will be bringing more transparency to public office — it’s the reason I am running for city council. There are several significant financial decisions on the horizon, and I will make every effort to make what happens at City Hall easily available and digestible to anyone interested.
Matt Hart: We must effectively implement key infrastructure and facilities plans. Our police and firefighters ensure our public safety, but effective management of our water, drainage and facilities infrastructure ensure the safety of our properties. With an engineering, finance and legal background, I will implement these plans to keep your home safe.
John Montgomery: We have important infrastructure projects on the horizon including drainage, water supply, sidewalks, public use buildings, and technology. Simultaneously, we face tremendous inflationary pressure on staffing, contract labor and materials. I will prioritize cuts to unnecessary spending, and generate new, non-tax, non-fee revenue to sustain our financial discipline.
What will you do to increase civic engagement among West U residents? (Question from Buckley Morlot)
Clay Brett: West U can do better making residents aware of city business making its way through the Council and its standing Committees. Residents should know where each piece of Council and Committee business stands, in a regularly delivered, informative and accessible way.
Shannon Carroll: Our council has improved civic engagement by creating the West U Citizen’s Academy, an opportunity for residents to participate in a 6 week behind-the-scenes program, including hands-on activities, tours, and presentations. We have also emphasized improved engagement through state of the city addresses, in-person resident meetings, mailers, and social media.
Buckley Morlot: I will have a bi-weekly newsletter highlighting the top three things coming out of council and what to look out for. I will have also an active social media presence throughout my tenure. West U has many existing opportunities for engagement, and I look forward to increasing participation.
Matt Hart: West U has great institutions, and our neighbors’ pride and energy keep them vibrant. Council can make investments to ensure they deliver for all residents. We can expand offerings at the rec center; increase the vitality of our commercial areas; and improve the community feel of our parks and streets.
John Montgomery: Bianca Cuccere, our Communications Coordinator, has done great work improving our communication effort, specifically over the internet. However, I will continue to advocate for old-school mail, city publications, and notifications in local press. Facebook, Twitter, and email are valuable, but we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.
What are your priorities for improving city infrastructure and specifically drainage? (Question from Matt Hart)
Clay Brett: The Poor Farm Ditch requires structural repairs south of University. We have too many homes east of the Ditch that remain in the “100 year” floodplain, and many roadways flash flood. We must prioritize drainage solutions for these areas when we reinvest the city’s capital over the next several years.
Shannon Carroll: Following successful completion of Buffalo Speedway construction, the East and West Side drainage projects and Poor Farm Ditch improvements are top priorities for improving drainage. Building infrastructure is being addressed through the Facilities Master Plan, a long-term framework to update and improve city buildings with an eye toward the future.
Buckley Morlot: Flooding is an issue we all deal with. I will hit the ground running by meeting with the city manager and other experts/stakeholders to enhance and improve our flood mitigation plan. Most importantly, I would hear how my constituents would like to see the city deal with this issue.
Matt Hart: We must complete the West and East Side drainage projects. There are important decisions to be made to implement them effectively and inclusively, but they must be completed. Similarly, we must also ensure the future of Poor Farm Ditch. Through these initiatives, we can ensure the safety of our properties.
John Montgomery: Water, water, and water. Specifically, improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, our freshwater delivery system, and, importantly, our ability to remove stormwater through drainage. Immediately, we must alleviate street flooding through the East Side Street & Drainage project, West Side Drainage Project design, and urgent Poor Farm Ditch repairs.