Statement From Former Mayor Burt Ballanfant on Future Parkland Acquisition
When I enter West University on Buffalo Speedway I am greeted by a sign that says “Tree City.”
The sign underscores a fundamental value of the the bulk of our residents. However recent years have underscored a long term development of ever greater density of businesses and residential construction in our city, Due to our land prices lots now are built out to the ultimate limits of our ordinances , additionally ever larger and taller multifamily residences as well as businesses are being constructed on our periphery. This is a healthy thing and reflects the fundamental dynamic quality of the business environment in Houston. In the immediate past our city has undertaken to survey our residents in relation to our park needs and desires. At a recent public meeting the results were described.
The discussion was focused on the issue of the acquisition of more park land and tended to represent that the public did not support such acquisitions. I am not sure what facts were relayed to the consultant and the totality of the results may still not be known but I would offer a different interpretation. The survey was asking broad questions on what was being discussed and did not state for what purpose the property would be acquired. As one council member observed to me afterwards that there was a tripartite split described by the data: 1/3, 1/3/,1/3- for, neutral, and against.
However, the most striking element was in a question which asked if West U should have more unstructured green spaces.- 44.12% supported such an acquisition 34.98% were neutral, and 17.68% were against and 3.22% took no position. What was the true feeling of the neutrals? That finding is not surprising and does not take into account a significant piece of data. Polls and questionaires are not a medium where residents have to make real choices based on the data they have. A bond election is such a decision maker. The above polling data is consistent with the most recent election we had on acquisition of property for a park.
As mayor I proposed a park acquisition of a particular property . The council voted not to propose a specific area but to propose a broader area including that parcel which stretched from from Auden to Buffalo Speedway in the dollar amount I had proposed for the specific park about $2 million. I voted for that proposal with the majority which two council members opposed that alternative proposal as well as the original specific mayoral proposal. Also proposed were park improvements that included a retractable roof over a swimming center that was indicated in the same of questionnaires sent out at that time.. I felt that cost for the improvement proposals was too high but voted to submit them to the voters and did not campaign against these park improvement measures i.e. remained neutral. I did campaign for the acquisition of park land and specifically pointed to an open area which was especially wooded within the described area which had been previously designated designated by me in the specific land proposal.
The two park improvement measures failed and the parkland acquisition measure passed . I felt that outcome reflected the will of the West University citizens. They did support the acquisition of more open space within the city but not measures they were unsure of or thought too expensive. The professional interpreter of the current questionnaires stated that neutral votes were not necessarily against votes- I agree. I believe the proper interpretation of the previous election outcome and the current questionnaires is that many respondents not knowing what was specifically being proposed opted to be neutral but that the actual election results from the earlier bond vote reflect the true feelings of the city.
I felt then and feel now that a city descibed as Tree City on its entrance markers would support the acquisition of open unstructured green space as they did once before in 2006 especially in light of what has transpired around us since then and is still transpiring around us today