West U City Council Forum: Candidates Discuss First Move in Office

April 22, 2013

InstantNewsWestU.com is hosting an online candidate forum for the West U City Council candidates.

Questions and the candidates’ answers will be published throughout the weeks leading up to early voting.

There are five candidates vying for four city council seats. Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample, Councilman Dick Yehle, Councilwoman Joan Johnson and Councilman Ed Heathcott are all running for re-election. Friends of West U Parks Board Member Sonny Brandtner is running for a city council seat.

Candidates’ answers are published as they are received, without any editing by InstantNewsWestU.com. The candidates’ responses were originally posted in ballot order and are rotated each week.

This is the final question for the online forum.

Question:

If elected, what is the first thing you would like to see on a city council agenda? Why?

Joan Johnson –

The first thing I would like to see on the city council agenda would be the “total removal of the restrictor on Poor Farm Ditch”.

The City of West University Staff has been working diligently on this issue for the last 3 years.  At one point we believed the City of Houston would sell us the detention required to remove the restrictor.  In April, 2011, the City of Houston and Harris County approved the sale of 9.1 acre-feet of detention in the Meyer Tract.  This allowed us to remove 1/3 (33%) of the restrictor, which has been completed.  Also the City of WUP installed two grated inlet covers at the dead end in the 3800 block of Marquette in January.

WUP City staff received all of the appropriate support and approval from the technical side of the City of Houston; however, when we finally got to the bargaining table to close the negotiations and enter into an Interlocal Agreement the legal side presented some issues which caused us to pursue both secondary and tertiary alternatives.  The result of these other alternatives had us revisiting the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and presenting a proposal for detention off site which adjoins one of the Harris County Flood Control District’s retention facilities.  Our staff has made their presentation and it has received a favorable review from the HCFCD technical staff.  We are currently awaiting their leadership’s approval.

We have been very lucky that we have not seen recent flooding along the ditch, but it is important that we, City Council, continue to support City Staff in resolving this issue and removing the entire restrictor.

Susan Sample –

The first thing I would like to see on a city council agenda is an updated Parks Master Plan. To prevent the city from taking a haphazard, patchwork approach to park acquisition and redevelopment, a revised Parks Master Plan is imperative. The current Parks Master Plan was prepared over 10 years ago in 2000, and is in need of updating to determine what goals have been met, what goals should still be pursued and which ones should be abandoned.   In response to the last plan’s goals, we have accomplished, among other things, the redevelopment of Colonial Park as a combined neighborhood and community park,  the development of Friends Park and the purchase of the Southwest YMCA on Bellaire, which is now the heavily-used WUP Rec Center.  Other goals have not yet been addressed, including acquisition of parkland in the area south of University/west of Buffalo Speedway, development of a greenbelt along Edloe and enhancement of the public library courtyard as a civic gathering place. The plan should be based on extensive input and feedback from residents and provide the city with new goals, taking into consideration needs, wants and acceptable cost to the taxpayers.

Ed Heathcott –

As I think about upcoming city business, I ask myself are there any urgent items.  The answer is no!  Our city does not struggle with issues most cities have: bad streets, water leaks, sewage problems, obsolete vehicles still in service and the list goes on and on.  West U has a balanced budget providing services its citizens expect and the City services it debt with the highest bond rating a city can have.  The current council members have demonstrated these past two years we can conduct city business and handle public interest issues by working together in a positive way – we are blessed.  I read of so many cities whose council members are at war with each other or with city staff.  There is a positive spirit in West U by the citizens who give of their time to serve on the various boards and commissions because they enjoy the city in which they live.  Without question, in the next two years, agenda issues will come before Council with broad public interest.  I have no doubt the current council members would work with each other to respond in a positive manner to make decisions which would best represent the citizens’ interests.

Sonny Brandtner –

City Council Agenda “wish list”

SAFETY

There are too many speeding cars traveling through West U.  We must support our police with STRICT enforcement of speed limits.

Our residents should be able to cross Bissonnet St., Weslayan St. and Buffalo Speedway without waiting on cars. PEDESTRIAN right of ways with numerous exaggerated markings are needed on these streets.

Cars parked on streets and blocking sidewalks cause blind spots for our CHILDREN playing in front yard areas. We need to find a solution for this frequently discussed topic.

Our police resources must remain properly aligned with our desire to keep West U among the SAFEST communities in the country.

PROPERTY TAXES

We pay OUTRAGEOUSLY high property taxes to HISD. It is unacceptable that our elementary students are learning in trailers. It is unacceptable that most of our children leave HISD after the 5th grade. Residents should not have to pay excessively high taxes to HISD as well as pay for private school tuition. If HISD cannot meet our needs, it’s time to explore a West U independent school district.

We need to ensure our property taxes are fair and used more for our residents. The constant increase in appraised property values should be off set by lower rates.  SENIOR CITIZENS should pay a lot less property tax.

PARKS

Poor Man’s Ditch should be put underground and paid for by Harris County. It will help DRAINAGE and allow for a jogging trail down the middle of West U.

Dick Yehle –

I see drainage as the most important outstanding issue because the negative effects of poor drainage are so severe.  For some time, the City has been trying to gain approval from Harris County Flood Control to allow the restrictor to be removed from the storm sewer that drains the College Street area.  City Council should continue to make this issue a priority with Staff, Harris County Flood Control and any other body that can beneficially affect the plan.  Once approval to increase the storm water discharge from West U is obtained, West U should then immediately enter into the necessary commercial and engineering agreements to take advantage of the ruling.

Upon completion of the College Street effort, attention should be given to other known problem areas such as those along West Point and parts of Academy.  Improvement will not occur overnight and the problem will never be totally solved, but anything that can be done to address the general situation will protect property and may help people reduce the cost of their flood insurance.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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