SUPPORT CONSIDERATIONS

SAFEBELLAIRE is a political action committee comprised of Bellaire residents who support the safety and quality of life in Bellaire. SAFEBELLAIRE supports local policies and representatives that aim to make public safety a top priority and improve the quality of life for Bellaire families. SAFEBELLAIRE believes that when there is a focus on these principles balanced with efficient fiscal stewardship, our communities thrive and grow.


SAFEBELLAIRE advances our mission in two ways:

  • By supporting local elected leaders and candidates who share our concerns and advocate for approaches that keep us safe.

  • By supporting policies, programs and organizations that enhance public safety.


SAFEBELLAIRE has reviewed the following communications from candidates in our consideration of which, if any, that we will endorse:

  • Candidate Forum

  • Campaign Materials

  • Q&A’s Covered by Local Media That Were Available to All Candidates

  • Comments Made By The Candidates on Social Media Networks

  • Candidate Bios


SAFEBELLAIRE has compiled a list of materials in its review of the candidates on the ballot in the 2021 Bellaire City Council Election which may be viewed below. These sources were reviewed with emphasis placed on community safety and the future quality of life of residents via safety, infrastructure needs, and priorities of their campaign. SAFEBELLAIRE also reviewed professional experience, civic involvement, and how they plan to provide fiscal stewardship while not sacrificing safety and quality of life.


Based on this evaluation, SAFEBELLAIRE endorses the following candidates in the 2021 Bellaire City Council elections:

Win Frazier, Position 1

Ross Gordon, Position 3

Brian Witt, Position 5



COMMUNITY IMPACT CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

POSITION 1 (Candidates are Win Frazier and Kevin Newman)

https://communityimpact.com/houston/bellaire-meyerland-west-university/government/2021/09/30/election-qa-candidates-running-for-bellaire-city-council-position-no-1-share-priorities-challenges/


FRAZIER

What are your highest priority agenda items?

WF: There are many challenges and issues facing our great city. My highest priority items include:

1. Improved drainage and flood mitigation efforts The City of Bellaire has suffered costly damage from flooding.

I support the three primary flood mitigation goals

a. Continue to enforce and establish policies, procedures, and activities for the safety and assurance of citizens of Bellaire.

b. Develop, fund, design, and construct infrastructure improvements to mitigate the effects of flooding.

c. Evaluate and establish Bellaire’s position in floodplain regulation in terms of policies and management.

d. Support projects that will address the replacement of streets and drainage systems in order to reduce the occurrence of flooding and improve street conditions.


2. Responsible development Bellaire is unique for offering small-town charm yet being located close to the Houston metroplex. I shall look for a balance of development that does not detract from small-town appeal of our city yet offers the amenities that our residents desire in their daily lives. I served on Bellaire’s Planning and Zoning Commission from 2010 through 2017, including being Chair. These years of experience allow me unique insights into how to best make planning and zoning decisions that will honor both our reputation as “The City of Homes” and the Bellaire community’s desire to continue to progress with new and updated retail venues. Additionally, such progress will bring in more tax revenues, which will lessen the burden of our residential taxes.

3. Parks and overall quality of life for Bellaire families to enjoy the lifestyle our wonderful parks offer us. This is a major part of our quality of life. As past President of Patrons for Bellaire Parks, I have had the great opportunity to contribute in a big way toward the advancement of our parks and greenspace. This will continue to be a priority for me.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

WF: The biggest challenge facing Bellaire today is to maintain the quality of life our residents enjoy; ensure the safety of our residents; continue to maintain a staff of qualified people who perform well in their jobs, and do it all at the lowest tax rate possible. I will work to deliver the high-value services our citizens expect and build the infrastructure necessary to our city. We are a prosperous city, but we must continue to be smart in how we allocate limited resources, asking tough questions, and making hard choices when necessary. As a vice president working for a Fortune 500 Company, my fiscal background has helped in making correct decisions. My legal experience will also help me in the critical thinking process. I shall work for increased citizen collaboration and engagement, transparent and accountable Bellaire government, and sound fiscal policies and budget oversight.


NEWMAN

What are your highest priority agenda items?

KN: My highest priority items would be reducing the mounting debt and wasteful spending. I would advocate for a structured savings plan from all incoming funds to be saved for debt repayment and future capital improvements. Unifying the City Council is also my priority. There is no room to elect anyone who is just going to ruin the momentum currently established. I am not saying every council member needs to think identically, but rather we all share the same major goals of reducing spending and debt repayment.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?


KN: The biggest challenges facing Bellaire are overcoming Covid and the effect that it has had on our residents, the economy, and the wellbeing of our local businesses. Bellaire is the city of homes where we foster a hometown feel inside of a big city. Restoring the hometown feel and supporting our residents are my main concerns. I want our police officers to focus on protecting our homes and monitoring the traffic on our streets. Why don’t we restore the “Do not speed through Bellaire” sentiment?


POSITION 3 (Candidates are Javier Vega and Ross Gordon)

https://communityimpact.com/houston/bellaire-meyerland-west-university/government/2021/09/30/election-qa-hear-from-candidates-running-for-bellaire-city-council-position-no-3-on-priorities-challenges/


VEGA

What are your highest priority agenda items?

JV: There are three.

In Alphabetical order:

City’s capital structure: Today our city carries $110M of debt. That's around $16,000 per household; that’s 8x the annual property tax revenue of around $2,000 per household. Today, half of our city’s budget goes to debt service. The challenge is continuing to invest in all aspects of our community, while getting our finances straightened out, and we need folks qualified to execute that plan. As a career corporate business unit manager with P&L responsibility, this is a well-worn club in my bag.

Flooding: Despite prevailing opinions to the contrary, my experiences tell me that Bellaire can act within its borders to improve its internal flooding situation and must continue to focus on it. I believe there are some specific low-cost, high-impact steps we can take to reduce risk to our most acutely low-lying citizen's homes. Having lived mere steps from Brays Bayou since 2001, before moving to Lafayette Street in the southernmost part of Bellaire's Southdale in 2013, I have lived each flooding and high-water event from a front-row seat. I have attended the Brays Watershed meetings at 4300 Belfort and acquired certifications around flooding as I’ve studied the issue. Each event has helped me understand and appreciate the flood potential and its effects on our homes and lives. I think we need to supplement our academic exercises where flooding is contemplated in abstraction, with the practical experience of people who have institutional memory of the events themselves.

Preserve our city of homes: We have to reject the method of growing the top line through conversion of residential properties to commercial use. This breaks faith with the City of Homes ideal that our longstanding citizens have preserved for us. Whether one lives in the heart of Bellaire, or elsewhere in the City, we must all agree that even citizens living on the perimeter deserve equal protection of their right to their residential quality of life. It shouldn’t surprise us that people seek to arbitrage our residential real estate by converting it to commercial use for an outsized payday. They perceive that all they need to do is get Bellaire’s city government to go along with the rezoning request, and they're right. We need vigilant city officials who can understand the common-sense fact that this activity invites similar attempts and who can categorically commit to protecting the rights of residential property owners.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

JV: I believe the biggest challenges are, in fact, my highest priority agenda items:

The city’s capital structure, flooding, and preserving our city of homes. But more to the point is how we address those challenges. We must avoid making decisions based on (or even burning significant management cycles on) the projects and social pressures of a vocal minority. If we continue to do this, we will continue to move sideways while comparable cities move upward and onward. … Harmony is a great thing to have, but in the real world, people have different points of view. The idea that consensus can be borne solely out of congeniality in a council/board setting is a fantasy; anyone who has served on the board of a larger company knows that. The decisions there are so serious and fiduciary in nature that you have to carry insurance because you can be sued personally by deep institutional pockets for simply not being circumspect or efficient (in addition to the obvious moral standards); I personally carry such policies today. I agree being cordial is helpful but people get passionate. When people get disrespectful, it only brings the person being disrespectful down, but it doesn't bother me personally when it is aimed at me. That said I will put my significant and respectful record of disciplined written and spoken word under greater magnitudes of contentiousness up against anyone's. But in terms of priority, advocating for the needs of the average resident of Bellaire comes first, full stop. If elected, I will have the courage of my conviction. Social pressures don't even register with me in this regard.


GORDON

What are your highest priority agenda items?

RG: In recent years, the city (Council and Staff) has struggled to function in an orderly manner and has delayed action on critical items important to the strength, appeal, and viability of Bellaire as a premier residential city in the Houston area. Too often, we have trended towards division and infighting, losing sight of the bigger picture and our broader goals. It is clear that Bellaire residents deserve better from their city government.

Ultimately, the issues we face will change month to month and year to year, but we can tackle any challenge if we commit to:

1) rebuilding trust and getting the government to function properly;

2) ensuring government makes good decisions balancing short-term and long-term considerations;

3) bringing us back together as a city and community. This election represents a significant turning point. We can be defined by conflict, or we can be united by a positive vision and a pragmatic but forward-thinking approach to local government. I’m running to elevate the level of discussion, to change the tenor of the city council, and to represent the interests of Bellaire’s families.

I will focus on

1) delivering good governance;

2) leading with a positive vision;

3) ensuring flood resiliency;

4) promoting community.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

RG: First: in recent years, forces within and across the city have focused too much on creating divides (real or perceived) between city council, city staff, and the residents of Bellaire. By tearing down the trust between parties, it impairs the ability of city government to function property. We must re-build those relationships and return to a time where residents trust their elected officials to set the correct vision, and where the city council trusts the city manager and his/her staff to implement that vision. This starts with restoring order and civility in the Council chambers, leading with a positive vision, hiring the right city manager, honoring and respecting our city manager form of government, and re-committing to good governance. Second: frequent and severe flooding is an existential threat to Bellaire. Not only does flooding derail lives and deplete financial resources, but our appeal as a city/community (and our property values) cannot afford to be weighed down by a reputation for being flood-prone. To do nothing would be to abdicate our duty to protect the best interests of our residents. While many of our flooding challenges are bigger than Bellaire, we must have a say in our own destiny or we risk being defined by our history. The good news: with large infusions of local (Harris County Flood Control Bond Program), state (Texas Water Development Board Flood Infrastructure Fund / State Flood Plan), and Federal (FEMA, HUD/CDBG) funding after Hurricane Harvey, there has never been a better time to address our challenges. However, if we delay action, these partnership opportunities will dissipate, and we will be forced once again to carry the brunt of flood control obligations on our own. I have dedicated my entire career to solving the Houston region’s daunting flooding challenges. I am not only an interested stakeholder, but an active leader / expert with the knowledge and wherewithal to shepherd Bellaire through what may be its biggest investment in the City’s history. We cannot shy away from this challenge – it will only get worse over time. But if we act smartly now, we have the ability to bring in tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of outside funding to benefit Bellaire and its families. My four-part plan for ensuring flood resiliency includes o Promote and implement progressive, forward-thinking, floodplain management policies. o Continue to chip away at local drainage deficiencies. o Deliver on the Master Drainage Plan (regional drainage improvements) o Continue to pursue local and federal investment in Brays Bayou. While large-scale expenditures are never desirable, the timing is right to be bold. By being nimble and opportunistic, we can deliver meaningful change for pennies on the dollar and secure a flood resilient and sustainable future for our city.


POSITION 5 (Candidates are Brian Witt, Andrea Ehlers, and David Montalvo)

https://communityimpact.com/houston/bellaire-meyerland-west-university/government/2021/10/01/election-qa-three-candidates-running-for-bellaire-city-council-position-no-5-share-priorities-challenges/


WITT

What are your highest priority agenda items?

BW: a. Flood mitigation and drainage solutions; b. Responsible budgeting and spending that serves both the current and future needs of Bellaire residents; c. Ensuring that our police and fire departments have the resources and staff they need to keep our community safe.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

BW: Flood mitigation: Flooding continues to be an issue for our city. We should continue to work with Harris County and other entities on flood mitigation and drainage issues, while also seeking local solutions. Safety: We are privileged to have our own dedicated police and fire departments, but we need to ensure that they are fully staffed and have the equipment and technology they need to effectively protect our community. New Development/Redevelopment We should use a balanced/fair approach to bringing the amenities our citizens desire without sacrificing the quality of life of nearby residents.


EHLERS:

What are your highest priority agenda items?

AE: 1. The city’s debt load. 2. Flood control/mitigation projects. 3. Bringing back the “city of homes” Seal/Logo/Branding. Of course, I also want to encourage and increase citizen involvement in the city’s operations and make sure all the city’s activity is as transparent and easy to access as possible. I also want to ensure the quality of life in Bellaire and that we maintain, at an acceptable cost, the municipal amenities that enhance our lives. Finally, I want to make sure we are supporting local businesses. There are a number of businesses that have been in Bellaire for decades. They deserve some appreciation from the city also.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

AE: 1. The City’s debt burden has crippled Bellaire to the point where improvements such as improved bathrooms at Evergreen Park or toilets at Mulberry Park must compete with Bellaire’s debt obligations. Meanwhile, West U[niversity Place] plans to lower its tax rate to $0.278522 per $100 of assessed value due to decreased debt. 2. The City’s management infrastructure appears to be unraveling. Under the previous city manager, Bellaire became embroiled in several lawsuits. Now we find that the current interim city manager mismanaged meeting the requirements for FEMA's [Federal Emergency Management Agency’s] Community Rating System resulting in a loss of flood insurance discounts for residents; responded haphazardly to the February freeze; ... the list goes on and on … This situation must be addressed quickly.


MONTALVO

What are your highest priority agenda items?

DM: Property taxes, jobs, flood insurance discount that Bellaire missed.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bellaire right now and how would you address them?

DM: I would say that unnecessary spending is hurting Bellaire right now. I would cut back on services that are not needed in city hall. This could be a good start to reduce property taxes, then it could be offset with sales taxes and other amenities that can better serve Bellaire (as much as I would like to eliminate property taxes altogether).


BELLAIRE ESSENTIALS CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

https://www.essentialsnews.com/the-essentials-questionnaire-where-bellaires-7-council-candidates-stand/


Rate these in order of your priorities (and add your own priorities or knock any of these off the list that aren’t a priority):

Selecting a permanent city manager

“Virtual gate” technology for security

Flood control/mitigation projects

The city’s debt load

Seniors’ assistance

Holding the line on property taxes

Updating the Comprehensive Plan

Communication with residents

Bonds for a new library

Additional parkland/greenspace

Recycling/environmental sustainability programs

Emergency response support


POSITION 1 (Candidates are Win Frazier and Kevin Newman)

FRAZIER

All the projects are important.  Here is a potential priority list:

Flood Control/mitigation projects

Holding the line on property taxes

The city’s debt load

Updating the Comprehensive Plan

Selecting a permanent city manager

Communication with residents

Bonds For a New Library

Emergency response support

Virtual gate technology for security

Recycling/environmental sustainability programs


NEWMAN

Proper spending of property taxes

Seniors’ assistance

The city’s debt load

Selecting a permanent city manager

Communication with residents

Flood control/mitigation projects

A new library

Continued improvement of our Fire and Police Departments


POSITION 3 (Candidates are Javier Vega and Ross Gordon)

GORDON

NOTE: THE LIST OF PRIORITIES FROM ROSS GORDON WAS OMITTED FROM PUBLICATION BUT MAY BE VIEWED VIA A NEW EDITION AT: https://current.essentialsmagazines.com/#page=6


We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We should practice good governance which is participatory, consensus-oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and which follows the rule of law. That starts with hiring the right City Manager. Then we can establish and deliver on consensus priorities (e.g. public safety) and address long-term existential challenges like flood mitigation, all while building community in everything we do.


VEGA

Flood control/mitigation projects

The city’s debt load

Preserve our City of Homes

“Virtual gate” technology for security

Emergency response support

Seniors’ assistance

Recycling/environmental sustainability programs

Communication with residents


POSITION 5 (Candidates are Brian Witt, Andrea Ehlers, and David Montalvo)

EHLERS

The city’s debt load

Flood control/mitigation projects

Bringing Back the “City of Homes” Seal/Logo/Branding

Communication with residents

Selecting a permanent city manager

Updating the Comprehensive Plan

 Bonds for a new library

Holding the line on property taxes

“Virtual gate” technology for security

Emergency response support

Additional parkland/greenspace – Not needed at this time

Recycling/environmental sustainability programs – only needed if revenue source

Seniors’ assistance – Not sure what this means


MONTALVO

Holding the line on property taxes

The city’s debt load

Communication with residents

Additional parkland/greenspace

Recycling/environmental sustainability programs

Flood control/mitigation projects


WITT

Select a permanent city manager.

Flood control/mitigation projects and additional parkland/greenspace.

Good stewardship of our tax dollars.

Set aside money each year to fund future small projects.

Give first responders the staff and tools they need to ensure our safety.

Give citizens the opportunity to vote on the future of Evergreen Park and the Bellaire Library.

Update Bellaire’s Comprehensive Plan

Add Environmental Sustainability to Bellaire’s 5 year Priorities.

Increased communication with residents

Seniors’ assistance


BELLAIRE CANDIDATE FORUM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksOD043OX8Q

CANDIDATE FORUM NOTES

At the 25:20 time stamp, candidates were asked to discuss their views and priorities as they relate to infrastructure and public safety in Bellaire.


ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF CONSIDERATION

SOURCES OF FUNDING

Several of the candidates (NEWMAN, VEGA, AND EHLERS) are supported by a current member of City Council (Catherine Lewis) who, in 2020, donated $3,000 to a PAC listed as “Bellaire Citizens for Sidewalk Choice” while in office to promote charter amendments that would provide significant and costly obstacles to the city and its citizens in installing sidewalks where appropriate to protect public safety. SAFEBELLAIRE was an advocate for not changing the City Charter, as it would limit residents in the future and add additional expenditures if residents felt that sidewalks were needed to promote public safety.

Documented via the Sidewalk Choice PAC 8-Day and 30-Day Financial Disclosure Statements noting donations and expenditures at:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eaVlNQnEl3XjWylYc6ZLU2EurCk3iUo0/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KwZW0rJqb6GZ0GKmGFUAUb4fbKnbOWVA/view?usp=sharing


Please click the link below to view the endorsement flyer recently distributed by Councilmember Lewis (bottom of front page includes her information)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/10zgrmorYKzMGdztiNQ6mFE-l0QMk64yw/view?usp=sharing


SUMMARY

POSITION 1

As Chair of the City of Bellaire Police Training Advisory Board and service on Constable Alan Rosen’s Task force, in addition to the emphasis placed on safety and quality of life via the sources referenced above, Win Frazier is most aligned with the mission and values of SAFEBELLAIRE. Candidate Frazier also has served on the Flood Mitigation Task Force and a number of boards that improve quality of life for families in Bellaire.


POSITION 3

There is only one candidate on the ballot that is a Professional Engineer and Certified Floodplain Manager. Flooding remains a threat to the safety of Bellaire residents. Gordon lists real-life experience specializing in flood risk and floodplain management, urban and coastal resiliency, disaster response and recovery, capital improvement planning, program management, and alternative financing and project delivery. During the Candidate Forum, Candidate Gordon also presented potential solutions that would mitigate flooding while taking advantage of outside funding. Additionally, comments made during the Candidate Forum were reviewed and scrutinized greatly during the section as time stamp 25:20. Additionally, comments made during the Candidate Forum were reviewed. Candidate Gordon placed emphasis on safety provided by City Police and Fire Department, noting that they cannot be sacrificed (31.40), where Candidate Vega provided emphasis primarily on spending (not public safety). SAFEBELLAIRE believes that Candidate Gordon is the candidate best equipped to assist Bellaire with one of our most fundamental threats to safety- flooding.


POSITION 5

This position is the only position on the ballot with 3 candidates and was one of our most difficult to review. SAFEBELLAIRE reviewed again the priorities of the candidates stated in published questionnaires as well as their statements made during the Candidate Forum. The list of candidate priorities published in the Essentials Candidate Questionnaire (https://www.essentialsnews.com/the-essentials-questionnaire-where-bellaires-7-council-candidates-stand/) were reviewed and the priorities of Candidate Witt most aligned with the mission and values of SAFEBELLAIRE, as Candidate Ehlers placed issues such as “Virtual gate” technology for security, Emergency response support, and Senior Assistance at the bottom of the requested priority list (far behind non-safety concerns such as City branding). Candidate Montalvo is to be applauded for his interest in civic duty, but did not provide as much detail in the combined communications examined as did Candidates Witt and Ehlers. In the Community Impact Candidate Questionnaire in response to the question, “What are your highest priority agenda items?”, the candidates replied as follows:


WITT

BW: a. Flood mitigation and drainage solutions; b. Responsible budgeting and spending that serves both the current and future needs of Bellaire residents; c. Ensuring that our police and fire departments have the resources and staff they need to keep our community safe.


EHLERS

AE: 1. The city’s debt load. 2. Flood control/mitigation projects. 3. Bringing back the “city of homes” Seal/Logo/Branding. Of course, I also want to encourage and increase citizen involvement in the city’s operations and make sure all the city’s activity is as transparent and easy to access as possible. I also want to ensure the quality of life in Bellaire and that we maintain, at an acceptable cost, the municipal amenities that enhance our lives. Finally, I want to make sure we are supporting local businesses. There are a number of businesses that have been in Bellaire for decades. They deserve some appreciation from the city also.


SAFEBELLAIRE believes that based on these combined materials of reference that Candidate Witt is the candidate best aligned with the mission of the values of the PAC. In communications, Candidate Witt placed a higher priority on balance of fiscal responsibility while not sacrificing on safety and quality of life, making him the clear choice for endorsement.