NOTES FROM YOUR NEIGHBORS
As a former multi-term City Council representative, I would like the opportunity to share my views on the charter amendments that have been proposed and on the ballot in our upcoming election. I would like to preface my remarks by noting my appreciation for the involvement and thought sharing from all residents of this city regardless of what side of this debate they fall under. My hope is that our citizens continue to be involved, and also continue to ask questions of council, city staff, and also of other residents.
As most of you know, I am a fan of asking questions. It has not always made for easy council meetings, but I believe that questions are needed in order to both judge local government and more importantly, find out what is important to the people that live here. I applaud those that take the time to ask the questions and debate the issues. We need more of this and it needs to continue beyond this election.
That said, I look on this proposed Charter Amendment as to the advisability of addressing sidewalks in a City Charter. It is simply out of place and not an appropriate place to define sidewalk installation regulations. A City Charter is the master controlling document for the government of a City. It is similar in function to our Constitution of the United States. Sidewalks are a safety-related issue for consideration in limited applications near schools, parks, churches and routes to commercial areas. It is a responsibility of our City Council to evaluate, with citizen input, the needs for and location of sidewalks within Bellaire. City Staff last year recommend a faulty sidewalk plan which was rejected by Bellaire City Council and it should have been. Citizens were understandably upset by a plan that was ill-prepared. The outcome though, was that when time for a vote, Council took the opinions of residents into consideration and voted against the sidewalks. This shows that the existing process DOES WORK. With the proposed City Charter in place, Council’s ability to locate a badly-needed sidewalk near a school will be virtually impossible due to extreme Charter requirements. I recommend a NO or AGAINST vote on the proposed Charter as it destroys the proper legislative function of our City Council. If the proposed charter change is NOT approved, City Council will, with citizen input, retain sidewalk authority regarding needed new construction. If the charter change is approved, potential future sidewalk construction will essentially stop. A controversial issue such as sidewalks is appropriately addressed through the existing legislative process. I strongly urge you to VOTE NO or AGAINST PROPOSITIONS A, B, AND C. I also thank all of those committed citizens who have engaged members of this city in meaningful debate.
Pat McLaughlan, Pine Street
Retired NASA Engineer, Past Representative on Bellaire City Council (Multi-term, Past Member of Bellaire Planning and Zoning Commission, Past Member of Bellaire Board of Adjustments
We have lived on the stretch of Maple St. between South Rice and the 610 feeder road, directly across South Rice from Bellaire High School, for over 36 years. All of the other streets immediately around the high school have sidewalks. Despite the intense traffic of cars and pedestrian--students and parents--going to and from the high school, our block has no sidewalks. Now we have a new traffic light at South Rice and Maple, which will mean the automotive and pedestrian traffic will pile up even more.
People are outside in our street all the time—even more so since the pandemic began. We see joggers, walkers, dog walkers, people pushing strollers, family groups walking and bicycling together—even the very smallest children on tricycles out in the street. Much of this traffic is early in the morning and late afternoon/dusk when it becomes difficult for drivers to see.
To make matters worse, our street has heavy traffic even outside of school hours. Lots of drivers cut through on Maple to avoid the light at Beechnut, and they drive fast!
A sidewalk on at least one side of the street is desperately, desperately needed.
Patricia Bernstein, Maple St.
I have faith that the people of this city both now and in the future will advocate for what is best, not just for their families but also for their fellow neighbors. This is something that always has set Bellaire apart - the comfort of feeling you dwell within a small town of friendly faces even though a large city surrounds us. Much can be achieved when we set aside divisiveness and sit down with our neighbors and just listen. In passing these amendments, in effect what we are really doing is taking this opportunity away not just from this current generations of residents but also from the ones that come after us.
A city’s charter, is in essence, akin to a city’s constitution. Any propositions regarding sidewalks or issues similar would be more appropriately proposed as an ordinance. This is more than a discussion about sidewalks. Am I an advocate of sidewalks on every street? I would have to say no. What I am an advocate for is not placing undue limitations and almost insurmountable hurdles on the choices of the our residents both now and in the future. I am proud of the depth and breadth of talent and knowledge displayed by fellow residents and see no need to block their discussion and action on issues that could benefit the families of this city.
Kristi Coffey, 4807 Florence
I’ve lived in Bellaire for 35 years. Same house. Grew up near Bellaire.
After many years of promises and various reasons why the construction was delayed, we finally got sidewalks a little over a year ago. It is wonderful to see neighbors using them. The little ones that are learning to ride their tricycles. The elderly that can barely walk. The cancer patient that can walk a few house lengths on the sidewalk. The toddlers expanding their distance. I only wish they had done it on both sides of the street so my elderly neighbor could walk a bit more.
The missed opportunities – my child and his friends that did not have sidewalks growing up. The disabled child that was pushed in a wheelchair only three house lengths because the side walk only went three lots at that time. The elderly man that walked back and forth on his driveway because there was no sidewalk. I’ve seen a lot over the years. Sidewalks are the neighborly thing to do. Sidewalks promote community.