Bellaire residents will vote between two candidates for City Council Position 2 in November, including incumbent Trisha Pollard and opponent Catherine Lewis.
Community Impact Newspaper sends out questions to candidates ahead of local elections and publishes their responses. For fairness, each candidate is asked the same questions and given a word limit to answer each question. Answers, if needed, are edited for length, spelling and grammar.
Occupation and experience:
Retired Gas P/L Attorney; Partner & General Manager of Pollard Development, L.P.
Bellaire City Council Member since 2016;
Board Member, Houston-Galveston Area Council representing small cities;
Board Member, Transportation Policy Council of H-GAC;
Chair, H-GAC Planning Committee; Member, H-GAC Finance Committee;
Council Liaison to Planning & Zoning Commission since 2016;
Member, Building & Standards Commission 2000-2007, Chair 2005-2007;
Parks & Recreation Advisory Board 1994-1995;
Board of Regents, Texas State University System 2007-2013
Occupation and experience:
I am a Ph.D. geologist with 30 years of industry experience, 26 years with Exxon. I retired to be the caregiver for my father and brother. My first experience with Bellaire politics was soon after I moved to Bellaire when I circulated a petition that resulted in closing streets at the loop to stop cut-through traffic that endangered pets and people. An avid bicycle rider, I personally value the quiet streets and safe neighborhoods of Bellaire. I’ve been closely watching the direction and decisions of the council since about 2015, organizing neighbors and speaking at council meetings.
What issues do you care most about addressing in Bellaire?
Pollard: Drainage and flooding: seeking and implementing regional solutions to flooding issues; replacement of aging infrastructure, especially water lines, wastewater lines and roads; maintaining our beautiful parks and outstanding library; safety and security: keeping our police and fire personnel at the 75th percentile or better; budgeting so that we build back our critically-important reserve levels to maintain our excellent bond rating.
Lewis: Wise budgeting — I believe that the city has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Plan for the City of Homes — Homeowners come first. Local businesses need to be respected.
Flood mitigation — I want to bring my skill as a Ph.D. geologist to proactively solve the flooding problem in Bellaire.
Transparency & listening — As one who has often spoken at public hearings, I believe that every citizen should be heard.
What is your position on Bellaire’s approach to zoning?
Pollard: Bellaire is unique, as is its zoning code and comprehensive plan. I look forward to our upcoming efforts to amend the comprehensive plan to include a new section on drainage and flooding issues. We must continue to preserve the residential character of our city while also welcoming businesses.
Lewis: Bellaire is zoned to protect the citizens: both residents and local businesses.
* The purpose of zoning is to lessen congestion, protect access to air and light, lessen traffic, restrict the size of buildings and promote safety. In recent years, discussion has been about raising the tax base and redesigning the city.
* Changes in zoning must follow the comprehensive plan, per state law. The comprehensive plan is scheduled to be revisited in 2020, and it should be revised on a block-by-block basis to make sure we don’t put auto service or tall buildings where we really don’t want them.
How would you approach balancing the city’s budget amid state limits on property tax increases?
Pollard: The budgeting process should focus not just on the upcoming fiscal year 2020, but also the years beyond. It’s all about the levels of service our residents demand/expect/want while at the same time keeping our reserve levels healthy, both for continued financial stability in the future and to protect our superior bond rating. That said, it’s absolutely critical that we get input from all residents about what you want to see in the budget and what you believe our residents can do without so that we can do the hard work of setting priorities.
Lewis: I believe that the city has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
* Council seems proud that they haven’t raised taxes to the maximum every year, but they shouldn’t have to raise them at all. They can cut spending instead.
* There are 65 council priorities in the FY 2020 Budget Story presentation (July 15). A list that long is a wish list, not a priorities list, and they should be ranked according to their importance. Otherwise, the council won’t trim anything because they are told each line item was their priority.