Bellaire residents will choose between three candidates for City Council Position 6 in November: incumbent David Montague and challengers Keith Evans Bowers and Jim Hotze.
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.
Candidate Jim Hotze did not respond to requests to participate.
David R. Montague (incumbent)
Occupation and experience:
I retired from Shell Oil in 2013 after 41+ years as a petroleum engineer. I had a variety of assignments in the US and overseas including exploration, drilling, production, construction, research, technical training, human resources, IT, project management, strategy, planning, safety, environmental and asset and project management. During some 30 of these years I had management responsibilities leading up to 150 staff and contractors and budgets up to $150 million. I am now a Bellaire City Council Member (2016-2020), Clerk of Session at ChristChurch Presbyterian and marketing manager for Bellaire/SW Houston Rotary’s ‘Flags over Bellaire’ fundraising program.
I do not have a website. I much prefer interacting face-to-face or via phone because we can talk back and forth to make sure your questions are answered fully and there is no confusion. So please send me your request to meet face-to-face or visit over the phone by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith Evans Bowers
Occupation and experience:
Retired Chemical Engineer, Internationally Licensed Project Manager, Manager of Technology for Bechtel Corp, and Federal Court acknowledged Expert Witness on Refinery and Chemical Plant Operations and Air and Water Permit violations.
What issues do you care most about addressing in Bellaire?
Montague: Public safety is my top priority. As a council member, I voted to increase the police and fire pay from the 50% percentile to the 75% percentile (so well above the average pay of other city’s police and fire departments) while also increasing their incentive pay opportunities. These actions led to improving retention and attracting new officers, so now both departments have no sworn officer vacancies. My next priority is to continue funding the recommendations of the Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force (I was a council liaison) and continuing to upgrade our storm sewers from 2-year storm to 100-year storm.
Bowers: Rebuilding transparency and trust in Bellaire’s conduct in all matters. Prudent, efficient and rational financial and operations management to maximize efficiency in all matters. Reduce private offices save for absolutely necessary secure functions.
What is your position on Bellaire’s approach to zoning?
Montague: I fully support Bellaire’s zoning ordinances, the comprehensive (land use) plan, the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the two-step process necessary to make zoning changes. I offer as evidence my recent council votes supporting the Take 5 business at Bissonnet and Ferris and my no vote for rezoning the 4301 Bellaire tract. I am actively involved with what’s happening on the Chevron property, and I have had two meetings with concerned neighbors who live adjacent to the property.
Bowers: Bellaire should maintain ‘City of Homes’ culture and protect single-family residential quality of life in preference to commercial enterprises. Bellaire must accept it will never enjoy large scale commercial development due to many multiple ownerships and piecemeal ‘commercial’ development many years ago. ‘Condemnation’ for commercial development is a non-starter.
How would you approach balancing the city’s budget amid state limits on property tax increases?
Montague: I actually presented such a plan to city council at our Aug. 26 budget workshop. Specifically, the city manager had earlier proposed a FY2020 General Fund Budget which required an 8% property tax increase. I, and some public speakers at council, said we shouldn’t be increasing property taxes at all. At this workshop, I presented the city manager a list of expense reductions, expenditure deferrals and some less conservative forecasting assumptions that, in total, would reduce the proposed 8% property tax increase to 3.5% (or equal to the State of Texas limit on property tax increases starting in FY2021).
Bowers: City organization, staffing and compensation levels and city budgets must be fully ‘scrubbed’ and reduced to eliminate expenditures for non-essential items, functions and staffing. Every expenditure above $500 must be economically justified and pre-approved by a mayor or council-designated representative.