Bellaire residents will choose between two mayoral candidates in November, incumbent Andrew Friedberg and opponent Robert Riquelmy.
Community Impact Newspaper sends 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 may be edited for length, spelling and grammar.
Riquelmy did not respond to requests to participate by the Community Impact Newspaper deadline.
Andrew Friedberg (incumbent)
Occupation and experience: Attorney in the oil and gas industry; Mayor, 2016-present; Council Member, 2010-15; Chair, Sunset Review Committee, 2011-12; Planning & Zoning Commission, 2007-09; Bellaire Historical Society, Webmaster; Bellaire Masonic Lodge; Six years in U.S. Army National Guard
Bellaire High School; B.A. (Economics and Government), B.B.A. (Finance); University of Texas at Austin J.D., Harvard Law School
What issues do you care most about addressing in Bellaire?
Friedberg: I believe in Bellaire. These past few years we’ve had our share of challenges, and we’re working through them toward an even brighter future.
Flooding remains our top priority. We’ve taken the lead working with our regional partners while continuing to make systematic progress on local drainage improvements.
Commercial redevelopment should be consistent with and supportive of our residential character. We must continue guarding against undesirable impacts, while also seeking to harness the benefits.
Among such benefits tax base growth and diversity, as we strive to balance the premier services our residents expect against the rising costs of providing them.
What is your position on Bellaire’s approach to zoning?
Friedberg: Our zoning is one of the primary things that sets us apart and makes us who we are. It directly contributes to our quality of life, even in ways not always recognized.
While zoning protects our residential character against undesired development outcomes, it also provides tools to attract the kinds of development we want. I’m proud to have played a role in drafting our comprehensive plan when on P&Z, and since then in implementing it on Council. It’s gratifying seeing its vision fulfilled with exciting new development including restaurants and retail residents enjoy and support right here in Bellaire.
How would you approach balancing the city’s budget amid state limits on property tax increases?
Friedberg: Nobody likes taxes. But we also understand that the city services we expect and depend on cost money, and the budget is about what’s important to us and what we’re willing to pay for. State revenue caps are not new, and neither is the need to replenish our declining ending fund balances, something we’ve been paying careful attention to for years.
We’ve significantly cut non-recurring expenses and deferred capital spending to keep the budget in balance, without compromising service levels. We should also continue developing alternative revenue sources and diversify our tax base to ease the burden on residential taxpayers.