Houston Voter Guide 2019: City Council District H candidates

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Three candidates are running against first-term incumbent Karla Cisneros in the Houston City Council District H race. The district covers parts of the Heights and the Northside. Community Impact Newspaper contacted each candidate with questions about their campaign priorities for the district which covers parts of the Heights and the Northside.

All candidates after the incumbent are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Answers may have been edited for length.

Incumbent: Karla Cisneros

Website: www.karlacisneros.com

Occupation/Experience: I was elected to City Council in 2015. In addition to chairing Council’s Economic Development Subcommittee on Education, I am also the Vice Chair of the Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure Committee. From 2000-2006, I served as a Trustee on the HISD Board of Education, serving as Board President in 2004. I later become a certified elementary school teacher and taught in HISD schools for six years. My experience in the classroom led me to clearly understand how the development, health, and success of children is profoundly affected by the quality of life in their neighborhood.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
Houston is a market-driven city without zoning, and the challenge to balance development and preservation is a daunting task. While neighborhoods do have some tools such as minimum lot size protections, deed restrictions, historic designations, parking and civility ordinances, there is a need for additional tools to protect longtime residents in existing legacy neighborhoods, all while welcoming new development at the same time. Incentives that encourage opportunities for mixed-income housing, a variety of different kinds of housing, and multi-modal transportation, will strengthen the fabric of our city. Market rate, workforce and affordable housing all need to be part of the mix.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Most of the neighborhoods in my district were built in the first half of the 20th Century, with streets that are narrow, open ditches, and a lack of sidewalks. I will continue to advocate for streets with curbs and gutters, sidewalks, adequate storm water drainage systems, and roadways that are safe for all users. Additionally, while the I-45 expansion has the potential to fix some problems created by earlier highway construction in the past, it also has the potential to have a devastating impact on neighborhoods and businesses in my district.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
I am working to correct the [income] disparity present in many of my neighborhoods by providing young people with opportunities to grow and develop their full potential. I support and fund after school, out of school, and summer programs. I have expanded high quality early childcare centers, built partnerships that bring a wide variety of resources to families in need, and invested in neighborhood parks and libraries. Many of my neighborhoods also face the challenge of an overpopulation of stray dogs on the street. I am a leader in spay/neuter efforts.

Gaby Salcedo

Website: www.votagaby.com

Occupation/Experience:I have worked in scientific research and data modeling; I hold a degree in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
I believe that Houston can promote urban development while also making sure to preserve neighborhoods by partnering with the right developers who are willing to work with the community to preserve its history.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
The two key infrastructure projects I would advocate for in my district are firstly drainage rehabilitation and the design of new drainage that would supplement the newly rehabilitated infrastructure; the other would be reconstruction of the major thoroughfares through the district that are in a complete state of disrepair.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
The most pressing issue in District H is the flooding in our streets every time we get even a mild storm. Mobility is extremely important to a vibrant and economically prosperous area. However, having that mobility hindered by rainstorms does not lend itself to future growth and development.

Cynthia Reyes-Revilla

Website: www.Cynthia4DistrictH.com

Occupation/Experience: I am Real Estate Broker, Small business owner, working mother and a community advocate. I have served District H for many years to improve the community and have worked on projects to address: safety, education, park improvements, cross walks, increase and supporting leadership in communities, protecting families from displacement and so much more. These experiences and knowledge I have gained gives me an extensive background in management and community building and engagement skills needed to be an effective leader for District H. Having lived in this district for over 40 years.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
This is a tough one because there is a great need for development and especially affordable housing development. The impact that Hurricane Harvey brought to the city with the devastation of thousands of homes compounded the need for more development. Having been someone who has utilized the Chapter 42 Minimum Lot Size Ordinance to preserve neighborhoods, it is important to me to protect and preserve neighborhoods. I don’t know the exact answer to this question but I would say that urban development should be done respectfully and with the community in mind.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
The type of infrastructure improvements I would advocate for would be: drainage for flood prevention, sidewalk/sidewalk improvements and parks. Partnerships are key in bringing valuable resources and possible funding to support these projects. These projects are very costly and the city can only support limited projects. This is why it is important that we have strong leadership that is able to communicate with partners and explain the need to collaborate to bring improvements to the district. Seeking other funding through grant opportunities to support these projects is key since the city has limited funds.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
I would say the most pressing would be the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (I45 expansion project). There have been many residents and organizations that have formed to address many concerns this project brings such as: flooding, connectivity, accessibility, environmental concerns, reduction of housing and economic develop and such. I believe District H will be the most impacted by this project. TXDOT, City of Houston and concerned residents are currently in discussions about how to make this project less negatively impactful to surrounding communities and still address the traffic concerns that promote a efficient and effective transportation project.

Isabel Longoria

Website: www.isabellongoria.com

Occupation/Experience: Community Organizer and public policy expert with experience working for State Representative Jessica Farrar, State Senator Sylvia Garcia, AARP Houston office, and serving on the Houston Planning Commission.

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
I think we need to support more projects like duplexes, fourplexes, and moderate sized apartments that fit into the look of the neighborhood instead of hyper-dense, expensive high rise buildings. I believe we should incentivize programs like the Houston Land Bank and Houston Land Trust that support and build contextual, moderate density projects that benefit the community. We also need to revise our development codes to allow for more community notice of major development projects and prioritize projects that create walkable, safe, communal public spaces.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
First, I would advocate for repairing sewage, drainage, and ditches to help with street flooding and water quality issues. These projects can be planned for long term by the city, and would also involve repairing roads, or engaging developers to pay for new infrastructure in areas where they are building big projects. Second, I would advocate for investing in our local community centers, libraries, and parks to facilitate these places becoming proud destinations for neighbors and non-profit community supporting partners alike.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
Affordable housing and connected communities are the most challenging issues for District H. The challenge is to invest in improvement projects that increase the safety and quality of life for residents without incentivizing the kinds of high-cost development projects that displace local families and exacerbate flooding and other infrastructure problems. We must bring in partners like the Houston Land Bank, Houston Land Trust, and community-led development that help create sustainable growth for all residents at all income levels.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.
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