Houston Voter Guide 2019: District E candidates

Voters in Houston will see two candidates running for District E of Houston City Council on the ballot this November, including incumbent Dave Martin and newcomer Sam Cleveland. Community Impact Newspaper submitted questions to each candidate about urban development, infrastructure improvements and the Houston Spaceport.

Responses may have been edited for length.

Sam Cleveland
Website: www.samforhouston.com

Occupation/experience: Houston police officer, volunteer to hearing-impaired people

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
In order to balance neighborhoods’ preservation and future development, we need to reach out to the stakeholders, the local community leaders and business owners who have been in the Kingwood and Clear Lake communities for years. We need to seek their input and involvement in future development planning and determine common goals for that development. Any future development would require that our communities stay safe with an equitable or improved quality of life for the residents living there. I would find ways to encourage greater community involvement through things like community watches or other civic organizations, which will instill a greater sense of involvement in the processes. At the end of the day, we all want to see progress but not at the cost of our quality of life.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Primary infrastructure improvement projects should focus on mobility, flood control and public safety. The current infrastructure in Kingwood and Clear Lake is outdated and struggles to support the current demands. Congestion is a quality-of-life issue but also affects public safety. We need to look at what steps can be taken to improve mobility in both the near future and long term. We need to evaluate new technology and determine cost effectiveness as a short-term solution while searching for ways to expand current infrastructure. Flood control needs to be looked at as a system versus individual projects. Current flood mitigation plans rely on existing resources. Unfortunately, we again see the systems needing upgrades to keep up with the demands, as well as a need for a regular maintenance schedule. Finally, the Houston fire and police departments need more resources, a more focused recruiting and retention policy, as well as an improvement in buildings, fleet and morale.

What would you do to encourage further development of the Houston Spaceport?
I would work to bring more jobs into the area through capital improvement projects. We’re currently seeing improved development of the area through infrastructure-related projects being conducted in the developmental phase, but these projects could be expanded upon. The incorporated improvements, such as roadways, should be done through future planning of tourism in the area.
Ultimately, the spaceport is going to be a significant employer and a huge tourism draw to the district and should be viewed as such.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
The most pressing issue in my district, and the city at large, is flooding. I believe this to be the most urgent issue as it will affect property values of those affected, as well as leave the victims with lasting traumatic memories. Within the last four years, the city has suffered significant flooding on several occasions, with the most significant events occurring during Hurricane Harvey. Steps are being taken, but progress is slow and almost ineffective at times. We still have abandoned townhomes that act as a breeding ground for crime in one part of the district two years post-storm, and other homes were needlessly damaged during the May 7 flooding. Post May 7, I noticed our drainage was poor. Soon after, a mayoral candidate posted a clip of backed-up storm drains, indicating systemic issues and a need for a maintenance program. There is a need for more proactive response planning for flood events. I think it is worth looking into the development of a regional task force to elevate political red tape on flood projects while at the same time creating greater oversight and the best services with public funds.

Incumbent: Dave Martin
Website: www.martinforhouston.com

Occupation/experience: managing director of Marsh & McLennan Companies, District E Houston City Council member

How should Houston balance dense, urban development and neighborhood preservation?
District E is a unique part of the city of Houston comprised mostly of master-planned communities, which provide a natural protection to our neighborhoods from dense urban development. However, this does not mean that we are immune to big development. Last year in the Clear Lake area, we were threatened with a possible oil tank farm that would have planted 58 oil tanks right off of Hwy. 3. I knew this type of development was strongly opposed by the community and took swift action as your council member to ensure this project was stopped and future development of this nature would not be possible. As a result, the city of Houston added the future roadway, Ellington Bypass, to Houston’s major thoroughfare plan, which made this tank farm impossible. Similarly in the Kingwood area, there was a proposed high-rise development looking at turning the banks of the San Jacinto River into a high-rise development. This proposed development was to be erected in the flood plain among several communities that flooded during Harvey. Listening to residents from within my community, I spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to encourage participation for residents in the public comment period. As a result, there were well over 1,000 responses in opposition to this development. This quick action resulted in the denial of the permit, and the project has since gone dormant. As council member for District E, I will continue to be a staunch advocate for Clear Lake residents fighting for their best interests.

What types of infrastructure improvements would you advocate for in your district?
Throughout my time as council member for District E, I have been committed to, and plan to continue, advocating for improved road conditions through major road rehabilitation projects like the widening of El Dorado Boulevard and the expansion of Northpark Drive. Through the creation of partnership with local agencies, I have been successful in getting support for and implementing extensive drainage projects like work completed on Horsepen Bayou, Berry Bayou, Taylor Gully and the Royston Channel by Lone Star College-Kingwood. Additionally, I am happy to see the great progress on projects like the removal of sediment in Bens Branch Channel. There are several projects that still remain in my Storm Water Action Plan for fiscal year 2020, which include projects on Gulfpalms Street, Wald Road, Cypress Lane and Corydon Drive. I’m happy to say that since 2018, District E has seen $2 million in stormwater improvement projects, and I am committed to keep those projects coming.

What would you do to encourage further development of the Houston Spaceport?
I have been very involved in promoting the development of Houston Spaceport, most recently through working with San Jacinto Community College on their Edge Center at Houston Spaceport. The Edge Center will provide students interested in engineering and aerospace a front-row seat to this up-and-coming industry. I am dedicated to continuing to think outside of the box, working with local schools and economic development groups such as the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership to make sure the workforce within our communities is prepared to sustain industries like the aerospace industry. Creating partnerships, such as this one with San Jacinto College, will encourage other companies as well as educational institutions to have a more robust presence within District E and the Houston region, which will have a greater impact on Houston's economy.

What is the most pressing issue specific to your district?
The most pressing issue in District E, whether you are in the very south part of Clear Lake or the very north part of Lake Houston, is storm readiness and flood prevention. Hurricane Harvey exposed vulnerabilities in our area and in Clear Lake specifically, with the added threat of storm surge. I have been a strong advocate for the coastal spine, working with local federal, state and local officials to bring this concept to reality. It is critical to continue our collaboration with our local, state and federal representatives to make sure that major projects like the coastal spine come to fruition. Additionally, I am committed to contributing to local projects like Exploration Green to encourage creative solutions to reduce the risk of flooding to our neighborhoods. Working parallel to this flooding initiative, I continue to advocate for a Clear Lake tax increment reinvestment zone to utilize local tax dollars for projects specific to the Clear Lake area, where local TIRZ board members decide what projects are critical to their neighborhoods and use these tax dollars for projects directed by the TIRZ. The Lake Houston area is also particularly susceptible to flooding based on the geographic location of Lake Houston, which sits at the bottom of over 12 tributaries without any existing flood control devices. This means that currently there is no way to control the rate at which water enters the Lake Houston Watershed, and I have tirelessly been working on changing this since 2017. Through the success of the San Jacinto Regional Watershed study, I am in the process of identifying areas to install sediment traps as well as reservoirs along the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Additionally, this year I offered an amendment that was passed, and the city is now in the process of implementing the first ever Lake Houston Maintenance Program. This program will establish regular sediment and floatable debris control throughout the river and lake. I was also successful in securing funding for the addition of floodgates at the Lake Houston Spillway Dam, which will greatly improve the ability for controlled releases of increased amounts of water to occur from Lake Houston with consideration for life and property of those downstream. I believe my actions speak for themselves as over the last two years I have successfully ramped up spending for District E infrastructure improvements, drainage projects and storm prevention and risk reduction measures.

By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.



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