By Lawanda Maxwell, MBA
The City Issues Forum took place on May 14, 2020 in a virtual format, featuring Mayor Sylvester Turner. Over 130 participants attended the virtual event. The mayor’s remarks focused on the $169 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year and infrastructure in Greater West Houston.
“Infrastructure spending will not be impacted,” stated Mayor Turner as he proceeded to provide updates on the statuses of drainage, curb and road rehabilitation projects located in Greater West Houston. “Despite COVID-19, we never stopped construction… or road rehabilitation.”
Mayor Turner also emphasized that the budget shortfall would primarily be due to the city’s revenue cap and sales tax, and would not impact the Public Works employees at this time. Half of the $404 million in Federal CARES funding would go to the testing and contact tracing program within the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
WHA Board Chairman, Heath Melton, moderated the question-and-answer session, where members asked about the Wastewater Consent Decree, repealing the revenue cap, the increase of public usage of park space, collaborative efforts of the city’s COVID tracing efforts with the wastewater effluents testing being conducted, HUD funding and the GLO state action plan.
Turner stated that he “has no interest in repealing the revenue cap” after briefly explaining legislative constraints that the City of Houston has dealt with despite enduring the Tax Day flood, Harvey, tropical storm Imelda, and now the Coronavirus.” In terms of the GLO and HUD funding, Turner said that “it’s important that we get on the same page.” He would like to see changes in their handling of contractual agreements in consideration of local authority.
During this event, the Mayor also emphasized that public safety is a priority and that the City has partnered with Rice University to learn more about contract tracing the virus to inform decisions.
In addition to the Mayor’s remarks, outgoing CEO, Auggie Campbell took time to recognize Bill Callegari and Todd Burrer for their impact and contributions to the water workforce operator shortage with the Compass Award. The West Houston Association adopted the Compass Award to recognize outstanding contributions from members that drive our mission for sustainability for the Greater West Houston forward.
The event also featured updates from two of the WHA committees. Jim Webb, CEO of The Goodman Corporation and Chair of the Regional Mobility committee, provided insights on the committee’s initiatives. “We’re working with the Houston Galveston Council, METRO, Gulf Coast Rail District and Harris County to finalize a list of major West Houston mobility projects of regional significance.” The committee is also learning more about the shift in mobility patterns due to COVID-19 and the opportunities to discuss what needs to be done among regional partnership agencies in transportation advocacy. Webb stated that this initiative would allow for greater “infrastructure resources for the allocation of future congressional funding.”
Zachary Hodges, President of Houston Community College, and Chair of the Education and Workforce committee told the audience that the committee is looking into developing solutions to “best serve our public schools, community colleges and universities.” COVID-19 is putting families into positions to make new decisions about what to do this fall and how they are learning about more ways to collaborate with others to get back into full-time employment.
The event concluded with appreciation to the event sponsors for their contributions – IDS Engineering; Howard Hughes; MetroNational; BGE; ABHR; Johnson Development Company; SPH; LJA Engineering; Newland; Jones Carter; Dannenbaum; Wolff Companies; Halff; HCC Northwest; Inframark; and the WHA Quality Growth Partners.
Attendees were also invited to take part in the upcoming WHA events:
The Tri-County Judges Forum on June 11th from 11a.m.-1p.m. Panelist of judges will include:
- Judge Trey Duhon – Waller County
- Judge KP George – Ft. Bend County
- Judge Lina Hidalgo – Harris County
The Elected and Public Officials Reception on September 3rd from 4:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m.
The State Issues Forum on September 30th from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Glenn Hegar, Texas State Comptroller, will be the main speaker.
The Federal Issues Forum on October 30th from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The main speaker will be Dan Crenshaw, U.S. Congressman (TX-2).