Annual Report 2022
Friends and Neighbors,
It continues to be an absolute honor to represent District C here at City Hall. For our 2022 annual report, we have a lot to cover as we look back on the progress, community investments, and initiatives we have driven this past year to ensure residents are safe and thriving.
It’s been quite a year! We have never stopped, and there certainly has never been a dull moment, when it comes to looking out for our residents.
I want to recognize my dedicated staff whose commitment to public service is undeniable. We remain committed to serving you: from managing approximately 26,000 emails each year, over 2,600 calls to our office (just through November), and hundreds of cases we’ve successfully resolved for constituents.
I thank each of you for continuing to partner with me for our district and our city. You are our eyes and ears in our neighborhoods, and so much of what we have accomplished could not have been done without you.
Included in this report are some of the highlights of our accomplishments for the district. While we could not include everything, it is intended to provide you with snapshots of the work we continue to do for District C.
We continue to comprehensively combat and prevent crime in our communities—from leading neighborhood efforts, funding increased patrols, pushing citywide initiatives through Council, and so much more. With over $55 million invested in a holistic and comprehensive strategy under #OneSafeHouston Initiative, we are supporting meaningful investments in violence reduction, crisis intervention, and community partnerships. This includes $9.6 million for domestic and sexual abuse response; $23 million for behavioral health programs; $13.2 million to increase overtime and add additional officers on our streets; $1 million for reentry support programs; and $1 million for gun buyback programs that I proposed in partnership with Mayor Turner.
We also helped secure $277 million in public safety funding through a bond initiative – and I am deeply grateful to the voters for their support. . That is on top of the investments in expanding victim services programs, upgrading equipment and technology, safety gear, and other needs that ensure our public safety and law enforcement departments have what they need.
I will continue to be an unrelenting voice when it comes to combating gun-violence and domestic violence head on (more on both below) – including shining a light on domestic violence. As more survivors come out of the shadows, more perpetrators will be held accountable.
An Active Year as Chair of City Council’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee
As Chair of Public Safety & Homeland Security, I am shepherding through Council critical and innovative programs, and increasing investments in technology. As Chair, we've carried forward:
- Aggressive Catalytic Converter Theft Deterrence Ordinance that is now a model for the state
- Public education on emergency preparedness & power grid stability
- Championed gun buyback program events, gun violence data partnerships, and gunshot detection technology
- Installation of Flock Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR) for neighborhoods
- Ordinance changes to ensure outdoor music events on private property are safe for residents and don’t strain public safety resources
- Improving our exterior camera and lighting ordinance for high crime locations like gas stations and nightclubs
- Updating emergency response technologies, technology infrastructure, and cybersecurity
Funding Local Safety Efforts: District C Public Safety Allocations FY23:
We are putting district dollars to good use with our public safety efforts. In addition to funding, we have launched a wide-range of safety initiatives for the district in partnership with residents, community groups, the Houston Police Department (HPD), the Houston Fire Department (HFD), professional groups, business owners, and others.
Some of these are highlighted below:
- $75,000 for overtime to address bar/nightclub related crime and violent hot spots, as well as additional neighborhood patrols
- Combating gun violence with our Lock It Up Safe/Safe Storage effort (more on this below) Funding for HPD Equipment (including new sound meters for the Loud Noise Unit and a Polaris vehicle for Central Division to help navigate hard-to-reach areas in Memorial Park)
- $18,000 for high water rescue equipment for HFD and additional funding for Station 3 and 6 plumbing upgrades
- Funding a protective fence at American Legion Park to ensure kids can safely play away from the railroad tracks
- Partnering with neighborhood groups, HPD, and professional associations to address areas around apartments experiencing high crime volumes
- Facilitating law enforcement engagement at multiple neighborhood events and town halls
- Hosting a townhall for residents in response to anti-Semitic and hate fliering in district neighborhoods
- Successfully expanding the city’s sound ordinance to address bad actor bars and protect public safety resources and our residents’ quality of life.
- Ensuring law enforcement’s focus remains on real crimes and not on politically motivated state laws that target women and their healthcare providers in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.
- Authoring proposals included in Mayor Turner’s #OneSafeHouston initiative like the gun buy-back program and safe storage initiatives. So far, over 2,000 guns have been safely turned over to HPD.
- Continuing an 18% pay raise for Houston Firefighters over three fiscal years
Keeping Kids Safe from Gun Violence: #DistC Safe Storage Initiative
Firearms are the leading cause of death for children in our country. Far too many unsecured guns are ending up in the wrong hands of both kids and criminals. I have launched an important effort dedicating $75,000 in district service funds to distribute thousands of free gun locks and resources about responsible and safe gun ownership for parents in District C schools through parent-teacher organizations (PTOs) and HISD counselors. I’ve also teamed up with HPD to educate residents and prevent guns from being stolen out of cars.
We must normalize conversations about gun safety and do everything we can to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands. I want to thank all partners including HPD and BeSMART, along with school PTOs and others who are helping carry this important message. District C residents and groups interested in materials and free gun locks may contact email@example.com for additional details.
Doubling Fines for Bad-Actor Bars and More Improvements to the Noise Ordinance:
Yet another campaign promise kept: We’ve made significant improvements to the Noise Ordinance to address bad-actor bars that have impacted nearby residents for far too long and put a strain on public safety resources. Business is good for our city and the majority of bar owners are terrific community partners. By giving more teeth to our ordinances and enabling more efficient enforcement we are making sure everyone is playing by the same rules.
We made history this year: I spearheaded an effort, with the help of the Houston Women’s Commission and Mayor Sylvester Turner, to secure an historical paid parental leave program for all city employees. 22,000 City of Houston employees now have both paid prenatal care hours and parental leave, pregnancy wellness benefits, along with additional benefits for children in their first year of life. This historic policy change would not have been possible without the work of so many: Mayor Turner and his administration, the unanimous support of my Council colleagues, Women’s Commission Chair Beth Matusoff Merfish, HOPE LOCAL 123 and the voices of our city workers.
As we keep the focus on families, I also worked with Houston Airports to expand family concessions to include necessities such as diapers and a wider range of baby supplies.
We are expanding the drive for $15 minimum wage. Now our airport workers and contracted janitorial and security personnel staff, including those employed through Houston First will all be included.. We also successfully fought for healthcare benefits for city security personnel who were not being provided the required healthcare through their contracted employer. One job should be enough and I continue to work to improve employee benefits.
It remains imperative to work with all levels of government to find the dollars to support our city’s aging infrastructure. We’re working collaboratively to find solutions and put shovels in the ground. Here are just a few highlights from the wide range of progress we’re making:
- Fulfilled commitment to address and bring forward an improved crossing at 11th and Nicholson
- Partnering with parents and district TIRZ to bring safer crossings for students and parents at Wharton Elementary.
- More safe stop signs in Shady Acres and major headway on a multi-million dollar drainage program for Turkey Gully. Smoother roads like the paving of Bissonnet from Mandell to Montrose along with sidewalk connectivity
- Worked with business owners on Fairview to incorporate and fund street reconstruction from Montrose to Genesee
- Secured $1.4 million drainage project along Beechnut and panel replacements along North Braeswood
- Funded sidewalks and ADA ramps all over the district to increase safety and accessibility
- Through our community-led Midtown Montrose Connectivity project, we completed the Bagby/Elgin/Westheimer intersection improvements
- Found outside resources from other government partners, including the County, to support infrastructure in Lazybrook/Timbergrove
- Supported the completion of MKT Bridge repairs and the long-await MKT spur connector to close the gap between trails and provide stormwater drainage
- Mitigated speeding to protect Cottage Grove park and found solutions for missing sidewalks and ADA hazards
- Allocated over $80,000 in ditch rehabs with our District C ditch team
- Moved forward with our District C Storm Water Action Team projects, including greenlit projects for Cottage Grove, Rice Military, and others. The Birdwood Court SWAT project is also expected to put shovels in the ground very soon!
- Secured commitment from TXDOT to raise one of their bridges at 610 and Brays Bayou
We’re constantly pushing to get more infrastructure improvements into the pipeline, and I look forward to being able to announce even more in 2023. A project I am especially proud to fund is the upcoming complete facelift of the Washington/Westcott Circle that will not only be repaved and repaired, but also include raised crosswalks for residents and students nearby at Memorial Elementary.
We remain unwavering in our stand to combat and mitigate climate change. As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston must lead the way. As the district with some of the most repetitive flooding from natural disasters, our voice matters in this fight. This year I traveled to Denmark at the invitation of the Danish Consul General to Houston as part of a delegation to learn about energy transition technology and how we can secure jobs, grow our local economy, and continue to lead the world in this field. We’ve also fought for our fair share of recovery resources at the State level when millions of dollars for our region are at stake.
Whether it’s representing our city internationally, or taking the fight to the state level, the focus remains local. From the completion of Project Brays to neighborhood drainage projects, addressing flooding will always be a top priority for us. While I advocate for large-scale improvements, we also keep the focus on meaningful neighborhood projects including cleaning out ditches with our District C ditch team and street drainage improvements like on the 500 block of Harvard Street.
We’re harnessing the latest technologies to help address flooding, including new mapping tools that help us look at existing drainage in watersheds through the city, including Brays, Buffalo, and White Oak.
Progress is also being made on the Brazos Bridge Beautification project we launched at the suggestion of Courtland Place Residents. The project will not only improve landscaping but also provide additional tree canopy to reduce urban heat and help retain stormwater. With design nearly complete, we expect construction to start early in the new year.
We also hosted our third annual Rain Barrel Giveaway to significantly subsidize the cost of hundreds of rainwater harvesting barrels for district residents, not only helping to mitigate flooding but saving residents dollars on their water bills. We are also addressing the needs of residents when it comes to severe drought, and bringing attention to the infrastructure and conservation challenges we will face in the coming years. This year we teamed up with Trees for Houston to provide free trees to increase our urban canopy.
Council also approved our first-ever Nature Preserve Ordinance to protect land within two parks, including Lorraine Cherry Nature Preserve. Preserves not only help mitigate flooding but also reduce urban heat and improve air quality. Our green spaces remain vitally important, and I was proud to help move $60 million in bonds for parks forward for our city.
I'm excited to announce the second round of air monitors we funded for the district coming to locations around C in early 2023! The monitors provide publicly accessible information. You can view them here.
At the start of the year I made sure another promise I committed to you was kept. The Property Tax Disparity Study that was funded by our office and secured through a budget amendment I put forward at Council was released by the Kinder Institute. As Houstonians, we pay our fair share of taxes to the County.
By knowing where county dollars are being spent, we’re ensuring accountability and transparency to taxpayers, and I thank the County for their partnership as we look at this.
I recently spoke at Council about the need for housing that’s affordable for families. This year we voted to lower the city’s property tax rate for the eighth time in nine years, and this is on top of the $100,000 increase in property tax exemptions we passed this summer for seniors and people with disabilities (bringing the total to $260,000).
We also provided funding for Interfaith Ministry’s Senior Meals on Wheels Program to support over 70 district seniors as well as for their AniMeals program distributing pet food to families who would normally not be able to support their pets.
We’ve passed tax discounts for historical homes throughout the district. We also made unprecedented investments in supportive housing for people with HIV/AIDS, supportive housing for those in need, and rent relief during COVID.
As we support our residents, our local businesses remain the backbone of our economy. We continue to support, partner, and lift up district businesses and I appreciate their partnerships!
In addition to attending many neighborhood events and hosting our bi-monthly super neighborhood leadership meetings, we’ve launched innovative programs for District C.
This summer, we hosted our first-ever Families With Pride Festival, creating a safe and inclusive place where families with young children can celebrate togetherness during Pride. I was also honored to have been named for Pride Houston 365’s Parade as Ally Grand Marshal, something I will always cherish!
I also brought the first-ever professional Pickleball Tournament to Memorial Park in a team effort with the Houston Parks Department. Speaking of pickleball, I’m excited to be the first Council Member to fund courts in our public parks; the first two locations will be ready in January!
My team and I also initiated a community outreach effort for water health and safety in Freedmen’s Town. I partnered with Public Works to survey residential homes to ensure they do not have lead and copper pipes (some of the older homes in our city were built with them).
With the Fire Department we installed a specially crafted remembrance marker to honor the memory of Arson Investigator Bruce who died in the line of duty.
I also provided District funding to improve our Spark Parks, including most-recently at Memorial and Sinclair Elementary. We also helped with the Parks Department Summer Enrichment Program for youth of Cherryhurst, Godwin, Love, and Candlelight Community Centers.
I can’t begin to thank all our city departments who work with my office 24/7 to help our district residents. The same goes for our community and civic group leaders, we could not do it without you.
It takes all of us working together and there is no better place where the spirit of helping one another is so strong than right here in Houston.
Stay tuned in the new year -- we have several more exciting projects and updates to share with you soon. Until then, I wish you a season of health, happiness, and joy.
Houston City Council Member, District C