Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thinking about the Willow Waterhole and Dan Rather

Have you thought about what the Willow Waterhole will mean to Westbury? For years we have been defined by what we used to be. Whenever I tell people where I live ..they say "Oh, I loved Westbury Square...I remember when your neighborhood was so nice."  Well guess what? It is still nice even if Westbury Square is full of buildings that are boarded up, decaying and burned.  What used to be the heart of our neighborhood has had the life squeezed out of it, but we have found a new heart and to me that is the "green" heart of Westbury. We live in a neighborhood full of green lawns(okay strugggling green this summer); beautiful green trees; wide esplanades; pocket parks; a community garden and the Willow Waterhole, soon to be one of the eight signature parks in Houston. If you think about carbon footprints, we live close to the heart of Houston in homes of reasonable size (relatively speaking).  Half our neighborhood is in the single stream recycling program, the other half would like to be...we are major recyclers according to the City's statistics. We have one of the Houston Solid Waste Environmental service centers in our Super Neighborhood as well as Waste Management's new state of the art single stream recycling center which has its grand opening and dedication coming up in August. Many of our storm drains are marked with the No Dumping decals. We have a twice annual garage sale to complete the Reuse, Recycle,Reduce mantra.  That all adds up to pretty green to me.

Monday, I gave a power point presentation to the Brays Bayou Association on the Willow Waterhole and was reminded again of what an incredible gift a 280 park in our backyard will be when it is completed.  In Westbury's 1800 acres and in the Super Neighborhood's 2400 acres  there was just 12 to 14 acres of park space.   An awesome addition for sure! But beyond the park space there is the reduced risk of flooding for Westbury. Once the park is complete it will be able to hold 5 million cubic feet of storm water.  Tuesday I was reminded of another benefit.  The TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) Bacteria Implementation Group who is charged with monitoring the bacteria levels in water around the state came out to do a video interview. Pretty cool that they want to do a feature story on the Willow Waterhole.  Having storm water held in wet bottom lakes with wetland plants acting as filters will help clean the water as it flows out into the Willow Waterhole Bayou and into Brays.  We had scheduled this interview months ago and wouldn't you know the day had a 50% chance of rain.  I said not to worry it NEVER rains! But it did...(I've asked them to come back regularly.) It was just  a little drizzly so we set the camera up under the small gazebo and I stood out in the grass.  I thought the interview was about to wrap up when I began to feel ants crawling on my feet so I thought if I was  calm and stood still that I could get through the rest of the questions.  I had just recently seen the You Tube clip of the reporter freaking out when a bug flew in his mouth and didn't want to do that frenzied, oh my gosh ants are crawling all over me dance. So I stood there as long as I could answering the questions, before I calmly said "Excuse me ants are biting me!"  Well today my right foot looks ridiculous..who knew those little suckers could inflict so much damage?  I couldn't help but wonder "is this what Dan Rather felt like as he stood outside with Hurricane Carla raging around him"?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meetings and more meetings

I love  meetings…which is a good thing because there seem to be so many of them! I love meeting new people, hearing new ideas and learning new things.    I had two opportunities last week to do just that.
First in Cindy’s absence I attended the Westbury Coalition for Change meeting that is working on a better future for Westbury high school.  What a great meeting full of talented people with many great ideas for making Westbury once again the premier high school it was back in the day…back in MY day.  Westbury competed head to head with Bellaire and it was dependent on which side of Chimney Rock you lived on as to which school you thought was best.
Then Phyllis Frye, Ken Downey and I went down to METRO headquarters and had a nice meeting with METRO officials.  They have branded themselves as the  “New METRO” and from what I have seen that is so true.  They have been responsive to us as a neighborhood and have hosted several meetings in our area as well as attended three or four of our meetings.  
METRO is currently in the EIS stage for the 90A line where they are evaluating 6 different alignments. We reiterated to them that we want to maintain neighborhood integrity and that we want a Westbury station.  We also discussed the West Airport extension and the possibilities for a pedestrian crossover bridge. There is currently no money set aside for this line but the studies are moving forward and it is important to Westbury that we are part of the process.
Next week is the third week of the month which brings the Super Neighborhood Alliance meeting, the Brays Bayou Association meeting, Friends of Chimney Rock Park  and the Westbury Civic Club monthly board meeting. Also the Westbury Crier publication meeting which means I need to get started on the August Crier!  Guess I better enjoy this peaceful Sunday before the chaos of week three.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another morning at city hall

At the end of June I told my co-workers and my husband that I had made my last trip to City Hall. Who knew I’d be back the first week of July?  This time to speak in support of the Mayor’s new Department of Neighborhoods.  Catherine Flowers, the new proposed Director, came to Westbury’s June WAIC meeting. Cindy Chapman and I gave her the nickel  tour of Westbury along with our Citizen’s Assistance Office liaison Veronica Hernandez and Catherine’s assistant, Kanyae.  We showed them the good, the bad and the UGLY! We took her to the Platou Center and she wondered why it hadn’t been painted and why the tennis courts didn’t have appropriate nets.  Guess what? The center has a new coat of paint and the courts have new nets! Thanks Catherine.
The Good: we drove through the shaded streets of Westbury showing off nice homes with pretty well kept yards, landscaped esplanades, the Willow Waterhole and the Westbury Community Garden.  The Bad:  We drove down one street of chronic yard parkers (4 of them in one block); this same street had at least 5 heavy trash violators; and just around the corner the man who continues to repair cars in his driveway despite a cease and desist letter from the City. The Ugly: We showed her 12540 Hillcroft and Westbury Square both of whom have repair or demolish orders that are stalled in the courts. We showed her the Taco truck and day laborers gathering illegally across the street.
We showed her all that is wonderful in Westbury so that she would know why we need Neighborhood Protection and the City of Houston to take care of the Bad and the Ugly.
But back to City Hall. I don’t know the specifics of the budget or the wording of the code/ordinance before City Council to create this department, but I do know that the protection of neighborhoods is imperative to the future of Houston.  A few bad apples can spoil a whole neighborhood. I told our City Council that we needed more Neighborhood Protection.  Interestingly two other people mentioned Westbury; CM Wanda Adams who was chair of this committee mentioned us by name and David Robinson, president of the SuperNeighborhood Alliance, also mentioned Wesbury when he spoke.  We are becoming known!  Cindy, Janie, Priscilla and I wore our Westbury Improving tshirts the week before so that we would  stand out. However that didnt happen. About 100 bikers showed up to protest an officer who had been ticketing motorcyclists for excessive noise and we just looked like biker mamas in our black tshirts!
At today's session, Robin Blut of Keep Houston Beautiful spoke before me and she quoted a study that was done to determine what makes a community desirable. She said it was: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is), and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces). I found their website  Very interesting….but that will be food for thought for another day!