The Houston-Galveston Area Council today held a spirited discussion of the method of distribution of Community Development Block Grant funds, but took no action at the meeting. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
Executive Director Jack Steele reported that the State of Texas and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development are “at a standstill, if not a stand-off” regarding distribution of CDBG Hurricane Ike recovery funds.
“HUD cited under-funding in Galveston and Orange counties and over-funding in the deep East Texas area,” Steele said, adding that he is engaged in discussions with the Governor’s Office seeking a more equitable distribution.
“We need to go over there and get in their faces,” said Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, suggesting that a “strong delegation from this area” should call on the governor and members of his staff.
Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell disagreed, suggesting that representatives from Austin should be invited to this area.
“I request that we invite them to come down and have a heart to heart talk with them,” Lovell said.
Steele said that he will meet again with the state officials later this week and then will consider returning with a delegation that will include members of the H-GAC Ike Recovery Committee.
Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas reported on her recent visit with HUD officials in Washington. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
“HUD has asked that we make every effort to prevail upon Governor Perry, either through this organization or any other, to pay attention to HUD’s requests,” Thomas said. “So I think the idea of going to meet with the governor is a good one.”
The H-GAC board voted unanimously to enter into agreements for acquisition of cleaner vehicles and retrofits to reduce emissions, under the Clean Cities/Clean Vehicles Program, at a cost not to exceed $3,259,894. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
Missouri City Council Member Bobby Marshall questioned the cost of the project.
“This is the most cost effective emission reduction that is available to this area,” Steele replied. “That is one of the reasons we pursue it.”
Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark complained about the unfunded federal mandate.
“As the federal government and the EPA and the global warming folks continue to ratchet down on our productive capacity at what point does this body stand up or speak up and say ‘Enough is enough, we can’t handle it any more!’?” Clark said. “They are destroying our productive capacity.”
All other agenda items were approved. All votes were unanimous.
Eunice Reiter, president of the Houston-Galveston Area Local Development Corporation, appeared before the board with a unique problem. Listen: RealPlayer MP3
“Our problem is we are making money faster than we can spend it,” Reiter said, seeking new projects to fund. “We have money for planting trees which we have just done in Galveston along Broadway and the Strand.”
After listing several other areas where funds are available, Reiter asked the H-GAC board members to submit projects for grants.
The H-GAC Board of Directors honored the outstanding parks and natural areas projects in a reception following the regular meeting.
H-GAC received applications in four categories: the Planning Process; Policy Tools; On-the-Ground Projects Under $500,000; and On-the-Ground Projects Over $500,000. Any public, private or non-profit organization was eligible to apply for recognition.
2009 Award Recipients
Award recipients include Creating Connections - The Sugar Land Hike and Bike Trail Master Plan, winner in the Planning category. Featuring some of the best qualities of trail planning, including usability and comprehensiveness, this plan has been approved by the Sugar Land City Council and has moved into the implementation phase with widespread support. Planning Honorable Mention project is Houston Parks and Recreation Department's (HPARD) Linear Forest.
HPARD Urban Gardening Program - Growing Green in Our City is the winner in the Policy Tools category. This program works with interested community groups to transform city-owned vacant lots and select gardening spots into community gardens. Policy Tools Honorable Mention projects are the Harris County Commissioners Court Resolution Requiring that all Facilities Meet LEED Requirements and The City of Missouri City Hunter's Glen Sprayground.
Friends Park, a small lot in the heart of West University Place, is the winner in the On-the-Ground Projects Under $500,000 category. This project, part of the West University Place 1999 Parks Master Plan, is the result of years of planning, fundraising and design by many area residents, including Friends of West U Parks. The Honorable Mention project is the HPARD Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Tribute Planting.
The Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Greenway is the winner in the On-the-Ground Projects Over $500,000 category. Designed to connect various sites of interest around Hermann Park, this project also enhances the environment through fostering plant growth and helping combat flooding. The Honorable Mention project is The City of Missouri City’s Buffalo Run Park.
Combined, these projects have added or enhanced more than 180 acres of parks and natural areas and include plans for more than 26 miles of trails. Each of these projects has multiple benefits, including initiatives to conserve water and protect water quality, integrate natural areas in an urban setting, develop community urban green space, and improve quality of life.
Honor Awards Jury
This years’ judges were Mr. Nathan Dietrich, Assistant Director of Planning, City of Shenandoah; Mr. Alfred Francis “Bud” Gessel, Parks Director, Timber Lane Utility District; Dr. John Jacob, Director of the Texas Coastal Watershed Program; Ms. Kathryn Nichols, Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service; Ms. Merrie Talley, Principal, Talley Landscape Architects, Inc.
Houston-Galveston Area Council
The Houston-Galveston Area Council (www.h-gac.com) is a voluntary association of local governments in the 13-county Gulf Coast Planning Region—an area of 12,500 square miles and more than 5.7 million people. H-GAC works to promote efficient and accountable use of local, state, and federal tax dollars and serves as a problem-solving and information forum for local government needs.