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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors
by Jim Guidry
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to authorize staff to enter into a contract to conduct the Livable Centers Study as part of the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan “to create more walkable, mixed-use places that are easier to serve via transit” in Galveston.

“I'm very pleased that the Historic Downtown Strand Seaport Partnership, Galveston Housing Authority, University of Texas Medical Branch and the neighborhoods will be planning a neighborhood corridor to connect downtown and UTMB and make it a livable, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood," said Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski. 

The board authorized staff to negotiate a new agreement with Gulf Coast Center/Connect Transit for the existing commuter and transit service pilot project, at an amount not to exceed $310,800. 

The staff report noted that the Mall of the Mainland Park & Ride Service, operating under the name Island Connect, which travels from the mall in Texas City to Galveston’s “employment and activity centers” is about to complete its second year of operation. 

“The route provides a vital link to work for Galveston Island residents displaced by Hurricane Ike to mainland cities,” said the report. 

The board authorized staff to negotiate with Fort Bend County for continued park and ride service at an amount not to exceed $247,150. 

The board authorized staff to communicate with the mayor of Rosenberg, “inviting the city to directly choose a board member and an alternate to serve on the H-GAC Board of Directors”. 

Executive Director Jack Steele advised that the 2010 Census gave Rosenberg a population of 30,618, surpassing the 25,000 population threshold that makes a city eligible to have a representative on the board.

All other agenda items were approved. All votes were unanimous, except that Stafford City Council Member Cecil Willis abstained on approval of a permit request for expansion of the Ralston Road Type IV landfill.

Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman, Baytown City Council Member Brandon Capetillo, Conroe City Council Member Toby Powell, Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, Texas City City Commissioner Dee Ann Haney, and Waller Independent School District Trustee Louis Tucker were absent. Walker County Commissioner Chris King did not attend the meeting, but he was represented by Walker County Judge Phillip Spenrath as his alternate. Deer Park Council Member Thane Harrison was absent but was represented by Council Member Beckie Stockstill-Cobb, his alternate.

Meadows Place Alderman Terry Henley, chair of the H-GAC Legislative Committee, and Executive Director Jack Steele updated the board on pending legislation. Listen: MP3  RealPlayer

“One thing that concerns us, and we had lengthy discussions at TML (Texas Municipal League) last week, is proposed legislation that could eliminate the May uniform election date,” Henley said. “We see that as, from a municipality standpoint, critical; and that municipalities are non-partisan and we would like to keep it that way.”

Steele reported that legislation to require regional planning commissions such as H-GAC to offer voting or non-voting ex-officio membership to members of the Texas Legislature has moved through the committee process and will be considered by the full legislature. He said that another proposed bill would require a state auditor to audit the H-GAC at the expense of the H-GAC is still pending. He said a bill that would require Harris County to withdraw from the H-GAC does not appear to have much chance of passage at this point.






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