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Garcia hears residents’ concerns at town hall

HARRIS COUNTY – Pct. 2 County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia held her version of a Town Hall Meeting last Thursday night at Jeff Davis High School, and it was extremely well attended, with about 300 persons from all the four districts that she represents in Harris County.

This was actually a combination of a citizen’s Town Hall Meeting, with questions and comments, which followed what might be described as the Commissioner’s “State of the Precinct” presentation.

Garcia explained that her Precinct is a large undertaking, with many people helping her to govern. In fact, she spoke beside a table with 5 deputy commissioners, and about 1/4th of the audience were actually her department heads, staff, and representatives from other non-county government agencies such as METRO and Tx-DOT. Garcia pointed out that her yearly budget is about $60,000,000 and she has 500 employees to deliver the District’s services.

The Commissioner’s opening comments were a list of accomplishments, and services that her administration delivers to constituents. She spoke at length about the damages that Hurricane Ike had brought to the Precinct, and how they had responded to immediate emergencies and longer term rebuilding. Important transportation elements such as the Washburn Tunnel, and the Lynchburg Ferries, were temporarily out of service, but were restored as soon as possible.

Infrastructure plans

Her review of projects focused on Infrastructure such as new water and sewer service for 100 homes in her precinct, but noted that the actuality was that 50,000 homes have been cited in the Precinct as not having adequate safe water and sewers. She said this demonstrated the depth of the problems facing us.

In the Northeast area of her Precinct, she said she is working with agencies such as the East Aldine Management District to bring these infrastructure improvements. Other partnerships, with NFL and the Texans, for instance, have resulted in a Super Bowl Center and YET Center, athletic facilities for neighborhoods, now run by the Boys and Girls Club. She said the County has contributed $310,000 to this effort. Another partnership, with the federal NIH and YMCA national organization, has resulted in a program to improve the environment for everyday life in the area, and this study/action program is entitled ACHIEVE.

Senior Citizen programs

She said that there are over 100,000 Senior Citizens enrolled in her seniors programs and Senior Olympics, and they partake of many programs in all her Community Centers. At the other end of the age spectrum, Pct. 2 has a number of programs for Youth, with 1100 kids signed up from 14 different schools. Programs include a bike give-away event, and Summer Camp for as many as 1400.

Another interesting partnership is with San Jacinto Community College, where together they have set up a program for community citizens to learn how to use a computer, and in a Bi-Lingual environment.

Helping our veterans

Other programs include recognition of support for Veterans. Over 3400 have signed up for special Veterans programs, and the Precinct runs a fleet of buses for Seniors and Veterans that include daily runs to the Veterans Hospital. Another recognition for Veterans is an Annual picnic, now in its third year, for all Veterans in the County in one location for the year.

The Commissioner took time to introduce the “New Sheriff in Town”, Adrian Garcia, who spoke briefly about his department and introduced some of his staff that was present. His message to the crowd was to get involved in volunteering, and that this will help reduce crime. “Law Enforcement is not the only answer to reducing crime”, he extolled.

PUBLIC COMMENT SECTION:

From the East Aldine area, comments were on Traffic Jams East and West on thoroughfares such as Aldine Mail and Little York, as they pass over the Hardy Toll Road. Sound Buffers and more Landscaping was also requested.

Extreme Flooding from inadequate drainage, even from normal rainfall, was noted along Little York. HC Toll Road representatives, Peter Key and Mike Perez, said that solutions to these problems was under study. Flo Rios and several other East Aldine residents asked for help in cleaning up their neighborhoods of trash, sewage, rats, and stray animals. Commissioner Garcia promised she would organize a CLEAN-UP DAY for the Precinct to help.

METRO questions raised Other public comment included support for light rail, several requests for an underpass at Harrisburg for METRO, instead of an overpass, support for a new soccer stadium downtown, and complaints about the current Home Repair program. Complaints were lodged against so-called mobile restaurants, or Taco Trucks.

Garcia discussed the new Community Center, to be named Leo Castillo CC, with potential for Health Care, and Educational facilities, as well as traditional community functions.

Flooding concerns

A number of citizens complained about flooding that seems to be getting worse over the years, making driving impossible during heavy rains along I-45 frontage roads, and areas along the Hardy Toll Road.

The large crowd, and limited time, meant that many issues of interest to the audience did not get discussed, and many department heads that were present did not get to talk about their areas of responsibility. However, many people stayed after the 8 pm closing, and continued the discussions or set up appointments for later follow through action.