ART IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
The Great Pyramids at Gizeh. China’s Great Wall. The aqueducts that brought water from the Alps to the bustling metropolis that was Rome. These are all lasting examples of public works projects conceived and executed on a grand scale. And now, fellow Kingwood residents, we have our very own entrant to add to this illustrious list: The Four-Way Traffic Lights at Northpark Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway! Begun as a simple revamping of the light system sometime during the Clinton Administration, constant revisions, adjustments, supplier problems and general boo-boos have contributed to making this Texas’ longest-running public works project since the construction of the National Highway System. On any given week for the past millennia, Kingwood motorists have been treated to the spectacle of two – or four – or maybe nine guys in hard hats standing around while one of them stares into an electrical control box, or digs a new hole or plants some new shrubbery. This is usually accompanied by the inevitable array of orange cones blocking lanes and diverting traffic from the normal flow. One would think that this situation would foster cynicism about the ways that government contracts are bid, awarded and carried out. But that way ultimately leads to frustration, unhappiness and grouchiness, and general malaise. No, fellow residents, I suggest there is a better, healthier way of looking at this project: by viewing it as a Permanent Organic Art Installation – ever changing but always there – provided for the edification, enlightenment and cultural improvement of our Liveable Forest denizens, and fully worthy of our gratitude, appreciation and acclaim! There. I feel better.
A local homebuilder built a lovely little lake house for me on my property in 1994 in Countrywood Estates, Sour Lake, Texas. The property received runoff from every direction as it made its way to the bayou. Because the property was both a floodway and in the floodplain, the county wouldn’t let me build unless I built it on pilings or brought in tons of soil. I chose the former for the “footprint” it wouldn’t make on the topography. The house fit nicely into the woodsy neighborhood in spite of the neighbors’ comments about my “beach house.” That little house has since proved its worth repeatedly in times of flood. It was a costly inconvenience but worth it to me since I loved the land and the house. While homes in something like 54 counties since 1996 have flooded and received high-water damage, my house remained high and dry. I’ve lived off and on in Houston, the last time being 1994 (I-45/1960), and know the city has had a significant subsidence and flooding problem for a very long time. I expect city engineers have grappled with the problems continually. As I watched the videos of Hurricane Harvey flooding, looking at the new as well as old houses flooded severely, I wondered how the matter could be attacked: (1.) I doubt very seriously that the past floodings are a fluke and people wanting to live there must set their minds to that reality and plan accordingly when they build; (2.) Perhaps there’s a way to raise the floors in existing houses; and (3.) Perhaps hold contests open to the public for designs/plans for beautiful houses on pilings that would appeal to the very curb appeal-savvy citizenry. The main negative for such houses: they have to be well insulated.
JoAnne Sandefer Barrett
The season of picnics, summer vacations and outdoor adventure has finally arrived! Unfortunately, even the most stalwart outdoor enthusiast may head back inside when met with one of the season’s most annoying pests: mosquitoes. To fight back against these pests, Harris County Precinct 4 has partnered with the Cockrell Butterfly Center to study and breed the Texas “mosquito assassin,” an insect that feeds on pest mosquito larvae. I also want to announce that our popular Senior Adult Program will change its name to Precinct 4’s Encore! program on June 1. For 27 years, our Senior Adult Program has provided events, activities and day trips to adults over 50. Despite the name change, we will still offer the same programs our participants have come to known and love, just with a modern, new image. I also want to take a moment to recognize the Harris County Animal Shelter. In less than a decade, the shelter has managed to increase its live release rate from 15.5% to 90%. That’s something of which we can be very proud. Our veterinary health employees can’t do it without you, though. Visit Precinct 4 online to learn more about our road projects and upcoming events available through our community centers, parks department and Senior Adult Program.
Jack Cagle, Commissioner
Harris County Precinct 4
The Texas House and Senate made history with the agreement to modernize and improve the state’s school finance system, and I want to applaud all of the members and senators who worked tirelessly to craft legislation that puts more money into classrooms, gives every Texas teacher a raise, improves the STAAR test and provides significant property tax relief. I look forward to working with all 19 school districts in Senate District 4 to ensure that the plan implementation is smooth and teachers are getting the resources they need. This system has only been reformed three times in 84 years, and these major reforms will benefit all Texas schools, families and businesses. I look forward to supporting this historic bill on final passage in the Senate. The Texas School Finance Plan includes: up to a $4,000 raise for all Texas teachers; puts more money into classrooms; adopts programs to ensure Texas third-graders are reading at grade level; improvements to the STAAR exams; $3.6 billion reduction of recapture/Robin Hood; $5 billion for property tax relief, which will increase annually; and $4.5 billion for public education reform, putting more money into classrooms.
Brandon Creighton, Senator