Friday, April 30, 2010

Our traffic and government transparency

I think about this often these days. In my mind, we still do not have a transparent government. For example, are decisions related to development of our western frontier something our community should be concerned about? Are there decisions related to the mobility of the region in which our government should be making a stand? You and I have seen but not been involved in plans by TXDOT to expand The Woodlands Parkway to highway 149. The reason to expand? Development! Think about the effects of that expansion? Like one board member told me this week. "The western section of The Woodlands Parkway will be six lanes also." Well, if the western section will be six lanes, then the front part will be 8 lanes, or worse, a freeway! How do we protect our community from continued decline by utilizing our roads as commute freeways? Who is representing and protecting us? Is it the Township Board who endorsed the TXdot proposed widening of highway 242 for the entire length so as to promote more transient traffic through our community?  Do you know that 50% of that roadway is for The Woodlands, but the remainder is for transient traffic? No wonder our crime rate continues to erode! I have heard soem interesting ideas in the past few weeks from residents on this subject. 

Typically some of the most important issues are discussed behind "closed doors". Our politicians might be working on some of these issues privately, but the issues are in gray areas that everyone should be concerned about. The newspapers do not seem to be there nor residents. We live in a complex society that is filled with influence as a value to support enterprising individuals, organizations and companies toward their hidden agendas.

Do you want status quo in our government?  I sure don't!  Who is helping us? The development company? 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What are The Woodlands resident issues found in our government request system?

Type Incidents  Percent
Events 1   0%
MUD 1   0%
Other svcs 1   0%
Trees 1   0%
Other 2   1%
Schools 2   1%
Parks 4   1%
Mobility 6   2%
Animal control 8   2%
Garbage 8   2%
Website 9   3%
Crime 13   4%
Safety 13   4%
Alerts/Watch 13   4%
Solicitation 15   4%
Assessment questions 17   5%
Other requests 21   6%
Streetlight repair 32   9%
Common area maint 46  13%
Covenants 55  15%
Information 87  25%
Grand Total 355 100%

I reviewed the 355 resident requests from the Township Request Database over the past three months. January 1st to near the end of of March 2010. Not all requests were from residents, but the vast majority were. Obviously from the data, all who reported an issue through the database had a variety of questions and concerns. You will note that I have distinguished between safety and crime. Safety had something to do with mitigating a specific visualized risk to life or health. Crime concerns were related to the news, or general statements about the crime reported outside of the view of the resident.

Information is a catch-all and can be about anything, such who to call on advice how to approach an issue. If information was sought for the Neighborhood Watch program, that was included in Watch. Mobility does not include all road issues. It is limited to change or safety issues related to mobility, whether by foot, bicycle or automobile.  Common area maintenance includes park maintenance and water runoff from easements. Solicitation is usually a request to consider the use of a service provider.

The Township Service Request Database can be accessed at this link.  

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to place a comment or email me. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Woodlands Independence from Houston

Isn't it great to have a guarantee of not being governed by another city, especially Houston? We don't have their taxes, police force, their ordinances, their firefighting standards, their trash and garbage schedules, their environmental standards, their 911 call centers, or their standards for a "quality life". We set our own standards and our own direction. That was what I considered when we began our trek to govern ourselves.

I remember participating in the meetings with residents to determine what our issues were, where we wanted to go, and what was most important to us. Security and taxes were our utmost concern. Water should have been also, but our vision for that issue seemed further out then. Our water problems have accelerated as the build-out accelerated, and the Montgomery county growth significantly impacted water consumption. Slower reservoir recharging due to drought has also impacted the urgency to supplement our well water with potable surface water.  Now that issue is probably our biggest tax threat.

I recall going door-to-door getting support from the community for all three propositions. I did not want Houston to annex us; the date they could do that was quickly approaching. They could annex us as early as 2014, and from all indications they would have strong financial incentives to do so. All they had to do was to build a fire station within a certain distance of our community and bang! They could have and would have done it.

I wrote several articles on the subject of those propositions, and many people read them. I did my own risk assessment based on the knowledge I had gleaned from working with many people on the project. That exercise took a lot of time, but it was well worth it. Today, I stand firm on what was done. That was a good decision. We have not lowered our taxes as much as I had hoped. In fact, the WCA has not lowered its taxes at all. I will write another article on taxes a little later.

Here are the links to articles I wrote on the Township creation (three propositions) back then. You can see I have cautiously supported the Township concept from the beginning and have never backed off.

1. Residents Value System 
2. Road to Governance
3. Governance in a nutshell
4. Panel Discussion with Woodlands Decides 
5. The Decision
6. Congratulations to The Woodlands

Friday, April 9, 2010

Good news to Indian Springs and Panther Creek

Actually, the good news includes the Village of Creekside Park as well.

The start of the Creekside Park fire station on Kuykendahl is delayed until the 3rd or 4th quarters of this year due to delays in road construction. Therefore, the relative governing bodies decided jointly to accelerate the construction of the Indian Springs fire station and staff it with the personnel from the temporary fire station currently off of Gosling. This action will make Fire Station #8 (Indian Springs) operational before Fire Station #7 (Creekside Park). The Indian Springs Fire Station is now planned to begin operations in July 2011 followed by Fire Station #7 in January 2012.

After all the insistence that Fire Station #7 had to be done first and the urgency was tantamount, we now have a different scenario. It was not that urgent after all. Residents in Panther Creek and Indian Springs, including myself, have been asking to accelerate the Indian Springs Fire Station for a long time, even before the 2010 budget process. Now that some of the hurdles have been jumped for the Indian Springs Gosling location, that location is now more advanced in infrastructure and can proceed without the obstacles that Fire Station #7 has.

So residents and business owners alike in the southwestern part of Panther Creek and the southeastern part of Indian Springs are thankful that a better emergency response time is on its way to their homes and retail areas. Thanks to those who contributed to this decision.

Sometime this month, we should see the land acquisition agreements completed for both fire stations with final approvals for the project scheduled in May, with ground breaking for Indian Springs in July and for Creekside Park in January 2011. Also, those who are interested should be present at the DSC meeting in May to see the proposed plan and how these stations might impact residents' lives. The Indian Springs station is to be at the corner of Gosling and Flintridge.