Last month, I traveled to Austin with Mayor Sylvester Turner, Controller Chris Brown and several council colleagues in support of Houston’s pension reform bill. The Texas Senate State Affairs Committee voted out the Senate version of the bill (SB 2190) last month, and the House version (HB 43) was passed by the Texas House Committee on Pensions yesterday.
As you have probably heard, the city’s three pension systems are currently underfunded by billions. The Houston Municipal Employees Pension System (HMEPS) is underfunded by approximately $3.2 billion, Police Officers Pension System (HPOPS) by approximately $3.4 billion, and Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) by approximately $1.5 billion, for a total of $8.1 billion.
The reform plan, which was approved by City Council in October, would reduce that unfunded pension liability by $2.6 billion by making changes to benefits and increasing employee contributions. In addition, the plan calls for the issuance of $1 billion in bonds to infuse cash into the two pension systems with the lowest funding ratios (HPOPS and HMEPS). The city already owes that $1 billion in unfunded pension liability, so we wouldn’t take on more debt by issuing the bonds.
This plan will NOT increase your property taxes, and city employees, police officers, and firefighters who are already retired will not see a decrease in their paychecks. The plan has gained the support of police and municipal employees retirement systems, as well as the business community and pension experts.
While not “perfect”, I’m convinced it is the right plan for city employees, retirees and taxpayers. It is now up to the Texas Legislature, which controls the city’s pension system, to adopt the proposal into statute.
Houston Council Member
Mason Park Master Plan – We Want to Hear from You
Councilman Gallegos and the Houston Parks & Recreation Department (HPARD) would like your input in the Master Plan for Mason Park. The Councilman has allocated $85,000 from the District I Service Fund to develop the plan.
Park master plans are developed to ensure that the vision of the park reflects the changing needs of the community. The plan will guide HPARD on what future improvements should be implemented and provide potential phasing and cost. Public involvement is essential to this process.
Please take some time to comment on Mason Park, and tell us how we can create a master plan that meets your needs, whether that includes upgrading existing facilities or implementing new amenities. Public comments concerning Mason Park can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
HPARD will receive comments until April 21, 2017.
New HPD Command Staff, District Captains Assigned
The Houston Police Department promoted several new Assistant Chiefs to the Department’s Command Staff in March. Many of them have served patrol divisions in District I including new assistant chiefs Bobby Dobbins, Wendy Baimbridge, and Larry Satterwhite.
In total, 7 captains were promoted to assistant chiefs, and 8 lieutenants to the rank of captain. In addition, new captains have been assigned to the five patrol stations in District I:
Downtown: Captain C.L. Johnson
North East: Captain C.C. Weatherly
South Central: Captain S.D. Victorian
East Side: Captain P.Y. Cantu
South East: Captain K.J. Deese
Officers to Play 5th Graders in Soccer Match – April 6th
You won’t want to miss this soccer match! Gallegos Elementary students (5th graders) will be playing against officers from the Houston Police Department’s Eastside patrol station. It is a great and fun way for our officers to build trust and strengthen relationships with our community.
Thursday, April 6th – 4:30 p.m.
7415 Harrisburg Blvd.
Community Breaks Ground on Mason Park Bridge
The community broke ground on a new signature pedestrian bridge at Mason Park. When completed, the bridge will serve as a critical link to communities on the north and south sides of Brays Bayou. It will provide pedestrians and cyclists access to the 30-mile Brays Bayou Greenway trail network, with connections to historic Gus Wortham Golf Course, Gragg Park and beyond.
“I started advocating for the bridge years ago as president of my civic club,” said Councilman Gallegos at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I worked with several community leaders at the time to petition the Parks Department for a pedestrian bridge that would unite the north and south sides of this wonderful regional park.”
Today as the City Council representative for the area, Councilmember Gallegos is supporting the construction of the Mason Park bridge by allocating $75,000 in District Service Funds, and an additional $700,000 (over the past three years) to enhance lighting at the park, construct a new 8-foot-wide trail that will span over half a mile, and to develop a master plan for the first time in the park’s history. The bridge is scheduled to be completed in spring of 2018.
Coffee with Department of Neighborhoods – April 27th
Join the Department of Neighborhoods and other City of Houston Departments for coffee and conversation on Thursday, April 27th.
The department would like to hear from you about neighborhood concerns and ways to improve the community.
Thursday, April 27th
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Greater East End Management District Office
3211 Harrisburg Blvd., Houston, TX
Please RSVP to email@example.com.
Walk for the Woods – April 29th
The Walk for the Woods Project 2017, presented by G&A Partners and Cigna, is open for registration. This estimated 5K walk will take you on a journey through Houston’s historic East End, where many of The Woods Project’s students live and play. It is the biggest fundraiser of the year for The Woods Project and promises to be a great morning of community, history and fun!
The walk is scheduled for Saturday, April 29, at Ripley House (4410 Navigation). Gates open at 8 a.m. and the walk starts at 9 a.m.
Use the promo code “Gallegos” to register at the discounted price of $35 (regular is $50).
News at a Glance from City Hall
- City Council approved a citizen petition to establish 1400-1500 Elliott Street, 1500 Pearson, 1400 Scharpe, 1400 Munger, 4400-4500 Rusk Street as a Special Minimum Lot Size of 6,250 square feet. By establishing this standard, lots cannot be subdivided below the “special minimum” lot size in the designated area.
- City Council confirmed the appointment of new Public Works Director Dr. Karun Sreerama, and appointment of Lisa Johnson as interim director of the Parks Department.
- Councilman Gallegos allocated $35,000 from the District I Service Fund to complete a mobility study for the Hobby Airport area. The plan will include analysis of existing transportation and mobility conditions, infrastructure, and local and regional mobility needs.
For a complete list of items considered by City Council each week, visit the online Council Agenda portal.