2020 Year In Review

I trust this email finds you and your family healthy and safe. The world is going through one of the most challenging moments in recent history, but the good news is that we are at the beginning of the end of this global pandemic. That is in large part due to the heroic work of scientists, doctors, medical professionals, and frontline workers who have helped save so many lives and get us to this point.
In the last couple of weeks, Houston hospitals began receiving the first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Medical personnel, first responders, and other frontline workers are among those receiving the first doses. They will be followed by other critical populations in the coming weeks and the general public by the spring. While local distribution plans for the general public are still being finalized, we know vaccines will be available free of charge to all who want one at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and other public places. Please continue to monitor updates from local authorities as plans for the rollout are finalized. Stay vigilant, and please mask up and practice social distancing.
Since the pandemic began earlier this year, my team and I spent long hours – evenings and weekends – working alongside so many great organizations in coordinating and supporting relief efforts. From food distributions to COVID-19 testing and mask giveaway events, my team has been proud to serve and advocate on behalf of the people of District I.
FY21 City Budget
Coming into the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which began on July 1 of this year, the City faced a nearly $170 million budget crisis – the worst in recent history – exacerbated by the decline in sales tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through significant belt-tightening and working with the federal government to use some of the CARES Act funding to pay for COVID-19 response costs the City would otherwise have had to incur, City Council adopted a fiscally responsible $5.1 billion budget that balances revenue and spending. I give Mayor Sylvester Turner tremendous credit for his leadership during these challenging times and for putting forward a budget that funds critical needs like housing, public safety, and health, all while lowering the City’s tax rate to fall under our voter-imposed revenue cap.
While the pandemic has forced the City to shift its focus to pandemic response efforts, I’m pleased to report that we were still able to advance several items in our community. Below is a summary of a few of the items we worked on this year:


In October 2020, we celebrated the grand opening of Houston’s new 120-acre, iconic greenspace, the Houston Botanic Garden. Phase one, called “Botanic Beginnings”, includes the Global Garden collection featuring hundreds of plants from different eco-systems across the world, as well as the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden, and a culinary garden. In the first month alone, the garden welcomed over 12,000 visitors. The project was made possible thanks to the generosity of Houstonians, philanthropic organizations, corporate sponsors, and community partners, who contributed more than $35 million to the phase one capital campaign over the past several years. The Houston Botanic Garden will be a lasting educational and recreational destination, and I’m so humbled to have played a small role in making its home right here in District I.
We also worked with area partners to enhance and plan for possible future improvements to other area greenspaces. We’ve begun conversations with Commissioner Garcia’s office on a City-County partnership to help us advance goals outlined in the Mason Park Master Plan; we’re working with the Gulfgate Redevelopment Authority to explore ways they can assist with improving local parks through the development of a Parks Master Plan for the Hobby area, and with the Parks Board to finalize pending greenway projects and to support the “Beyond the Bayous” initiative for future connections and projects. We worked with Port Houston to include unused Port property in the East Sector Master Plan initiated by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
This year, we were also excited to complete long overdue maintenance and other repairs at several local parks in our community, including the completion of new SPARK Parks at Carrillo and Franklin elementary. We also added two new BCycle stations at Mason Park and across from the Tlaquepaque Market on Telephone Road at Eddington Street in Eastwood, and we will be working to expand the network to even more communities in the coming year. Funding for these two stations was possible thanks to a federal grant, local funding from the District I office, as well as Commissioner Adrian Garcia, the East End Management District and Harrisburg TIRZ.
With the closing of the Cossaboom YMCA, I was happy to help forge a new partnership this year with the Houston YMCA that will bring new programming, classes and other fun activities to a new East End Y satellite office at Mason Park. The Y will be offering new swim lessons for all ages, aquatic aerobic classes for seniors (in the morning before the pool opens to the public), as well as other health and wellbeing classes for our community starting in the spring/summer of 2021. The East End Y will also provide after school programs at several area schools. Their presence at Mason Park greatly assists in meeting the programming needs and future vision that were outlined in the Mason Park master plan that our community developed in 2017.

Rufus Cage

While COVID-19 caused delays in our efforts to preserve and activate the Rufus Cage property this year, I remain committed to working with community members of the original “Cage Fighters” preservation group to finalize a live-work concept that would not only preserve the historic school building but also restore and activate the warehouses. I’m confident that 2021 will be a great year for the future of this property.


Quality affordable housing for seniors and working families continue to be one of my top priorities, and this year we welcomed two new communities in the district with the grand opening of Fenix Estates in EaDo and the Lancaster Senior Village in the Hobby area. Both of these communities, which were supported by local dollars and my office, are now home to hundreds of our neighbors. Other similar communities are in the works in the East End and Gulfgate area and should be completed in the coming year. In 2021, my office will be looking at new opportunities for quality multi-family housing as well as single-family housing working with the Houston Land Bank and the Community Land Trust.

Public Safety

COVID-19 has provided new challenges and strained police and fire service as a result of the many firefighters and police officers who have contracted the virus. The City has also seen an uptick in crime, which is why in October the City invested $4.1 million of CARES Act funding to increase overtime for HPD. The program has provided for an additional 110 officers deployed each day in six hot spot areas, including in the Southeast and the South Central patrol areas in our district.
The City of Houston has worked in these unprecedented times to help people holistically. For instance, the Houston Health Department launched a mental health hotline, the City’s Anti-Trafficking Office was expanded to include domestic violence, to address the increase in domestic violence calls. Working with the City’s Anti Human Trafficking Office and HPD, my office is launching a new public awareness campaign on human trafficking and prostitution. We appreciate the support we have received from HPD’s Eastside and Southeast patrol officers as well as DPS troopers in these efforts.
We also made funding available for new tools for HPD and HFD. We purchased new HazMat Thermal Imaging Cameras for fire station 22, and we committed funding to purchase a new off-road vehicle that will allow police officers to more easily patrol parks and trails along Brays and Sims bayous.

Complete Communities

In the last year, we have worked with the City’s Complete Communities Office to develop an Action Plan for neighborhoods in our district. Several meetings and workshops have been held with residents and community stakeholders in Magnolia Park, Manchester, Harrisburg, and Smith Addition to help identify programs and projects needed to make our community more ‘complete’. From environmental safety, affordable housing, education, mobility, the economy and jobs, the Magnolia Park – Manchester community spoke out, and we have listened. City Council recently approved the recommended Action Plan and my office will continue to work and advocate to advance the goals outlined in the plan.

Lawndale ‘Road Diet’ & Bike Lane

Another project we initiated this year is the proposed Lawndale Bike Lane Project. Initial meetings have been held with area residents and civic leaders to review concepts, and we anticipate design completion in spring 2021. The design is expected to include a roadway layout for bike lanes, pavement markings, and signage. Identified as a future project by the Houston Bikeways Plan, the project aims to provide a safer and wider bicycle network. The new bike lane on Lawndale – along with the new dedicated bike lanes on Polk, Leeland, and Cullen, which were made possible thanks to funding from Commissioner Rodney Ellis and the Federal Transit Authority – will provide a safer environment for all travelers and road users.

Park Place Blvd. Improvements

At the end of 2019, the community broke ground on a $4.5 million project to improve Park Place Blvd. The project repaired base failures, added new subgrade and pavement for a better driving surface, repaired the gutter line, and added new 8-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the street from Old Galveston Rd. to I-45. New pedestrian signals and decorative lighting will be added to make this stretch safer for pedestrians as well. The City committed $1.2 million toward this project, with the remaining $3.3 million coming from the Gulfgate TIRZ. Work should be completed in the coming weeks. The work will not only benefit area residents but also visitors who’ll use Park Place Blvd. as the gateway into the botanic garden.

CDSF Priorities

Since the beginning of the Council District Service Fund (CDSF) program in 2015, which provides $750,000 to each district council members to invest in City services and infrastructure, my office has used the dollars to help expedite pending repairs. Although the funding is not enough for the full reconstruction of neighborhood and major streets, we have prioritized roadway repairs and addressed base failures on some of our most traveled roads. In the last couple of weeks alone we finished concrete panel replacements along segments of Navigation, Lockwood, and Winkler.
We also worked with several civic groups and associations to fund pending applications for speed cushions in several neighborhoods, including Baldinger, Fonde, Pine Tree, and we initiated the evaluation process for several other pending applications.
Finally, this upcoming year we will be launching a pilot initiative that will consist of a new rapid response team to clean up illegal dumping, retrieve abandoned shopping carts from the right of way, and other neighborhood nuisances in the district. The team of four will be assigned to the District I Office and help respond and address urgent requests that may pose a health or safety risk. We expect to launch the new pilot initiative in January.
Since being elected, my commitment has been to work with residents, community leaders, and together in these past 7 years, we have taken great strides toward improving the quality of life in our community. So, on behalf of the District I team – Celia, Gloria, Joaquin, and Daniel – it is a joy and our honor to serve you.
We wish you and your family the very best of holidays and a happy and healthy new year!
Robert Gallegos
Houston Council Member
District I