What are your plans to tackle flooding?
The issue is when the water wants to leave, it doesn’t have anywhere to go. One thing that can be implemented immediately is educating the public on flood preparedness regularly, not just when the next storm is looming. Focusing on keeping our public prepared for flooding. We are one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, so a lot of the people who move here have never dealt with flooding; they’re brand new to the situation! They may even be moving into a flood-prone area without knowing it. That’s why it’s so important to keep the public educated and fresh on storm safety, evacuation routes, and to bring back high water gauges. The city also needs to anticipate and plan that storms, floods, and disasters will happen more frequently. Other cities plan for more storms than they actually experience, yet we plan for less. We also need to partner with nature to preserve our green spaces, creeks, and bayous. New construction that takes away our nature and green spaces definitely contributes to our flooding situation in the city. We are on the right path by creating regulations on building/developing. I don’t know how much demolishing an old building to build a new one on top of it affects things, but I support rehabbing and renovating buildings as an alternative from building on nature, if possible. Depending on the area, this could also help us preserve history and architecture. The ultimate solution for the "next big flood" is to preserve our green spaces, create additional reservoirs and retention areas, and, most ambitiously, create a tunneling system underneath the city. Because of our soil, tunneling is something that may not have been possible 10 years ago, but we have the tools and technology now to build tunneling drainage systems. Chicago just completed this exact project this year.
What are your plans to clean up the environment?
1. I don’t understand why Houston is so far behind other cities when it comes to protecting the environment. We should be leading! But until we can get to that point, we need to follow the examples other cities have set-out (banning plastic straws, banning or charging for plastic grocery bags, etc). Our air pollution is also one of the 10 worst in the country, per a recent study by the American Lung Association – we have to look at stricter regulations on our industries and expanding/promoting public transportation. I support the METRONext bond issue on the November ballot. This should help with improving the city's air quality by increasing the number of people using public transportation, rather than their personal vehicle. This not only improves our current infrastructure but expands upon it with an expanding LightRail and new RapidBus services.
2. I’m not sure if you saw the recycling controversy in the city recently? Long story short, items that the public set out to be recycled, were being dumped like normal trash. Not only is this hurting the environment, but creates a huge amount of distrust from the public to the city (which could discourage them from recycling in the future). In that situation, we need to hold the higher-ups accountable with fines and possibly even suspensions – the lower-level employees who did the dumping were terminated, but I think we have reason to believe they were told what to do and the public needs to know what action was taken. I know in some areas the trash isn’t being picked up routinely at all, either. I’m sure you’ve seen people riding in their car, just tossing their Styrofoam cup out the window. We have to try to create a culture of caring about the environment. I think that boils down to education, understanding, and compassion. It has to be a huge push.
What do you plan to do about the homeless?
My initial point may seem a little cold, but it comes from a good place. We can’t have people sleeping on the streets in their own filth or in campsite communities on public property. We need to enforce our no camping laws and get them off the streets, for their own good. Some of our homeless may be people getting out of jail but can’t afford to get back home. We need to help them get back to where they came from. Again, I think we are behind other cities when it comes to how we tackle the homeless problem. Oklahoma City, for example, has a city newspaper that’s basically run by homeless and low-income citizens; it provides them with meaningful income that can sustain them living independently. Nashville has a shower truck that travels through the city that homeless people can use to get clean. It’s so easy to say “oh they should just get a job.” But really who would hire someone who doesn’t have a mailing address or hasn’t showered or changed their clothes in who knows how long? We have a responsibility to humanity to try to help all of these people. I think our city needs to look in the mirror if we think the homeless can fix themselves or get them out of homelessness themselves. They need our help. It’s definitely a bigger issue than just getting them jobs – I can tie it back to education and understanding. Obviously, some want to be homeless or don’t want help, but most could just be victims of our city’s lack of mental health awareness, the educational system, or the criminal justice system.
With respect to government corruption, what are you thinking when it comes to ferreting out Officer Goines and Bryants in HPD?
I’m supportive of their sentences, if convicted. I want to see justice served and everyone involved be prosecuted. I think the bigger issue this raises is a public question of how much this really goes on without being discovered. It’s time for a deeper investigation of our police force - auditing all body cams, outside investigation assistance, etc. I’ve met former police officers who’ve told me stories about planting evidence on suspects, stealing their drugs, etc. These are the people that have the duty to serve and protect. Any little corruption can create a huge amount of public distrust, and rightfully so! It creates a divide between us and our officers.
Should Houston firefighters be paid the same as police of equal rank and seniority?
Yes, definitely. Both departments are on the same team, made up of brave men and women ensuring the safety of our city. One of our first priorities should be to make sure to take care of the people that help the city work as well as it does. Few who work in the city have jobs as dangerous or demanding as firefighters - saving someone out of a burning house, rescuing you from a wrecked car, etc. Pay between firefighters and police should be competitive.
Why is Houston special?
It’s a little bit of low hanging fruit to say it’s our diverse culture mix, but that’s what really stands out and makes our city so unique. It’s so huge and multicultural. We can stumble upon dragon dance for the Lunar New Year in Chinatown, volunteer at a Syrian church, or find our way to the Sunny Flea Market on the Northside. In a less than two-mile radius, you can find authentic Persian, Cuban, Mexican, Afghani, Pakistani, or Vietnamese food (and a ton of others!). Obviously, that’s just a small taste - Houston is so expansive with so many cultures to appreciate. I don’t know if people realize how because of how non-concentrated it is (which, in itself, makes it special).
What is your leadership style/Why you?
I classify my leadership style as servant leadership. I don’t want to serve my own interests; I am committed to doing the will of the people, to be the mouthpiece of Houston’s citizens, and to promote and foster healthy growth and development of our people and community.
I’m currently in the realm of education and I think that’s where everything starts, from listening and understanding. It’s the root of everything, even servant leadership.
From my perspective, we need people who haven’t walked the traditional path, to run for office. That means our educators, young business people, firefighters, etc. – people who have different perspectives. So that’s part of it too, being a real, relatable person that can come to the table with a different perspective.