What Do The Candidates Think?

We Asked Them

Election is Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015

Dec. 10, 2015

What do the candidates think about spending $4 million in public funds to destroy and “restore” one of the last natural stretches of Buffalo Bayou in Houston?

What do the candidates think now in light of the failing banks of Buffalo Bayou Park downstream, a signature $53.5 million project long touted by the Harris County Flood Control District and that park’s landscape designer SWA Group as a model for what should be done upstream in Memorial Park?

We asked them. And if they did not respond to our email, we called them today (Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015) to make sure that they received the email and asked again for a response.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron by Frank X. Tolbert 2.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron by Frank X. Tolbert 2.

The runoff election is Saturday, Dec. 12. Here are the responses we received. Maybe their answers or non-answers will help you decide how to vote.

Down below you can read the questions we sent.

Candidates Who Responded Immediately

The candidates who responded immediately were Sylvester Turner, candidate for mayor; Jim Bigham, candidate to represent District J (Southwest Houston, including Gulfton and Sharpstown) on the city council; Jack Christie and Sharon Moses, incumbent and candidate for At-Large Position 5 on city council; and Richard Nguyen, incumbent council member representing District F (also Southwest Houston, including Alief and Westchase).

Sylvester Turner through his communications director, Sue Davis:

I forwarded your email to Rep. Turner.  He is concerned about the issues you raised. He says he would like to hold on this project until he can review it further.  We only get one shot at this; once we make changes, the bayou is changed forever.

Jim Bigham, who unequivocally opposes the project, known as the Memorial Park Demonstration Project:

I fully support your efforts and oppose the proposed beautification project. Your photos speak a thousand words. I’ll pass this along and let me know how I can help.

Jack Christie, city council member At-Large Position 5, through his chief of staff, Matt Brollier:

CM Christie continues to have numerous questions and concerns about balancing science and nature with this project.

Thanks for contacting us.

Sharon Moses, who is challenging Christie for his council seat, wrote this response in opposition to the project:

I am an environmentalist, and I would not be in support of destroying natural wildlife.  I am a strong proponent of keeping our natural wildlife and trees, cliffs and sandstone- I am a tree hugger!

I am not in support of this matter as it stands – I would like to examine it more closely and look at other alternatives before giving this matter a nod of approval.  I think it needs more review and discussion.  I would like to talk to the HCFCD more about the project, but anything that destroys our natural plains and wildlife – generally does not garner my support.   

Great question – Thanks! 

Richard Nguyen, city council member representing District F, through his campaign staff person Dylan Osborne:

Council Member Nguyen has asked me to gather more details on this project for him, before he takes a public position. As this is a County project, and largely outside of District F, we simply have not been very involved with it. However, he would like any information you may have available.

Candidates who responded after a phone call reminder today:

Karla Cisneros, candidate to represent District H (areas of the Northside of Houston, including parts of the Heights and downtown):

Thank you for keeping me posted. I am very concerned about the issues that Save Buffalo Bayou has raised and want to make sure we do the right thing. I don’t yet understand all sides of the recommendation to rebuild the bayou through Memorial Park.  I look forward to personally visiting with all parties and being better informed. Please stay in touch with me.

Amanda Edwards, candidate for At-Large Position 4:

1) What is your position on this misguided project?

I am not familiar with the details of this project, but am troubled by the information you have provided. I am very interested to learn more. We must make sure that we do not make decisions that unduly damage our environment.

2) Will you commit to urging the flood control district to drop the project and withdraw its application for a permit from the Corps of Engineers if elected?

Again, I am just learning the details of the project.  When elected, I look forward to meeting to hear your concerns and determining the best course of action to address those concerns after weighing the facts and information available.

Candidates who have not responded:

Bill King, candidate for mayor; Steve Le, challenging Richard Nguyen to represent District F, Jason Cisneroz, competing against Karla Cisneros to represent District H; Mike Laster, incumbent challenged by Jim Bigham to represent District J; Mike Knox and Georgia Provost, candidates for At-Large Position 1; David Robinson, incumbent city council member in At-Large Position 2, and his challenger, Willie R. Davis, who had no contact information; and Roy Morales, running against Amanda Edwards for At-Large Position 4.

Here is the questionnaire we sent:

The Harris County Flood Control District together with the City of Houston is planning to spend more than $4 million in public funds to destroy and rebuild one of the last natural stretches of Buffalo Bayou as it flows past our great public Memorial Park. This “erosion control” project, known as the Memorial Park Demonstration Project, would obliterate a historic natural area filled with wildlife, high cliffs, ancient sandstone, sandy banks, and overhanging trees, a remarkable and irreplaceable public asset to have in the middle of the Houston.

The planned costs do not include the long-term expense of required scientific monitoring, maintaining, and repair of the Memorial Park Demonstration Project, which uses controversial “natural stable channel design” methods that often fail. In fact, a similar project downstream in Buffalo Bayou Park is failing, requiring exorbitant and unplanned outlays for continuous repair and replanting. Some experts doubt whether that popular and much-needed park between Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway can even be repaired. But that $53.5 million landscaping and channelization project has been repeatedly touted as the model for what the City and the flood control district plan to do upstream in Memorial Park.

In light of the tragic and embarrassing failure of “natural stable channel design” in Buffalo Bayou Park (as well as in Fonteno Park in northeast Harris County), do you support the expenditure of millions more in public money to use the same dubious methods on the natural banks of Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park?

The Army Corps of Engineers has not yet made a decision on whether to grant the flood control district a permit for the Memorial Park Demonstration Project. Save Buffalo Bayou is opposed to this wasteful boondoggle. Our growing organization has nearly 7,000 supporters on Facebook and reaches thousands more through its website.

What is your position on this misguided project?

Will you commit to urging the flood control district to drop the project and withdraw its application for a permit from the Corps of Engineers if elected?

Please give us your answers before Thursday so that we might share it with our supporters in time for the election.

Thank you.

Save Buffalo Bayou



8 thoughts on “What Do The Candidates Think?”

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    It is very troubling that Bill King did not respond. He seems to look at details of issues, especially financial ones. Hopefully he will look at this with the same level of concern.

    1. One would hope. It’s a huge waste of taxpayer money and would continue to be.

  2. Polly Teal says:

    What’s up with King not saying one word on such a huge issue.

    1. No idea. Maybe he doesn’t realize what a big issue it is.

  3. Alison Tyler says:

    I am all for what Jim Bigham and Sharon Moses have commented. The Buffalo Bayou needs to be kept natural. Quicker access to a natural bayou is part of what drew me to live in the Memorial Area in which I now dwell. The Braes Bayou channeling of the banks and turning the lower banks into cement did not work in regard to flood control. The property on which I used to live near the concretized lower banks of Braes Bayou flooded twice, and as a result my family and I had to move off that property.

    In fact, I have read studies that natural wetlands retain water and help prevent flooding, while anything cement does just the opposite.

    We need to keep our remaining natural habitats in the city if we want to keep this city livable for the younger generation and the ones to follow.

    1. So true, Alison Tyler. Thank you.

  4. Robert G BERTAGNE says:

    Buffalo Bayou is one of the gifts of Mother Nature which must be treasured for the present generation and future generations (our kids and grandkids). It should be developed as part of a NATURE PROJECT which should involve both Addicks and Barker dams and the entire course of the stream all the way to Allen’s landing rather than doing it piece meal as we are now doing. It should presented as a stand alone project and managed by a duly elected “Citizen’s Authority” for the proper funding and supervision. It is proposed to be included in a vote (Proposition X)for the next elections. With Houston being the fourth largest city in the US we need breathing space to preserve our health and our sanity.

    1. Great idea, Robert Bertagne.

      We definitely need to be paying more attention to the operation of Addicks and Barker Dams in West Houston and how they affect Buffalo Bayou. That’s on our agenda. The releases from the dams have been unusually high for a long time, probably in part because rainfall this fall has been unusually high and also in part because the dams are due for repairs and re-construction, if that hasn’t already begun. A construction contract was let in September. We will be asking and writing about that.

      Also, you’re right. We need an overall policy and guidance about Best Management Practices for landowners on the bayou and protecting and preserving this great natural resource.

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