Inside District I Newsletter
2021 Year in Review
Greetings!

As 2021 comes to a close, I wanted to take a brief moment to highlight some of the work we completed this year. While the year brought new challenges to our city and our community, the District I team worked closely with City leaders, as well as civic and community stakeholders to advance projects for our community.

I want to thank all the District I residents for giving my team and me the opportunity to serve you. We still have much to do, and we look forward to continuing that work in 2022.

Finally, as the Omicron variant continues to spread, I want to urge our neighbors to get vaccinated and get their booster shot as soon as possible. Houston Health Department-affiliated COVID-19 vaccination accepts walk-ins. Vaccination is FREE and does not require proof of residency or insurance. To find a location near you visit: houstonemergency.org/covid-19-vaccines/

We wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year!
Robert Gallegos
and the District I Team
This year, several major projects got underway to improve drainage and roadways in several communities. Among those was the Magnolia Park Drainage and Paving project - Phase 1A, which will improve drainage to reduce the risk of structural flooding. The project area is bounded by Elwood Street to the north and Brays Street to the south, and includes new concrete paving, curbs, sidewalks, driveways, and underground utilities. Construction is never easy, so I want to thank residents for bearing with us as we work to deliver new infrastructure for the community. The City is currently initiating pre-design work for phase 1B which will include the streets between Harrisburg and Elwood.
2021 was a big year in advancing the community's goal to build a premier complex for Latino Art & Culture in the City of Houston. The City formalized a partnership with ALMAAHH, a community-led nonprofit, to lead planning efforts for a future state-of-the-art facility, and thanks to District I and District H Council Service Funds, the City committed $150,000 in seed funding for ALMAAHH to begin preliminary planning efforts. Additionally, the Houston Endowment awarded a $1 million grant to support these efforts. This past fall, the mayor also announced the City’s support for a Latino Art & Culture Center, highlighting the $19.5 million we have already programmed in our City’s CIP for a special collections Hispanic Archive library. We will work collaboratively with ALMAAH, the community, and others to make this special collections library an anchor and centerpiece at a future Latino Art & Culture Center.
Last month, City Council approved an Interlocal Agreement led by my office for a cost-sharing partnership with Commissioner Adrian Garcia's Office for the rehabilitation of Oates Road. The project, estimated to cost over $1.1 million, provides for major work including road milling, base repairs, and improving the shoulders. Located in the northeast part of the district, Oates is an important corridor due to the volume of truck traffic to and from the Port. The road has been in need of major repairs for decades. This project will not only improve the driving surface but also extend the life of the roadway, and will allow us the opportunity to plan, design, and identify future funding to upgrade and reconstruct the infrastructure to meet the community's needs. I want to thank Mayor Turner and Commissioner Garcia for working with me, as well as the business owners and residents along Oates Road for their advocacy and for participating in the community meetings. We expect crews to mobilize and begin working on Oates in January. In addition to Oates, the City of Houston is preparing to reconstruct the Wynnewood Acres area to improve stormwater drainage, pavement conditions, and reduce structural flooding in the neighborhood. That project is set to begin in spring 2022.
This year, the City and County launched a new partnership to install ambient air monitors at Hartman Park. Ambient air monitors help monitor the air quality in fence-line communities like Manchester and help protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable neighbors - seniors, children, and individuals with raspatory issues. The monitor will contribute to our air monitoring network and help our public health officials in preventing, detecting, and responding to community threats and potentially harmful pollutants. A big thank you to Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Precinct 2 for partnering with the District I Office to install this important tool in the Manchester community.
The District I Office continued its efforts to improve pedestrian mobility and accessibility by repairing and building new sidewalks and ADA ramps across the district. This year, work was completed in several District I neighborhoods, including Reveille Park Place, Meadowbrook, Sunnyland, Eastwood, Idylwood, Pecan Park, and around Milby High School. A big thank you to Commissioner Garcia as well for partnering with our office to add new sidewalks to and from the Manchester community. New asphalt overlay was completed this year to improve the driving surface on Woodridge in Pecan Park, Broad Street in Gulfgate, Sherman Street in Magnolia Park, Glenbrook Valley/North Hobby, and in the Sunnyland neighborhood. Speed humps were also installed in Northdale/Overbrook, Woodhurst, El Dorado and Pine Tree, and we installed a new traffic control device in El Dorado to reduce 18-wheeler traffic. These projects were funded thanks to District I Service Dollars and we will continue to work with Houston Public Works and other partners in 2022 to leverage resources so more communities receive needed improvements. Thanks to all our neighbors for your patience as we work to complete these improvements.
We were excited to lead initiatives that improved several of our neighborhood parks this year. Among those was the 50/50 Parks initiative which brought new playground equipment at Hartman Park, including multiple swings and spinners, new concrete border, ramp and walks, new playground surfacing, subsurface drainage, new benches, and new bike rack. Additionally, improvements were completed at Woodruff Park in the Smith Addition neighborhood, and we completed numerous upgrades at SPARK parks throughout the district including at Franklin, JP Henderson, and Park Place elementary schools. I am happy to announce that in the coming year, we will continue to address ‘park deserts’ in District I, as we have dedicated funding to build new SPARK parks at Bellfort Early Childhood Center Elementary, Golfcrest Elementary and three re-SPARK Schools, Tijerina Elementary, Deady Middle School and Davila Elementary. This year, I also worked with the Port of Houston to begin the process to transfer undeveloped Port property to the Parks Department that is located on the north side of Buffalo Bayou, across from Hidalgo Park. It's my goal to secure this property for future park space for the community.
This year, City Council adopted changes to regulate clothing donation boxes within city limits. The ordinance aims to ensure donation boxes are properly maintained, and that they’re not placed in the public right-of-way, pose an obstacle to pedestrians or become a traffic hazard. The ordinance also requires the operator to service the box regularly to avoid overflows or the accumulation of goods on the outside of the box. I’m confident the new requirements will help keep the areas around donation boxes clutter and trash-free while providing a convenient way for residents to donate or recycle unwanted clothes. A big thank you to Council Member Castex-Tatum and her team for spearheading this matter.
I am pleased to report the encampments along the Gulf Freeway at Pierce/Hamilton, Broadway/Park Place, Bellfort/Howard, as well as at Sims Bayou were successfully decommissioned. No one deserves to live in such unhealthy and dangerous conditions, and we are grateful to the many partners who assisted individuals in the encampments to connect to temporary housing and other assistance. The vast majority of inhabitants were housed at temporary navigation centers, where they will work with case managers to be placed into permanent housing. Since all inhabitants at these sites were housed or offered permanent housing, and the encampments are no longer there, it is now the responsibility of law enforcement to prevent new encampments (creating public health and safety issues) from emerging. Not only was the encampment decommissioned, but it was done the right way – utilizing data-proven, holistic solutions to help individuals experiencing homelessness and prevent merely displacing the inhabitants onto nearby blocks or further into our neighborhoods. The City and its partners are interested in solving issues, not moving them around. In fact, the Houston Encampment Decommissioning & Housing Strategy was just recognized by HUD as a best practice and is being emulated by Dallas and other major cities.
I was pleased to partner with Houston BCycle again this year to expand the number of bike-share stations in District I. We added new stations at Mason Park, the Magnolia Park Transit Center, and on Telephone Road at the corner of Eddington Street. The new BCycle stations help us fill in gaps in the network and allow the program to expand farther east and southeast. Funding for the stations was possible thanks to a federal grant, and local funding from my office as well as Commissioner Garcia, the East End Management District and Harrisburg TIRZ. Thanks to their support, more residents will be able to access Houston’s growing bike-share system (which now includes over 110 stations) and explore our neighborhoods in a fun and engaging way! 
After a year of planning and meetings with residents and community stakeholders, a new protected bike lane is set to be constructed on Lawndale in the coming months. The bike lane will span 1.5 miles from Telephone Road to Forest Hill in the East End, and will allow cyclists to more safely connect to the Brays Bayou Greenway, the Polk Street and Leeland Street bike lanes, Columbia Tap, and beyond. In addition to the bike lane, the project plan will maintain 3 driving lanes on Lawndale, including a turning lane near the KIPP campus for parents dropping off or picking up students at the school. The plan also includes dedicated on-street parking adjacent to the residential areas along the corridor. Crews are expected to mobilize and begin work on the project in January 20222, starting with the segment between Forest Hill and Wayside and finishing the entire project by the end of March. Work around the KIPP schools will be coordinated with the Spring Break vacation to minimize disruptions. 
This year, we completed a major rehabilitation of Winkler Road (between Monroe and Glenview) that repaired base failures, improved the road surface drivability, and will extend the life of the roadway. Additionally, we dedicated funding to add curbing and build new, wider sidewalks on the residential side of Winkler (on the east side) to help improve pedestrian accessibility. We also completed concrete panel replacements and repairs to Winkler between Telephone and Woodridge. This project will greatly benefit residents of the Villas on Winkler Senior Apartments, who now have a safe way to walk to and from area bus stops. A big thank you to Houston Public Works for leading this work.
In 2021, the City of Houston hosted the inaugural Dia De Los Muertos festival and parade in downtown. We had a tremendous turnout, thousands of Houstonians and families, came to Sam Houston Park to enjoy the festivities and the nighttime parade. Houstonians of every age dressed up, wore face paint, and vibrant colors to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, which is a festive occasion to remember and celebrate loved ones who have died. I want to thank the event producers, Norma and Mauricio Navarro of The Navarro Group, for working with me to pull this celebration together and for helping us showcase this important tradition in downtown, the heart of our city. I couldn't have been more proud to serve as this year's inaugural parade grand marshal!
The District I office has continued to partner with animal welfare organizations and community stakeholders to reduce the number of strays on our streets. We partnered with BARC Houston, Barrio Dogs, Emancipet, Unity for a Solution, Houston Humane Society, Houston PetSet, and others to make available free spay/neuter programs and distribute free pet food in District I. In addition, the office has worked with residents and civic leaders to push for the enforcement of animal welfare laws and regulations. In 2021, we also provided $10,000 from the District Service Fund for the Big Fix initiative and to provide additional free spay/neuter services to communities in need. This is the fourth year we've committed funding for this program. A big thank you to all the partners who continue to work with us on this important issue.
In the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, the District I Office partnered with community organizations and nonprofits to offer assistance to residents in need. Whether it was with food and bottled water, or helping residents connect with funding or grants to complete repairs. We want to thank the many organizations and individuals who stepped up to help our neighbors. On the City Council, I led an effort to ensure residents who suffered water leaks caused by the storm weren't penalized with high water bills. As a result, we adopted changes to provide relief to residents.
Illegal dumping continues to be a serious problem in several areas in District I and across the city. That is why this year, we worked to toughen penalties by increasing the fine from a maximum civil penalty of $2,000 to $4,000. I'm hopeful that the increase in the fine, as well as more public education campaigns to raise awareness, will make would-be violators think twice. We remind residents to report illegal dumping to 3-1-1. To follow up on the request, please call our office at 832-393-3011 or email us at districti@houstontx.gov with your 3-1-1 service request number. Additionally, this year we funded a nuisance abatement program and contracted a team of workers to remove and clean up trash, tires, shopping carts, and other nuisances from public places. The District I Nuisance Abatement Team works alongside Solid Waste workers but specifically focuses on cleaning up areas in ourt district.
We continue to advocate on behalf of our community for better freight rail operations through our area. This year, we partnered with Congresswoman Garcia's office to host two virtual community townhalls so residents and business owners could relay the issues we experience to Union Pacific (UP). Additionally, the congresswoman and I led UP officials on a site visit to several problematic intersections in our community where we continue to experience significant issues with blocked crossings. It was important for us to show UP the serious disruptions train blockages cause our community, and to reiterate our expectations for better operations.

As we continue to work on this, I urge residents to help us report stopped trains and blocked crossings to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as well as UP. Our office created a quick reference sheet with reporting information for a few of our most problematic crossings, including Lawndale, S. Lockwood, Telephone, and Lawndale/Griggs.

Please file complaints each time you encounter blocked crossings so that federal regulators understand how widespread and problematic this has become.
  1. Report to UP: 888-877-7267
  2. AND report online to the FRA: bit.ly/TrainBlocking
The District I Office was proud to recognize and celebrate WWII Army Staff Sergeant Macario Garcia with the commissioning of a mural featured on the side of Fire Station 20. The mural was unveiled during a community celebration this past Veterans Day. Staff Sgt. Macario Garcia, who, like so many other minorities at the time, fought bravely and served honorably despite the racial discrimination and injustices they faced. The District I Office was pleased to contribute funding for this beautiful mural, along with the East End Management District, and the Harrisburg TIRZ. It is my hope that as people drive and walk past this beautiful mural, they will reflect on our history and be inspired to better their community. I am grateful to Dez Mata, the artist behind this great piece, as well as UP Art Studio for managing the project.
This year, the District I office worked with law enforcement and state partners to support state legislation to crack down on human trafficking and deter the practice. On September 1, 2021, a new state law went into effect that turned the crime of buying sex from a Class B misdemeanor to a state jail felony. Any would-be 'Johns' convicted of a first solicitation offense will face 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of no more than $10,000. Previously the crime was punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000. The new law, in addition to increased patrol presence, outreach, and public safety awareness, will help end the demand which is the driving force behind human trafficking. My office also launched a billboard campaign to raise awareness about sex trafficking and encourage the public to report suspected trafficking activity. Billboards such as the one above were in placed in problematic areas.