The Houston Press today published a lengthy piece on Tax Increment Zones, Management Districts, and their impact on city operations. The story includes a replay of the successful Sharpstown Section Two annexation by the TIRZ No. 20, but the opening this time is in Montrose. As noted previously, former council member Sue Lovell learned of the Midtown attempt to annex valuable parts of Montrose, a few days before the council vote and was able to rally enough people to squelch it. We in Sharpstown were not so lucky.
“How Houston Uses the TIRZ System to Benefit High-Dollar Areas and Ignore Poorer Neighborhoods” by Steve Jansen, June 9th, 2015.
Here’s an excerpt, and for the record, the unidentified City Official in the article was District J CM Mike Laster:
“In 2007, the Southwest Houston TIRZ dolled up the intersection of Bellaire Boulevard and Fondren Road with a $4 million enhancement that included new brick sidewalks, enhanced lighting and concrete rings that housed street signs.
Every six months or so, a car would smash into the concrete, and the rubble would sit there for at least a year. The sidewalks also crumbled immediately, explains Bigham, because the developer hadn’t laid concrete beneath the brick pavers. “By 2012, it was an absolute embarrassment,” he says.
Because state law prohibits a TIRZ from spending any money on maintenance, that burden falls on the local management district. Bigham went to Hawes Hill Calderon, which heads the Southwest Houston TIRZ as well as the Greater Sharpstown Management District, and he says he couldn’t get an answer. When he took the issue to city officials, they, too, washed their hands of the problem.
“Nobody would take responsibility. If you’re going to collect a consulting fee every month, then do your job and take care of it. That’s the bottom line,” Bigham says about Hawes Hill Calderon.
It got to the point where the Sharpstown neighborhood association considered writing a check for the improvements, which Bigham says would cost a couple of thousand dollars. Eight years later, the intersection remains in shambles.
In the affluent Uptown and Westchase, -broken sidewalks are repaired because the management districts capture significant amounts of ad valorem tax revenue from high-dollar properties. It also helps to fix things that break when there’s an internal management team, rather than a group of outside consultants, at the ready to deal with problems, says Breeding of the Uptown Management District and the Uptown TIRZ.
In Sharpstown, “we can barely get a pothole fixed due to the lack of funding,” says Bigham.
In March, the Sharpstown Civic Association, citing “unethical, unprofessional and discourteous behavior,” including the proposed merger of the Gulfton Management District with the Greater Sharpstown Management District that was done “entirely in secret,” submitted a unanimous vote of “no confidence” to Hawes Hill Calderon. David Hawes, a former employee with the city’s finance and administration department, is the executive director of management districts in Sharpstown, Montrose, Five Corners, Spring Branch, East Aldine, International District, Brays Oak and a handful of TIRZs.”
There’s more about this on the way in the next installment of “Why I am not Supporting Mike Laster for Another Term.” As a reminder, this is the previous condition of the Bellaire -Fondren Intersection improvements. They’re not much better today.