The meeting addressed progress as well as shortcomings, while also being called specifically for the areas of Pasadena, Deer Park, La Porte, Shoreacres, South Houston, and Morgan’s Point.
Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell was the first to speak at the meeting before introducing Garcia.
“Commissioner Garcia has been a constant friend and an ally to Pasadena, and I’m sure to other communities and precincts also,” Isbell said.
Upon Garcia arriving at the podium, she said, “These town hall meetings are really important for us because we can sort of reflect on success but also look constructively on some of our (failures).”
Garcia then began to explain the successes that have been accomplished.
“I am pleased to report that we have lowered your tax break by one penny,” she said, “and while some of you think that’s not a lot it, actually translates to a cut in our budget to $25 million.”
She then explained to the audience that the original budget she had to deal with had actually gone down to $50 million after cuts, cutting the budgets to the precincts of the Commissioner’s court also. Garcia also noted that the precinct has a very good credit rating.
“We have hard decisions to make, particularly this year, because our revenues are down and our budgets were cut, not only in the precinct but across the board in all our departments.”
Garcia also talked about the strength a town hall meeting can have when she brought up the issue about tolling Fairmont Parkway. She said because the issue was brought up during a past town hall meeting, the decision was then made not to do it.
Garcia then began to explain some of the services that have been created since she has been in office, while also updating the public about work still being done.
She mentioned the Park and Ride Service and the commuter system and its routes.
Regarding the Park and Ride, she said, “When you look at it, we have taken 750 cars off the freeway, which means less congestion and less pollutants going into the air.”
She stated that in other areas, the precinct is going green in an effort to better the environment.
“Recently, we were able to secure a federal funding to replace both engines in our ferries. This is important because the engines will result in less fuel being burned,” she said.
She then described how during a regional meeting she attended, a book that was put out
by the Houston-Galveston Area County Council about all the green initiatives taking place had four projects listed from Precinct 2.
Regarding parks, she first asked the public to support the Armand Bayou Nature Center.
Because of the success at Bay Area Park regarding the services installed, the same services were also opened at Gene Green Park.
Garcia then noted the beach in La Porte.
“This is the perfect example of three levels of government working together,” she said.
One issue that not only Garcia mentioned, but attendees as well, was the future of the Sylvan Beach Pavilion.
“One great disappointment is the state is telling us that we cannot get any of the recovery money related to the damage of the Sylvan Beach Pavilion that we had applied for. That’s a real setback for us,” she said.
Garcia said that because the state believed that it was too close to the waterfront, they were not willing to give any money. However, she did say that she will appeal the decision and that she plans to personally go to the Housing and Urban Development Department in Washington the next time she is there. She also said she will take the issue of NASA and trying to keep it funded.
She told the people that until the appeal is heard, the precinct is proceeding with a preservation architect to assist on what is needed so that an amount an be determined, as well as trying to hire a lawyer because it is believed that the correct amount would not be given through an insurance company.
After, Garcia explained other progresses made for parks.
She then brought up Hurricane Ike.
“I know most of you would rather forget it but regrettably, it’s something that changed our lives and continues to be a part of all our lives,” she said.
She explained the actions that were taken to keep PODs open and to also keep food and water distributed to the affect areas.
Garcia said out of all the areas hit by Ike, Shoreacres was the most heavily damaged.
She then said there is a program called the Housing Assistance Center for anyone still having trouble from Ike, and also gave the website for anyone needing to look up information for further assistance. For anyone interested, log on to www.harrisrecovery.org.
Garcia also said that the precinct has teamed with the Houston Food Bank in an effort to help people unable to feed their families to loss of jobs. She also said that no constituent is ever turned away.
One notable issue at the meeting regarded NASA and the trouble of trying to keep it funded by the government.
She said that a loss of 7,000 jobs could happen directly with the potential of having as many as 24,000 jobs lost.
“That added with what Continental may or may not do, and looking at what the oil spill is (going) to do or not do for those types of jobs, today is not the time to cut NASA and all these jobs,” she said.
Garcia then finished her speech by talking about the importance of the Census.
“Every person in this room equals $13,000 per person in the next two years coming back,” she said.
After laying out the progresses of services, as well as the continued fight for others, the meeting was then open for anyone wishing to comment.
Of the many people who commented, there were two general issues: troubles with the Port of Houston and the future of the Sylvan Beach Pavilion.
The people who talked about the trouble with the Port of Houston mentioned the sound problem as well as the possible pollution problem occurring.
The people who talked about the Sylvan Beach Pavilion wanted to know what was being done and expressed their hope that it is rebuilt.