Two more endorsements, beginning with District J.
Every city council member is defending their record on crime but only Edward Pollard represents a district with an international reputation as a hub for sex trafficking and gang violence. To win reelection, he’s got to convince his constituents he’s done everything in his power to make the district safer.
District J — which stretches from just southwest of the Galleria through Gulfton, Sharpstown and Braeburn — encompasses a remarkably diverse mosaic of communities where more than 80 languages are spoken and immigrants have arrived from every continent in pursuit of the American dream. It is also, unfortunately, a region rife with crime. The district is home to three of Houston’s top 10 most dangerous ZIP codes, according to the FBI. Gang activity is common. One area, the Bissonnet Track, had been such a notorious hub for sex trafficking that it earned an international reputation.
Given these challenges, Pollard, 36, has wisely made public safety the primary focus of his first term. He’s brought license plate readers — light pole cameras that provide 24/7 monitoring to deter and solve crimes such as burglary and theft — to his district. He’s secured grant funding for after-school programs. He tapped his discretionary funds to pay overtime hours for a community policing unit in his district that responds to lower-level crimes — such as noise complaints, aggressive panhandlers or illegally parked cars — using an online portal that details offenses reported by residents and whether officers solved the problem.
“Those type of offenses are very important to the people who live in the neighborhood, so we want them to have the same attention,” Pollard told the editorial board.
Pollard made clear that the larger goal is to transform District J — one of the city’s poorest districts — into an area that can eventually cultivate even more economic opportunities for residents and services to meet people’s needs. While progress has been slow, we commend Pollard’s proactive approach to helping the city combat crime and make his district more livable. He deserves another term to see his vision through.
I’m not a big fan of CM Pollard, and I remain very curious as to why he has raised such a ridiculous amount of money for a race where he can’t possibly spend that much. I assume he’s stocking up for a future candidacy, it’s just not clear yet for what. Be that as it may, I did not do interviews in this race. I interviewed Pollard for his 2016 primary race in HD137, which you can listen to here (you can also see the basis of my dislike for CM Pollard in that post), and I interviewed his opponent Ivan Sanchez when he was a candidate for CD07 in 2018; you can listen to that here.
Over in District H, my district, the Chron endorsed Mario Castillo.
Mario Castillo, 37, grew up in the district behind Hollywood Cemetery near the I-45 feeder road. Castillo and his cousins would catch turtles and play paintball along Little White Oak Bayou. He’s a Texas A&M grad with degrees in political science and public health. As the former chief of staff for the outgoing council member and the executive director of a nonprofit focused on health equity, he’s prepared to get to work on Day One. He’s also served on boards for the YMCA, Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, Houston Land Bank and Northside Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone. Oh, and he hosts a podcast that features interviews of different community leaders each episode.
All those experiences matter because Houston council members have very little real power. They mostly convene and facilitate. Castillo understands that his job would be to leverage every connection he’s got for his constituents.
On infrastructure, for example, Castillo told us he’d review all planned projects in the district and leverage every possible partner to add value. He pointed to his having played a role in bringing together city, county, management district and METRO funds with Northside TIRZ money to get wider sidewalks built along and near Quitman Street. Instead of focusing only on the immediate vicinity of a light rail stop, the project will connect schools, businesses, homes and parks.
The open secret about Houston is that there’s plenty of money available to fix most of our problems, but it sits siloed and uncoordinated. Houston’s lack of zoning has a positive side. It gives us our spunk and dynamism. The lack of organized thinking and failing to plan? That’s just waste. Castillo knows how to connect the dots.
Voters have another strong candidate in Cynthia Reyes-Revilla, 49, a real estate broker who helped organize the Near Northside after the murder of Josue Flores in 2016. She worked with a cadre of activists to support the 2017 passage of Texas Senate Bill 195 that boosts funding for school transportation options in unsafe neighborhoods and a city ordinance tightening regulation of bunkhouses. She also helped get restrictions on breaking up lots for townhouses in parts of the Near Northside. She has served on the Super Neighborhood Council and alongside Castillo on the board for the YMCA. While she’s more prepared than she was when she ran for this seat four years ago, Reyes-Revilla would face more of a learning curve than Castillo.