MAYOR PARKER ENCOURAGES NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS INTO LAWN MOWING BUSINESS It’s worked for parents — why not the city? A new program will pay civic groups and nonprofit organizations $75 a pop to keep up overgrown lots abandoned by property owners in their neighborhoods. Mayor Parker announced the so-called Mow-Down Initiative yesterday in the Third Ward. How’s it gonna work? First, the city will come in with tractors and run over the big stuff, and then residents will take over, KUHF reports: “[Mayor Parker] says 100 lots around Houston will be included in the program to start, and she expects the city will save thousands of dollars in maintenance costs by engaging civic groups instead of hiring contractors.” Another nonprofit, Keep Houston Beautiful, says it will provide lawnmowers, trimmers, and other equipment for the work, free of charge. [KUHF] Photo of lot in East End: Allyn West
ACTUALLY, SAY CRITICS, ‘ONE BIN FOR ALL’ MAYBE NOT BEST IDEA Mayor Parker’s prize-winning garbage program was questioned yesterday by activists and environmentalists, reports Hair Balls’ Vanessa Piña — especially because the $1 million the city won from Mayor Bloomberg seems awfully puny in light of the expected $100 million the new sorting facility could cost. And, reports Piña, critics are suggesting that “One Bin for All” seems kinda unnecessary: “There is a successful partnership between the city and waste management, and material is daily being handled. Waste Management’s single stream sorting facilities are running at an estimated 50 percent of capacity and can easily handle more if the city will only provide more carts to our citizens,” says Leo Gold. And here’s Dr. Robert Bullard, public affairs dean at Texas Southern: “For someone who has done research and written more than 18 books on this stuff it is rather odd that we would be opting for an unproven, risky idea.” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner
GARBAGE PROGRAM STILL ‘ABSOLUTELY DOABLE,’ SAYS MAYOR PARKER
So Houston’s “One Bin for All” idea didn’t win the $5 million grand prize in Mayor Bloomberg’s philanthrophic challenge — but it did tie for second. And that means $1 million will be coming Houston’s way, along with $50,000 extra for being so darn lovable and winning the “fan favorite” vote online. And what’s the city going to do with all this dough? The Houston Chronicle’s Carol Christian reports that the consolation prizes might be just enough to get the program off the ground: Though the idea to combine garbage, recycling, and yard waste into one big bin for mechanized sorting later has been around for awhile, Mayor Parker says, “This award will allow us the seed money to begin the process . . . We have thoroughly researched the technology. It’s absolutely doable.” Construction on a new sorting facility could begin as early as 2014, reports Christian. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of recycling bin in the Heights: Charles Kuffner
IF YOU TYPED ‘POTHOLE,’ PLEASE TYPE ‘YES’ A spurting water main? One of your neighbor’s free-range hens clucking the ever-loving night away? There’s an app for that: today, the city is launching a 311 app that will help smartphone-equipped Houstonians report and track complaints: “‘Say you see a pothole on your street. Before you even leave for work you can walk over, launch the app and type in ‘pothole,’ [city spokesperson Chris Newport] said. ‘You have the option of taking a picture, punching in the address and answering two other questions before you hit send.'” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Chelsea Gomez (Oakes)
And now, from Swamplot’s “tips” line, a reader’s brief personal testimonial for the Houston Service Helpline:
Seems like the folks who read your blog are motivated and want the best for the city (whatever that means to them). You can call 3-1-1 or (713) 837-0311 or my preference is the “web intake form” – clunky, but thorough. They send you e-mail with incident #, so you can call a representative and follow up. There are drop-down menus to request the type of service you want.
I’ve used the Houston 3-1-1 system a couple of dozen times to report:
- Stray pit bull
- Potholes (city is VERY responsive – normally fixed within 1 or 2 weeks, sometimes a day or two) They forward pothole/right-of-way concerns about freeways and frontage roads to TX-DOT, I think. For example, I called in several potholes on stretch of 59 frontage road near Lakewood. Within 10 days there were temporary asphalt patches (in concrete roadway). Within 3 weeks these had been cut out and replaced with concrete patches!
- Streetlights burnt out (very quick) or always on (not as quick) – I believe they forward these requests to Reliant or Centerpoint – all you need is the 6-digit # on the side of the pole
- Faded/worn off lane stripes and intersection markings @ westpark and weslyan – repainted within 6 weeks
- Broken water main under street – slow fix
- Replace speed limit sign that had fallen down – took 2-3 tries