Stronger Collaboration

There has been much community discussion surrounding the proposed carousel park to be located on the space once occupied by Fire Station 1 next to Friendswood’s City Hall. There are several questions I have heard from many of you specific to the carousel itself, including but not limited to:
· What is the potential traffic impact to Friendswood Drive and other arteries?
· How will parking needs and park congestion be impacted?
· What is the value added proposition for the city residents and current park users?
· What is the actual and specific degree of liability to the City of Friendswood?
· How can maintenance be ensured, especially for wooden horses in the Texas Gulf Coast
climate?
· What is the consideration of flooding potential on such an expensive investment?
· What is the process for approval of this project by the City government, if any?
· Does the proposed business model support long term operating and maintenance costs?
· If it fails, what obligations will the City have to assume?

This is not to ignore the critically relevant question of, why does Sugarland want to dispose of a carousel? If such a large city cannot operate it profitably in conjunction with a business that has deeper pockets, how will a much smaller town fare better? These are legitimate questions, and reflective of a community that is engaged and deeply committed to investing in our quality of life both now and for the future.

To be clear, let me state for the record I am not currently in favor of placing a carousel at the proposed location. This does not mean in any way I think those proposing it have “evil intentions” as has been reported. Simply put, I think there may be better alternatives, but more importantly, any effort of such multi-million dollar magnitude deserves open, honest, and respectful discussion with inclusive consensus-building.

Now, with that statement being made, let’s look at the real issues. The proposed site is city property and the citizens of Friendswood own that property. Shouldn’t the people of Friendswood have a significant voice in determining potential future development of the property? From my perspective, something of this magnitude and potential impact to our town requires much more dialogue from both sides. Three minutes before the Council to deliver an abbreviated message is not adequate. It is important that the process for addressing issues like this is adequate for determining what is good for all of Friendswood as a whole, ensuring that each group has a voice, knowing there will be disagreements, but striving to seek a respectful consensus.

As Mayor I would propose a diverse and representative taskforce be formed to discuss negotiation of those and other related issues of concern to city residents. Through respectful and civil discourse, I would facilitate a better understanding between all involved parties in an organized, systematic, inclusive and respectful manner. For forty years as a successful project manager in the engineering and construction industry, I have completed this process repeatedly on a multitude of projects, with the goal of a mutually agreeable solution benefiting all involved parties. This effort may not necessarily resolve the difference of opinions, but to build trust we must be as transparent as humanly possible. I believe a project such as the carousel park should be put forth for a public vote before any council decisions are made. Let the voice of the people be heard.

I understand this is an emotional issue for many and justifiably so, as the addition of a carousel at Stevenson Park could have a lasting impact on the serenity currently being offered and enjoyed by our community at the Park. There are strong feelings on each side of the issue, with both pros and cons.

More importantly, I don’t think we can lose sight of the fact that our community is facing many other emotionally-charged challenges with even higher stakes, such as drainage (a critically important priority), future plans for EMS services to the city, repairing and maintaining our roads, traffic planning, long-term planning as we approach buildout, increasing walkability of our city with sidewalks, among others. We still have many, many residents who are displaced from Harvey. Bringing those people home and protecting our city’s vulnerabilities to future flooding is a serious issue we will be facing for some time to come.

Issues like this are not easily resolved and not everyone comes away with everything they want, but the majority, no matter what side they are on, should have a say. The real issue is the process, a process which includes strong collaboration, assures the will of the people can be openly expressed, whereby elected officials listen with an open and impartial ear, helping facilitate in good faith positive communication efforts between all invested parties, and taking action which reflects the voice of the majority. Above all, this collaboration should be conducted with the utmost respect and integrity, accomplished through servant leadership.

These are my thoughts and I would welcome your response and discussion. I want to be your voice on the City Council and look forward to spending time hearing each of your concerns, allowing me to best represent your needs and interests in the city. It will take ALL of us working together as a Friendswood family to Make Friendswood Stronger!

Have a wonderful day in “Our Hometown” and may God Bless.

Omar