2024 will be the 100th anniversary of West U’s birth as a City, and, as West U residents go to the polls over the coming weeks, you will be selecting the inaugural Mayor and Council for West U’s second century. The past century has brought incredible change, transforming our town from a sleepy, bedroom community surrounded by pastureland into a dynamic city in the heart of one of America’s most energetic urban centers. The pace of change has been frenetic, at times jarring, but West U has maintained its small town, Neighborhood City character throughout. The new West U century will bring new challenges, some of which we do not yet know, as well as the need to finally put to rest some old ones. This requires a fresh perspective and a new approach from our City’s leaders, elected and otherwise.
For 10 of the last 12 years, through three different U.S Presidents, three different County Commissioners, four different City Councils and three different City Managers, my opponent, Susan Sample, has been either the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem of our City. When she was first elected, the first iPads had just hit the market, and children who were 10 years old then have now grown to adulthood, graduating college, pursuing careers and starting families. As with any such extraordinarily long tenure, Ms. Sample’s time in office has brought some successes. As is also true, an official with 10 years in office will also accrue some failures that can also be laid at their door, and Ms. Sample’s record contains these, as well. While Ms. Sample can and should be applauded for her time committed in public service, anyone, regardless of their talent, experience or original intent, will unavoidably become calcified in their thinking, stale in their perspective and resistant to new ideas if they simply hold office for too long. This effect is self-evident in over-reliance upon an opinion poll in which less than six percent of residents took part, instead of talking about any genuine plans or ideas for the future. I, like many of you, am grateful to Ms. Sample for her service and wish her well, but a change of leadership is ultimately needed.
West U must resolve some long overdue issues as we move forward. Drainage and flood control rank high among these, and the resolution of Poor Farm Ditch, the ongoing deterioration of which represents a constant threat to the lives, homes and property of West U residents, rests at the very top. Removing this threat while preserving resident amenities and without creating additional problems will require both extraordinary creativity and a willingness to be more aggressive, when need be, in working with the other stakeholders. Likewise, it is inevitable that the rising crime rate we see in Houston and the surrounding areas will spill over into West U, and we must be prepared to face this challenge with new approaches to community policing. Finally, we must find new ways to assist our residents to age in place with dignity and continue to benefit from our amenities and services, even as the Baby Boomers increasingly enter retirement, heralding a generational shift like none seen before.
Our new West U century will be a bright one, however, and will present many opportunities. Advancements in science and technology will provide new ways of expanding our ability to communicate and engage with residents and new prospects for enhancing the longevity and sustainability of our public buildings and operations. Changes in demographics will adjust local priorities, as our community increasingly comes to reflect the diverse, multi-cultural, multi-national community of Houston as a whole. Progress in medicine will enable our residents to live longer and participate in our community more actively and at more advanced ages than ever before.
Tackling the issues before us and taking advantage of the opportunities yet to come will require a new vision, one combining a respect for the achievements of the past with an ability and a desire to think outside of well-established boxes and to explore new paths. As both a third generation, 20-year West U resident and a proud Gen Xer, I believe I can bridge those two worlds and bring a spirit of innovation to our City leadership, preserving what has made West U a great place to live while pursuing what’s needed to ensure that it continues to be.
I am honored so many of our City’s past and present leaders, people who love West U and have given their time and commitment to our community, share my vision and have endorsed me for Mayor:
I am also grateful to my fellow residents who have given their time and commitment to run for Council, from whom I am confident you will select a team I can work with to do the City proud. Lastly, I am grateful to you, my friends and neighbors, who have welcomed me into your homes throughout this campaign so I could hear your thoughts and concerns.
Together, we can take West U into its new century with pride, ensuring that West U will remain our Neighborhood City and the best place in America to live, a Tree city that cherishes its green space, and a City that is open, transparent, accountable to and respectful of its residents, now and always. I ask for your vote on Election Day May 6, so we can make this happen.
John P. Barnes