Pollard Won, and He's Got Plans for Sharpstown and the Bissonnet Track

Pollard Won, and He's Got Plans for Sharpstown and the Bissonnet Track
Near the end of Election Day 2023, Council Member Edward Pollard (wearing a white, long-sleeve shirt) stands behind a canopy manned by Ivan Sanchez campaigners near the door of Bayland Community Center in Sharpstown.

Many folks who walked into Bayland Community Center last evening heard the deep voice of District J Council Member Edward Pollard asking or thanking them for their votes.

Pollard, the incumbent, positioned himself between the door and an orange canopy manned by campaigners who were promoting his challenger, Ivan Sanchez. Just across the narrow parking lot, Sanchez called out to voters as well.

If it was a battle of volume, the men and women in orange T-shirts would have won with their chants of "Ivan! Ivan! Ivan!"

But it was a battle of votes, and Pollard won with 4,559 to Sanchez's 2,709, according to the unofficial totals from the Harris County Elections Department. 7,268 people voted in this year's District J council race, up 966 from 2019's race between Pollard and six other candidates. But it's still a fraction of the total number of registered voters in District J, an area with a history of low voter engagement.

Even some people who did vote couldn't remember who they picked for the District J race. Under Bayland's colonnade, one man wearing an "I voted" sticker had to check a sheet of paper to refresh his memory. Another, Orlando Martinez, had to check his phone.

Other people had more ready opinions. Catherine Martin and her son Nicholas (who was voting for the first time) said they voted for Pollard despite a visit from Sanchez's block-walkers. Catherine said she heard them out, but "I voted for Pollard last time, and I think he's done well."

As for Martinez, after jogging his memory, he said he picked Sanchez because "I liked what I read. He seemed more personable and cared about the community."

But even a flashy orange-striped car parked outside Bayland couldn't secure victory for Sanchez (although it probably deserves the award for most creative campaign strategy).

A flashy car promoting Ivan Sanchez at Bayland Community Center on November 7, 2023

In a texted statement, Sanchez thanked voters, congratulated Pollard on his reelection, and looked to the future: "As we continue to build our city, let us make sure to build something the generations after us can look back on with pride. Let us continue, each in our own way, making Houston into the greatest city mankind has ever built."

Council Member Pollard has already been planning the future, including a new community center at the Sharpstown Park Golf Course. It would double as a golf clubhouse and a local hub for "dining, recreation, sport, relaxation, [and] board retreats," said Pollard at the October 26 Sharpstown Civic Association meeting.

The project is still in the idea phase, but Pollard said, "Right now, the concept is a two-story, 35,000-foot facility."

Concept drawing of Sharpstown Community Center, rendered by STOA Architects. Image Credit: The Pollard Press

The project "will take not just the city but probably the county and also some private dollars to work," said Pollard.

A woman in the SCA audience asked Pollard to "keep Prince's Hamburgers," and he replied that Prince's would be included in the ongoing talks.

The council member's newsletter, the Pollard Press, also updated the community about the Bissonnet Track yesterday.

Since May 16, HPD has been blockading Plainfield St and Centre Parkway—two stretches of the infamous sex trafficking circuit along Bissonnet St in Westwood. Each night, police officers set up and watch over orange-and-white barricades, driving "customers" away by preventing them from circling the Track to look for prostitutes.

The main circuit of the Bissonnet Track, marked in red. Image from Google Earth; red marks added by Tyess Korsmo.

As of the Sharpener's visits on June 6 and 7, the blockade was reducing trafficking on the Bissonnet Track to almost zero. Although questions remain about whether the blockade merely drives the "trade" to other areas of Houston, it does prevent open-air trafficking from inundating that particular neighborhood like it has in the past.

But the initiative is expensive: as of June 9, it cost approximately $1,400 per night in officer overtime to man the barricades.

In a June 16 Sharpener interview, Pollard acknowledged that the blockade couldn't last forever. But he also mentioned a possible solution: installing permanent, fixed barricades on Plainfield and Centre Parkway.

According to yesterday's Pollard Press, that idea is now becoming reality: "Steps to install the barriers are already underway, and we expect the project to be completed in the next few months."

The Bissonnet Track. The streets along which the barricades would be installed--Plainfield and Centre Parkway--are marked in blue (exact barricade locations unknown). Image from Google Earth; blue marks added by Tyess Korsmo.

The newsletter said, "These barricades will prevent cars from accessing those streets after normal business hours," but did not address whether the barriers will also prevent vehicle access during normal business hours.

Time will tell whether this plan—a collaboration between Pollard's office, HPD, Harris County Precinct 4, and the Southwest Management District—will truly make it "much harder for individuals to solicit prostitutes."