Sutton Elementary May Soon Get Long-Awaited Speed Cushions after Historic Vote

Sutton Elementary May Soon Get Long-Awaited Speed Cushions after Historic Vote
A stretch of Sharpview Drive next to Sutton Elementary

Over two years after requesting speed cushions on adjacent Sharpview Drive, Sharpstown's Sutton Elementary may finally get them thanks to a unanimous vote—the first time in Houston history that City Hall passed an item that was added to the agenda by city council members rather than the mayor.

Two “through streets” run past Sutton: Bintliff and Sharpview. Bintliff has speed cushions, Sharpview doesn’t. In a May 2022 letter shared by District J Council Member Edward Pollard’s office, Sutton principal Beatrice Akala added her support to a petition for speed cushions on Sharpview.

She cited past “incidents of vehicles speeding and running over students.”

Based on community requests, Pollard’s office submitted an application to Houston Public Works’ Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP), which approves “traffic calming measures” like speed cushions to cut speeding on residential streets.

Pollard was prepared to pay the $24,900 price tag for the speed cushions, using the District J discretionary fund. But the NTMP city ordinance requires surveying all residents within a half-mile radius of the proposed project site and inviting them to provide feedback at public meetings. Residents requested so many speed cushions on other streets that the project cost ballooned to over $100,000, said Pollard.

That was more than he bargained for. District J’s $1 million annual discretionary fund is split between other street projects and initiatives like the District J Patrol, the HOT Team, and heavy trash pickup.

According to Pollard, “The original ordinance would mandate that if the survey came back and said that you need speed bumps on all the streets, then you either had to do all the streets or none of the streets.”

Pollard didn’t want to have to make that choice. He decided to try to change the city ordinance.

Using Proposition A, Overcoming Hurdles

In the past, only Houston’s mayor could add items to the council’s agenda. Even though council members could technically out-vote the mayor, the mayor had full control over what they would be voting on. But in November, voters approved Proposition A, which allows three or more council members to jointly add an item to the agenda.

But new mayor John Whitmire said that council members couldn’t add items unless they were also approved by a “Proposition A Committee” that he created. Proposition A itself did not call for any committee, and Pollard has frequently said that requiring committee approval goes against "the intent of the voters."

After Pollard’s proposed NTMP ordinance amendment stalled in the committee, he resubmitted it to the agenda without going through the committee, arguing that "the charter language allows the item to go straight to Council." Council members Tiffany Thomas, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Fred Flickinger, and Tarsha Jackson also signed the item proposal.

This time, he said, the administration “didn’t fight it.”

On Wednesday, June 5, the amendment passed unanimously with zero debate.

What Next?

Pollard said that under the amended ordinance, he can move ahead with the project, only installing speed cushions on Sharpview (and some on Edgemoor) rather than across the entire surveyed area.

Since the survey and public meetings are “good for three years” under the new amendment, District J just needs to “resubmit the dollars” when the new fiscal year begins on July 1 and wait for a vendor or Houston Public Works crew to be assigned to the project, said Pollard.

He added that this is “a testament to the voters of the city of Houston, who understood that it's important for council members to have discretion and flexibility to bring their own items on behalf of their constituents.”

In the future, the NTMP amendment should make it easier for neighborhoods to get speed cushions installed on particular streets more quickly, although it may make it more difficult for area residents to add new streets to an existing project. To get speed cushions on your street, your best bet is to submit your own NTMP application.