Interview with Houston City Council Member Oliver Pennington

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District G in Houston encompasses several neighborhoods including Upper Kirby, River Oaks, Memorial, and Tanglewood. (See the full district map here). I had the pleasure of meeting with Houston Council member Oliver Pennington to hear about some of the latest community initiatives in District G. Straightforward and polished, here is the interview I had with Houston City Council Member Mr. Pennington.

Melchor: What made you decide to run for office?

Pennington: When I retired from law practice, serving as Council was a job that I knew I was qualified for and decided to run for office.

Melchor: Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

Pennington: I am a small town guy. I grew up at Clear Lake before NASA was even there. I can karaoke ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ like no other.

Melchor: Operation Westside Success program is an initiative to raise private funds to place security cameras in public areas that are approved by the city. Once cameras are placed, HPD controls all phases of operation – such as where the cameras are pointed, and how long records are kept. To your knowledge, has the initiative helped to reduce crime? Do you think this initiative would be beneficial in other parts of the city?

Pennington:  I do not know how many crimes have been prevented, but I do believe this is an initiative that can improve the efficiency of HPD and also reduce crimes in all communities.

Melchor: What are one or two of the biggest challenges residents in District G are facing right now?

Pennington: Trying to attract new growth and lower density development being replaced with higher density foundation. Also, drainage issues.

Melchor: What job has been more challenging, working as a lawyer at Fulbright & Jaworski, or serving as City Council?

Pennington: As a lawyer, I had around 15 clients each with a specific objective. As Council, I have 200,000 clients all with different voices that I have to hear and evaluate.

Melchor: For more than 60 years, the Addicks and Barker dams located off I-10 to the West of the City have kept Buffalo Bayou from over flooding. Recently, the US Army Corps of Engineers labeled the dams as extremely high risk of catastrophic failure label. The dams are currently two of the country’s six most dangerous according to the Corps. Some experts say that if they fail, the resulting destruction could be bigger than Katrina in New Orleans. What are your thoughts on this matter? (PS The construction of the Grand Parkway will make matters worse).

Pennington: This is a very serious problem that I work on every day. In the 30’s, Houston had a flood that left Downtown 5 feet under water. One solution that I think will work would be to divert the water flowing from Turkey Creek into the dam into another reservoir.

Melchor: In the past 3 years since you have been a Council Member, what is a major decision that City Council has made that has made you most proud?

Pennington: Setting priorities on improving the walking and running trails along the bayous.

For more information, visit Oliver Pennington’s website at OliverPennington.com.

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