By: Heidi PP- iF Magazine
Heidi PP: What is the position you are running for and what will you be doing for the community in Houston?
Rivera: The at Large position covers the whole scope of Houston. It is bringing in new business to the city, focusing on infrastructure issues,and working with other council members on projects they are working on. It involves looking out for the best interest of the city as a whole. It is a very diplomatic position, and I think that you have a lot more freedom with an at large position because you are not limited to any one particular part of Houston. The district members serve their own role in taking care of their neighborhoods and their communities. With the at large position you get to look at the big picture.
Heidi PP: Tell us a bit about your background and what makes you want to serve in this position?
Rivera: I am a single mom and daughter of Mexican American Immigrant parents, farm workers. I grew up in Michigan, I have lived here in Houston for over 30 years. I became a single mom at 22. My family is up north, so I was here alone in Houston. I raised three children as I worked my way through college working 2 and 3 jobs when I needed to. I was very involved in the community. I volunteered in numerous organizations both in the human social services as well as the business communities, so I feel that I have broad enough experience to bring to the table and be able to serve the citizens of Houston. I think that my experiences as a single mom and student and having to work so hard gave me a unique perspective. One of the jokes I tell when I am speaking at an event is If I can budget a household, I can budget a city, because you know when you are a single mom you have limited resources and you don’t go on fancy vacations when you have to feed the kids. So it’s the same concept with City budgets. You have to be fiscally responsible. We don’t have the money to do everything that we want to do. We have to take care of the core problems first. We really have to buckle down and take care of the necessities, you know, and address our necessities first which is the infrastructure, fixing the roads, highways, our ditches, and bayous so that our citizens aren’t flooding all the time. It’s the same concept of managing a household, it’s about prioritizing.
One of the projects that I’m working on is, and this is my philosophy also, “Community Reinvestment”. I am all for progress and development. We have to move forward. However, I think that we have a responsibility to the surrounding neighborhoods, to the people who already live in those areas to build responsibly. So to build responsibly means to make sure that we are using quality products and meeting building codes. Not only that, we need to be sure that we are also employing local labor. If you are a developer from another country or state and you want to develop here, that is fine, but employ local labor. Employ people from that community that have the skills. Invest back into their community. One of my philosophies is that we have to make progress. We have to build; we have to move forward. We have to work towards a smarter city;however, we have to be responsible. We can’t do those things at the cost of our citizens’ safety, at the cost of citizens losing their homes, not being able to get from point A to point B. Yesterday it took me almost an hour and a half to get through 7 exits, typically a ten minute drive. The city is growing very quickly. We are now the 3rd largest city in the country, and it is going to continue growing, so we need to be smart. We have to stop putting off the necessary repairs to our infrastructure. We can’t put it off until the next administration. We have to do it now! We have the money to do it now. It is a big misconception that the city can not afford it. It is, just as an example, a matter of taking money out of the entertainment fund and putting it into the household fund. We need to cut out the fun stuff temporarily until we get the basics taken care of. Those are just analogies, but it is basically the same concept. Prioritizing.
Heidi PP: What is most important to you as an issue?
Rivera: So the things that are really important to me involve the infrastructure. It really saddens me that people continue to lose their homes. I just did an event, and one of the things that I talked about was that I’ve never lived anywhere, until maybe the last ten years here in Houston, where people fear rain. We need rain. It’s natural, but we are scared. We wake up in the morning and think should I go to work or should I send my children to school, because they may not be able to get home after the rain. I grew up in the north, and we had blizzards. It is insane that such a natural event is causing people so much stress. The reason for it is that we need to work on the infrastructure and do the work necessary. So that is a focus and passion for me.
We need to enforce that more green spaces are built. We are lessening our green space more and more. One of the things we spoke about at out last event was making sure that when they erect a large building that it also has a green space at the top to absorb some of that rain. Many cities around the world are doing more things like that, and I would be open to suggestions from architects and green builders. One of my concerns is that as we build higher and change building codes is what happens to that homeowner, an 80 year old, who has had their home for 40 years and can not afford to move or lift their house. These codes are being put into place for future development, but we have to be smart and sensitive to the citizens who have been here for generations.
My other passion is about public safety. In population we are almost equal to Chicago and we have 1500 less police officers on the street, and we are continuing to grow. We are not hiring. I’ve discussed it with HPD. The solution is adding more cadet classes and increasing recruitment efforts. Again it comes back down to money, but we can make it happen. We need to be strategic.Our population continues to increase. We have to be proactive; we have to stop being a reactive city.
Website, bio, volunteer work, and goals for the city are atwww.soniarivera4houstob.com
Elections: November 5, 2019
Early voting in October
At-Large is City Wide
Sonia Rivera, Candidate Houston City Council At-Large Position 5