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Rashmi Gupta: The Woodlands Township Candidate

Please note that Hello Woodlands is an unbiased, nonpartisan news source that does not support only one party or candidate. We do not accept or receive advertising or funding from any candidate, party or group. We believe in providing the community with educational information, credible facts, thoroughly researched topics and articles, and to be a voice for ALL members in our community.

Hello Woodlands gave the opportunity to candidates running for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors to complete a written interview including the same 10 questions. View candidate’s responses to our questions, if provided.

Each position has a two-year term, is an unpaid volunteer position, and is elected at-large by voters in The Woodlands Township in both Montgomery County and Harris County. The election is scheduled for November 5, 2019. Voters must be registered to vote for The Woodlands election.

THE WOODLANDS TOWNSHIP BOARD OF DIRECTORS – 2019 CANDIDATE

Rashmi Gupta is running for the Township Board Position 5.

Updated: Responses added October 23, 2019 at 5:39pm CST.

  1. Share your background. What originally brought you to The Woodlands?

     The Woodlands is my home.  It has been for 22 years.  My husband and I moved from India to Houston in October of 1991 for his job.  After discovering the exemplary schools here, we moved to The Woodlands in 1998 to secure the best education for our wonderful children.

     In 2007 my husband chose to return to India.  As our kids were born and had built a life here, I chose to stay in this great community to give our kids a strong start in life.  It proved to be the best decision as this community helped me, as a single mom, with the sacrifices needed to raise three beautiful children to adulthood and see them develop a great path to success.

2. How do you contribute, give back and make a difference in our community?

     Because of healthy interactions with so many kind residents, it’s been easy to be involved in many community activities.  They include, but are not limited to: Serving on the Board of Trustees for the Hindu Temple of The Woodlands; Hosting events for musicians and artists from all over the world that enrich cultural diversity and understanding; Hosting an event at Glade Gallery and other local venues; and serving on the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Auction Committee.  Being a member of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce allows me to add my voice to their advocacy for business and charitable causes.

    As my kids grew up, opportunities readily presented themselves for engagement at David Elementary, Coulson Tough, McCullough, The Woodlands High Schools, Girl Scouts Troup Leader, National Charity Roundtable Class Chair and National Charity League Organizer for Relay for Life.  I sponsored the David Fun Run, was active in Booster Clubs for TWHS Girls Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, and Track.  General community volunteering opportunities include Meals on Wheels, Interfaith Food Bank and Special Olympics.  Last year, I represented the Hindu community and joined the committee to bring the first ever event celebrating the diverse cultures and faiths for “A Celebration of Diversity.”

     It was an honor to be a Silver Sponsor at this year’s Yes to Youth Gala as I feel they are doing great work. In fact, I was shocked to hear at their annual gala that the LGBT community is 44% more likely to have death by suicide and that is why I am also proud to support The Woodlands Pride as I believe we should accept and include everyone who resides in our community. I am a member of the community Suicide Task Force Pediatric division that Judge Wayne Mack put together and have been trained in SafeTalk for suicide awareness.

3. Why do you enjoy living (and/or working) in The Woodlands?

     The Woodlands has so much to offer including 23 public schools, 10 private schools, 41 religious’ congregations, 147 parks, 1690 acres of golf courses, and 1870 acres of forest preserve. It’s home to residents, small businesses, and corporations. There are over 2000 employers and over 67,000 employees here. My profession allows me the opportunity to work with many people of many diverse backgrounds. The exemplary schools were the reason we moved here but the success of my real estate business is a constant reminder of what The Woodlands has to offer. The Woodlands is a livable forest and it’s easy to sell.

     I think it’s important that we build on the proclamation signed by the Board on March 22, 2017. It stated that The Woodlands community shall always endeavor to remain a place for all residents – regardless of race, nationality, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and identity, and socioeconomic status – to live, work, play and learn in harmony with neighbors, employers, teachers and fellow citizens.

4. How has The Woodlands helped and impacted you?

     I have such a strong sense of community because I have been a single mom since 2007 and this community has been wonderful to me. The Woodlands has made me who I am. I want to make the same impact on others who may need support and acceptance. I am proud to say that I negotiated the land that the Hindu Temple of The Woodlands sits on. I have always been strong, but this community has made me even stronger. I have lived in Panther Creek, as well as Sterling Ridge. I recognize the value of a diverse community. I feel safe and secure here and I will make sure others do to.

5. What motivates you to run for The Woodlands Township Board of Directors?

     I accepted the challenge to run for The Woodlands Township Director, Position 5 because I am concerned about what is happening on the Board. I began doing research when the first school bond did not pass. I was shocked to learn there are people from outside our community actively working to control and influence our Board of Directors. This is a volunteer position. This should not be a stepping-stone to higher office. We should not need political consultants to run for this position. Money being funneled into these campaigns from sources who do not live in The Woodlands is a huge concern to me.

     In my opinion, there has been an active push for incorporation. I do not want this put on the ballot before all residents come to understand the implication. I want to be an independent voice on the board. I want to represent the residents and protect their interests so that they do not get burdened with higher taxes. My research indicates that we will have a deficit budget starting in 2021 so I want to bring fresh ideas to the table to generate new sources of revenue so that we do not have to increase taxes on our residents. If we incorporate, our taxes will be even higher.

6. What are 5 things that you want voters to know about you (personal, points, views, experience, etc.)?

     I am rooted in family. Alone, I raised 3 successful children with the help of this community. My oldest daughter graduated from the University of Texas San Antonio with a master’s in public health. My second Daughter graduated from Oklahoma University with a double major in Economics and Management Information Systems. My son, the youngest, is pursuing his Mechanical Engineering Degree at Texas A & M. I believe that the public schools of The Woodlands contributed to their success. That is one of the reasons that I wholeheartedly support the CISD School Bond.

     I am rooted in community. I have lived here 22 years and I never forget a face. I build relationships to last. I have a big heart and an open mind, and I am always willing to listen. My life experiences have taught me how important it is to reach out and be kind so that I can truly understand the challenges that others face.

     I am rooted in business. I have used my Business and Economics degree to become a hard-working, successful commercial and residential Realtor. My slogan is, “The Trusted name in Real Estate.” For the last 17 years, I have been listening to the wants and needs of home buyers and business owners and that is one of the other reasons I wholeheartedly support the CISD School bond. The first question buyers used to ask is, “How are your schools?”  Unfortunately, they now also ask, “Does it flood?” I was honored to bring an international company to this area simply because they trusted me, and the residents can trust me too!

     I am proud to be a Life Member of the Hindu Temple of The Woodlands which is a center for culture and devotion serving Greater Houston. It is an honor to serve on their Board of Trustees. Hinduism embraces many religious ideas. For this reason, it’s sometimes referred to as a “way of life” or a “family of religions,” as opposed to a single, organized religion. Hinduism is widely regarded to be the most ancient of faiths with a known history of over 7,000 years. There are many paths to attain divine realization – based on Principles for virtuous living (Raja Yoga), knowledge (Gyana yoga), devotion (Bhakti yoga) and service (Karma yoga) – and all of them deserve respect. We offer many community programs including Annadanam, Seniors Club, Youth Club and free Yoga. Adults and youth are encouraged to join.

     I love getting to know people of all cultures and faiths. I love to cook. I love to travel. I love listening to Indian classical music.

7. What makes you unique in comparison to other candidates?

     I bring a perspective to the table rooted in culture and diversity. I have a history of working to bring all communities of The Woodlands together so we can appreciate and respect each other. We live in a very diverse, highly educated community and I want to promote acceptance and showcase the unique gifts and talents of all who live, work, play and learn here.

     I did not accept PAC money or endorsements from any organizations including the Houston Association of Realtors, which is the professional organization of which I am proud to be a part. I am only looking for an endorsement from the residents of The Woodlands. I made the decision to speak about suicide awareness and prevention on the campaign because of the impact on residents lives. I am not a politician and I wanted to use this platform to make a difference. I have been speaking with local organizations, businesses, and schools to create a Mentor Internship with local businesses that will allow students to come to their location and volunteer their time while learning on the job. This will provide them with valuable life skills that they can take with them to college, trade school, and future employment. These programs will foster a strong sense of community in our teens as well. Not all children are academic, artsy, sporty, or involved in extracurricular activities but everyone benefits from mentoring. This will be an opportunity for everyone to have something to give their time and talents to.

8. What are your views on incorporation?

     Incorporation is a very costly proposition that cannot be undone. There has been a rush to get it on the ballot and residents have not been given all the facts in a manner that is easy to understand so that they can make an informed decision. Since we often have low voter turnout, I do not think we should put it on the ballot until the residents fully understand the ramifications of incorporation. This decision will affect all residents, so I believe there is a duty to make sure that all residents understand the pros and cons before calling it to a vote.

     As per the (RPA) Regional Participation Agreement, The Woodlands cannot be annexed until 2057.

Senate Bill 6 passed as law on December 1, 2017 which states that communities of 500,000 or more cannot be forced to annex.   House Bill 347 passed on May 24, 2019 which will require a majority of voters in these communities to approve any annexation attempts at the ballot box.

     Currently the board has moved from planning in case of incorporation to planning FOR incorporation. Most residents do not know that the Township spent $1.5 million dollars on consultants studying incorporation. They also may not know that they have put $16 million dollars in reserve funds to incorporate. Even more troubling is the $8 million dollars in franchise fees we will start paying if we incorporate.

     The most important thing to note is that they anticipate a 12 cents/$100 valuation tax increase to cover services we currently have through the county that the incorporated city will need to absorb – that’s $215 dollars/year property tax increase per average home. Not everyone in The Woodlands can afford such an increase. This community was built on different socioeconomic classes and we must consider all residents.

     While studies are incomplete, there has yet to be a clear argument to take on significant additional expense without even improving traffic or controlling flooding. The additional expense for law enforcement was just released and many board members and residents were shocked at the significant costs.   Additionally, the Montgomery County Commissioners office has stated that they do not intend to provide any special favors for The Woodlands once they are a city.

     In order to make sure we make an informed decision as a community, we must engage all residents in this process, not just those that are civically engaged in local politics. I intend to represent the facts on incorporation. I trust the residents to make the right decision if they are given truthful information.

     Some say flooding control is a reason to incorporate. The truth is, a city would qualify for federal and state assistance only AFTER a catastrophe. That’s flood relief, not prevention.  The Township currently has authority under the law to promote planning and develop infrastructure to ameliorate flooding, but it chooses not to exercise those powers. While the Flooding Task Force has promoted a conversation and alignment, it has done nothing to improve chances for at risk residents in Grogan’s Point or Timarron Lakes.

     Incorporation is not looking to absorb the MUDs so there will be no additional resources or tools to address structural flooding. Flooding resources is not a reason to incorporate.

9. If elected, what would your top 3 priorities as a Township Board of Director? How would you work to impact/shape the future of The Woodlands?

     My top priority would be to reduce expenses and increase revenue sources so that we do not have a deficit budget going into 2021 as per the recent Township budget projection. I want to make sure we have a healthy budget. This will enable the residents to enjoy the quality of life that we currently enjoy without having the fear of increased taxes every year as proposed if we incorporate.

     My second priority would be to make sure the residents get accurate information from the Township regarding incorporation, flood mitigation, the Woodlands Parkway extension, etc. that is easy to understand. I think we should provide several forums where people can discuss this. These would include online forums, in-person forums, emails sent to all residents, going door to door to educate the residents, and making myself available to them when they have questions.

     My third priority would be to bring awareness and prevent our rising suicide rate. We must address these shocking statistics that we have in our community. As per the Township statistics, in 2018 there were 59 deaths reported from January – June. I would like to bring the many organizations that are already working on this together to enhance their efforts and introduce new programs that I have in mind. I have a plan of action!

10. Would you like to share any other words or a message to The Woodlands community?

     This is the most important and critical election The Woodlands has ever faced. We are at a tipping point. If we vote on incorporation before the population of The Woodlands is educated about this, we could find ourselves in a very precarious position. Once we incorporate, we cannot go back.

     We need to prevent a super majority on the board who are set on incorporation. If you review the Township videos, you can see that the same group of people vote together all the time. This is not good for our community. There will be no checks and balances. We must remember that our children are the future. We need to protect, preserve, and enhance the capability of our youth for a stronger future. This can be achieved by all working together to bring diverse communities together where everyone feels welcome.

Learn more at rashmiguptafortownship.com/

2019 CANDIDATE FORUM

The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advocacy Council hosted a candidate forum for the 2019 race on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 from 4-6 p.m. at the Chamber’s Lakeshore Boardroom, located at 9320 Lakeside Blvd. in The Woodlands. 

Three at-large positions on The Woodlands Township Board of Directors will be elected in the November 5, 2019 election, designated as positions 5, 6 and 7. 

Watch the video of the forum on the Hello Woodlands YouTube Channel below:

Please visit the November Election section on the Township’s website for additional information at https://thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/1350/November-2019-Election

Please note that Hello Woodlands is an unbiased, nonpartisan news source that does not support only one party or candidate. We do not accept or receive advertising or funding from any candidate, party or group. We believe in providing the community with educational information, credible facts, thoroughly researched topics and articles, and to be a voice for ALL members in our community.

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