8-year-old girl writes cute letter asking Mayor Turner to fix bumpy sidewalk

HOUSTON – It’s a civics lesson an 8-year-old girl from the Heights has learned at a young age: If there’s a problem in the community, hold those in charge accountable.

That’s exactly what Sophie Blitz did.

The second-grader from Harvard Elementary School rides her bike to class every day, but there’s a sidewalk on 5th Street and Cortlandt Street that is not complete. There is also a large pipe that sticks out above the ground.

“It’s dangerous,” said Sophie about riding in the street. “I have to ride on the street and then get on the sidewalk when there’s a place to get on the sidewalk where there’s not a bump.”

Sophie wrote a letter asking the mayor to fix the bumpy sidewalk, saying, “Can you either build a bridge or finish the sidewalk? I will show you the bumpy sidewalk.”

She didn’t want to be rude and wanted to make sure she was a good hostess if the mayor came by to survey the problem.

"If you come visit my house to see the problem sidewalk my mom says she will give me money to take you to get gelato,” explained Sophie in her letter to the mayor. “If you want to ride your bike, bring your bike. Do you have a bike? Or my mom can drive us there."

The little girl’s mother said Sophie would check the mail every day to see if the mayor had written back to her and, sure enough, she got a response.

“Oh, I'm just so proud of her. My husband and I both are. We gave her basically a civics lesson on how the community works and how she can ask for what she needs and the letter was completely her writing. She composed it and sent it off and I knew that it was so cute and funny that the mayor would have to respond,” explained Dawn Blitz.

Turner wrote back, “Thank you for writing to me. I understand your concern regarding the condition of the sidewalk in your neighborhood. I know how important it is that you and your little sister, Annie, have a safe route to school.”

He told Sophie in the letter that in the future they can contact the Public Works & Engineering Department, which is responsible for the maintenance.

He wrapped up the letter with, “It was a pleasure to receive your letter, Sophie. I congratulate you on your good citizenship in writing to public officials.”

Sophie said she’s glad and excited the mayor wrote back and that her other request still stands.

“Would you like to go for gelato?” asked Sophie.

The Department of Public Works and Engineering also wrote Sophie a letter letting her know they received her request through the mayor.  The department said the Cortlandt Street and 5th Street sidewalk, “qualifies for improvements under the Safe Sidewalk Programs.”  

The letter went on to say, “That a request to the City’s Construction Branch will be forwarded and it may be three to six months before construction could start at this location.”
Public Works and Engineering said they’re taking care of the sidewalk under the Pedestrian Accessibility Review (PAR) Program.

In 2015, KPRC 2 filed an open records request with the city and found that while it has put in more than 800 sidewalks under the program, there were 567 people on the waiting list at that time. Some had been waiting for nine years.

Houston's Public Works Deputy Director told KPRC 2 two years ago that they prioritize sidewalks, first putting in new ones where there aren't any.

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