In the midst of a major recovery and relief effort following Hurricane Harvey, Houston City Council met for their regularly scheduled meeting to address the state of the city and to appropriate millions in disaster relief. Council broke from their usual city hall setting to meet at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the epicenter of Houston’s recovery operations.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee were at the meeting and spoke to the joint effort between local, state, and federal entities.
The main focus, though, was on three special items ordered by the mayor and signed by the city secretary to address the city’s recovery efforts.
Mayor Turner called for transferring $20 million from the city’s Budget Stabilization Fund (a reserve fund) to the disaster fund. The disaster fund was previously the “2015 Flood Disaster Recovery Fund,” but its name and intent were modified in a separate vote.
The $20 million transfer all but depletes the reserve fund, leaving only about $72,000 according to the city finance department.
Along with the transfer was a request for additional expenditures from the disaster fund related to recovery and relief efforts, as well as a declaration of intent from the city to seek reimbursement for those expenditures from relevant federal agencies. Turner also called for an extension of his seven-day local state of disaster proclamation. The city’s charter gives the mayor the power to issue a declaration of local state of emergency via executive order if necessary for the health and safety of the public.
Council approved all items with little discussion.
Immediately after the storm hit, the city and the county set up a joint relief funds, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund with the Greater Houston Community Foundation. The GHCF is the same organization that the mayor worked with after 2016’s Tax Day floods, which gave $1.8 million to victims.
With the transfer and other administrative changes, the city will be able to immediately provide additional supplies to aid evacuees and first responders.
The George R. Brown has been the center of the recovery and relief efforts but as of yesterday, with the help of Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the Staples Center and NRG Stadium have both opened as shelters, hoping to provide additional space for the 9,000 and growing population of evacuees inside the GRB. Council members have also stepped up to open community centers in their districts as minor shelters.
The recovery from Harvey is just beginning, but swift, decisive, and unanimous action by Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council is what the city needs to ensure that the health and safety of evacuees, and all Houstonians, is maintained as the recovery effort shifts into high gear.