A bipartisan coalition of 11 Houston-area state representatives sent a letter to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo after a Fox 26 report which, according to them, alleges she was reprioritizing flood mitigation projects approved last August in the county’s $2.5 billion bond.
“As you may recall from our meeting in Austin on February 20th with Chairman Dan Huberty, we discussed the progress of these projects and were assured that they would be continuing as planned,” read the letter. “More than 85% of voters cast ballots in favor of flood bonds last August, an overwhelming indication that Harris County residents supported these projects as detailed during numerous community engagement meetings.”
“We cannot afford to lose precious time at such a critical juncture for the 60 counties named in Governor Abbott’s disaster proclamation after Hurricane Harvey. I strongly urge you to dispel these rumors and assure Harris County residents that promises made will be promises kept.”
The bond was placed on the summer ballot by former County Judge Ed Emmett as an all-or-nothing measure, meaning that voters simply approved a giant pile of cash to be spent at politicians’ discretion rather than having voters vote on specific ballot items, or projects, with a specified cost attached.
Despite a number of local Republicans calling for the bond to be placed on the ballot with line-item voting, none of the lawmakers who signed the letter called on Emmett to put line-item voting in place for the election—in fact, some even rejected the idea. If that had been done, projects would likely have been bound, per-project, and there would be little question how the funds would be spent.
In her own letter, Hidalgo refuted the claims made by the 11 lawmakers.
“Since the story posted, we have received a series of complaints that rely on the inaccurate reporting, and we want to correct the record because this is an issue of grave importance to so many Harris County residents.”
“Let us start with this unequivocal truth: every project on the 2018 Flood Bond project list will be completed. The Harris County Commissioners Court has been clear in its instructions to the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD): complete every project as quickly as possible. During yesterday’s meeting of Commissioners Court, we and HCFCD re-asserted our commitment to complete every project on the bond list, as has always been planned.”
The letter goes on to reassert that the “equity guidelines” the court anticipates using for yet-begun projects will not dictate “if” a project gets done, but “when.”
Harris County taxpayers would be wise to watch what happens in Commissioners Court and take part in Hidalgo’s community forums, while urging their state lawmakers to do so too, to make sure that their communities aren’t lost or forgotten when it comes to flood mitigation projects.
The letter was written by State Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) and signed by Reps. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood), Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Sarah Davis (R-Houston), Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), Sam Harless (R-Spring), Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), Dennis Paul (R-Houston), Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), and Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress).