Harris County Flood Bond Election
A Harris County flood bond election is now set for August 25. Originally, I opposed this election for many reasons. First, the election is set on August 25 – two days before HISD returns to classes for the 2018-2019 school year and two months before the uniform election date in November. The Harris County Republican Party’s Executive Committee voted to rebuke this election date based on the fact that the election date was outside of the uniform election date. Second, the post-Harvey 100 year and 500 year flood plains have not been established. Third, Harris County homes damaged by Harvey have not been reappraised and the fights with the Harris County Appraisal District have only just begun. While I remain somewhat skeptical, a recent visit with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett gave me some items to think about.
Many Harris County fiscal conservatives are instinctively opposed to bond issues, especially a bond that includes a false promise to save us against flooding. Remember the City of Houston’s ReNew Houston lockbox promise? In 2010, I formed a bipartisan political action committee to fight the Houston “rain tax”. Local engineers and contractors, represented by current city flood czar and former city councilman Stephen Costello, did a disservice to our community when they wrongly claimed that the rain tax would result in a lockbox of funds dedicated to solve flood issues. In truth, the city has spent over a billion dollars of rain tax collections on everything but flood infrastructure. After years of litigation, the Texas Supreme Court invalidated the rain tax election and I expect the issue to return to the ballot in November.
The city has a blemished history of irresponsibility. Just a few months ago, Karun Sreerama resigned his post as public works director after his involvement in a bribery scandal was made public. The recent city audit of four public works projects demonstrated that each project was over budget and behind schedule. The city’s shenanigans explain why many fiscal conservatives are unwilling to support another bond proposal.
Since the city and its rain tax are tarnished, city folks hoped to place it on the same ballot as the county’s bond in order to confuse voters and increase the likelihood for approval. This forced the county to move its bond proposal to August.
The county’s bond issue juxtaposed with the city’s rain tax reveals a stark contrast. The county has outlined a long list of proposed projects. Additionally, county officials are holding informational meetings in all of the watersheds. The county recognizes that community input is necessary for success because each subdivision has different variables that cause flooding.
Make no mistake, the Harris County Flood Control District is being asked to tackle a huge undertaking. The district is currently managing approximately $60 million each year in construction projects. This scope of work will expand considerably with the new infrastructure spending. The county has managed construction and engineering projects well historically.
The county bond proposal contemplates funding the new flood maps for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps can move slowly because of funding issues, facilitating this effort shows forward thinking. New maps are necessary so homeowners can properly evaluate whether or not new infrastructure improvements moves the base flood elevation in relation to their homes.
The County strategy is to ask for the bonding authority for $2.5 billion, which gives the flood control district flexibility. The authority may never be required and all the bonds may never be sold. The County has 700 million dollars in bond authorization for roads they never used and paid for in cash. The federal government could step in and reimburse Harris County residents for many of projects. It is very difficult to determine any tax increase because of this fact. The county must be given the ability to conduct homeowner buyouts now so people can move on with their lives. Many areas should never be rebuilt and unrealistic to think they should.
Most importantly, the county is using leading experts to develop their plan. Real infrastructure projects being coordinated with all governmental agencies is a breath of fresh air. This is a very complicated undertaking and the Harris County Flood Control District is being asked to do a lot. Based on past experience, the county has shown that they can execute on projects on time and under budget. I encourage everyone to get involved, pay attention, and give your feedback in the series of public meetings being held to gather information. Do not assume that the county knows the details about your neighborhood – your information could truly make a difference in design and scope.
Voters need to pay careful attention to what the county bond means to them. I am going to give the county the benefit of the doubt and support their efforts in putting together a plan to help Harris County flood victims. My support is based on the fact that the county is filled with straight shooters when it comes to infrastructure. I plan to support the county’s effort and hope for their success.
|Barker Reservoir Watershed||August 1, 2018||6 – 8 pm||Memorial Parkway Junior High
21203 Highland Knolls Drive
Katy, TX 77450
|Brays Bayou||July 9, 2018||6 – 8 pm||Pershing Middle School
3838 Blue Bonnet Boulevard
Houston, TX 77025
|Buffalo Bayou||July 30, 2018||6 – 8 pm||Memorial Drive United Methodist Church
12955 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079
|Cedar Bayou||July 19, 2018||6 – 8 pm||May Community Center
2100 Wolf Road
Huffman, TX 77336
|Clear Creek||July 17, 2018||6 – 8 pm||El Franco Lee Community Center
9500 Hall Road
Houston, TX 77089
|Little Cypress Creek||July 31, 2018||6 – 8 pm||Richard & Meg Weekley Community Center
8440 Greenhouse Road
Cypress, TX 77433
|Luce Bayou||July 23, 2018||6 – 8 pm||May Community Center
2100 Wolf Road
Huffman, TX 77336
|San Jacinto/Galveston Bay||July 24 2018||6 – 8 pm||Sylvan Beach Pavilion
1 Sylvan Beach Drive
La Porte, TX 77571
|San Jacinto River||July 10, 2018||6 – 8 pm||NOTE NEW LOCATION:
Kingwood Park High School
4015 Woodland Hills Drive
Kingwood, TX 77339
|Vince Bayou||July 25, 2018||6 – 8 pm||Pasadena Convention Center
7902 Fairmont Parkway
Pasadena, TX 77507
|Willow Creek||July 18, 2018||6 – 8 pm||Klein ISD Multipurpose Center
7520 FM 2920 Road
Spring, TX 77379
Houston Media Source Panel Discussion on the Flood Bonds
Find Your Election Day Poll and View Voter Specific Ballot August 25, 2018 Harris County Flood Control Bond Election