Action Taken on Harvey Relief
Democratic-led Commissioners Court overcomes the negligence of previous administrations
For years, the default setting for the previously Republican-led Harris County Commissioners Court was to do nothing. During his ten years in office, former County Judge Ed Emmett’s oft-repeated advice was to “hunker down.”
Emmett’s “hunker down” mentality prevailed on the court for a decade and was embraced by the two Republicans who remain on the Court today – Steve Radack and Jack Cagle. So, from Hurricane Ike, which hit shortly after Emmett took office, through Hurricane Harvey, the Harris County Commissioners Court failed to make the tough decisions or order the action needed to protect Harris County families from devastating floods.
Ed Emmett is gone now, replaced by Democratic County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Radack and Cagle are in the minority and countered by pro-active, community-oriented Democratic Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia. The results are clear, meaningful and positive — more work has been done on flood mitigation in the eight months since Democrats took control of the County Court than in the entire previous decade when Ed Emmett was County Judge.
Expect More Stalling and Obstruction from Radack and Cagle
Even though Steve Radack and Jack Cagle cast “yes” votes on the county plan to include equity guidelines in determining the priority of flood bond projects, expect them both to welcome a series of witnesses before the court who will criticize and object to the fairness measures. Radack and Cagle will play both sides of the politics – on one hand casting a vote for the bond projects but, on the other hand, creating dissension and controversy on the court to undermine their Democratic colleagues.
From the Harris County Flood Control Department website:
The days of passive, slow-to-act county government have ended. Proactive moves instituted by Judge Lina Hidalgo, Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia are moving Harris County to a new era.
Democratic Commissioners Turn Away from Do-Nothing Approach to Flood Control
On Tuesday, the Harris County Commissioners Court, led by Judge Lina Hidalgo, ended a decades-long wait and watch approach to flood control by steering the enactment of a game-changing plan to invest 2018 Flood Bond money in Harris County. Hundreds of flood control projects will be done and, for the first time, the projects will be prioritized to assure that long-neglected residents and neighborhoods will be included.
Predictably, Judge Hidalgo- with her Democratic colleagues, Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia – had to overcome the objections of Republicans Steve Radack and Jack Cagle who tried to block and undermine the new flood control plan.
From the Houston Chronicle:
Court members agreed areas with the greatest risk of flooding are in most immediate need of help. Each acknowledged the strings attached to state and federal funding may steer funds toward wealthy neighborhoods — the reason why the previous court required flood bond money to be spend equitably. Despite that “kumbaya moment,” as Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis quipped, the five-member body could not agree on the method by which that priority would be determined.
For Years, the GOP-controlled Court Brought Lip Service Without Public Service
Republicans Steve Radack and Jack Cagle have spent a combined 39 years on the Commissioners Court. And, until this year, they were part of a Republican majority. Over those years, both men often claimed flood worries as a priority, but their actions never matched their rhetoric. They adopted no long-term plan nor offered a long-term vision for flood control. It took emergency and tragedy to catch their attention. Here’s Jack Cagle explaining their approach:
“We always respond to the latest crisis,” Cagle said. “And just as when we were in the middle of a drought, everyone was trying to get more water in the area. Now that we’ve been hit with these flood events, [people are asking]‘How do we keep from having all this water?’ So it’s on everybody’s minds.”
“Frankly, over the years, and the many years I’ve been doing this… they frankly enjoy floods. They’d like to see a flood about every 7 years, because they want new cars, they want their homes redone,” Radack said at the meeting.
A Decade of Inaction Illustrated
The two maps below show the growth of Harris County since just before Steve Radack was first elected until just before Hurricane Harvey made landfall:
Harris County in 1984
Harris County in 2017
Both commercial and residential development within Harris County has increased dramatically, especially in the western portion of the county in neighborhoods most accessible to SH-99, also known as “Grand Parkway.”
When Grand Parkway was initially built, little consideration was given to the potential impact of adding thousands of new residential properties squarely within the floodplain. The risks were known but went unheeded for – literally – decades.