The equity flap continues. In its June 25th meeting, Harris County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to take a portion of METRO funding AWAY from Harris County Precincts 3 and 4. This vote impacts Precinct 4 constituents by $3,069,709 in road construction funds this year alone.
This attack was just a beginning. Commissioners Ellis and Garcia stated in a joint press conference that they seek to also go after portions of Precinct 3’s and 4’s Mobility Funds…based on…you guessed it…equity. Watch the video above all the way to the end. An estimated $6 million per year is at stake in Precinct 4.
Basis for Equity
The current formula for distribution of METRO and mobility funds accounts for the number of road miles each precinct must maintain.
However, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, once again, is trying to redistribute funds based on “equity,” which he defines as more for people who are “historically disadvantaged.” Specifically, he often refers to slavery when he talks about equity. Mr. Ellis represents a precinct that is roughly 39 percent African American, 37 percent Latino, 18 percent Anglo, 5 percent Asian and 1 percent other.
Compared to precinct 4, Precinct 1 also has 38% of the lane miles, 42% of the asphalt roads, one third of the unincorporated land mass, and one fourth of the housing starts.
I don’t dispute the existence of “historically disadvantaged” ethnic groups. However, I do question why road funds should be distributed by race. It seems other factors such as need, area covered, growth rate, or population served relate more directly.
Highest Percentage of Unincorporated Population in Precinct 4
Historically speaking, the county’s mission is to provide services to unincorporated areas.
So let’s start this discussion by looking at the percentage of county residents within each precinct who live in unincorporated vs. incorporated areas, such as the City of Houston. Here we see that Precinct 4 must support virtually triple the the number of unincorporated residents that Precinct 1 supports. Residents who live in unincorporated areas have support other than the county to help meet their needs.
Highest Percentage of Road Miles in Precinct 4
Another way to look at need is by the number of road miles that each precinct must maintain. Here we can see that Precinct 4 has more lane miles, thoroughfare miles, and open-ditch asphalt roads to support than Precinct 1 by wide margins.
Highest Percentage of Growth in Precinct 4
Growth rates also factor into need in a very direct way. Here again, we can see that Precinct 4 is growing faster than Precinct 1 by many measures.
- Change in “total population” percentage (incorporated + unincorporated)
- Change in unincorporated population percentage
- New housing and apartment starts
Precinct 4 Also Has Larger Area to Cover than Precinct 1
From the table above, we can see that Precinct 4 also has about 6.51% more square miles to service than Precinct 1.
What Funds Go For
Precinct 4 maintains over 2,600 road miles and 327 bridges in a 72% unincorporated area.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle said, “These Mobility Funds maintain and construct roads that keep traffic moving. They also provide roadway access for a prompt response for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services that will ensure the continued safety of all residents.”
The ditches that parallel those roads also play a huge role in carrying water away from neighborhoods, thus reducing the risk of flooding.
Subversion of Language
The inclusion of equity in the flood bond language seems to have opened a Pandora’s box. When I listen to Commissioner Ellis and when I look at hard data, I get the feeling that the meaning of “equity” is being distorted as part of a crass money grab. This isn’t equity. It’s Commissioner Ellis seeking reparations for misdeeds of generations past.
To me, equity in this context means a fair, just, impartial, or balanced distribution of funds.
Equity should be based on objective measures, such as area served, population served, or miles that must be maintained. Those should be debated openly.
The way Commissioner Ellis uses the word, however, the outcome becomes the opposite of equity. Money is not distributed based on per capita, per road mile, or per square mile. It’s based on racial preference and results in an inequitable distribution of funds based on other objective measures.
It’s hard to reason with someone flaming about racial injustice 200 years ago. And Mr. Ellis, like most demagogues, knows that. He also exploits it. I just hope he doesn’t kill growth in Harris County while he’s doing it. Because that’s where he’s headed…including (insiders say) redirecting money from the flood bond.
Voice your opinion at the next Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, July 9
Commissioners Court meetings are open to the public and begin at 10:00 a.m. at 1001 Preston Street, Suite 934, Houston, Texas 77002. However, if you wish to speak, you must complete the online appearance request form found at:
It is now very typical for Commissioners Court to go beyond 6 hours.
Those who do not state an agenda item when they sign up are usually forced to wait until the end of the session. However, you can insert the agenda item in the “Subject Matter” box when you sign up. This should increase the probability of you speaking earlier.
Agenda item 19.e.1.b Mobility Funding includes this topic You can also put any additional description that you want in the subject description box.
Here is the link for a copy of the agenda: https://agenda.harriscountytx.gov
If you are unable to speak in person, contact Judge Hidalgo to express your concern. Make sure you read this four part series on equity first.
- Email: Judge.email@example.com
- Phone: 713-274-7000
- U. S. Mail:
The Honorable Judge Lina Hidalgo
1001 Preston, Suite 911
Houston, TX 77002
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/7/2019
677 Days since Hurricane Harvey