Houston is at an existential crossroads. We’ve had five major floods in the last five years. If we can’t reduce flooding, people will no longer want to live here or move here.
With that in mind, I believe flooding is the number one issue a new mayor must address. That’s not to say we don’t have other important issues. But if we don’t address flooding, we’re sunk.
So which of the candidates has the best plan? Bill King…by far.
Comparing Candidates’ Plans
King has by far the most developed and comprehensive plan. He has laid out a clear, concise, well researched, actionable statement of objectives, strategies, and financing in seven parts:
- #1: Stop the diversion of drainage fees.
- #2: Prioritize improving conveyance and creating more detention.
- #3: Ramp up purchases of vacant land for green space and detention. Increase funding for buyouts.
- #4: Build higher but be smart about it.
- #5: Prepare a detailed plan for the response to and recovery from future floods.
- #6: Advocate for more regional cooperation and perhaps a regional flood control authority.
- #7: Prioritize projects in flood prone areas.
These plans have been vetted by dozens of experts throughout the Houston region from both the government and private sectors.
Stopping the diversion of drainage fees will give Houston more cash to put into flood mitigation. This will allow Houston to solicit matching funds quickly and accelerate the development of mitigation projects.
Regional cooperation is also critical, especially for places like the Lake Houston Area. Other counties and cities surround us. As we have seen in Elm Grove, if Montgomery County allows worst practices for new developments, we pay the consequences.
But we currently have no influence in MoCo, which seems to have a development-at-any-cost-even-if-it-floods-people mentality. Until this problem is fixed, we are all looking down the barrel of a water cannon.
King’s seven white papers contain many great thoughts. King clearly understands flooding issues throughout the city. He is extremely articulate and lays out a compelling plan. I believe he can lead voters and the City to solutions.
Tony Buzbee has flood information on at least two different web sites. His campaign site lists flooding as the number one issue. It has a great discussion of Kingwood. That links to a third-party site that features his vision for flood control. After discussing different types of flooding and their causes, he has three suggestions:
- Include flood abatement credits as part of the permitting process. They would be good for credits against drainage fees in the first year after construction.
- Identify projects where flood abatement constitutes at least 15% of the total project cost and move those to the front of the line for permit approval.
- Publicly recognize a different business each month that replaces concrete with natural surfaces.
Those represent good market-driven proposals. Buzbee says he has many other ideas and that, “My campaign will roll them out once our comprehensive white paper is complete.” It’s getting to be about time for that. Voting has already started.
Sylvester Turner doesn’t seem to have a flood plan that I can find online. His campaign site has a list of his accomplishments while Mayor after Harvey. He also has a blog post called Getting Ready for the Next Big Storm. In it he mostly talks about partnering with other entities that have money to spend on flood mitigation.
But that post, dated August 19, also contains claims that did not come true. For instance, “The City has won permission from FEMA for the Corps of Engineers to include the removal of the mouth bar in the San Jacinto River…” Unfortunately, FEMA and the Corps only scratched the surface of the area around the mouth bar. That’s a big problem when you rely on OPM (other people’s money).
Mayor Turner also lists, “Creating and operating Neighborhood Recovery Centers … through which victims could apply for federal housing repair aid.” Mayor Turner said in a debate that the City had received $1.3 billion for home repair and recovery. However, the State recently took that program over because more than 2 years after Harvey, only 15 people had received aid.
Under Turner’s watch, he did make some changes to building codes. He also created Stormwater Action Teams, a $17 million program actually funded by the City to address hundreds of … you guessed it … deferred maintenance issues.
And after selling Proposition A last year as a way to create a lockbox around the drainage fund, he diverted $44 million from it this year to cover other costs. That’s on top of another quarter billion worth of diversions in previous years. No wonder it takes so long to get things done. One wonders how much of that mouth bar could have been dredged with a tiny portion of that money.
By the City’s own admission, we’re not much better off today than we were the day after Harvey.
Other Reasons I’m Voting for King
King also has experience as a mayor. While Kemah isn’t Houston, it’s a start.
Bill King has prepped for the Mayor’s job since the last campaign. He has studied every city budget and every audit of every budget since then. He’s been involved in Houston politics for decades and knows most of the players. He’s ready to walk into office on Day 1 and start doing the job.
He has the common sense of a business man who understands the importance of a dollar and delivering results NOW, or losing business tomorrow.
King has the integrity and experience to promise what he’s going to deliver and deliver what he promises.
That’s not a comment about Buzbee. I have met both King and Buzbee on multiple occasions and like them both. I just feel that at this point in time, King has more experience in the political arena and a better plan to address flooding.
King first approached me shortly after I started this web site and long before he announced his run for mayor. He asked me to show him the flooding issues in Kingwood. We’ve met more than a dozen times since then.
We have visited every part of the community. We’ve slogged through sand and mud together, slapping mosquitoes, so that he could see the flooding issues firsthand. I’ve seen him crawl under fences to get a better look at how Woodridge Village flooded homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. He’s waded through ankle-deep mud on Village Springs.
He’s seen the heartbreak of people whose homes flooded on multiple occasions. He understands this problem on both an intellectual and emotional level. He knows this cannot continue. And that’s why I’m voting for Bill King.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/25/2019
787 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 36 since Imelda