County Judge Lina Hidalgo has asked for your opinion on the composition and by-laws of a new Community Resilience Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to make recommendations on how to allocate flood-bond spending to help minorities, low income households, and other socially vulnerable groups … even more.
Argument for Social Vulnerability
The Judge argues that low income households have a harder time recovering from floods. For instance, the inability to repair a flood-damaged home can create health consequences as mold multiplies. The loss of a vehicle can mean the loss of a job and subsequent eviction.
Data Shows Spending Favors Vulnerable Segments 4:1 So Far
Whether you are looking at mitigation projects or buyouts, the most socially vulnerable neighborhoods tend to get FOUR TIMES more than less socially vulnerable neighborhoods.
Yet Judge Hidalgo, Commissioner Ellis and Commissioner Garcia want to increase that percentage even more … for the next 30 years … with their Community Resilience Task Force.
Questions Posed by Lopsided Emphasis
The questions are:
- What happens to everyone ELSE who floods?
- Will they get NO help?
- What is a FAIR and EQUITABLE distribution?
- Does the NUMBER of damaged structures not merit consideration?
- Will the DISPARITY in spending discourage middle class flood victims and motivate them to leave the county if they flood again?
- Why are certain commissioners using the word “equity” to describe “disparity”?
The language in the flood bond promised an equitable distribution of projects, not a lopsided one.
Speak Now or Live with Consequences of Silence
Today is the end of the month and the last day to submit comments to the Judge if you want them to be considered.
Below is a poignant letter written by Jennifer Coulter, a mother with two young children. She and her husband had just started a company before Harvey. So they didn’t have the credit history to qualify for an SBA loan. And their income from the previous year threw them into the lowest category for a Homeowner Assistance Grant. Two years after applying, they’re still waiting for a call-back.
And because they lived outside the 500-year flood plain, they didn’t have flood insurance. Nevertheless, they managed to restore their home by cashing in retirement accounts. They worry now about whether they can afford college for their kids.
Jennifer Coulter’s Letter to Judge
Dear Judge Hidalgo and members of the CRTF,
Please find my public comments and questions below as they relate to the proposed draft bylaws for the Community Resiliency Task Force and the inclusion of social vulnerability guidelines in flood mitigation project considerations.
My family lives in Kingwood. We flooded in Kingwood following Hurricane Harvey, and chose to reinvest in our community by rebuilding our home. We did not have flood insurance at the time of the flood. We also did not quality for an SBA loan. We used retirement savings to fund the rebuild. As a result, our personal financial security has changed dramatically.
The Kingwood and Lake Houston area has historically received a disproportionate amount of flood mitigation project investment related to the greater Houston and Harris County area. Meaning, we have received far less. The proposed social vulnerability guidelines would continue that trend, perhaps even worsening it for this area.
As a family, we have made the difficult decision that if flooded again, we will not rebuild and again reinvest in this community. Without a fair investment in flood mitigation projects based upon flood vulnerability rather than social vulnerability, we are almost certain to flood again.
We are not alone. There are many homeowners, who if able, will relocate out of Harris County if flooded again. My questions to the task force are:
- How do you intend to fund this 30-year plan if your tax base leaves?
- Is making this vital tax base expendable a wise long-term solution to improve flood mitigation in ANY community within Harris County?
- If you are not choosing project allocation based upon engineering and likeliness to flood, how do you intend to redirect flood waters to areas chosen to receive flood mitigation improvements? Do you have a means to tell rising flood waters to only go to those areas that received improvements and not to those that didn’t qualify for improvements because they weren’t socially vulnerable enough?
Thank you for your time,
I know many people like the Coulters. The prospect of more flooding with no mitigation has them at the end of their tethers. Especially after they voted for the flood bond and its promise of equity. One has already moved to Montgomery County.
Contact the Judge NOW
Please email the Judge and tell her that we need more balance in flood bond spending. Do it now! Tomorrow is too late.
Email CRTF@cjo.hctx.net to submit comments. Please be polite and succinct.
For Additional Information
Here are links to:
- A description of the CDC’s social vulnerability index.
- The overview of the proposed changes in the task force and the proposed new bylaws which would extend this pattern of spending for the next 30 years.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/30/2020
1066 Days after Hurricane Harvey