Vidal G. Martinez began his career in 1978 as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Houston. Since 1981, he has been engaged in private practice as Managing Partner of Martinez Partners LLP. Martinez has been chairman of the State Bar of Texas. And was appointed by former Texas Governor Bill Clements to the University of Houston Board of Regents where he also served as Vice Chairman. During decades of public service, he has helped lead more than three dozen organizations such as the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, Houston Housing Authority, Houston Port Authority, Houston Proud, Salvation Army, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Methodist Hospital (where he has been a director for 30 years).
Rehak: Thank you for your great history of public service. Today, I’d like to talk to you about flooding: specifically, partner funding; what our neighbors are doing upstream; growth; and your priorities for flood control. Let’s start with partner funding. How do we get more?
Leveraging Relationships to Accelerate Partner Funding
Martinez: When I was a port commissioner, we always had to chase about $600 to $700 million every five years for the widening and deepening of the port. So, we worked closely with our congressional delegation to put pressure on the Administration. We were in direct contact. We had the whole business community, the Greater Houston Partnership, and leaders, all touching base on their areas of influence and pushing things forward. That was a formula that worked, and it didn’t matter which party was in power. My years on the Port Commission had Clinton and George W. Bush in the Oval Office. You go to different leaders that influence that administration but the principle is the same.
That’s the way we did it before. And that’s the way I would approach partner funding.
This is something our community deserves right now. I’m not willing to wait till January. We need to start putting pressure on right now.
Rehak: You’re aware of this flood resilience trust Commissioners Court created using money diverted from the toll road authority and other parts of the county budget to start projects where we have not yet confirmed partner funding. Do you think that’s a wise thing? To decouple partner funding from the starts of projects? Or should we wait until we get a definitive answer on the partner funding?
Martinez: We should wait until we get a definitive answer. You can do more projects that way.
Working More Effectively With Neighboring Counties
Rehak: Let’s move on to upstream neighbors. On the outskirts of Harris county, we see a push by neighboring counties to attract development by lowering flood regulations or not enforcing them. They say, “It’s going to be cheaper here for you. Your profit margins will be better.” How can we work with those counties so they don’t make things worse as we spend money to make them better?
Martinez: It’s best to get the federal government involved. Ergo, you go to congressional representatives who cover those areas, like Dan Crenshaw and Morgan Luttrell. Luttrell is running for Kevin Brady’s seat now that Brady is retiring. I’m friends with both.
You start out by going back to the wallet. The people who affect that wallet the most are your congressional representatives. Nobody is a stand-alone when it comes to funding. They need that federal money.
You start with a distinct conversation with these communities that say there are “no rules.” You explain how it affects your water and flooding downstream. And you say, “You can’t do that.” You start at the political level. And then you go back again to funding mechanisms. That usually helps people clearly see what their options are going forward.
Rehak: Is there anything else that can be done in that regard? Would you favor, for instance, the formation of a regional flood control district?
Martinez: Yes, I would. And I pushed for that.
Need for Regional Planning to Sustain Growth
Rehak: Let’s talk about growth now. How can we strike a better balance between development and flooding? I mentioned that Montgomery County has this “beat the peak” methodology that they use to let developers avoid building detention ponds. So, flood peaks build faster and higher. There are lots of technical issues like that.
Martinez: Well, you’re going to have to school me on what you think needs to be done.
Rehak: People need to deal with their own run off. Three words. “Retain your rain.” If everybody did that, nobody would flood.
Martinez: Ed Emmett said that all the time. He said, “We can take care of our own water. We can’t take care of everyone else’s water.”
I’m willing to learn, listen and prepare a plan that makes sense for Harris, Montgomery County, Liberty and other counties. We need to talk to the political leaders and stop the war. Let’s figure out a regional plan that works.
Need for More Fairness in Setting Priorities
Rehak: How would you set priorities? You’ve heard of the County’s equity prioritization framework. Some commissioners are now talking about fixing 500-year flooding inside the Beltway before fixing two-year flooding outside the Beltway. They’re using “equity” as an excuse to shift ever greater sums of money from outlying areas.
Martinez: I’m against this phenomenal reversal. There will be a new start in January 2023. A 3-2 difference means we can stop this. We must treat everyone fairly.
Rehak: Any last thoughts?
Martinez: Get ready for January 3rd. Things are going to start to change.
To learn more about Vidal Martinez and his position on other topics, visit his campaign website.
To compare his opponent’s position on flooding topics, see this interview with Alexandra Mealer.
Posted by Bob Rehak based on an interview with Vidal Martinez
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