While major cities and counties throughout Texas post maps and detailed descriptions of their road-bond spending and projects, Harris County does not.
In June 2022, County Commissioner Adrian Garcia pitched bonds for roads, parks and public safety totaling $1.2 billion. It included $900 million for roads, $200 million for parks and $100 million for public-safety infrastructure.
Commissioners Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle tried to slow the bond offering down until projects could be identified, prioritized, and estimated. However, Garcia, with the help of Commissioner Rodney Ellis and County Judge Lina Hidalgo, put the bond on the November ballot and it passed with little disclosure.
A series of poorly advertised and attended public meetings provided no details as to how the money would be spent except for some high-level breakdowns between roads and parks. Neither did the bond website – despite promises made in Commissioners Court that it would.
Rahman Presentation to ACEC Now Public
Dr. Milton Rahman, P.E., PMP, CFM, ENV SP., Executive Director and County Engineer did provide a project update earlier this month about the bond to the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Houston. However, it provided only a little more detail than we already knew about how the money would be allocated. And it provided no location-specific data about where the money would be spent, i.e., which stretches of roads.
Below are several key slides from Dr. Rahman’s full presentation.
To qualify for any funding, roads must have a Pavement Condition Index below 40 (very poor to failing). But in scoring, roads will also be ranked by their surrounding population and the number of socially vulnerable residents. (See below).
Rahman did assign weights to partnership dollars, but he fails to define the factors. For instance, what does he mean by “project area” below? It gets a whopping 25% of the weight.
In short, he still won’t say where the money will go.
11X More for Admin than in Flood Bond 5X Larger
But Dr. Rahman does plan to take $110 million for management and administration. Compare that to the $10 million allocated for admin in 2018 flood bond that totaled $5 billion with partner funding. Dr. Rahman will take 11 times more for a bond one-fifth the size. It’s even more than the $100 million being invested in public-safety facilities which were so sorely in need of help before the election!
The County disclosed none of this to voters before they voted on the bond.
Even now, five months later, with the little information we have, I would find it impossible to make an informed decision based on this vague, high-level, process-oriented information presented by Dr. Rahman. But I do have deep suspicions that the $110 million could go to pay raises for political hires.
Rahman Withholding Pavement Condition Information
Even though Harris County has calculated a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) for every road in the county, it has not published the information. Nor did the Engineering Department supply the PCI report to ReduceFlooding.com in response to a direct request.
And even through Dr. Rahmen has already allocated the money, nowhere in his report does he address the number of lane miles needing repair in each precinct.
For the record, Precinct 3 will receive the least money by far. It has almost half the county’s lane miles to maintain (47%) but will receive less than one-fifth of the bond money allocated to roads and drainage.
Moreover, large portions of Precincts 1 and 2 fall within the City of Houston and other municipalities such as Pasadena and Baytown. Thus they share responsibility and costs.
Finally, before redistricting, Commissioner Garcia made sure that most of the bad roads in his Precinct 2 magically wound up in Precinct 3.
With all the other factors folded in, there’s no guarantee most of Precinct 3’s roads will ever see 2022 road bond money.
Other Areas Far More Transparent
Because of the complexity of allocating bond dollars, virtually all major cities and counties in Texas simply publish maps that show where bond money will go.
But not in Harris County! That would be too simple. And why be transparent when you can keep people in the dark and avoid complaints about fairness?
To see how transparently other areas treat their voters, consult the links below.
- San Antonio Map
- San Antonio Dashboard
- Austin Map and Dashboard
- Fort Worth
- El Paso Map
- El Paso Pavement Condition Index Data
When governments go out of their way to conceal information as certain commissioners have here, it raises the question “Why?”
It’s time you started demanding answers to that question. Your safety is at stake.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/8/23
2017 Days since Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.