$220 million minimum guarantee

Dems Shortchange Precinct 3 by Almost $50 Million in 2022 Bond Allocation

While trying to sell the controversial, “detail-free” $1.1 Billion Road and Parks bond in 2022, Democrats on Harris County Commissioners Court passed a resolution promising voters that each precinct would get at least $220 million. But according to an allocation formula approved on 1/31/23, Precinct 3 will get tens of millions of dollars less despite having two to three times more road miles to maintain than other precincts.

Broken Promise

That $220-million promise was designed to reassure voters in Republican precincts that they would see benefit from the bond despite the vague language.

Screen capture from Harris County Engineering Site on 1/31/23
Close-up photo of flier distributed by Harris County at community meetings

Dems adopted an allocation plan that gives Republican-led Precinct 3 only $173 million – almost $50 million less than promised.

Here’s how I calculated the shortfall. Garcia claims it won’t be that much, but has not revealed how he calculated his result. My calculations follow what he described verbally in Tuesday’s meeting, but admittedly, Garcia was vague. Regardless of how you calculate the allocation though, Precinct 3 comes up tens of millions of dollars short of the promised $220 million and far short of other precincts – yet it has far more roads to maintain.

Deja Vu

Promises made before the 2018 flood bond election were also broken by Democrats. That’s why voters were wary and the $220-million promise was necessary. For instance, right now, of the 18 active Flood-Bond Contruction projects in the county, NOT ONE is in a Republican-led precinct. And Garcia is looking for an “exit strategy” from the flood bond.

Now, with the 2022 bond, Garcia’s formula ensures his precinct will get $305 million – $130 million more than Precinct 3. Likewise, Ellis’ Precinct 2 will get $100 million more than Precinct 3.

Yet Precinct 3 has 47% of all the roads that Harris County maintains – 2-3X more than other precincts according to Commissioner Tom Ramsey. But that consideration never even factored into Garcia’s allocation … FOR A ROAD BOND. (See tables below.)

Allocations per Precinct

Garcia’s formula for allocating the $1.1 billion 2022 Road and Parks bond contains three buckets:

  • Harris County Engineering gets 10% or $110 million.
  • Each precinct gets a flat baseline amount of $157,509 (($990 million X 63.64%)/4)
  • Each precinct also gets an amount that varies based on socially vulnerable population (($990 million X 26.36%)/% of SVI total in county)

Here’s how the math works out.

PrecinctBaseline Amt.SVI %Total Each Precinct
Calculations based on Garcia’s formula and the SVI numbers he supplied

This PDF explains what the 10% for Engineering covers and lists SVI populations in each precinct (those that rank high on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index) for each precinct. However, the backup does not list a source or date for the SVI numbers.

Now, remember, this is primarily a road bond. So, let’s look at how this allocation translates into dollars per lane mile.

PrecinctLane MilesAllocation$/Mile
Lane miles supplied by Harris County Precinct 3 staff

So, you can see how this plays out. Compared to Garcia’s Precinct 2, Precinct 3 has triple the lane miles and a little more than half the allocation. Thus, Precinct 3 gets less than one-fifth the dollars per lane mile – $26 million vs $137 million.

This is no accident. Democrats planned it during redistricting.

During the hotly contested redistricting process in 2021, Democrats gave Ramsey the lion’s share of unincorporated Harris County to maintain. Now, the final shoe drops. They denied him the ability to maintain those roads.

What Do YOU Call It?

Is this a political vendetta? Voter fraud? Financial fraud? Theft of services? A bald-faced lie? Business as usual in Harris County Commissioners Court? Or all of the above? Frankly, I’d go with “all of the above.” In my opinion:

  • If this were the prospectus for a new stock offering, the Securities and Exchange Commission would likely launch an investigation.
  • If it were an advertisement, the Federal Trade Commission could level hefty “bait-and-switch” fines.
  • If this were medicine, patients could level malpractice claims.
  • If you told someone you were going to provide $50 million worth of services and then didn’t, but still took their money, the Texas Attorney General could build a felony case for theft of services.
  • Right now, the New York attorney general is suing a former U.S. President for making misleading financial statements.

But steal $50 million from the voters in Precinct 3 and the Harris County Attorney goes MIA. Commissioner Adrian Garcia, (the County’s former chief law enforcement officer), pooh-poohed the $220 million guarantee in Tuesday’s meeting as unimportant.

Need to Reveal Calculations and Allocations

County Judge Lina Hidalgo asked whether the final totals meet the $220 million commitment made before the election.

Garcia replies, “No.” Then, he obfuscates. He launches into a description of how the formula incorporates socially vulnerable populations. Garcia never does say what the totals are.

Ellis responds, “I’m fine with that.”

Despite reservations and a plea for more time to study the impact by Precinct 3 Commissioner Ramsey, the Dems approved Garcia’s allocation formula. You can see video and a complete transcript of the discussion here, starting at 4:15:13.

No Transparency

Before the vote on the bond in November, Garcia could have offered up his allocation formula. But he didn’t do that. And before the vote on the allocation formula Tuesday, Garcia could have easily said, “Here’s what each Precinct will get.” But he didn’t do that either.

Instead he offered up a confusing multi-part formula that required readers to calculate percentages of percentages of percentages found in different documents. Then they had to add the totals from three different subcategories together before the ugly truth became apparent.

That’s why, in my opinion, this is deliberate concealment with intent to defraud taxpayers.

Bob Rehak

The $220 million minimum was promoted to voters on the web, in the press, at community meetings, and in handouts and flyers county-wide for three months prior to the November election.

But being shortchanged by $50 million wasn’t the only surprise on Tuesday. Garcia also revealed other “backup” screening criteria for project consideration. Just in case you thought a project benefitting you might squeak through, the eligibility criteria involve factors such as:

More gotcha’s!

Other Brazen Recommendations

Had Precinct 4 not flipped to the blue column last November, things might have been different Tuesday. But encouraged by a 4:1 majority on commissioners court, Democrats have become brazen. Tuesday’s nasty revelation concerning the 2022 bond was one of many.

  • Commissioners still didn’t take any action on the $750 million in HUD funds that have been sitting on the table for a year and nine months.
  • That $750 million could pay for every unfunded project in the 2018 flood bond. But instead of asking why Community Services has not prepared a detailed plan that HUD could approve, Commissioners allocated $64 million from local Toll Road funds to keep flood projects moving in Democratic precincts.
  • Garcia repeatedly asked for an “exit strategy” from the 2018 flood bond, claiming we don’t have enough money to do all the projects, while not even acknowledging the $750 million in untapped HUD funds sitting on the table.

When Garcia asked for an exit strategy from the flood bond over and over again, it suddenly dawned on me why Democrats are dilly-dallying with the HUD application.

I suspect they want to cancel Flood-Bond projects in Precinct 3 and then blame the cancellations on a Republican-led GLO, which administers HUD funds in Texas.

Bob Rehak

Again, in my opinion, that could push independents toward the blue column…at least those not paying close attention.

Lingering Concerns

But back to the current $1.1 bond for roads and parks. The concerns outlined above re: being deceived, shortchanged and denied enough money to maintain roads are serious. But those aren’t the only concerns. Readers have written asking:

1) Will there be transparency for this bond like we had for the flood bond? Or will this turn into another give away to campaign donors?

2) How were the SVI numbers calculated?  Are they available for review?  How can we trust those numbers?

3) What other large public agency divides infrastructure money by SVI?  Prove that it is a “best practice” and not a way to game the system to get more money in Precinct 2.

4) This is clearly political punishment for Precinct 3 that puts Republican lives at risk. Is this the example that Harris County “leadership” wants to set for future generations?

5) Are we fueling more distrust in government which has been steadily declining.

Only one thing is clear. Last Tuesday was a tipping point in the history of Harris County.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/2/2023

1983 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.

Woodridge Village Detention Pond #6

New Woodridge Village Detention Basin Already 2nd Largest

As of January 30, 2023, Sprint Sand and Clay had excavated 80,360 Cubic Yards of dirt from a sixth Woodridge Village stormwater detention basin under an Excavation and Removal Contract with Harris County Flood Control District. Even though the new basin is not yet complete, it is already the second largest on the site.

Sprint’s $1,000 contract gives it the right to excavate up to 500,000 cubic yards and sell the dirt at market rates to make its money back. The purpose: to get a head start on construction of another basin that could eventually double Woodridge Village stormwater detention capacity so that it will exceed Atlas-14 requirements and create a safety margin to accommodate future development.

Reason for Project

Perry Homes sold the failed development to Harris County Flood Control District in 2021 after it contributed to the flooding of hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest twice in 2019.

Excavation began in early 2022. By the end of that year, Sprint had removed 73,745 cubic yards of soil. January’s total means Sprint is about one-sixth of the way toward its goal.

The basin already holds a considerable amount of runoff as the pictures below show. The pictures were taken on 1/24/23 after a five-year rain (3.6 inches in two hours). That’s about half the volume that fell on May 7, 2019 when Woodridge Village first flooded Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest. But at that time, only the long narrow detention basin on the lower right had been completed.

Looking NE across the main part of Woodridge. Basin in foreground is the one under construction.

Reverse angle, looking SW toward Woodland Hills Drive and Kingwood Park High School.

New Excavation Already Second Largest on Site

80,360 cubic yards equals 49.8 acre feet. Woodridge Village’s five original basins had the following capacity:

  • N1 = 13.2 acre feet
  • N2 = 154.7 acre feet
  • N3 = 42 acre feet
  • S1 = 18.6 acre feet
  • S2 = 42.5 acre feet
Original Detention Pond Capacity on Woodridge Village

That means the new basin already ranks as the second largest on the Woodridge Village site.

Only N2 has more capacity at the present. But eventually, the new basin could double its size.
All basins will eventually converge into the basin in left foreground above. From there, water exits into Taylor Gully.
Despite the 5-year rain that fell only hours before these photos, Taylor Gully never came close to overflowing on January 24th because of the controlled release rate.

More capacity will mean the site can safely handle much larger rainfalls.

Current detention pond capacity equals 271 acre feet. When complete, the new basin will add 309 acre feet, more than doubling the site’s stormwater detention capacity.

Funding and Next Steps

This is all part of a larger plan outlined in the preliminary engineering review for Taylor Gully that HCFCD shared with the public in December. The plan also calls for deepening a portion of Taylor Gully and replacing the twin-culvert bridge at Rustic Elms with an open-span bridge.

U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw has already secured $1.6 million for Taylor Gully Improvements. The City of Houston also has secured a $10.1 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to improve drainage in the Taylor Gully watershed.

Next up: final design of the improvements before construction can begin.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/31/23

1981 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 1230 since TS Imelda

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.

Floodwater Rising and More Rain On the Way

Surprisingly heavy rains in the last week of January 2023 have led to floodwater rising on area streams. As of 1:38 PM on Monday 1/30/23, the National Weather Service predicted minor flooding throughout much of the northern part of the Houston region, including:

  • East Fork San Jacinto near New Caney affecting Montgomery, Liberty and Harris Counties.
  • Peach Creek at Splendora affecting Montgomery and Harris Counties.
  • West Fork San Jacinto near Humble affecting Montgomery and Harris Counties.
  • Cypress Creek at Katy-Hockley Road affecting Waller and Harris Counties.
  • Menard Creek near Rye affecting Hardin, Polk and Liberty Counties.

One on Top of Another

Jeff Lindner, Harris County Meteorologist, said, “While response on area watersheds in the northern portions of Harris County may seem significant for the amount of rain Sunday, when you combine rainfall from Tuesday and Sunday, totals of 8-11 inches are found over this area. The rainfall combined with saturated soils explain the significant rises on area streams.”

From Harris County Flood Warning System

Photos of Flooding from 1/29 and 1/30

Here’s what all that rain looked like on the ground in the Humble/Kingwood Area last night and this morning.

Parked in wrong place. West Hamblen Road near West Fork.
Townsen Landing development in Humble near Target in upper left. Saratoga Homes plans to build 357 singl- family homes here.
Single- and multi-family residential, some of which will be dedicated to seniors on Townsen Blvd. West in Humble.
US59 South at West Fork. Underpass closed due to high water.
Looking N toward Lakeside Court and Treasure Lane between West Fork (left) and 59 (right).
Confluence of Spring Creek and West Fork just west of US59. Note distinctly different color of water coming from the West Fork (right) where we have 20 square miles of sand mines between 59 and 45.
Forest Cove Drive just north of West Fork
Lake Point Drive in North Shore
Contractors are expanding the permanent detention basin at the new Kingwood Middle School.

It looks like we’re beginning to see the outlines of a football field and running track at KMS. That’s the one bright spot in all of these bleak shots. And to think, a few months ago, we were worried about drought.

“Plays Well With Others”

Remember that box on kindergarten report cards – “Plays Well with Others”? These last few photos dramatize the need for developers and their contractors to play by the rules. Most do. But some don’t. These last few shots show how to make a bad situation worse.

New Royal Pines development draining into storm sewer. Note water pouring over storm fence and directly into drain without filtration. A big no no. Violates stormwater regulations and could plug up storm sewers eventually.
NW corner of Royal Pines floods neighbor in upper right. They installed silt fence last week. But unchecked runoff pushed it over the fence. See photo below.

Contractors sloped the land toward a neighbor’s property and have yet to build detention ponds. They have flooded the neighbor four times now in two months and have not done anything to correct the problem…at least nothing that has worked.

Same area but about several hours earlier. Weight of water pushed over silt fence.
Eastern portion of Royal Pines doesn’t even have silt fence between it and White Oak Creek.
Another part of Royal Pines eastern perimeter. More erosion heading toward White Oak Creek and the East Fork.
Preserve at Woodridge Detention basin is supposed to be grass lined, but instead is pouring silt into a tributary of Bens Branch which HCFCD just cleaned out.

Ain’t Over Yet

January, February and March are normally our three driest months. But not this year. It looks like we will get 2-3X the normal monthly total.

National Weather Service Climate Data for Houston

Ten to 11 inches in 7 days qualifies as a five-year rainfall by Atlas-14 standards.

NOAA Precipitation frequency estimates

And more rain is on the way. NWS predicts heavy rain arriving from the north on Wednesday. They also warn of flash flooding.

Share Your Flood Pics with the Community

If you have pictures of flooding that you would like to share, please use the Submissions Page of this website. Make sure to include the time, date, and location of the photo and how you would like the credit line to read.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/30/2023

1980 Days since Hurricane Harvey