Tag Archive for: bond meeting

Backward, Bait-And-Switch Bond Meeting a Bust

Those few who attended a meeting at the Humble Civic Center on October 3, 2022, hoping to get more details about the proposed new Harris County bond offerings were sorely disappointed. County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis are asking voters to approve $1.2 billion in bonds before the three have identified projects totaling $1.2 billion. The lack of defined projects and the lack of language in the bond that would guarantee a fair distribution of money should have all voters on high alert.

Bait and Switch?

I got the distinct impression voters are being set up for a bait-and-switch.

This reminds me of when Ellis bragged openly in Commissioners Court about how he tricked voters in the flood-bond election by redefining “equitable distribution of funds” after the vote. I just don’t trust these three.

Something Ain’t Right Here

My first tip-off that this meeting would be a bust was the nearly empty parking lot when my wife and I arrived five minutes before the start time. Clearly, the county had not advertised the meeting widely. Once inside, I noticed more strangeness.

  • Many of the displays sat behind tables – too far away to see any detail.
  • I found no one at the tables who would answer questions.
  • Staff outnumbered residents.
  • During most of the meeting, only three or four visitors at a time wandered through the cavernous space. I counted seven residents briefly at the high point.
  • Translators outnumbered residents most of the time.
  • I didn’t see one person entering suggestions at a table with a dozen laptops for that purpose during the hour I was there.
  • No one could produce a copy of the bond language. One staff member said it was “on the bond website.” I visited the site as we talked; it wasn’t. And still isn’t.

Equity, Lop-sided Spending, Minimum Distributions, Maintenance Not Disclosed in Bond Language

The bond language is, however, now posted on a sample ballot at HarrisVotes.org, the election administrator’s website.

See the jpeg below. It’s notable for what it doesn’t include. The bond language mentions nothing about “equity”, the lop-sided spending proposed by Hidalgo, or a minimum per precinct. Nor does it mention maintenance.

Three sentences of explanation contain no detail about where the $1.2 billion would be spent.

Nothing in the language would prevent Democrats from spending ALL the money in their own precincts.

If re-elected, they could change their minds about a minimum at any time, and blow it all on maintenance.

Compound Interest on Maintenance Expenses?

Let’s discuss maintenance. The official ballot language makes no mention of it. However, the bond website does.

Keyframe for YouTube video on bond website promotes spending $100 million for maintenance.

So does the motion approved by the three in commissioners court (see pages 3 and 4). The omission of maintenance in the ballot language is intentional.

That maintenance money would be paid back over 30 years WITH INTEREST. So fixing that pothole could easily cost 7X the out-of-pocket costs at today’s interest rates.

This is how $100 million worth of work turns into $700 million in debt.

And that’s why most bonds discourage spending money on maintenance.

Maintenance should be handled out of current income, not long-term debt. But Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia propose borrowing to pay for it. And that’s just a bad idea. The potholes they fix now will need to be refilled a dozen more times before the bond is paid off. Who will pay for those repairs? And how?

Misleading Project Sheets

The meeting handouts, bond, and bond website discuss spending CATEGORIES. But they still do not mention one actual proposed project within any category – the main criticism of this bond package to date.

The County did have “project sheets” at the display tables. But staff wouldn’t let residents take them. I suspect I know why.

If you look closely, you can see that they were labeled “current” or “active” projects. That means the projects shown already had funding. They were NOT candidates for the PROPOSED bond. After lengthy, pointed questioning, a staff member admitted that to me.

Active projects masquerading as proposed projects.

Were such sheets simply displayed to create the appearance of a plan?

The visitors I talked to said they thought the lists contained proposed projects. They didn’t. They only contained examples of projects that could be covered – not those that will be.

Ellis, Garcia and Hidalgo haven’t yet made the effort to define one needed project, though they say the need is critical.

If it’s so critical, how come they can’t cite one example? This is such a contrast to the last bond election!

Free License to Spend Your Money

YES votes would give Hidalgo, Garcia (if both are re-elected) and Ellis a mandate to use your money when and where they want. And that would not include Republican-leaning precincts. One expert on Harris County government bond offerings told me that the lack of public input gives them license to do as they please. The language doesn’t even contain provisions that would force them to spend money within the categories they discuss.

As one finance expert told me today, “This is how Houston got into trouble. Once you get under that mountain of debt, it’s just about impossible to dig your way out,” he said.

Another bonding expert suggested, “A good slogan for this bond would be ‘Just Vote No. No Projects, No Transparency, No New Taxes – No Way!'”

Posted by Bob Rehak on October 7, 2022

1865 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.

Lake Houston Chamber Launches Plea for DDG

The Lake Houston Chamber has launched its latest campaign in a series of flood mitigation efforts. Called the “Plea for DDG,” it is designed to:

  • Help educate residents and business owners about three key proposals that could address the root causes of flooding in the Lake Houston Area
  • Help turn out a crowd at Harris County’s flood bond meeting on July 10, 6 p.m., at Kingwood Park High School.

Purpose of Flood Bond Meeting

The purpose of the flood bond meeting is to solicit input from residents on the things that they believe will best help the largest numbers of people.

DDG: More Detention, Dredging and Gates

DDG stands for more Detention, Dredging and Gates, three proposals that will reduce flooding here.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is NOT addressing this giant sand bar in its dredging project – a big reason why we need to get the County to address additional dredging in its flood bond package. 

Harvey taught us that we had vulnerabilities. We had more water coming downstream than the San Jacinto’s current channel and the Lake Houston Dam could handle in a timely way. We need to fix those problems so residents know that a 1% storm will leave a home above the 100-year flood plain high and dry. Likewise for a 500-year flood. To do that:

Less input. More throughput. Faster output.

It’s simple. Logical. Achievable. And should restore drainage to original design assumptions.

Now we just need to get enough people to show up and request these things at the bond meeting for the county to include them in the bond package.

Drag your friends, relatives and neighbors to this meeting…especially the ones that didn’t flood.

Remind them that the flood affected this entire community. Tell them why more detention, dredging and gates are so important.

Get them to request more dredging, detention and gates from the County. These three measures could help virtually everyone who lives in the area.

DDG: A two step process

We have to make sure we get the right measures into the bond package. Then we have to get people to vote for it.

Right now, nothing is more important to the future of this area.

This bond package will be used to:

  • Pay for capital projects outright
  • Qualify us for federal matching grants that could triple the amount of dollars available to us (beyond the amount voters approve).
  • Free up money in the Flood Control District’s current capital budget so that the Distict can step up maintenance on ditches (which we also desperately need).

So tell everyone you know to “Plea for DDG” – more detention, dredging and gates – at the bond meeting on July 10, 2018, 6-8 p.m., at Kingwood Park High School.

For more information about the Chamber’s campaign, see recoverLakeHouston.com.

Posted 7/2/2018 by Bob Rehak

308 days since Hurricane Harvey