Tag Archive for: Cagle

Flood- and Garcia-Bond Updates

The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) August update to County Commissioners on the progress of the 2018 flood bond shows a continued lopsided distribution of funds in favor of low-to-moderate income (LMI) watersheds. It also showed slowing activity overall.

Separately, the County has posted a new website and scheduled input sessions for Adrian Garcia’s proposed new $1.2 billion bond proposition(s). The dates of input sessions relative to the legislative deadline for bond language make it clear that the bond language will not reflect much voter input.

Lopsided Distribution of Funds Continues for Flood Bond

Five watersheds with a majority of LMI residents have received 39% of all the flood bond spending. LMI is defined as “below median income for the region.” Brays, Greens, White Oak, Halls and Hunting watersheds received a total of $430.4 million – an average of $86 million each. Together, the other 18 watersheds received $443.5 million – an average of $24.6 million each. Countywide projects received the rest – $217 million.

Page 9 from the August Flood Bond Update.
Data transferred from map above and arranged by total spending per watershed.

I’ve said it before. Facts do not support the political narrative that affluent watersheds get all the funding. To see what the funding in those five LMI watersheds helped buy, see the photos in these posts.

Flood-Bond Progress Appears to Slow

During the month, HCFCD:

  • Awarded only one new construction contract valued at $1 million.
  • Awarded three new agreements with other contractors but spent $0 with them.
  • Completed 19 buyouts compared to 21 the previous month.
  • Spent $2.4 million on buyouts compared to $6.6 million the previous month.

The total value of active capital improvement construction projects fell to $225.8 million from $231.9 million in July and $235.6 million in June. Out of that, the Lake Houston Area still only has $2,000 or 0.0009% of the total. Although that should improve in the future, it could also worsen, depending on election outcomes in November.

Page 12 from full update.

Total reported bond spending increased to $1.1 billion, up from $1.06 billion the previous month, an increase (with rounding) of slightly more than $40 million.

Overall progress of the bond program? 23.5% complete – four years into a 10-year program.

However, HCFCD believes it is only slightly behind schedule. The District’s key performance indicators stayed steady at .97 percent.

Major-Maintenance Flood-Bond Spending Holds Steady, but Still Lopsided

Major maintenance projects held fairly steady. HCFCD spent $78.4 million in August compared to $78.8 million in July. But there’s only one maintenance project in the entire northeastern section of the county – some drainage system repairs in the Jackson Bayou watershed with an unspecified value. It’s unspecified because the report lumps it together with two projects in the Halls Bayou watershed. The total for all three is about $1 million. Assuming each project got one third of that million, the entire northeastern section of the county received 0.42% of all the maintenance spending from the bond last month.

Active maintenance projects reported on page 11 of full report.

The largest group of maintenance projects is along Cypress Creek and its tributaries. There are 14 projects valued at $48.1 million. That’s 61.4% of the major-maintenance total.

Input Sessions for Garcia-Bond

Separately, Adrian Garcia has proposed another $1.2 billion bond – even though hundreds of millions remain from the 2015 bond. Unlike the 2018 Flood Bond, which specified projects in each watershed so people knew what they were supposedly getting, Garcia’s bond contains only three high-level categories split up into Propositions A, B, and C. They include:

  • A) Public safety: $100 million
  • B) Transportation: $900 million
  • C) Parks and Trails: $200 million

That’s right. Garcia wants to spend twice as much on hike-and-bike trails as public safety.

The county will hold four open houses in each of the four precincts during the next five weeks. It will also hold four virtual open houses. For a complete schedule, see HarrisCounty2022Bond.org.

The one input session in the northeastern section of Precinct 3 will be at the Humble Civic Center at 6PM on October 4th. Neither Kingwood, Huffman, Atascocita, nor Crosby will have its own input session.

Bond Language Will Not Reflect Voter Input

The county must post bond language by September 30 at the latest. But the input sessions run until October 20th. Early voting starts on October 24. And Election Day is November 8. So the bond language will not reflect much voter input. Neither the county, nor media, will have much time to digest voter input. It’s pure political theater.

The bond website simply says that “Input will be shared with Harris County Precinct staff as they make decisions regarding future projects.”


The bond website provides absolutely no detail about SPECIFIC PROJECTS or WHERE projects would be – despite promises made by the County Administrator to Commissioners Court.

In contrast, my records show that Harris County Flood Control under Judge Ed Emmett posted a comprehensive list of projects almost two full months before the Flood Bond Referendum in 2018.

Equity and Political Leaning Will Guide Distribution of Garcia-Bond Funds

Commissioners Ramsey and Cagle argued for months to delay the bond referendum until details could be nailed down, but Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis refused.

During debate in Commissioners Court, it became clear that Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis intend to use “equity principles” to divvy up the money, not just to prioritize the start date of projects as they did with the 2018 flood bond. Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis even passed a motion that would give Democratic-leaning Precincts about 40% more money than Republican-leaning Precincts. For instance, Precinct 3 would be guaranteed only $220 million. That’s 18% of the total even though P3 has 47% of the county’s unincorporated area to maintain, improve and patrol.

Why Trust in Government is Eroding

During debate, Rodney Ellis even bragged about how he redefined “equitable distribution of funds” in the 2018 Flood Bond text after the election.

My takeaway: Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis don’t want to be held accountable. They talk transparency, but this is nothing more than a slush fund. And this is why trust in government is eroding in my humble opinion.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/20/22

1848 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.

$480 Million Project Brays Complete After 40 Years

May 26, 2022, marked the official completion of a 40-year, $480-million flood-mitigation project in the Brays Bayou Watershed. Project Brays was the largest project in Harris County Flood Control District’s history. It included:

  • 21 miles of channel modifications
  • Construction of four stormwater detention basins that cover more than 800 acres
  • Reconstruction of 32 bridges
  • Miles of hike and bike trails

Benefits of Project Brays

The Texas Medical Center, one of the major economic engines of the City lies within the Brays watershed. No one at the ceremony promised Brays would never flood again. But they did emphasize how Project Brays reduced flood risk. They also emphasized how that could benefit entire communities, not just individual structures.

The detention basins alone will hold more than 3.5 billion gallons of stormwater. That’s a foot of rain falling across 17 square miles!

According to County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the combination of improvements will reduce flood depth by an average of 2 feet.

The project reduced flood risk for more than 15,000 structures in the Brays Bayou Watershed where 775,000 people live. According to HCFCD statistics, 58% of those residents have low-to-moderate incomes (less than half the average for the region).

Ribbon cutting on Project Brays near Hermann Park

Rare Moment of Bipartisan Appreciation

The theme for the ribbon-cutting ceremony was “partnership” between Federal, State, County and City authorities. More than half a dozen different speakers spread the kudos around. The project could not have happened without the cooperation of all of them and their predecessors.

New Flood Control District Executive Director Dr. Tina Petersen introduced the partners present.

Colonel Timothy Vail of the U.S. Army Corps called the partnerships in this project the “most sophisticated” he has ever seen during a career that has taken him around the world.

Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle emphasized how funding brought to the table by various sources enabled the acceleration of projects.

Houston City Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz said, “We need to stop being divisive and start being decisive.”

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher described how the area’s congressional delegation was able to bring money to the area through the Water Resources Development Act.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner discussed how projects like this can only happen if multiple partners cooperate.

Past Contributors Acknowledged

And Judge Lina Hidalgo gave a nod to the past as well as the present. She thanked past Flood Control District executives, such as Russ Poppe, Matt Zeve and Mike Talbott. They helped start this project and advance it for decades. She also thanked Poppe and Zeve for architecting the flood bond, which reversed “decades of investment that simply was not aggressive enough.”

Hidalgo also stated that regulations were not aggressive enough before the flood bond. For instance, she cited buyouts that took place as part of Project Brays and said that those homes would never have been safe no matter what the partners did to mitigate flooding.

Project Milestones

It’s interesting to see “what happened when” on this project, recognizing that the pace depended on funding – or lack thereof – as Hidalgo acknowledged.

Early 1980s

U.S,. Army Corps of Engineers began the study of Brays Bayou.


Design and engineering began on the Brays Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project.


Construction of the first stormwater detention basin at Arthur Story Park began.


Excavation of Brays Bayou main channel began.


Freshwater Marsh at Mason Park was completed.


Arthur Storey Park and Old Westheimer Stormwater Detention Basin completed.


Eldridge Stormwater Detention Basin completed.


Control Structures at Eldridge, Old Westheimer, and Arthur Storey completed.


Willow Waterhole Stormwater Detention Basin completed.


Channel modifications from Houston Ship Channel to Fondren Road completed.


Final bridge construction projects and overall Project Brays completed.

(Note: since originally posting this story, I learned that minor work remains on three bridges even though the bridges are open to traffic. HCFCD decided to hold the ceremony when it did to avoid hurricane season and because of the impending transfer of Colonel Vail who played a key role in this project.)

A Helicopter Flight Up Brays Bayou Before Completion of Construction

In June of 2021, I flew a helicopter from one end of Brays Bayou to the other, when many of the improvements were still under construction. See the photos below.

Brays Bayou
Brays Bayou at the ship channel.
Brays Bayou Bridge
Railroad bridge being upgraded near Tipps Street.
New Bridge over Brays at South 75th. Widening of a channel may require a new bridge OR the widening of supports under the bridge.
288 and Brays. Bridge construction on Almeda.
288 and BraysBridge construction on Almeda.
Looking NE toward Med Center and downtown in background across another new bridge over Brays. Note the electrical infrastructure next to the bayou.
Looking NE toward downtown where Fannin St. crosses Brays at UT Health Science Center.
Looking NE toward downtown in background along Main Street. Medical Center is in middle of frame.
Looking north across new bridge over Brays along Buffalo Speedway toward Greenway Plaza in background.
Looking east toward downtown along Brays just inside of Loop 610 at detention pond. Note sewage treatment plant across bayou.
Looking east toward downtown along Brays just inside of Loop 610 at detention pond. Note sewage treatment plant across bayou.
SW Corner of Loop 610 looking toward downtown in upper right.
SW Corner of Loop 610 looking toward downtown in upper right.
Same intersection south of Galleria area. Note complexity where seven streams of traffic intersect.
Same intersection south of Galleria area. Note complexity where seven streams of traffic intersect.
Looking north at new bridge over Brays at Chimney Rock
Looking north at new bridge over Brays at Chimney Rock
Looking WSW across same new bridge at Hillcroft. Note wide spans and wings designed to prevent erosion.
Looking WSW across same new bridge at Hillcroft. Note wide spans and wings designed to prevent erosion.
Looking NNE at Hilcroft and North Braeswood Blvd.
Looking NNE at Hilcroft and North Braeswood Blvd.

Stormwater Detention Basins

Arthur Storey Park at Beltway 8 West and Bellaire Blvd. Looking N toward Westchase District.
 Southern part of same park. Looking NE across BW8 West.
Southern part of same park. Looking NE across BW8 West.
Willow Water Hole
One of the five compartments in the Willow Water Hole Stormwater Detention Basin near S. Post Oak and US 90.
Two northeastern compartments within Willow Water Hole complex on either side of South Post Oak Road.
From page 57 of HCFCD 2019 Federal BriefingNote all of the projects recently funded, completed or under construction.

Projects like Brays don’t happen spontaneously. This took decades of planning and collaboration. So, we should all remember that progress in flood mitigation can sometimes take decades. And that public safety requires reaching across party lines and generations.

For more information, visit www.projectbrays.org.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/26/22

1731 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Former Commissioner Radack Files Second Redistricting Lawsuit; Hidalgo Responds to First

Former Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack filed a redistricting lawsuit on New Years Eve last week. This lawsuit comes hot on the heels of a previous lawsuit by Commissioners Jack Cagle, Tom Ramsey and their supporters. That lawsuit is now in the Texas Supreme Court. Here’s an overview of where both cases stand. The fate of flood mitigation in Harris County could hang in the balance.

File photo from 2021 of Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis whose redistricting plan sparked two lawsuits.

Radack Lawsuit Alleges Lack of Sufficient Public Notice

The Radack lawsuit alleges that County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia passed a redistricting plan without providing sufficient public notice.

Radack claims that constitutes a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). TOMA requires that members of the public must have 72 hours notice of provisions being considered, but the Ellis-3 redistricting plan was posted on the day of the meeting in which it was approved. The public had virtually no advance notice of the plan, and thus, no opportunity to comment on it. People first learned of the plan when Ellis rolled it out in the meeting during which he, Garcia and Hidalgo approved it.

The lawsuit further alleges that:

  • Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia planned the surprise in advance.
  • Their plan makes it impossible for Jack Cagle to get re-elected.
  • It will give Democrats a 4-1 supermajority.
  • Failure to timely post notice of the plan invalidates the vote on it.
  • In violating TOMA, Lina Hidalgo overstepped her authority and therefore does not enjoy governmental immunity.

A supermajority would give Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia the power to shift flood-bond dollars around at will.

Radack filed his lawsuit on December 31st. The county clerk posted it on her website on Monday, January 3rd. The case landed in the 190th Court where Judge Beau Miller presides.

Hidalgo, Ellis and Christian Menafee, the County Attorney, issued public denials on Tuesday’s evening news. However, they have not yet filed a formal response to Radack’s lawsuit with the court.

Hidalgo Files Response to Cagle/Ramsey Suit Pending in Supreme Court

Commissioners Jack Cagle, Tom Ramsey and their supporters filed the first lawsuit. It is currently before the Texas Supreme Court. Their complaint focused on denial of voting rights for more than a million people. Judge Dedra Davis of the 270th District Court dismissed that lawsuit without explanation. The plaintiffs then directly filed for a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs did not have time to go through the normal appeal process.

In that case, Hidalgo filed a 185-page response on December 30th to the plaintiffs’ charges. Hidalgo contends that:

  • The county did not violate voting rights because when you redistrict precincts with staggered terms, voting rights for some will always be delayed but not permanently denied.
  • The court has no way to evaluate whether Harris County went “way beyond” what was necessary to redistrict
  • Plaintiffs took too long to seek relief.

For the full text of Hidalgo’s response, click here.

Plaintiffs in this case also filed a request for an expedited ruling. To affect the next election without delaying it, a ruling would reportedly have to come sometime in January.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 1/5/2022

1590 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Will Redistricting Affect Flood-Mitigation Priorities?

The recent redistricting of Harris County precincts could not have been more disruptive. More than half the county’s residents changed both precincts and commissioners. Can you say, “Tossed Salad”? It will take some time to work this out. In the meantime, “Many are asking how will new precinct boundaries affect flood-mitigation priorities?”

We’ve already seen how Commissioner Adrian Garcia tried to divert flood bond money from an area he was giving up in the redistricting process to one he was inheriting. That got voted down, but…

Priorities Already Altered Multiple Times in Past

We’ve also seen how Democrats re-ordered flood-bond priorities in 2019, shifted money from other budgets to accelerate projects in poor watersheds, and are suggesting another flood bond with new priorities based on so-called racial equity.

Officially, Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) does not allocate flood-bond mitigation money by precinct. They allocate it by watershed and project – with the most money going to the most heavily flood-damaged areas.

But those who watch Commissioners Court regularly know that Commissioners control HCFCD priorities, and no project moves forward without their approval.

Lake Houston Dam Example

All this raises the question, “How will the re-alignment of Commissioner’s precincts re-align flood-mitigation priorities?”

For instance, the Lake Houston Dam was half in Precinct 1 and half in Precinct 2 both controlled by Democrats. But P2 Commissioner Garcia has given that area up. The east side of the dam will now be in Precinct 3 now controlled by Republican Tom Ramsey. Ramsey will now also control virtually all the homes around the lake with the exception of a small area in Summerwood. The flood bond allocated $20 million to help support expansion of the flood gates on Lake Houston (Project CI-028). How solid is that commitment now that Democrats have given up most of the area?

Across the county, from Cypress Creek to Armand Bayou, people have dozens of questions like that about projects affecting them. The answers will take time to sort out.

New High-Resolution Precinct Maps Finally Available

Until a few days ago, the lack of resolution and streets in redistricting maps made it difficult to tell exactly where the new precinct boundaries were.

But just last week, the Harris County Attorney posted a new high-resolution map showing new boundaries. The map also shows major streets and voting precincts (in addition to the county precincts).

The biggest changes happened on the north side of the County where Commissioner Adrian Garcia staged a strategic retreat from Republican voters to bolster his re-election chances. Also, Precincts 3 and 4 switched positions. P3 formerly on the west side of the county is now on the north and east sides. And Precinct 4, formerly on the north and east sides is now mostly on the west and north sides.

The plan, designed and approved by Democrats, will force Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey to run for re-election in areas where they are relatively little known – unless they want to move their residences. Commissioner Rodney Ellis carefully drew district boundaries so that Cagle and Ramsey would no longer live in precincts they once represented. And by law, Commissioners must live in the precinct they represent.

Ramsey and Cagle will now have whole new watersheds to learn.

Watershed Boundaries Not Yet Shown on New Precinct Map

Unfortunately, the new high-res precinct map does not show watershed boundaries, although it shouldn’t be hard to create one – for someone with better Photoshop skills than mine!

At the moment, to see how your watershed could be affected, compare two maps side by side.

The latter shows watershed boundaries if you click on the Watershed button in the left-hand column.

Most of the Lake Houston Area including Huffman, Kingwood, Humble (east of Bush Intercontinental Airport), Atascocita, Crosby and Spring will now be in Precinct 3 with Commissioner Tom Ramsey.

New Precincts adopted by Harris County Commissioners Court in 2021. Click link for high res map.

To learn more about redistricting and your new commissioner, visit the landing pages for Harris County Precinct 3 or Harris County Precinct 4.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/15/2021

1539 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.

Democrats Approve Modified Ellis Redistricting Plan Along Party Lines

In a straight party-line vote, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia approved a modified version of a plan presented weeks ago by Ellis. It contained an even bigger surprise than in Ellis’ original plan. And it takes gerrymandering to a whole new personal level that really strikes home.

The Old Switcheroo

The plan approved on 10/28/2021 creates two safe, predominantly Democratic precincts for Ellis and Garcia while forcing Republicans Cagle and Ramsey to run in each other’s precincts where they are relatively unknown. That will mean Republicans will have to raise and spend more money to compensate for low awareness.

Ellis’ modified plan was posted just hours before today’s special meeting on redistricting. So the public did not really have a chance to review and discuss it. However, that didn’t stop Ellis from bragging about how open and transparent the redistricting process has been.

Clever Gerrymandering of Commissioners’ Homes

County law specifies that precinct commissioners must live in the precincts they represent. Currently Ramsey lives in and represents Precinct 3; Cagle lives in and represents Precinct 4. So Ellis carefully gerrymandered the boundaries of the new Precinct 3 to include Cagle’s home and the new Precinct 4 to include Ramsey’s.

That means both Republicans would have to move their homes in order to represent their current districts.

Hidalgo Calls It Payback for Not Raising Taxes

Judge Lina Hidalgo supported the last minute entry in the redistricting sweepstakes. When Cagle questioned why, she said it was payback for Republican’s walking out and blocking a tax increase earlier this year. A tax increase must be approved by a 4-1 supermajority. So when Cagle and Ramsey walked out of the meeting, Democrats did not have the votes they needed.

The map below will now define the new precinct boundaries. The other major change: Garcia’s Precinct 2 loses the heavily Republican far northeast portion of the county. That will shore up his re-election chances. Last time, he won by just 2,000 votes and his seat was widely regarded as the most vulnerable in this election, given the old precinct boundaries.

The redistricting map adopted today by Harris County. Lines represent old boundaries. Colors represent new boundaries. Ellis switched the numbers 3 and 4.

What This Will Mean

Unless Republicans can win both Precincts 3 and 4, Democrats will have a supermajority after the next election. That would basically give Democrats the power to raise taxes at will. It would also let them override the will of voters. For instance, they could shift flood-bond money between watersheds and cancel flood-bond projects, as they tried to do last Tuesday.

Cities and counties without healthy checks and balances can devolve into blatant political corruption. The next election could determine the tenor of politics in Harris County for decades to come.

The next Harris County election will be the primary in May.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/28/2021

1521 Days after 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.

Last Chance to Ask County Leaders to Help Prevent Elm Grove Flooding

In tomorrow’s Harris County Commissioners’ Court meeting, county leaders will discuss, in executive session, the possibility of purchasing Woodridge Village land from Perry Homes. The idea: to build a large detention basin with sufficient capacity to keep Elm Grove from flooding again.

If you have not yet called or written commissioners and the county judge, please do so. The outcome of this meeting will likely impact home values in the affected and surrounding areas for years to come. Here are points you could mention:

Key Points to Emphasize

  • Elm Grove never flooded before Perry Homes clearcut the area immediately upstream called Woodridge Village.
  • Then Elm Grove flooded twice in five months, on May 7th and September 19th, 2019. Approximately two hundred homes flooded in May. Two or three times that number flooded in September.
  • The flooding was not due to normal street flooding or overflow from Taylor Gully. Overland sheet flow from Woodridge Village caused it.
  • Clearcutting increased the amount and rate of runoff in both storms so that it accumulated at the county line culvert quickly and overflowed into Elm Grove streets.
  • Perry funneled the water toward the areas that flooded.
  • Perry bought the land in January of 2018. After two years and three months, they still have only constructed 23% of the promised detention pond capacity.
  • Even that capacity is undersized by approximately 40% because Perry contractors used pre-Atlas 14 rainfall statistics in their computer modeling.
  • The water table is much higher than Perry anticipated. Their 15-foot deep detention basin is constantly about one-third filled with water, reducing detention capacity even more.
  • About a quarter to a third of the site was previously wetlands. Standing water there has not evaporated for months.
  • This land will probably never be safe for homebuilding.
  • If Harris County doesn’t buy it and convert it into a detention basin, Elm Grove is likely to flood again.
  • The recurrent flooding and uncertainty have caused many families to flee the affected area already. Homes are selling for 50 cents on the dollar. Many homes remain vacant and rotting. Many who are left can’t afford to move.
  • It’s becoming a public-health and mental-health issue at this point. People are reluctant to repair their homes until they are certain of mitigation that has a chance to succeed.


  • Be positive. Harris County didn’t cause this problem.
  • Don’t flame. Honey attracts more bees than vinegar.
  • Don’t demand. They have many problems to solve.
  • Specify that this relates to Item IV on the agenda for 4/07/20. It relates to a request by Commissioner Cagle to discuss the purchase of real property in the Elm Grove area needed for flood control purposes.

Of the four other votes on the Court, Cagle needs commitments from two to make this happen. Steve Radack, Precinct 3 Commissioner; Lina Hidalgo, County Judge; and Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2 Commissioner are the most likely supporters.

Who/How to Contact

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo 
  • Phone: 713-274-7000 or (713) 755-8379  
  • Email: judge.hidalgo@cjo.hctx.net 
Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2 
  • Phone: 713-755-6220 or 713-274-2222
  • Email via web form.
Commissioner Steve Radack, Precinct 3
  • Phone: (713) 755-6306
  • Email: pct3@pct3.com

Please call or write NOW. The meeting is tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.!

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, you can sign up to speak without actually going downtown.

To see the meeting online, go to https://www.harriscountytx.gov/Government/Court-Agenda/Court-Videos.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/6/2020

951 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 200 since Imelda

Harris County Commissioners Approve Kingwood Drainage Assessment, But Not Without Battle Over Equity

Harris County commissioners approved a Kingwood Drainage Assessment Project Tuesday, but not before a 50-minute discussion of equity that had commissioners shaking fists at each other at one point.

Cagle Versus Ellis with Kingwood in Middle

The battle involved Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. The flashpoint concerned Item 2a14 on the agenda. It read:

The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority and TIRZ #10 wanted to PAY Harris County Flood Control $100,000 to manage and conduct a study of Kingwood drainage capacity. The study would have supplemented a Flood Control District study approved as part of last year’s flood bond. The objective of Item 14: to determine possible improvements to channels and mitigation basins to reduce flooding potential. Click here to read the scope document that Flood Control asked Commissioners to approve.

Illustration showing some of the ditches/streams included in the study including the reach of Taylor Gulley, along which Chris Kalman reported many blockages last week.

Commissioner Ellis invited four “equity coalition” representatives to the meeting. Each gave speeches, using the drainage assessment project as an example to show how poorer parts of the county were being discriminated against. During and after the speakers, Commissioner Cagle, whose Precinct 4 includes Kingwood, got into heated exchanges with Ellis.

The Equity Flap Revisited

The equity flap first surfaced in February. It concerned prioritization of projects in the 2018 bond proposal.

Section 14 (g) of the approved bond language states: “Since flooding issues do not respect jurisdictional or political boundaries, the Commissioners Court shall provide a process for the equitable expenditure of funds, recognizing that project selection may have been affected in the past and may continue to be affected by eligibility requirements for matching Federal, State, and other local government funds.”

Kingwood was among the hardest hit areas in Harris County. As the flood bond language was being finalized, Lake Houston area leaders argued to include language that said all areas would receive their fair share of funds to prevent reverse discrimination. Historically, the Lake Houston area had received no flood mitigation dollars.

Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Report Misrepresented

The following figures and chart are taken from the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium’s April, 2018 report on Hurricane Harvey. Ironically, one of the activists speaking for Ellis used this report to suggest that poorer neighborhoods have suffered historical discrimination. The report does not support her argument relative to Kingwood at least, as the figures below show.

From the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortiums April, 2018 report on Hurricane Harvey

The San Jacinto watershed, says the Consortium, contains 3% of the region’s population, gets 0% of the mitigation budget, and had 14% of the region’s damages.

Contrast that with Sims Bayou and Braes Bayou, both of which run through Commissioner Ellis’ Precinct 1. Those watersheds have 20% of the region’s population, get 42% of the mitigation budget, and had about 20% of the damages.

The Flood Control District’s own Federal report from March of 2018, shows a map of Harris County with Federal partnership projects everywhere … except the Lake Houston area.

Of the three other speakers, one evidently did not think Kingwood had apartments. Another complained that his community was still recovering (as if we weren’t).

So much for equity! The fact-defying arguments of Mr. Ellis and his surrogates do no one any good; they serve only to drive wedges between people who should be working together to triage a battlefield.

See the Video for Yourself: Blow by Blow

To see the video of the meeting, go to this Commissioner’s Court page, select Item 1, Part 2 of 2 from the menu, then fast forward to 30 minutes. That’s where this discussion starts with the first speaker. If you don’t have an hour, see these other key time markers:

  • 34 minutes: In response to the first speaker, Cagle and Ellis debate who has really gotten the lion’s share of spending.
  • 38 minutes: The second activist begins talking.
  • 42 minutes: Another activist complains that his community still has not recovered and therefore should go first.
  • 48 minutes: A fourth activist quotes the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium Harvey report. She overlooks the fact that Kingwood is part of the San Jacinto Watershed, which historically has received ZERO mitigation dollars.
  • 51 minutes: She complains that by counting structures, not people, the government discriminates against neighborhoods with multi-family housing. She ignores the fact that at least five major apartment complexes flooded in Kingwood.
  • 1:04:40: Commissioner Cagle complains to Ellis that the discussion is rubbing him raw.
  • 1:06:00: Cagle and Ellis shake fists at each other and nearly come out of their chairs.
  • 1:25:00: Discussion wraps up on this agenda item and the meeting then moves on.

Motion Finally Passed, Next Steps

Luckily and thankfully, when it came time to vote on the measure, it passed.

Matt Zeve, Deputy Executive Director of Harris County Flood Control, said of the plan approved today, “This is not the full scope of the project, just what HCFCD and the TIRZ are partnering on. The full scope will be determined once we have a consultant selected.”

Zeve continued. “The project will involve developing detailed hydrologic and hydraulic models to determine the current “drainage level of service” on open channels in the Kingwood area. Once those are determined, alternatives will be developed to increase the level of service for channels deemed to be undersized.”

“These alternatives,” concluded Zeve, “will be shared with the public in a community meeting. Final recommendations for future projects will be provided. Once Commissioners Court approves the final report, preliminary engineering for the recommended alternatives will begin.”

Zeve expects the assessment work to begin before the end of the summer.

Need for Vigilance and Balance

Today’s meeting underscores the fact that the Equity Flap has not gone away. Lake Houston area residents need to remain vigilant and fight for our fair share of dollars as this and every Lake Houston area project moves forward. We need several Kingwood residents to speak at the next commissioners court meeting to provide balance.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/04/2019

644 Days since Hurricane Harvey