Tag Archive for: Mealer

Last Chance

Harris County is electing a new County Judge this year. For the Lake Houston Area, it’s arguably the most important race on the ballot. It represents a chance to win a majority on Commissioners Court sensitive to the Lake Houston Area’s needs. We’ve been de-prioritized for four years. Tomorrow, November 8th, is your last chance to change that. It’s Election Day.

Why This Race is So Important

I don’t want to downplay the importance of other races. But this particular race is about your quality of life. Getting your fair share of flood-mitigation funding. Keeping your tax bill stable. Restoring public safety. Rebuilding competence in local government. And increasing transparency.

Turnout in Early Voting was Dismal

County wide, only 750,000 out of 2.5 million registered voters voted. That’s 30%. After 12 days!

Kingwood had 18,872 early voters out of 44,000 registered. That’s 43%. A little better.

But four years ago, 63% of all ballots were cast during the early-voting period. So turnout on Election Day will be critical this year.

The number of people who have not yet voted in the Lake Houston Area have the power to swing this election. By all accounts, it will be close.

Overview of Candidates: Problems Vs. Potential

The two candidates are incumbent Lina Hidalgo and challenger Alexandra del Moral Mealer.

Hidalgo (D), left; Mealer (R), right

Let’s look at their respective records.

Hidalgo’s only real-world job experience before assuming the helm of a 16,000-employee organization was reportedly as a medical interpreter. Her rookie errors were predictable. I’ll detail them below.

Mealer is also a newcomer to politics, but comes to the job with vastly more real-world experience. She:

  • Graduated from West Point
  • Was a Captain in the Army
  • Commanded a bomb squad in Afghanistan for a decade
  • Obtained MBA and JD degrees from Harvard
  • Put together billion-dollar deals in the oil-and-gas sector as a VP for one of the nation’s largest banks.

More About Hidalgo’s Record

Hidalgo had no management experience when elected. And it showed. Under Hidalgo, the County’s budget increased along with employment. She created six new departments. Hired thousands of new employees. And paid for the largesse by drawing down the county’s reserve funds.

She also replaced the heads of 19 departments. One department had three leadership changes under Hidalgo. And four had at least two. Some departments, such as Engineering, have lost 4-5 layers of management. Whole capabilities, such as disaster relief, were wiped out. And every group head in the IT Department (Universal Services) left.

Political credentials became more important in hiring decisions than professional competence. Knowledgeable, capable employees left county employment in droves. Some are still there. But it’s reportedly getting harder and harder for them to keep things running.

One Misstep after Another

I’ve learned to judge Judge Hidalgo by her actions, not her words.

She talks about serving the entire county, but I’ve only seen her break ranks with her Democratic Commissioners twice in four years. In fairness, there may have been more times. But it’s hard to sit through meetings that have lasted up to 16 hours. Robert’s Rules of Order are not her strong suit.

Much to her discredit, Hidalgo led efforts to:

Destroying Trust in Government

But Hidalgo’s greatest sin, in my opinion, is that she destroyed trust in county government by misleading people. For instance, she:

  • Tried to minimize the impact of a tax rate increase without projecting the impact on a family’s tax bill, given large increases in valuations during her tenure.
  • Argued for “worst first” in flood mitigation. But her definition has nothing to do with depth of flooding, deaths, loss of critical infrastructure, or the percentage of damaged homes and businesses in a community.
  • Redefined “equitable” distribution of funds in voter-approved flood-bond language, so that equitable has nothing to do with the dictionary definition.
  • Says she can’t rely on partner funding for flood-mitigation projects, when she has had $750 million in HUD funding sitting on the table for 17 months. Her Community Services Department (which changed leadership three times under Hidalgo) still hasn’t submitted one project for approval to the GLO or HUD. The $750 million could fully fund every project in the flood bond.
  • Trumpets her transparency, but routinely fails to provide backup for tens of millions of dollars in spending and hasn’t defined one project for proposed bonds totaling $1.2 billion on the ballot.
  • Says she values community input but has never attended a Community Resilience Flood Task Force meeting.

As far as I can tell, after four years, Hidalgo still has not figured out how to run Harris County. She’s just a bad manager. She came to the job with no experience and has not learned along the way.

More about Alexandra del Moral Mealer

Mealer has actual leadership and job experience. Her military and business background is far more qualifying than Hidalgo’s. Mealer has Harvard MBA and JD degrees, and years of experience as a VP of a bank that has almost two trillion dollars in assets. She’s more equipped with the skill sets needed to be a county judge than Hidalgo ever was.

Mealer also has a laser focus on the things that matter to people at the county level: Crime. Courts. Jails. Flooding. Roads. Budgets. Taxes. She refuses to get bogged down in national issues that she has no control over.

She has a conservative fiscal stance on how to spend OUR money. And it doesn’t involve creating jobs for political cronies through a vast expansion of the bureaucracy.

Virtually every law enforcement agency in the county has backed Mealer’s plan for addressing crime.

She hopes to lower or maintain taxes and tax rates by eliminating wasteful spending.

Finally, having met and talked to Mealer at length several times, I believe she cares about all areas of Harris County regardless of their economic status. Said another way, I think she would treat all people and neighborhoods fairly. Mealer has integrity.

November 8th – Your Last Chance

Tomorrow is your last chance to make a change if you want one. If you’re happy with having the deepest flooding in Harris County and seeing flood-mitigation funding go elsewhere, then by all means, vote for Hidalgo. If you’re happy with soaring crime and revolving-door jails, vote for Hidalgo. But if you want to change that, vote for Mealer.

Their race is far down the ballot, buried between family court and criminal court judges. Here’s how to see a sample ballot. And here’s how to find your polling place.

Please forward this link to all of your friends, neighbors and family members…and VOTE! Remember, tomorrow is your last chance for change.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/7/22

1896 Days since Hurricane Harvey

So Far, Early Voting Turnout Dismal

Early voting turnout this year rates a D for “dismal.” At the close of polls on Wednesday 11/2/22, only 566,006 of the 2.57 million registered voters in Harris County had voted. That’s 22% with just Thursday and Friday left for early voting. By comparison, during the 2018 mid-terms (the last comparable election), 63% of Harris County voters voted early. With two days left in early voting, we can make up some ground, but not that much.

Kingwood Slightly Better than Rest of Harris County

The nightly totals show that the Kingwood Community Center has had the fourth highest turnout in Harris County so far this year.

Yet Kingwood has had only 14,000 residents vote out of the 44,000 registered in 77339 and 77345. That’s 31.8 percent so far, and much better than this year’s county-wide average of 22%. However, Kingwood’s 31.8% is still only half of the county’s 63% early-voting rate in the 2018 mid-terms.

Total 2018 Turnout Doubled Countywide Turnout to Date

During all 13 days of voting in the 2018 mid-terms (early and Election Day), 1,219,871 voted compared to 566,006 so far this year. So, 2018 turnout more than doubled turnout to date in this election.

To equal 2018 turnout, we need as many people to vote in the three days left as have already voted in the last ten!

And don’t think we’ll make it all up on Election Day. In the last mid-term, almost 63% of those who voted voted early.

So far this year, we’re about 250,000 votes short of 2018 early-voting totals. We only have two days of early voting left and the County is averaging a little more than 50,000 votes per day so far. So, even if we get another 100,000 in the last two days, we’ll still be about 150,000 early votes short of 2018.

To put that in perspective, Ed Emmett lost to Lina Hidalgo in 2018 by 20,000 votes county wide. And 30,000 people have yet to vote in Kingwood alone.

And that doesn’t even include Huffman, Spring, Humble, Atascocita, or Crosby.

A Chance to Regain Fairness on Commissioners Court

If you vote in one race in this election, vote for Republican Alexandra Mealer instead of Lina Hidalgo. Mealer offers a chance to get better balance on Commissioners Court and some measure of fairness in flood-mitigation expenditures. Right now, Democrats have a 3-2 majority and consistently vote as a block in favor of their own constituents.

Since Harvey, Harris County has spent $1.6 billion on flood mitigation projects. As of today, Harris County Flood Control District shows $234 million in capital improvement construction projects underway. NOT ONE is in the Lake Houston Area. Of the 20 active projects, 18 have gone to Democrat Commissioners Garcia and Ellis. The two Republican-leaning precincts have one each.

Screen capture from HCFCD.

Yet we had the highest flooding in the county during Harvey.

worst first
Chart showing feet above flood stage of 33 gages of misc. bayous in Harris County during Harvey.

And we’ve been one of the most heavily flood-damaged areas in Harris County dating back more than 40 years.

From MAAPnext.org. Cumulative flood losses since 1979.

Yet under Hidalgo all the money goes elsewhere in the name of “worst first.”

To All Who Flooded – Three More Days Left

Ten days of voting are behind us. Three are left: the rest of today, Friday and next Tuesday.

Get out the vote, folks! Walk your block. Knock on doors. Forward this link to everyone you know. And remember this dismal turnout the next time you flood. This election is the best chance you have to reduce flood risk to your family and property.

The Mealer/Hidalgo County Judge race is buried halfway down the ballot in the middle of judicial races – between family and civil court judges.

While you’re at it, remember the three county bond issues totaling $1.2 billion also on the ballot. And remember that the Dems already voted to distribute this money unequally, favoring Precincts One and Two by a wide margin. But you won’t see that on the ballot language. So much for transparency!

To find your sample ballot and the nearest voting location, go to HarrisVotes.com.

Yes, you will have to wait in line. But while you’re waiting, remember how long you’ve waited for flood mitigation help that has yet to arrive!

Looking east from the south side of the West Fork of the San Jacinto during Harvey

Posted on Bob Rehak on 11/3/22

1892 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.

County Approves Another $15 Million for Flood Mitigation in Precincts 1, 2

On October 25, 2022, the three Democrats on Harris County Commissioners Court approved the expenditure of another $15 million from the Flood Resilience Trust. All the money will be spent to avoid delays on flood mitigation projects in Precincts 1 and 2.

This follows an approval on June 28 to spend $85 million on 16 projects. Two thirds of the benefit for those also went to Precincts 1 and 2.

Not one of the 20 projects approved to date is in the San Jacinto Watershed.

Where the Money Went

Of the four flood-mitigation projects approved for trust funding in October, three were in the Halls Bayou Watershed and one was in Sims.

In June, commissioners approved 16 other projects:

  • One in the Armand Bayou watershed
  • One in Brays
  • Two in White Oak
  • Three in Halls
  • Four in Greens
  • Four in Cypress and Little Cypress Creeks
  • One in Buffalo Bayou

Of the 16 projects, 14 benefited Precincts 1 and 2, but only 7 benefited Precincts 3 or 4. The totals for “projects” and “areas benefited” do not equal because sometimes benefits cross precinct boundaries.

Looking at both groups of expenditures, 20 benefited Precincts 1 and 2, while only 7 benefited Precincts 3 or 4. So about one quarter of the flood mitigation benefit has gone to the Republican-leaning half of the county.

Purpose of the Trust

The Flood Resilience Trust Fund was originally conceived to facilitate:

  • Acceptance of a grant that requires a local match exceeding secured local funds
  • Awarding construction projects that exceed the amount of secured funds
  • A change in contract for a construction project underway that exceeds the amount of secured funds

In all of the most recent cases, the expenditures avoided delays for projects already underway. In each, partnership funds did not materialize as expected. See below.

See high-res PDF of full report here.

The $100 million dollars in Trust Fund expenditures approved to date leaves a balance of only $28 million in the fund. So…

78% of the money is gone in just four months. And the Lake Houston Area hasn’t seen a penny of it. Meanwhile, multiple projects in the San Jacinto Watershed struggle to get in gear.

To see the full report on June projects, click here.

For the full October report, click here.

Fix This Discrimination

Polls are open from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. Monday through Friday this week for early voting. Election Day is on November 8. It’s a long ballot. Make sure you vote all the way to the end, because several key races/proposals are hidden in the middle of all the judicial races. For instance, the race between Lina Hidalgo and Alexandra Mealer for County Judge comes after family court judges on the ballot.

All registered voters in Harris County may vote for County Judge. A heavy turnout in this area could swing the election. It’s close. As of this morning, however, fewer than 10,000 people in Kingwood have voted.

Also, Precincts 2 and 4 will elect Commissioners this year. (The Lake Houston Area is now in Precinct 3 and won’t vote for commissioner until 2024.)

There are also three county bond proposals on the ballot totaling $1.2 billion being pushed by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Despite promises made by the County Administrator months ago, none has a defined project yet, so if you approve the Garcia Bonds, you’re writing a blank check.

Also, the three Democrats on Commissioners Court have announced their intention to distribute the $1.2 billion unequally. The two Republican Precincts would get only $220 million each or a total of $440 million. So Republican Precincts would get 36% while Democrat Precincts would get 63%.

That echoes lopsided Flood Resilience Trust and 2018 Flood Bond spending to date. Don’t miss your chance to bring fiscal control and balance back to Commissioners Court. And some flood-mitigation benefits to the Lake Houston Area.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/31/22

1889 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Chronicle, ReduceFlooding endorse Mealer over Hidalgo

The Houston Chronicle has endorsed Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer for County Judge over incumbent Democrat Lina Hidalgo. I won’t recap the lengthy Chronicle article here; you should read it firsthand. But I will expand on it, especially vis-a-vis flood control, which the Chronicle touched only lightly.

Let me start by saying that after watching four year’s of Hidalgo’s missteps in flood mitigation, I support Mealer, too. It comes down to concerns about Hidalgo and the promise I see in Mealer. Let’s discuss Hidalgo first.

Hidalgo Slights Area With Worst Flooding

The person in the driver’s seat has a huge influence on where flood-mitigation money goes. And more than half of all flood-bond money spent to date has gone to Brays, Greens, White Oak, Halls, and Hunting Bayous. Those five have received more than $550 million from the flood bond through May. That’s more than half of all bond money. See below.

Flood Bond Spending through May 2022. Data obtained from HCFCD via a FOIA Request.

Here’s how that looks in a graph. Keep in mind that the San Jacinto watershed is the largest in the county.

The San Jacinto also had the highest flooding in the county during Harvey – more than 20 feet above flood stage.

worst first
Chart showing feet above flood stage at 33 gages on misc. bayous in Harris County during Harvey, including the 5 LMI watersheds listed above.

And as a result, the San Jacinto was among the most heavily damaged.

Flood-loss heat map during Harvey. From MAAPnext.org.

So, you would think this would get Judge Hidalgo’s attention. Instead, she brags about her equity prioritization framework. She claims it gives preference to the “worst first.” The only thing is, she doesn’t define “worst” the way most people would. She ignores severity of flooding and damaged structures.

Hidalgo’s Definition of Worst

Hidalgo’s formula measures Low-to-Moderate Income (LMI) residents, the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index, and population in an area. But many of those densely populated neighborhoods are crowded with apartments. So …

People who live above ground level and don’t flood get prioritized over people who live at ground level and do flood.

But Hidalgo can’t even tell how many residents in a watershed live with different degrees of flood risk. So, Hidalgo’s “worst first” mantra is clever but misleading. It intends to deceive.

While rewarding her core constituents with mitigation projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the entire Lake Houston Area has only $2,000 of capital-improvement flood-bond construction projects underway.

Compare that to the half billion dollars you saw above. She’s proud of that disparity. Watch the video interview embedded in the Chronicle article.

Meltdown at Universal Services

Flood-control spending is just one of the county’s “disaster areas.” Consider the County’s IT department, Universal Services, which is in meltdown. The reason you see five-month-old data above is that the county has gone through a disastrous change in its IT systems.

The department has been dogged by incompetence since Hidalgo appointed Rick Noriega to take over. He has no IT background and has pushed out people who do. The managers of every group beneath him have turned over.

Employees complain Universal Services now hires new people for their political affiliation, not professional qualifications.

The incompetence is widespread, according to multiple sources. Things have gotten so bad that many qualified staff are burning out from having to shoulder more and more of the workload. And they are quitting.

As a result, accurate, timely information is rare. And yet, Hidalgo keeps bragging about “transparency.”

Lacking Leadership, Direction on $750 Million Flood-Mitigation Allocation

Universal Services is not alone. See the org chart below.

Changes under Hidalgo. Red X’s represent changes in leadership. Green boxes represent new departments.

The Community Services Department has had three different leadership changes under Hidalgo.

So whom did she choose to develop a plan for spending $750 million in Harvey flood-mitigation funds? Community Services, not Flood Control!

Community Services may be knowledgeable about disaster relief. That’s about helping individuals recover from past floods. But flood mitigation is about lessening the severity of future floods. One requires social workers; the other requires engineers, like they have in Harris County Flood Control.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) administers those flood-mitigation funds for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The GLO signaled its intention to allocate $750 million to Harris County on August 23, 2021, but Community Services hasn’t even started compiling a list of potential projects yet.

They are still waiting on “direction from leadership,” according to an internal memo obtained by ReduceFlooding. In 14 months, Community Services has only defined a “process” for determining the list.

Community Services has, however, determined that it wants to spend almost a hundred million of the $750 million on planning and administrative costs.

From CSD Planning Meeting Presentation for the $750 million.

Meanwhile, H-GAC which covers a much larger area and includes many more governmental entities received notification of a $488 million allocation – also on 8/23/21. Yet H-GAC has already submitted its project list, received approval, and is working with sub-recipients to secure and validate bids.

Brain Drain Continues

Some of the departments shown above have been gutted. For instance, Engineering lost 4-5 layers of management. They don’t even have a disaster relief capability anymore.

Also, their “Fix Flooding First” program lost its leader and has reported no progress in months. Fix Flooding First was especially important to people on the periphery of the county. Its objective was to get neighboring areas that drain into Harris County to adopt minimum drainage standards.

What you see in the org chart above is the wholesale replacement of highly credentialed professionals by political cronies. And often, the cronies have no experience or qualifications.

Many managers under Hidalgo have described the environment as “chaotic.”

And then there’s Elections Administration. Hidalgo hired a political activist who had never run an election. She missed key deadlines and lost 10,000 votes. So, Hidalgo replaced her … just weeks before early voting starts for the upcoming election.

Management Mayhem Under Hidalgo

In my opinion, Hidalgo’s biggest problem is that she’s just a bad manager. She:

  • Doesn’t attract and retain top talent
  • Pushes out those who disagree
  • Hires people based on political affiliation, not qualifications
  • Doesn’t value experience and institutional knowledge
  • Blatantly discriminates against Republican-leaning precincts.

Hidalgo repeatedly says that she’s proud of what most would consider screw-ups.

Hidalgo never “owns” her problems. She just waves them away. In my opinion, another four years of Hidalgo would leave the county in disastrous and unrecoverable shape.

County spending is up. Crime is up. Taxes are up. And virtually all the flood-mitigation money promised to the Lake Houston Area has so far gone elsewhere.

About Alexandra del Moral Mealer

Mealer comes to the job with much more life and leadership experience than Hidalgo did. She has a way of confronting the truth head on.

You would expect that from a West-Point-educated Army Captain who commanded a bomb squad in Afghanistan. Mealer understands:

  • The necessity of accurate intel
  • That peoples’ lives and livelihoods depend on the decisions she makes.
Alex Mealer
Alex Mealer spent days touring the Lake Houston area to understand local flooding issues first hand. Hidalgo has not.

Mealer also has MBA and JD degrees from Harvard. She was a VP at Wells Fargo where she helped put together billion-dollar oil-and-gas deals before deciding to run for County Judge. In flooding as with law enforcement…

Mealer’s focus is making sure the county spends money wisely.

Straight Talk Vs. the Flood-Control Fairy Tale

Before this campaign, Mealer acquired a wealth of knowledge about how the county works. And she has surrounded herself with experts on various subjects.

The Chronicle described her as a data wonk. In my opinion, that’s what the county needs: someone grounded in reality. In one commissioner’s court meeting after another, Hidalgo, Garcia and Ellis, have spun a flood-control fairly tale.

It goes something like this. “Flood control has ignored poor neighborhoods. Rich ones like Kingwood get all the flood-mitigation money.” Why? They point to institutional racism!

If we had a judge who knew where her money was actually going, she could have challenged this myth. The reality is that LMI neighborhoods have consistently received the lion’s share of flood-mitigation funding going back decades.

By ignoring reality and blaming flooding on racism, Hidalgo has divided people. Worse, she has diverted attention AWAY FROM the REAL causes of flooding.

Laser Focus on Results that Benefit All

I have discussed flooding issues with Mealer a dozen times since the primary last spring. In my opinion, she is laser focused on accurately diagnosing problems. National and state issues over which she has no control do not distract Mealer.

Mealer is determined to provide a safe and secure community with well-maintained public infrastructure that support growth and opportunity for all.

Accurately diagnosing problems is the key to fixing them quickly and cost effectively.

I, for one, don’t plan to support Hidalgo. She continually says she needs more money when she doesn’t know where billions of flood-mitigation dollars have gone. Nor does she seem eager to deploy another $750 million already in her hip pocket. I’m voting for Mealer.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/16/22

1874 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.

Interview with Alexandra Mealer, One of Two Candidates in Republican Runoff for Harris County Judge

Alexandra Mealer is one of two candidates in the Republican runoff election for Harris County Judge. Mealer is a West Point graduate who retired from active duty as a Captain after ten years of service in the US and Afghanistan. She returned to graduate school where she earned MBA and JD degrees from Harvard before pursuing a career in energy finance. She worked on billion-dollar mergers, acquisitions, and financing projects for public and private energy companies as a VP for one of the nation’s largest banks.

Flood Bond: A Promise to Taxpayers

Rehak: I’d like to discuss flooding in Harris County and what you would do differently to improve flood control. 

Mealer: The county judge wants to talk about everything but governance. That’s my big takeaway. She isn’t interested in doing the hard work. And that’s showing up. When I’ve been at Commissioners Court, they’ll talk for hours about a football team. 

In Flood control, the flood bond was a promise to taxpayers. We have an obligation to complete those projects. Voters approved just under 200. So, I would ask, “Why isn’t Lina Hidalgo actually attending some of her own flood task force meetings?”

Rehak: That’s a good question.

Mealer toured the Forest Cove Townhomes destroyed during Harvey to get a first-hand feeling for what the Lake Houston area faces.

Mealer’s Priorities

Mealer: One of my highest flood-related priorities is to make sure we’re budgeted to cover maintenance, instead of deferring it. 

After that, a lot of my time will go towards making sure we are getting outside dollars if we’re going to do more mitigation projects. Hopefully they’re going to do this tunnel system. Tunnels alone could cost another $5 billion. But that’s just fixing one area of the county when we’re shifting money from other departments to help pay for current projects.

We know we need a lot more. But Hidalgo isn’t really focusing on the budget. Or spending the time on flood control that it deserves. That’s where I can make a difference. I just got back from Cypress Creek. You need to understand all these different areas because this is probably the most complicated topic of any governance issue the county faces right now. Hidalgo just hasn’t shown the time commitment at that basic level. And there’s no excuse for that. Time is the one thing you CAN control. Instead, she seems to be focusing on patronage jobs.

The best thing about my background is that all these backroom deals disgust me, to be frank. 

Proposed Solutions for Next-Level Flood-Control Funding

Rehak: What solutions would you propose. Your website talks about a bipartisan state delegation and bipartisan federal delegation to help with funding; and establishing a technical task force. And you gave yourself a 90-day timetable to put all that together and get that plan rolling. You also said fixing flooding must be above politics. Regarding the last point, how does your military experience relate? 

Mealer: At the highest levels, military decisions, of course, are political. But the closer you are to boots on the ground, they become more mission driven. 

Rehak: I’m assuming that you would try and keep flood-control priorities on a mission level as opposed to a political level.

Mealer: Yes. I’m very data driven, too. To say “Kingwood gets all the money”…that was unfair. Just look at the dollars! That doesn’t need to be political. You can just look and see where dollars were spent and rebuff that assertion. 

Mealer’s Definition of “Worst First”

Beyond that, I don’t hear anyone saying much of anything except “worst first.” We need define that and go beyond it.

I’m looking at a) the most impacted areas and b) what’s shovel ready. If you told voters you’d do X, that’s your obligation when you’re using their money. And that’s why we need such a strong focus on partner funding. We made promises. And they will require partner funding to fulfill them.

But Lina isn’t upholding those promises. It’d be different if she’d exhausted all options. But there are tons of state delegates and congressional reps that we’ve never even spoken to. I want to hold quarterly meetings with those delegations. And I’ll be the first to compliment anyone who brings home flood-control dollars. We need to throw our weight around until people act on this.

Start blocking and tackling those roadblocks. Don’t just move on when someone gives you bad news.

Improving Upstream/Downstream Cooperation

Rehak: Down by the West Fork San Jacinto, we had some condos swept off their foundations by the 240,000 cubic feet per second coming downstream from outside the county. What can we do to get our neighbors to the north to be more sensitive to the amount of floodwater that they’re sending downstream?

Mealer: We can offer our staff to advise them on regulations and help institute them.

Obviously, they’ll have some builders who won’t want to see higher retention pond requirements. But flooding is not good for economic vitality. 

We need to get all community leaders to recognize that. And be very vocal about it to exert pressure on the outliers. 

We also need ways to catch bad plans and mobilize people downstream before the plans go forward. That’s a problem. Neighbors don’t catch onto them until permits are being pulled and the project is well underway.

Some counties are not living with consequences. It’s easier to send floodwater downstream. And that’s where I think you can use more of governments’ full weight and power. Having good regulations downstream while those upstream get a free pass…that doesn’t work.

“Every Citizen Should Be Terrified when a Politician Says Equity”

Rehak: What are your priorities? Would you fix 500-year flooding in a poor area before two-year flooding in an affluent area? 

Mealer: I’d attack the worst first. And then within that, “Who’s the most shovel ready?”

When I say “worst first,” I mean government should mitigate the most harm for the most people. It’s all based on risk and damage.

Alexandra Mealer

Every citizen should be terrified when a politician says “equity.” You should have clear standards. 

Lina Hidalgo doesn’t really mean “worst first.” She means “worst first plus equity.” But equity means whatever she wants it to mean today. It’s changed three or four times already.

Rehak: Does worst mean “when the poorest area floods” or does it mean “areas that had the most damaged structures”?

Mealer: Damage. But even that’s not clear because somebody who floods every two years should be higher on the priority list than someone in the 500-year floodplain who would only flood in a mega-storm.

Getting It Done Faster

We’re confined by what voters approved. All flood-bond projects are underway. We need to keep pushing the ball forward where and when we can. I would not hold money up for a project that won’t move forward for six months if there’s something we can build with that money now. The whole point is to fund all the projects. I’m not changing approved projects that we promised voters.

More About Mealer’s Background: From Bomb-Squad Operations to Billion-Dollar Boardroom Deals

Rehak: Your primary runoff opponent touts his local experience. Tell me about your background.

Mealer: I was born in Sacramento, California, and recruited by colleges on both coasts as a tennis player. Then 911 happened. At 18, I went to West Point. Then, I spent the next ten years living in eight different states and overseas. 

In 2012, when I got out of the Army, my husband and I decided to move to Houston. We both wanted to work in oil and gas, so we did summer internships here while going to grad school. We officially moved here full time in 2016. 

My primary runoff opponent and I are very different. He’s got 40 years of experience in politics and a lot of good relationships. But sometimes coming in with a fresh slate is good, too. 

I also have a lot of executive emergency-management experience. I spent years working in a bomb-squad operation center. That high-pressure experience is a very transferable to hurricanes. The skills you use – the decision-making criteria – are very similar to when I had to do an all-nighter in a tactical operations center. You’re trying to quickly make decisions and allocate resources…with little margin for error. So, I know the battle drill.

I wanted this job because it’s so heavy on the budget/financial side. That’s where I spent my last six years. I’ve had true executive experience, building organizations.

A Boots-on-the-Ground Leader: “I’m About Shoe Leather”

How you run a campaign is, I think, a reflection of how you will govern. I have a lean staff and a grassroots campaign. I try to be very “boots on the ground.” I’m about shoe leather. That reflects my personality. 

I’m not satisfied to just have somebody tell me the answer. I want to dig in and make sure I understand it. I have that curiosity, which I think is important, especially in flood control. 

We need somebody who’s going to get out there and not just be holed up in the office.

To learn more about Alexandra Mealer, visit her campaign website. The Republican runoff is on May 24, 2022.

To compare her opponent’s positions on flood control, read this interview with Vidal Martinez.

Posted By Bob Rehak on 4/1/2022

1676 Days since Hurricane Harvey