Voters probably will not see a request to issue bonds for a new downtown jail on the November ballot, as Commissioners Court members voice reluctance over moving so quickly on a project the public already has rejected once.
Although a bond proposal was discussed at last week's meeting and is on the agenda for Tuesday's session, County Judge Ed Emmett and two commissioners said Friday they are not ready to bring a new measure to the electorate. Voters rejected the original $245 million plan last November by a 51-49 margin.
Emmett and Commissioners Sylvia Garcia and Steve Radack each had their own reasons for wanting to delay a vote, from desiring further studies of the overcrowding issues at the jail to complaints over the city of Houston's contributions to the joint project.
But the reality is the county would have a difficult time getting the bond approved in an election where black and Hispanic voters are expected to head to the polls in droves amid intense scrutiny of the local criminal justice system, political analysts said.
Opposition from those groups was one major reason the proposal failed in 2007, they said.
"At this point, it is difficult to imagine how the county would sell the bond to the voters," said Franklin Jones, a Texas Southern University political scientist.
Garcia said postponing a vote until the May election could give the county time to address some of the community's concerns about law enforcement, the courts and the jail. She has been advocating a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and said embarking on one would show the public their complaints are being heard, possibly improving the chances they would sign off on a new jail.
Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said avoiding the November election is a smart move but will not ensure victory.
"I think it's going to be almost impossible in November and very difficult in May," he said. "They need to get their act together and have a very united bipartisan front, and that's going to be hard."