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Harris County will have a bond issue on the ballot

More things to vote on this November.


Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to put four bond measures totaling $848 million on the November ballot to address tremendous population growth in Harris County during the past two decades.

“When you consider that Harris County has more people than 24 states, it really isn’t that much,” County Judge Ed Emmett said.

“This is in anticipation of further growth.”

Approximately 1 million more people now live in the county than in 2000; and 75 percent of those new residents live in the unincorporated portions of the county where government-funded roads and infrastructure projects have had to hustle to catch up with vast commercial and residential development.

The referendum will create four separate ballot items: a $700 million bond for roads and bridges, a $60 million bond for parks, $24 million to update the overcrowded animal control facility and $64 million for flood control improvements.


The commissioners agreed to review the actual ballot language at their next meeting Aug. 11.

But Emmett said the commissioners should get going immediately in their efforts to educate voters about why bonds are on the ballot in the first place: “Once we approve this this morning, then it’s time to start getting people engaged in the process of supporting the bond election. That’s important.”

See here for the background. In that post, I said that Judge Emmett and Commissioners Court had better make sure they ran a vigorous campaign for their bonds if they wanted them to pass, because recent history of ballot propositions in Harris County strongly suggests that in the absence of a campaign, even non-controversial issues don’t do as well as you might think. This year, there will be the HERO repeal vote and possibly also the Dave Wilson you-must-show-me-yours vote, either of which may have the effect of bringing out more of the type of voter who is inclined to vote No on anything related to spending because spending is bad and raises their taxes. (Yes, I know, this bond issue does not come with a tax increase. Try convincing the kind of voter I’m talking about of that.) What could be potentially more troubling for Commissioners Court is that there’s likely to be a significant number of voters outside the city limits who are well aware of the HERO issue and think they’ll get to vote on it, too. I suspect a lot of those voters will be in the no-spending-ever bucket as well. Maybe I’m overstating the extent of the problem, and for sure I believe that a sizable number of the people who will be spurred to turn out for this will do so to support HERO, but it’s a factor that didn’t exist at the time this bond issue was first being discussed. They need to plan for it.

There’s another factor to consider here, which is that as things stand now, there’s not much in this bond issue that does anything for city residents. The vast majority of it goes to the unincorporated areas. Granted, that’s where most of the growth is, but it’s still nice to get something beyond a sense of civic duty in return for one’s vote. I may be misjudging things – it’s early days, details may still be getting worked out, I’m sure I’ll have a chance to interview Judge Emmett about this – but that’s a consideration. Municipal voters are usually the ones who do the heavy lifting when it comes to passing bond issues. Let’s hope we’re not being taken for granted.

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  1. Mainstream says:

    The animal facility vote might bring out some animal lovers who do not usually come out to vote in city elections, but I have no sense of how passionate they may be about the proposed new facility, or how numerous.

  2. Robert Goerlitz says:

    It is sad to see a new dispatch center was not included in this bond issue. The current dispatch center is located in the condemned building and has been for the last 10 years.

  3. Steven Houston says:

    Mainstream, a new facility for animal control will not necessarily be a good thing for animals or animal lovers unless policies are changed. Harris county had the dubious distinction of being worse than Houston’s BARC in terms of kill rates last time I looked, labeling all sorts of animals as “pit bulls” that they did not adopt out, including shepherds, boxers, etc. to show a kill rate of ~85%.

    Deputy Goerlitz, if it’s not on the this one, it may be five years or more before it comes up again, if then. But I thought Emmett and company were bragging about all the expensive upgrades a few years back, a curious thing to do in a condemned building. Might there be an opportunity to move the location to TranStar, HPD’s dispatch center, or maybe add on to the coming joint booking facility with the city?