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P Bush tries to deflect blame on flood funding fiasco

You can run, but you can’t hide, George P. Bush.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush blamed local leaders Friday for Houston and Harris County’s failure to secure a single penny of roughly $1 billion in federal flood mitigation funds tied to Hurricane Harvey, though a county commissioner said Bush privately pledged his support for giving Harris County future aid directly rather than forcing it to compete for the money.

The Texas General Land Office, which is responsible for allocating U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development flood mitigation dollars, told city and county officials Thursday they would receive nothing of the more than $1.3 billion they had sought for 14 mitigation projects.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Lina Hidalgo blamed the result on certain project scoring criteria that disadvantaged urban areas.

A General Land Office spokeswoman said the agency was required to use the criteria developed by federal officials at the Housing and Urban Development Department.

HUD disputed that Friday evening, laying the blame squarely on Bush’s team.

“HUD has not prevented Texas from awarding CDBG-MIT funds to Houston or Harris County,” agency spokesman Michael Burns said in a statement. “The formula for allocation was created by the state of Texas. They have full responsibility and jurisdiction over who gets the money that was allocated to the state for flood mitigation.”

Burns did not say whether HUD would intervene. The agency’s comments capped a whirlwind two days where Bush visited areas that received awards. In all, the GLO awarded about $1 billion for 81 different projects across 40 counties, including $179 million in Galveston County.

See here for the background. The embedded image is a statement from Republican County Commissioner Tom Ramsey, so this isn’t just Democratic carping. (UPDATE: Commissioner Jack Cagle calls the GLO’s decision “shocking” and says it “mocks common sense”.) This isn’t and shouldn’t be just about formulas and algorithms. It also has to be about the goals, which should then be reflected by the formulas. As I said last time, it should be obvious that the city of Houston and Harris County need and deserve a significant portion of this funding. We suffered the most from Harvey, we have the greatest amount of current and future need, and this was the intent of Congress when that money was appropriated. There’s no world in which giving zero dollars to Houston and Harris County is rational, efficient, or just. The GLO was given the responsibility to distribute these funds – over the objections of the city and the county, by the way – and so it is entirely on them to ensure an outcome that made sense. Which is the opposite of what we got.

Bush, who on Friday toured those areas and others to announce award recipients, said “constituents have to start asking the City of Houston and Harris County who exactly are filling out these applications, and are they being effective in representing their constituents,” according to KTRK-13.

He did not specify what errors the city and county made that prevented them from receiving any funds. City and county officials said GLO staff never informed them of any mistakes on their applications nor asked for any additional information during the scoring process.

GLO spokeswoman Brittany Eck said she could not confirm nor deny Bush’s comment that cast blame on local leaders for Houston’s lack of mitigation funds, but suggested the city and county should have acted more strategically by submitting fewer projects, perhaps even offering a joint application to strengthen their chances for approval by increasing the number of people who would benefit.

GLO had capped the maximum award application at $300 million, however, regardless of the applicant’s population. That discouraged the city and county from submitting mega-projects for consideration.

[…]

Turner said the snub was just the latest attack by Republican state officials on the Democrats who run the state’s largest cities and counties.

He said while politicians may be the intended targets, the lack of flood protection funding hurts average residents.

“This is not about some paperwork; this is not about not scoring as high,” Turner said. “This is about state leaders intentionally deciding not to allocate one single dime to local communities that were substantially impacted by Hurricane Harvey.”

Steve Costello, the city’s chief recovery officer, said GLO staff failed to understand “the difference between urban drainage and regional drainage” when setting their scoring criteria.

“Our projects were neighborhood revitalization projects,” Costello said. “If you think about urban drainage, we were servicing 100 percent of the people in the service area of the urban drainage project. And yet, when you divide it by 2.2 million people in the city, you get this detrimental impact on the fact that it’s not enough people being served.”

In January 2020, Turner emailed Bush, recommending the GLO revise the metric that considered the share of residents who would benefit from the project for that very reason.

“The system is flawed. The evaluation was flawed,” Costello said. “Commissioner Bush should have read his email.”

This was a screw job, but it wasn’t a screw up. This was the intended outcome. Any assurances from Bush that he’ll personally help us out with the next distribution are extremely hollow. Just look at what he did to us this time around.

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6 Comments

  1. Flypusher says:

    “ He did not specify what errors the city and county made that prevented them from receiving any funds.”

    I’m going to need you to show your work here Georgie. If Houston/Harris Co flunked so badly as to deserve zero dollars, you should be able to show many examples of these errors.

    I’m going with he’s lying and backstabbing until and unless I can see some specific and valid critiques.

  2. Jeff N. says:

    There’s a pattern among the Bushes with using tests and scoring they create to allocate money that belongs to us while promoting their political goals and intentions. P is the Bush for the Trump era.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Remember after the space shuttles were retired, and Houston, home of Mission Control, famous for “Houston, we have a problem” problem solving, didn’t get one? Remember when we got a shitty mock up instead of a real one? Remember when NYC got a real one?

    I remember. Assuming this was politics, and not the more obvious, the state exercising fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers…..we’ve seen Houston get short shrift because of politics before. Hope you’re enjoying your shuttle, Chuck Shumer.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    According to the GLO press releases, Harris County WAS in fact awarded 90 million dollars for projects on the east side of the county, in places like Jacinto
    City, Baytown, Pasadena, and Galena Park.

    The truth of the matter is shown by the quotation from Mayor Turner: “this is about not scoring as high.” The city didn’t make any errors in the application. The application was just not as competitive as the other applications. Should the state change the criteria for applications just to make an award to Houston? Turner did email them and made the request that they change the metric. So, they didn’t change the metric but the city went ahead with an application that they knew wouldn’t score in the funding range.

    Perhaps the city should have hired a consultant who could better make the case for the city to get funding. Also, I have told the city many times that I would volunteer to help their highly paid but incompetent administrators with these matters, but they never reach out to me.

    Next, we see another clue. Mr Costello states that the application was for “neighborhood revitalization projects.” Which neighborhoods? Was it for White Privilege wealthy neighborhoods? For the neighborhoods were the donors and friends of the Democrats live? Or neighborhoods where the developers are licking their chops to make the bucks?

    Moving on, HUD says that the state is entirely responsible for not funding the city. Although these block grant programs give a lot of latitude to the state government, there are still guidelines for use of the funding.

    FACT CHECK: Inconclusive. There is no way to say that this is the intended outcome. You would need to do the research, and obtain the block grant award document and the state request for proposals. You will need to do a FOIA request for the city application and review it against the scoring the guidelines. For good measure, I suggest requesting the email exchange between Mayor Turner and Prescott Bush. If we still had investigative journalists, this would be the procedure.

    Lastly, this is the problem with socialism. When they take your money, they never seem to give to each according to need. They just do what they want with it, or give it to their friends.

  5. […] here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the letter. As noted, the two Republican County […]

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