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State Reps to P Bush: Reconsider

Nearly all of the Harris County State Reps have written a letter to Land Commissioner George P Bush asking him to reconsider the ridiculous process that completely shut Houston and Harris County out of federal flooding funds.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Tuesday asked Land Commissioner George P. Bush to reconsider his agency’s move to deny Houston and Harris County any funds out of a $1 billion federal pot of flood mitigation aid stemming from Hurricane Harvey.

In a letter to Bush, 22 state representatives — the entire Harris County delegation, aside from state Reps. Briscoe Cain and Mike Schofield — wrote that they found the decision “disappointing” and asked that the General Land Office “work to rectify this situation.”

The GLO, which Bush oversees, is responsible for disbursing more than $4 billion in federal aid to fund flood mitigation projects across southeast Texas. In the first round of aid payout last week, four smaller municipalities in east Harris County were awarded $90 million, but the city and county received nothing for the more than $1.3 billion in applications they submitted for various projects.

“We recognize there have been disagreements between local and state leaders on how to allocate various sets of federal funds around mitigation and recovery since Hurricane Harvey,” the lawmakers wrote. “(H)owever, no reasonable person could believe that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development intended or … envisioned a scenario where a county of 4.7 million people and the fourth largest city in the United States, after experiencing three consecutive years of flood disasters, would not receive any of this $1 billion allotment.”

See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the letter. As noted, the two Republican County Commissioners have also complained to P Bush about this. I’m not surprised that Briscoe Cain didn’t sign on to this – he’s a complete waste of space – but Mike Schofield’s omission is intriguing. I know things will change with redistricting to strengthen his position, but I thank him for providing the campaign fodder nonetheless. Whether this will make any difference or not I have no idea, but it was the right thing to do regardless. Kudos to Jon Rosenthal, the county delegation chair, for organizing this and to all of the members who did sign it.

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8 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I bet none of those lawmakers read the request for applications. And, I typed this already. The city of Houston knew that their application was not going to score high, but went ahead with it anyway.

    I also fact checked this. Harris County did get funding. $90 million to communities in the East. The city knowingly went ahead with a non competitive application, and was planning on having targeted neighborhoods, which, I can’t say for sure because I haven’t made a FOIA request for the city application, but which I speculate were neighborhoods where developers who are friends of the city want to build, or perhaps friends of the city already live and want to have higher property values.

    I doubt that Prescott Bush himself wrote the request for proposals.

  2. policywonqueria says:

    Re: “Harris County did get funding. $90 million to communities in the East.”

    The apparent inconsistency in the reporting on whether Harris County got something or nothing is the failure to distinguish Harris County as a geographic area and Harris County as a political subdivision of the state, jurisdictionally speaking. Geographically, Harris County has much overlap with the City of Houston, and both County and City contain numerous smaller municipalities (enclaves), geographically and jurisdictionally speaking.

    So, if grants went to the City of Pasadena, Baytown, Galena Park, and Jacinto City, that would *not* be based on an application submitted by Harris County. Those awards wouldn’t change the fact that Harris County (as a governmental entity and applicant for federal funds) got zero dollars. On the other hand, it might of course be said that these $90 mil. will benefit the area.

    Mr. Hochman: Can you provide better clarification based on public sources short of FOIA material?

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Wolf,

    The situation you describe, where Harris County failed to get the money, and Houston failed to get the money, yet smaller cities in Harris County DID get the money, speaks to the incompetency of Sly and Dora to submit quality grant requests.

    Here’s an analogy:

    You and I are competing for a job. Your application and curriculum vitae is professionally written, you are well spoken and well dressed at your interview, and you’re very good at explaining why you are qualified, and why the job is a good fit for your skills.

    Meanwhile, I show up with a resume I scratched out on the back of a Denny’s place mat, replete with spelling and grammatical errors, and missing information. I show up late for the interview wearing stained jeans and my favorite Molly Hatchet concert t-shirt, and don’t explain why I am qualified, or why the job is a good fit for me.

    Then I don’t get the job, and I claim it’s because of politics, instead of just being honest. Face it…..first Dora cost Harris County almost $ 20M for a hospital that never treated anyone, and now she has cost Harris County probably hundreds of millions of dollars in flood control funding.

    But hey, she has pretty hair, and girl power, amirite? And one wonders, if Sly can spend $ 95K a year for a very special friend to intern at the airport, why couldn’t he find someone to write a successful grant request?

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    policywonq, you can look at this press release:
    https://www.glo.texas.gov/the-glo/news/press-releases/2021/may/mitigation/90-point-4-million-granted-by-texas-glo-for-historic-disaster-mitigation-projects-in-harris-county.html

    It does state that the grants in Harris County were awarded to the cities of Pasadena, Baytown, Galena Park, etc. Not to the county. I didn’t know that the county and the cities themselves could all apply. But note that the press release states the projects benefit under served communities.

    Now, without the FOIA request, if you look at the prior entry regarding this funding, and my comment thereto, and if you read carefully the blog entry, it states that Hon. Mayor Turner emailed the GLO and asked them to change the guidelines. It then further states that Mr Costello was carping that the state just doesn’t understand the difference between urban drainage and regional drainage. Mr Costello said that the projects proposed by the city were neighborhood revitalization projects. He claimed that the system is flawed, and Mayor Turner emailed the GLO in January asking to change the criteria.

    This is why my fact check ruled: Inconclusive. We can’t say, as the blog did, that this is a hatchet job by Prescott Bush. I would need to review the guidelines and the city application to know for sure. However, I do believe that the city should have made their application competitive within the guidelines, rather than complaining about the guidelines. They wanted to change the rules in the middle of the competition. Such as if a football team asked the league if their touchdowns could count for 12 points, and then cried that they lost because the league didn’t change the rules for them.

    Also, I don’t know which neighborhoods were listed to be revitalized. Were they neighborhoods where the friends of Turner live? Neighborhoods where developers want to build and make the loot? Again, without a FOIA request for the city application, I don’t know.

    Turner and the city have been poor stewards of HUD funding in the past. It takes them years to distribute their sub grants to the local projects. Then, HUD fund Turner guilty of promoting segregation.

    I have offered to volunteer to help the city with these applications, but they never reach out to me. Now look. If I run, and I am elected, I will follow the rules.

  5. Ross says:

    Jason, that’s enough of the bullshit claim that Turner encouraged segregation. That’s not what happened, and you know it.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    Fact check:
    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ruled that the City of Houston is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, based on the results of a sweeping fair housing investigation. If Houston’s leaders do not take corrective action, the city risks law enforcement action by the Department of Justice.

    Incredibly, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is vowing to defy the ruling. In doing so, he follows in the footsteps of many of his predecessors. For decades, Houston’s elected leaders have practiced racial segregation in the administration of federally funded subsidized housing programs without legal consequences.

  7. Andrew Lynch says:

    Something is definitely off when small cities around Houston are able to get funding. Make the funding applications public to understand why the city leaders failed to secure funding.

  8. policywonqueria says:

    Andrew, who are you addressing? (“Make the funding applications public”).

    Why don’t you file a FOIA request, as suggested by Hochman, and post the materials on your website? Or call upon City and County to post these materials on their respective websites (with redactions, if there is any sensitive information).

    Or submit a PIA request to COH and Harris County directly, for their respective applications and related federal correspondence?

    This would no doubt be of interest to lots of people and government contractors.