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What are P Bush’s pledges worth?

Something less than $750 million would be my guess.

When Republican Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced Wednesday evening that he would ask federal officials to send Harris County $750 million in flood mitigation aid, he told Houstonians the move was a response to their “overwhelming concerns” over his agency’s decision to deny the city and county any relief days earlier.

Bush’s announcement, however, raised new questions about where the money would come from and how it would affect future rounds of funding. Local leaders, who are not guaranteed any money until federal housing officials sign off on Bush’s plan, said the amount remained well short of the $1.3 billion they had sought from the Texas General Land Office for a range of projects intended to mitigate future floods.

County officials are particularly worried that in accepting the $750 million, they would be disqualified from future funding competitions. And Mayor Sylvester Turner questioned why Bush would ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make the payment, effectively ensuring the money will not arrive for months, instead of allocating it himself.

Houston, meanwhile, remains shut out. A GLO spokeswoman said the county could consider sharing its allotment, if it arrives. But Harris County may be reluctant to do so because it is trying to close a $700 million gap in its flood bond program without raising taxes.

“I see this as a failed attempt on (Bush’s) part to try to pit the city and county against each other,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia.

Turner called it “foolishness” for Bush to not request any mitigation aid for the city. The mayor’s appointed chief recovery officer, Steve Costello, said city officials would continue to seek funding for the city that aligns with their share of the damage from Hurricane Harvey.

“Right now the city is under the assumption we have no money for any of our projects,” Costello said.

See here for the previous entry. If this is taken seriously and pursued, it would take up to 90 days for the money to come through. It’s hard to see why Harris County and especially Houston would take this seriously, with there being so many unanswered questions. This has the feel to me of Bush just scrambling to find something that will take the heat off. It doesn’t look like Houston or Harris will take the bait, so either Bush figures out a way to undo the colossal mess he created or it remains awfully awkward for the foreseeable future.

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3 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I’ve been over this already. In order for me to have a verdict, I would need to know the nature of the federal funding: was it formula funds, competitive grant funding, or congressional earmarks? I highly doubt that Prestone Bush wrote the guidelines for the state application process.

    Bush doesn’t appear to understand federal funding. You can’t just ask for money. There are rigorous application procedures, and the federal agency has accountability as do the grant recipients. The awards are posted on the Internet at usaspending.gov. Federal funding isn’t cash that you get. It is typically cost reimbursement. You spend, and submit your invoice, you get reimbursed.

    Please note: Adrian Garcia should be voted out at the next possible chance, and never voted in again. He sees this as a failed attempt by Bush to pit the city vs. the county. How so? Was it possible that the city and county could have done a joint application? If so, why didn’t they consider it. The very sad thing here is that I have volunteered to help the city with this kind of thing, but Turner and other segregationists want nothing to do with my assistance. Hey, you got no award, how much worse would you do with my help? Pride goeth.

    Another note: Mr Garcia was my city councilman when I was in District H. Then, the Democrats pulled the Great Gerrymander, to bring us Canuck Cohen who ruled the district from a giant white privilege penthouse on the outer edge of the district. The Democrats, who like to help minorities (to stay in their assigned neighborhoods) wanted to make sure that anyone with a Spanish name could be contained in one district. This irritated me so much that I once tried to run for the city council.

    FACT CHECK: there is not enough evidence to conclude that Bush made a “colossal mess,” as well as the fact that “colossal” is a subjective term. More research is needed, because the blame should probably be on Turner, Costello, Hidalgo, and the rest of the authors of a NON-competetive application.

  2. Lobo says:

    Jason:

    Assuming you are the Hochman that previously was involved in grant application or administration at the TMC (as opposed to being a pseudonym or imposter), you could indeed contribute useful insight into the matter of flood mitigation funding (and grant-funded scientific research, broadly speaking).

    Some of your comments in these types of threads suggest as much, ie., that you know more than the other usual suspects in the OTK comment space, including Kuff himself, and that you are familiar with the relevant bureaucratic-legalistic jargon.

    That said, polemics such as “Scientist” Greta Thunberg opposing drive-thru voting in Harris County because the exhaust fumes contribute to global warming are ludicrous and undercut your credibility, not to mention your chances of being taken seriously with respect that *anything* else you endeavor to say.

    Some sarcasm and satire should be tolerated and is part and parcel of a vigorous public debate. It might even evoke a chuckle occasionally. I’m not saying that you should be silenced or censored.

    Kindly just take it for what this is: Feedback from a reader and fellow commenter. Many others will just ignore you because they already associate Hochman with hyperbole, if not longhorn pie.

    BEYOND RANTS

    When someone like you has the ability to make a more meaningful contribution based on their own professional, occupational, or educational background, it would be nice for them to actually advance the quality of the discourse. And surely some of the relevant info is already available on some government website, and doesn’t require a specific PIA or FOIA request. Why don’t you share it with the policymakers (or their underlings) that might be among the OTK readership?

    And on this topic, given the huge amount of federal money involved, you are likely to have an audience receptive to additional information re: competitive grants/bidding process, or a different perspective on what might have gone wrong.

    Note that local Dems and Republican Pols (incl. Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey) are on board on this issue.

    Everybody locally has an interest in finding out what when wrong with the Harris County and COH applications, and some will be skeptical about the knee-jerk response that automatically attributes everything that happens to political motives on the part of those involved in the process, here a down-generation Bush.

    As for allocation of blame on others you name, so far we only have speculation.

    What’s your basis for blaming the Turner’s and County’s grant writers?

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    Lobo, yes, I do like hyperbole, satire, caricature, I mean, who can be that serious. But, I do think that it is a fair question: if we are so concerned about the existential threat of climate change, why are we encouraging drive through voting? Why does the vet office tell everyone to wait outside with cars running? I don’t like environmentalism, and here is why: I view it as a way for humans to “care” about the planet simply to preserve it for human consumption. It doesn’t care much about animals, plants, and other aspects of the beauty of nature.

    Now, more to the topic of the flooding funding. As I have pointed out, the use of federal funding is subject to a great deal of regulation and transparency. P. Bush either incorrectly or maliciously attributed this to Pres. Biden’s regulations, when, in fact, such regulations have existed for decades, and have been growing steadily. Above a certain threshold of federal funding, a recipient is required to have policies that have nothing to do with the purpose of the funding. For example, an equal opportunity policy and a drug free workplace policy. Now, you can accomplish the aims of a project without those policies, but you need to have them if you want to get federal grants or contracts. The taxpayers don’t want their money spent frivolously.

    Senators Obama and McCain were behind the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA), which posts federal awards on a web site (usa spending.gov).

    As for the flooding mitigation funding, it seems like everyone has taken umbrage to the omission of Houston from the recipients. Democrats claim that it was a political move, urban people claim it was impossible for urban areas to be competitive, others claim racism, Garcia claims that the intent was to pit the county vs. the city.

    This is all speculative. P. Bush can’t just arbitrarily hand out this money to his friends, or to only White people, or to only small towns. I would bet that he had nothing to do with writing the guidelines, and he didn’t have anything to do with reviewing the applications. (I am just guessing, but I doubt that the Commissioner would be doing all of these tasks.)

    My basis for blaming the city is the quotations from Mayor Turner and Mr. Costello. Mayor Turner admitted that he asked the state to change the guidelines in an email to the Commissioner. This is not so easily done. It’s also unfair to the jurisdictions who have already begun or submitted competitive applications within the guidelines, and now, the city of Houston comes along and tilts the table so that the funding rolls into its coffers. Mr Costello also stated that the GLO doesn’t understand the difference between urban projects and regional projects. All of this leads me to believe (again speculative but based on real quotations) that the city went ahead with an application that they knew was not competitive. Then raised a cloud of dust when it wasn’t funded. It is also a true, despite what people say, that the city has had problems with HUD funding before, specifically the segregation in housing and the delay in utilizing the funding.

    Now, I did find the 2016 mitigation criteria on the GLO site. It does allow Council of Governments and joint applications, so it is likely that the city and county could have written a single application, with one agency taking the lead and subcontracting/subawarding to the other. That may have been the smartest way to approach this, or perhaps a project with other affected counties in the greater Houston region as partners as well as Houston and Harris County.

    Just from a quick search of the GLO site, here is the link to the 2016 scoring criteria: https://recovery.texas.gov/files/resources/mitigation/2016-mit-competition-scoring-criteria.pdf and here is the action plan that the state GLO submitted to HUD detailing the distribution of the funds. This was approved by HUD: https://recovery.texas.gov/files/hud-requirements-reports/2019-disasters/2019-disasters-sap.pdf

    A block grant does give wide latitude to the state in distributing the funding, but, at the end of the day ,they are still accountable to the federal agency, and required to follow the approved action plan. Again, they can’t just hand out the funding based on political alliances, or race, or whatever whim.

    While awards and competitions are typically published, the applications are not. But the applications are public documents, and subject to the Open Records Act. Thus, you would need to make a FOIA request to get a copy of the applications submitted by Houston and Harris County, and compare them against the criteria.