Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

It wasn’t just Houston and Harris County that got screwed by P Bush and the GLO

Every time I read something new about this, I get madder.

Disasters have not fallen evenly on Iola and Port Arthur. Hurricane Harvey flooded almost the entire coastal city on the Louisiana border, which was damaged by Ike and Rita before that. Iola, a tiny Grimes County community 100 miles inland, largely is insulated from tropical storms.

Both cities applied for federal Harvey disaster aid distributed by the state. Iola pitched a wastewater system that would serve 379 people. Port Arthur proposed the replacement of century-old storm water pipes to help 42,000.

The state funded Iola’s project. Port Arthur got nothing.

“With our susceptibility to being affected by hurricanes, if those places got money, you know it wasn’t fairly done,” said Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie.

A Houston Chronicle investigation found the $1 billion in aid distributed by the Texas General Land Office in May disproportionately flowed to inland counties with less damage from Harvey than coastal communities which bore the brunt of the storm.

The GLO also steered aid toward counties with a lower risk of natural disasters — by the state’s own measure — and sometimes to projects that help far fewer residents per dollar spent than unfunded projects in more vulnerable counties.

The lowest-risk counties that received awards, like Grimes, were only eligible because of the GLO’s decision to add them. And in some cases, the state funded projects in these places even though they scored worse than applicants in the highest-risk counties, according to criteria the land office set.

Aransas and Nueces counties, where Harvey made landfall, did not receive a dime. Neither did Jefferson County, which recorded the highest rain totals. Same for Houston and Harris County’s governments, even though the county suffered the most deaths and flooded homes from the storm.

“To get goose-egged is really disappointing,” said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales. “The coast is going to get battered first. … How do you come out of $1 billion and Nueces isn’t even on your radar?”

It’s a great question, one for which Land Commissioner George P. Bush has no good answer. I’ll say this again, this does not happen by accident. Even if it were possible to accidentally create a system that prioritized low-risk, low-population areas over high-risk, high-population areas, there was plenty of time to catch and fix the error, especially since the GLO was explicitly warned about it. They knew which places got which awards well before the information was released, and either didn’t think anyone would have a problem with it or didn’t care who said what.

I don’t blame these low-risk places for applying for the federal funds. They were playing by the rules. The GLO and their deliberately jacked-up scoring system are the problem. As the story notes, the belated offer by P Bush to award $750 million to Harris County (by as yet unknown means), which came about in the face of intense bipartisan criticism, doesn’t do anything for the likes of Nueces or Aransas or Jefferson, or any of their cities. (It leaves Houston out in the cold as well.) At this point, the only sensible and equitable solution is to throw this entire pile of trash away and start over, this time with a scoring system that makes sense and ideally is overseen by someone other than P Bush. I don’t know how to make that happen, I don’t know if it’s possible to make that happen, but it’s the best way forward I can see. Maybe having Congress re-appropriate money directly to the screwed-over localities could work, if it’s possible to get that through Congress and the Senate. All I know is this is totally FUBARed, and there’s no good way forward. We have to go back, and we have to start over. And yes, we should be extremely pissed off about this.

Related Posts:

4 Comments

  1. Andrea says:

    Iola, as tiny as it is, is 80% White. And Port Arthur is only about 50% White. I bring this up because it has been conclusively shown that disaster recovery funding increases the Black-White gap.

    And yes, I can cite a source.
    Professors Junia Howell and James R. Elliott, Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States.

    If you’re someone who is now rolling your eyes saying wow, these people can make anything be about racism – well, YES – that’s what systemic means. It undergirds everything.

    At this point, everyone has the internet at their disposal. You can’t work in government and policy and claim ignorance. The GOP continues to stake out an explicitly white supremacist positioning through every policy choice and legislative strategy it backs.

    It’s disgusting.

    https://academic.oup.com/socpro/article/66/3/448/5074453?guestAccessKey=339b3f1e-825b-48c9-af4b-1a2bb9908326

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    Why do I get madder when I keep seeing them pushing the disinformation that localities were “screwed” out of their funding? There is NO proof of this misinformation. The places that didn’t put in good applications for the funding are simply wetting the bed, and blaming someone else for their own incompetence.

    Andrea, “Wealth Inequality” is not racial. I know that Joe Biden said that poor people can be as smart as White People, but he is but a soothsayer, he is old and addled in his brain.

    Wealth inequality grew by leaps and bounds in 2020. Thanks to Trump and his draconian shutdowns, and declaring small business non-essential, and telling us that the virus will determine what we can do–this allowed Trump to complete the largest wealth transfer in the history of humanity to his rich cronies, such as Bezos and Gates. This is why Bezos is going on a trip to space, while you are hoping to spend a Sunday at the park. This is why Bill Gates is now the largest owner of farmland in the USA. The Progressive movement sat at home cowering, or blamed poor people in MAGA caps for this, while the real transfer was being done. If we had real Progressives, this wouldn’t have happened, but now it’s too late.

  3. Joel says:

    Jason: talk about victim blaming.

    In your narrative, massive wealth redistribution is not the fault of the people who make it happen (republican officials), nor the people who enable it (republican voters), but is rather the fault of those who oppose it, because they don’t oppose it well enough?

    I wasn’t sure at first whether you were an idiot or an asshole. But your recent efforts have made it crystal clear.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    Joel: talk about ad hominem attacks. I am the smartest person on the planet, so can’t blame you for not understanding me.

    I correctly and properly blame Trump and his shutdowns and declarations of non essential business and fear mongering about the deadliest virus ever as the cause of the Great Wealth Transfer.

    We are all victims, because we didn’t stand up. We stupidly donned our obedience masks, stayed at home in terror, wet our collective beds, and sat around waiting on the government to do everything for us. And it did for us.