The Mayor and the Land Commissioner are buds

I have three things to say about this.

On Mayor John Whitmire’s first day in office, he got a call from Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham.

Her message? “We want to work with the City of Houston,” Whitmire recounted at an April 17 council meeting.

Whitmire shared the contents of the call at the start of Buckingham’s visit to City Hall – a trip largely framed as a relationship reset, and one the land commissioner was quick to note herself.

“It is wonderful to actually be invited here, as last time I tried outreach I was disinvited,” Buckingham told council members.

After years of verbal and legal battles between the former mayor and the former land commissioner, Whitmire and Buckingham seem poised to usher in a new era of cooperation between their new offices. As experts predict an active hurricane season in the Gulf, the potential for better relations between the city and state agency could be well-timed.

Whenever disaster strikes in Texas – whether it be wildfire, winter storm or hurricane – it’s the state’s General Land Office that has primarily retained responsibility for divvying out the federal funds to cities and counties that apply for relief across the state. The agency is also in charge of making sure the cities and counties they grant funds to are spending it correctly.

But despite the rhetorical reset, Houston remains on the outs when it comes to the Hurricane Harvey funds. The city still is not set to see a single dollar from $4.3 billion in federal funds approved for flood mitigation after the 2017 storm.

Houston’s history with the GLO has been rocky since Harvey. After the storm, the GLO, then led by George P. Bush, was charged with distributing federal funds for home repair and flood mitigation.

Bush’s office, at the time, argued that Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration was mishandling the housing funds it had been given and determined not to provide the city with any funds for flood mitigation. The city argued the GLO made the process of applying for and receiving funds difficult and called the state agency an overbearing partner.

Since then, Buckingham has taken over the GLO office and Whitmire has taken over the mayor’s office. The two have a longstanding relationship as former colleagues who worked together in the Texas Senate, and the new mayor said that will only continue in the days to come.

“There will be strong collaboration with the GLO and our state partners,” Whitmire told the Chronicle.

1. Mayor Whitmire ran on his strong connections with state government and how that would benefit Houston with him as Mayor. This is an example of that in practice and it is good to see. I hope we don’t need it this year, but we will certainly need it sooner or later.

2. That said, I don’t think it’s a lot to ask for one branch of government to cooperate with another as a matter of course and without having to depend on whether or not this person likes that person. What George P. Bush did as Land Commissioner to Houston (and Harris County) was despicable and shameless, done for his own failed political ambition, and has been actively harmful to Houston and its residents for almost seven years now. I’m glad that Dawn Buckingham and John Whitmire have a solid relationship. The city of Houston will indeed benefit from it. It should never have come to that, is what I’m saying. And by the way, Houston is still out a crap-ton of money that the GLO should have provided us. Let me know when you plan to make that right, Dawn.

3. Any plans to invite Judge Hidalgo to City Hall, Mr. Mayor? Sorry, not sorry.

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3 Responses to The Mayor and the Land Commissioner are buds

  1. C.L. says:

    I’d have more respect for Whitmire if he put as much energy into HTX getting GLO/Harvey money as he has in shutting down road construction projects and writing $650M checks to HFD.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I still say that the GLO funding opportunity was more aimed at low income areas, rather than the wealthy city of Houston, which could afford to make improvements.

    I think that Whitmire was right to make the chief of police leave, which I just saw in the Chronicle site. Everyone says that I am full of applesauce when I say that chief Arturo was inept, and that appointing his best helper was a mistake. But events seem to support my belief.

  3. John says:

    This is just how Texas works (and is why we’re leaving).

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