Emmett Assesses State of County

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett delivers his state of the county address. It’s his first since his election last November. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Judge Emmett spoke to a packed audience of elected officials and business leaders at the gathering presented by the Greater Houston Partnership. He announced the state of Harris County.

“Our condition is very healthy, and we are poised to not only maintain that condition, but I think that we can improve it. I think we can improve it even in the near term, but certainly in the long term. However, lest anyone in this room confuse me with Pollyanna, now comes the warning.”      

Emmett said our nation is full of local governments and private companies that were riding high one year and sitting on the trash heap the next. He said we cannot delude ourselves and think we can continue the status quo. Despite the economic slowdown, Judge Emmett says Harris County remains financially solid.

“Next week, Harris County Commissioners Court will likely begin the adoption of a 2009-2010 budget of approximately 1.7-billion dollars. This budget will be 7-percent larger that the previous year, about two-thirds of the revenue will come from ad valor em taxation, but that taxation is based upon last year’s appraisals, which were approximately ten percent higher than the year before. With all that’s going on in our economy, who knows what the coming year will bring? But I can guarantee you one thing, Commissioner’s Court will not allow this county to slip under the waves of economic turmoil. It will not happen on their watch or on my watch.”

He listed issues facing the county like: the demographic shift that will likely alter the way the county provides health care, housing, transportation services and law enforcement.

He drew applause when he stated:

“It is my firm belief that the University of Houston must be allowed to achieve top-tier status. Is that okay with you, Dr. Khator? Does that work? Even a Rice graduate like me understands the importance of having a top-tier public institution in the third largest county in the U.S.”

Judge Emmett said the benefits to Harris County would be enormous.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.