Upcoming Bond Election Seeks $250 Million for Port of Houston

The Port of Houston is asking voters next month to consider its request for $250 million worth of port bonds. Houston Public Radio's Ed Mayberry reports.

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Port of Houston Chief Executive Tom Kornegay says the money would be earmarked for physical expansion, as well as for security and environmental improvements.ξ He says companies are already responding to previous expansion of the container terminal by building new distribution centers.

"We are trying to get money to continue the expansion of our Bayport container and cruise terminal, and then also we have some jobs related to security and environmental projects."

Kornegay says jobs at the port generate billions in personal income each year.

"The Port of Houston, in total, impacts about 785,000 jobs, and and we create about $117 billion in total economic activity, which includes $3.87 billion in state and local taxes.ξ And that just means, you know, this is the thing that drives the economy in Houston."

Nancy Edmondson, the former mayor of Shorelake, is a veteran of the effort to oppose the Bayport Terminal.ξ She says the port's claim that jobs are created is overblown.

"Most of their moneys these days is being invested in container ports, which are not big employers.ξ You know, containerization is all about the elimination of jobs.ξ We're talking, you know, a handful of jobs. I believe the whole Bayport container terminal will employ the equivalent of one Kroger store."

Author Sally Antrobus, who wrote the book Galveston Bay, says voters should question supporting port activity through their taxes.

"Now, the Port of Houston Authority does operate facilities. We have to support those through property tax, despite the fact that elsewhere, ports seem to be able to operate on their own revenues."ξ Ed: "Why do you suppose that there's no real organized opposition to this particular bond election?"ξ "I don't know the answer to that.ξ I suppose exhaustion is a factor.ξ Citizens have spent lots of energy attempting to get their port built in a site that made more sense from an environmental and community perspective."ξ

Edmondson says voters need to consider the issue of public money versus private money.

"Why are we investing our taxpayer dollars in something that ought to be funded by the private sector?ξ You know, by voting against the bonds they're not saying that we don't want ports.ξ They're saying that we don't want the Port of Houston Authority to be in here doing what private enterprise should be handling instead."ξ

The port's Tom Kornegay says there's something else that voters need to realize when they vote.ξ

"One of the things that I think people have to understand is that when we're building the container terminal, we're building a facility to import the things that you use everyday, whether it be your cellphone, the clothes you wear or the wine you drink.ξ It's the things that are important to the people that we are dealing with through the container terminal."

The bond election is set for November 6th.ξ Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.


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