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Big Port of Houston Vote Is Delayed

Jim Fonteno Jr. remains on the Port of Houston Authority Commission. His future was to be decided by Harris County Commissioners, but that vote has been delayed.


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The decision to delay came after commissioners met in executive session.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says commissioners could not come to an agreement on one question:

“The question of the way the agenda item was worded. The question was ‘could we substitute another name?’ And we really had differing opinions; you had an AG opinion; you had a county attorney opinion. But in this case, it’s not a vacancy. Commissioner Fonteno will continue to serve. So, it was easier just to say, ‘Okay, we’ll just hold it.'”

Fonteno has served on the Port Commission for 13 years, and at a time when the port was involved in controversy from an unused multi-million dollar cruise terminal, questionable payouts to ex-port employees, and the unauthorized use of a tour boat for a private party.

These and other improprieties led to the state Legislature ordering a special review of the port by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission.

Judge Emmett credits Fonteno for promoting change:

“The port was created by the Legislature, certain legislators need to remember that. They keep trying to tell the county, we oughta do this and we oughta do that, but the truth of the matter is the port’s a creation of the Legislature, and that’s why it’s going through Sunset review, and Jim is very knowledgeable about international trade and the true function of the port, which is tonnage in and tonnage out. So, that’s important to keep in mind.”

But there is a definite split with commissioners, with El Franco Lee and Jack Cagle backing Fonteno, and Steve Radack and Jack Morman, whose precinct-2 is home to the port, wanting to replace him.

A supplemental item was filed by Commissioner Morman, who suggested retired Army Colonel John D. Kennedy to replace Fonteno.

Emmett had a problem with how his name came up at the last minute, but:

“I want a commissioner at the Port that understands the need to keep moving, and do the things necessary to bring freight. That’s what we need to be talking about. What are we doing to attract freight to this gateway of North America? And I think right now, Jim understands that. And I will meet with the Colonel and get his views.”

Emmett and commissioners will decide in two weeks.

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