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Harris County Flood Bond: Will Money Be Used Equitably?

Supporters say they’re confident all types of neighborhoods will benefit.

This photo shows one of the community engagement meetings the Harris County Flood Control District hosted in the summer of 2018 to provide information on the flood control bond that was voted on August 25, 2018. People who attended the meetings also had the opportunity to provide comments to county officials.

When voters look at the ballot for the Harris County Flood Control District bond election, they see 318 words explaining what the $2.5 billion would be used for.

In short, it’s for flood control projects, including purchasing land, construction of detention basins and any needed improvements.

But it’s the terms of the bond issue that Jim Blackburn, co-director of the Severe Storm Center at Rice University, calls historic.

“In the bond issue, we did get geographic equity worked into the language that the commissioners passed, and that’s really important,” he said. “That and transparency, public participation, are both written in.”

Federal funds are driven by benefit-cost ratio, Blackburn said.

That means oftentimes those funds will benefit wealthy areas over low-income ones. And that’s one thing the county’s flood bond seeks to avoid.

Election Day for the measure is this Saturday, August 25.

The ballot reads as follows:

“Shall the commissioners court of Harris County, Texas, acting in its capacity as the governing body of the Harris County Flood Control District, be authorized to issue, in one or more series, bonds of such district in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $2,500,000,000.00 bearing interest at a rate or rates not exceeding the maximum interest rate now or hereafter authorized by law, as shall be determined within discretion of such commissioners court at the time of issuance, and maturing serially or otherwise at such times as may be fixed by such commissioners court not to exceed 30 years from their date or dates, for the purposes of financing flood control projects for the district, including purchasing lands, easements, rights-of-way and structures, and for the acquisition and construction of improvements, including detention basins, channel modifications and other works suitable for use in connection with flood damage reduction, of and on behalf of the Harris County Flood Control District, including but not limited to all costs associated with improvements to hold or convey storm water, including wetlands mitigation, and all additions to such systems and all works, improvements, facilities, interests in property, and contract rights necessary or convenient or in the aid thereof, for such district or in cooperation or by contract with the United States of America or any agency thereof, the state of Texas or any agency thereof, the city of Houston, any other municipality or political subdivision within Harris County, or any county adjacent to Harris County or any municipality or political subdivision within such a county, and annually to levy, to the full extent authorized by the constitution and the laws of the state of Texas, an ad valorem tax of the district upon all taxable property within such district sufficient to pay the interest on such bonds and to create and provide a sinking fund for the redemption of said bonds at maturity?”

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the Houston Press Club. Florian is a native of Germany. His studies...

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