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Harris County Shuffles Road Construction Funds To Benefit Democrat-Led Precincts

We’ve rounded-up some of the key developments from Commissioners Court, from reallocating METRO mobility funds to speeding up flood control projects and approving stricter rules for developers.

Commissioners Court
Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media
State Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D) addressing Harris County Commissioners Court, in opposition to the plan to reallocate METRO mobility funds

East Houston and Harris County will be getting several million more dollars to spend on roads and other transportation infrastructure this year. But that will come at a big cost to west Harris County.

County commissioners voted 3-to-2 to reallocate METRO mobility funds evenly, with 25% now going to each of the county's four precincts.

The debate was bitter, with several public speakers taking the majority Democrats to task.

"When you can rob each other's coffers because you can, because you can count to three, split on a partisan vote, you set a very dangerous precedent. It's a precedent that sets up for retaliatory voting, because someday you're going to find yourself not being able to count to three, and you're not going to like it," said Bobby Lieb, president and CEO of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce.

More money will now go to Democrat-led Precincts 1 and 2, with their heavily traveled roads. It'll come at the expense of GOP-led Precincts 3 and 4, which are growing much faster.

Here are some of the other significant developments that came out of Harris County Commissioners Court Tuesday:

  • Commissioners voted unanimously to speed up flood control projects approved by voters during last year's bond election. The vote will accelerate by 18 months the work on 86 out of the 105 neighborhood projects. Previously, the work wasn't expected to be done until the end of 2024. Now, much of the work will be done before the start of the 2024 hurricane season, and in some cases before the start of the 2023 season.
  • The Court also approved stricter rules for developers, in order to offset the risk of flooding. It's an interim measure until new federal floodplain maps are issued in about two years' time. Current floodplain maps use rainfall data that's nearly 50 years old. "The idea is, using the latest and most accurate rainfall projections, we're analyzing how much a new development would increase flooding and asking the developers to detain that much water so that the net effect is zero," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
  • Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a plan to move their courtroom to the first floor of the county Administration Building. The court currently meets on the 9th floor. Heavy attendance since the beginning of the year has repeatedly tested safety limits allowed by the fire marshal. The relocation is expected to cost roughly $2 million.


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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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