Harris County Commissioners Court will hold a special session Thursday, 8/18/2022 at 2:30 PM to vote on Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s proposed new $1.2 billion bond.
The following is an editorial posted by Bob Rehak.
The whole effort lacks transparency. Aside from general categories of spending, such as drainage, roads and parks, Garcia and his fellow Democrats won’t say:
- Where the money will go
- What projects it will be spent on
- What criteria will define “worst first” or “equity”
Promoting Bond Before Decision to Offer Bond
Garcia, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and County Judge Lina Hidalgo passed a motion a month ago to start promoting the bond before they even decided to offer the bond.
In the 7/19/22 Commissioners Court meeting, they showed a laundry list of promotion activities that couldn’t possibly be delivered for the budget they mentioned – $1 million. I say this based on a 45-year career in advertising. (See explanation below.)
Decision on Consultant to Promote Bond Still Unknown
When Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle asked directly WHO would promote the bond, the County Administrator said only “There is a list.” See 6:14:30 into this video.
And despite the supposedly urgent need to start promoting the bond, in the month since they approved hiring a consultant, Democrats have not:
Named who got the contract despite repeated requests.
Posted a request for bids on the county procurement site.
Brought a contract to commissioners court for approval.
At this point, there’s probably not even enough time to go through competitive bidding on a list of outreach projects as deep as the one below.
Trust Issue Flagrantly Ignored
Republican commissioners keep talking about the need for trust. And Democrats seem to do everything they can to undermine it. In the last three meetings Democrats have:
Threatened to withhold all money from any precinct whose commissioner votes against the bond.
Approved a lopsided distribution of funds that benefits primarily Democratic precincts.
Bragged openly about tricking voters by changing the definition of “equitable distribution of funds” in the flood bond after voters approved the text.
Talked ad nauseam about the need to apply so-called “equity principles” in prioritizing the distribution of bond money without addressing such pragmatic issues as the relative condition of roads or where the most county-owned roads are. (Almost 50% are in Precinct 3.)
When Commissioner Ramsey mentions the need for trust, invariably Garcia replies, “Precinct 2 people trust ME!” Garcia seems utterly oblivious to Ramsey’s point. People in other precincts don’t trust him.
That’s because of the way he tried to divert $191,000,000 from Cedar Bayou during the redistricting process. And because of the way flood bond money has been withheld – in the name of equity – from areas that experienced the worst flooding in the county (20+ feet above flood stage).
Garcia To Address Engineers
Garcia shows no interest in compromise. He knows his fellow Democrats will support him on Thursday. He’s so confident that he has accepted a speaking engagement the following day to present the bond to the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).
On Friday, August 19, 2022, Garcia, will address ACEC with County Administrator David Berry, County Engineer Dr. Milton Rahman, and Grant Martin of Grant Martin Campaigns. That will be like selling ice cream to eight-year olds.
When Will We Learn Who Will Promote Bond?
Perhaps Garcia will announce Thursday who the promotional consultant is and how much they’re paying him/her. Wouldn’t it be rich if Grant Martin Campaigns turns out to be the chosen promotion firm? He’s already Garcia’s campaign consultant.
Earlier this year, Hidalgo’s office ran into flak for awarding a no-bid COVID-outreach contract for $11 million to a one-person company operating out of an apartment. The lone employee of the firm was Felicity Pereyra, a former campaign manager for Garcia.
In fairness, Martin may not be chosen to promote the bond. We just don’t know yet who will get the contract because of the lack of transparency.
What Will We Get for A Million Bucks?
We also don’t know how they’re going to deliver – for $1 million – the laundry list of items shown in the July 19 meeting.
Execution of this plan could cost far more than the $1 million mentioned. Take just ONE item from the list above – mailings. There are more than 1.6 million homes and apartments in Harris County. Postage for metered letters costs $.53 per letter. So, postage alone – for ONE letter – would cost $848,000. Oh, and don’t forget the printing, envelopes and addressing!
To borrow Commissioner Cagle’s favorite phrase, “This just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Other Issues with Bond
Both Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey urged slowing this freight train down before it derails. They cited several other problems.
Understanding why we need another bond in two months when $197,000,900 dollars remains from the 2015 bond.
Increasing taxes at a time of hyperinflation when people can barely make rent and mortgage payments.
Rushing a bond offering and risking failure.
For a discussion of these issues, see my last post on the bond about Political Theater.
Don’t let three individuals raise your taxes by $1.2 billion plus interest over 25 years – for projects that likely won’t benefit you. That’s why they won’t commit, in writing, to where the money is going.
Sign Up to Speak at Special Bond Meeting
Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia will pack the speaker list for the special bond meeting this Thursday with supporters. Unless opponents sign up to speak, no one will hear the other side.
Read this Public Notice of a Special Meeting for the Bond Election. You don’t have to go downtown to speak. You can comment by phone. Just sign up no later than 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, 2022, at https://appearancerequest.harriscountytx.gov/. They will call you a few minutes before your turn to speak, so it won’t take all day.
Until I see some benefit out of the last bond, there’s no way I’m voting for another. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The trust just isn’t there. I say, “Put it in writing.”