Slow Down, Take A Deep Breath And Let's Get Flood Crisis Solution Right
First let's be clear, the Harvey historic flood was going to be a problem even if we had gotten everything right, because of the biblical scale we suffered.
Both the City of Houston and Harris County are talking about spending a lot of money to deal with our problems. Great, but before we jump let's make sure we have a well thought out, regional approach to flooding, restricting development in the flood plain and other critical issues.
Let's take a closer look at Mayor Turner's plan to raise taxes. The Mayor wants an emergency property tax increase of 8.9% and that's on top of the appraisal increases already built-in for most homeowner property taxes.
The big problem is it appears he is following Rahm Emmanuel's motto as Chief of Staff to President Obama, "never allow a crisis to go to waste."
Some questions that need to be answered and haven't yet:
- The request is for emergency funding to meet FEMA city's share, yet according to a City of Houston insider, the funding from tax increases will not be available until the Spring of 2018. So why now?
- When is the city going to go to zero based budgeting, establish and fund priorities like public safety and infrastructure and eliminate ancillary non-core spending?
- If flooding abatement is so important, why is the City looking for new and creative ways to spend money we don't have on things we don't need, comparatively speaking, like an almost $1 million a year homework help line?
- Are there other funds available unspent to meet the flood emergency? Again, our City Insider says yes, the city has about $150 million in a ready savings account not allocated from last year and around $50 million from the current budget. If so, isn't this more than the proposed emergency tax rate increase?
- Do you propose to dedicate all new funds to flood abatement and flood control projects, if so, why are you proposing to put the money in the general fund? Why should we trust the city after the misallocation of the rain tax to pay public works salaries? As Ronald Reagan said, "trust but verify." In this matter the city needs to prove we should trust them before giving them even more money to spend.
As for Harris County, Judge Emmett is correct that you need to reexamine: the region's flood control strategy, upgrading of aging dams, building a new storm water reservoir and ramping up regulations to control development in flood-prone areas. With a solid regional plan, taxpayers and developers are prepared to do their part after we review county spending and figure out how much is needed after a reallocation of county funds from non-propriety spending.