News from August 2019
Harris County Commissioners Court voted to approve a settlement to overhaul the county’s bail system. The price tag ranges from $59 million to $97 million over seven years, and the county budget department expects to save $18,250 per defendant, per year because of the reforms.
A new report from Apartment List found that, approved housing development nationwide lags 38 percent below its highest point before the recession. In Texas, Austin and Dallas both issued more permits than their pre-recession peaks, but Houston and San Antonio lag well behind their peaks. The report says, “While most of these metros have built enough new housing to keep pace with strong job growth, they have done so primarily through continued single-family sprawl.”
Earlier this week, we wrote about Harris County receiving a “successful” designation from the Texas Secretary of State’s (SoS) Office regarding its Countywide Polling Program. The statement from the County Clerk announcing the designation did not include information from the Secretary of State’s letter noting that “concerns have been raised regarding the timing of the updating of poll books with voter check-in information.”
Cindy Clifford, of the lobbying group The Clifford Group, has been around city hall for some time. In the process, she gained undue influence which seems to be more beneficial to her and her clients than it is to taxpayers. Going back a few years, Clifford represented Yellow Cab during the fight over ridesharing regulations in the city of Houston. At the time, when Mayor Sylvester Turner refused to adjust regulations, Anvil Bar & Refuge owner Bobby Huegel shared a photo of the Turner and Clifford saying:
Just ahead of the filing deadline for Houston’s 2019 municipal elections, former Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez filed to run for Houston Controller. At an event over the weekend, Sanchez announced his intent to seek the office and on Monday, just ahead of the 5pm filing deadline, he made it official. “I am running for Houston City Controller! I will not be a rubber stamp for the Mayor, but a watchdog for the taxpayer, working to shed light on our city’s finances,” he said after filing.
More than 100 candidates filed for a place on the 2019 municipal election ballot, by close of filing on Monday. At 15, Council District D, the seat being vacated by mayoral candidate Dwight Boykins, has the most candidates. The highest profile race, the race for mayor, has 12 candidates: Kendall Baker, Dwight Boykins, Derrick Broze, Tony Buzbee, Naoufal Houjami, Bill King, Sue Lovell, Victoria Romero, Demetria Smith, Johnny Taylor, Sylvester Turner, and Roy J. Vasquez all filed to run for mayor.
Now that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced charges against the two officers involved in Houston Police Department’s deadly Harding Street Raid, a lot of attention will shift to the upcoming legal proceedings and all of information that will be sure to follow. But Houstonians would be wise to pay an equal amount of attention to the mayor’s administration and police department leadership, as it happened under their watch and little has been done to reassure the public that something like this won’t happen again.
This week, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a new set of guidelines, called “Harris Thrives” aimed at flood control projects included in last year’s $2.5 billion bond. The big issue with Harris Thrives is a new tool called the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) that County Judge Lina Hidalgo proposed as a way to prioritize the 238 flood control projects in that bond.
This week, Harris County Commissioners Court approved a move to form a working group with the Sheriff to determine the feasibility of setting up a polling location at the county jail. The proposal came from Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who said that it stemmed from his work with State Rep. Harold Dutton providing ballots for those in custody. “From what I recall from that conversation, it’s their constitutional right so we need to make sure we’re following that particular law,” he said.
A new group called Houston for Tomorrow is out with sponsored Facebook ads calling for a takeover of the Houston Independent School District by the Texas Education Agency. “As taxpayers, we want the schools we pay for to be safe and for our children and grandchildren to be able to learn. We have many good schools, and many great teachers, but the Houston ISD board of trustees is a disgrace,” the ad says. “All they do is fight and blame each other and they have proven that they can’t fix our schools…Call TEA, ask them to remove the HISD board so we could put our children first.”