Former fiscal conservative Ed Emmett doesn’t like Astrodome demo proposal, may push another bond vote

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For years now, we (and other sensible people) have questioned the lack of leadership on the Astrodome coming from County Judge Ed Emmett, who likes to project himself as a fiscally responsible, sober-minded area leader.

The county judge’s passive-aggressive treatment of the Astrodome issue (seemingly content continuing to waste taxpayer resources on the derelict liability, while letting staff explain away his lack of leadership by pointing out he is one vote among several, and, until recently, avoiding any real stand) over many years has led us to begin referring to the politician as a former fiscal conservative, since throwing precious taxpayer dollars at a depreciating liability, year after year, can hardly be described as fiscally responsible, let alone conservative.

Last week, the county judge proclaimed that the most recent demolition/tribute plan from the two key stakeholders (the Texans and the Rodeo), a plan that is said to involve significant investment from those two entities, is “silly” — and that he opposes anything but an expensive re-purposing of the facility that has yet to emerge from the private sector despite YEARS of efforts from area trough-feeders and boondoggle advocates, and that was firmly rejected by area voters/taxpayers in the referendum (never mind that last — he now has in mind another bond proposal!).

Indeed, one choice paraphrase from the Chronicle‘s reporting illustrates why we have, for some time, chosen to refer to the county judge as a former fiscal conservative:

Emmett said he would oppose the plan even if the Texans and the Rodeo agreed to foot the entire bill.

THAT is fiscal lunacy.

Unfortunately, this sort of passive-aggressive non-leadership has been typical of the county judge for too many years:

The Astrodome is the only building in the world that’s 350,000 square feet of column-free space,” he told a luncheon crowd at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. “There are a lot of creative people in the world who would love to figure out ways to use the space if we just keep it and make it an option for them.”

The county’s top elected official was not advocating for a specific redevelopment proposal and told association members there is not one currently under consideration by the Harris County Commissioners Court, which will have the final say on any plan to renovate or demolish the structure. Rather, he said that tearing it down would be a waste of a valuable taxpayer-funded asset and that demolition would come back to haunt him in retirement.

It’s typical of the passive-aggressive non-leadership we have seen from Emmett on this issue over many years that he’s quick to offer a preference, but has not proven capable of putting together any plan or locate any investor group that gets key stakeholders to buy in (literally).

And from the quote above, it appears that the non-leadership on this issue over a long period is driven by the politician’s desire to avoid a legacy of being the county judge who signed off on the demolition of the Astrodome (which is no longer an asset — to correct the assertion — but a liability that continues to cost taxpayers). Of course, he denies this later in the story, but does not deny the accuracy of the “haunt him in retirement” quote. Entrenched politicians often try to have it both ways.

Cory Crow elaborated on this point elsewhere:

Both [recent Chronicle] articles continue to insinuate that the County’s options for the Astrodome are subject to the whims of one man who’s not primarily concerned with finding the correct outcome, but with ensuring that his legacy doesn’t read that he was in charge when the Dome came down. In terms of leadership, that’s certainly not up there with the risks taken by great leaders of the past is it?

It’s a dismal state of affairs, including the name-calling coming from the county judge’s staff on twitter.

As far as the notion that taxpayer resources should continue to be squandered on a liability, despite considerable evidence that the public has no zeal for doing so, just because one entrenched politician doesn’t want to be the County Judge on whose watch the Astrodome came down, we have this advice: Consider Retirement.

RELATED: Voters reject quarter-billion dollar Astrodome boondoggle; trough feeders try to regroup – blogHOUSTON, Some things are so predictable – Unca Darrell, It depends on which vote and … whether the political class likes the outcome – Unca Darrell.

Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX