On the Harris County Commissioners’ $2.5 billion flooding bond proposal

“Timing is 95 percent of what goes on in politics.” – Neal Meyer

The news came out this past week that the Harris County Commissioners Court voted 5-0 to ask Texas governor Greg Abbott to approve holding a special election to tell ask Harris County voters to rubber stamp approve $2.5 billion in bonds that would ostensibly be earmarked for flood control. This special election would be scheduled to be held on August 25th, 2018. Needless to say, this cantankerous voter has a few things to say about this.

First of all, there is the matter of the timing of the election. I don’t mind a bond election, but wanting to schedule an election that is not on the Texas uniform election dates as stipulated by the Texas Legislature in the state election codes smacks of this bond election being rather inconvenient for those in the local halls of power. What? Don’t want to schedule a bond election that would otherwise be at the same time that you yourself might be up for reelection, Mr. Politician? Tough luck! God (or Mother Nature) doesn’t care all that much about the affairs of men, and if the worst recorded hurricane rain storm in the history of the American republic happened to have occurred at a bad time in the electoral cycle, then tough luck. Suck it up!

Second, there is the issue that there won’t be much time for many people to get a good luck at the bond proposal, and as always, the devil is always in the details in big spending proposals like this. How is the money to be spent? Will it be for flood control projects? Will monies be used to buy out homeowners who happen to be living close to bayous or other waterways that flood? Will it be used to settle lawsuits made against the county? We don’t know that yet, and I for one am not waiting with bated breath for information. After all, the county held an election back in November 2015 regarding over $850 million in bonding, with $700 million going towards roads. I might have considered voting for such a bond, but for the life of me I could not find out any information on where the roads were going to be built. Ergo, I didn’t vote for that bond.

Third, considering that an August election would result in a very low voter turnout, there is an issue of legitimacy. If this election results in a turnout of 50,000 voters voting in favor of the bond, while a mere 30,000 vote against, that means only a tiny percentage (like 2-3 percent) of the 2+ million voting electorate of Harris County ends up making the decision that everyone else has to live with. I’ve long gotten tired of this kind of stuff happening, which is why I’ve been pushing for several years now to require voter quorums for bond elections to pass.

Believe it or not, I might actually vote in favor of a bond proposal for flooding, but only after my concerns listed above are addressed. I would like to see a full vetting of the bond proposal, which means delaying the public vote until the November 2018 election. That would give the electorate another 2 1/2 months to analyze and debate the proposal. The November 2018 election will also result in a higher turnout, which will give the bond vote stronger legitimacy.

There is no need to hurry, so why not wait?