There was lots to talk about locally in the news this past week, but one thing that caught my eye was the news that the Harris County commissioners court is considering new procedures for how federal and local bond money earmarked for flood mitigation will be spent. Following Hurricane Harvey, Congress passed legislation approving billions of dollars for flood mitigation, which has been augmented by a very off-timed election for a $2.5 billion flood bond called for by the Harris County Commissioners Court. The flood bond proposal passed thanks to the official approval of 5% of the voting electorate in Harris County. After the election, now former Harris County judge Ed Emmett thanked the 5% of voters who officially voted for the bond proposal, saying that Harris County residents overwhelmingly approved of the bond proposal.
With billions of dollars of taxpayer largess floating around Harris County for flood damage mitigation, people have come out licking their chops at the prospect of having a share at the pig trough. However, the dynamics of who is going to get what has changed dramatically, thanks to the fact that a general election was held a mere three months after the Harris County bond election. In the November 2018 election, the Democratic Party rode a minor wave of anti-Trump sentiment, along with a well run statewide U.S. Senate seat campaign by Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, to make substantial gains in state and local politics. The effect in Harris County of this election was not only that an entire slate of Republican Party judges was swept from judicial office, but longtime Harris County judge Ed Emmett was unseated, as well as Republican Harris County commissioner Jack Morman. This tilted the Republican/Democrat party affiliation on Commissioners Court from 4-1 Republican to 3-2 in favor of the Democrats.
And, the effects of this transfer of power in Harris County politics have already begun to be felt. Once the election results were announced, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this would result in an awfully big change in when and where those billions of dollars of flood control money might end up being spent. Now, in my older age, I’ve become rather old-fashioned when it comes to politics, in the sense that I have become jaded about the veneer that so-called Progressives have put forth that we have to have government by experts. Why? Because through very long activism, I’ve come to see that even if you have lots of college-educated expert bureaucrats staffing government agencies, whose pious declared intent is no doubt to work in the public interest, when push comes to shove, all that expertise is going to get pushed aside in favor of good, old-fashioned, pork-barrel money grabbing. Newly elected Congressman Dan Crenshaw can protest all he wants about how flood control money needs to be spent on the areas of Houston that were the hardest hit, but the Kingwood-area folks at Reduce Flooding have a much better grip on things when they observe that what really decides where that money is going to be spent will be determined by who shows up at the polls come election day. And, who shows up at elections in the future.
Yes, the Progressive ideal of good government by experts is a good story, but the blunt fact of the matter is that if you daydream of solving issues through politics and government, then this is the kind of actual decision-making you’re going to get.