No matter how many years pass, those of us who were in the Houston region on Aug. 25, 2017, will never forget the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and the devastation that followed.
For the poorest neighborhoods, Harvey is not a distant memory. Its effects are still experienced, even six years later. Flooding events disproportionately impact people of color and low-income communities, and those hardest hit receive the least amount of resources to recover, rebuild, and be protected from the next flood. It’s a vicious cycle that churns on year after year. And that must change.
When we proposed a $2.5 billion bond to voters a year after Harvey, I pushed for the package to have enough money to fund flood control projects in all the hard-hit and vulnerable areas. With the support of local organizers and community groups, we implemented an equity framework to prioritize people over property. State leaders in Austin, however, put flood control planning in jeopardy when they withheld federal funds from the region.
Unfortunately, Texas leadership continues to deny our region the resources and decision-making powers that true recovery requires.
Starting Sept. 1, local leaders will no longer have the authority to act in the best interests of the communities they serve. Instead of fast-tracking aid and supporting leaders, state leaders slapped red tape on an already complex process when they passed House Bill 2127, aka the “Death Star” bill. This effectively blocks city and county leaders from representing their constituents, even during a hurricane: the House struck down an amendment that would have preserved local authority to protect the health and safety of community members during a disaster.
This move, coupled with former state officials last year playing political games with recovery dollars that should have gone to our region, just adds insult to injury. Those billions in federal aid sent to Texas in 2022 presented a critical opportunity to reduce flood risk and manage the impacts of the climate crisis in our region. Instead, Texas discriminated against Harris County residents and distributed $4.3 billion intended for at-risk coastal communities like ours to smaller, whiter, and less vulnerable inland areas.
Pressed by County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the Texas General Land Office, which distributes federal funds, acknowledged flaws in the process and directed $750 million to Harris County. This is just one of many examples of why local leadership matters.
We are continuing to fight for our fair share and doing everything we can to meet the needs of our region. We’re committed to ensuring every community has the flood protection it needs and deserves.