Q&A: Get to know the Fort Bend County Precinct 4 Commissioner candidates

Fort Bend County Precinct 4 Commissioner James Patterson, a republican, faces democratic challenger Ken DeMerchant on the Nov. 6 ballot. Get to know the candidates, and see where they stand on county-related issues here:

James Patterson
Occupation: County Commissioner
Experience: 19 years
Top priorities: Maintaining the quality of life for all citizens in Fort Bend County
Phone number: 281-610-9072
Website: www.reelectjamespatterson.com

Ken DeMerchant
Occupation: Software engineer
Experience: Bachelor of science in electrical engineering with 25 years as a software engineer
Top priorities: Improve emergency preparedness; strengthen flood mitigation; advocate fair pay and benefits; expand voting opportunities and secure our elections from cyber-attack; fight for no-kill animal shelters
Phone number: 832-350-8412
Website: www.ken4commissioner4.com

As Hurricane Harvey recovery continues in Fort Bend County, what projects related to flooding do you think are most important?
Patterson: Fifteen years ago, we started widening, deepening, and extending Ditch H past [Hwy.] 90A and the railroad, where it becomes a diversion channel for Oyster Creek before Oyster Creek gets to Main St. or [Hwy.] 90A in Sugar Land. This structure also allows subdivisions south of [Hwy.] 90A to have better drainage to the river.  The Drainage District facilitated clearing the banks and constrictions from within Oyster Creek as well as dredging the creek to [Hwy.] 6.

DeMerchant: Fort Bend County needs a comprehensive plan to reduce our risk of flooding in our homes and businesses, and it needs to be done by a wide range of projects. Everything from improving drainage to home buyouts, to raising existing structures to restrictions on building in floodplains. We have a “double whammy” happening between climate change causing storms to continue to worsen and covering all our grasslands, which soak up rain water, with concrete. The first item on my agenda would be to call for a second bond election similar to what Harris County just passed.

Aside from Harvey recovery, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing Precinct 4, and how would you address it?
Patterson: I think traffic issues are a challenge in Precinct 4. I would like to make better use of technology in order to address the constant growth in traffic, not just in Precinct 4, but the entire county. Our desire would be for more of our citizens to take advantage of our ever-expanding public transportation system to travel to such places as the medical center.

DeMerchant: Property taxes. Many people are being priced out of their homes with the rise in property taxes. I will lobby against the unfunded mandates handed down from the legislature. I will make sure the additional revenue brought in due to the growth of the county is spent wisely for the people and call for a mechanism to be put in place to make sure homes are not artificially inflated in price so the county can increase revenue.

What made you want to run for this position?
Patterson: I believe that Fort Bend County has an outstanding Commissioners Court that seeks to make our county a better place to live, work and play. We have a very diverse court in both our actions and attitudes and I believe that I can continue to make a positive difference as a member of this court for the best interests of the citizens of Fort Bend County.

DeMerchant: When I saw how unprepared this county was for Harvey. While our first responders did an incredible job and should be commended, I feel leadership should strive to improve so we don’t put our residents in harm’s way in the first place. One example I heard was homeowners in Riverstone were told to evacuate by a person driving down the street with a bullhorn. Within an hour they had a foot of water in their homes. I decided I wanted to do something to make a difference and to improve the lives of everyone in the county.

By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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