Harris, Galveston county judges discuss flooding, transportation, economy

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo discusses various problems the county faces at a Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership meeting Oct. 2.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo discusses various problems the county faces at a Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership meeting Oct. 2.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Galveston County Judge Mark Henry met Oct. 2 at the Bay Oaks Country Club to discuss various issues facing both counties.

Hidalgo said Harris County’s No. 1 priority is flood control, particularly after Tropical Storm Imelda. The county has hired an independent firm to figure out how to get drainage projects done faster. Projects originally expected to take 10-15 years are now firmly set at 10, she said.

“We’re moving forward as quickly as we can,” Hidalgo said. “Speed is of the essence here.”

As a county that borders the Gulf of Mexico, Henry said he was concerned about evacuation routes during hurricanes. During Hurricane Rita, more people died trying to evacuate than to the actual storm, Henry said.

To evacuate, Henry said, residents use Hwy. 146, which is under major construction; I-45, which is also under major construction; or Hwy. 6, which has stoplights and results in congestion. The Grand Parkway project would add a much-needed alternative evacuation route, so Henry said he was happy to see the road project back on the Texas Department of Transportation Unified Transportation—a 10-year plan that guides transportation projects—after it was temporarily removed.

As far as the multibillion-dollar coastal barrier project goes, Hidalgo said she believes Harris County cannot simply sit back and hope a hurricane does not move straight up the Houston Ship Channel, which she said would devastate the region will massive flooding. The county is considering interim solutions to help prevent potential catastrophe until the coastal barrier is complete.

Galveston County, Henry said, is also focused on economic development. By being stable, predictable and consistent, businesses are choosing to relocate to and expand in Galveston County, Henry said.

“I think we’ve convinced a lot of industries … that’s the way it is here,” he said, asserting the county's stability.

Tourism is still a major economic factor for the area, Henry said, adding that Galveston County expects to see 7.2 million visitors by the end of the year—200,000 more than 2017.

Hidalgo also discussed how Harris County commissioners recently voted on historic bail bond reform, which would waive bond fees for misdemeanor arrestees. A settlement for the proposal is before a judge, and county officials are hopeful it will be finalized soon, Hidalgo said.

“The idea is to be smarter and be an example for what criminal justice should look like in the county,” she said.

Overall, Hidalgo said the county wants to utilize smart, innovative people to find solutions to the county’s major problems, including flooding and transportation.

“We really need to continue fostering this spirit,” she said. “For the first time, we’re truly putting science first and people first.”
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.



Austin, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Waller and Wharton county judges joined a Greater Houston Partnership panel discussion Sept. 25. (Screenshot via Greater Houston Partnership)
Greater Houston judges discuss COVID-19 management, economic recovery

Leaders from Austin, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Waller and Wharton counties joined a Greater Houston Partnership panel in late September to discuss COVID-19.

Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an executive order Sept. 28 formalizing Houston Police Department's enactment of a cite-and-release policy for some low-level offenses. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston formalizes new police cite-and-release policy

The policy will allow Houston police officers to issue citations for some low-level offenses rather than perform arrests.

College of the Mainland in early 2020 converted a Methodist church at 1411 W. Main St. into an educational facility to replace the former League City location, which the college outgrew. (Courtesy College of the Mainland)
College of the Mainland awarded $3 million grant to further support Hispanic students

The college is designated as a as a Developing Hispanic-Serving Institution, with 33% of its students being Hispanic as of fall 2020.

Members of the Harris County Commissioners Court are expected to discuss where to set the property tax rate for fiscal year 2020-21 at a Sept. 29 meeting, and a recently released recommendation from the county's budget office suggests a no-new-revenue rate could be proposed to support the county's general needs. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Harris County budget office recommends tax rate decrease ahead of Sept. 29 discussion

However, officials are proposing a tax rate increase for the county's flood control district.

Galveston County Health District data shows 9 in every 10 cases of COVID-19 countywide are listed as recoveries. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
DATA: 9 in every 10 Galveston County COVID-19 cases is now a recovery

About 90% of the total COVID-19 cases in Galveston County are now listed as recoveries, according to the latest data from the Galveston County Health District.

Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference
Gov. Greg Abbott to allocate $171M from CARES Act to help renters at risk of eviction

Gov. Greg Abbott will allocate more than $171 million in renters assistance from the federal coronavirus relief package to eligible Texans.

Menu items include fried, grilled and boiled seafood platters as well as Cajun staples ranging from gumbo and shrimp etouffee to boudin balls and po'boys. (Courtesy The Catch)
Cajun eatery The Catch coming to Willowbrook and more Houston news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project proposes re-routing I-45 through the East End and Fifth Ward and expanding it through the Northside. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT releases environmental report, a pivotal step in I-45 rebuild

The report is one of the final steps before the project rerouting much of I-45 through downtown can begin.

2020 voter guide, i voted sticker
November 2020 election: Here are the candidates on the ballot for Harris County local races

Your guide to voting locations and who's on the ballot for Harris County races this November.

Here's how to get involved in a solar panel co-op in east Houston

La Porte, League City and Pasadena residents interested in utilizing solar energy can sign up to join the East Houston Solar Co-op until Sept. 30.

University of Houston—Clear Lake will resume offering its $18-per-class continuing education courses Oct. 2. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
University of Houston-Clear Lake's weekly continuing education program shifts to Zoom for fall semester

The program is open to all, regardless of student status, age or educational background.