All four commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding stating existing services can continue within the precinct boundaries that were in place before the redistricting maps were approved through the first quarter of 2022.
“The memorandum of understanding is basically saying ‘Hey, let’s all play nice and work with each other for the next few months to kind of transition,’” Precinct 4 Communications Director Joe Stinebaker said.
Commissioners agreed the continuity of services was a top priority during the transition, which has already begun. Harris County Administrator David Berry said if two precincts reach an arrangement before March 31, they can proceed with the transition.
County officials initially proposed a 90-day transition plan to be completed by Jan. 31 but recognized it could take much longer because of the significant changes made and the upcoming holiday season.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said commissioners have worked well together in previous redistricting transitions and expressed confidence it could be done successfully again.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey pushed back, saying previous transition periods have been much different. Cagle mentioned the vote on new maps has historically been unanimous and both Republican commissioners brought up the drastic “flip” of their two precincts.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a redistricting that’s moved 2.3 million people. That’s what we’re talking about here,” Ramsey said. “So the scope of it, even though it’s been done before ... it’s just going to be one of those historical things.”
First Assistant County Attorney Jay Aiyer said the memorandum of understanding was intended to help the transition process go smoothly as well as provide clarity for county employees and community members.
“This is a voluntary document; it doesn’t require court action collectively. It’s an expression of the cooperation of the individual members of the court,” Aiyer said.
Berry recommended working to centralize certain county services during this time, including fully implementing 311 technology countywide; having a common website and services portal with one domain name; centralizing information technology needs such as data management and security; identifying opportunities for transportation program modification and expansion; and developing a countywide electric vehicle pilot program. He noted work on all these initiatives has already started.
Commissioners asked Berry to come back to the court with proposals to get these programs implemented by Jan. 31.