MY EMAIL – “Winter Storm Uri Resident Survey. We Want to Hear from YOU! Take this Resident Survey on how Winter Storm Uri impacted you or your neighborhood.” This message is from the City of Houston - Housing and Community Development Department. Actually, I had never heard of such a city department, had you? Wonder if they could come out and fix the potholes in my neighborhood streets which are killing my car’s wheels, rims and my spine. In any event, now the City of Houston wants to know how I was impacted by Winter Storm Uri, which was in February of LAST YEAR! That is about a year and a half ago. Doesn’t City Hall have a calendar?
Ronald Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” I am not a big bash-the-government person. I get my mail, the Russian Army is not shelling my house – yet. I’d rather Dr. Fauci treat me than Tucker Carlson. We need a bumper sticker: “The Alamo Was Defended by Government Workers.” But there are times, like “this present crisis,” when we must wonder about our various levels of government. Take Winter Storm Uri. The devastating and deadly results were preventable. I mean, what does North Dakota do in winter? How about Maine and Alaska? The Texas state government was at fault, although good luck finding anyone, particularly our Gov. Greg Abbott, taking responsibility.
My email goes on to say that the city “would like to hear from you about how the City should use $30 million of federal disaster recovery grants. The grants will be used to help Houstonians prepare for future disasters and to address unmet needs….” Huh? My wife and I, like you, suffered for days freezing under blankets in a blacked-out house during Uri. Now there’s $30 million (our tax dollars) waiting to be spent to make up for our misery and to prevent a re- occurrence.
It will probably be years before I get my share of that $30 million if our past is indication. I am referring, of course, to Hurricane Harvey. That was in August 2017, causing catastrophic flooding and more than 100 deaths. It’s tied with 2005's Hurricane Katrina as the costliest hurricane on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, mostly from flooding in the Houston area. Harvey hit town almost FIVE YEARS AGO! Help is on the way. Maybe.
Congress originally appropriated $1.3 billion – yes, billion -- to help us recover from Harvey. Somehow the state’s General Land Office (GLO) got the funds to pass on to Houston. Remember that the GLO is run by George P. Bush, who planned on using that office as a stepping-stone to become the Texas Attorney General and then on and on. Alas, like the Kennedys’ Camelot, the Bush Dynasty died. George P. lost in the Republican primary runoff on May 24, 2022, to Ken Paxton: 68 to 32 percent of the vote. We must wonder about anyone who could lose more that 2-to-1 to an indicted official also under investigation by the FBI for bribery.
Who would get that $1.3 billion for hurricane relief? In an unbelievable move, the GLO allocated no money to either Houston or Harris County. Zero. Nada. The funds would to small, rural towns (which voted Republican) even though it was obvious to everyone that the appropriately named Bayou City and Harris County suffered the worst. After a lot of screaming and hollering, Bush then said he would seek $750 million for Harris County, though not for the city.
Meanwhile, there were – what else? – lawsuits. Harvey poured a record 62 inches of water on Houston. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the two dams that hold back water west of the city to prevent floods from inundating west Houston. So the engineers opened the dams doors, allowing a flood of water to, uh, inundate west Houston. My own house was one of the thousands that were destroyed. Lawsuits were filed against the Army citing, of all things, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. No, not that part about taking the Fifth to avoid testifying against yourself. Lawyers cited the rest of that amendment that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The Army deprived me of my house without just compensation or even an un-just compensation. Alas, a judge threw out that argument but then a higher judge overruled the lower judge – still with me? -- and maybe my grandchildren will see ten bucks minus legal fees. Not to get sidetracked, but each year I pay hundreds of dollars for flood insurance. Should I? Apparently the governments will take care of those who didn’t pay.
Right now the city and the state are accusing the other of sloppiness, doing nothing or a power grab. Next thing you know they will be using satire, innuendo and hyperbole. Get this from Austin: “After missing the benchmarks the City of Houston set for itself -- three times in a row -- the GLO has determined the City of Houston has made no process improvements and never will.” It plans to take back $91 million of Hurricane Harvey disaster funds from the City of Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner, in turn, called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate the land office for “biased and inconsistent treatment” of the City of Houston and its residents. Want one more complication? HUD has determined that the GLO discriminated against communities of color by denying then flood mitigation funding.
“We Want to Hear from YOU!” my email says. OK, I really don’t care about your petty spats except it involves my money. How about getting rid of the lot of you, both in Houston and Austin? Maybe your successors will fix my potholes.
Ashby votes at ashby2comcast.net