Lynn Ashby

THE TROUGH – Just stick your snout in here and get big bux from Uncle Sam. Congress has   approved $4.3 billion to help Texas and local governments finance infrastructure to stave off future disasters with dams, canals, drains and a little Dutch boy with a strong finger. We need the projects because we remember Hurricane Harvey. That was a Category 4 hurricane that hit Texas and Louisiana in August 2017, causing massive flooding, more than 100 deaths and $125 billion in damages. Harvey is tied with 2005's Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical storm on record. 

So get in line for an ounce of prevention and our share of the loot.But wait. Not so fast. Houston and Harris County suffered half of the damage and deaths caused by Harvey and, by all rights, they should get half the flood prevention money. They had asked for more than $1.3 billion, and they got, uh,nothing. Huh? Nothing? You read right. Zero. The reasoning, if you can call it that, is a complicated formula made up by the Texas General Land Office (GLO). The formula gave Houston and Harris County less than half the average score for all the other city and county projects that were awarded money. That includes 48 Southeast Texas counties. Four smaller municipalities in east Harris County — Pasadena, Jacinto City, Galena Park and Baytown — will receive about $90 million combined. In the midst of all this, the GLO approved $750 million for Harris County, but earlier the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that minority neighborhoods were not given their share of Harvey funds, so I don’t know if anyone will ever get anything.  

Who is in charge of the GLO? George P. (for Prescott or maybe Petty) Bush. He is the eldest child of the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush; nephew of the 43rd president, George W. Bush; grandson of the 41st president, George H. W. Bush. Now P. is in a runoff with incumbent Ken Paxton for Texas Attorney General. P. placed third in Harris County in the March 1 primary, so in the runoff we may prevent P. from advancing his political career. Hehehe. As the Kennedy family said, “Don’t get mad, get even.” 

When the GLO’s pay schedule was made public, our local officials went ape. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said it was “unconscionable.” Mayor Sylvester Turner called on the federal agency to “immediately halt the distribution” of the funds until it could review the situation. Turner added: “And it is unfathomable that the state GLO would redirect most of these dollars to areas that did not suffer much from Hurricane Harvey.” When even more outrage hit the GLO, P. said it was not his fault. He was only following instructions from HUD. There seems to be a lot of finger-pointing in Austin these days. Check under: “Abbott, Greg – Ice Storm Uri.” P. could have yelled the explanation of Mexican soldiers at the Battle of San Jacinto: “Me no Alamo!” except that he is in the midst of a battle of his own with Lite Guv Dan Patrick over how to spend the nearly $400 million redevelopment plan earmarked for redoing the Alamo. 

This isn’t the first time Houston has been snubbed. Back in 2012, NASA was going to farm out some of its old space craft so the public could see where their tax dollars were going. The Kennedy Space Center in Florida got one. So did the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and that hotbed of space exploration, New York City. The Johnson Space Center in Houston got a mock-up, a replica that never left ground. As former Houston Congressman Ted Poe blogged: “The first word spoken on the moon was ‘Houston’ not ‘New York City.’” But we did get the Johnson Space Center, the Houston Ship Channel (the feds paid half) and several military recruiting offices in strip centers. 

We also got the Barker-Addicts dams and reservoirs. They were courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, built after devastating floods in 1929 and 1935. Construction of the Addicks and Barker structures were completed in 1948 and 1945, respectively. Everything worked fine until Harvey. Actually, it was after the rains fell that the dams were opened, inundating thousands of homes, including mine. I should have known. My first clue was when the animals at the Houston Zoo started lining up two by two. 

The Bayou City is aptly named: 26 percent of Harris County lies within the 100-year flood plain. I believe that study was made 100 years ago. No wonder we flood in a heavy dew, and real estate agents use glass-bottom boats. If and when we get any funds to prevent more flooding, let’s start with overbuilding out west. Before Harvey, the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) argued, “Contrary to popular belief, not many of the miles of man-made or improved channels are concrete lined. Only about 6 percent of the channels in the county are concrete lined -- most are grass lined.” I must only see the 6 percent. 

HCFCD also disputed the suspicion (mine and other survivors) that all the concrete and asphalt, malls and schools, being built out west and in town are adding to the threat of us being washed away. “It is a popular urban myth that, in Houston's and Harris County's past, flood plains were contained to the channel banks, and that land development has caused all of the area's flooding problems. That is not true. Nature can and will provide more rainfall than the area's channel systems can handle.” I think what the HCFCD was saying – and, again, this was before Harvey – was that all the concrete being poured in Katy isn’t to blame because “nature” can still dump more rain on us than the channels can handle. So P., let’s either (1) build more channels (2) stop opening the flood gates or (3) hire more little Dutch boys.

(3) comments


Here is the link where you can find the approval from HUD for the competition criteria for distributing the funding: mitigation-ap.pdf (

The federal government is not a good shepherd of your tax dollars, as they either knowingly approved a discriminatory competition, or, they simply rubber stamp everything without due diligence.


The whole GLO/HUD/COH/Harris county deal is a little more complex and nuanced than this column makes out. Since our legacy media doesn't have reporters any longer, I have been contacting HUD since they sent a letter to the GLO claiming that the competition to distribute Harvey funding was discriminatory. Now, the GLO had sent a letter to Marcia Fudge at HUD which stated that the competition for the funding was approved by HUD. So, I have been emailing HUD to get them to confirm whether or not this plan was approved by their agency, and, if so, why didn't they determine that it was discriminatory from the outset and make the GLO revise it. They have been stonewalling, since, of course, it is mostly the fault of the federal government that we have reached this debacle.

It is also my opinion and belief that the HUD money was meant to assist those jurisdictions with less tax revenues. Since Houston and Harris County get a lot of tax money compared to many of the smaller counties and towns, it would make sense if the competition allowed those jurisdictions to get more funding. Of course, Houston wastes a lot of money that it could use for flooding relief. As well, I have offered to help the city with applications for federal programs, since I am knowledgeable of this field. I doubt that most city employees are really well qualified.

We must further recall that the City of Houston had to sign a VOCA with HUD because Houston and Mayor Turner were practicing discrimination in housing. Meanwhile, the county had to cancel their contract with Elevate after it became public that the County Judge who Held A Grudge had doled out $11 million to a Democrat party buddy.

The two political parties are like violent street gangs who want to control the money. Sadly, this money is our money. It is tax money that the federal government forcefully takes from the people, and doles out to state and county and city entities for them to hand out to other agencies. By the time it filters down, so many administrative and programmatic costs have been taken out, that the total for direct programs is greatly reduced. Harvey was four and a half years ago. How long will it be before any victims receive assistance or before improvements are made to infrastructure? There will be 8 more storms before anything comes of this. This is why the federal government shouldn't be in charge of most state affairs. Your Founders insurrected against their rightfully elected King for less. Please contact HUD to get an answer from them as to why they approved a discriminatory scoring criteria.


Don't worry, Beto's got a plan to fix the problem.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.