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Aug. 2018 HCA/ASCE joint meeting featuring guest speaker, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett

Wednesday, September 26, 2018  
Posted by: Emelie Englehart
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Edward M. Emmett became Harris County Judge on March 6, 2007.  A member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1979 to 1987, Judge Emmett was chairman of the Committee on Energy, a member of the Transportation Committee, and represented the state on numerous national committees relating to energy and transportation policy.  In 1989, President George H. W. Bush nominated Emmett as a Commissioner at the Interstate Commerce Commission.  Judge Emmett has received international recognition for his work in transportation and logistics policy.  He was named Transportation Person of the Year by Transportation Clubs International and one of the Top 20 Logistics Professionals by Logistics Forum.  He also is director of Harris County's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, chairman of the Harris County Juvenile Board and chairman of the Conference of Urban Counties Policy Committee.  He graduated from Rice University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974 with a Master of Public Affairs degree.  Judge Emmett has received numerous awards and honors, including Distinguished Alumnus of Rice University, the Distinguished Public Service Award from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and the Presidential Call to Service Award.  Judge Emmett and his wife, Gwen, have been married for 43 years and have four children and 13 grandchildren.

Annually, the August monthly luncheon is a joint event between the Houston Contractors Association (HCA) and the Houston chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).  The HCA President David Boehm of NBG Constructors introduced Harris County Judge Ed Emmett to the at-capacity ballroom of the Houston Junior League.  President Boehm stated that he deeply respected the Judge who he has known for years. 

When Judge Emmett took the stage he immediately thanked both of the Houston area organizations for having him.  The Judge started his speech talking about the then upcoming Harris County Bond Election for flood control projects, specifically Proposition A. 

The proposition would authorize the county to issue bonds not to exceed $2.5 billion for the purposes of financing flood control projects for the district, and other storm water and drainage systems in the county, as well as authorizing the county to levy a tax to pay the interest on the bonds.

The Judge explained that the $2.5 billion bond would be used to purchase storm damaged properties along waterways, provide funding for local matching requirements for federal grant funds, and allow funding for studies to prevent future flooding events.  Projects would be spread throughout Harris county in all twenty-one watersheds, with an emphasis being placed on Brays, White Oak, Greens, and other major bayous.

Judge Emmett emphasized that both the Houston Contractors Association and the Houston chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers has supported the proposition financially by raising and donating funds to the Fight Flooding Political Action Committee.  He stated that this PAC was raising awareness about Proposition A and rallying support throughout the county by hosting public information meetings, posting yard signs, spreading informative literature, and implementing marketing campaigns. 

Despite the support from these groups, the Judge stated that there are a portion of Houstonians who are opposed to Proposition A and that they held misconceptions regarding how the funds raised for the Fight Flooding PAC would be used. 

Judge Emmett stated that Harris County Flood Control District has had twenty-one public engagement meetings in all twenty-one Harris County watersheds.  He said the meetings were extremely well attended, some seeing 700-800 residence in attendance.  Flood Control ran the meetings and did an excellent job changing the format to allow all attendees to see plans and ask questions of staff at multiple presentation stations.

This bond has broader base support than any Harris county bond has ever had.  The Judge stated that after leaving the HCA/ ASCE luncheon he will be going to a press conference with an organization called the Metropolitan Organization.  This group is a liberal group that is endorsing the bond.  Both the democratic and republican parties are unanimously endorsing the bond.  At this time the bond doesn’t have any organized opposition.  The only “opposition” is Texas State Senator Betancourt who has been only complaining about the date of the election.  Alternatively, most people have concluded that the date of the election is a good thing because if it were in the general election, this bond vote would be at the bottom of the ballot which is a very long and might be over looked.  This will be a special election, only covering Proposition A and will be held on the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey hitting Houston.

Another concern with the date of the vote is that the vote is in a summer month and might result in a low turnout.  Already from early voting there has been the same amount of people who voted as in last year’s state constitutional amendments.  The Judge encouraged the room to go vote because there will be a significant No vote against this.  People against the bond complained about the bond for being a tax increase.  Also, the pro-bond election Fight Flooding PAC has been overwhelmingly funded by contractors, engineers, and developers.  The judge countered this by stating how the business community is interested in maintaining the economic vitality of Houston, Harris County, and this entire region.  He stated that if we don’t do something about our flooding then the rest of the country and world will say we’re going to go somewhere else where it doesn’t flood.  Other organizations that are in support of the bond election unfortunately, don’t have the funds to financially contribute to the bond. 

The Judge stated that he believes that the bond will pass but he again urged the room to go vote and communicate with friends and on social media. The judge thanked the two groups for all their efforts and stated that hopefully we will all get to celebrate a Prop A victory Saturday night. 

 

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