State of Counties Address draws large BAHEP crowd

November 1st, 2018

BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, from right, welcomes Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, TXU Energy Business Director Jason Schultz and Tiger 21 Chairman Rick Gornto to the State of the Counties Address Sept. 27 at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett probably grow tired of giving speeches, but one attending Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s State of the Counties Address Sept. 27 at Lakewood Yacht Club would never know it.

Both reeled off things foremost in the public’s mind, and, interlacing their remarks with a sprinkling of humor, provided BAHEP members with a quick look at the projects and problems at hand.

Judge Emmett spoke first, expressing his pleasure over the passage of the $2.5 billion Harris County flood bond referendum, noting that having the money on hand is necessary to getting matching federal dollars for Harvey improvements, going on to stress that “we need more accurate flood plain maps.”

He also discussed indigent healthcare, a cost borne by property owners that will probably be even more costly in the future. “We’ve got to get away from the county jail being the largest healthcare facility in the county,” he said, explaining that we’re turning a lot of bad kids into bad criminals instead of trying to rehabilitate them. “They get out of prison but can’t get a job because they have a prison record,” he said, “and eventually end up back in jail.”

Judge Henry reeled off a number of headline-type facts for the crowd, including the news that a Coastal Spine study by the seven-county group is due next month. Other items of interest:

  • Work on the expansion of State Highway 146 will begin in January 2019.
  • A total of 20,000 Galveston County homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
  • The Highway 646 overpass will be destroyed in January 2019.
  • Friendswood is growing with a big new development under way.
  • Galveston is getting a third cruise line and a record number of tourists this summer.
  • League City’s population is now approximately 120,000.
  • La Marque is the county’s fastest growing city, because of a big new development.

Area mayors attending included Pat Hallisey of League City, Carl Joiner of Kemah, Mike McNamara of Clear Lake Shores, Mike Foreman of Friendswood, Louis Rigby of La Porte, Thom Kolupski of Seabrook and Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, along with State Rep. Dennis Paul, Councilmen Dave Martin of Houston and Larry Millican of League City and Mayor Pro-tem Amanda Fenwick of Clear Lake Shores.

Area still facing many challenges county judges tell BayTran crowd

July 1st, 2018

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta and Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, from left, stop for a photo together at the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South Hotel.

The annual State of the Counties Luncheon is always the highlight of the year for the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership, and this year was no different with President Theresa Rodriguez greeting many area mayors and city councilors, eager for an update.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and Brazoria County Judge Mark Sebesta each talked about the effects of Hurricane Harvey, the transportation challenges they face and what they hope for the future.

After Chairman David Hamilton welcomed the crowd — that included Mayors Pat Hallisey of League City, Jeff Wagner of Pasadena, Tom Reid of Pearland, Carl Joiner of Kemah, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Thom Kolupski of Seabrook, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Mark Denman of Nassau Bay — the Charles A. Jacobson Award was presented by Judge Emmett.

The 2018 recipient was Port of Houston Authority Chairman Janiece Longoria, an attorney who is a frequent speaker on the importance of Port Houston, infrastructure and transportation.

Noting that the award, is presented each year to a community leader who continues the work started by aerospace executive Chuck Jacobson, the founder of the Bay Area Transportation Partnership who worked tirelessly to promote and advance transportation and infrastructure development around the region, Emmett, himself a past recipient of the award, seemed pleased to make the presentation, adding that it is “people like her that makes society tick.”

Judge Emmett gave a quick update on Harris County, which he told the crowd is the only county in the entire country with 2 million people, noting that one gets more house for his money here than most places before going on to point out some of the difficulties with the county having property taxes as its only income, whereas it needed more revenue sources. “We need an honest conversation about building roads,” he told the crowd. “We need your help.”

Judge Sebesta said Harvey was not a hurricane, but a bad-a– rain storm that flooded 13,000 homes in Brazoria County. “Harvey was the significant event of a lifetime,” he added.

Then, to update the BayTran crowd, he said the Highway 288 project was actually under construction “…after talking about it for years.” The project actually came to fruition through a partnership working with Pearland and TxDOT, he added.

Judge Henry, just re-elected to his third term and happy over the recent passage of a proposed bond issue, said Galveston County is facing many challenges with all the road work TxDOT has under way along I-45 from the north county line past Highways 518 and 646. “Evacuation this summer might be a real challenge,” he said, adding with a smile that the best travel time along the freeway in Galveston County is between 2 and 4 a.m. The construction work will not be completed until 2021, he said. Meanwhile, work on the Pelican Island bridge is getting started.

Other officials in the crowd included Galveston County Commissioners Ken Clark, Joe Giustie and Darrell Apffel, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, plus City Councilors Hank Dugie and Larry Millican of League City, Nancy Ojeda of La Porte, Natalie Picha of Seabrook, Thomas Schoenbein of Pasadena and Ashley Graves of Nassau Bay.

Port Commissioner John Kennedy, second from left, arrives at BayTran’s State of the Counties Luncheon at the Houston Marriott South to find himself in the company of, from left, Harris County liaison Ron Servis, La Porte Mayor Louis Rigby and Ken Fickes with Harris County Transit Services.