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.

Talks point to local control of U.S. long-term recovery aid

March 22nd, 2018

After a recent meeting among representatives of the City of Houston, Harris County and the Texas General Land Office in Washington, D.C., Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett announced that local governments and the state agency have established a framework for moving forward on distribution of long-term recovery funds for Hurricane Harvey.

“I had asked for fairness in how the City of Houston would be treated – that the City be properly consulted by the General Land Office, per the requirements for these funds set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Mayor Turner said. “This meeting marks the beginning of that consultation. We are now on the right path to a fair distribution of much-needed disaster relief dollars.”

“I’d like to thank Land Commissioner George P. Bush for his collaborative efforts, as well as our partners at Harris County,” Mayor Turner continued. “Working together, we can put these funds to work for the kinds of long-term investments in housing and community development that will make our city stronger for the future.”

“It’s crucial that local governments have significant input into how these funds are distributed,” said Judge Emmett. “As the first line of response to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey, we are most familiar with what is needed and where. I genuinely thank our state and federal officials for recognizing our need for flexibility.”

HUD convened the meeting, which included representatives from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. Abbott had selected the Texas General Land Office to distribute $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds appropriated to the State by Congress for Harvey relief last year. This is the second round of long-term recovery funding for Hurricane Harvey and is primarily intended to meet housing needs. Congress appropriated additional funds in January for infrastructure and mitigation.

The meeting was convened to begin consultations among the City, County, and State about how funds will be distributed and used. The framework gives Houston and Harris County local control over their recoveries and uses HUD’s unmet housing needs data as a basis for distributing funds.

The GLO will use the framework to draft an action plan, which is required by HUD before the agency will distribute funds to the state.  The public can comment on the draft action plan for 14 days before it is submitted to HUD for approval.

“This is a good first step, and the City of Houston plans to remain heavily involved in the process until we cross the finish line with HUD approval of the GLO’s action plan,” Mayor Turner said. “The sooner we have funds in our hands, the sooner we can implement a world-class community engagement plan and put these dollars to work for recovery.”

Armed with a clearer picture of how the funds will be distributed, the city immediately  will begin consulting with communities in Houston about how to use these resources to build a more resilient and equitable city.

Emmett taps BayTran president as transportation advisor

April 13th, 2016

Barbara Koslov

Barbara Koslov

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has hired local transportation expert Barbara Koslov to be his transportation policy adviser, replacing Richard Zientek, who recently became public affairs director of Union Pacific. Koslov started work March 21.

Koslov is the former president of the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership, a non- profit organization advocating for and helping to advance transportation and infrastructure improvements in the region. She also served on the Houston-Galveston Area Council Transportation Advisory Committee and on the boards of directors for a number of area chambers of commerce and regional agencies. Koslov also has worked as a transportation planning consultant and is the former manager of capital planning at the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

“Barbara Koslov is a perfect fit for the position as my transportation policy adviser,” Emmett said. “Her experience and contacts allow her to step into the role and be an asset immediately.”

Koslov, a native Houstonian, is a graduate of Bellaire High School, Tulane University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Groundbreaking held for joint inmate processing center

October 26th, 2015

Harris-County-Joint-Processing-CenterHouston Mayor Annise Parker, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and other city and county officials broke ground Tuesday on a joint inmate processing center that will consolidate and streamline all local inmate booking processes into one facility.

The $100 million processing center – to be built north of Buffalo Bayou downtown and next door to the county’s Baker Street Jail – will be built with bonds approved by county voters in November 2013. Construction will require no tax increase; the county will pay off the bonds with savings produced by the new facility’s operation.

The 246,000-square-foot Joint Processing Center is expected to be complete by the end of 2017. It will handle all inmate bookings and releases for the city and county, eliminating the redundancy of operating two separate systems, as is done now. As a result, the city will be able to shut down its two city jails, freeing up 100 more officers for law-enforcement functions and save about $4 million a year in operational expenses. In exchange, the city will contribute $30 million to the building of the center and will pay the county an additional booking fee per inmate.

The four-floor facility will hold as many as 1,520 inmates and will boast enhanced areas for medical and mental health screening and diversion stations to help provide alternatives to incarceration and expedited processes for paying bonds or fines on the spot. The result is expected to be significantly reduced booking times, allowing city police and county sheriff’s deputies to return to their patrols more quickly.

Overall management of the JPC will be controlled by Harris County.  The Houston Police Department will have dedicated space for its officers to use for compiling reports, drunk driving testing, investigations, evidence control and processing of its Class C prisoners.

The current timeline calls for the first inmates to be transferred to the processing center in December 2017, with the city’s jails slated for closure in January 2018.

PGAL is the project architect, and Clark-Horizon JV is construction manager.

WHO:
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett
Houston Mayor Annise Parker
Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland

WHAT:
Groundbreaking Ceremony

WHEN:
Noon, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, 700 N. San Jacinto St.