The Turner Administration has conceded that little has been done to prevent future floods since Harvey. Turner and his surrogates have attempted to excuse their neglect by blaming the federal government for not giving them the money to do the necessary work.
Turner has not, however, explained what he has done with the over $350 million Houstonians have paid to the City since Harvey that is supposed to be dedicated to flood control. Most of that money has come from the drainage fee that was approved by voters in 2011. Since then the City has been collecting about $110 million annually.
But the City has a second source of drainage funding that is rarely discussed, the Storm Water Fund. The Storm Water Fund dates to the 1990s when the City began transferring money from the water and sewer enterprise fund (formally referred to as the Combined Utility System). Of course, when the drainage fee was proposed in 2011, none of those who promoted it bothered to mention to Houston voters that they were already paying to improve drainage as part of their water bill. In recent years, the City has been transferring over $60 million each year to the Storm Water Fund. 1
So, between the drainage fees and the Storm Water Fund, Houstonians have paid the City over $350 million for drainage work since Harvey. Where is it? I challenge anyone to find $350 million worth of drainage work that has been done in our City in the last 24 months.
There is no doubt the federal government has dragged its feet on getting Houston the relief money it needs. But there is an old saying about the Lord helping them that help themselves. Let’s keep pounding on the feds to get some money down here ASAP, but in the meantime, let’s elect a mayor that will actually use drainage money for drainage! I am that mayor and I have a comprehensive plan to reduce flooding that starts with ending the diversion of drainage fees. Please come hear about my plan tomorrow:
Fratelli’s Ristorante, 1330 Wirt Road
Tuesday, August 27th
Then at 6:30 p.m., join me across the street from Fratelli’s at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center for a free screening of the documentary film – Changed: When the Dams Opened. RSVP here.
1. In 2004 (the oldest records I can find) the City was transferring about $16 million to the fund and used it to employ about 400 workers to maintain the drainage system. This year’s budget calls for $66 million to be transferred but the number of workers is down to 340. According to the payroll run I obtained for January of this year, there were only 304 employees being paid for by the fund. One of the reasons for the decline in the budgeted positions is that, like the drainage fees, the storm water fees have increasingly been siphoned off for other uses. In the current budget, $17 million goes for a line item called “Debt Service & Other Uses.”