Houston, we have a problem.

Tomorrow, August 25, is the one-year anniversary of Harvey. It's also voting day for the Harris County Flood Control District's $2.5 billion flood relief bond. Didn't know that? Got lost in the onslaught of insane news this week? Well, now you know. And if you care about the future of our city and don't like it when it floods, or if you're one of the many still waiting to get back into homes that were swamped when that record-breaking storm swept through town last August, you have a lot of reasons to get off the couch and get to the polls tomorrow. Here's the rundown on what's at stake:

Why should I vote?

This is an easy one. Do you want to be a part of the decision-making process about whether to start dealing with the massive infrastructure and logistical issues that were underscored (ahem, Addicks and Barker, anyone?) when Harvey ripped through the city last year? Because that's what this vote is deciding, and as of right now, only 6 percent of Harris County voters—92,691 residents participated in early voting—have taken to the polls to decide the fate of addressing our city's big ass flooding problem. Remember, if you don't vote, you lose the right to complain the next time it floods. And there will be a next time. There always is. 

What will I be voting on?

The issuance of bonds in an amount not to exceed $2.5 billion, for flood control purposes and the levying of the tax of the district in payment there of.

Check yes if you like.

Check no if you're not interested in being this bond's girlfriend. And if you're not, that's just fine, but again, if the Tax Day Floods and the Memorial Day Floods hadn't already made it clear that Houston, through development, a whole lot of concrete and not much in the way of creating retention ponds or any other kind of flood mitigation to take care of water collecting when big storms come in, has a major flooding problem, it became impossible to ignore in the wake of Harvey. Remember how Buffalo Bayou spilled out of its banks? And how ill-prepared we were to deal with it. Now, go check one of those boxes.

What will the bond do?

The bond would potentially open up $2 billion in federal matching funds, and get important projects underway in anticipation of the 2019 hurricane season. But those federal funds won't apply to all the projects, so the city needs to levy bond taxes pronto to raise money locally. The funds will back some 230+ flood mitigation projects to improve our city's 22 watersheds, including:

  • Channel modifications to improve stormwater conveyance
  • Regional stormwater detention basins
  • Major repairs to flood-damaged drainage infrastructure
  • Removing large amounts of sediment and silt from drainage channels
  • Voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties
  • Wetland mitigation banks
  • Property acquisition for preserving the natural floodplains
  • Drainage improvements made in partnership with other cities, utility districts, or other local government agencies
  • Upgrading the Harris County Flood Warning System

Basically, this thing will help give Harris County at least a portion of the money needed to start filling in the holes in our system of handling flood waters and dealing with floods, the same ones that were exposed in a way that no one could ignore them just one year ago tomorrow. Read about all these projects right at hcfcd.org/bond-program.

What will this cost me? 

If you're a homeowner, this will likely increase your property taxes by 2 to 3 cents per $100 of your assessed home value—an increase of no more than 1.4 percent of your property tax—unless you're disabled, 65 or older, or own a house worth less than $200,000.  

This seems pretty legit. Should I have concerns, though?

 
During weeks of community meetings in our county's 22 watersheds, residents made one thing clear— they want Harris County to move faster on projects that would mitigate flooding. This flood bond will be a start, and can even improve our 2019 hurricane season. But in the long run, it's going to take more like $25 to $30 billion dollars for the major fixes needed for Harris County to achieve a 100-year floodplain.
 
Some residents also expressed concern that the money will benefit politically connected developers, and that perhaps the government doesn't have a better idea on how to deal with flooding than Randy, your drunk next door neighbor, who fires up his seven generators, flat bottomed boat, and sends his 13-year-old son to park their Gravedigger-sized Dodge Ram on high ground every time it rains. And those are valid concerns, but on the other hand, not approving this bond means we won't even get started on flood mitigation until who knows when. This won't fix everything, but keep in mind that it's a start, and it may be better than nothing. Of course, making that particular decision will be up to y'all. Just make sure to go to the polls tomorrow, and make it. 
 
Got more questions? Check out more on the Harris County Flood Bond here.  Find your polling place here.
 
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