Harris County Commissioners Court Requests Plan for Equitable Distribution of Flood Bond Funds and a Study for a Minimum Wage Increase for County Employees at First Meeting This Year

Style Magazine Newswire | 1/9/2019, 3:48 p.m.
A number of issues — including flood bond equity, a proposal to consider Election Day vote centers and minimum wage ...

A number of issues — including flood bond equity, a proposal to consider Election Day vote centers and minimum wage increase to $15 an hour for county employees — was discussed at the first Commissioners Court meeting of 2019, which lasted until nearly 5 p.m.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis, reflecting on the court meeting, later said, “It’s a new day and a new year in Harris County. This is our opportunity to increase transparency, make equitable investments in our communities and advance fair opportunity for all people.”

One of the most pressing issues discussed by the new Commissioners Court was the need to establish a clear process for the equitable distribution of flood control funds for long-neglected neighborhoods that have been previously under-funded due unfair federal funding formulas for flood mitigation. Commissioners Court requested that the Flood Control District return to Commissioners Court no later than its first March meeting with a plan for equitable decision-making and distribution of funds.

Commissioner Ellis later noted, “We have a long road ahead of us to not only rebuild and recover from Harvey but to make our region, our people and our infrastructure more resilient to future storms. Equity is key to fostering true resilience in our communities.”

Last year, Commissioner Ellis strongly advocated for flood bond equity, successfully placing equity language in the flood bond package that voters overwhelmingly approved last August.

Progress was also made on increasing the minimum wage for county employees to $15 an hour. Commissioner Adrian Garcia requested approval for a countywide employee compensation study on raising the minimum starting salary for county employees. Commissioner Ellis, a long-time advocate for fair wages who has already raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour for Precinct One employees, introduced the issue last year on Commissioners Court and requested that the budget office gather data on feasibility and impact.

“The momentum for a $15 hourly wage is building. Our hard-working county employees deserve to earn a living wage that will sustain their families for the work they do every day in service to the people of Harris County,” Commissioner Ellis said.

Public testimony extended late into the day around a discussion initiated by County Clerk Diane Trautman regarding whether Harris County should establish Election Day Vote Centers, which would allow voters to vote at any location on election day rather than their assigned neighborhood precinct.

Commissioner Ellis welcomed the community input, noting that, “We must do everything we can to move our elections into the 21st century while still protecting the right to vote and ensuring that everyone has equal access to participate in our elections free from burdens and barriers. The best way to do that is through strong community oversight and input throughout the entire process.”