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Renew Houston

The fact that Houston is currently in the throes of a severe revenue shortage doesn’t change the fact that there’s a great need to renovate and repair large portions of the city’s infrastructure. Naturally, that will cost a lot of money, which we don’t have. But with a new revenue source, we could do it.

Renew Houston, a $10 billion dollar program, has been created to bridge the gap between what the city can afford and the infrastructure construction, repair and replacement needed on an ever-growing basis.

City Councilman At-Large (Position 1) Stephen C. Costello and Jeff Ross, city of Houston Planning Commission member and vice president of Pate Engineers, Inc., unveiled the proposal before about 30 members of the Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy last week in southwest Houston.

Renew Houston, Costello said, is a nonprofit advocacy group with the mission of establishing a designated fund that would be disbursed through the city to shore up Houston’s aging streets, drainage and water and sewer systems.

“The city has two programs, one that takes 12 years for the city to decide to rebuild streets and seven years for drainage projects,” Costello said. “We’re looking to set up a separate enterprise fund. This is something we desperately need.”

[…]

The proposal, paid for through several sources, would require an amendment to the city charter, Ross said.

“To get a charter amendment, we have to do a petition drive,” Ross said. “We have to write the ordinance in such a way that the money cannot be re-purposed.”

You do want safer streets and better drainage and improved flood abatement, right? Well if you do, you can either hope the Infrastructure Fairy will leave you a sack of money under your pillow some night, or you can find a way to pay for it yourself. Building and repairing infrastructure isn’t just a good investment for cities to make, it’s also a jobs program at a time when one is really needed. I wish Ross and CM Costello luck with their task.

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6 Comments

  1. !!Dean says:

    Infrastructure is, of course, very important to maintain. However, the streets built to enable Houston’s sprawl have resulted in a lopsided maintenance cost. Road construction costs have more than doubled in the last 5 years due to rising costs of materials. So, not only do I believe there are too many streets, but the ones we have are too expensive to maintain. Houston needs a strict road diet as a matter of fundamental affordability.

    I believe infrastructure is a primary responsibility of government. So paying for infrastructure should be done through the primary funding mechanisms: taxes. This ensures that the costs are directly visible to all taxpayers. It would be disingenuous of an elected representative to say “no new taxes” only to establish a new infrastructure fee. Furthermore, I feel this plan which establishes special fees for households leaves non-household entities (businesses) off the hook for paying for critical infrastructure.

    My reading of the article makes it sound that the real issue should be to fix: (paraphrased) “it takes X years for infrastructure projects to get decided on.”

  2. JimB says:

    Kuff,

    I couldn’t find an email address for you so I thought I would contact you here.

    Any thoughts on how to research the new Keep Houston Safe PAC? I tried a Texas Ethics Commission search but no luck. They had a survey out this week (reported on KUHF radio) that indicates wide support among 500 likely voters for so-called “intersection safety” cameras. Who could be opposed to those? Redlight Cameras…mmmm.wait a minute.

    Any direction you can provide would be helpful.

    Thanks!

    JimB

  3. […] here for more on that. Specifics have not yet been determined, though the basic principles seem to be in […]

  4. Robert says:

    I agree with the overall goal of Renew Houston. However, the devil is always in the details. Will this dedicated fund for street construction and maintanance derived from property taxes relieve METRO having to transfer .25 cent of $1 of sales (consumption)tax revenue for general mobility? If not, why not? The city gets 67% of METRO’s .25 cent. Are we being asked to pay twice for the same service?

    Why do we keep building in or near flood plains anyway? Why do we insist on suburban style development in an urban core? Yes, private property is sacred in Texas, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to pay for some exercising their freedom. Are there going to be any changes to existing regulations to increase density or insist that those types of development that contribute to flooding pay their fair share?

    I need answers before I jump for joy over this proposal.

  5. K Davidson says:

    Here’s the deal… The proposal is great in concept and is essentially a funding mechanism on needed infrastructure for the Houston region. The City of Houston cannot afford the the estimated costs for the needed stormwater improvements. It has been estimated between $4-10 billion. However, business as usual with standard storm water designs practiced by over 90% of civil engineering firms is not the best way to solve our problems. Green Infrastructure is the solution!

    Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development (LID) costs less than traditional stormwater techniques and create positive economic impacts on the neighborhood level. The LID designs create more open space and cost less, what’s not to like. the Houston Land Water Sustainability Forum has been advocating for LID designs for quite some time. LID is practiced on the west and east coast with great success. LID is the future of sustainable GREEN stormwater management. End of story.

  6. Kuff, you’ve not dug deep enough on the “Renew Houston” Charter Amendment. I’m going to convey key problems with Prop. 1 via bullet points:.

    * You don’t do viable urban or strategic planning by putting out your budget and financing method before you present to voters your program and plan-cost justified. Cart before the horse. The tax (yes this is a tax, just by another name) is unfair and unprogressive-same rate for your square footage in River Oaks and Sunnyside.
    * The “sell” on this claims it doesn’t impact flooding; in other forums Renew claims it does impact flooding. Most experts and studies on flooding in Houston have told us due to our sea level status or below, very little impact can be attained with mitigation strategies.
    * The city has exempted legions of development projects with their responsibility to provide drainage mitigation.example, Memorial City and 1,300 flooded post project. Now we’re going to the homeowner to fund drainage. The city does not require accepted environmentally sustainable technologies in its new approach of paying developers to deal with drainage-read the 50+ page Heights WalMart contract and you’ll find nothing there in. Yet we are taking hard earned taxpayer dollars and handing it to WalMart to do the city’s work on street/drainage “improvements”. Check it out.
    * The city’s stated policy is to turn “improved” residential streets and roads into “ponds” (their language, not mine), thus denying residents, their guests and babysitters street parking during unannounced major gullywasher rains.
    * Net Net- the city is hosing us homeowners to enrich the dozens of engineering companies who are funding 99% of the Renew Charter Amendment campaign and turning my street into a pond. See my blog above for pictures of my
    “improved” drainage on Dryden thanks to Houston Public Works.
    * Solution-Plan before the budget and funding-A progressive, fair funding program-Retention ponds and channels, not dig up old streets, drainage pipe and pour more concrete, which precipitated the flooding problem to begin with.

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