Last Tuesday, while I was out of town, Council Member Stephen Costello did a presentation about Renew Houston at HCDP headquarters. (CM Sue Lovell was supposed to be with him but was unable to make it because a committee meeting for which she was the chair went long.) I wasn’t there, I don’t know how it went, but a couple of bloggers, Open Source Dem and Stan Merriman were there, and they weren’t impressed. I now wish I had been there, because I don’t quite get what it is that they don’t like.
You can go read their pieces and see what you think for yourself. Both seem to agree that the need is there to improve drainage. Open Source Dem mostly seems to dislike the fact that CM Costello is a Republican. He’s none too impressed with the Democrats on Council, either, saying “Most Democrats on Council seem to defer to the GOP on public health, public safety, public works, and above all public finance, but handle anything involving cute puppies with exquisite tenderness.” I daresay that would come as a surprise to CM Melissa Noriega, who chairs the Public Safety committee, and CM Jolanda Jones, who isn’t particularly deferential on many things, and pretty much everyone else for that matter, but never mind. I’m really not sure what that has to do with anything.
Merriman’s post is even more opaque to me. The one point he makes that I feel I can comment on is his contention that this ought to be viewed as a project that’s “perfect for federal stimulus funds”. Hey, I’d love to see the feds get involved in this sort of infrastructure improvement all over the country – Lord knows, just in terms of water-related needs, there’s a ton to address. Last I checked, though, that ain’t gonna happen, certainly not when “concern” about the deficit is driving the conversation and it takes 60 votes in the Senate to go to the potty. I’d put my money on the Astros winning the World Series before that.
So where does that leave us? I’m going to go back to what I said before. Either you believe this is a problem that needs to be addressed or you don’t. If you do believe this is a problem that needs to be addressed, but you don’t like Renew Houston, what exactly is your plan to address it? Remember, it’s been nine years since anyone proposed a solution. Voting down the Renew Houston proposition, much as it was with health care reform in Congress, doesn’t mean that proponents of Doing Something About The Problem will come right back with a solution that’s more to your liking. It means the issue will disappear from the conversation for another few years, and more likely than not what will come up next when someone else decides to pick up the ball will be something less ambitious. I don’t see how that helps.
Is Renew Houston the best possible solution to the drainage problem we all agree the city has? I don’t know what the “ideal” funding mechanism would be, given that it’s a local issue, so I can’t adequately answer that question. There are things to criticize about Renew Houston, as Tory and Neil have done. But it’s what we’ve got, and the choice isn’t between Renew Houston and some other ordinance/referendum/whatever that could be passed as an alternative, the choice is between Renew Houston and doing nothing for another ten years. I believe Renew Houston is an improvement over the status quo, and I plan to vote for it.