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Precinct analysis: The Harris County bonds

Courtesy of Mike Morris at the Chron.

It’s an open secret of local politics that, when Harris County needs voter approval for big projects, they turn not to suburban county residents but to those in the city of Houston’s urban core.

Just look at this month’s elections: Though county offices are on the ballot in even-numbered years, county leaders put four propositions on the ballot, when Houston voters had much more of a reason to turn out (for an open mayor’s race and two city ballot measures) than those in the unincorporated area.

Once again on Nov. 3, Houston’s urban dwellers delivered, backing the county bond measures by wide margins even though they will see comparatively little of the spending in their neighborhoods (a note on that imbalance below).

It’s important to note that the vast majority of suburban precincts also passed the bonds, but the map below makes clear that support was weaker in the outlying areas and particularly strong in City Council District C, the progressive crescent west of downtown that was also the only district to support the city’s rejected equal rights ordinance.

for comparison’s sake, here’s how the 2013 jail bond went. That one was totally uncontroversial, but was basically left to its own devices. It passed – barely – with just enough support from Houston to overcome the (mild) opposition from the rest of the county. The lesson I took at the time was that you have to have some kind of campaign for even the most milquetoast issues. Doesn’t matter if all the Right People supported it, doesn’t matter if there’s no active opposition, you need a campaign. These bonds had one – it wasn’t much more than a couple of mailers, but it existed and that was good enough.

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