By Jack Morman
Few things in life are certain, but today’s Harris County taxpayers know this: If Democrats on Commissioners Court have an idea, it will be pricey and poorly timed.
Such is the case with County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s plan to find $50 million to clean up violent neighborhoods by planting trees, cleaning abandoned lots, giving away air conditioners, adding streetlights and other “feel good” projects.
Hidalgo, backed by Democratic Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis, won support for the plan at the Oct. 12th Commissioners Court meeting. The Court’s two lone Republicans also signed off on this misadventure. More on that later.
The program has roots in a concept called “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.” Hidalgo said local neighborhoods where gun violence is high and where infrastructure investments are needed will benefit. She also claims these fixes will lower crime.
But crime has skyrocketed. Murder rates are horrible. The criminal justice system has turned into one big revolving door under local Democratic rule at the courthouse and Commissioners Court. Dangerous felons are routinely released to prey on fresh victims. We are at war.
No one is denying the merits of worthwhile projects. The worry here is timing, scant resources, and priorities. Hidalgo, Garcia, and Ellis are grasping for a soft-focus answer to a brutal problem. They want you to think these are real solutions. They’re not.
This is not the right answer right now. Hidalgo, Ellis, and Garcia have masterminded defunding the police by raiding law enforcement budget reserves while falsely claiming to invest more in police. They’ve done that by telling taxpayers police budgets are up and letting people assume those funds are for operations. They’re not. The extra money was for standard increases in employee benefits.
It’s classic misdirection. They also say funds spent to address court backlogs, more public defenders and pet projects are helping fight crime. It’s all window dressing.
We can paint fences and plant trees later. Right now, if the resources are there, they must flow directly to law enforcement, supporting deputies and constables and jailers and wartime expenses – boots on the ground, training, more troops, more prosecutors. Hidalgo and her Democratic colleagues don’t want that. They don’t want more people arrested, even if it means more crime.
The Republicans on Commissioners Court are great law enforcement allies. They are staunch conservatives. They do vital work in their own precincts but, respectfully, supporting this was a mistake.
For example, Hidalgo mentioned possibly tapping capital improvement funds for these projects. With Democrats draining county coffers at a reckless rate, putting road and big project funds at risk for this is unacceptable.
There is also the possibility federal COVID relief grant funds could be tapped for this project. That’s also your money. Don’t forget that. If it can be spent for “feel good” projects, it can also be spent to directly help law enforcement since the Democrats have partly blamed the high crime on COVID.
Unfortunately, this plan is nothing more than a vote-grabber for Democrats and the political equivalent of taking a knife to a gunfight. The reality of this war demands more.
Republican Jack Morman is the former two-term Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner and is running in 2022 to regain his seat on Commissioners Court.