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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
Houston-Galveston Area Council
by Jim Guidry
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to endorse a position statement on second round funding of Community Development Block Grant Funds by the Office of Rural Community Affairs. Listen: RealPlayer  MP3

"There are some late-breaking developments on this," said H-GAC Chief Operating Officer Steve Howard. "As you know we are still working with the state on their plan for allocating the second round of Hurricane Ike funding."

"We've all been very busy over the last two weeks contacting our various representatives in Austin to persuade ORCA to change the model that they are trying to use; and use the model that they used for the first round of funding, because it worked well ," said Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. "We've just gotten off the phone again with several representatives asking them to go to the governor's office now."

Thomas said a hearing on ORCA funding will be held on Thursday.

"This is truly a fast moving issue," said H-GAC Executive Director Jack Steele, explaining that ORCA's new plan is based on a weather model, which does not include damage to people or property. "It is a fatally flawed policy."

However, Steele said some progress has been made in the last minute negotiations.

"In brief, we've had about a $250 million gap to reach a fair share of funding level for this area," Steele said. "The proposal from the state now is to improve our situation by about $102 million.  So we've moved downfield some, but we're really not even across the 50-yard line on this; we're certainly not at the goal line."

Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark urged the H-GAC delegates to go directly to Governor Rick Perry for support.

"Let's put this thing over the goal line," Clark said. "See if we can't get the $250 million that is owed that we have coming to us."

The H-GAC board voted unanimously to approve a list of recommendations for Social Service Block Grant contracts for services.

All other agenda items were approved.  All votes were unanimous. Absent from the meeting were: Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski, Fort Bend County Commissioner Andy Myers, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, Wharton County Commissioner Chris King, Deer Park Council Member Than Harrison, La Porte Council Member Chuck Engelken, Jr., League City Mayor Toni Randall, Missouri City Council Member Brett Kolaja, Texas City Commissioner J.W. "Scooter" Wilson, Jr., and Meadows Place Alderman Terry Henley.




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