Monday, March 07, 2011

State of the County headlines Astrodome status

I was able to attend Judge Emmett's State of the County address last week (Chronicle front page coverage here), and was very excited to hear his headline focus on the future of the Astrodome matches my previously posted ideas (and follow-up).  A minimalist upgrade into a festival and events venue could bring in more than enough annual revenue to support its maintenance as a historic structure (as he pointed out that we did not do with the Shamrock Hotel).  He emphasized this was his personal opinion, but a consensus of the Commissioners Court was required, including El Franco Lee's interest in a STEM education institute.  But he wants a decision this year on a plan that can then go to the voters.  Hear, hear!

Here are some other points from his speech that made it into my notes:

  • The county has a $1.2 billion annual budget and they're dealing with a 3% drop from last year - tight but not a disaster.
  • We need to improve our water, air, rail, and road transportation infrastructure to take advantage of our potential as a key gateway to North America, especially as the Panama Canal gets expanded.
  • HCTRA will continue to work on widening the south Beltway 8, building the Hempstead toll road, and extending the Hardy into downtown, but we must also continue other improvements like building the Grand Parkway and making freight rail improvements, both of which are reliant on TXDoT at this point.
  • Harris County is the 3rd most populated county in the nation, and has more people than 24 states (!) - although I'll add that we're at risk of being passed by Arizona's 5x geographically larger Maricopa County (i.e. Phoenix metro) soon.  The 2010 Census pegs the county at just over 4 million people.  He believes the Hispanic story is overhyped as the lines blur in our diverse mix, and that race is a nonissue as far as he's concerned: the focus is on providing services to all residents of the county, period.

Overall, an impressive man doing a great job made an excellent speech about a county doing very well compared to most of the rest of the country.

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At 7:59 AM, March 08, 2011, Anonymous kjb434 said...

I love how the local news isn't making the Astrodome and Commissioner Eversole connection. A large part of the indictment is because Eversole's friend and business part reaped millions in taxpayer dollars for constantly restudying what to do with the Astrodome.

At 3:35 PM, March 08, 2011, Blogger Alon Levy said...

What was the local reaction to the recent police shooting? Is this a random one-time thing, or does it underscore some racial tension that just hasn't yet gotten to the upper levels of government as it did in Arizona?

At 3:44 PM, March 08, 2011, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm not sure. It didn't come up.

At 7:21 PM, March 08, 2011, Anonymous !!Dean said...

Would enjoy seeing or hearing the entire speech rather than soundbytes in the news. I'm almost shocked there's no youtube video.


At 8:29 PM, March 08, 2011, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

They have 2010 up as a web cast, so I'd expect 2011 to be up soon.

At 8:59 PM, March 08, 2011, Anonymous !!Dean said...

Until then, the text shall suffice:


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