The December Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 10 meeting was a scattershot of topics and emotions. More than 30 residents arrived at the community center, thinking Houston City Councilmember Dave Martin had appealed for them to “show up” for the meeting. Martin had urged residents to “show up” but meant it in a broader sense, as in participating in community efforts regarding flood recovery projects.
“Councilmember Martin’s comments were meant to ask members of the community to rise up as a community and get involved in the overall process of recovery and mitigation,” said a press release sent by Martin’s office the day before the TIRZ board met.
But by 8 a.m., the room was overflowing with determined faces, clenched jaws and folded arms.
As the TIRZ board waited for one late member to arrive in order to have a quorum, Martin told the group that the TIRZ does not address flooding issues, but meets to coordinate infrastructure needs of Kingwood. That realization caused grumbles and snipped comments from many.
A few stood, interrupting with questions and comments, so Martin offered to meet on the spot about the flooding, in an adjoining room, leading a large group out of the boardroom.
Martin offered an apology by saying while he had urged folks to “show up,” he did not mean at the TIRZ board meeting, a group with little to no authority over flooding issues. He arranged for two large buses to take Kingwood residents to the first state hearing after Harvey but only seven residents appeared for the trip; Martin pointed to this as an example of urging greater participation. He said it is imperative that everyone raise their voice to ask for relief and assistance from the state.
Martin, emphatic that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has the authority to help Kingwood and the northeast area, said to date, he has refused to do so.
“Let me say in two words who can help this situation – Greg Abbot,” Martin said.
Martin said he has tried repeatedly to get an appointment with the governor, but has been refused.
“I represent Kingwood. We are a predominantly Republican area. We vote! We have well-educated, affluent people here – these are his voters, his people, but he is not helping us at all.
“Our state senator, Brandon Creighton, he has been very quiet, much to my chagrin. We need to organize and let them know how we feel,” Martin said. State Rep. Dan Huberty has been working hard, Martin said, adding that both of them are most likely not welcome at the San Jacinto River Authority board meetings after all the statements they have made about them being responsible for the flooding. The river authority controls Lake Conroe and was the entity that released water during Hurricane Harvey, which resulted in an unprecedented flooding in Martin’s district of Kingwood, parts of Atascocita and some areas in Huffman.
“I am not voting for Greg Abbott,” Martin said. “I am not pulling the lever for him unless he comes here and helps us.”
The Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce has started a letter writing campaign, which Martin referenced at the meeting and in a press release.
The best way, Martin said, for the community to “show up” is to participate in the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Plea for Three Initiative, which seeks to achieve swift and immediate actions. There will be more opportunities to get involved in the future but it is important for the community to strike now and ask for these immediate actions to take place by participating in the Plea for Three.
Martin asked all those at the meeting, and in the community, to share the Plea for Three information with neighbors and family, and encourage them to contact the officials identified in the Plea for Three through the letter template provided at lakehouston.org/recoverlakehouston.
Those at the community center shared stories of frustration over the flooding. They asked what the best way is to get Kingwood noticed.
Martin said, “Sign petitions. Send emails and letters. I wish every one of you would go home right now and call the governor’s office and demand that he pay attention to us.”
Martin said he has been to Washington, D.C. twice since the hurricane to meet with federal officials. Vice President Mike Pence told Martin that the resilence and can-do Texas spirit translates into inaction by those who could help.
Martin said New Orleans got $17 billion after Hurricane Katrina, to protect 500,000 people, in part because they demanded and begged for help.
“I urge all of you to call the governor and demand attention. Post on his Facebook page. Call Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz and all those folks who are running for Ted Poe’s seat.
“As they flooded us with water, we need to flood them with letters,” he said.