Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle recently told the Kingwood Area Republican Women his take on ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ of current conditions in Harris County. Cagle, a Republican, sits on the county’s preeminent decision-making board, albeit in the minority. He is a Republican and one of two on the five-seat group.
“There are many, many 3-2 votes,” he said to the ladies’ April luncheon.
In the 2018 election, dozens of Republicans lost their positions when a Democratic surge sent dozens of officials home, including County Judge Ed Emmett, who was replaced by Lina Hidalgo.
Cagle and recently elected Tom Ramsey, who represents Precinct 3, are often at odds with Hidalgo and commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis.
“This year taxes did not go up,” said Cagle and that “is the good news.” Cagle pointed out that a little more than a year ago, the Democrats announced they would be voting in an 8% tax increase, which would effectively have been a 12% rise, according to Cagle. “But, Radack (then-Commissioner Steve Radack, also a Republican) and I knew of an old Texas law that prevents votes on tax increases without all members of said group being present,” he said.
“When two of us didn’t show up that day, they couldn’t do it,” he said to applause. “And this year, they are suddenly fiscal conservatives, saying this isn’t a good year to raise taxes. So, the good news is, your taxes did not go up.”
The “bad news” is that the county hired a New York City-based consulting group to study Harris County operations. The PFM group has cost $4 million to date with the county obligated to spend at least $2 million more with them.
Cagle was aghast at the preliminary findings, citing PFM’s recommendations to emulate cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. He also said the group said bureaucracy is a good thing and the most efficient way to manage and that a county manager should be hired, along with four assistant county managers.
“This sounds like they want to replace the elected officials with employees,” he said.
The groups also emphasized a need to address equity and systemic racism in the county and cited an over-investment in law enforcement. Cagle scoffed at these.
The “ugly,” said Cagle, is a simmering controversy over transportation. He cited TxDOT’s $7.5 billion plan to improve I-45 but Hidalgo and the Democratic commissioners have raised numerous issues, including the priority of spending money on the highway system at all. Cagle said she wants to “force everyone to abandon personal cars for mass transit.” Cagle said Hidalgo stated that in Harris County, we value people more than cars. His asterisk to that is “unless you are a person in a car.”