Today marks the beginning of the 2018 Hurricane Season — our first since Hurricane Harvey.
Last year at this time, local officials worried that, because we had not had a severe hurricane season in many years, Harris County residents might not even remember to assemble a go-bag or a preparedness kit.
This year, we know all too well how important it is to be prepared for a hurricane, and for a reminder of what to do to prepare, here is a useful link: ready.gov/hurricanes.
One thing Harvey taught us, however, is that individuals can prepare only so much — we also have to prepare as a community, long before hurricane season. Our community came together to respond to Harvey in incredible ways, and we need to continue to work together to prepare for the future. Preparedness and infrastructure resilience are issues that take real foresight and leadership, and we need our government to lead the way on region-wide, long-term preparation.
Our community is still recovering from Harvey. And while some of our neighbors are back in their homes, many are not. Many are suffering from systemic problems with our disaster preparation and response — problems we cannot afford. We are all suffering from a years-long failure to prepare.
John Culberson has been at the core of this failure. The year he took office, 2001, Tropical Storm Allison left our city submerged. He was on notice from that day until now of the very real dangers flooding presents in our community. Yet he has done little to prepare for the storms. His fundamental approach to governance is one of inaction — and that is reflected in his total inaction on flooding. He calls himself “a free market, Constitutional conservative” whose goal is to “Let Texans Run Texas.” As a result, he has failed to advance any meaningful flood mitigation or preparedness legislation, appropriate funds to repair Addicks and Barker dams, invest federal funds in many additional projects the Army Corps of Engineers has asked Congress to fund in our community, and other necessary preparation.
Indeed, his approach to Harvey, and the two 500-year floods that preceded it in 2015 and 2016, has been one of reaction, not action: reactionary spending and demands that local government match funding for relief efforts. That’s not the approach we need. We need to be proactive, rather than simply reactive. We need an advocate and a partner, who won’t leave us out of the national conversation and leave us behind. Because one thing we know for sure in Houston is that it is going to rain again.
This week, Tropical Storm Alberto made landfall before the hurricane season officially began. This storm, like the early Memorial Day and Tax Day floods here in recent years, has to make all of us living along the Gulf of Mexico concerned. These storms are happening at an alarming rate — and increased intensity. And we have no comprehensive flood prevention plan in sight.
We need representatives who listen to experts when they say things are going to get worse if we don’t make a plan to prevent flooding now — and who will do something about it. It’s going to take pragmatic solutions to make us as prepared as possible. I will prioritize meeting with flood control advocates, engineers, scientists, and city planners to have a real discussion about what needs to happen from here on out.
And we need to recognize the things that we must do together as a community to ensure our safety. Flood prevention is one of them. John Culberson’s anti-government rhetoric has real consequences — we saw them in Harvey. But we also saw how much we can accomplish when we come together as a community to solve shared problems. It’s time to send that message to Washington.