By Gilbert Hoffman
An information forum held last week at BakerRipley was attended by several hundred, and as the evening wore on the audience vented anger and frustration at the amount of flooding and little relief from the government.
BakerRipley in East Aldine was the site last Wednesday night of an Imelda Recovery Community Forum, sponsored by State Representative Armando Walle, with Carol Alvarado, Sylvia Garcia, and Rodney Ellis.
In addition to those government leaders, other officials from the City of Houston and Harris County were on the panel, to explain the work currently underway to alleviate future flooding, and to hear and respond to individual complaints.
Also present were representative from a number of government departments, and the Red Cross, providing a point of contact to those in the community and the room who were in need of assistance to recover from the devastating rainfall from Tropical Storm Imelda on September 19. It was reported that the storm dumped as much as 43 inches of water on some parts of southeast Texas, and from 10 to 30 inches in the greater Houston area in just 72 hours.
Thousands of homes and vehicles were flooded, and five deaths were recorded. The storm is the strongest to his Houston since Hurricane Harvey in 2018.
Engineering representatives such as Pct. 2 Jeremy Phillips, and City of Houston Flood Czar Stephen Costello and Housing Department head Tom McCasland tried to explain to the audience what projects were underway, and how their $2.5 Billion flood bond money was being spent. The slow bureaucratic process was noted, however, and Commissioner Ellia emphatically stated that the County would speed up the process.
Complaints from the audience varied from overall policy questions, to individual problems with ditches and street flooding. Officials took detailed addresses and complaints, to be followed up with action by relevant departments.
Speaking on behalf of the whole Aldine community, Gloria Rizo gave a lengthy detailed plea for meaningful action in the short term, not just promises and statements.
Representative Walle issued the following statement after the meeting:
“I am so proud of our community for showing up in full force to express their agitation, frustration, and anger at having their homes flooded not just once, twice, but three and four times. There was a lot of passion and emotion. Our families need help. Appreciate the 200 families that attended. Want them and those that couldn’t attend to know that we are working collaboratively with our local governments to address these concerns. Your voices were heard loud and clear. We will be following up soon on your suggestions. The Texas Division of Emergency Management, Harris County Flood Control District, Harris County Office of Emergency Management, Harris County Precinct One & Two, Harris County Community Services, City of HOUSTON, Red Cross, and FEMA gave presentations. Thank you.”
Connie Esparza, Castlewood president, said: “Stay after them Rep. Walle. Let me know if you need reinforcements. Ridiculous that others who don’t know Houston’s priorities control the dollars.”
In a recent development, Governor Abbott has said he is taking flood funding control away from local authorities due to slow response. His statement: “Houston and Harris County have proven that they are unable to ensure victims are receiving resources in a timely manner.”