Harris County Commissioners Court, presided over by County Judge Ed Emmett, voted this week to renovate the Astrodome to the tune of $105 million dollars.
A prior proposal to demolish the Astrodome was projected to cost the city $66 million.
The city of Houston already has multimillion dollar stadiums that are home to the Houston Rockets, Texans, and Astros. However, this appears to not be enough for county commissioners.
The Commissioners Court has long tried and failed to renovate the Astrodome, this being the furthest that a proposal has ever gotten. In September 2016, the Commissioners Court approved $10.5 million for an engineering and architectural phase, which was not supposed to last beyond a year and a half.
While officials with the city have said that the funds for this project would not come from property taxes, Houston’s ever-increasing property tax rate would seem to indicate otherwise. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the average City of Houston homeowner’s four-year property tax bill increased by about 7%. This percent increase was less than in years past, where the property tax increase per year was around 10% consistently.
Just this past legislative session, State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) offered up a bill that would require voter approval in order for any renovations on the Astrodome to take place, which currently costs $170,000 a year just to maintain. However, this bill, which passed through the Texas Senate with sweeping bipartisan report, died in the State House County Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Straus-appointee, State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston).
If voter approval were required for this renovation to take place, it’s unlikely it would happen. Voters in the City of Houston have already struck down measures in the past that would have renovated the Astrodome. However, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, a Republican and outspoken supporter of Straus, has said that having taxpayers vote on the measure would only impede on the city’s ability to make money off the Astrodome renovation.
Emmett desires for the millions of dollars put towards the renovations to be used to build a parking garage, and to cater to events that may come to town in the future. This all comes in the wake of one of the worst and costliest natural disasters in the history of the state, Hurricane Harvey, which affected millions of Texans.
However, a once in a lifetime natural disaster and homeless constituents hasn’t done anything to deter the County Commissioners Court from renovating a dilapidated and otherwise useless building.
As worthless bureaucracies tend to do, the County Commissioners Court of Harris County has shown that it clearly does not care about the taxpayers it represents, or the tax dollars it is using for its boondoggle parking garage project. State officials should step in to protect the taxpayers of Harris County, and citizens should make their voice heard to Emmett and his commission of cronies.