The West Houston Association hosted our annual Tri-County Judges Forum on June 20th at the Houston Marriott Westchase. The Honorable Judge Trey Duhon (Waller County) returned to address our members with his new colleagues Judge Lina Hidalgo (Harris County) and Judge KP George (Fort Bend County). WHA Chairman, Heath Melton, moderated a discussion highlighting the current and future goals of the county’s comprising the West Houston area.
Judge Hidalgo stated that safety is Harris County’s top priority specifically from flooding. Harris County is working to accelerate flood control projects, implement push notifications and have an overall better response for the county residents in times of disaster. Making polling locations more accessible for residents and criminal justice reform are two other top priorities that move Harris County towards their vision of a better future.
Judge George is working diligently in Fort Bend County to eliminate duplication by consolidating some departments. This will be a better use of the county’s tax dollars and resources. The Judge also reported that 29.1% of the Fort Bend residents are foreign born and 18 different languages are spoken throughout the county. An important part of progress for Fort Bend is communicating more effectively with those residents and help them adapt and understand the county emergency procedure.
Judge Duhon reported that Waller County’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan, published at the beginning of 2018, is being implemented throughout the county. The plan covers the county’s vision for the next 20-30 years. As Waller County continues to grow Judge Duhon hopes to attract more medical facilities, conduct studies on more watersheds, and start planning to ensure more park space. Judge Duhon shared the exciting news that the Houston Endowment Board of Directors recently voted to approve a $350,000 grant to develop a parks plan. Waller County will be working with Katy Prairie Conservancy to develop this plan for the county residents.
All of the Judges agreed that water knows no boundaries and crosses all county lines which shows a need for a regional approach. Judge Hidalgo reported that after the recent flooding in Kingwood Harris County and Fort Bend County worked together on the number of flooded houses to get more assistance from the state. Judge Duhon reported that the Brazos River Authority study was recently completed and shows that there is a need for a county-wide drainage district in Waller County.
Melton asked the Judges how they plan to incorporate all of the expected growth coming to this region. Judge George reported that Fort Bend County currently has 790,000 residents and is expected to grow to 2.1M by 2050. Transportation improvements and planning will be key to accommodating the extensive growth and improve quality of life. Waller County is working on a mobility study to make appropriate changes to the mobility plan (which is still in line with the strategic plan). Judge Duhon reported that old roads need to be improved so that they can better accommodate traffic flow and more connections are needed to cities. Judge Hidalgo reported that Harris County aims to grow smart which includes preserving flood safety as new rainfall data becomes available, improve transportation and ignite economic growth by getting people to remain in our region.
Thank you to Judge Duhon, Hidalgo and George for coming to speak to our members and their continued efforts in making the West Houston area a great place to live work and play. We look forward to continued collaboration on future endeavors.