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WHY IS FLOODING AN ISSUE FOR HOUSTON’S JEWISH COMMUNITY?
Given the devastation of Harvey and the fact that Houston has experienced three 500-year floods in the past three years, Houston’s 50,000-person Jewish community is at a crossroads. More than 2,000 Jewish households flooded in Harvey, and institutional damage alone from seven of our major Jewish institutions is estimated to exceed $50 million. The Federation is invested in ensuring the future of this community - rebuilding institutions and ensuring that people have the resources they need to stay active and contributing members of the Houston Jewish community. We feel called to advocate for the Jewish community as well as the community at-large in this area so that we can do our best to mitigate damages caused by future flooding.
HOW WAS THE FLOOD RESILIENCY TASK FORCE FORMED?
The Federation’s Board of Trustees established the Flood Resiliency Task Force in March of 2018 and brought together a cross section of community leaders to serve as part of the group. The Task Force is co-chaired by Ben Samuels and Tracy Stein and is working with a team of technical experts and urban planners from Rice University and the University of Houston. It was established to promote comprehensive flood response, recovery and mitigation strategies for the MidBrays/Meyerland area in order to minimize suffering, accelerate recovery, and rebuild in a way that best maintains the unique character and institutions of the community.
WHAT IS THE FOCUS OF THE RESILIENCY TASK FORCE?
The initial focus of the Task Force is on the Mid-Brays/Meyerland area because it has suffered disproportionately from recent floods. We believe that efforts to build a resilient community in the Mid-Brays/Meyerland effort should strive to maintain the essential character of the neighborhood, including the preservation of Jewish and other religious institutions, the maintaining of housing opportunities and school options suitable for young families, and a balance of single-family homes, greenspace, and public areas.
WHY IS THE FEDERATION FOCUSING ON FLOOD RESILIENCY?
Houston is a city of neighborhoods and communities, and the Mid-Brays/Meyerland community is a prime example of how a community can enrich the cultural diversity and economic vibrancy of our city. While the Mid-Brays Meyerland area is home to a vibrant Jewish community, it is also a desirable destination because of other cultures and institutions.
Harvey and the previous floods have taught us that there will be more flood events in the future and the recovery process for flooding is long and funding is scarce. We have also learned that resources and dollars are parceled across numerous agencies with unclear jurisdictions, making critical decisions difficult. This issue affects our city and our community and it is vital that we advocate to keep Houston’s future vibrant.
WHY IS THE FEDERATION SUPPORTING HARRIS COUNTY PROPOSITION A?
We believe that there are short-term actions that can be taken that will alleviate suffering of individuals in our communities, and that there are long-term actions that can significantly reduce the impact of flood events for our neighborhoods, and that both of those actions will require significant funding from government agencies. We believe that our elected representatives should spare no effort in insuring that our communities get the funding that is required on the basis of need and on the basis of justice and equity.
WHAT WILL PROPOSITION A ACCOMPLISH?
Projects funded by the bond program would meet the goal of the bond election to both assist with recovery after previous flooding events and to make Harris County more resilient for the future. Most of the funds allocated by Congress require a local match and are competitive. With $2.5 billion in bond funds, Harris County’s goal is to leverage federal funds to create $10 billion in resiliency projects, including buyouts and detention. Federal funds are first come first serve. So, bonds help get federal funds here while they last, helping local flood victims and local taxpayers.