Fort Bend County Judge KP George spent this past week aligning himself with his Democratic allies Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in their public battle with the Greater Houston Partnership over proposed changes to state voting laws, and lambasting his colleagues on the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court for allocating millions in federal coronavirus relief funds without any public input.
On Thursday, George threw his support behind Turner and Hidalgo for their decision to pull out of their annual State of the City and County speeches before the Greater Houston Partnership due to the business group’s failure to speak out against a pair of controversial voting bills up for debate in the state legislature.
Critics of the Republican-backed House Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7 say the measures would make it harder to vote in Texas, and that the bills are only being pushed by conservatives because of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded insistence that he lost his reelection race due to supposed voter fraud across the country.
“The implications of silence on this issue are too consequential,” George wrote in a statement, “and that Hidalgo and Turner have decided to make that clear is admirable.”
In his own snub of the greater Houston area’s biggest business organization, George then announced that Fort Bend County “had been considering joining the Greater Houston Partnership for some time now, but following their silence on this, we will no longer consider becoming a member organization.”
Earlier this week, George called out the Fort Bend County Commissioners for voting to approve a budget plan for the $157 million allocated to Fort Bend County in Congress’s latest coronavirus relief bill.
George was the only official on the county’s five member Commissioners Court who voted against the budget proposal, which he called “[a] haphazardly constructed plan which was put together behind closed doors” in a statement blasting his colleagues for approving the proposal “without an iota of community involvement, public meetings, or resident surveys.”
During Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, George voiced his frustration that his colleagues wouldn’t consider creating a public application process for the federal relief funds so that local charities and businesses could make their case to receive some of the cash. Leaders of local non-profits the Fort Bend Women’s Center and Fort Bend Child Advocates addressed the court and asked why they hadn’t been given a chance to make their case to receive any of this funding.
George also criticized some “random items” added by commissioners to the plan that seemingly have nothing to do with coronavirus relief, such as “a multi-million dollar courtroom expansion, new government buildings, government vehicles [and] government audiovisual tools.”
“While many of the items are worthwhile and deserve to be funded, there needs to be an open process with taxpayers and county residents to weigh in, and we need guidance from the Treasury on how these funds may be spent,” George wrote after Tuesday’s budget vote.
Fort Bend County Commissioners Vincent Morales, Grady Prestage, Andy Meyers and Ken DeMerchant did not respond to requests for comment by the Houston Press about how they selected which organizations and projects would receive federal funds and why there wasn’t more public involvement in the process.
George claimed the fact that the commissioners “spent no time debating or discussing” the budget proposal in public after hand-picking in private which groups would receive funds was another example of “the type of politics that too many of our citizens have long been disgusted with.”
“The horse-trading had already taken place. The deals had already been made,” George wrote.
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