Harris County Commissioner Tom Ramsey speaks at a Dec. 7 ribbon-cutting event for a joint road project with Precinct 4. (Courtesy Harris County Precinct 4)
The new year will bring changes for Ramsey as redistricting this fall flipped much of Precinct 3 and Precinct 4’s jurisdictions. This transition is slated for completion in March, and Ramsey said his staff is working closely with Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle’s staff to ensure constituents’ needs are met.
“Commissioner Cagle and I are committed to working with each other,” he said. “Some are even calling this Precinct 7—which is a combination of Precinct 3 and 4. We don’t want any projects to be delayed; we don’t want any services to go unattended.”
The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
What would you say are some of the biggest accomplishments in Precinct 3 over the past year?
We walked into the year with certain priorities, and we’ve really been able to make significant gains in all of those. One of them was lowering taxes. When we met in October to set the tax rate, we not only lowered the taxes in terms of the tax rate; we reduced the tax revenues in terms of the amount of money that the county was taking in from taxes.
We also had safe neighborhoods as a focus, and this year we there were two or three things that I think we can point to and say we made progress in. They tried to eliminate the constable program last year. I was able to secure unanimous support from court that they not do that. This comes out of a consultant that truly doesn’t know what they are doing, and their recommendation was to eliminate the constable program, so I felt like we needed a resolution from court saying we would not do that.
And then we had better infrastructure [as a goal]. That has to do with not only building new but taking care of what we’ve got. We had over 4,500 service requests, and we addressed every one of those. We had over 156 projects with a construction value of over $407 million, and 103 projects are currently in the construction phase.
So, that’s what we consider a very good first year in terms of focus on, I think, the three things that are most important. Even though the court is being distracted [by] the social service programs, we tried to stick to the basics.
Heading into 2022, what are your top priorities?
My top priority for 2022, again, is crime. We’re going to continue to push for more officers, whether that’s sheriff’s officers and constable officers or [in] Tomball, Jersey Village or any of the villages.
But the other issue that’s so critical in 2022 is to get people back to work, get people back to some normal function. We’ve got two years understanding this COVID[-19] issue. I think we’re ready to get our kids back to school, we’re ready to get the parents back to work, and government needs to help with that. Government does not need to be providing unnecessary mandates, and so I think we’re going to need to move beyond that.
And the infrastructure is going to continue to be a focus. We’ve got the 2018 bond issue projects we have to complete; we’ve got many Cypress [Creek] watershed projects that we need to look at. There’s new infrastructure that we need to consider; there’s [flood] tunnels that we’re considering. We really think that’s an innovative solution to one of our No. 1 problems in the county and that’s drainage.
The other corollary to that has to do with money to support that. It seems like every meeting we come up with a new program. Many of them are well-meaning, many of those are social programs, and I’m not opposed to that in every case, but I’m telling you every dollar that’s spent on a new program [is] a dollar that’s not spent on infrastructure.
We’ve [also] got to get I-45 started back up. This misrepresentation of what TxDOT is doing and will do is not right. I’ve been advocating that we get I-45 back on track. The county sued TxDOT to stop it, and you can say that doesn’t really affect the constituents in old [Precinct] 3 or new [Precinct] 3, but it really does. I-45 is one of our major arteries, and if you do not have a robust, healthy center of our county, which is downtown, then all the rest of the area is going to suffer as well. I’ve tried to convince my colleagues to drop the lawsuit. They have paused it, [and] TxDOT has been more than accommodating. But if we’re not careful and we don’t do something quickly, TxDOT’s going to take that $9 billion and move it to Dallas or Austin or San Antonio.