Lizzie Fletcher and Laura Moser are set to settle who will be the Democratic Party’s nominee to challenge John Culberson in Texas District 7 this November. The two candidates will have a runoff on May 22, having had a very close race in the primary. Fletcher came in first place, beating Moser by 5 points although neither of them crossed the 50 percent mark needed to secure the nomination outright.
In the meantime, Fletcher has already turned her sights on Culberson. The seat held by Culberson is widely considered one of the most flippable since the election of Donald Trump and the strong showing of Hillary Clinton in the Houston area. Culberson finds himself facing a blue wave. Perhaps literally in this case.
Fletcher’s latest barbs against the representative are directed at the issue of flooding. With the 2018 Hurricane season right around the corner and already predicted to be, if I may use a technical term, active AF, it’s a subject on everyone’s minds. Since Hurricane Harvey, Houston has been doing a lot of soul searching when it comes to how we’ll deal with the next bout of rising waters. In Fletcher’s opinion, Culberson isn’t living up to the needs of the city or district.
“My criticism is, ‘Where has he been the last fifteen years?’” says Fletcher.
This was in response to a question about Project Brays, something that both Culberson and Fletcher support. Project Brays is a cooperative effort between the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that covers a wide variety of flood-related initiatives along Brays Bayou. Recently they began work on removing submerged cars in Brays and Sims that were left over after Hurricane Harvey, but other projects include the widening of channels, modification to bridges, stormwater drainage basin work, and more. It’s a massive undertaking needed to ensure the next hurricane that hits Houston doesn’t have the terrible swath of destruction that accompanied Harvey in the area.
Culberson has been active in this, having authored language in the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WINN) Act that will expedite Project Brays and remove 29,000 homes from the floodplain. This is in addition to the $206 million he has secured for Brays Bayou projects from the federal government since 2002, but Fletcher is skeptical of his actual impact.
“All the talk from John I’ve heard is very recent,” says Fletcher. “He’s been in congress since this project was started. We recognized its need since Allison during Culberson’s first year in congress. I was working at the Alley Theatre then, when we had 20 feet of water. One of the real failings is that Project Brays is behind. The city has had to front money and get reimbursed. Delays exacerbated the damage in Harvey and the Tax Days floods, and Culberson has been largely absent from that conversation.”
The “flooding” portion of Culberson’s website touts well over $300 million of money secured for various flood projects in Houston. In addition, he continues to seek new paths forward regarding the safety of Houston in future storms. Fletcher feels that we are living in the aftermath of Culberson’s previous leadership, especially regarding money.
“Yes, Project Brays has gotten funding, but there are projects that have been on the radar for years,” says Fletcher. “We haven’t been able to get them appropriated despite Culberson being on the appropriations committee.”
In addition to trying to implement the already-approved Project Brays, Fletcher wants to look to the future of Houston regarding flooding, vowing, “We can’t let the Medical Center flood again.” She’s interested in the debate over a third reservoir, a hotly-contested issue considering how many people lost their homes in the draining of the Addicks Reservoir. Silt buildup that has reduced reservoir capacity is another area she plans to address, as well as looking into plans that increase detention. She cited Jersey Village’s proposal to use golf courses as possible water retention sites as a step in the right direction.
“One thing I understand is that we do need to be looking for a place for the water to go,” says Fletcher. “Harvey wasn’t the worst-case scenario, but it was close.”
Fletcher’s flood platform can be viewed here.