59ºF

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo leads her first Commissioners Court meeting

HOUSTON – A new year, a new leader at the helm of the Harris County Commissioners Court.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo led her first Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.

The 27-year-old Democrat, who defeated longtime Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, was sworn in last week.

During Tuesday's meeting, Hidalgo said she wants to change the way Commissioners Court is run. She said she wants to make the court more accessible and welcoming to the public.

“As the body in charge of prioritizing billions of dollars of funds each year, we at the Commissioners Court need to make sure we are accessible to the community,” Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo also introduced initiatives focused on making the multibillion dollar flood-recovery process more transparent and equitable.

“There’s a critical need for clarity and input on how tax dollars are being spent on Hurricane Harvey relief and other flooding issues,” Hidalgo said. “I’ve made a commitment to spend the funds in the smartest way possible and in a way that doesn’t leave the community wondering what happened or whether they had a voice in the process.”

The first Commissioners Court meeting of the year, which lasted over six hours, also included a public hearing on voting centers. Voting centers enable registered voters to cast their ballot at one of several locations around the County, a move that many voting rights advocates say could make voting more convenient for more people and increase voter turnout.

“Voting is the bedrock of our democracy. We should help eligible citizens to cast their vote without any unnecessary barriers. Voting centers make it easier for people to vote at any location - the one closest to work, or school, or the gym - as opposed to one that may be inconvenient to reach during polling hours on election day,” Hidalgo said. “That said, we also have to make sure any changes to our voting process are made thoughtfully and with community input. We requested authorization for public hearings to thoroughly review this proposal, and to hear from civic groups that represent communities that have been traditionally underrepresented.”

Hidalgo also voted for the county to file an amicus brief in various federal lawsuits in which local jurisdictions are opposing the placement of a question on the 2020 Census asking for a person’s citizenship status.

“Nationally $800 billion in funding is determined by Census counts. The only responsible position for a County Judge to take is one that gets everyone counted. We can't afford to have questions that decrease participation,” she said.