HOUSTON – Laguna Harbor sounds like a coastal Shangri-La nestled somewhere in sunny California.
However, this Laguna Harbor sits right in our backyard on Bolivar Peninsula. It sits approximately 64 miles from the struggles of Janie Murray in northeast Houston.
“It’s been really, really hard,” said Murray, who was a victim of Harvey. “A lot of people still haven’t gotten their house repaired.”
Murray has waited more than three years for help from the federal government in rebuilding her flooded home. KPRC 2 Investigates recently toured her new property.
“I’m blessed, I’m blessed to get this house,” said Murray.
Back at Laguna Harbor, the feds have earmarked dollars for another building project, a new marina. Former Lake Jackson resident and now U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s reaction?
“I’m tired of you spending money on rich people, let’s spend it on those who need money,” said the Junior U.S. Senator from Kentucky.
Paul by the way also is a big fan of Seinfeld, specifically, the episode featuring “Festivus.” a fictitious holiday that includes feats of strengths and the airing of grievances.
“The celebration where, you know, Costanzas is.. I’ve got a lot of problems with you people,” he said.
Paul has a lot of problems, grievances if you will, with the way the Federal Government spends your money on projects that don’t add up. Every year, he releases a Festivus Report.
On page 66 of last year’s report, Paul highlights Laguna Harbor. Nearly $1.5 million federal tax dollars from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the form of a grant to build boat slips.
“People are annoyed that we spend money that we don’t have. But they are doubly annoyed when they find out that the money we are spending at the federal level actually goes to people who really are wealthy and don’t really need this money,” said Paul.
Local Environmental Attorney Jim Blackburn clearly admits: “Rand Paul and I don’t agree on a lot of things, but I agree with him on this one.”
Blackburn, who has been fighting for government funding to protect Galveston Bay for years said: “They are getting a marina on the public dime it would appear.”
Not so fast said Chris Johnson an attorney for Laguna Harbor.
“Unfortunately the representations made by Senator Paul are just completely false,” said Johnson.
Laguna Harbor is a gated community with lots selling for as high as a half-million dollars. Johnson said his client applied for the grant and the state even helped.
“It’s a need that the State of Texas believes worthy funding from the federal government and they make an application on behalf of Laguna Harbor,” he said.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesperson said Laguna Harbor was the only applicant and it “met all the eligibility requirements.”
“It is public money, but it will be put to public use,” Johnson said. “The public will have access to it’s designed for use by the public.”
The marina will be open to the public and the feds said it also will be a “welcoming port for eligible vessels in need of safe harbor.”
Paul provided insight on how this happens.
“One of the reasons it happens we don’t vote on individual appropriation bills. They are all glommed together in one giant bill that no one reads,” he said.
As for Janie Murray, who just got her home 3.5 years after Harvey, the nearly $1.5 million granted by the Feds should have been put to much better use.
“They should have given it to the poor folks. They need help with these houses when they flood,” Murray said.
Johnson said he has sent a demand letter to Senator Paul on behalf of Laguna Harbor to retract the defamatory claims in the Festivus report. He said his clients “never received a single penny of money from any governmental entity.”
Here is a copy of the full Festivus Report: