What do Houston mayoral candidates have to say about our water problems?

Houston mayoral candidates John Whitmire, currently a state senator, and Sheila Jackson Lee, a U.S. representative. (The Texas Tribune | Graeme Sloan/Sipa Usa Via Reuters, The Texas Tribune | Graeme Sloan/Sipa Usa Via Reuters)

HOUSTON – The water bills are a high-priced issue in the City of Houston.

Our water infrastructure is behind modern-day standards and continues to crumble, creating geysers in city streets.

KPRC 2 Investigates 18+ month ‘DRAINED’ series is filtering out the bad water problems contaminating the city’s transparency and response to frustrated people in our community.

“Amy, you are very rude!”

KPRC 2 Investigates Amy Davis questioning Mayor Sylvester Turner about water contracts. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis took Houstonian’s concerns to Mayor Sylvester Turner, but he had nothing to say on the topic.

Ultimately, the Mayor said he wouldn’t talk claiming Davis to be “unprofessional” and “very rude” because she approached him after he wrapped up at another event.

On Oct. 31, Davis went to city hall during Pop-Off to talk to sitting council members along with 27 DRAINED customers to see what they could do to change what’s happening with billing problems.

KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis takes to council about water customers feeling 'DRAINED.' (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

We continue to ask Public Works Director Carol Haddock for an interview to tell us what’s happening because she hasn’t spoken since February.

Checking in with mayoral candidates

Now, we’re turning to the mayoral candidates amid a run-off on December 9. KPRC 2 Investigates reached out to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and State Senator John Whitmire to get their thoughts on the issues before the election.

Senator Whitmire did sit down for an on-camera interview.

“I’m concerned about what you discover,” says Whitmire. “The reaction is as much the problem because that reaction affects all of our issues, [it’s] public safety. You know, they say, oh, everything’s fine. Well, we know it’s not.”

State Senator John Whitmire talks to KPRC 2 Investigates on Houstonians being 'DRAINED.' (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“I would applaud it. And that’s the kind of reporting transparency we need,” says Whitmire. “This is not a new issue. You just happen to be making it timely for them.”

Whitmire blamed water issues on the current administration.

“Let’s quit speculating why they, why they’re not more responsive. They’re not going to. He’s upset with me and you, no doubt. He doesn’t want us to criticize city operations. But, that’s the world we live in, Sylvester,” Whitmire said.

If he’s elected, he’s putting city employees on notice.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee sent us this statement regarding Houston water bills:

“From the beginning of the campaign, I have focused on the water service, our water bills, and certainly the wastewater treatment consent decree that has been issued by the federal government. As the next Mayor of the City of Houston, these issues will be keenly important and how best to address them will be a priority. Clearly, I will approach the issue of water bills and water service directly, efficiently, and timely. This is something that I am familiar with from my previous years on city council. To ensure that we have the best service for our customers, we need to do a complete overview of the system and how to repair it and look into how the bills are determined. What Houstonians want is what my administration will provide: transparency and solutions. And part of that plan will include me activating collaboration with federal funding through the bipartisan infrastructure bill and working with private equity funding to look at additional ways of financing the repair of our water system. What Houstonians want are solutions and an administration that is capable of devising innovative solutions. That will be the kind of administration I will lead.”

The new Houston Mayor and City Council will take office on January 2, 2024.

Related: ‘DRAINED’ Investigation into City of Houston water bill issues

About the Authors:

As an Emmy award-winning journalist, Jason strives to serve the community by telling in-depth stories and taking on challenges many pass over. When he’s not working, he’s spending time with his girlfriend Rosie, and dog named Dug.

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.