The program designed (for the most part) by current Houston Mayoral Candidate Stephen Costello was sold as the answer to Houston's Life, it's Universe and it's Everything! (With apologies to the late, great, Douglas Addams)
On their website Rebuild Houston cites several projects, both completed and in progress, for which it takes sole credit in advancing. The biggest issue behind all of this is that we have no audited account that the statements are both true and accurate. These could be new projects that Rebuild Houston funded or they could be existing projects that were already on the books to which Rebuild Houston played an ancillary role. The fact is we just don't know.
After the rains and flooding of last week, some of Houston's alt-media outlets are starting to take notice:
Refund Houston?? Jeffrey L. Boney, Houston Forward Times
After the most recent severe thunderstorm to hit the city, Houston taxpayers are beginning to wonder whether they should be asking city officials for a "refund" as opposed to continue to pay a drainage fee that is supposed to help the city "rebuild" its infrastructure.
While I think it's a little unfair to hold Rebuild Houston partially responsible for a 100 year flood event, I do think now is the right time to begin asking questions about a project that was sold, in part, as a way to lessen the impacts of major storms while improving Houston's crumbling infrastructure, an infrastructure that has been all but ignored by a succession of Houston Mayoral administrations.
The biggest problem with calling for any audit of this program is that it's unlikely to be implemented until after the upcoming city elections. Current City Controller Ronald Green has performed very few audits since being elected to the position and he's currently embroiled in a nasty divorce. Because of this it appears that the role of auditing is going to fall to one of the aspirants of the office.
You would like to see some journalistic curiosity from Houston's mainstream media, and the most likely candidate to have this is Ted Oberg of ABC 13. You can probably write off the Houston Chronicle who are too busy celebrating their self-awarded Pulitzer Prize and running endless pictorials of women in bikinis then they are actually investigating anything.
Historically, Houston's City Hall has not been interested in taking a deep-dive look at anything unless their embarrassed into doing it.
That said, there might be some hope.
Earlier today Mayoral Candidate Bill King Tweeted about the issue and one would hope that this becomes a campaign issue. Granted, it's not likely to get much traction from the left, who consider infrastructure and basic city services to be "junk food" issues that obscure the more important items such as one-bin recycling so any movement for accountability is going to have to come from the center and the right. Given the relative dearth of good candidates in Houston from those political perspectives I've got little faith this is going to happen. For one, why would a liberal candidate such as Sylvester Turner want to turn off a rather large spigot of money that allows him to use other funds to purchase votes from a constituency that's largely in love with trinket governance?
In summary: I would love to see Rebuild Houston receive a thorough audit but, given the current state of political leadership in Houston, I'm not encouraged that it will every happen in a full and transparent manner.