Har­vey heroes

Only Congress can say whether this is a time for great­ness or the be­gin­ning of the end.

Houston Chronicle - - WORLD | FROM THE COVER -

Every­one knows the Bi­ble story of Noah and his ark. An­cient Sume­ri­ans had a sim­i­lar saga with the Epic of Gil­gamesh.

In hu­man­ity’s great tales, floods have a way of sum­mon­ing the great­est among us.

Here in Hous­ton, the flood of 1935 de­liv­ered the lead­er­ship of Con­gress­man Al­bert Thomas, who spent 30 years in Wash­ing­ton pro­mot­ing ev­ery­thing from fund­ing flood con­trol and the Hous­ton Ship Chan­nel to build­ing the John­son Space Cen­ter.

Now we wait for a mod­ern leader to rise out of Har­vey’s waters. Who would have thought it would be U.S. Sen. John Cornyn?

Nei­ther fire­brand nor mav­er­ick, Cornyn has al­ways been more of a steady hand and com­pany man — a loyal mem­ber of the Repub­li­can Party. But, even while he serves as the sec­ond-rank­ing Repub­li­can in the Se­nate, Cornyn has bravely de­cided to buck his party and put a hold on a key Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pointee, Rus­sell Vought. It’s all part of a leg­isla­tive gam­bit to grab Wash­ing­ton by the lapels and force the ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­liver on promised hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery funds.

You would think Cornyn could find uni­ver­sal sup­port. In­stead he’s en­dured at­tacks from pow­er­ful right-wing in­ter­est groups.

Michael Quinn Sul­li­van of Em­power Tex­ans has lam­basted Cornyn on Twit­ter for “tak­ing a con­ser­va­tive hostage un­til he gets cash for Texas.”

Noah Wall, vice pres­i­dent of ad­vo­cacy at tea party group Free­domWorks, has said that, “Sen. John Cornyn is putting his ear­marks be­fore the fis­cally con­ser­va­tive Trump nom­i­nee.”

Those so-called ear­marks rep­re­sent Hous­ton’s birthright. It was fed­eral dol­lars that helped build our reser­voirs and flood in­fra­struc­ture and al­lowed Hous­ton to grow into a 20th-cen­tury boom­town with­out fear of an­other 1935 flood. We will again need sim­i­lar sup­port to pro­tect our city from the next Me­mo­rial Day flood, Tax Day flood or Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Congress has ap­proved bil­lions in FEMA dol­lars and emer­gency re­lief and tax breaks in the wake of Har­vey, but Hous­ton needs more. A third reser­voir can’t be built from home buy­outs. Tax cuts won’t pay for coastal storm-surge pro­tec­tion. Bayou in­fra­struc­ture projects aren’t funded by small busi­ness loans.

That’s why Gov. Greg Ab­bott has pro­posed a $61 bil­lion pack­age to pre­pare Texas for the next big flood — ”fu­ture­proof,” he calls it. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion

has promised to pro­mote a new Har­vey bill some­time soon. Cornyn shouldn’t drop his hold un­less the pro­posal in­cludes ev­ery last cent that Ab­bott has re­quested.

Ask Sul­li­van or Wall, how­ever, and they’ll say that filling some ob­scure po­si­tion in the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get takes prece­dence over pro­tect­ing the fourth largest city in the United States. Your mucked home, your ru­ined car, your child’s school, the en­tire city of Hous­ton rep­re­sent noth­ing more than an in­con­ve­nient ex­pen­di­ture. Per­haps Sul­li­van would have a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude if he had to rely on the East Hous­ton Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter, forced to close af­ter Har­vey, for his health care. Maybe Wall would un­der­stand the need for hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery if he joined in prayer along­side the con­gre­gants at Beth Yeshu­run or United Ortho­dox Synagogue, who have seen their holi­est cham­bers ru­ined by over­flow­ing bayous.

No. Lob­by­ists wor­ship at the al­tar of power, and Hous­ton’s fu­ture must be sac­ri­ficed for the sake of their po­lit­i­cal agenda.

In mid-Septem­ber, while Har­vey’s flood­wa­ters still sat in Ad­dicks and Barker reser­voirs, Sul­li­van in­ter­viewed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a sprawl­ing, half-hour con­ver­sa­tion that touched on ev­ery­thing from tax re­form to wind tur­bine con­struc­tion codes. More than 20 min­utes passed be­fore bring­ing up Har­vey. Once the topic was broached, how­ever, Cruz told Sul­li­van that every­one in Wash­ing­ton had agreed to fund a ro­bust re­build­ing ef­fort.

“What­ever Texas needs to come through the storm,” Cruz said. “We’re go­ing to get.”

Cornyn doesn’t seem too con­fi­dent in that prom­ise. Cruz has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to stand side-by-side with his col­league and de­mand that Congress de­liver for Texas. For the past five years, our state’s ju­nior sen­a­tor has fought to end Oba­macare, shut down the Ex­port-Im­port bank and burn ev­ery bridge in the Se­nate in his quest for the pres­i­dency. Cruz has a year left in his term to prove that he’s will­ing to har­ness a sim­i­lar pas­sion for hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery.

Epochal floods may have sum­moned the great­est, but they also served as a har­bin­ger of demise. Zeus closed the Bronze Age with a del­uge. Waters halted the time of giants in Be­owolf.

The 1900 Hur­ri­cane cut short Galve­ston’s reign as the Queen City of the Gulf.

Will Har­vey serve as Hous­ton’s mo­ment for heroes, or the be­gin­ning of the end?

Only Congress can an­swer that ques­tion. Congress has ap­proved bil­lions in FEMA dol­lars and emer­gency re­lief and tax breaks in the wake of Har­vey, but Hous­ton needs more. A third reser­voir can’t be built from home buy­outs.

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