HOUSTON (FOX 26) - This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Davis Moore - Democratic Political Commentator Attorney, Jacob Monty – Republican attorney, Antonio Diaz- writer, educator and radio host, Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Kathleen McKinley – conservative blogger discuss the distribution of $400 million in Harvey relief distributed by the city of Houston.
HOUSTON (FOX 26) — Seventeen months after Hurricane Harvey hammered Houston, major federal funds are finally flowing through Houston City Hall.
Council members approved the release of $400 million to six recovery contractors who will hire close to 100 subcontractors, many of them minority and women-owned businesses.
Houston City Council Member Mike Laster had serious unanswered concerns regarding the identity and accountability of the smaller firms.
"What we are talking here is inviting people into homes to renovate the most precious asset that they have," said Laster.
The concerns are shared by Council Member Greg Travis who requested first a two week and then a one-week delay.
With Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner opposed to waiting, a spirited debate ensued.
"Delay it two, three weeks? That's crazy, Council Member Travis!," said Council Member Dwight Boykins. "These people need help man!"
"We need to know who we are dealing with and who we are sending into our senior citizens' homes," countered Council Member Brenda Stardig. "That is the right thing to do. It does not hurt. We have waited this long. I want to do it right the first time."
"These people have been waiting long enough," concluded Council Member Ellen Cohen. "I'm comfortable with the background that we've done with the contractors."
When the votes were counted, the Mayor had prevailed.
Minutes later, Council Member Laster emerged from chambers with a revelation. The subcontractor information in dispute had just been hand delivered to him by city staff.
Did Mayor Turner's administration have it before the vote?
"They are telling us it's all public information, but we are talking about 92 subcontractors and I guess they didn't want to do the work and mine it and give it to me or other council members before the vote," said Laster. "Now they they've done it."
FOX 26 News asked Mayor Turner, "Why deliver the requested information after the vote and not before?"
"I can say to you without a shadow of a doubt, the process has the utmost integrity, highly-transparent and will meet the needs of the people who need our help the most," said Turner.
The City's housing director estimates around 6,000 Harvey victims will directly benefit from the restoration program. That's an average of $66,666 per project.