Announces New Focus on Early Childhood Development
Harris County, Texas – November 15, 2019 – Today, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo joined business leaders, residents, and community leaders from across the region to deliver the first State of the County address of her term. During her remarks to about 900 attendees, Judge Hidalgo outlined key areas of progress in fostering a safer, healthier, and more equitable Harris County and announced a new initiative that will focus on improving early childhood development.
“The state of our county is strong,” said Judge Hidalgo. “But being strong is about much more than having a low unemployment rate or a strong bond rating. It’s about making sure that all of our residents enjoy equal access to the great opportunities available to them in Harris County. Over the past year we’ve made county government more transparent, made strides to reform our criminal justice system, and have begun to make up for lost time when it comes to investing in our flood control infrastructure. But there is much more to do, and we look forward to another year of ambitious, meaningful initiatives, including a focus on what we can do to improve early childhood development and education.”
Drawing from the “Talking Transition” initiative, Judge Hidalgo will kick off a community engagement series next year as the first step towards a larger goal of a meaningful early childhood development initiative in Harris County. Programs that focus on early childhood development have one of the strongest returns on investment for any type of public program. Children who benefit from initiatives like subsidized childcare and early education tend to have higher high school graduation rates, fewer arrests, lower rates of substance use, and higher rates of employment as adults.
During her remarks, Judge Hidalgo also provided updates on key priorities since her swearing in. Some key areas of progress include:
. Sped the delivery of flood bond projects by allocating local funds to jump-start construction instead of waiting for federal match dollars.
. Passed the most stringent flood detention requirements possible so that new development doesn’t flood people downstream.
. Fixing our broken cash-bail system. By taking action to settle an expensive, three-year old lawsuit under which federal courts had deemed the County’s bail system unconstitutional, the County eliminated practices that often made wealth the sole basis for how someone accused of a misdemeanor crime was treated.
. Reformed environmental protection, monitoring, and enforcement. The County has allocated over $11 million to build a state-of-the-art air monitoring network, increased the size of the pollution control department by over 50%, and added resources for HazMat First Responders.
. Passed common-sense gun safety measures. The County has taken action to expand programs designed to keep weapons away from domestic violence abusers, expedite checks to keep gun dealers from unknowingly selling to people convicted of crimes, and encourage the use of gun locks to keep guns from the hands of children.
. Made voting easier by allowing residents to vote anywhere on election day. The County has also expanded early voting hours and locations, including increased access for students with early voting polls opened at the University of Houston and Texas Southern University.
. Directed the county to create a 3-1-1 system to make county information easier to receive.
. Launched Harris Thrives, an initiative to execute a faster, fairer, and smarter flood control policy. As part of this commitment, the County Judge’s office is sharing real-time information on construction progress for flood bond projects, including how and where dollars are being spent HarrisThrives.org.
. Stood up against the Trump administration’s effort to instill fear in our immigrant communities. Judge Hidalgo has worked to fight against family separation policies, planned immigration raids in the County, and the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Additionally, the County filed a successful amicus brief against the Federal Government’s proposed “public charge rule” designed to threaten safety net services for immigrants and which would also overburden our county safety net systems.
For a more comprehensive list of county initiatives and accomplishments, and a full copy of Judge Hidalgo’s speech as prepared is available on her county website at CountyJudgeHidalgo.com