Commissioner Adrian Garcia did not seek this office to allow business to continue as usual in Harris County. Since taking office, he has charged ahead with significant changes to make county government one that works for all residents of Precinct 2.
Pushing for Property Tax Relief
Commissioner Garcia recognizes that homeowners, particularly seniors and veterans, deserve a break on their property taxes through exemptions permitted under Texas law. The Commissioner requested a study from the County’s Budget Department which showed that while Harris County exemptions currently offered are generous, they have not been expanded for many years and have not kept up with inflation.
Unfortunately, a minority of members of Commissioners Court were able to use a procedural move to avoid responsibility on property tax rates by dodging attendance at a Court meeting. Due to their failure to appear for their jobs, the County is in a poorer fiscal position, and it is unlikely it will be able to offer this property tax relief to seniors and veterans without cutting key services like law enforcement.
Despite this setback, Commissioner Garcia remains committed to providing relief in the future.
Increasing Use of Renewable Energy
Harris County is now a leader in the effort to increase the use of renewable energy, thanks to the recent action taken by Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Commissioners Court passed an item led by the Commissioner on October 8th that will make Harris County the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the state by purchasing more renewable energy certificates.
Renewable energy certificates (RECs) are energy commodities that represent proof that one MWh of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource and was fed into the electricity grid. Renewable energy sources include solar and wind energy.
Revamping Veteran Services
For too long, the Veteran Services Department at Harris County has lagged. While Precinct 2 has had a robust program for those who served, the County’s department has been chronically underfunded and underresourced – so much so that the department once had a sign with “No Walk-Ins” in big red letters on the door.
Commissioner Garcia made revitalizing the program a priority upon taking office. He moved the program out from under Harris County Community Services to directly report to Commissioners Court and set up a working group to determine ways to strengthen the department. Last month, the Court approved moving the department to be housed in the same building as Combined Arms, an umbrella Veteran Services organization.
The effort to revamp Veteran Services is ongoing as the search for a new director who can restore faith in the department continues.
Improving Educational Opportunities
Commissioner Garcia has sought to expand the ways Harris County contributes to the education and opportunity for Precinct 2 kids and has delivered by offering free SAT preparation to students.
Typical SAT prep classes can cost between $200 and $900. Thanks to Precinct 2’s partnership with Project GRAD, students in the precinct can sign up to take the classes for free. So far, more than 150 students have taken advantage of this program.
However, Commissioner Garcia knows that education must start early. That is why he has undertaken a campaign to encourage daycare providers in Precinct 2 to participate in the Texas Rising Stars program (TRS). The TRS program incentivizes daycares to meet a higher standard for the children they serve.
Pushing for Updates on the Down Payment Assistance Program
Commissioner Adrian Garcia helped bring much-needed change to Harris County’s Down Payment Assistance Program by pushing for updates that significantly reduce the time applicants have to wait to receive funds and streamlines processes.
Since 2002, Harris County Commissioners Court approval was required before a down payment check could be issued for a new homeowner. Now this new policy approved by Commissioners Court allows Harris County Community Services to issue checks electronically upon execution of an agreement with the homebuyer and completion of a home inspection.
Making homeownership opportunities more accessible
Precinct 2 is known to have the highest percentage of renters amongst all 4 Precincts. This is an issue because many residents in the Precinct cannot afford to be homeowners. Commissioner Adrian Garcia proposed a Land Trust Program for Unincorporated Harris County to change this, which was then approved in Commissioner Court.
The program operates as a Community Land Trust (CLT) nonprofit owned by the county and has the ability to acquire land; including accepting land currently owned by the county. The acquired land is used to develop affordable housing, which is available to low- and moderate-income families at below-market rates. Under this program, the County continues to own the land and lease it to the homeowner. In exchange for purchasing a CLT home at an affordable price, buyers agree to resell at a price that is affordable for future low-income owners.
This created an opportunity for Harris County to offer affordable housing for many families in Precinct 2.
Commissioner Garcia's vision for the precinct combines the realities and challenges our communities face. He is determined to finding innovative ways that help close the gaps that impact Precinct 2 residents. This is his precinct, his home, with some of the hardest working people in Harris County but this also a community that has been historically underserved and underrepresented. He is on a mission to change this.