Harris County Pct. 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey discusses first year in office, goals for 2022 – Houston Chronicle

When Tom Ramsey decided to run for Harris County Pct. 3 Commissioner in 2019, he identified three priorities.

“That was crime (and) safe neighborhoods, infrastructure, and lower taxes,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey just wrapped up his first year as commissioner of the precinct in which he’s raised children, owned a small business, and held office as a mayor prior to taking on his current role.

Heading into 2022, he intends to continue working toward those priorities, even as the precinct prepares for a major territory shift.

Deciding to run

Ramsey believes his background prepared him for the responsibilities of a Harris County commissioner.

He graduated from Texas A&M in 1974 with a degree in civil engineering and has been a registered professional engineer consultant for about 45 years, he said, working with several governmental entities throughout his career.

Ramsey also owned a small business in Pct. 3 for over 30 years until he sold his business in 2017.

“I was a small business owner, had roughly 150 people, and making payroll and keeping people gainfully employed is a good preparation I think for what you do as county commissioner,” he said.

He served as mayor of Spring Valley Village for eight years during which time he was also the president of the Harris County Mayors Council comprised of 30-plus cities including Humble, Tomball, Jersey Village, the six Memorial Villages, Katy and Bellaire.

“I was able to have a good regional network of people to understand issues,” he said.

Ramsey decided to run for commissioner in December of 2019, endorsed by both Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and previous Pct. 3 Commissioner Steve Radack.

“As most engineers do, we tend to not get involved in the politics of it. I think there should be more of us getting involved, but I think my experience not only as an engineer, my experience as a businessman, experience as a parent in the precinct and then experience serving as mayor in a regional capacity, I could see where it just made a lot of sense for me to run and when I ran, that made sense to people,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey won the republican primary and was elected in November 2020.

Redistricting

A year into office, Ramsey is facing a significant change to the area he represents.

Harris County Commissioners Court in October approved a redistricting plan under which Ramsey’s territory encompasses a large portion of the area currently served by Pct. 4 Commissioner Cagle, and vice versa. The new Pct. 3 also includes what was the northern portion of Pct. 2, served by Commissioner Adrian Garcia.

“(The new) Pct. 3 starts in the Spring Branch Memorial area, goes north to Jersey Village…to east Tomball, then it goes east to Humble, east to Atascocita, Crosby, Huffman. That’s the new Pct. 3, which is essentially the old Pct. 4,” he said.

Ramsey and Cagle are opposed to the redistricting. The two Republican commissioners and voters filed a lawsuit in November in attempt to stop the boundary changes.

This week, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of mandamus that claimed the redistricting “stripped more than a million Texans of their right to vote for a commissioner in the 2022 election.” The court said in their ruling that the decision was based on concerns about time frame and disrupting the 2022 primary election which “is already in its early stages.”

Even prior to this recent ruling, Ramsey gave assurance that Pct. 3 has been working closely with Pct. 4 and 2, determining how to allocate resources as they transition to their new precinct boundaries to prevent any interruption of services if efforts to stop the redistricting were unsuccessful.

“We like to tell people during this period whether you’re in 3 or whether you’re in 4, just think of yourself as being in Pct. 7,” Ramsey said. “You’ve got two commissioners that you can call us any time and we’re equally committed. Our staffs work very well together, so that’s our commitment to folks going forward.”

Ramsey said the precincts are working to get a plan in place for the transition by March, when the county’s next fiscal year begins.

“We’ve all agreed to work with each other, and we’ve got to get a budget done by March 1 and if we’re going to have a budget, we better have the resources and equipment and people all assigned consistent with that,” he said.

‘Crime and safe neighborhoods’

Advocating for law enforcement has been a major focus for Ramsey in his first year.

According to Ramsey, he was able to secure a resolution from commissioners court in support of the constables, as well as a commitment to consider including the hiring of additional officers—either in the sheriff’s office or the constable’s office—to patrol underserved neighborhoods in the next budget.

Ramsey said he also partnered with City Council Member Edward Pollard to help address sex trafficking and prostitution in an area known as the Bissonnet Track.

“The state legislature had just passed a new law that said if you solicit prostitutes, that’s a felony,” Ramsey said. “It had never been a felony. This was the first state in the union to consider that a felony. So, I thought ‘no one knows about it,’ and being the good Aggie that I am I found the ugliest orange signs I could find and we put those up on the Bissonnet area advising people that we had cameras running, we had officers patrolling and that we would arrest you.”

As of last month, Ramsey said over two dozen arrests had been made.

‘Infrastructure’

One of Ramsey’s commitments to constituents, he said, is that the projects included in the county’s 2018 flood bond will be completed.

“If we’re going to have any credibility going forward with the voters, we got to get those things done,” he said, adding that Pct. 3 has already partnered on several flood reduction projects in the area.

“We are advocating and have begun to do desilting of the channels which allows water to move more quickly out of the neighborhoods…and it also will be creating more detention in Addicks and Barker which helps people upstream, it helps people downstream,” he said

Moving forward, Ramsey intends to advocate for the construction of a stormwater tunnel to reduce flooding in Harris County.

“(The tunnel) for example could go from the Addicks Barker Reservoir 140 feet below the bottom of Buffalo Bayou and discharge water into the Turning Basin there at the Ship Channel. …We could construct tunnels all over Harris County, discharging it into the Ship Channel,” he said.

“We’re completing the Corps level study on that. …The Romans have been doing siphons for 2,000 years, so this isn’t anything that we can’t do.”

According to Ramsey, Pct. 3 completed over $100 million worth of infrastructure projects in 2021 including asphalt overlays and maintaining the over 2,000 miles of roads in the old Pct. 3 boundaries.

Pct. 3 and 4 recently opened a key segment of Louetta Road, a joint project between the two entities that completed the thoroughfare from U.S. 290 to east of I-45.

Even as his precinct boundaries change, Ramsey said, investing in road projects will remain a priority.

‘Lower taxes’

Ramsey is one of two Republican commissioners on a court with two Democratic commissioners and a Democratic judge.

The Chronicle previously reported that in 2019, Republican Commissioners Cagle and Radack, Ramsey’s predecessor, stopped a proposed tax increase by breaking quorum. In September 2021, commissioners court came to a compromise on lowering the tax rate to prevent a possible quorum break which could have resulted in even larger tax cuts, the Chronicle reported.

For Ramsey, the tax cut was a source of pride in his first year, he said.

“I’m very proud this year we not only lowered the tax rate, we reduced the tax revenues,” he said.

Looking ahead

Heading into his second year as Pct. 3 commissioner, Ramsey said he will continue focusing on priorities including crime reduction, investing in infrastructure, and taxes, while serving constituents through the redistricting transition.

“We’re going to be that responsive government to the folks. …Service, service, service is our focus going into 2022,” he said.

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Source: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/neighborhood/cyfair/article/Harris-County-Pct-3-Commissioner-Tom-Ramsey-16759614.php

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