Metrics and Accountability: A conversation we must continue

Published 8:49 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019

This is a follow up to my last article about Metrics and Accountability.

Former Orange County Judge Crooks, in his lengthy writing about ensuring metrics and accountability in government, especially when providing inducements for economic development said, “…benefits must be clear and measurable…tax abatements are seen as ‘safe’ incentives with little downside, but impose significant costs on taxpayers by shifting the burden of service costs from a new property onto existing taxpayers.”

In spite of all the name calling that’s been going on, I still think that’s good advice.

Lest we forget the recent events in nearby Deer Park Texas, near Houston, we must acknowledge that there can be substantial or even massive service costs associated with economic growth, especially as it relates to the Petro-Chemical Industry. Have these potential costs been figured into the equation proving that the inducements are good for the county?

Think about the service costs to the government (taxpayers) for this massive fire. 

  • 24-hour-a-day emergency services coverage to finally put out the fire that started on Sunday, only to have it start up again. As of Sunday a week later, that’s 8 consecutive days of fire-fighting.
  • The Houston Ship Channel was shut down and the Coast Guard has no timetable for when it plans to re-open the closed 7-mile stretch.

And what about personal issues?

  • Messages were published that the air quality was ok (because the bad stuff was high up and blowing towards Houston), and then followed by Shelter-In-Place notices where people could not leave their houses because of the dangers outside. 
  • On Monday, a week ago, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said, “Right now, what we’re seeing is no elevated levels (of pollutants) because the plume is high enough that it’s not affecting us here close to the ground,”  I read that as saying that it’s OK if it’s some other county’s problem when it lands.
  • Personal issues like environmental concerns about airborne and liquid toxins released into the air and our rivers. The US Environmental Protection Agency took an air quality reading at 5 pm Friday and found a benzene level five times higher than considered safe.
  • TCEQ said that a test Saturday afternoon showed that water was found to have nine toxic substances in concentrations harmful to humans, including xylene, pyrene, and toluene.
  • And potentially higher health issues and costs as a result of these releases.
  • At least six school districts closed schools, meaning days lost from school which need to be made up.
  • Highways and bridges blocked and unpassable.

 Who’s to blame?

A Houston columnist last week accused the community of making a bargain with the oil and gas industry in exchange for economic development and affordable and plentiful liquid fuel for their two-ton motor vehicles.

 He said that the people, therefore, agreed to accept the occasional petrochemical upset that damages the environment and endangers their neighbors; that pretending our elected officials are not as responsible for the problem as the plant’s management is delusional.

Metrics and Accountability

I believe that Judge Crooks was absolutely right when he talked about the people we appoint or elect to be responsible leaders should openly show the reasons behind their decisions and show how they actually looked at not just the financial benefits of economic development but that they considered the costs as well.

Perhaps the columnist in Houston is right – the people get what they ask for. I guess the big question would be, “Do they know what they’re asking for?” That’s where metrics and accountability come in.


J. David Derosier consults with small business on planning and marketing issues, and provides web design and hosting services through, an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau that is rated A+ by BBB. He can be reached at