June: Top 10 Texas Local Officials

We have compiled a list of what we believe to be the Top 10 Texas local officials who showed extraordinary leadership in the month of June.

#1 Ricardo Samaniego

El Paso County Judge | El Paso, TX

County Judge Ricardo Samaniego worked to increase vaccination rates both in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. Judge Samaniego warned his constituents about the challenge of achieving herd immunity in a city like El Paso which shares the border with Juarez. He said Juarez’s unvaccinated population must be considered in efforts to improve El Paso’s vaccination rates. Samaniego proposed ideas for vaccinating Juarez citizens entering El Paso alongside efforts to increase local vaccination rates. The primary barrier to vaccination was convenience, Judge Samaniego said, and he took steps to improve vaccine access and visibility by partnering with Catholic churches to offer vaccinations. Judge Samaniego also spoke against Governor Greg Abbott’s proposed border fence and former President Donald Trump’s appearance at the border. He urged Trump to pay the debts owed to El Paso for a 2019 Trump rally.

#2 Lina Hidalgo

Harris County Judge | Houston, TX

Judge Lina Hidalgo collaborated with President Joe Biden’s U.S. Department of Transportation to halt a project to expand part of Houston’s Interstate 45. The highway expansion is expected to disproportionately affect communities of color by displacing over 1,000 residents, 300 businesses, and 50 churches in south Houston while physically increasing the divide between communities. Judge Hidalgo’s actions are the latest in a series of efforts to improve equity in Harris County.

#3 Tom Ramsey

Harris County Commissioner | Houston, TX

Commissioner Tom Ramsey spoke against County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s efforts to stop the Texas Department of Transportation’s expansion of Interstate 45. While Judge Hidalgo has actively campaigned against the project due to equity concerns, Commissioner Ramsey countered that the highway expansion would bring necessary improvements to south Houston which would outweigh the plan’s drawbacks. Commissioner Ramsey said expanding the highway would offer south Houston residents an effective evacuation route from hurricanes. In addition, Commissioner Ramsey argued that Judge Hidalgo’s efforts will deprive the county of thousands of jobs and almost $5 billion in flood mitigation funding.

#4 Tammy Dana-Bashian

Mayor of Rowlett | Rowlett, TX

Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian of Rowlett defended her decision to recognize the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month by decorating the city water tower with rainbow-colored lights. Council members, community leaders, and residents criticized the display saying it was an embarrassment to the city and did not represent the citizens’ personal views. Mayor Dana-Bashian argued that the LGBTQ+ community in Rowlett is a marginalized group with the right to be recognized, included and welcomed. The Rowlett City Council agreed to let the lights remain for the month of June.

#5 Steve Young

Milam County Judge | Cameron, TX

County Judge Steve Young pushed for the creation of an incentive program for vaccinations in Milam County. Vaccination rates in the county lagged behind surrounding areas with only 33% of eligible citizens being fully vaccinated. To increase vaccination rates, Young proposed a $250 cash incentive for vaccinations using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. While vaccine incentive programs have proved popular outside of Texas, few areas in the state have implemented such programs. The Milam County Commissioners Court unanimously approved Judge Young’s proposal.

#6 Barbara Canales

Nueces County Judge | Corpus Christi, TX

County Judge Barbara Canales addressed racial health disparities in Nueces County which were uncovered in a countywide health study sponsored by the judge. The study revealed that Hispanic citizens contracted COVID-19 more frequently than their white counterparts. Additionally, residents of higher-income neighborhoods have longer life expectancies than those living in lower-income neighborhoods. Judge Canales said county leaders must understand they are capable of changing the statistics. The judge said the results of the study allow the county to pursue more funding to improve the health of historically marginalized groups.

#7 KP George

Fort Bend County Judge | Richmond, TX

County Judge K.P. George announced the opening of cooling centers in Fort Bend County after Texas power companies began warning of potential power outages. The shelters are reminiscent of February’s warming shelters which helped Fort Bend residents escape freezing temperatures during power failures. Additionally, Judge George launched the Fort Bend County Youth Employment Program to provide summer job opportunities for young adults ages 16-21. Year-round opportunities will be available through a partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions. Judge George described the program as a great opportunity for young people to “establish good work habits, learn responsibility, organization and time management skills.”

#8 Richard Cortez

Hidalgo County Judge | Edinburg, TX

Judge Richard Cortez spoke against the media’s rhetoric about communities along the Texas-Mexico border. Judge Cortez said the overwhelmingly negative portrait of border communities is adversely affecting his community’s ability to attract new residents and talent. Judge Cortez further emphasized that crime in Hidalgo County is fairly low, especially compared to other large urban centers like Chicago. After Governor Greg Abbott hosted a conference with border county officials, Judge Cortez voiced support for efforts to secure the border but declined to declare a state of emergency as suggested by the governor.

#9 Greg Casar

Councilmember of Austin | Austin, TX

Councilmember Greg Casar sponsored an agenda item that directed $20 million in emergency reserves to rental assistance for the Relief of Emergency Needs for Tenants program. After the Austin City Council approved measures to increase the city’s homestead exemption, a change that benefited mostly wealthy homeowners, Councilmember Casar advocated for the additional funding for renters’ assistance. In addition, Casar was at the forefront of a $100 million investment in local homelessness programs and housing.

#10 Ron Nirenberg

Mayor of San Antonio | San Antonio, TX

Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced a $10,000 donation to San Antonio’s Sister City, Chennai, India, as an act of solidarity in the fight against COVID-19.  Mayor Nirenberg delivered a speech describing the pandemic’s ability to bring people together and the importance of cooperation in the face of adversity. Established in 2008, the Sister City International Agreement stands as a symbol of cooperation and investment between the two cities.

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