Feb 12, 2024 - News

Commissioner Ellis speaks out on funding city projects

Commissioner, Harris County, TX Rodney Ellis speaks at the Fireside Chat: African American Community Issues and Environmental Racism

Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for NOBCO

Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis last week hinted at potential stipulations for funding infrastructure projects within the city of Houston.

Why it matters: Ellis' comment comes as Mayor John Whitmire grapples with the future of Houston's road safety projects.

What happened: During a press conference Thursday celebrating a new park in Sunnyside, Ellis momentarily went off-topic to address city leaders.

  • "[To] all my friends at the city, if you want any money out of Precinct 1, it won't just be based on cars," Ellis said. "You may get it somewhere else, but not from Precinct 1."
  • Ellis didn't elaborate, and it was not clear who he was addressing within the city.

Catch up fast: Ellis, a Democrat, directs millions of dollars worth of improvements to roads within the city of Houston, many of which include bike lanes at his insistence.

The intrigue: Ellis and Whitmire served together for 26 years in the Texas Senate.

Of note: Ellis declined a request for comment from Axios.

  • A city spokesperson said, "Mayor Whitmire has not heard the remarks and was not aware of them and has no comments."

Between the lines: Ellis' comments come as tensions rise between Whitmire and some of Houston's safe streets advocates, sparked by the mayor's decision to remove a series of medians along Houston Avenue intended to improve pedestrian safety.

What they're saying: "The city would be wise to continue working with funding partners like Harris County to continue to provide safe access for people on bikes, whether they use this infrastructure for recreation or transportation," advocacy group BikeHouston executive director Joe Cutrufo tells Axios.

  • "Mayor Whitmire knows that bike paths are not just great for getting Houstonians moving, but they're also great for our local economy," Cutrufo said.
  • "The genie's out of the bottle. Houstonians have seen the beginning of what the Bayou City's multimodal future could look like, and we're not going backwards."

The bottom line: With work demolishing the Houston Avenue project already underway, all eyes are on Whitmire's plans for Houston's roads.


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