H-GAC Transportation Policy Council Starts Tough Discussion on Equitable Representation

DecideTexas

Strategies and funding allocations for transportation, urban planning, sustainability, and equity issues in Texas metropolitan regions are decided at our Texas metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). Unfortunately, these decision making entities generally lack fair representation from the diverse people of their metro regions.

For example, the Houston region is the most diverse large metropolitan region in the United States, but the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) Transportation Policy Council (TPC) just decided on Friday to once again fill their five leadership positions with all non-Hispanic White males, a radical inequity and inefficient decision making methodology.

While the result is another year of wildly inequitable representation for the people of the Houston region, for perhaps the first time ever, a meaningful discussion occurred around the table at the TPC, which you can watch here:

According to Farm&City research, the Houston region’s inequitable representation on the TPC is the worst of Texas’ large MPOs and among the four worst on all three indices we developed: the male advantage index, white advantage index, and geographic advantage index. Higher numbers on all of these indices mean worse, more inequitable.

No member of the TPC is publicly known to be a person with a disability, another dramatic gap in the wisdom available to our most important transportation planning and funding allocation decisions.

Non-Hispanic White residents of the Houston region are dramatically over-represented on the TPC, while all people of color are under-represented.

This vote to once again seat an all white male leadership group for the TPC is beyond the pale, and should never be repeated again, as noted by members of the TPC during this discussion.

However, the people of Houston region should accept no less than a complete reassessment of the general structure of H-GAC and the TPC. The body itself is wildly inequitable. The inequity not only comes from votes of the members of the TPC, but also decisions of local governments to generally only send white males to serve on this entity.

Beyond that, however, the system for allocating voting seats across the region is wildly inequitable, giving dramatically more representation for the whiter, wealthier residents of rural and suburban areas of the region.

After the vote to seat an all white male leadership team, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo – who represents more people by far than any other person at this table – was denied the opportunity to make a motion to establish a process to fix this terrible situation.

The meeting ended with a general sense that staff might come back at the February or March meeting with an agenda item to address these issues.