After scheduling the new Public Hearing this morning at 9am, when inconvenient for working families, and immediately after spring break, the Commissioners Court displayed a charade of open government.
The Hearing was moved to the District Courtroom to accommodate the large number of individuals who had shown up. Most of the testimony given was against the designation of the area near the high school as a reinvestment zone, allowing heavy industry to locate there. Some testimony included legal recitations of Chapter 312 requirements, while others produced factual evidence of the health risks associated with this polluting giant. Other testimony was emotional and from the heart about how this designation would affect individuals and families who will be impacted. It was also clear that most who attended were in opposition even though some did not speak.
After hearing testimony and receiving documents for the record, there was no pause to reflect upon the testimony or to consider the documents presented. The Court immediately proceeded to a vote, making perfunctory remarks that they did consider what was said. The vote on the designation was unanimous.
It was all over in an hour. It was clear to all in attendance that the Commissioners and the Judge were going to vote for the reinvestment zone. All except Commissioner Gillespie had voted back in August of 2016 and they would not be persuaded otherwise, regardless of the testimony.
The Court then proceeded immediately to grant a tax abatement to all three entities, ExxonMobil, Gulf Coast Growth Ventures and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corporation, by a vote of 4-1, with Commissioner Trevino voting no. They will all be granted a 100% tax abatement during the first 3 years of construction, and a 70% abatement for the next 7 years, well beyond the normal 5 year period as provided in the County’s adopted Guidelines.
The fight will go on. Tuesday, March 21st (tomorrow) the Gregory-Portland ISD School Board will hold a public hearing on tax abatement for Exxon/SABIC. They will then vote on tax abatement at the same meeting. We hope that the ISD School Board will vote AGAINST tax abatement.
Exxon officials have stated they would like to announce site selection by 3/31. It looks like Exxon will know whether they have tax abatements by that date. It is very important to show up to this meeting and wear RED. You do not have to speak, but please join us there.
This meeting will be at 6pm at the GP-ISD training Center, 1200 E Broadway in Portland- it was formerly the Fishers of Family Lutheran Church and it is next to the new East Cliff Elementary on Broadway. Show up early enough to grab a seat as space is limited.
We hope to see you there.
Your Friends and Neighbors,
-Portland Citizens United