Let’s Take a Lesson from Hurricane Harvey — Texas Needs a Forward-Looking Resilience Plan

It’s hard to view the future in the midst of a crisis that’s disrupting everything we know. Our governments, public safety networks, communities, schools and health care systems are being severely tested, and everyone needs to focus their energy and resources on bringing us through this.

We believe that, true to its nature and history, Texas will make it through this. The question for a future-focused, data-driven organization likes ours is, what happens next?

Two and a half years ago, Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas’ Gulf Coast — threatening Texans lives, shutting down schools, stressing health care systems, and pummeling the economy. What many remember, outside of the pain and struggle, was the resilience of Texans and stories of Texans helping each other.

Another powerful legacy is the forward-looking resilience plan that the City adopted earlier this year. Houston leaders responded to the storm by pulling together data around the challenges that became apparent when government, the infrastructure and the people of Houston were tested. Taken together, the data, experience, process of preparation and focus on the future illuminated smart immediate investments that could save lives and jobs in the future.

Furthermore, Texas lawmakers passed several bills addressing disaster resiliency. These bills called for official regional and state flood plans to be developed and managed by the Texas Water Development Board. Additionally, lawmakers created the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund and the Flood Infrastructure Funds to provide disaster relief and assist communities with flood-control projects.

So today, even as COVID-19 and plummeting oil prices threaten our state and country’s government, infrastructure, economy and social fabric, it’s time for at least some of us to start preparing for what the future holds once this emergency has passed.

That’s precisely the sort of role that Texas 2036 was created to play.

First off, Texas will need an economic recovery plan that assures the state’s continued leadership in job growth — it’s the only way to support our growing population and ensure the quality of life we all want for ourselves and our families. We need to begin pulling together data about the challenges and vulnerabilities this crisis has revealed and begin plotting our own path to the future, particularly as state leaders contemplate how to best use federal relief funds.

The state also needs a post-coronavirus vision for its future. As many of you know, Texas 2036 has been working over the past couple of years on a long-term strategic framework. The framework sets benchmarks for where Texas is — and goals for where the state needs to be — across six different policy areas: Education and Workforce, Health, Government Performance, Infrastructure, Justice and Safety and Natural Resources.

Our work has focused on ensuring that governmental institutions and leaders can all work from the best data sets and analytics, and work toward long-term goals to ensure our citizens are prepared for tomorrow.

We never could have predicted COVID-19 or the significant drop in oil prices. But this crisis, and the response to it, only strengthens our resolve to help Texas prepare for what’s coming, readying state’s government institutions for future challenges by improving the data and strategic planning they have.

For more information about Houston and Texas’ response to Hurricane Harvey:

Houston’s Resilience Plan: https://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/Resilient-Houston-20200212-single-page.pdf and https://kinder.rice.edu/urbanedge/2020/02/13/city-unveils-resilient-houston-its-plan-make-city-stronger-every-level-hurricanes

The State of Texas’ Response: https://www.texastribune.org/2019/05/16/texas-house-passes-bills-to-help-pay-for-flood-projects-statewide/ and https://www.rebuildtexas.today/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2018/12/12-11-18-EYE-OF-THE-STORM-digital.pdf