‘A deep sense of urgency’: Commissioner Briones celebrates 2023 progress & partnerships

20 Dec, 23

After her historic election to Harris County Commissioners Court, Commissioner Lesley Briones sought to leverage her perspective and varied professional experiences to deliver the basics of county government with excellence and to advance justice and opportunity throughout Harris County. Now, after almost a year, she is reflecting on the partnerships she has built and the promises she has kept to drive Precinct 4 forward.  

Through significant investments in public safety, infrastructure, health, and education and economic opportunity — all with an emphasis on transparent, efficient, and equitable government — Commissioner Briones and her team of over 400 public servants expanded opportunities for the 1.25 million residents of Precinct 4. 

“Everything we have done in Precinct 4 is grounded in our commitment to serving all residents,” Commissioner Briones said. “I am grateful for the trust placed in us, and we hope to continue earning that trust by working with a sense of urgency and dedication to making the government work more effectively and efficiently. I am proud of the progress we have made in one short year and am energized to build upon our achievements and strong partnerships in 2024 and beyond.” 

Prioritizing public safety 

Public safety is—and will remain—the top priority for Precinct 4. As a mother of three young daughters, a former judge, and someone who has been a victim, Commissioner Briones believes in investing in all parts of the justice system. This year, Commissioner Briones: 

  • Worked with the Texas Legislature to secure six additional criminal district courts and one additional probate court in Harris County, with the goal of improving the quality of justice by delivering a quicker, fairer court process.
  • Successfully advocated for the expansion of the Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART) program into Harris County Sheriff’s Office District IV, located primarily in Precinct 4 and later supported further expansion into District II. HART deploys trained clinicians and EMTs to respond to non-violent, mental health-related 911 calls, connecting individuals to services and freeing up law enforcement to focus on violent crimes. 
  • Increased law enforcement officer pay, granting 7% raises over the past two years to all law enforcement officers and detention officers receiving 12% raises this year to improve the safety of all within the Harris County jail.
  • Partnered with the City of Houston to host a gun buyback and gun safe and lock distribution event to promote violence prevention.
  • Contracted with nonprofit legal service providers through the immigrant legal services fund program to continue delivering direct legal representation to immigrant Harris County residents.
  • Partnered with Lone Star Legal aid to provide legal services to renters facing eviction.

Delivering resilient and sustainable infrastructure 

In addition to maintaining over 1,600 miles of roads, over 14,000 acres of greenspace, 55 parks, and 10 community centers, Precinct 4 worked to preserve and create infrastructure to support and connect communities. Examples of major infrastructure accomplishments in 2023 include: 

  • The Places 4 People initiative, which is using $88 million in Precinct 4 funding and is leveraging $82 million in partner funding to deliver a $170 million investment in sustainable infrastructure projects.
  • The allocation of the $750M CDBG-MIT Grant from the Texas General Land Office (GLO) for flood risk reduction projects.
  • The approval of a study to re-envision the Westpark Tollway to increase mobility capacity and reconnect communities.
  • Progress on flood mitigation efforts through partnerships with Harris County Engineering, the Flood Control District, and the Texas GLO to break ground on major flood resilience projects to protect communities from future storms.
  • Launching Strategic Master Plans across Precinct 4 with community engagement at the core to revamp major greenspaces at Burnett Bayland Park, Bayland Park, as well as communities in East Spring Branch and Katy.

Ensuring access to affordable, high-quality healthcare 

To keep Harris County a great place to raise a family, Precinct 4 is working to protect the environment and help residents have the care they need. To improve health in the region, Commissioner Briones and her colleagues: 

  • Increased personnel to support the federally-funded Maternal and Child Health program to address disparities in health outcomes and connect mothers with critical resources.
  • Expanded funding for a total investment of $20 million into the ACCESS Harris County program to streamline a complex network of services and resources for vulnerable residents.
  • Approved that the voters should have the opportunity to vote on a $2.5 billion Harris Health System bond; voters overwhelmingly approved the bond with over 70% support, which will ensure the construction of a Level 1 trauma center on the campus of LBJ Hospital, increased patient capacity at Ben Taub Hospital, and three community clinics. 
  • Adopted Harris County’s climate action plan, which is moving the County toward a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
  • Augmented the budget for Pollution Control Services by $326,000 to enhance its response to environmental emergencies and operate and maintain the Rapid Ambient Air Monitoring System, a mobile unit that rapidly monitors air quality across Harris County.

Building pathways to success 

Every resident in Harris County deserves access to quality education, housing, and job opportunities. Precinct 4 moved the needle on the following: 

  • Affordable child care with over $26 million in federal funding for the Early REACH program to provide free child care to at least 800 children aged 0-4 in Harris County childcare deserts. 
  • A stronger workforce through a $10.9 million investment in the Apprenticeship Advantage program—the largest investment in Harris County history—which will increase apprenticeship opportunities in traditional and high-growth industries.
  • An increased homestead tax exemption for individuals who are disabled or are over the age of 65.
  • Affordable housing through multi-million-dollar investments in single-family and multi-family housing options for low-income and working-class families.
  • Critical infrastructure investments and economic development by joining two tax increment reinvestment zones, or TIRZs, located primarily within Precinct 4: TIRZ #1 St. George Place Redevelopment Authority and TIRZ #20 Southwest Houston Redevelopment Authority.  

Fostering efficient, transparent government 

Residents should know where their money is going and why. Commissioner Briones showed her commitment to effective, transparent government through: 

  • Hosting a precinct-wide listening tour, actively engaging with communities during twelve sessions, bringing industry experts and Precinct 4 team members to speak directly with residents about the issues that matter most to them.
  • Holding public budget town halls as part of the budget process—and for the first time ever— to incorporate residents’ priorities in budgeting decisions.
  • Spearheading the creation of the first-ever Harris County LGBTQIA+ Commission, which will advise the Court on economic, social, health, and safety issues affecting LGBTQIA+ residents.
  • Reducing the cost of tolls by 10% for EZ TAG holders.
  • Launching the Precinct 4 infrastructure project tracker to increase the transparency of how taxpayer dollars are used to benefit residents.
  • Increasing language accessibility by relaunching Precinct 4 website in nine languages. 

"Serving as county commissioner is the honor of my life. Everything we have done this year could not have been accomplished without the partnership of our Precinct 4 residents,” Commissioner Briones said. “I look forward to what we will continue to achieve together in 2024 and beyond."