Lina Hidalgo Stalwartness: How a County Justice is Reshaping Texas

by Eli Mshomi
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In a Republican-dominated state where those in red maintained their hegemony in the commissioner’s court for almost three decades, Lina Hidalgo defeated the incumbent Republican Ed Emmett in a close contest.

Lina Hidalgo was elected from Harris County, the third-largest county in the United States, as a Harris County judge. 

Getting an inherited mess, Hidalgo had to work extra hours to cope with challenges as she extended the hearing times from five to nine hours from the Republicans’ era, when hearings used to be hardly one-hour long.

Having a plan of reforming the criminal justice system, ensuring transparency, improvement in flood planning, and much more, Hidalgo has much to do if she wants to further her developmental agenda.

She faced many challenges in introducing this new agenda to a conservative county that has been under Republican control for decades.

How did Lina Hidalgo help Harris County, and what is her development agenda? Let’s see.

Lina Hidalgo’s Development Agenda: A Woman to Make Harris County Progressive

In times when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led a lawsuit against Democrats in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections, expecting anything from the Texas government was not an option for Democrats. 

During her first two years, the head of the Harris County Commissioners court leads the county in unforeseen challenges such as COVID-19, petrochemical explosions, hurricane Harvey, and floods. 

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These challenges inspired Lina Hidalgo to do more, and she proved her worth working in these disasters. 

Judge Lina Hidalgo is currently the head of the governing body of the Harris County Commissioners Court. Harris County is the third-most populous county of the United States, which embeds enormous responsibilities over Hidalgo’s shoulder.

Looking after the five billion dollar budget to spend on nearly five million county residents is no small responsibility to which Lina Hidalgo is entitled.

Apart from this, Judge Lina Hidalgo has to serve as the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in times of emergency. While serving these roles, she has helped the community evade many disasters.

The Commissioners Courts of the United States serve both administrative and legislative purposes, including their responsibility for adopting an infrastructure budget for the community, including roads, hospitals, libraries, and parks.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has always prioritized evidence-based programs for spending the massive budget, including her decision to invest in flood mitigation and prevention, intelligent development standards, and assessment and planning of future needs in the field of infrastructure and development.

She also has a great zeal for prioritizing criminal justice reforms, development, and, most importantly, education.

Judge Hidalgo: An Example of Principle Over Politics

The preference of principle over politics by Lina Hidalgo is evident from her vigilance that can be seen in various matters of public interests.

Despite the limited authority of the local governments in the United States, Judge Lina played her part in saving the residents of Harris County from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite her unpopularity in the county in front of her competitor Ed Emmett, Lina Hidalgo emerged as an underdog, beating the powerful Republican. 

Commissioner Rodney Ellis even defined her as wise beyond her age after meeting her for the first time in 2018. 

Some school of thoughts believes that Democrats were dominating the local governments across the country, so the Lina Hidalgo victory was just a consequence of that Democratic wave.

From the very beginning of her political career, Judge Lina Hidalgo was inclined toward social justice. Her principles led her to reform the criminal justice system, including the famous bail reforms, the education system, helping the county in calamity, and reforming the institutions that fell under her authority.  

 

Flood Control and Health Care: The Area of Primary Focus of Hidalgo

The first woman and first Latina to become a County Judge in Harris County, Lina Hidalgo burned the midnight oil for introducing reforms in the field of flooding and health care.

After entering the office, she had to deal with the fire at the International Terminal Industry, a bulk chemical storage facility. It led her to commission an independent gap analysis of the system that would find the policy gaps while presenting recommendations for monitoring and enforcing the law on chemical facilities.

She even set up a website helping the individuals in case of emergency with information on survivors, teaching them to claim insurance, ask for aid, etc.

She also increased the number of high-water rescue vehicles following Hurricane Harvey.

The county attorney of Harris County can now immediately file lawsuits against the violators of the floodplain. A project is underway to map the flood plain.

This will help the people to get a better idea about their region and make the decisions according to it. This is also worth mentioning in the achievements of Lina Hidalgo.

With nearly a quarter of the population of the county uninsured and the decision of the state government not to expand Medicaid, Judge Lina is also facing this unprecedented challenge to work on. 

To tackle these crises of health care, Judge Lina Hidalgo is looking forward to evaluating the reasons behind the people’s unwillingness to be insured and devising an effective strategy as per the findings.

The local government body is collaborating with the hospitals and other institutions to solve this issue.  

 

Achievements of Lina Hidalgo in 2020: A Vibrant Personality

Lina Hidalgo is not only words, but her actions in the past also describe her willingness to revolutionize the working environment. 

2020 has been a challenging year for the masses around the globe. The calamities also affected the United States, and many authoritative people were focused on bringing down the pandemic, leaving all the jobs unfinished. However, this was not the case with Lina Hidalgo, who continued other jobs in parallel as well. 

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Harris county also fought with the pandemic, but unlike other Harris County Commissioners, Lina Hidalgo did not leave other institutions unattended. Following are the top ten achievements of Judge Lina from 2020.

  1. She introduced a performance-based outcome budgeting, driven by the needs of the public.
  2. The population of kids in jails was reduced, along with introducing reforms to other aspects of the criminal justice system.
  3. Infrastructure, especially highways and roads of Harris County, went through a complete reformation to ensure that there are fewer deaths in road accidents and less pollution.
  4. A $10 million incubator fund was made to promote and grow the best ideas in early childhood education.
  5. Family-friendly working policies were introduced to retain the best workers to serve the county.
  6. $30 million were invested in providing children with Internet and laptops to provide them access to the growing world of technology.
  7. An immigrant legal defence fund was created to support the immigrants who have a legal claim to citizenship.
  8. Two massive detention basins were built on Greens Bayou that will be saving thousands of residents from flooding. A ten-year plan was introduced to minimize the threat of flood in the county.
  9. A record amount was spent on the election, which resulted in the high participation of Harris County in elections since 1992.
  10. According to an estimate of Rice University, the County Government saved at least 4,500 lives through its policies. 

 

Final thoughts

Lina Hidalgo is a political stalwart and an inspiration for hundreds of country judges out there.

It is due to her captivating personality that Harris’s county is on its way to progressiveness. 

Only a woman like her could have defeated the powerful Republicans, who have been ruling the county for a long while.

If she continues doing the job as she is doing right now, it is an absolute fact that she will go places to contribute even further to the progress of the United States.

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