Should Governor Appoint Houston's Port Authority? County Judge Says No.

A proposal to overhaul how the Port of Houston is governed has some local officials scratching their heads. The change would essentially turn over control of the Port Authority to the governor's office.

It’s been a rough few years for the Port of Houston.

Investigations of top port officials focused on conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement, although nobody was ever charged. The CEO resigned, and a new CEO has taken over.

Now a state committee is suggesting that the Port of Houston Commissioners should be appointed by the governor.

That would strip the seven-member board of local control.

“It caught all of us involved in the port completely off guard.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the suggestion came out of the blue, and he hopes the Legislature won’t act on it. 

“That’s not to say there shouldn’t be some changes at the port, but this is just way over the top.”

Currently Harris County, Houston, and Pasadena all get to make some appointments to the Port Authority’s board.

Judge Emmett says local input is important because Harris County taxpayers still contribute financially to the port through bonds. He also says local appointees have a better sense of local issues concerning the port.

State Senator John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, serves on the committee that suggested the change, but did not return a call for comment.

Emmett says all the ports in Texas are governed locally, so there’s no reason the biggest port, Houston, should be any different.

“In the end I think what this is really taking an elephant gun to shoot a gnat. The port has had some problems, but we have new leadership at the port.”

Emmett says the only change in governance he would support would be the creation of a statewide port authority to coordinate activity among all the Texas ports. He says currently the ports compete with each other for business, and that’s not always efficient.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...