Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has run four full marathons and it’s a remarkable achievement because it requires energy and tenacity which translates into the kind of work, she does at the County Judge’s office.” President Tarush Anand’s introduction of the Chamber’s Power Luncheon Keynote Speaker offered an intriguing peek to the young dynamic 29-year-old County Judge who stunned political analysts by clinching a victory against incumbent Ed Emmett last year.
Between Judge Hidalgo and India’s new Consul General to Houston Aseem Mahajan who was the Guest of Honor, the two “superstars” attracted a full house on February 21 with members, guests and a host of elected officials. IACCGH Past Presidents, Dr. Atul Varadhachary, Sanjay Ramabhadran, Ashok Garg and Swapan Dhairyawan, Congressman Al Green, District Clerk Marilyn Burgess, Chris Brown, District Attorney Vince Ryan, Jay Guerrero from Senator John Cornyn’s office and other officials were present at the Luncheon held at DoubleTree by Hilton, Greenway Plaza.
Judge Hidalgo’s calm and measured address was packed with substance about her efforts to make Harris County a community that would draw people and makes other counties “jealous.” She dwelt at length on the $5-9 billion budget that she oversees and emphasized the importance of prioritizing funds “in a way that meets the needs of the community.”
Among other things, Judge Hidalgo’s budget has committed $6 million of additional funding to the public health department in addition to the $3 million invested last year. A “historic” $12 million has been earmarked for environmental protection while almost $13 million has been set aside to improve voting access, security protection and the right to vote at any location on Election Day.
In a departure from previous years, her office is allocating budgets based on performance and accountability. Departments have been asked to provide an evidence-based argument for why their program is important and how its success will be evaluated. Her office is tapping top analysts, experts and academicians in the country and abroad to ensure that budgetary decisions are based on data, metrics and other factors.
Judge Hidalgo also revealed two other initiatives: Piloting a better childhood education program and juvenile system for the county and flooding control through creative solutions and speeding up drainage projects.
In his brief remarks, Consul General Aseem Mahajan shared some statistics about India’s demographics which he described as both a “source of great strength as well as challenges.” India, he stated, is the youngest country in the world with a population of 1.3 billion people and an average age of 29 years. It is the fifth-largest economy in the world and aiming to become a 5 trillion-dollar economy soon.
Calling the US-India trade partnership a “global strategic partnership and one of the defining and transformational partnerships of the 21st century,” he noted that the relationship has a great deal of potential and will continue to grow and deepen. He also added that India is among the top 20 partner countries of Houston and has a $10 billion trade which has grown over 40% in the last 3 years – the only country to do so.
Thanking Judge Hidalgo for her brilliant address, Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia announced that Consul General Mahajan will be the Keynote at the Chamber’s signature event – the Shell Distinguished Lecture on 30th March.