Claim: County Judge Hidalgo steered an $11 million county vaccine outreach contract to Elevate Strategies LLC, a one-woman firm incapable of conducting a vaccine outreach campaign.
Misleading: It is true that the county contract was awarded to a small, local, woman-owned firm. However, insinuations that the contract would be run by one person without prior experience in running major grassroots campaigns and that Judge Hidalgo steered this contract to Elevate Strategies are false.
Elevate Strategies was chosen by a procurement committee to support the county’s effort based on a rigorous proposal and procurement interview process. Elevate's proposal included their organizational chart, identified its team members, and listed the subcontractors Elevate would employ. In other words, Elevate demonstrated it would deploy a large staffing footprint that included dozens of canvassers, public health experts, and data analytics specialists to execute the county’s requirements.
Experience was also considered. Elevate had significant experience working with other large clients and efforts, including Harris County’s COVID-19 Relief Fund, the county’s Census Outreach campaign, the City of Houston, and Fort Bend County. The bottom line is that Elevate’s methodology of data-based and campaign-style approaches most closely matched the type of grassroots persuasion effort requested by the County.
Claim: The County’s procurement effort to award the vaccine outreach contract was rigged.
False: The county’s purchasing department has repeatedly testified that the procurement process for the vaccine outreach contract was conducted according to the rules. The County Judge’s Office could have relied on Judge Hidalgo’s emergency authority (as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic) to avoid the bid process entirely, but that did not happen. In fact, in order to add an additional layer of fairness, accountability and transparency, the County Judge’s Office opted to use the slower - but more deliberate - merit-based competition for this award instead.
Claim: The procurement selection committee excluded other offices from participating in the process.
Misleading: The County departments comprising the procurement committee represented the two departments leading the effort to respond to COVID-19: Harris County Public Health and the County Judge’s Office, which by statute serves as the emergency manager for declared emergencies like COVID-19. In addition, a representative of the Purchasing Department managed and oversaw the entire evaluation, interview, and selection process.
Claim: UTHealth was the real “winner” of the procurement competition because they received the highest score by the committee. As a result, they were singled out to be disqualified.
False: While UTHealth’s proposal scored the highest during the initial phase of the process, a phase that did not yet take into account interviews, reference checks, and prior performance. Scoring highest during the initial phase does not necessarily determine the outcome of which vendor is selected. Subsequent interviews and experiences with finalists factored into the final decision-making. UTHealth, along with many other local firms, were actually encouraged by the County Judge’s Office to submit proposals for consideration shortly after the RFP was announced.
Here were the proposals from the other organizations who also submitted bids:
Claim: Judge Hidalgo awarded the vaccine outreach contract to her “political allies”
False: There remains no personal, political, or financial benefit for Judge Hidalgo in having awarded this contract to Elevate. Additionally, Judge Hidalgo has a policy of not accepting any campaign contributions from vendors who do, or intend to do, business with Harris County. You can read Judge Hidalgo’s financial disclosure report here.
Claim: The vaccine outreach contract was awarded in secret.
False: The contract award process was managed by the county’s procurement office and subsequently presented to Commissioners Court on June 8, 2021, discussed in public, and approved by a bipartisan vote.
All across America, violent crime has increased-- and sadlyHarris County has not been immune to this national trend. It’s no secret what is driving crime both here and across the nation -- the economic consequences of the pandemic and the widespread availability and use of guns on our streets. COVID-19 has left more than just a body count in its wake. A secondary consequence has been victims of crime and a criminal court backlog that continues to delay justice for too many.
Since 2019, the County has made historic anti-crime and neighborhood safety investments. Each year, we’ve increased the budgets for every law enforcement agency in the county, including the District Attorney. The County has freed up law enforcement to focus on the most violent criminals by reinforcing them with public health experts who can cover them for non-violent, routine calls. We’ve launched crime interruption programs designed to break the cycle of gun violence through community policing and outreach. And millions have been allocated to tackle the unacceptable backlog in criminal court cases in our county, hiring more judges, expanding jury operations, and allocating more than $17 million for overtime and equipment to speed court cases along. Additionally, $50 million has also been allocated for a “Clean Streets, Safe Neighborhoods” program that reduces crime by going after blight, improving street lighting and other infrastructure improvements shown to enhance public safety.
At the same time, the County has led initiatives to make the criminal justice system smarter, including support for evidence-based criminal justice reforms that improve public safety and rebuilds confidence between our government and the people we serve.
Claim: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo defunded the police by $20 million.
False: Since 2019, Harris County has actually increased the budgets for every law enforcement agency in the County, including the District Attorney’s office, by 13%. This brings the total funding for law enforcement in FY 20222 alone to $966 million - almost a billion dollars.
Moreover, recognizing the urgency of addressing recent increases in violent crime, Commissioners Court reinvested about $20 million dollars that remained unused d by law enforcement agencies and deployed them for urgent anti-crime initiatives.
Harris County Public Safety Budget FY2017- FY2022