Assessment of the Office of Justice and Safety and the Analyst’s Office


To support the development of the Office of County Administration’s transition plan presented to Commissioners Court on August 8, 2023, the OCA requested the Commissioners Court’s Analyst’s Office (“The Analyst’s Office”) assist with the F2 Initiative pertaining to the function of the Research and Analysis Division. The F2 Initiative is set to be presented in two phases. This memo presents an assessment of the Office of Justice and Safety and the Analyst’s Office for phase one, and includes“clarifying the purpose, structure, roles, and responsibilities of departments reporting to the County Administrator that share policy, data, and research functions.”

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Harris County Snapshot


Harris County Snapshot is the first annual report for the Analyst’s Office and includes five sets of data indicators: Economic Indicators, Housing Indicators, Transportation Indicators, Health Indicators, and Environment Indicators. One indicator to note from the report includes the decrease in individuals experiencing homelessness by 50.9% within the continuum of care program for Harris County and the surrounding areas from 2010 to 2022. An indicator that highlights an area for improvement for Harris County is the poverty rate. At 16.4%, Harris County had the highest poverty rate in 2021 among all the counties analyzed in the report. The HarrisCounty Snapshot will be released annually at the end of each summer.

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Review of Supplier Diversity Programs


This memo provides a summary of various supplier diversity programs at the federal, state, and local levels, which aim to provide contacting opportunities for either small businesses and/or businesses owned by socially or economically disadvantaged groups. The supplier diversity programs included are Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Historically Underutilized Business (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) programs. The memo concludes with issues Harris County would need to address if it were to attempt to replicate New York City’s Making the Grade: New York City Agency Report Card on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises report in order to evaluate and grade county departments and/or partner agencies on their M/WBE performance.

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Guidance on the Use of Artificial Intelligence


This memo provides background on generative AI technology and a summary of the US Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Artificial Intelligence Accountability Framework for Federal Agencies and Other Entities. The memo also provides an assessment of AI policies or guidance in eight jurisdictions around the country and concludes with considerations for Harris County’s internal AI guidance, based on the GAO’s accountability framework and AI policies or guidance in other jurisdictions.

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Research and Analysis Department Structures


The Analyst’s Office reviewed staff structures in comparable research and policy analysis departments in five other jurisdictions. Research and analysis departments are typically structures in one of three ways: 1) Division by discipline; 2) Division by seniority; or, 3) Division by seniority with select discipline divisions (hybrid). Based on feedback from other jurisdictions, the current operations of the Harris County Analyst’s Office, and the research needs of Harris County, the Analyst’s Office recommends that the new combined Analyst’s Office within the OCA follow the “division by seniority” structure, in which staff are identified as senior and non-senior staff (as opposed to by discipline or subject matter expertise), and where most staff members are generalists. 

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County Administrator Evaluation


This memo provides background on the county administrator role; includes best practices and recommendations for evaluations from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)  Manager Evaluations Handbook; and provides a summary of the components of evaluations of county administrators, chief executive officers, or comparable executives (including city managers) from other jurisdictions in Texas and around the country. Based on ICMA’s best practices and the components of county administrator evaluations reviewed in other jurisdictions, the Analyst’s Office provides a few policy considerations for the establishment of a county administrator performance evaluation process in Harris County.

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Boards and Commissions


This memo provides background information on the overall purpose of boards and commissions and the management of their appointments. The Analyst’s Office analyzed the 68 boards and commissions for which Harris County has appointment authority, conducted a good governance assessment for those whose entire voting membership is appointed by Harris County, and completed a comparative analysis of the management of boards and commissions for populous counties in Texas. The analysis found that Harris County is the only county to have a dedicated staff responsible for the management of boards and commissions, and of the 68 boardsand commissions, only 27 (39.7%) are ones on which Harris County appoints the entirety of the voting members. To improve the management of boards and commissions in Harris County, the memo concludes with several policy considerations.

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Harris County Race and Ethnicity Data Collection Practices


This memo provides a literature review on the definitions and concepts of race and ethnicity and provides background on federal and state guidelines and best practices for race and ethnicity data collection. The Analyst’s Office also used a survey to solicit feedback from 74 County departments on their practices regarding collection of race and ethnicity data. Fourteen of 28 respondents (50.0%) meet or exceed the US Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) minimum race and ethnicity reporting standards, and 14 respondents (50.0%) do not. Based on best practices, Harris County respondents’ current data collection practices and reporting requirements, and the practices of other large counties, the Analyst’s Office provides policy considerations related to race and ethnicity data in Harris County. 

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Harris County at a Glance: Housing and Transportation Indicators


Harris County at a Glance: Housing and Transportation Indicators is the second of three related reports and summarizes key housing and transportation indicators for Harris County. Where possible, all indicators are disaggregated by gender, and race and ethnicity, and reported as far back as 2010. Indicators are reported with comparison to the three next largest counties in Texas (Dallas, Tarrant, and Bexar) and three largest counties outside of Texas (Los Angeles, Cook, and Maricopa). From 2019 to 2020, the number of commuters in Harris County who cycled increases by 29.8%, from 4,854 commuters in 2019 to 6,301 commuters in 2020. Harris County is the only county with an increase in commuters who walked to work from 2020 to 2021, at an increase of 3.2%, from 31,314 in 2020 to 32,320 in 2021. The forthcoming related report is the Health and Environment Indicators (Spring 2023).

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Harris County at a Glance: Economic Indicators


Harris County at a Glance: Economic Indicators is the first of three related reports and summarizes key economic indicators for Harris County. Where possible, all economic indicators are disaggregated by gender, and race and ethnicity, and reported as far back as 2010. Indicators are reported with comparison to the three next largest counties in Texas (Dallas, Tarrant, and Bexar) and three largest counties outside of Texas (Los Angeles, Cook, and Maricopa). For each year reviewed from 2010 to 2019, more than half of the workforce in Harris County works in either management, business, science, and arts occupations, or sales and office occupations. The forthcoming related reports are: Housing and Transportation Indicators (late 2022), Health and Environment Indicators (Spring 2023), and Justice and Safety Indicators (Summer 2023)

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Emergency Service Districts (ESDs) in Harris County


Emergency services districts (ESDs) are special purpose districts that provide critical emergency services to communities in unincorporated areas. Harris County covers1,777 square miles and has a population of 4.7 million residents, with approximately 1.97 million residents living in its unincorporated areas. There are currently 33 ESDs in unincorporated Harris County. Seven districts provide emergency medical services (EMS) services only; 16 districts provide fire only; and ten districts provide both EMS and fire services. This memo summarizes relevant statutes governing ESDs, describes existing ESDs in Harris County, and offers policy options for any changes in service to a resident of Harris County.

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Harris County Attrition and Retention Rates


This memo reports the attrition rate, retention rate, and attrition by employee tenure from FY2014 through FY2022 for select Harris County departments/entities, as well as summarizes key transfers of positions between departments as a part of restructuring within Harris County. For the ten Harris County departments/entities reviewed, 79 employees with 10 – 19 years with Harris County left their positions in FY2022, a decrease from the 94 employees with 10 – 19 years with Harris County who left their positions in FY2021 and the 93 employees who left their positions in FY2020.

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Metropolitan Planning Organizations Addendum


In July 2021, the Analyst’s Office published a memo, MPO Representation, which compared MPOs in Texas with regard to their: representation, decision-making process, and intergovernmental relationships. This memo is an addendum to that 2021 memo and outlines the federal Transportation Management Area certification process for Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

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Texas Prompt Payment Act Analysis


The Analyst’s Office worked with the Harris County Auditor’s Office and Harris County Attorney's Office to assess Harris County compliance with the Prompt Payment Act and assess payments processing times to vendors over the last five years. Of the 1,224,688 vendor invoices paid in the period reviewed, Harris County issued payment to vendors on-time for 90.6% of all invoices (1,109,879). Harris County issued delayed payment to vendors for 9.4% of all invoices (114,809).

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Metropolitan Planning Organizations


MetropolitanPlanning Organizations (MPOs) are agencies created by federal law to provide local elected officials input into the planning and implementation of federal transportation funds. This memo compares five MPOs in Texas with regard to their: representation, decision-making process, and intergovernmental relationships and examines methods for increasing Harris County’s leverage within their local MPO, H-GAC.

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Catalog of Harris County Sustainability Practices


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines sustainability as the creation of long-term sustainable conditions, under which humans and nature can exist. This memo provides a comprehensive catalogue of existing sustainability policies and practices maintained by Harris County departments and provides a starting point for the development of short and long-term sustainability goals and actionable policies.

  • Environment
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County Health Coordination Memo


There are three county health-related agencies in Harris County: Harris County Public Health, Harris Health System,and the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. Over the course of the last four decades, there have been multiple efforts to improve coordination across these agencies, many of these efforts continue today. This memo provides an analysis of the collaborative arrangements practiced in health-related agencies in six jurisdictions (Bexar County, Dallas County, Galveston County, Travis County, Los Angeles County, and Miami-Dade County), highlights methods to improve cooperation, and provides a legal analysis of the potential consolidation of Harris County’s health-related agencies. 

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Analysis of Withdrawing from the Houston-Galveston Area Council


Councils of Government (COGs) are coordinating bodies that seek to address the need for comprehensive, coordinated program planning at the regional level. This memo assesses the potential benefits and disadvantages of Harris County withdrawing from its regional COG, the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). This analysis includes a summary of the composition of the governing body and representation, voting practices of the governing body, the general assembly and committees, and the annual membership fee of H-GAC and four other councils of government (COGs) in Texas.

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Percent for Art Comparative Analysis


Jurisdictions participate in capital budgeting to fund long-term fixed assets, like buildings, equipment, and land. Percent for Art policies allow jurisdictions to set aside a specific percent of capital funds for public artwork with the intention of making public spaces more appealing, useful, or accessible. This memo provides both an overview of best practices for Percent for Art policies and an overview of several cities and counties across the United States with existing Percent for Art policies. 

  • Budget
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County Social Services-Public Safety-County Services Spending Comparison


This analysis compares public spending in the areas of social services, public safety, and county services from FY2010 to FY2018 across five Texas jurisdictions: Bexar County, Dallas County, Harris County, Tarrant County, and Travis County. For most counties, Public Safety was the greatest category of spending. For the eight-year period analyzed, Harris County spent more on Public Safety (44%) than any other category—three times the amount spent on Social Services (13%). An analysis featuring jurisdictions outside of Texas is forthcoming.

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Assessment of Racial and Gender Equity Impact Assessments


Equity impact assessments are tools policymakers use to identify risk areas where implicit biases may affect behaviors and judgments towards individuals or groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, or ability, and to create policies that are mindful of those risks. This memo includes four case studies of government jurisdictions across the United States which have utilized equity impact assessments, provides a summary of common practices for creating such assessments, and outlines four policy options the Commissioners Court may consider for utilizing equity impact assessments in the county.

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Accountability and Community Engagement in Salvage Yard Licensing


This memo provides a report on best practices for improvement in accountability and community engagement in the licensing process for salvage yards. Policy options Commissioners Court may consider, including: Consider implementing a process of notifying potentially impacted members of the public of any application related to a proposed salvage yard site, via mail or some other method beyond the notice that might be afforded in a Commissioners Court agenda item. (5 of 5 counties reviewed). Consider adopting a process for a public hearing on salvage yard licenses. (4 of 5 counties reviewed). Consider convening a review of the Harris County ordinance, hosted by the County Engineering Department, with Harris County Pollution Control, Harris County Public Health, and the Harris County Attorney’s Office to include further prohibition or restriction of a public or private nuisance, and/or define further the threat to public health and safety.

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Zero Based Budgeting Analysis


This report provides an overview of Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) - a method of budgeting that compels budgeting entities to create budgets starting from zero and provide justifications for each expenditure for consideration by decision-makers. This report highlights four case studies that demonstrate how local governments have applied variations of ZBB and includes three policy options for Harris County Commissioners Court to consider.

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Inventory of Polling Location Changes in Harris County


This analysis compiled an inventory of locations, addresses,voting precinct numbers, county commissioner precinct number, reasons, and dates, from 2011-2019, in response to poll location closures in Harris County. Starting in 2016, events, including polling location boundary changes and Hurricane Harvey, led to higher numbers of changes. The 2016 General Election saw the highest number of polling location changes, with 175 ( 23%) of all polling locations available that election, changed. 

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Inventory of Active COVID-19 Relief Funds Across the US, Review of Best Practices for Relief Funds, and Estimate of the Impact of Proposed Harris County Fund


The economic fallout related to COVID-19 impacts many Harris County residents and businesses. This memo provides an overview of then-emerging COVID-19 economic relief funds in jurisdictions across the country and offers best practices for establishing a local relief fund. This memo also provides a review of the economic outlook in Harris County as a result of the pandemic, current relief efforts underway, and estimates of the impact of a proposed $15 million Harris County Relief Fund.

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Inventory of Policies Implemented in Jurisdictions Across the United States to Address the Developing Novel Coronavirus Outbreak


The rapid spread of COVID-19 prompted many jurisdictions to enact local policies to prevent transmission of the disease. This memo provides a summary of CDC guidelines and a review of reported advisories, policies, and strategies implemented by other jurisdictions in response to COVID-19.

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