By Manu Shah
HOUSTON – “Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has run four full marathons. It’s a remarkable achievement. It requires energy and tenacity which Judge Hidalgo also brings to the 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 was elected to this role last year.
Between Judge Hidalgo and India’s new Consul General to Houston Aseem Mahajan who was the Guest of Honor, the IACCGH Power Luncheon held on February 21 attracted a full house. 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 Double Tree by Hilton, Greenway Plaza. IACCGH Past Presidents, Dr. Atul Varadhachary, Sanjay Ramabhadran, Ashok Garg and Swapan Dhairyawan as well as multiple current and former IACCGH Board members were also present.
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 make other counties “jealous.” She discussed the $5-9 billion budget 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 evidence based arguments for why their program is important and how its success will be evaluated. Her office is tapping top analysts, experts and academics in the country and abroad to ensure that budgetary decisions are based on data, metrics and other similar factors.
Judge Hidalgo also revealed two other initiatives: The first concerned piloting a better childhood education program and juvenile system for the county and the second concerned flood 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 is 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.
With over $10 billion in trade, India is among Houston’s top trading partner countries. Consul General Mahajan noted that India is the only country that has seen trade with Houston grow over 40% year-on-year for the past 3 years. He further added that “we need the support of the Chamber to widen our activities here in trade and investment and…are fortunate that we have such a vibrant and good Chamber here. The Consulate looks forward to working very closely with the Chamber.”
Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia thanked Judge Hidalgo and announced that Consul General Mahajan will be the keynote speaker at the Chamber’s upcoming signature event, the Shell Distinguished Lecture, on March 30, 2020.
For more information about this and other upcoming events, please visit www.iaccgh.com