Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
by David Stanowski
12 September 2014
As we remember the infamous events of 11 September 2001, we must not forget the local disasters that have devastated this city in the fateful month of September. The 1900 Storm struck the Island on 08 September 1900 and Hurricane Ike hit on 13 September 2008.
These two natural disasters were so devastating, many questioned whether the City could survive, and then recover from their impact. The recovery from the 1900 Storm will go down in the nation's history as one of the great disaster recovery efforts. Unlike modern disaster recoveries, lead by and paid for by the federal government, this city independently raised the money to recover. It built the Seawall, raised the grade and rebuilt in an act of independence and self-reliance.
Due to the nature of this effort, the City's population was able to continue to grow for the next 60 years!
However, when Hurricane Ike hit on 13 September 2008, the City's population had been declining for 48 years! Therefore, the ability to end the population decline and get it to begin growing again was going to be much more of a challenge, because the City would have to reverse a trend that had already been in effect for nearly half a century! This made it critical that the government refrain from policies known to impede middle-class population growth, like importing concentrated poverty.
The City's population peaked at 67,175 in 1960,
in 2010, after two years of recovery from Hurricane Ike, it stood at 47,743.
The City's population is declining in a State with booming population growth.
This means the City's share of the State's population continues downward.
Concentrated poverty is defined as the condition in a neighborhood and/or city where 20%, or more, of the residents are living below the poverty level. Concentrated poverty is a very difficult problem for a neighborhood and/or a city, because it means that a critical mass of people live without opportunity and hope, and have nothing left to lose. Fair-housing expert Dr. Kirk McClure has clearly stated that public housing should NOT be built in any neighborhood with greater than 10% poverty, because it would not provide the opportunity for the poor to escape from poverty.
The Brookings Institution recently recognized that the reaction to the "police incident", in Ferguson, MO, was much more volatile, because they were dealing with a city whose concentrated poverty stands at 23.9%. (See The Tragedy of Ferguson, MO). In 2010, two years into the Hurricane Ike recovery process, the City of Galveston already had a concentrated poverty level of 24.7%; slightly higher than that in Ferguson.
Middle Class Flight:
Many in the City saw the recovery from Hurricane Ike as the last chance to halt middle class flight, from the Island, and begin to reverse the constant population decline. The first and most critical step was to stop importing more poor people into a city that already could not cope with the current level of its concentrated poverty. However, unlike the situation in 1900, the City was no longer independent and self-reliant, so it begged the federal government for a bailout, and refused to discontinue the business of warehousing the poor in return for federal money.
The Devil Made Me Do It:
The debate over warehousing the poor raged on through the 2008 and 2010 City Councils. Sensing what may have been the FINAL opportunity to end the City's population decline, the voters made a massive effort and elected six Councilmembers, in 2012, who pledged to end the City's historic practice of warehousing the poor for political gain and financial profit; in defiance of the local political machine.
That pledge began to unravel days after the run-off election was over. The political will to do the "right thing" quickly disappeared in four of the six who had pledged to do so. By September, the 2012 City Council surrendered the City's sovereignty to the federal government in exchange for the PROMISE of "infrastructure money", i.e. getting the streets paved.
They surrendered the City's sovereignty; but where are the paved streets in return?
28 September 2012, "The Day that will Live in Infamy", became the third great disaster to hit this city in the month of September! That was the day that the 2012 City Council voted to rebuild all 569 public housing units in this city, including Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes. Of course, this disaster was man-made; there was nothing natural about it. It was created by the conscious and willful act of five City Councilmembers.
After that meeting, the voters of the City
adopted an official City Flag.
How Long Does It Take to Recognize the Damage?
If a major wound does not have an instantaneous fatal effect, it is often hard to see if it was the fatal blow at a later date. This 28 September 2012 vote to continue warehousing the poor could very easily be the fatal blow that eventually blocks any future middle-class population growth, after the public housing is all rebuilt and occupied, but these "later effects" will be far removed in time from the disaster that created them.
The Inner City:
The 2010 census shows the area of the city from 4th to 61st Streets (the Inner City) as having a population of 30,388. 27% of that population lives below the poverty level; 73% (22,188) lives above the poverty level. Many of these 22,188 middle-class residents probably have the resources to leave the City, if, at some point, they decide that they can no longer deal with the City's further decline. Therefore, the reversal of the City Council on 28 September 2012 most likely guarantees that the Inner City will never see more than 22,188 middle class residents. In fact, the number of middle-class residents will probably begin declining as City government imports more concentrated poverty.
The 14 Census Tracts of the Inner City.
Can the number of middle-class residents sustain their current levels outside of the Inner City? It's more likely, but also doubtful as the effects City government policy begin to be felt and recognized all throughout the City. Where the scattered sites go will have a lot to do with the eventual outcome.
Fighting to Rebuild Public Housing in Impoverished Segregated neighborhoods:
The 2012 GHA Board was appointed with the mission to end the practice of warehousing the poor for political gain and financial profit. After the 2012 City Council betrayed the voters, the GHA Board could have remained true to their mission, but what did they do? They spent $106,000 fighting the GOGP's effort to do what they were appointed to do! The City Council directed the City Attorney to fight our lawsuit, too.
Think about what that means for a minute. Why were they fighting our efforts to end the warehousing of the poor?
Thursday's GCDN even said "Despite Herzs’ views, the housing authority board has given approvals to housing plans with little resistance over the past 18 months."
"little resistance" are the key words!
Wednesday, 10 September 2014, the GHA Board held a ground-breaking ceremony at Cedar Terrace, aka Parkland II aka Sandpiper Cove II, to celebrate the return of public housing to the most impoverished and segregated neighborhood in the City!
How can that possibly be cause for celebration?
Of course, they will rationalize what they did by saying this is mixed-income public housing. It does NOT matter, they are still building it in a neighborhood that has 97.6% minority residents and 61.0% of its residents living below the poverty level!
The Cedar Terrace rebuild blatantly fails any and all pretense that it Affirmatively Furthers Fair Housing.
The act of rebuilding in the poorest and most segregated neighborhood in the entire County, has to be considered still another man-made disaster in the month of September! How can the Inner City possibly hope to even maintain its middle class population of 22,218 when the GHA keeps importing more concentrated poverty into the area?
During the 2014 campaign, the City's current Mayor said that building a couple hundred public housing units is no big deal! (The number of new public housing units and vouchered units will probably reach 666). At yesterday's "celebration", the Mayor said, “Doing the right thing is sometimes fraught with obstacles,” Yarbrough said. “But if you stay focused, right will prevail.”
Building public housing in a neighborhood with 97.6% minorities and 61.0% poverty, in a floodplain, and on contaminated soil is "the right thing" to do? Do we have to ask why the middle class have been leaving this city for more than 50 years?
The Mixed-Income Scam:
For a detailed explanation of the pretense of so-called mixed-income public housing read Robert Ellickson's article.
However, it can also be demonstrated with simple math. Poverty becomes "concentrated" at 20%. Fair housing requires the de-concentration of poverty. Some mixed-income projects have 20% or less of their units devoted to public housing; so they might actually qualify.
However, GHA's mixed-income projects have 51% of their units devoted to public housing; so they can never AFFH. They exceed the 20% limit by 31% when they are first built! What if the market-rate units get vouchers, and add even more poverty?
I decided that I needed to actually see who would be celebrating this September disaster, so I drove over to Cedar Terrace, Wednesday morning. Since I expected that most of the Poverty Industry would choose to celebrate privately, I anticipated a low turnout. Boy was I wrong! There were 3-4 times more people there than I expected!
We are very grateful to Jim Guidry for covering this event and supplying pictures and audio of the Poverty Industry celebrating their "victory". There is no doubt that a big part of the celebratory mood was the fact that they have now come to believe that no matter how blatantly they violate the Fair Housing Act, in this city; No One Is Going to Stop Them!
Click here for the Guidry article
This means that our appeal is the ONLY thing that stands between them and the TOTALLY unrestricted building of subsidized units in this city! Just imagine what they are planning!
What kind of city has four former Mayors and the current Mayor attend a celebration of the building new facilities to warehouse the poor in the Cedar Terrace neighborhood? What kind of values and priorities does this reveal?
We also received some panicky calls saying that there is a lot of digging going on at the Magnolia Homes site. The East End Historic District has a lot to "look forward to"; 160 units at Magnolia, plus the coming blitzkrieg of scattered sites. The EEHDA might want to pay a lot closer attention to what is going on. Their Census Tract already has 25.7% of their residents living below the poverty level, and it's only going to go up as the GHA imports more poverty into their neighborhood.
The Big Push:
Why is the GHA Board pushing so hard to build, now that we received a dismissal from the District Court?
No one knows better than the GHA Board that building in a census tract with 97.6% minorities and 61.0% poverty is a blatant violation of the Fair Housing Act. Therefore, even though they never had to defend these violations in the District Court, they know that there is a good chance that the appellate court will reverse the District Court ruling and their blatant fair housing violations will FINALLY be reviewed by the court. Then what are they going to do? If the court agrees that it is unlawful to build at Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes, then it would have to decide whether to make the GHA tear down what they are currently building. They know that the more that they have finished, the more difficult it will be to convince a court to tear anything down. You are going to see a lot of hyper-activity at these sites in the next few months. You'll also see them spend a lot more of YOUR money fighting our appeal. The last thing they want to do is to justify what they just started on Wednesday.
Now that Chief Porretto is focusing on the crime problems caused by city residents, and the need for more officers to deal with this issue, we expect that he will eventually tell the City Council that he is going to need EVEN MORE officers to deal with their decision to import additional concentrated poverty, into the City, by building hundreds more subsidized units.
It won't be long before we all agree that more and more of the City's budget must be put into the police department, and the thought of paving the streets, in our lifetimes, will become a distant memory.
The Fourth Disaster:
It was most appropriate that the GHA held their "celebration" in September, because the act of breaking ground, for public housing, in the worst neighborhood, in the entire County, deserves to be included in the City's major September disasters.
If we can't stop them in the appellate court, does anyone believe that the Inner City will survive the rebuilding of Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes?
The number one issue for this city since Hurricane Ike, and for the next 5-10 years is whether the City can find a way to grow its middle class population. The immoral and unlawful public housing policy that it has chosen to adopt is the primary factor that will determine the amount of growth, if any. The suicidal path that the City has chosen will increase concentrated poverty, hurting the schools and increasing crime; giving the middle class their two primary reasons to leave. Currently, the prospects of middle-class growth seem impossible.
This is why these two man-made disasters in September are so very harmful!
“If you want a vision
of the future,
imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.”