Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
Statements Versus Facts:
by Jul Kamen and
21 December 2010
On November 12, 2010, PBS Channel 8, in Houston, hosted a panel discussion on Galveston's public housing. The participants were Mayor Joe Jaworski, GHA Chair Paula Neff, and GOGP president David Stanowski.
Many statements were made regarding various aspects of public housing: why we need it, who lives in it, who pays for it, and what type offers the best solution. Although this was not a debate, many of their remarks need clarification.
This is the sixth and final installment in this series to examine these statements against the facts.
1) We will paraphrase the panelist's statement.
2) Give the exact location on the video where the entire statement can be found.
3) Provide the facts regarding that statement.
The reader can then judge for themselves the validity of the statement against the facts provided.
In regards to his plans to rebuild the 569 units of public housing...
"This is what leadership looks like."
For the entire quote, slide the cursor beneath the video to 17:48 minutes.
There is a tremendous difference between being in a “position of leadership”, such as mayor, and actually being a “leader”. Many, who are elected to a position of leadership, know nothing about being a leader.
Leadership is not the act of imposing your will on your “subjects”; it is working with your constituents to define a common purpose, and then helping them to achieve it.
When the constituents already share a common vision with their elected leader, the leader need only focus on ways to achieve it.
When a leader’s vision is in direct conflict with those of his constituents, he must present them with logical, well-reasoned, and well-researched arguments in an effort to persuade them to change their minds.
Forcing your constituents to do something they strongly oppose is certainly not leadership; it is an act of bullying at best, and despotism at worst.
When the Mayor ran for office, he told the voters that he would resolve the controversy over rebuilding public housing in this city by appointing an all-new GHA Board. The implication was that they would significantly change the direction of the old Board. However, their first act in office was to announce, without further research, discussion, or community input, that “We will rebuild the 569 units”; exactly what the old Board had said. It would seem that they all agreed/decided not to make any change in direction before their appointments! Where was the new openness and concern for the views of the public that we heard about during the campaign?
Did the Mayor demonstrate leadership, or simply outsmart the voters with a clever political maneuver?
This change in the Board, that made no change in policy, incited even more opposition and resistance in the City.
In response, did Mayor Jaworski show leadership by:
To the contrary, the Mayor’s arguments boil down to:
Emotional pleas about how sections of this city are like third world countries, that there is a need for public housing that far exceeds 569 units, that the old units were built in the Cold-War era, and that people need a safe, clean place to bathe. What is always missing are well-reasoned arguments why these conditions are the exclusive problem of this city, and not the entire county.
Mayor Jaworski’s Leadership on the Conciliation Agreement:
When the Conciliation Agreement was released, did the Mayor demonstrate leadership by:
Merely repeated the mantra that we had to do what it says, or we would lose all of our recovery money, while failing to mention that so would all of the other cities in the HGAC region; a fact that would make them our allies in demanding a new agreement.
He also went to Washington to meet with HUD, letting them know “that Galveston is at the right time, and is the right size and that its heart is open right now to HUD’s progressive policies. It is not just building places where poverty is hidden, but instead it is a place that can actually restore people to the life that the promise of America can afford us all. He said he had wanted to express that Galveston could be the model community for the 21st century of HUD policies”.
Source: GHA Board minutes 13 July 2010 Page 7
Mayor Jaworski’s Leadership in Other Areas:
When it comes to the issue of adding paid parking on the Seawall, the voters must authorize this change by an affirmative vote, so they must be persuaded to do so. The Mayor has taken on this challenge by scheduling a series of meetings, where valid arguments are presented showing why paid-parking will be good for the City. This is real leadership, and we applaud his efforts!
However, when it comes to building additional public housing; the voters have absolutely no say. In this case, the fate of the City rests with one man; Mayor Joe Jaworski. There is no political process available to oppose what he wants to do until the next Mayoral election. The only way to challenge his plans is in a federal court.
The contrast between his actions on the two issues could not be more revealing. When the voters are in a position to decide, he made a concerted effort to persuade them to follow his lead. However, when the people have no say, he imposed his will on the City while making an effort to minimize his personal political damage with a heavy dose of spin.
An Example of Real Leadership on Public Housing:
The Mayor, City Council, and the GHA Board should draft a letter to HUD, and the two fair-housing groups stating the following:
“If the mission of HUD and your fair-housing groups is to actually provide decent housing and opportunity for the County’s low income population, with the goal of “breaking the cycle of poverty” for them and their children, then the City of Galveston is probably the worst city in the County in which to build any additional public housing.
When Galveston is compared to other Cities in the County (La Marque, Texas City, Dickinson, Santa Fe, League City and Friendswood) here is how it ranks:
Residents Living Below the Poverty Level –
Worst in the County; 22.3 %
Vacant Housing -
Worst in the County; recent estimates at 20-25%
Economically Disadvantaged Students –
Worst in the County; 66%
Crime Rate –
Worst in the County; 650
GreatSchools.org District Ranking –
2nd Worst in the County; 4 out of 10
Population Growth –
2nd Worst in the County; a population loss of 3.09%, pre-Ike
Source: Census Bureau
In essence, some areas of this city are like third world countries making it an unsuitable place for people trying to escape from poverty!
We need HUD to use its authority and control of federal money to “persuade” the other cites in the County to allow the GHA to build these 569 units in high-opportunity census tracts on the Mainland. Over the past two decades, almost every other city in Galveston County has increased its population, median household income, school rankings, and reduced their crime rates, as well as vacant housing and blight, while Galveston has shouldered nearly all of the burden of providing for the most needy in the County. It is time for the rest of the County to step up and do the right thing by assuming their fair share of this responsibility.
If you fail to act, Galveston will be forced to build in the few census tracts, in this city, that will allow us to make our best effort to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing in order to minimize the liability to the City, the GHA, and ourselves, personally. This means that HUD will have to furnish additional funds to cover the higher costs of building west of the Seawall, and to extend our public transit system to these areas. We’ll also need much higher yearly subsidies to maintain these public housing units on the coastline, and in a flood plain, (for example salt-air damage and elevator service) when many sites are available on the Mainland that do not require these additional costs; and we’ll need yearly subsidies for the new public transit service.
Mayor, City Council, GHA”
Mayor Jaworski may believe that his actions are “impressive” to certain “important” people in government and that “key” special-interest groups will be grateful for what he intends to do; and he may be confusing these results with leadership. Unfortunately, the cost to the City to make these important people, and speical interest groups happy appears to be of very little importance.