Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
The "Local Advocates"?
by David Stanowski
18 July 2013
In May of 2010, the citizens of this city were justifiably outraged when they were told that two State agencies, TDRA and TDHCA, had negotiated a secret agreement with two non-profit groups, TXLIHIS and Texas Appleseed (TA), in Austin, that sought to bind the City to certain terms for a public housing rebuilding plan, while they excluded City officials from participation in the agreement.
This so-called Conciliation Agreement (CA) transferred a substantial amount of the City’s ability to determine its own destiny to four unelected groups in Austin. Obviously, the top priorities of these groups do NOT include the general welfare of this City. Eventually, the participation in the CA was transferred from the TDRA and TDHCA to the General Land Office (GLO).
Over the last three years, the GLO has allowed TXLIHIS and TA, the so-called “Austin Advocates”, to stray far afield from the simple terms in the CA, by allowing them to dictate a great deal of the rebuilding policy in this city. The GLO has done this out of the fear that if the “Austin Advocates” don’t get their way, they will sue the State, which could restrict the flow of disaster recovery money.
The fact that the GLO has ceded a great deal of the sovereignty of the State, and the City, to these unelected “Advocates” has enraged residents. However, what most people don’t realize is that the “Austin Advocates” have transferred most of the control of the rebuilding process, in this city, to the so-called “Local Advocates”:
The NAACP, the Galveston County Coalition for Justice, LULAC, the Galveston Northside Taskforce, and Gulf Coast Interfaith which have formed a group called the Galveston County Collaborating Organizations (GCCO).
Emails and letters recently obtained by the GOGP appear to show that the GCCO has made a series of “requests” to the City about how they would like the Northside neighborhood to be rebuilt. They also appear to show that the GLO and the “Austin Advocates” have given the GCCO some say in the release of the disaster recovery money.
We have also confirmed the fact that the City Council knows little or nothing about the details of this negotiation process which has been handled by the City Manager, City Attorney and staff. This is not open and transparent government. Closed government is always bad, because it seeks to hide something from the public.
City Council needs to have staff review their “negotiations” with the GCCO at the next Council meeting, so they can learn what staff has agreed to do in return for the “cooperation” of the GCCO. Since disaster recovery funding affects the entire City, decision making cannot be limited to groups who only represent one small neighborhood.
Meetings on this subject need to be out in the open with participation from all areas of the City.
Since the City Manager frequently mentions the “Local Advocates” in conjunction with getting disaster recovery funds released, the Council needs to be fully briefed on the “negotiations”, and should begin providing oversight to the process!