Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
This is Your
Wake Up Call!
by David Stanowski
27 August 2010
Are you actively involved in the rebirth and renewal of Galveston? If not; why not?
We must act quickly and decisively, before the Tipping Point is reached!
If you need to be convinced why it will be worth your time and effort; keep reading:
How much money do you have invested in the City of Galveston?
Do you own a house, a second home, investment real estate, and/or a business?
How much money do you stand to lose if the City’s 50-year decline reaches its Tipping Point, and accelerates to where your investments are worth half of what they are right now?
How much emotional and spiritual energy do you have invested in the City of Galveston?
Have you put a great deal of time and effort into:
getting the City to enforce its building codes, begging your Councilmember to fix your storm sewers so the streets don’t flood, emailing City officials about the disrepair of the streets, watching in disbelief as City government ignores their own rules and regulations, wondering why there seems to be litter and trash everywhere, realizing that Galveston is a “City Without Sidewalks”, and the other trappings of a “civilized city”, joining one of the endless numbers of committees that have been formed to halt this decline?
How much does your quality of life stand to suffer if the City’s 50-year decline reaches its Tipping Point, and accelerates to where you may be afraid to leave your home due to the “rough element” that has moved into your neighborhood; including the squatters next door?
Are you heart broken because no matter how clearly you see its missteps, and no matter how hard you try to keep it from continuing to do so, the lack of leadership and resulting public apathy means your beloved city just can’t seem to stop taking the same self-destructive actions, and avoid the same dysfunctional inactions, that set off its decline many years ago?
Is Galveston Dead:
Contrary to the conclusion reached in a recent article, the City of Galveston is NOT dead, but it certainly has been in the process of dying for the past 50 years. It seems likely that if this process is not halted and then reversed very soon, Galveston could succumb to a massive out migration that would drain much of the remaining life from the Island.
Some may argue that the City’s economy is doing well, in certain areas, which is debatable, but the measure of the life or death of a city is not an economic one, it rests on whether or not people want to live there. Otherwise, all a city may have left is a collection of commercial ventures that continue to find it profitable to operate within the city’s boundaries, but the business owners don’t live there, and very few others do.
The record of population growth in the City of Galveston tells the whole story; it is the only metric needed to see whether it is a living entity capable of growth, or a seriously ill patient in intensive care. The City’s population peaked in 1960 at 67,175, and has declined 28% to 48,000 in 2010, during a period when the population of the State more than doubled!
If the City had matched the State’s growth rate, the population would now stand at 173,779. It may not be possible to put this many people on the Island in a comfortable arrangement, but it illustrates just how different the trends have been over the last 50 years, because, in general, many people have a strong desire to live other places in Texas, but a dwindling number can find a good reason to live in Galveston.
Some may argue that it is unfair to use the current figure of 48,000 in this analysis since the City lost so many people due to Hurricane Ike. However, it has been two years since the Storm, and it is reasonable to say that most of those who want to return have done so. For a variety of reasons, the 9,000 who have not returned have looked at the pros and cons and do not see living on the Island as the best choice for their future.
A careful examination of the data shows a local economy that is NOT flat on its back, but it certainly does not look as though it’s “thriving”!
Galveston hosts approximately 5 million tourists annually, but many of them use the City’s free parking on the Seawall to enjoy the day at the beach, without spending any money in the City. At the very least, Galveston must resolve the impasse over paid parking on the Seawall very quickly!
The best proxy for the health of the tourist industry is hotel revenue. The last three months show a clear improvement over 2009 figures, but that comes after 13 straight months of year-over-year declines. In addition, even with the recent improvement versus 2009 data, hotel revenue is still below 2008 levels. In short, hotel data shows a recovering tourist industry, but one that has not yet recovered to pre-Ike levels.
In 2009, Galveston hotels generated $100,548,490 in revenue.
Hotel Revenue Data
Port of Galveston:
It is very good news that the Port is now the 4th busiest cruise port in the nation, and will get two new cruise ships next year, but a study of Port operations from 1984 to 2006 showed a loss of $4.5 million over this 23-year period, possibly because the amount of cargo handled peaked way back in 1984!
The Army Corps of Engineers ranks all U.S. ports based on tons of cargo handled. The following table lists the 11 ports in the State of Texas, according to the latest data (2008). Notice that the amount of cargo that the Port of Galveston handled, compared to the others, means that it ranks number 8 in the State of Texas, so it is not even a major force within its home state; hardly an acceptable performance!
2008 Port Rankings
Thankfully, the medical school continues its comeback from Hurricane Ike, but it is still not back to where it was before the Storm.
Sales tax collections have been running below those compared to the same month in 2009, for the last nine months, showing weakness in local retail sales and other taxable transactions.
City Sales Tax Data
The vision that haunts me is of a Galveston that hits its Tipping Point and devolves to where it consists primarily of the commercial triangle made up of 61st Street, Seawall, and Broadway with the neighborhoods in between mostly abandoned and decaying. The triangle may continue to do well with a city population of 7,000, even if most of the residents lived west of the Seawall; but this would not be a “living city”, and it would not be a place most of us would want to live.
This is the direction that this city may be headed without some drastic changes!
I am not focusing on the problems and short comings of this city to the exclusion of its good points because I have a negative view of Galveston; I am simply highlighting the evidence of the City’s decline in an effort to motivate YOU to get involved in a solution! Galveston has many serious problems including: an ineffective City government, poor guidance and management of the tourist industry by the Park Board, poor management of the Port by the Wharves Board, and a dominant Poverty Industry that has saddled the City with a disproportionate amount of Public Housing and other “subsidy programs”.
Public Housing is not the City’s only serious obstacle to reversing its decline, but it is the one that is offering the greatest opportunity for improvement, at this time, which makes it the primary focus of the GOGP and other activists. No matter how much research a handful of people do, and no matter how many articles they write, nothing will change without more widespread participation of the residents.
If as few as 500-1,000 residents became more engaged in the political process, we could win this battle!! It turns out that our combined email lists total somewhere near 500 recipients, so EVERYONE reading this article must get involved, and needs to tell all their friends what we’re trying to do, and bring them into the process.
Every time we send out an article, we are asked “What can we do to help?” The answer is that many other people must begin telling the City Council what they want. At this point, Council probably ignores most of what we send them, so they need to start hearing the same message from a lot of different people for it to have the needed impact.
This article has attempted to get you to look into the abyss and see what COULD happen to the City of Galveston if its present decline is not reversed. Are YOU now ready to get actively involved in the struggle to save this city?