Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
Word Versus Deed?
by David Stanowski
09 December 2011
In April 2010, GAIN asked all of the candidates for City Council and for Mayor to answer a series of questions. One of the most critical was "If you had been mayor or on city council, how would you have voted on the motion to give $25 million to GHA from city’s CDBG funds?"
It is very informative to look back at those answers and see how closely the candidates did what they said they would do.
JAWORSKI: Against. Public Housing should be homes rather than projects: each should have a porch and a lawn. No more units; no more projects and no more ignoring poverty by hiding people away in multi-unit structures. Galveston has ignored its poverty problems long enough; and building more and more public housing isn’t the answer. I want GHA and its commissioners whom I will appoint (and our next Mayor will appoint a majority of the Board within 30 days of taking office) to follow this philosophy: build homes (like The Oaks), not structures; benefit all of Galveston, not just GHA clients; define success by moving clients from public to private housing in a five-year family self sufficiency program; and strictly oversee GHA management and hold it accountable by identifying numbers of clients who graduate from public housing and by grading appearance of GHA-owned and Section 8 properties on the Island. Because the $25 million motion did not fully embrace this philosophy, I would have voted against it.
MASSEY: Against. I cannot support any plan that rebuilds housing projects, and I am concerned that the construction of new units of housing at the Oleander Homes site will do just that. Given the ―light industrial zoning designation of the property, the surrounding land use and the approaching construction of a homeless shelter on land immediately to the north, I find it difficult to imagine a housing complex that is not built in a ―defensive‖ mode. The new housing units must ―protect or ―shelter themselves from the commercial/industrial areas that surround the site. I think the Oleander site has the greatest potential to revert to old style housing projects, and I cannot support that.
To meet the immediate need for public housing we should use existing housing stock first. There are hundreds of vacant housing units for sale in neighborhoods throughout this city that can be purchased and renovated or purchased ―move in ready for less than the estimated cost of constructing a new unit of public housing.
Before we begin new construction, we must document and understand the demographics of the need. For example, pre-Ike, a significant percentage of low-income elderly Galvestonians were spending more than 30% of their household income on housing costs. That may be an indicator of the need for additional elderly housing, and if so, we should consider locating at the old Magnolia Homes site. But, before doing any new construction, let’s get an accurate picture of the need.
Any new construction at the Cedar Terrace site or the portion of Magnolia Homes not used for senior housing needs to be less dense and should consist of a deliberate mixture of housing types and income levels. Development should be integrated into surrounding neighborhoods as part of a neighborhood redevelopment plan. The goal should be to make public housing indistinguishable from other housing.
ROOF: No answer listed.
WEBER: For. I am the only Mayoral Candidate that was in the position at the time. I voted to disburse the funds and allow GHA to move forward with development of the Plan. I stand by my vote and would cast the vote the same way today.
Based on all information received a vote to disburse the funds was the only vote that would protect the City’s future funding possibilities and put the City in a position to be on the front end of the development for public housing in Galveston. A no vote would have jeopardized between $3 and $5 Hundred Million Dollars to be used by the City in repair of not only homes but also infrastructure. A no vote would also subject the City to additional charges and scrutiny from Federal Officials and the possibility of fines and sanctions the City simply cannot afford. A no vote would have jeopardized the City, it’s Citizens and its future.
City Council Candidates:
Thomas: Against....there wasn't an adequate plan developed as of yet.
Brown: Yes, I would vote to give GHA the $25 million. This is the right thing to do, BUT we must do it the "right" way. Of course we need housing for our elderly and special needs citizens. But we also need "Workforce" housing in Galveston - not "Public" housing. We can build housing for residents who were here before with no criminal history, who are in job training, school or working. In conjunction, we must bring resources to the Island -jobs, education and training so that all people here can move forward.
Dallas: I would have voted "no," but not as a final, definitive "hell no." My preference (although I am not sure of the correct phraseology under the rules of parliamentary procedure) would have been to lay the matter on the table for a few weeks, to get more public input to improve the plan through amendments that could have been brought up; or to refer the matter back to the Planning Commission with instructions to reconsider ideas proposed by GAIN, et al. I understand there is some concern that undue delay would be bad for the city, and public housing residents, and just about everyone involved. But again, as I said on April 1, my main complaint was with the process.
Lee: To the best of my memory I will attempt to paraphrase what I said at the GAIN forum a week ago – There is public housing in District 2. Such as Gulf Breeze senior housing and Section 8 housing. I am very much in favor of helping those who – as in the case of our senior citizens – are no longer able to help themselves. There are Section 8 residents that live a few doors both to the east and west of our home. My Section 8 neighbors work long hours, I am also very much in favor of helping those who try to help themselves.
Anyone who thinks that I would return a check for $25 million dollars simply doesn't know me very well. I would work very hard to see that every “i” was dotted and every “t” was crossed to assure that our community received every dollar.
Beeton: AGAINST. I voted against the motion to give $25 million to GHA from the city's CDBG funds. City Council had originally stipulated that GHA would need to provide a plan for rebuilding satisfactory to the Council before the funds would be released, yet GHA came to Council without a plan. A majority of Council voted to give GHA the money anyway. By abandoning its right to review and approve the plan before relinquishing the money, the Council lost its leverage to insist on a reasonable plan.
Rozier: FOR. The CDBG first round allocations provide $267,387,055 for the City of Galveston with 60% going to housing. The $25,000,000 is 9.4% of those overall funds. According to the CDBG program the majority of funding must benefit low and moderate income citizens and the amount of funds received were based on this population in Galveston. We need to provide housing for our elderly and disabled citizens that want to return to Galveston, that were displaced by Hurricane Ike. I will continue to debate the 569 units but the fact remains the same; we have Galvestonians that need a place to come home to. I believe that my professional background will be an asset to City Council once the true process of developing, reviewing and approving plans for the Housing Authority come forward. The Planning Commission and the City Council will have that ability. I believe that we can develop a product that can work in our existing neighborhoods and even translate to homeownership for the future. It is also very important to have the funds to leverage larger funding for programs to train, educate & lift skill sets for our citizens.
Fennewald: As you probably know I DID vote AGAINST this item.
Rothgeb: Against, but only because of my concerns on the specifics: I want a better concept for dispersing the homes. There are some parts of the motion that would be a good step forward. That being said; as a member of council, I will always strive to remember that our only real choice is to come to the table in a collaborative and reasonable manner. We have to work with both the state and HUD because the reality is this – Galveston will get public housing; and we can either manage our housing solutions or have them managed for us!
Pucetti: FOR. On May 28, 2009 the City Council voted as a group to accept a $160M in recovery funds with one council member opposed. The $25M for the GHA was a part of that package and was conditioned upon GHA bringing a completed plan back to the Council for approval before the funds would be released to them. I would have voted in favor of that motion on May 28, 2009.
More recently the council voted on the release of the funding to GHA. I would have voted in favor of the release if all the required conditions as specified in May 2009 were met. If the conditions did not meet the defined criteria then I would have asked for additional detail for the plan and would have asked to delay the vote to a time when the details were available for consideration. Galveston must begin utilizing the recovery funds that they have accepted and continuing to delay could put these and other funds as well as future funding in jeopardy.
Sanchez: AGAINST: I would have voted against the $25 million appropriation for GHA's plan as it was presented.
I would have rejected the master plan by GHA because it was incomplete and not comprehensive. The plan lacked the basic principles of neighborhood design: connectivity, citywide and within the adjacent neighborhoods, to jobs, play, groceries, transportation, etc., safety with civic engagement, "eyes on the street", and finally, the plan did not consider the sites as "place", it only included unit numbers.
Incomplete and poor plans will delay the process, not speed it up.
For more information on HUD's Principles for Inner City Neighborhood Design: HUDUser
Mayoral + Districts 1, 3, 5
Includes comments on GHA Board appointments
Districts 2, 4, 6