LEADERSHIP – It must be strong.
There is no doubt about it – quality of life in Galveston is dependent on the quality of our Council leadership. For the past six years, we have benefited from having an experienced leader in Mayor Yarbrough. However, the succession of that quality leadership in the office of mayor is in jeopardy in 2020. This risk to the city’s future as a community where we all can live and work is a primary reason for my candidacy. Galveston is at an economic and cultural crossroads, and in the coming decade the city must have leaders whose political experience and executive capabilities are deep and extend to both Austin and Washington D.C.
From 2020 to 2030, Galveston will be competing heavily with other municipalities for resources, and during this we will need strong, experienced and decisive leadership at the helm to navigate the intricate channels of state and federal budgets, bureaucracies, and grant systems. At the same time, we will need a consensus-building leader that we trust, and who has the experience to unite disparate non-profit silos into a single coalition for the benefit of all corners of our community.
Finally, we need a strong leader as mayor in order to abate special interests whose primary concern is their own well-being and not that of our community. In short, we need a strong and trusted Galvestonian as mayor – a Galvestonian who can and will manage a program of sustainable growth for our city lest we forever lose our long-held values of diversity, rich cultural heritage, coastal beauty, and the general quality of life we all enjoy on this island.The future of Galveston must be in the hands of strong, trusted, and experienced Galvestonian leadership now.
THE ECONOMY – Galvestonians must come first.
The health of our island is measured in many ways, and most of those factors have great influence on each other. From the engine of tourism to the industry of healthcare, from port operations to higher education, Galveston has a solid foundation upon which to build a prosperous future. However, we must have visionary leadership that sees beyond the shiny glint of short-term opportunities. We can, and we must, market more than the inherent beauty and history of our island as a vacation destination. One of my first tasks as your mayor will be to build a robust business relocation marketing effort within the auspices of the City. We have everything the 21st century economy wants and needs. This is particularly true in terms of our semi-rural cost of living relative to major metropolitan areas. Let’s grab the shifting paradigm for remote location work and attract a mobile workforce that doesn’t need to be tied to a desk or office (for example, see www.tulsaremote.com).
I say, let’s be the new Silicon Coast by attracting software development and internet services firms that may find the impossible congestion of Austin less appealing these days, and the empty upper floors of our downtown historic buildings attractive (if not trendy) work spaces. I say, let’s build synergy with the world-class research operations of UTMB in order to attract medical technology firms to our city. At the same time, let us also carefully consider the long-term ecological and cultural consequences if our Port builds more and more terminals to accommodate the cruise lines.
When opportunities come our way, you must be confident your mayor knows the citizens of Galveston are the prime beneficiaries of any deal.
EDUCATION – Always the best remedy.
No community can thrive socially, nor can they can build a strong economy, without a quality public education system. Despite the many hurdles that has been set in its path over the years, GISD has had this notion at the core of every step it took and has striven to provide top-quality education. Now, in the 2020 State budget, lawmakers in Austin have given some help to GISD for 2020 and 2021 in the form of increased funding to the District, increased funding per student, and, significantly, a decreased “Robin Hood” recapture totaling over $12 million dollars. This is a golden opportunity for our community, and as your mayor my advocacy of improving the educational opportunities for our children will be loud, clear, and strong. To build and sustain a strong, education-oriented culture, the City Council and the GISD Board must work together to provide all the necessary resources to accomplish this goal.
What is really great about our small Island is that we have quality higher education and research facilities right here. We all know that Galveston College is our homegrown gem of a community college. And, I believe stronger research alliances can be made with Texas A&M Galveston – research that we need in order to find better ways to mitigate the municipal costs and tourism impacts we experience as a coastal community. Finally, we have not nearly taken full advantage of the economic development opportunities that should be realized by being home to one of the world’s leading medical research facilities in UTMB.
Our culture, economy, and future must be built on a rock-solid foundation of quality public education – the best remedy for community success.
OUR FIRST RESPONDERS – Peace for the City.
We cannot praise enough those women and men who choose to put their lives on the line for our community. Indeed, we would not have a community without our police, fire, and EMS personnel. Often, much too often, they are asked to stand between us and those who seek to harm us, to save those in distress, and to fight the unforgiving flames of fires in our homes and businesses. All they seek in return is fair pay and benefits, and ideally the opportunity to live and raise their families in the community in which they serve. No fire or police officer should have to drive for a half hour or more after an arduous shift to get home to their loved ones because they can’t afford to live in the community they protect.
This is not too much to ask. As Galveston grows in population and economy, we will be ever more dependent on recruiting the best first responders to protect us, and to do this we need to be sure their pay is more – more – than competitive. Furthermore, I believe it is the duty of the mayor to keep the lines of communication open and constant with Chief Hale and Chief Wisko, and to work positively with them and the unions for the win-win solution in the management of our public safety resources. This, I pledge to do from day one as your mayor.
ARTS & CULTURE – The soul of our community.
When The Grand Opera House (www.thegrand.com) opened in 1894, it was the largest opera house in Texas. Today, recognized by the Legislature as the Official Opera House of the State of Texas, The Grand functions as the heart of the large arts and culture environment that Galveston is known for both far and wide. From the Galveston Arts Center to the East End Theatre Company, from Art Walk to Mardi Gras, Dickens on the Strand, and live music (we need more live music), Galveston has the makings for an arts community master plan that will help go after major grants funding from organizations such as The National Endowment for the Arts and Texans for the Arts.
We all also need to listen more closely to what the dedicated preservation experts at the Galveston Historical Foundation are telling us about our unique architectural heritage. We should protect this generational endowment at all costs, for without the beauty that Nicholas Clayton, Samuel Sloan, and other 19th century architects gave us, what would we really be?
This is important as enhancing the arts and culture in a community not only attracts visitors that have an economic impact, but simultaneously benefits the citizens who live in the community. It’s the perfect example of a win-win. Let’s go forward with building a solid arts alliance that can take advantage of external funding opportunities that grow the arts in Galveston. This will take a concerted effort amongst the various arts and culture centers, an effort of collaboration – not competition. In doing so, we will all benefit.
Creating a robust arts and culture environment takes a special kind of leadership. It takes a visionary leader who has an inherent and solid interest in the arts. Our next mayor should be capable of building an alliance of arts organizations for the benefit of all Galvestonians.
Life without art is a desolate place. Together, we can house an arts and culture scene unmatched by any community in our region.
CITY GOVERNANCE & MANAGEMENT – Representation should reflect the whole population.
Successful businesses go through processes of continuous improvement. They look for waste and eliminate it; they look for efficiencies and enhance them. The goal is for us all to have pride of ownership in this place we call home. Municipal government, particularly that of an island city, must be the wise caretaker of the tax revenue entrusted to it by its citizens. Most importantly, city government must be totally transparent in all aspects and work openly and in tandem with other island entities to build a dynamic, healthy community for all.
We are facing an immediate future of state-mandated policies that will adversely affect the way city government functions. Clear vision and creativity are needed now more than ever. We must take stock and find new ways to offset budget shortfalls. This is why, now more than ever, we need a mayor with real experience in business management and ownership and in the political workings of Austin and Washington D.C.
As well, I believe that Galveston governance should reflect the diverse makeup of our wonderful city. However, while over 37% of Galveston’s population is non-White, minority representation is less than one-half of 1% in total of membership on the three major decision-making bodies – City Council, the Wharves Board of Trustees, and the Park Board of Trustees. We can, and should, do better. As mayor, I will foster and seek diverse governance representation by the people, as well as work to develop young citizens into Galveston’s leaders for tomorrow. We must be innovative, perhaps even changing the nature of the City Council to include at-large members, or having evening Council meetings so more of us who work daytime hours – particularly our younger citizens – are encouraged to run for office as well.
QUALITY OF LIFE – The whole point.
Why do we choose to live in Galveston, and how can we make it a better place to live? These were the principal questions of the robust citywide community development survey undertaken in 2019 by Vision Galveston (www.visiongalveston.com). They discovered that while Galveston is comprised of a great diversity of people from all socio-cultural-economic walks of life, we surprisingly have similar definitions for what is meant by the term, quality of life. For us walkable neighborhoods where we can get to know one another are important. So, too, is the historic character of Galveston. Parks and transportation, bike paths and kayak trails, modernization of education resources and affordable housing for the dedicated teachers who build great young minds. These and many other issues are important in uniting us as a community, and they inform what we Galvestonians mean by the term, quality of life. However, there are forces constantly arrayed against the quality of life as we know and want it to be in our community.
- What does unchecked expansion of short-term rentals, with their constant flow of transient tenants, mean to the notion of neighborhood and housing affordability?
What does the unabated expansion of the port into a vast complex of eight or nine docks for cruise ships of ever-increasing capacities, reaching 5,000 to 7,000 each, mean to Galveston in terms of traffic, environmental impact, sewage capacity and pollution concerns, security costs, resources such as water, and tourism?
This is not to say these issues are unsolvable through well considered master planning that brings together the concerns of business with the concerns of Galvestonians. I truly believe there are solutions to these issues provided we – and others in the equation – are willing to think outside-the-box, to perhaps create a new paradigm that is uniquely constructed for Galveston. It is for these reasons that our next mayor should be strong, independent, and trusted to represent the concerns of all Galvestonians to any entity that may wish to permanently change our Islander quality of life.
Quality of life is the whole point of life itself. Our next mayor must be strong enough to stand and protect it at any cost.