As I’m writing this introduction, the Governor of Texas has placed the reopening of the State on pause and has enacted further constraints on bars, size of gatherings and outdoor river activities. All of these measures and possibly even more in the future are in response to the rapid rise of new infections in the State including Galveston County and the City of Galveston.
In announcing these new constraints Governor Abbott stated “As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action.” Just a few days ago Galveston County was 13.8% and climbing.
What makes this rise so alarming in Galveston and around the nation is that the increase in the percentage of new infections is not necessarily tied to the amount of testing and that the largest amount of cases are in those in the 20 to 30 age range. Individuals in this age group usually show no or milder symptoms and don’t add to the hospitalization statistics.
Experts say people in their 20s and 30s are also more likely to go out socializing and seem to not take the concern as seriously. This is raising concerns that asymptomatic young people are helping to spread the virus to more vulnerable Americans, at a time when cases are surging dangerously.
“Is it the governor’s reopening? Is it Memorial Day? Is it the demonstrations? Is it going to the beach?” said Eric Boerwinkle, dean of the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston. “We don’t really know, but probably all of those things are contributing.”
Here in Galveston the City is working to be as proactive as possible, given the Governor’s Orders, in controlling the rise of infections.
A few of the measures recently enacted are the approval of a Mask Ordinance, maintaining virtual meetings for all City functions, supporting legal measures to control non permitted events, providing financial resources for free testing of frontline restaurant, grocery store and hospitality personnel and looking into organizing a Coalition with other Texas Coastal Cities to support control measures that are unique to our communities.
I wish I could tell you that this will end soon, but the reality is we will be dealing with some form of this concern for a long time. During that time my goal is to provide a safe as possible environment for all our residents, while understanding that our long term goal is to have the economy reopen and avoid a second lockdown that would be devastating to everyone concerned.
Stay Safe and Secure this summer !
At Council’s June 25th meeting a mandatory Mask Ordinance was approved by Council. The Ordinance, which governs the wearing of masks indoors in commercial entities, will be in effect until September 30th and will be reviewed by Council at our July 23rd meeting. For more details on the Ordinance and to access a sample sign that can be posted in your business please CLICK HERE.
Galveston Police Department Policy Review
At Council’s June meeting I requested Chief Vernon Hale present an update concerning the Galveston Police Department’s on going review of Police Policies. This review has been in progress since Chief Hale has taken office and the need for policies that emphasize racial equality, proper use of force, deescalation techniques and others are currently being reviewed. Chief Hale will update Council at our July 23rd meeting on more specifics of planned Policy changes.
Weekend Seawall Crowds
So far this summer the City has experienced exceptionably large weekend Seawall Crowds and this topic was discussed at our June Council meeting. In addition to changes in traffic routes, lighting and additional personnel, topics such as Legislative changes were discussed. After this discussion Council approved granting permission to the City Attorney to file an injunction to prevent a non permitted event, tentatively scheduled for the last weekend in July.
45th Street Update
The 45th Street Project is moving along on the schedule that was established 6 months ago and the completion date is programmed for October 2020. For more specifics on the Project’s timeline please CLICK HERE.
On June 19th I had the honor of presenting a Proclamation recognizing Juneteenth and the importance it holds for our nation. In the same proclamation Representative Al Edwards was honored for leading the efforts in making Juneteenth a State Holiday.
What makes this celebration even more important is that the events that are the basis for Juneteenth originated right here in Galveston.
Funds for Mortgage Assistance and More
Recently Council approved CDBG funds totaling $271,000 for Mortgage Assistance, CoVid-19 tracing and housing for the homeless population that tests positive. These funds are part of a package that also included free testing for frontline workers and rental assistance that was approved at our May City Council meeting.
Cruise Ships: The Cruise Lines have announced that sailings have been postponed until October 1st of this year. Because of this reduction in Ship Calls, Wind Turbine Cargo and Lay Dockage have been increased and will help off set some of the loss of Cruise and related Cruise parking revenues.
Internal Roadway Improvements: improvements are underway on Old Port Industrial Road that is on Port property. These changes are designed to begin a total revamping of this road from the western sections of the Port to Pier 10. Grants are forthcoming to continue these improvements with the ultimate goal of alleviating industrial and cruise passenger traffic on Harborside.
Cruise Terminal #3: Plans are underway to move the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines operation from the eastern sections of the Port to the west. This move is programmed to be completed by January 2021 at which time preparations for Cruise Terminal #3 can commence. The deadline for starting construction of Cruise Terminal #3 is April of 2021.
All this and more can be found in the Port Director’s Report, please CLICK HERE.
Setting the Value of the Penny: At the Park Board’s last meeting in June the Board set the value of the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which is used to calculate the budget for the Park Board and for certain funds of the City.
Last year the Value was 2.2 million per penny. This year the value was set at 1.5 million which is approximately a 30% reduction of revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. CLICK HERE for more details.
Seawolf Park Demolition: Believe it or not the demolition of the Seawolf Park Pavilion is becoming a reality. The Board approved the contract for demolition, which will begin after July 4th and will be finished by the end of September. At this time an open air Park is planned for the site.
Breakwater Project: At their June meeting the Park Board approved an Engineering firm to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to design a breakwater structure. The Breakwater will be positioned at the western most end of the Seawall where erosion of the beach is extremely high with the purpose of mitigating the wave action and providing for erosion control and natural nourishment.
July 4th Fireworks Alternatives: Following the Park Board’s cancellation of the Fourth of July Fireworks program an alternate use of the funds for Patriotic Flags on Broadway and 61st, Downtown Decorations and Drive In Movies at Stewart Beach Park was approved at their June meeting.
City Council Snippets
Council Supports A Re-evaluation Of The Food Truck Ordinance.
Arts And Historic Preservation Board Approves A Pro Rata Reduction Of Allocations Due To The Decrease In Hotel Occupancy Taxes.
Additional Beach Access Signs Have Been Approved By City Council.
Contract Extension For Pay By Phone Parking Services Approved By City Council.
IDC Approves Over 1 million Dollars in Beach Oriented Projects That Will be Managed By The Park Board.
Council Approves A 10 Foot No Smoking Area From The Door Of Buildings.
Council Approves Removing Term Limits For Municipal Judges.