Recently Mayors from different cities in the United States held a national forum to discuss the effects of the pandemic. Mentioned was that the coronavirus is forcing state and local governments across the country to rethink how they could improve their delivery of services and manage employees.
Three areas were highlighted - Working across jurisdictional lines, Adopting new technology and Rethinking the way government leaders mange their work-places and staff. Bringing these ideas closer to home I feel that Galveston could very well experience a positive outcome in all of these areas.
Working Across Jurisdictional lines: Partnerships are becoming increasingly important in this new era. There are some City challenges that are ours and ours alone but there are many others, from a funding and expertise level, that would be more efficiently managed as a Partnership with State, Federal and Public/Private entities. Public Transportation , Middle Income Housing, Beach Nourishment, Drainage Improvements and Post Storm Rebuilding Efforts are just a few of the areas where working together is in everyone’s best interest.
Adopting New Technology: Many Americans now expect to be able to take care of a wide variety of tasks online and local governments can do a better job of offering virtual services. Our Planning Department is getting much better in its management of permitting and inspections on line and this should be just the beginning, in making as many as possible governmental processes available virtually, which saves the public time and prevents the need to travel.
Managing Workplaces and Staff : The virus put cities in a situation where they had to suddenly reckon with how to offer services as employees worked from home or otherwise away from traditional workplaces. Providing a more flexible work environment is another shift brought on by the pandemic and in some form will probably remain with us permanently.
If we are to move forward from this pandemic, public officials have to acknowledge that our best Partnership is the one we have with our residents and that we sure don’t have all the answers. Transparency and inclusiveness are of utmost importance as we set policies that establish the new “Normal”.
Wishing you an October full of as much normalcy as possible !
As we close out this election cycle, I want to remind everyone to go exercise our most important right...VOTE. It has been my honor and privledge to serve District 2 for 6 + years and as Mayor Pro Tem for the last 2 years. The facts speak for themselves and I am proud of the issues I have brought forward and our accomplishments. It is now time to continue our drive forward and build the future we all know is possible on our Island.
During the month of September Council approved the City’s Budget, Capital Improvement Plan and Tax Rate for 2021. The Tax Rate was reduced two cents, all commitments to our Firefighters and Police were funded, a reduction in the number of employees was accomplished and reserves were funded across all of the City’s accounts for 90 days. All of this with no reductions in City services.
The Pandemic and active Hurricane season have placed a lot of pressures on our upcoming Budget but the City was prepared.
CLICK HERE for Highlights of the Budget and Tax Rate.
Short Term Rentals
On September 17th Council discussed the concept of entering into an agreement with Short Term Rental ( STR ) Platforms such as Expedia (VRBO) or Airbnb.
These agreements allow for these Platforms to collect the State and City Hotel Occupancy Tax ( HOT ) and then remit it to the State or City. The State has been in these agreements for a few years and their total HOT collections have increased.
After much discussion the City Attorney, in conjunction with the Director of Finance, will research the topic in more detail with Stakeholders as well as Industry representatives and bring recommendations back to Council’s November meeting, for further discussion and possible approval.
If you have any thoughts concerning these agreements please feel free to contact me.
City Flag and Public Art
After many meetings to establish the application criteria for accepting proposals for the selection of an official City Flag and Public Art, the Cultural Arts Commission presented their requests to City Council on September 24th and they were unanimously approved. Both “Call for Projects” will be presented to the Public on October 1st with recommendations to Council for their approval in 2021.
Please CLICK HERE to view more details on the City Flag Project and CLICK HERE for more details on the Public Art Project. Watch for the announcements in the media and on the City’s website.
Discussion of Business Assistance Programs by IDC - October 6th.
Mardi Gras and Special Use Permit Discussions - October 22nd.
Discussion of Police Policies by Chief Hale - October 22nd.
Presentation of the City’s Master Drainage Plan - October 22nd.
Port Budget presented to Wharves Board - October 27th.
Short Term Rental Platform Agreements - November 12Th
Pelican Island Bridge
Discussions with the the City, County, TxDot, TAMUG and The Ports of Galveston and Houston are still underway with the goal of finalizing the agreements and funding for a new 115 million dollar Bridge for Pelican Island. The current Bridge’s life expectancy is drawing near and all parties are hoping to finalize arrangements soon.
The Bridge has been designed to swing west at TAMUG’s request, so as to bypass their campus. To proceed, the County and the City would need to enter into an advanced funding agreement with TxDot to establish the owner of the Bridge, once it is completed, and to designate which parties will be responsible for any cost overruns during construction.
As more details emerge concerning the Bridge I will update you.
To view more details and the preliminary breakdown of the funding please CLICK HERE.
Port of Galveston
At the September 29th meeting of the Wharves Board, Executive Director Rodger Rees presented the current status of the Port. At that same meeting the Board received an update of the Pelican Island Bridge discussions by representatives of Tx Dot. To view all the details of the the Port Director’s report please CLICK HERE.
At that meeting the Port also discussed the newly released Traffic Study that was requested earlier this year. This Study was designed to give guidance as to a suggested flow of additional traffic generated by Cruise Terminals #1, #2 and #3 and other Port activities. Recommendations included having traffic for CT #1 and #2 enter Port property at 33rd street on Old Port Industrial Road ( OPI ) and traffic for CT #3 enter the Port at 14th or 17th streets from Harborside. Ultimate plans call for all CT traffic to flow along OPI taking it off of Harborside.
Representatives from the USS Texas visited with the Wharves Board at their September 29th meeting about docking the USS Texas at Pier 14. They are interested in assisting with the repair of the Bulkhead at the Pier and, if approved by the Wharves Board at a future meeting, they would be interested in building a museum and Gift Shop adjacent to the ship. I’ll report back as more is known about this proposal.
At Council’s September 24th meeting the Park Board requested a $50,000 reduction in their $250,000 annual payment this year to the City for Seawolf Park. The request was due to the Park Board receiving less HOT this year and trying to cut costs as much as possible.
Council was supportive of assisting the Park Board but with the request coming after our Budget had been approved, Council respectfully declined the request and would rather assist the Park Board in any way they can to increase their revenues this year. One method of increasing revenue for the Park Board would be the approval of an agreement with STR Platforms that is predicted to bring extra HOT to the Park Board as well as the City.
Please see the Short Term Rental Item in this Newsletter for more details.
City Council Snippets
Dickens Will Return December 5 & 6, 2020
New $500,000 City Park Funded By The Moody Foundation Scheduled For Completion By January 2021.
Council Supports Tax Credits For New Owner Of Sandpiper Cove.
Council, In Conjunction With The Planning Commission, To Re-examine Certain Zoning Classifications.
Emergency Disaster Declarations For Hurricane Laura And Tropical Storm Beta Extended By Council.
National Fire Prevention Week, October 4 - 10.
Galveston College Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15.