The Future of Galveston

Nearly two years after Hurricane Ike, Galveston residents say not much has changed on the island. It’s not just a matter of waiting for federal money to come in, there’s also plenty of debate about what to do with the money. Does the city rebuild to its original state or go in a new direction? Bill Stamps has more.

Many times when something is destroyed, what replaces it is much better than the original. That’s the case whether it’s a building that caught fire, a school damaged in a storm or that old car of yours that just stopped working. Well, the people of Galveston are hoping the new post-Hurricane-Ike-Galveston will end up being much better than the old one. Betty Massey is a longtime resident of the island and is helping the city’s recovery.

“Galveston has so much potential. I’ve lived there thirty years and we’ve talked about the potential for Galveston for all of those decades. I think, oddly enough, disaster recovery has presented us with the opportunity to realize some of that potential.”

Just how much potential does Galveston have? Some Houston and Galveston residents may not see it, but the man who helped turn Pittsburgh from a cold steel town to a thriving city voted the most livable in a America believes Galveston can be the Charleston of the Midwest. Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy was asked to take a look at the area and make some recommendations. He expected things to be much worse than what he saw.

“I don’t think we expected the richness of the place — to have the world class medical facility there and the historic buildings, the strands, but also the historic neighborhoods around there.”

One of Murphy’s recommendations is that Galveston not concentrate so much on tourism and try and bring in businesses and jobs related to the University of Texas Medical Branch that’s already there. Recently elected Mayor Joe Jaworski agrees with that strategy.

“Let’s face it, one of the greatest things about Galveston is it is a coastal area. Which means it’s got the breeze. It’s got the sun. It’s got the things that people uniformly consider beautiful. Combine that with the fact that it’s the beach; it’s the coast of what is soon going to be the fourth largest city in America. That’s a recipe for success.”

So far disaster recovery money is trickling in very slowly, but the money is coming. The only question is will it be used wisely?

“The big challenge we have to do is make it the most livable, clean, positive environment that we can. Tourism is important, because obviously that’s how we’ve dedicated a lot of our land with hotels, entertainment venues, but the reality is Galveston is a place where people live and raise their families. Why don’t we make that the A-plus consideration?”

As mayor of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy helped change the look, the way of life and the reputation of Pittsburgh. Now, Jaworski will have a chance to do the same for Galveston.

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