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League City councilman accused of going postal


A Galveston woman claims Councilman Dan Becker verbally attacked her Monday at the U.S. Post Office, 240 W. Galveston St.

Elizabeth Quigley of Galveston made a complaint to the League City Police Department after the incident, stating she felt threatened because Becker used a loud, angry tone and she felt she was being verbally pushed around, according to the event report.

Becker denies that happened, but he was at the post office in League City on Monday, he said.

“The only thing that occurred out of the ordinary was that I helped a gentleman who was confined to a wheelchair to get access to his vehicle so that he could back into it to leave,” Becker said in a text message.

Quigley told police that Becker screamed at her and verbally attacked her because of how she had parked, according to the event report.

Susie Jones also was standing in line at the post office when a man in an orange jumpsuit stormed in and started yelling, she said.

He demanded to know who had parked an SUV in a handicapped zone as the startled lunchtime line of customers stared at him, Jones said. When no one answered, he yelled again, Jones said.

“The two postal people just kept their heads down,” Jones said.

Quigley was near the front of the long line and had almost made it to the counter when she spoke up and said it was her car, Jones said.

He continued to yell at her as she went outside, where she pointed out she was not in a handicapped spot, Quigley said.

“I felt like we should do something,” Jones said. Jones did not know Quigley or Becker before the incident, she said.

When Quigley first saw Becker in the orange jumpsuit yelling in the post office, she wondered whether he were an escaped prisoner, she said.

After the incident, someone else in line said the man was Becker and that he was on the city council, both Jones and Quigley said.

“We were all in shock,” Quigley said.

Becker said Wednesday he had seen a man in a wheelchair who couldn’t get to his vehicle, and he offered to ask the driver of the vehicle parked in the next spot to move.

Quigley was rude and unwilling to move her vehicle at first, but she moved it and went back inside the post office, he said.

“It is not at all surprising that such a selfish and callous individual would then lie about what happened and try to blame someone else,” Becker said.

Quigley had handicapped plates on her vehicle, but she was able to walk and should not have parked there, Becker said.

Quigley, who owns an insurance company in Nassau Bay, also works as an advocate for the elderly, she said.

The police have not charged Becker for the disturbance, spokesman Kelly Williamson said.

In 2013, Becker and fellow Councilman Dennis OKeeffe got into a shoving match, which turned into a physical fist fight at city hall, The Daily News reported at the time.

Both Becker and OKeeffe were charged with disorderly conduct, but Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady dismissed the case because of a lack of evidence.

In 2016, a League City group organized a recall of Becker, but it did not gather the 6,000 signatures needed to start the process.

After dreary winter, isle hopes for sunny spring break

New coats of paint are going on the pavilion at Galveston’s popular East Beach.

New bollards are being planted in the sand to define the parking lots.

New lifeguards have begun training, and the sun, the glorious sun, is making more frequent appearances in the sky.

These are the signs that Galveston’s winter season, which was unusually long and cold this year, is coming to an end, and the tourist season, upon which so much depends, is about to begin.

Spring break is coming, and local tourism officials say the two-week period is generally treated as an indicator of how the tourism season to come will treat the island.

How the island’s tourism industry performs during the 14 or so days when most Texas public school and college students are out of class and free to travel is an essential indicator for businesses and people whose financial fortunes are made or broken over the summer.

“Spring break kicks off the summer season so it’s vitally important,” said Kelly de Schaun, executive director of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, which manages some aspects of the island’s tourism industry.

A good spring break can create the anticipation that builds for the rest of the tourism season, she said.

Galveston’s beach parks will officially open Saturday, meaning people wanting to park near the beach will have to pay to enter parking lots at East Beach, Stewart Beach and other beach parks managed by the park board.

The hope this year is that this winter’s mostly dreary weather will motivate people to go to the beach early, de Schaun said. A slow February in particular hurt the local tourism economy, after rain dampened most of the two-weekend Mardi Gras celebration.

Local hotels are on pace to beat bookings during last year’s spring break, de Schaun said.

Steve Cunningham, president of the Galveston Hotel & Lodging Association, said the local hotel industry hasn’t been hurt too badly by the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey, which in late August inundated much of the Houston metroplex, the island’s primary tourism market.

The next two weeks are the first real test of how some of Galveston’s key tourism markets are feeling about traveling this year, however, he said.

“There’s an unknown about how many Houstonians there are right now that would travel,” Cunningham said. “Other than spring break, we haven’t really been in a travel pattern that would tell us that.”

Cunningham credited the park board for spending extra money to positively market Galveston after Harvey in a way that emphasized the island was open for business and mostly undamaged by the historic storm.

The park board has shifted its marketing efforts from mostly people in the Houston area, which accounts for about 6 million visitors to the island yearly, to areas farther away, de Schaun said.

The idea is that if people are motivated to travel to the island from greater distances, they are more likely to stay in Galveston for the night, and spend more money here, she said.

The number of tourists visiting Galveston has increased for seven straight years, but tourism officials noted those increases have begun to plateau.

This has led to an increased focus on drawing visitors to events scheduled in nonpeak times, when visitor numbers are typically lower.

This year, the island is planning two new events during one of those less-visited times — the gap between spring break and Memorial Day. The Galveston Historical Foundation will host a tall ships festival from April 5 to April 9, featuring six sailing ships anchored in the Port of Galveston.

Later in the month, the island will host the Third Coast Music Festival, which will feature 40 bands playing at multiple venues on the island from April 26 to April 29.

Some couples still seek parental blessing before marriage

Katherine Hicks, 24, didn’t need her father’s permission to marry her now-husband Tanner Hicks. She wanted it.

“I was just raised up in a family where that was expected,” Hicks, a Galveston resident, said. “I knew it would hurt both of my parents’ feelings if we just made a decision without including them.”

Although some have tossed the idea of asking parents for permission or a blessing to wed, the tradition has remained alive for the Hickses and thousands of other couples. According to a 2015 study by the popular bridal magazine The Knot, more than three-quarters of men asked for permission of the bride’s father or parents before popping the question.

The magazine surveyed more than 12,000 U.S. brides and 1,200 U.S. grooms engaged or recently married from 2014 to early 2015.

The practice isn’t necessary like it used to be, when marriage was part of a monetary exchange between families, Stephanie Coontz, research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, told The Wall Street Journal in June 2017. The council is an Austin-based nonprofit that studies the American family.

Some couples choose to ask parents for a blessing so their families can be included in the marriage at a time when many matrimonial traditions are fading away, Coontz told The Wall Street Journal.

Experiencing Katherine Hicks’ parents’ divorce, as well as the Hickses’ Catholic faith, played a part in the decision to include Katherine Hicks’ family, they said.

“We’re probably in a Catholic bubble, but a lot of our friends asked their parents beforehand,” Tanner Hicks, 27, said. “I knew that’s what Katherine expected, and I wanted to give her the best version of myself.”

Although Katherine Hicks hoped her husband would ask her father for permission, the thought didn’t even cross Gayle Davis-Fortenberry’s mind.

At age 58, Davis-Fortenberry had already been married once, and was shocked to learn that her husband asked her father, who is in his 80s, for a blessing in marriage.

“My husband and I are older, in our later 50s,” said Davis-Fortenberry, an Oklahoma City resident who got married in Galveston. “I guess at that age, you don’t feel like you have to ask for anyone’s permission.”

Some people reject the practice because of its emphasis on male control of the ritual, but Davis-Fortenberry said she still felt independent in her decision.

“It felt nice at this older age to feel supported by my family even though I’m a grown woman,” Davis-Fortenberry said. “I’m probably a little bit of a traditionalist.”

Elizabeth Castro, 44, a Galveston native who currently lives in Japan, said her husband mailed her parents a letter asking for permission to get married. He was abroad and wasn’t able to ask in person, Castro said.

That tradition has continued on in Castro’s family, and she has seen cousins recently ask for permission to wed, she said.

Castro has two sons, and although she wouldn’t insist they ask their partner’s parents for permission, she said she would strongly encourage it.

“The fact that they do take the effort and the time, it’s a sign of respect and going that extra step is very important,” Castro said. “It’s a beautiful tradition to pass down.”

Tanner Hicks his wife’s father for a blessing because their marriage will affect family members, he said.

“By asking someone’s parents, you are showing a desire to prepare for something so big,” Tanner Hicks said. “By meeting with her parents, it was kind of a foreshadowing of the fact that marriage is more than just us.”

Ultimately, the practice was more of a formality, Tanner Hicks said. If Katherine Hicks’ father and mother said no, then the couple probably would have gotten married anyway, he said.

“I wasn’t going in asking for their permission, I was going in saying I would like your blessing,” Tanner Hicks said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t really their call.”



Local educators: Seat belt bill is unfunded mandate

Some local educators are criticizing a new school bus seat belt law as an unfunded mandate as several area districts contemplate bus purchases.

Texas Senate Bill 693, which was passed in June and became law Sept. 1, 2017, requires districts to purchase new model school buses with three-point seat belts, but provides a means for districts to opt out.

The measure does not apply to buses a district already owns or on older bus models, records show.

Clear Creek Independent School District’s board of trustees recently took the opt-out option by voting that the district’s budget “does not permit the district to purchase a bus that is equipped with the seat belts required by this subsection,” according to records.

“The onus is on the state,” Trustee Charles Pond said. “They created this unfunded mandate that will cost us several hundred thousand and expect us to come up with it. It pits money against children. That’s a lousy way to do business.”

Trustees voted to opt out before agreeing to spend $1.75 million on 20 new buses as part of a plan to update the district’s aging fleet.

If trustees hadn’t voted to opt out, the purchase would have cost an additional $131,000, or a total of $1.87 million, said Paul McLarty, the district’s deputy superintendent of business and support services, during the Feb. 26 meeting.

Trustee Laura DuPont said that district officials needed to contact area legislators to speak against unfunded mandates in education.

More and more school boards across Galveston County are fiscally strained and forced to adopt deficit budgets as they struggle with myriad issues. Those include a state system that funnels local tax money to districts with small tax bases, less state funding and the loss of other funding avenues.

A recent joint report by the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators said it was hard to put a definite dollar figure on how much unfunded mandates are costing districts across the state, but said the burden was heavy.

Galveston Superintendent Kelli Moulton said Wednesday the new seat belt law could be viewed as an unfunded mandate, but that she didn’t think her district would vote to opt out.

“In Galveston ISD, we are committed to the safety of all students and will work within our budget to add safety measures where needed,” Moulton said. “GISD Bond 2018 addresses several safety and security measures by choice.”

Galveston voters in May will decide on a $31 million bond referendum, which leaders envision as the first in a two-part plan to improve district facilities.

The May election will not raise the district’s tax rate, officials said.

Included in the May bond referendum is $2.5 million to purchase 20 buses and 15 fleet vehicles and another $410,000 to build a new bus wash and fuel canopy at the district’s transportation center, records show.

Seat belts add about $8,000 to $10,000 to the cost of each bus, Moulton said.

Galveston and Clear Creek school districts are the only ones in Galveston County currently contemplating bus purchases, but officials at other districts said recent measures could factor into future considerations.

“We haven’t discussed this piece of legislation extensively at this point since new buses aren’t on the radar right now, but it’s something we would consider when budgeting when the time comes to make those big purchases,” said Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for Texas City Independent School District.

Coming Friday

Let the sunshine in and read all about Island East-End Theatre’s production of “Hair” in The Weekend section.