GALVESTON — The Park Board of Trustees will consider hiring a big-name lobbyist to advocate for coastal issues during the next legislative session.
Long-time state senator and lobbyist A.R. “Babe” Schwartz appeared Tuesday before the Park Board to explain what he thought he could do to further its interests in Austin.
“I am prepared to represent the board and do for the board what is possible and in some instances change what law might be changed for the benefit of the board,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz, 88, is a Galveston native. He represented the city in the Texas House of Representatives from 1955-59, and in the Texas Senate from 1960-81. Since losing his seat, Schwartz has worked as a lobbyist for a number of different groups and individuals — including George Mitchell and Tilman Fertitta.
Park Board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun told the board that Schwartz was her recommendation to advocate for the committee in Austin.
De Schaun said there were many issues in which the board had a stake that would benefit from having a lobbyist in Austin — including building relationships with the newly elected land commissioner and potentially testing the state’s rules regarding required free parking on beach properties.
The Park Board may try to argue that since much of its funding comes from Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, and many of the people it serves are day-trip visitors who do not contribute to that tax, expanding parking fee areas in places such as East Beach and Stewart Beach would be reasonable.
“We are Houston’s playground,” de Schaun said. “They’re using the resources, but they’re not necessarily generating anything that goes directly back to the caring of those resources.”
The Park Board already pays a Washington, D.C. firm, Van Scoyoc Associates, to lobby for it on a federal level.
The board did not vote Tuesday on a legislative agenda or on hiring Schwartz. De Schaun said those items will likely be included on the agenda at the board’s next meeting in August.