The transaction goes by many names: “Buying a pig in a poke,” “Shares in the Brooklyn Bridge,” “Buying a sow’s ear and trying to turn it into a silk purse,” or simply “I owned Enron Stock.”

Even the naive know the first rule of horse-trading: “Never trade a racehorse for a beaver.”

A racehorse runs, draws paying crowds, if cared for — looks wonderful, seems to like humans well enough and later, breeds more such horses.

A beaver is ugly in just about any form except a cowboy hat; it’s messy and destroys up to $5 million dollars’ worth of economy in the United States annually. Beaver’s build dams wherever it wants and requires the farmer or rancher to constantly do maintenance work.

Porretto Beach is Galveston’s beaver-swap example. The city is in negotiations with the Porretto bankruptcy trustee who is in some rush to liquidate and pay off the debtors. The law firm representing the bankrupt debtors is a debtor itself and (a bit odd even for Galveston) was the firm that represented Porretto against the State of Texas (a series of lawsuits designed to force her into bankruptcy) and by no small amount, who’s fees forced the bankruptcy itself!

The trustee is offering two plots of eroding beach in return for release of the right-of-ways currently preventing liquidation. Both require continued sand renourishment. Like your average beaver, the plots are ugly and destroy land by erosion each and every year. Those plots would require constant maintenance by us and our tax dollars. We might as well swap for a beaver dam.

Porretto Beach is a racehorse by comparison. It accretes sand and replicates itself. The beach seems to like the public and the public certainly likes it, and will pay to use it. Porretto Beach looks wonderful and as Galveston beaches go, it’s one of few thoroughbreds in our stable.

We need to watch carefully and speak loudly to our city council so that they — in a moment of haste or less than careful thought — do not swap our racehorse for a beaver. It could happen and has happened before.

After numerous promotions and big visions, our council approved the Marquette Development on the West End for promises of a great partnership and big taxes. Not less than 60 days later, the entire benefit and partnership fell apart when our city manager announced the deal’s tax windfall and Marquette — realizing they had made a terrible mistake in not certifying its agriculture exemption — raced from Chicago to our mainland to barter a deal with the county tax assessor and didn’t even notify their partner, the city of Galveston. Marquette took away over a million dollars in annual tax revenue, left town and built nothing.

We have a national reputation for buying and swapping for beavers. We simply do not need one more. Keep the racehorse.

Bill Broussard lives in Galveston.


(4) comments

Mike Box

I live near Adoue Park. If the city would give me the park I could combine it with my property and sell it for more than my property is currently worth. The city's tax revenues would then increase. A win-win! What a deal!

Don Schlessinger

Keep talking like that Mike and you will wind up on the City Council.

Don Schlessinger

Excellent column Bill.

Jarvis Buckley

I always enjoy Bills articles & comments. He is Galveston knowledgeable .

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