(17) comments Back to story

Jake Swanson

“...relocate all of the things that are making The Strand dangerous...” if you remove that fence line and entry fee, you’re going to have a far more dangerous Strand than you could possibly imagine. This isn’t New Orleans where it’s come and go has always been commonplace. Plus, Mardi Gras down there is just an exaggerated level of partying that happens every single night on Bourbon Street so you can cut out that “but they don’t have fences” argument. Be careful what you wish for...

mark jones

I've been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it's a party where people hop from street to street and bar to bar. In Galveston, drunken crowds are charged a fee and then caged in to stumble around from beer booth to beer booth. It makes no sense to continue the embarrassment that Mardi Gras has become. It's time to take back control of city streets from organizers. It's time to stop wasting taxes paying Yaga's expenses with tax dollars. This could happen every weekend. Watch what you wish for?

CJ Kirwer

[thumbup]

Wayne D Holt

Instead of spending nearly 20% of the event take to continue the legal wrangling, why doesn't the City just sit down with Mr. Flores, take out a copy of the relevant statutes and case cites and show him they have an airtight case? He is apparently a successful business person; I truly doubt he would toss money at this and continue the duel if it was clear the City's position is unassailable.

"The city declined to comment on ongoing litigation Wednesday." In truth, the City all along has declined to comment on the specific laws they say give them the authority to do what they're doing.

“We are very confident in the decision of Judge Patricia Grady to dismiss the suit that the city hasn’t done anything wrong or illegal,” Dean said. Unless I totally misunderstood that ruling, it didn't do anything of the kind. It ruled on the technicality of whether the City had immunity from suit, not whether the specific actions it has taken are wrong or illegal. As Michael Smith pointed out in his editorial comments just after that decision, it was an unsatisfactory response since it left the actual legality of the City's action unexamined and so the question unresolved.

Mike Dean

I have been told by my attorney, that if the city had violated any law or done anything it did not have the power to do as a home rule city, it would have lost the plea to jurisdiction and would have given Flores cause to continue the suit. The transcript of the trial is available to anyone who is willing to file an open records request. I encourage you to do so, so you may make a decision based on all the facts.

Wayne D Holt

Thank you for your response, Mr. Dean. You have actually provided the public more information about the City position than the City has in all the many months this has been festering.

Is your attorney correct? Just a casual search for Texas home rule laws offers this bit of information: " In Texas, a city with more than 5,000 people can choose to become a home rule city. The home rule city can take any actions which are not prohibited by the state or federal laws and the constitution of US and Texas. Home rule cities are not burdened by the limitations of Dillon’s rule which is a doctrine that says that a unit of local government may exercise only those powers that the state expressly grants to it."

I am certainly no attorney (or even play one on the internet) but I understood the distinction to be precisely as above: home rule cities can't ignore state law, they just don't have to follow the state prescriptions for how to organize a municipality as the state dictates. When you think about it, this makes total sense. If home rule protects all activities Galveston may want to engage in, why did they shut down the gambling dens and bordellos? Those had local boosters and compliant officials, too.

I think as this goes farther up the legal food chain we may see the decisions change as the state begins to recognize this could be a wedge issue for a lot of things the state is not prepared to let cities decide.

My take is that the economic impact argument has taken the field temporarily but the real battle is ahead.So far, the City has rolled out what appears to me to be a paper mache Goliath. Let's see how it does in real combat.

Wayne D Holt

I might add as an afterthought that taxpayers, local businesses and downtown residents should not have to "file an open records request" to see what is, in its essence, the justification for application of public law. This issue is one of community-wide concern; why is this document not posted on the City website as it certainly warrants?

Wayne D Holt

My apologies but I'm on a roll today. Mr. Dean, when you get a minute could you ask your attorney, now that we know that state restrictions don't seem to apply to home rule cities, if we can really make the cash registers sing and start selling beer and cigars to nine-year olds at these events? If not, could he venture a guess why that would be different?

Allen Flores

Maxwell explains this year, “100% of Mardi Gras funding includes police, public works and "GENERAL CITY EXPENSES" are paid with hotel occupancy taxes.” Texas Attorney General Abbott sent the city management a letter in 2011, “The expenditure of hotel occupancy taxes for GENERAL CITY EXPENSES is entirely inconsistent with the express prohibition of Texas Tax Code 351.101(b).” The facts prove that city council, on bad advice from the city manager, is misappropriating public funds every Mardi Gras to pay the promoter's expenses, against Texas Tax Code laws.

mark jones

This appears to be a $50,000 coverup of an ongoing scheme to use hotel taxes as a slush fund. Throwing good money after bad money is all this is. Enough public money has already been wasted, council should not fund another $50,000.

John Merritt

I appreciate the fact that business owners are suffering because the event distracts from their establishments, but this is about an entertainment district, not a normal public street, and different rules apply. Bear in mind that year-round, we can walk on the Strand sidewalks with a beer, and not break the law. And the rules that apply to Mardi Gras will also apply to Dickens, and any other future events. I have always hoped that Galveston would have an annual blues festival, and any new event would have to carry the "no closed streets and no fencing" rules. "

mark jones

Laws should not be broken for the Mardi Gras organizer in order to protect the Dickens Festival, I must disagree with your philosophy. The Dickens Festival is loved by all and businesses are in full support, including what I've read about Flores' support of Dickens. On the contrary, I'm disappointed that the Galveston Historical Foundation, the Park Board group, the Chamber of Commerce and the hotel groups do not help Flores oppose hurting permanent businesses in The Strand historic district during Mardi Gras. Turning the historic district into drunken chaos is an embarrassment for tourism and Galveston's historic district. The city council should be ashamed of their protection of cronyism over the interests of taxpayers and proper financial spending.

Allen Flores

Are you against the city getting the state required written consent from business owners and residents before placing vendors in front of them?

Allen Flores

There is no truth to Shark Shack ownership wanting Mardi Gras cancelled or parades stopped from passing in front of our businesses. The city manager sent untrue information to media outlets to purposely cause public fear and animosity toward us for exposing his unlawful contract. A contract that fences-in 60,000 intoxicated people is unsafe, illegal and has created $3.6 million in city losses since 2011. City records prove that the city never sought the highest bidder for Mardi Gras. City documents revealed that the city pays all city services for the promoter. Maxwell’s claims that city costs are offset by the promoter are untrue. City records prove city costs are increased by six times over Seawall costs where there is no promoter. Who will pay back the $3.6 million misappropriated public funds?

It’s nonsense to claim that the lawsuit was filed for personal reasons. There are thirty other businesses who signed a petition opposing being fenced-in and having vendors placed in front of them. The city manager has been unable to point to one law that can legally force every citizen to pay the promoter $22 to access public streets.

The promoter paid the city only $15,000 in 2011 and only $40,000 in 2012. After giving the promoter $87,000 in sponsor dollars in 2019, the promoter paid only $13,000 plus $1 from every $22 ticket. The city lost $256,000 in 2019 paying the promoter’s expenses according to city records.

It’s also not true that the fate of small festivals is at risk, there are many legal ways to continue family festivals for non-profits. Claiming that a $22 fee is a safety feature for the dangerous conditions that the promoter creates is a clever distortion of the truth. It’s a money grab on the backs of taxpayers. Google Galveston Mardi Gras Riots and view how safe the fee has made downtown. Private businesses are not protected by governmental immunity, governments are not protected by immunity when engaging in non-governmental functions of throwing adult-oriented and unsafe drinking parties with tax dollars. Efforts to stop the promoter from placing out-of-town vendors in front of our businesses is in no way an effort to cancel Mardi Gras or parades. The city should be more truthful with the public and stop misappropriating hotel taxes that rob funding from the convention and hotel industry.

Gary Miller

How can the city pay anything to promote a religious event? What happened to separation of church and state (city)?

CJ Kirwer

1- Been to Mardi Gras in 3 states and 4 countries.

2- Galveston is the only “Mardi Gras” that hires a promoter and still loses money

3- Galveston is the only “Pay to Play” Mardi Gras that “loses” money.

4- Galveston is the only “Mardi Gras” that has a fence.

5- Galveston is the only “Mardi Gras” that puts outdoor music stages in front of working with Carnival Krewes that work so hard throughout the year to bring Mardi Gras to the Island in the spirit of George Mitchell.

Wayne D Holt

Galveston residents and businesses should stop for a moment and take a long look at what is going on here. In a truly representative government, such concerted opposition to the way the City does business would warrant some soul searching and a desire to bring everyone together to work out an acceptable compromise.

Instead, the City is willing to spend a third of the entire take of Mardi Gras on legal fees to shove their position down the community's throat, like it or not.

What is going on here is endemic world wide: governments that claim to represent the people they are supposed to be serving while they use a sledge hammer to beat the population into submission to their own plans.

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