Residents hope city officials will spend next year balancing the needs of visitors with those of residents, attendees of Tuesday night’s State of the City event said.
City leaders gathered Tuesday at Galveston College for the city’s sixth annual formal address on the city’s planned projects.
“We’re constantly trying to improve,” City Manager Brian Maxwell said. “We’re constantly trying to turn this big ship around and make it what you want to be.”
The city has accomplished much since he was first elected into office in 2014, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.
“The state of the city is good and getting better,” Yarbrough said. “The last five years have been good.”
Resident Jeannie Grasso wants the city to focus on improving quality of life for the residents and solve traffic issues caused by Galveston’s booming tourist industry, she said.
“Whoever is promoting Galveston is doing a great job,” Grasso said. “However, I have issues with traffic when tourists are here. It’s dangerous.”
It’s a concern Billie Hoskins also raised Tuesday night at the event.
Hoskins, who teaches sociology at Galveston College, attends the State of the City every year, she said. She wants the city to manage traffic and maintain balance between residents and tourists, she said.
“Weekends are just busy,” Hoskins said.
Last year, Galveston attracted 7.2 million visitors. The city knows the heavy tourist traffic can be annoying and challenging for residents, Maxwell said.
“We don’t want to become Austin,” Maxwell said. “We want to grow smart.”
But Galveston needs its tourists and the money it brings to the island, he said.
“We can’t lose sight of the importance of the tourists,” Maxwell said. “We can’t get rid of the tourists.”
Galveston will continue to be a tourist town, but the island should plan better for the tourists it attracts, Yarbrough said.
“We have 7 million tourists,” Yarbrough said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have 5 million that spend like 7 million? It will take several years, many years to do that, but if you don’t start, you never get there.”
City leaders also addressed their focus on repairing and building new infrastructure.
“The 2020 budget has over $32 million in street projects in it,” Maxwell said. “When I first came to the city, our total streets budget was $100,000.”
The city also has a slew of projects slated to address drainage issues, Maxwell said.
This event marked Yarbrough’s final State of the City address as mayor.
“I have enjoyed being mayor for the last five years,” Yarbrough said. “You’ve got good people running the city.”
He’s proud of cleaning up city blight, bringing professionalism to the city’s operations and focusing on building infrastructure, Yarbrough said.
“You’ve let me serve this community a long time, almost 30 years in three different jobs,” Yarbrough said.
The city still has work ahead of it, and people should be open to changes coming to the city, Yarbrough said.
“This year’s going to be better,” Yarbrough said. “Things are not going to stay the same. We’ve got to be flexible. We’ve got to be diligent.”