Park Board of Trustees meeting

Wayne Holt gives his opinion on Galveston’s weekly summer fireworks show during a Park Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. Over the summer, the city has a weekly fireworks display on Sunday nights from the 37th Street pier.

Unless they can show a profound and far-reaching economic benefit in continuing the practice, Galveston Park Board trustees should follow a staff recommendation to end a contract for five-minute seawall firework shows.

As they deliberate this decision, the trustees should consider that there’s more at issue than might immediately meet the eye.

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;


(30) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

I agree that you should always listen and try to accommodate residents and tourism, and reach a reasonable compromise.

But I’m confused. I see a picture and signatures of some people I thought lived downtown and in my district. Except for the HOT funds which some may believe has a better use, how do the fireworks impact residents out of the immediate adjacent area?

As a east end resident resident not directly impacted, I would suggest continuing the fireworks this year as it is budgeted while researching best location and the entire issue to reach a logical conclusion and recommendation based on facts.

Wayne Holt

Charlotte, the petition for this effort was started by two folks who live close to the 37th St. site, one whose front door is 1467 ft away. I joined in the effort as I agree with them, and Michael Smith, on the basic points made. I live downtown but that doesn't mean environmental pollutants in the Gulf, on the beach and into the food chain doesn't affect all of us.

We are trying very hard to take a cooperative and positive approach to any economic advantage to business, but there has to be a balance with neighbors, the community at large and with the environment. This point was made by several of the Park Board members, also. Please keep in mind there has been no data--none whatsoever--offered as statistical evidence to support the economic claims made. But even if we attribute 100% of Sunday short term rental upticks to firework, that still does not address the environmental issue of repetitive events; the issue of bombarding nearby neighborhoods with ordnance that terrifies pets and young children; that keep people awake who are trying to rest for the work week starting the next day or the issue of looking disingenuous in any claims made about Galveston eco-tourism. We plainly stated we support traditional firework dates like July 4th and New Year's Eve. We are talking about 14 Sundays in a row that this sonic and chemical assault occurs.

As I pointed out in my comments to the Board, if any one of us walked into a public facility here, lit just one cigarette and began shouting at the top of our lungs, we would be immediately asked to leave or face criminal trespass charges. Why is it different when the impact is felt across entire neighborhoods, our beaches, our water and air?

I have personally pledged to do everything I can to make not just Sunday nights but every night bigger and better for the tourism businesses that flourish here and, indeed, are our lifeblood. But it is my belief we are at a watershed in how we, as a community, think of the environment. With the outstanding tourist draws we have in nature, plus one-of-a-kind venues like Moody Gardens, let's press the advantage and build on what we have in abundance and make Galveston a leader in providing tourist attractions that are great for business, great for neighborhoods, great for the environment...and great for all the generations of Galvestonians who come after us.

Lisa Blair

I don’t think it’s good to measure the impact of this after just one season. Since it’s already budgeted continue on and then measure the outcome. Dogs that are afraid of fireworks are usually afraid of lighting and other loud noises. Owners have to use methods to reduce their stress. How long are these fireworks? 5 minutes.

Rusty Schroeder

Michael, when the Park Board shows you the receipts for the up kick in business from the fireworks shows can you ask another favor ? The percentage of Seawall parking tickets that go unpaid yearly. Good luck securing answers to either.

michaelsmith Staff
Michael A. Smith

Mr. Schroeder. I already had talked to a reporter about rounding up the information about unpaid parking tickets. I wanted to compare the collection rate on that to the 50 percent the city hopes to achieve on utility collection. We have reported parking numbers in the past. The city won't fight us on the numbers, I don't think, although it has fought us in the past about releasing the names of the people who haven't paid.

Rusty Schroeder

Thanks, I remember the city releasing numbers. But I thought the Parks Board was over Seawall parking and has not responded with those numbers. My reason being is this: If the % is low, which I think it is, they don't want the #'s published because then out of town visitors will know they can park for free and receive tickets without there being any fear of collection. Thanks for the response and good luck.

Brian Maxwell

Rusty, the city handles all enforcement of parking on the island. The Park Board manages the call center and supplies the tourism ambassadors on the Seawall. They issue no tickets and are not responsible for collections. The city has released, and the paper reported on our collections.

Rusty Schroeder

Brian refresh my memory, what is the percentage of unpaid parking tickets along the Seawall in the last few years? I really am interested in knowing.

Cliff Hall

I wonder how many different residents actually complained or is this a case of the few being very vocal. I would imagine very few that favor the continuation of the fireworks display would take time to show up for a meeting. Continue for the 2019 season. Conduct a mail in survey. Also change display location on rotating basis so any burden is not the exclusive burden of a relatively small fraction of population.

Charlotte O'rourke

Wayne, thanks for responding.

As residents in a tourist town everything impacts everyone, but some less than others due to location of events.

I want the Park Board to really asses the issue. Your response is primarily focusing on pollution. If fireworks are polluting our environment and poisoning us, why allow fireworks at all - on holidays, in this location, and every weekend at Moody Gardens?

If noise is an issue with residents in the area, and I have no doubt there may be issues for some people and pets, is a different location better?

What is the true financial impact and what is the best use of these HOT funds? I don’t know the answer and haven’t seen the necessary facts to make a logical decision, but as a resident I don’t won’t knee jerk reactions, but true analysis and decision making for the best use of HOT funds.

Wayne Holt

Just to get this conversation started is important, and we're pleased that the Board took the issue seriously enough to devote considerable time and attention to it. Charlotte, you may not know this but the Board took your advice about knee jerk reactions: that's why they wisely decided to delay the final vote. They want to get this decision right and felt that more information from the staff on several points was the appropriate action at this time. We agree with them.

Re banning fireworks entirely: We don't want the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Quantitatively, eliminating the air, beach and water pollution from 14 displays each summer would be a very big step in the right direction, at least from my perspective. It would also retain the traditional holiday displays in deference to those special days. Would July 4th and New Year's Eve pollute the environment? Yes. Would it be significantly less than those dates plus 14 more? Yes.

There is a bigger question here: bigger than fireworks' annoyance, bigger than even the environment in some ways. It's how do we come together in society to reach some kind of consensus about the balance of the economy, the environment and our personal well being? No matter individual political persuasion, we can see the inability to dialog in a way that tries to understand, and accommodate as possible, others' perspectives is tearing this country apart.

I'm starting from a point that we, and business, can totally agree on: that a strong tourist presence is going to enrich the island economically. we get there is going to be the test of our maturity and inclusiveness in balancing it with other elements that deserve consideration, too.

Charlotte O'rourke

Sorry .... don’t want knee jerk reactions.

Charlotte O'rourke

Wayne, discussion and compromise are always good. And it’s important to understand reasons for complaints, the actual number of complaints (unclear as the petition address and residence status were not required) and what might minimize or alleviate those complaints.

The difficulty with a one month postponement is the lack of relevant data and a total ban of the 14 firework events before gathering the data .... I would suggest a decrease and/or rotation to be able to evaluate the actual impact of the fireworks.

The Park Board should continue the event for another year and actually asses the data.

In my opinion, it is unfair to restrict the Park Board from using fireworks once a week during the summer from ANY location but allow other businesses like Moody Gardens - which you praised - to use fireworks to promote tourism every Friday and Saturday night throughout the summer with no mention of potential pollution.

Thanks for the discussion. I will watch for the issue as it progresses through the PB process.

Wayne Holt

Charlotte, thank you for your input and I do believe that people of goodwill can come together on this and figure out how to make more tourism dollars and still lessen the impact on the environment. We'll all be looking for the additional information from the staff. My understanding is that they are not trying to measure any economic gain just in one month but are using the time to go over what information they have already for more insight, while bringing forward facts about other options like location change, low impact fireworks, a different frequency of events, etc.

Regarding Moody Gardens: We would love for them to step up and say that they have reviewed their fireworks use and will have fewer dates or eliminate them entirely. That would be a huge boost to Galveston's image and right in line with their eco-friendly reputation.

But we should keep in mind 1) MG is paying for that display with their own money. The events we are discussing use public funds--yes I know, tourist dollars--but ours as a public entity so residents do have a dog in this hunt financially. Also, MG has spent a huge amount of time and money developing an attraction that is primarily one of eco-tourist significance and all of Galveston benefits from it. Do I wish they would rethink their fireworks policy, of course. Am I going to ignore what they have already done to promote environmental tourism? Not a chance.

George Croix

Wayne, are you really using pollution as an anti-fireworks point, or am I misreading again?

Paula Flinn

I enjoy the fireworks from my front porch for 5 minutes every Sunday evening. It reminds me of Galveston in the 50’s when I was young and we had fireworks on 37th Street jetty. I remember sitting out there with my mother eating chocolate ice cream cones. Such a nice tradition for families. My mother lived to 98 years old, my grandlmother to 99. I hardly think that being on the Seawall during a fireworks display is dangerous to your health! Plastic in the oceans and oil spills are more dangerous to the fish and mammals in the ocean than fireworks.m

Carlos Ponce

"It reminds me of Galveston in the 50’s when I was young and we had fireworks on 37th Street jetty."
Funny that the Galvestonians in the 1950s were not bothered by fireworks' noise pollution, air pollution, litter, frightened pets, disturbed children and interrupting the Sunday quiet.
Has the population increased? No, it's gone down since the high point of just under 68,000 in the fifties to just over 49,000 in 2014.
Must be the recent cold snap. I sense a lot of "snowflakes" in the City of Galveston.[wink]

Wayne Holt

Carlos, I have read your many comments over the years and have always pegged you as a logic guy. This seems nothing like your work. We used to break thermometers and roll mercury around in our hands; also ran behind mosquito fogging trucks as long as we could, breathing in the pesticides. The fact that we "did it in the 50s" is really irrelevant to whether it should have been something to consider then, even less relevant now.

Re "snowflakes." I am very familiar with the term. I guarantee you, I was the only person in the Park Board room with a Gadsden Flag license plate on his car. I believe you can be an individualist without encroaching on others' rights to peaceful enjoyment of the water, soil and air. "Don't tread on me" doesn't give me the right to tread on you. Can we agree?

Paula Flinn

It’s people like you that get all bent out of shape over other people’s enjoyment! It’s 5 minutes at 9pm on a few Sunday nights! Find something else to protest that harms the environment like fracking which destroys the water table and causes many earthquakes in OK. Put your dog inside for 5 minutes when the fireworks are popping! Back in the early 50’s our windows were open because we did not have air conditioning. No one complained. If you owned horses, I would think you have a right to complain. As far as I know, one cannot own horses in the middle of Galveston. If I can put up with noisy motorcycles for a week at all hours of the night, you can put up with 5 minutes of fireworks once a week. We are a tourist town. We residents see the value in entertaining the tourists. Your argument is “Much ado about nothing.” JMHO

Carlos Ponce

I bet Wayne Holt even drank water from a water hose in the fifties.
Enjoy the fireworks! I do!

Ron Binkley

Well said Paula......Let the fireworks continue!!

Jarvis Buckley

Paula , I agree with you as long as it is 5 minutes then stop. Continuing for hrs kills pets due to pancreatic stress.
I'm sure no one would support that.

Wayne Holt

@Paula Flinn: I would prefer not to get into a tit for tat exchange but it seems to me we have to at least begin with reason and logic if we are going to have a productive conversation about this or any other topic.

"It’s people like you that get all bent out of shape over other people’s enjoyment! "People do all sorts of things in private that they enjoy that I don't approve of...but it's none of my business. When your enjoyment requires the common air, water and soil that we all share it is no long about just your enjoyment.

"It’s 5 minutes at 9pm on a few Sunday nights! Find something else to protest that harms the environment like fracking which destroys the water table and causes many earthquakes in OK."
It's 14 Sundays in a row, weather permitting. If I stood outside your home every Sunday night for 14 weeks blowing an airhorn at you and running a smoke machine would it be something you would smile and approve of? As far as protesting, I have recycled since the late 1970s, drive a hybrid that puts out water vapor and regularly write to my representatives in government about a host of issues that concern environmental health. I'm not a one-issue fireworks hater by any means.

"Put your dog inside for 5 minutes when the fireworks are popping! Back in the early 50’s our windows were open because we did not have air conditioning. No one complained."
This is bereft of logic, I'm afraid. No one complained when you were stuck in a plane with a chain smoker in the seat next to you, either. No one complained when companies dumped toxic and flammable waste into our rivers and water supply. No one complained about civil rights issues. No one complained about a lot of things that needed to be changed in the 50s...until someone complained.

"If you owned horses, I would think you have a right to complain. As far as I know, one cannot own horses in the middle of Galveston."
Actually, no. My "right" to complain is not contingent on whether I own horses. Redress of grievances does not require some level of animal husbandry experience.

"If I can put up with noisy motorcycles for a week at all hours of the night, you can put up with 5 minutes of fireworks once a week."
May I ask: Why are you putting up with noisy motorcycles at all hours of the night during Lone Star Rally? Have you made your displeasure known to your local representatives? We have noise ordinances that we are expected to abide by. Do they apply to everyone or only to residents?

"We are a tourist town. We residents see the value in entertaining the tourists. Your argument is “Much ado about nothing.”
"We are a tourist town." So far, so good. "We residents see the value in entertaining the tourists." I'm with you 100% with this. "Your argument is “Much ado about nothing.”" No, I'm afraid that just isn't so. It's really about whether a community and its year-round residents have a meaningful say in how those tourist dollars are earned, or if we are just the furniture that gets shuffled around depending on how tourists demand we move.

I've heard the phrase "putting heads in beds" a lot lately. I live on Postoffice St. At one time not that long ago, the easiest thing in the world was putting heads in beds on Postoffice. Of course, they were there only for 30 minutes but the turnover was great. We abolished that practice as no longer conducive to the civic ideal that we held in common, even though some objected. Change WILL happen, that is a given. Hopefully the change will be toward a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous and inclusive future. But however it is shaped, we all have a right to shape that future. Not just the businesses. Not just the environmentalists. Not just those who love fireworks or those who love the silence of a cloistered monastery. Everyone. I'm part of that and so are you. Let's keep the lines of communication open as much as possible.

Carlos Ponce

Comfort Zone Calming Vest for Dogs
Stress from Loud Noises
Stress from Thunder
Stress from Fireworks

Wayne Holt

Do they make them in human adult sizes for those folks who stress over a potential lack of fireworks? If so, put me down for a pallet's worth. I have some deliveries to make!

Carlos Ponce

Not as advertised, Wayne. Just
Stress from Loud Noises
Stress from Thunder
Stress from Fireworks

Wayne Holt

@Carlos: From the Comfort Zone Calming Vest website you posted the link to...

"We love celebrating the Fourth of July, but the dog is scared of fireworks. He freaks out and I don't know what to do. Help!"

Summertime often means fireworks, and that's a popular time for dog owners to seek help with their pet's sensitivity to loud noises.

"Does my dog fear fireworks?"
If your dog is having trouble coping with loud noises like fireworks, he'll often display the following behaviors:

Trembling and shaking
Clinging to owners
Barking excessively
Cowering or hiding behind furniture
Trying to run away
Soiling the house
Pacing and panting
Refusing to eat

(MY COMMENT: Has someone tried telling him we didn't bark during fireworks in the 50s?)

"What can I do to help my dog when he hears fireworks?"

Be prepared. A few days before you know there will be a fireworks display in your town, set up a comfortable hiding place where your dog can feel safe.
Wrap your dog in a Comfort Zone Calming Vest a few hours before you think fireworks will start. The vest produces a swaddling-like effect by offering your dog constant, gentle pressure to relieve stress.
Dogs often pick up on their owner’s stress, so if possible, try to ignore his fearful behavior.
Try to refrain from comforting your dog too much as this may increase his stress behavior by rewarding and encouraging the behavior.
Make sure all doors are closed and pet doors are secure. You don't want him running away out of fear.
Provide distractions like favorite toys or a new chewy bone while the fireworks are occurring.
Try not to leave your pets alone during the fireworks. They'll be more relaxed when they have a familiar person with them during this time.
Above all, do not punish your dog for firework-related "bad" behaviors. He can't help it, and punishing him will only make him more stressed and fearful.

(MY COMMENT: So in using this handy little "calming vest", all you have to do is: remake your home layout with a safe room for your pet; swaddle him like an Egyptian pharaoh on his way to the afterlife; take your Valium so you won't notice his panic; don't comfort your pet because we all know crisis hot lines just encourage suicide; hermetically seal your home; buy him another consumer item to distract him; constantly stay by his side but for gosh sakes, DON'T comfort him--see previous advice; and when he loses control of his bodily functions and you have to drag out the mop and bucket again for cleanup duties, just stoically do your duty for God, country and heads in beds. Looks like they just printed up the warning label and made it into a calming vest as an afterthought.)

Paula Flinn

I am truly sorry that there are a few people who have bought homes, or have rented apartments less than 1,500 feet away from the 37th Street pier. They probably have dogs, too, which is their choice. They must have really big problems on New Years Eve and the Fourth of July. Hope they leave town for the evening and take their dogs with them. It is their choice to live there and their choice to own dogs.
If the Park Board decides to cancel the 5min. of Sunday night fireworks in the summer, it won’t bother me that much. I am a resident, and I love Galveston whether they have fireworks or not. You, though, are supporting a cause where a small minority are trying to change things for everyone. You, Wayne, sound ridiculously obsessed with the issue, so I am not going to argue with you. Anyone who takes my thoughts apart and tries to “shoot down” my facts and opinions, which I have a right to, is protesting too much. Living downtown, you admit that, “you don’t have a dog in this fight,” (pun intended) so it seems strange that you seem so obsessed with lthe issue. It’s not worth arguing over. My facts and opinions have not changed, and neither will yours.
My point is: We residents all give up a little comfort living in a tourist town. Some of us COMPLAIN, and some of us ADJUST. You belong to the former group, I belong to the latter.
BYW, Is there still loud music 🎶 at night coming from the bars downtown? There used to be many complaints about that!

Carlos Ponce

Wayne posts: "Dogs often pick up on their owner’s stress"
So stop stressing in front of your dog. Take a chill pill.[beam]

ruth ann ruiz

ouch no please don't cancel the fireworks!!! I am a resident and I had thought they were for the residents---the Sunday evening fireworks can be seen and enjoyed by everyone---I love them!!!!!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.