Judge Patricia Grady’s order Tuesday dismissing a lawsuit challenging many aspects of the island’s annual Mardi Gras celebration and, by extension, throwing into question other large festivals, didn’t solve any of the underlying problems or answer any of the questions that landed the matter in court in the first place.

That’s a shame, because those lingering problems and questions need to be cleared up; otherwise, the city, the Mardi Gras organizer and the krewes will be dragging them along behind the floats from now on.

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(8) comments

mark jones

The Strand historic area has preserved buildings and should be for families, not organizers. The Strand should remain free of entry fees and vendors as a new rule. Businesses should never have vendors in front of them. Parades are the heart and soul of Mardi Gras and they should continue in downtown and on the seawall. Outdoor music and vendors should be discontinued. Residents are the ones in limbo and should take precedent over organizers. The city should stop letting Dean or Flores takeover downtown with vendors and bands because that’s what attracts the problematic crowds. Using public funds to block the public from public streets should end.

Don Schlessinger

[thumbup][thumbup]

Joe Flores

The strand is an historic shopping district for all to enjoy , businesses have very few vendors in front of them , outdoor music should be volume controlled , most residentshave been ok with paid events and we all enjoymardi gras !! There are very few other business owners who share these grievances and most agree as is is fine . There are very few vendors placedin front of shops and been contolled over the years by the city and organizers and do not hamper downtown businesses .Many businesses have opted to sell beer over the years year round in the ALLOWED business climate of the historic beer areas of downtown . Agree that this question needs a final answer and allow business to continue as is ... Dickens , Artoctoberfest , small festivals and a much smaller downtown bike rally .... Have Mo' Bettah day ya'll !

Wayne Holt

Michael, thank you for pointing out the same issue I raised when Keri reported on the dismissal. This is nothing like a definitive resolution to the underlying issues and in fact is a disservice, by sidestepping them and providing nothing like clarity to this controversy. I certainly could understand a stay to allow this year's event to proceed without further uncertainty if the germane points of law could be argued soon after the event.

With every brushing aside by the city, or judicial technicality that allows this kind of hand waving and smokescreen, I become more and more firmly convinced the reason we haven't seen this tried on the statutes and case law is because the city would lose..and they know it. There simply is no reason to withhold providing the legal rationale to the public after many months of demands for it.

If that is the case and this has all been shuck and jive, the city will ultimately lose a lot more than just event revenue. They will have been shown to be complicit in subverting a legal system that they claim we all are subject to. To be honest, at this point that wouldn't surprise me, and I regret feeling that way. But when We The People who are supposed to be the sovereign in our system of government have to sue officials to force them to provide the law they are using as a shield, the time has come to rein in that attitude at the polls and with every opportunity that presents itself to reassert our primacy in self-governance.

Don Schlessinger

It's all about the "Benjamins," and makes me wonder who beside Mike Dean is making money off these events.

Allen Flores

I did everything I could to avoid a lawsuit and it’s not true that I’m trying to cancel Mardi Gras and stop parades from passing by my businesses downtown. That’s deliberate misinformation to sway public opinion and distract from the laws. I’m exposing a bad deal that interferes with free trade and the rights of taxpayers, the hotel industry and businesses located along the Strand Historic District. The promoter paid the city just $15K in 2011 and only $40K in 2012. In essence, the promoter paid their city obligation of $100K with just $13K; The city let the promoter use an $87K credit in sponsor dollars that were sent to the city. The city spent $405K in 2019, so it’s a sweet deal that taxpayers see few of the revenues. Even though it’s a public contract collected on public streets and funded with public money…the revenues are a secret. During Mardi Gras, the hotels are already full from hotel balls, beaches, the cruise industry, Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, the historic district, free seawall parades and Spring weather. To claim that rowdy crowds and teens fill hotel rooms is disingenuous.

I don’t have a personal beef with promoters, my beef is with the city contract that has normalized ignoring state laws . It’s ridiculous to claim that I’m out to hurt Dickens Festival, Artoberfest, and other family events. Letting private companies charge taxpayers, tourists and motorcycle riders to access to public streets is illegal. Placing vendors in front of local businesses is illegal. Why can’t we setup booths in front of our own businesses?

The city says it’s legal to write contracts that sell-out public streets to promoters anytime they want without written consent. The city claims that the promoter can legally force every taxpayer and tourist to pay them to access our businesses and public restrooms inside the paid area. The promoter confiscates everybody’s food and drinks and trashes it. What people don’t know about goes on and on.

For nine years many merchants have opposed the Lone Star Rally and paid concerts from being on The Strand. We all love Mardi Gras. The only element of Mardi Gras that we oppose is the contract for paid street-parties that create dangers and attract bad crowds. Also, there was never a sealed bid for the Mardi Gras contract that asked for the highest amount for a paid gate without written consent. Moreover, the remedy is not a better offer for the same mayhem, I did that in 2010 without a paid gate and it was ignored. The remedy is to relocate drinking events to one of Galveston’s many appropriate areas. There is nothing radical about that idea. The city has tried to lump-together the disorderly Mardi Gras crowds and motorcycle crowds with the family festival crowds to justify misusing The Strand Historic District. If you want the truth about fees making it safe, go to Youtube and search Mardi Gras Galveston Riots.

The Seawall parades cost $57K in tax dollars without a promoter, the downtown street-parties cost $348K with the paid concerts, teen raves and out-of-town vendors. Basic business principles to reduce costs have never been applied by the city manager. Seawall crowds disperse when the parades are over. The seawall plan is best for downtown. It would be safer and reduce costs.

It’s become routine for the city to pay the private expenses of promoters with public funds. When the promoters collect millions on the backs of taxpayers and the city loses $250K every year, it’s a bad deal. I question how city staff and the city’s legal department has let this proceed for so long. It’s untrue that the fee has made The Strand safer. If safety was the priority, the city would stop encouraging 60,000 people to pack the downtown inside metal fencing.

Wayne Holt

Pretty clear from the details written above what Mr Flores objects to. Is there anyone from the City who would like to take a crack at correcting the record, if indeed he has misunderstood the law? Bueller? Anyone?

Allen Flores

There is no truth to the claim that the promoter pays for city services. The city uses 100% taxes to pay for the promoter's city services. The Dickens Festival does pay for city services. In the Mardi Gras contract, it states that Yaga's can charge admissions to the public and retain 100% of the proceeds. Those collections have never been revealed although the promoter is subsidized with public funds and the admissions are collected on public streets in a city contract. There was not a sealed competitive process for anyone to bid on for the current Mardi Gras contract.

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