Many have asked why we oppose Mardi Gras. There’s no truth to Shark Shack ownership wanting Mardi Gras canceled or parades stopped from passing in front of our businesses.

The city sent misinformation to media outlets, purposely causing public fear and animosity toward us for exposing their unlawful contract. The city never sought the highest bidder, and the krewes deserve credit for parades — not the promoter.

City records revealed the city pays all city services for the promoter. City costs are not offset, they’re increased by the promoter. The promoter increases city costs by six times over seawall costs where there’s no promoter.

It’s nonsense to claim that the lawsuit was filed for personal reasons. There are 30 other businesses who signed a petition opposing being fenced in and having vendors placed in front of them. Being held hostage to an illegal contract for 10 years is a business conflict, not a personal conflict.

Texas Tax Code 351.101(b) prohibits city spending of $348,000 in hotel taxes to pay the expenses of a well-connected promoter. It’s illegal for a promoter to deny a family of five access to local businesses unless they pay them $110 during Mardi Gras. According to Texas Transportation Code 316.021, the promoter cannot interfere with public access, charge a fee or create the unsafe conditions that occur every Mardi Gras.

According to Business and Commerce Code 15.05 a, b and c, the city cannot issue a contract that restrains free trade or creates a monopoly for one private business. Texas Constitution, Article 11, Sec. 5, states a city ordinance cannot override state laws. The Texas Constitution sections 17 and 26 disallow a private business from controlling city streets or other businesses without their written consent.

City leaders have argued the promoter takes on big risks to help the city pay for Mardi Gras. That’s more misinformation. The city gave the promoter $87,000 in sponsor dollars in 2019 to pay their $100,000 obligation; therefore, the promoter only paid $13,000. The promoter admitted to making over $1 million from fees in 2019 while the city lost $250,000 and negotiated just $1 out of the $22 fee. These facts reveal that there’s no risk. The promoter paid the city only $15,000 in 2011 and only $40,000 in 2012. The promoter made enough in the first two years of the contract to eliminate all future financial risks.

It’s also not true the fate of small festivals is at risk; there are many legal ways to continue family festivals for nonprofits. 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. What other city manager would allow this?

Spending hotel tax in 2020 would be a blatant misappropriation. Fencing in 60,000 intoxicated people is an expensive and unsafe business model. Efforts to rethink a quality and legal Mardi Gras is in no way an effort to cancel Mardi Gras.

Allen Flores is a resident and business owner in Galveston.

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(4) comments

mark jones

The city pays for Mike Dean’s party while city officials cover it and mislead the public saying otherwise. Horrible. The motorcycle rally and Dean should no longer be allowed to takeover the family historic district with their obscene parties that make family businesses close. Charging taxpayers as a private business and putting up popup vendors in front of permanent businesses is unsuitable on The Strand. Those two oversized events should be moved away from residents and family businesses.

Rudolph Garza

Someone needs to force an audit of the Hotel Occupancy Tax. If that were to occur I promise that heads would roll. The use of HOT is as clear as a sunny day in Galveston. HOT revenues must “directly” promote tourism AND the convention and hotel industry. Using any portion for normally city service such as policing, is 100% illegal. The AG has ruled time and time again that there is no flexibility in the use of HOT revenue. A simple referral of this particular, and might I ad political hot potato issue concerning Mardi Gras, to the Texas Attorney General would clear all this up. But it's not looking good for anyone in the City of Galveston that gave the okay to use the HOT revenue for Mardi Gras.

Rudy Garza, Former Park Board Member and Former Chair of Mardi Gras

Wayne D Holt

I find it ironic that a non-attorney who owns businesses on the Strand can quote chapter and verse about why he believes his position is supported by Texas law and yet we have not seen anything like a rejoinder from the City's legal team that I am aware of. Doesn't that seem to be an odd contrast?

I have heard Mr. Maxwell claim that he has the authority to engage contracts like this with Council approval, but that is not any sort of transparent legal justification offered to the taxpayers who are paying for the spectacle. Now with litigation that could take months or even years to conclude, the City likely will continue to wrap itself in the cloak of invisibility by claiming they don't comment on pending litigation.

Exactly WHEN will the city comment on laws they claim authority from? Should it take a suit to find out what laws we are living under? Something is seriously wrong if that is the case and I applaud Mr. Flores for making the attempt to shake loose an answer that will stand up to close scrutiny.

I continue to believe this issue, while contentious, could be resolved in a way that allowed most of Galveston's events to be revisioned positively for local businesses, downtown residents, charitable and service organizations and the image of Galveston overall. But it can't begin to do that if the City is playing fast and loose with state law.

CJ Kirwer

What’s unfortunate is residents and employees of businesses of the downtown entertainment district weren’t included in the petition. I live “inside the fence”. That means I cannot: have:

Friends or relatives to my home unless they pay for entry.

Can I bring a “to-go” from a restaurant outside the fence home? Nope.

Can I bring my bicycle through the gate? Nope.

What I’m getting at in this post is pretty simple. Having been to Mardi Gras in 3 states and 4 countries Galveston is focused on out door concerts as opposed to supporting the Krewes that are the heart and soul of Mardi Gras anywhere but Galveston. That costs a lot of money.

As such Galveston is the only Mardi Gras I’ve ever been to that hires a promoter, intends to lose money, and completely loses track of what Mardi Gras is.

How about the city and park board support the Krewes that put in year long efforts to bring parades to the island as opposed to outdoor concerts that exist nowhere in any other Mardi Gras I’ve been to. Sure Anguilla has a “Jump Up” AFTER the parades.. but it’s still free to all. (Privately funded)

If y’all want to turn Mardi Gras into a three stage event call it what it is and leave the term “Mardi Gras” out of it.

Again- support the KREWES!

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