Can the next city council end the long-standing practice of operating our city government for the benefit of city employees and well-connected insiders and start running it for the benefit of residents and business owners?

The council pays the city manager and his top lieutenants six-figure salaries, as well as giving them generous pension plans, medical insurance coverage and other perks; compensation packages that are unavailable to most people who live here, since our median household income is only $43,471, making top city managers some of the most affluent people on the island.

Last year, the city had 841 employees including 520 civilian bureaucrats. The total compensation package for the 520 bureaucrats cost approximately $29 million; an enormous financial burden on taxpayers.

Ignoring the meager incomes of most residents, city council has been conducting surveys of compensation levels in “selected” cities to justify increasing compensation to what they believe is “necessary” to keep city employees happy, so they don’t seek employment elsewhere. No thought was given to how much the residents of this city can “afford” to pay city employees, only what they “need” to pay to keep them happy.

In contrast, city council saw no need to survey residents and business owners to see what it needs to do to keep them happy. How much does the city need to lower taxes and regulations to keep them from leaving the island?

How many mangled streets, missing sidewalks, broken water mains, flooded streets, inoperable fire hydrants and unreliable water meters will residents and business owners tolerate before they leave? Clearly, the city’s priority is compensation — not infrastructure.

It’s time for the city to start privatizing and cut spending rather than constantly raising taxes and borrowing money. More should be spent on infrastructure and less on compensation.

Galveston is a wonderful city with many qualities and attributes found in few other places, which is why millions of people choose to visit each year. But people are much more selective in choosing a place to live, so when the population doesn’t grow, it means that many people see drawbacks to living on the island; many of which are created by city government. Business Insider just published a list of the “most miserable cites in America.” Unfortunately, Galveston scored in the top 10 percent. This supports the city’s inclusion in “Voices From Forgotten Cities” by MIT.

Council still doesn’t realize how difficult it is for many people and businesses to “survive” in this city.

For city council and mayoral candidates to truly be committed to running the city for the benefit of the residents and business owners, they must be willing to: reduce the burden of taxes and regulations currently piled on them by city hall, properly maintain the infrastructure and provide high-quality services. City government should make it easy and inexpensive for residents to maintain and upgrade their homes and neighborhoods and assist people in starting new businesses and expanding existing businesses instead of constantly creating new obstacles to do business.

David Stanowski lives in Galveston.

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(5) comments

Lisa Blair

I guess Mr. Stanowski’s been under a rock since he gave up his nasty fight against public housing. The city is more focused on resident’s and businesses quality of life than ever. Neglecting infrastructure? The entire city is under construction with projects for drainage, streetlights, bike lanes, and the list goes on. The same comparative analysis used for administration pay was used for the recent increases for police pay. No one surveyed citizens regarding what we could “afford” to pay our police either, because it doesn’t work that way. Public safety is essential, as is competent professional city management. “Paying enough to keep them from leaving” is the same standard the police union used for their pay increase. Mr. Stanowski’s needs to clean his glasses and look around. Galveston is better than ever..

Don Schlessinger

Have you traveled Avenues S or P recently?

Bailey Jones

Hmmm... I was curious to see the source materials for Mr. Stanowski's claims. When I googled "business insider most miserable cities" and got the most recent list of "50 most miserable cities" (September 28th, 2019), Galveston isn't on it. (Although Port Arthur - at #2, Huntsville - at #20 and Pasadena - at #48 are.) A deeper dive maybe? In the source material - a ranking of 1002 cities based on population decline, employment, income, percent uninsured, commute time and poverty rate - I find Galveston at #104, not quite in the worst 10%.

I'm the eternal optimist, so who does Galveston beat in this survey? Memphis, Baton Rouge, Philadelphia, Mobile...

We know Galveston has her problems. I'm not sure how paying market rates for city services can be blamed for those problems, but whatever.

Allen Flores

The city's non-family version of tourism undermines the park board's efforts to change Galveston's drinking-party image. Mr. Stanowski mentions well-connected insiders that burden businesses and residents. Until Mr. Maxwell stops issuing contracts to well-connected insiders, businesses and residents will be overrun. Motorcycle cruising events and Mardi Gras concert crowds are out-of-control on The Strand. It's time for a change.

Charlotte O'rourke

I think the city has been on a positive trend with the current management and council, and improvements throughout the city; but because of years of deferred maintenance and lack of capital improvements Galveston has a long way to go.

I always thought one of the problems was a 2 year term of office where elected officials are always campaigning for office instead of governing with the goal of making the best decisions for their city’s long term financial, and residential health

Changing to 3 year terms was defeated at the polls. One would think that since council is is a nonpaying job, this wouldn’t be a problem. But it has been in the past.

Does anyone have a different proposal besides longer terms to discourage governance and decisions based on future electability?

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