Improving islanders’ quality of life should begin with moving large events away from residents and businesses. Businesses and residents have asked council to relocate the disruptive parties away from the historic district for 10 years.
Businesses want to operate without any promoter placing fences around our businesses and out-of-town vendors in front of us. Contracts give promoters control over our businesses and absolute power to deny entry to whoever doesn’t pay them — including taxpaying residents.
Council members said it’s legal to write contracts to sell-out public streets to promoters anytime they want, but they can’t provide any state law supporting that. After reviewing state law, we learned cities cannot deny entry to public streets without written consent from businesses and residents.
We verified it’s considered illegal to charge taxpayers to enter public streets in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas without written consent. They place festivals in parks so they don’t disturb residents.
A city cannot give private promoters governmental powers to close public streets. Streets can only be closed by a government for repairs, emergencies and improvements.
The city has lost over $2.5 million over 10 years subsidizing the Mardi Gras contract. The city manager said the krewes should pay for parades because they pay for them in New Orleans. Staff said political influence on council members is why Galveston’s krewes aren’t charged properly.
It’s a fact that the city pays out more than what the promoter pays in. Promoters profits are kept secret. It’s untrue that the Mardi Gras promoter contract offsets costs. City records reveal the contract increases costs drastically.
Officials concede that moving events away from downtown residents is easier to maintain safety, financially smarter and better for residents. But promoters insist to take up the entire downtown. Council members place the interests of the promoters above the residents and businesses.
It’s untrue that charging people makes events safer, it’s a money grab. Videos of riots, countless fights and public lewdness prove it’s become unsafe and raunchy. If safety was truly the priority, the city would stop encouraging 80,000-plus people to pack downtown inside metal fencing.
Events are great for Galveston but blocking businesses from locals is illegal. Even if it were legal, it’s irresponsible for ethical council members to allow. Placing large rowdy events downtown paralyzes the quality of life to the extent that many residents leave town.
Anyone misappropriating public funds for an illegitimate contract is complicit. Continuing voidable contract terms is wrong, but the council is quickly moving forward to lock-in more disruptive contracts.
The contracts exempt promoters from ordinances and state laws that are enforced all year on local businesses. Any terms in a contract that violate taxpayers’ rights are invalid.
More importantly, the park board set legal precedent for written consent from business owners before closing streets for Mardi Gras in past years. They followed the law.
Council members have no explanation for why the city stopped it. At a minimum, the city should reimplement the lawful written consents and public hearings to comply with state law. However, moving large events away from downtown is the right thing to do for residents.