The world as we know it has been upended over the past three months. Social conventions that would have been inconceivable on New Year’s Day are now accepted as the new normal.
The mayor and city council have made it exceedingly clear over these past months that public safety was their single greatest concern and that a surfeit of caution would be their standard for the foreseeable future.
With that in mind, it’s astonishing that these same officials haven’t already publicly announced the cancellation of the Lone Star Motorcycle Rally set for November. In fact, if you go to the rally website at lonestarrally.com, you would be excused if you thought you were looking at the 2019 promotion.
Not one mention of the COVID-19 virus, no guidance regarding social distancing and a decidedly strong encouragement to come on down and mix with hundreds of thousands of other bikers from around the country. This is surreal.
A city government that has been comfortable in locking down an entire community beyond state and county health guidelines and continues to consider 100,000 visitors — many of them families — enjoying miles of beaches as a threat, somehow manages not to notice the problem with dumping over 350,000 usually unruly bikers into the confined heart of downtown Galveston a few short months from now.
A local economy of small and medium businesses that was completely shut down and is limping badly can look forward to an invasion of itinerant merchants setting up shop in front of the very businesses that were asked to make these extraordinary sacrifices.
How is this supportive of public health, local economic recovery or basic fairness to the residents and businesses that will face this tidal wave of visitors? It’s clear allowing the rally would be none of those things.
The city cannot have it both ways on this issue. It cannot speak out of one side of its mouth and say the very unknown nature of the virus spread forces emergency conditions with no clear end in sight at the same time it displays no concern for a mass of bikers descending on us from around the country that will see tens of thousands shoulder to shoulder on our streets.
It’s beyond illogical; it’s plainly hypocritical and opportunistic, with public safety not even getting a nod.
I call on Mayor Jim Yarbrough and city council to direct Brian Maxwell as city manager to immediately invoke paragraph 24 of Galveston’s current contract with the rally. This is a unilateral declaration of public safety threat that allows the city to cancel the contract with no penalty to us and no recourse by the rally.
Failure to put Galveston’s public safety first for the Lone Star Rally will make a mockery of those residents and businesses who have lost so much when these same officials claimed it was an absolutely necessary sacrifice.