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The Galveston
 Lobbying Team?

by David Stanowski
12 January 2009


Abstract:
Does Galveston have the Lobbying Team in place to get our fair share of federal assistance to recover from Hurricane Ike?

Lobbying:
"To try to influence the thinking of legislators or other public officials for or against a specific cause; 

To try to influence officials to take a desired action."


Item:
At the 12 November 2008 meeting of the Galveston County Mayors' and Council Members' Association there were some comments that things were dysfunctional in the southern part of the County (Galveston) during Hurricane Ike.

Dickinson City Council Member Kerry Neves, speaking as vice chair of the Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors, had other issues with the management of the City of Galveston.

"We have board representation for Galveston on that board of directors and it has been vacant for months and months and months," Neves said. "I have called and tried to get Galveston involved."

Neves said that he attempted to work with Galveston when the WorkSource Center was about to be closed.

"I called the city manager, I called the mayor and said let me do what I can to help you in any way," Neves said. "I never heard back from the mayor or the city administrator. When I called Jim Yarbrough and left the same message, he called me back in three minutes."

There were no representatives of the City of Galveston at the meeting, which is not unusual. In fact, Masters said that she had recently attempted to schedule a meeting of the organization in Galveston.

"I called Mayor Thomas and the lady, person, that you have to talk to," Masters said. "No one ever called me back."

Source: "Galveston County Mayors' and Council Members' Association Meeting"

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Item:
At the 07 January 2009 meeting of the House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike, when referring to assistance for UTMB, Rep. Craig Eiland said, "What bothers me is that the Regents have not been in there pounding on tables", referring to efforts to lobby state legislators. "Y’all are nowhere to be found."

But Kenneth Shine, interim chancellor for the University of Texas System, said it wasn’t fair to blame the Regents for the lack of funding.

Some responsibility should be given to legislators from the area and their constituents, who also need to lobby the Legislature, Shine said.

It sounds like Mr. Shine is saying that in addition to our State legislators, the City of Galveston needs its own lobbyists, for UTMB, AND other issues.

Source: Medical Branch Requests $335 Million in Ike Recovery

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Item:
The Houston-Galveston region would receive more than three-quarters of $1 billion in federal funds under a preliminary plan to help Texas recover from Hurricanes Ike and Dolly.

It calls for $814 million to be administered by the Houston-Galveston Area Council based on federal estimates that show the area sustained about 77 percent of the total damage.

Galveston's share of this $814 million will be "administered" by the Houston-Galveston Area Council; a voluntary association of local governments
in the 13-county Gulf Coast Planning region of Texas. Its service area covers 12,500 square miles and contains more than 5.7 million people. This is the same organization whose Vice Chair criticized the City of Galveston for its lack of participation; see above!

Source: Advocates for the Poor Challenge Plan for Storm Aid

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Item:
08 January 2009 Council meeting:
Galveston City Council, which has been criticized for failure to participate in meetings of the Houston-Galveston Area Council, has voted unanimously to appoint Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas to the H-GAC Board of Directors and to appoint Council Member Susan Fennewald as alternate member. 

Fennewald, who had previously been appointed to represent the city council at the H-GAC, but did not attend meetings, nominated Thomas for the position.

"This could involve funneling the big dollars down," Fennewald said. "I think the mayor has more stature in the general outside world."

"Susan promises to sit in oversight," Thomas said. "Everything that goes on in those meetings."

Council Member Karen Mahoney suggested that all council members might want to attend H-GAC meetings.

"It's open to the public," Thomas said. "It's one Friday or another every month."

The next meeting is Tuesday, January 20 at 10 a.m.

Source: Galveston City Council Meeting


Question:
Will Galveston's representatives to the Houston-Galveston Area Council have the required clout given the City's lack of previous participation?

Question:
Will Galveston's representatives to the HGAC have the necessary commitment to bringing home our fair share of the $814 million, given their lack of attendance in the past, and the fact that HGAC represents 13 counties, covering 12,500 square miles, with 5.7 million residents, who are all looking to it for money?

Question:
What do our most savvy local political experts think of this situation, and what do we need to do to improve it?





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