Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the
City of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan
Report for the City of Galveston Comprehensive Planning Committee
Prepared by the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities
University of Texas Medical Branch
Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the
City of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan
Report for the City of Galveston Comprehensive Planning Committee
Prepared by the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities
University of Texas Medical Branch
Christen Miller, Research Fellow, Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, UTMB Health
Vanessa Byrd, Program Coordinator, Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, UTMB
Lexi Nolen, Director, Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, UTMB Health
Rebecca Hester, Assistant Professor, Institute for the Medical Humanities, UTMB Health
Sayali Tarlekar, Research Associate, Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, UTMB Health
John Prochaska, Program Manager, Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, UTMB Health
Miller, C., Byrd, V.M., Nolen, L., Hester, R., Tarlekar, S. & Prochaska, J. (2011).
“Envisioning Galveston: Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the City of
Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan,” Center to Eliminate Health Disparities at the
University of Texas Medical Branch: Galveston, Texas.
Special thanks to Michael Jackson of St Vincent’s House, Ted Hanley of the Jesse Tree,
Housing Commissioner Teresa Banuelos, and residents and employees of Gulf Breeze,
Landry’s, UTMB Health, Sandpiper Cove, Moody Methodist Church, and Galveston
Housing Authority for their participation in the project.
Portions of this project have been funded by the National Institutes of Health National
Center for Minority Health Disparities (grant # 5 RC2 MD004783 02); the SSBG Health
Collaborative through the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the
Houston-Galveston Area Council; and UTMB Health.
The views of residents reflected in this document do not necessarily reflect those of the
Center to Eliminate Health Disparities, UTMB Health, or the funders of this study.
Envisioning Galveston.................................................................................................................................................... 3
Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the City of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan ....................... 3
City of Galveston Pledge ................................................................................................................................................ 1
City of Galveston Draft Vision for Galveston ................................................................................................................. 1
Envisioning Galveston..................................................................................................................................................... i
Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the City of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan ........................ i
Executive Summary ........................................................................................................................................................ i
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................... 1
Residents’ Vision for a Future Galveston ...................................................................................................................... 3
Q1: What do you value about Galveston? ................................................................................................................ 4
Q2: What is it like for you to live in Galveston? ........................................................................................................ 9
Q3: What changes would you most like to see? ..................................................................................................... 14
Q4: What are your hopes and dreams for Galveston in 30 years? ......................................................................... 22
Resident Feedback on the Galveston Draft Comprehensive Plan ............................................................................... 25
Housing and Neighborhoods Element .................................................................................................................... 25
Economic Development Element ............................................................................................................................ 28
Community Character Element ............................................................................................................................... 32
Land Use Element ................................................................................................................................................... 35
Historic Preservation Element ................................................................................................................................ 36
Natural Resources Element ..................................................................................................................................... 36
Disaster Planning Element ...................................................................................................................................... 37
Transportation Element .......................................................................................................................................... 40
Infrastructure Element ............................................................................................................................................ 42
Human Element ...................................................................................................................................................... 42
Top Priorities ............................................................................................................................................................... 51
Conclusions .................................................................................................................................................................. 54
City of Galveston Pledge
Available at http://www.cityofgalveston.org/
“As a Citizen of Galveston, I believe we can make this city one great place to live.
I believe this can occur because we bring to the table our rich traditions and cultural
I believe people of all these traditions and cultural heritage have to respect one another.
I believe that if we understand and accept our differences, we will realize every person has
worth as an individual.
I believe that if I cannot accept individual differences, be they racial, religious, cultural or
sexual orientation, then I become part of the problem.
Therefore, from this day on, I pledge that I will accept each Galvestonian's individual
differences and encourage my family and friends to do likewise.
For I understand that together, we are all one in the human race.”
City of Galveston Draft Vision for Galveston
Available at http://progressgalveston.com
Galveston is a livable city on a sustainable island, a community that demands excellence.
We want Galveston to have a range of educational and economic opportunities that can
support generation after generation of Galvestonians.
We want Galveston to be a city where people who work here want to live here.
We want Galveston citizens to have the opportunity to participate fully in shaping our
community, its character, its economy, and its governance.
We want Galveston to be an accessible city in the broadest sense of the term…physically,
politically, socially, and economically.
We want all residents to be able to live in good quality and affordable homes in clean, safe
neighborhoods of their choices.
We want all our residents and visitors to enjoy cultural, educational, and recreational
We want to increase our resilience to natural hazards by reducing vulnerabilities as well as
planning our response.
As the built infrastructure of our city expands, we must be mindful of preserving our historic
resources, protecting important ecosystems, creating a diversity of neighborhoods, and
sustaining cultural amenities that attract residents and visitors to the Island.
Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the
City of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan
The City of Galveston is currently engaged in strategic planning for the future. To support
this process, and at the request of the City, the Center to Eliminate Health Disparities at
UTMB Health conducted a visioning process and a guided solicitation of input into the City
of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan from low- and low-middle income residents. By
comparing the visions, goals, and priority actions of the Draft Plan with those of focus group
participants, several new priorities emerged, and many existing priorities were reinforced.
The report includes a detailed analysis of the results from the visioning process, answering
the four key questions:
What do you value about Galveston?
What is it like for you to live in Galveston?
What about Galveston would you like to see change? and
What are your hopes and dreams for Galveston?
The report also includes a synthesis of residents’ feedback on specific sections of the City of
Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan.1 Key findings of the report include:
Residents found a lot of value in Galveston, including the amenities of living in a
small town, friendly atmosphere, the beaches, easy access to necessities and
Galveston’s unique and rich history.
Hurricane Ike left residents fearful and anxious about the future.
Decisions post-Ike left some residents feeling anger, pain, and a sense that the city
does not want them to live in Galveston or value them as residents.
The Draft Plan can be found at http://www.progressgalveston.com.
There are many challenges to living in Galveston, including difficulty finding good-
paying jobs, high cost of living, need for better education for children, a lack of
leisure time activities, and police harassment.
Residents have not felt empowered in relation to planning and decision making
during the recovery process; however, they shared specific changes that they wanted
for the city. Among the changes were improving the education system, supporting
more youth-oriented and community activities, creating more and better job
opportunities, providing more affordable housing options, and improving
They also want to see more activities for seniors; support for small business such as
loans and vocational training to increase the likelihood that residents are able to live
and work on the island; and support for ex-offenders, homeless, and veterans, to
better re-integrate them into the workforce and the community.
Hotly debated topics included gambling and the parking meters along the Seawall.
In the end, residents are hopeful, and expressed many strong opinions about what
would make Galveston a better place in the future.
Specifically in relation to the Draft Comprehensive Plan, top priorities included affordable
housing; small business development; job development; quality education; technical
training; natural beauty; transportation; access to food; activities for families, children,
youth, and seniors; and community input and decision-making.
The focus group participants also made a number of suggestions for additional issues to
address in the plan, related to public housing, land contamination, special attention to the
needs of low-income residents in terms of disaster planning and recovery; development of a
plan or program for improving Community/Police relations; improved use of school
discipline to support healthy youth development; and development of a Senior Center in
The report details many more issues and responses ranging from the need for more public
transportation, to non-discriminatory hiring practices, the importance of communication
and translation of key issues into other languages, home ownership, blight removal and
permitting issues, tree restoration, and specific issues for post-disaster planning
The Center to Eliminate Health Disparities hopes this report serves as a useful contribution
to ongoing discussions in our community, and supports progress towards a unified vision
among all Galvestonians.
Residents’ vision for the future, and feedback on the
City of Galveston’s Draft Comprehensive Plan
Civic engagement is a critical feature of any successful community, not only because it
underpins a strong democracy, but also because it strengthens local economic
development, social cohesion, and investment in and valuation of the city by its residents.
Given the time and resource constraints on many of our everyday lives, though, many
residents can be effectively marginalized to the democratic process. Without efforts to
increase opportunities for participation, rather than civic engagement functioning as a right
and a responsibility, it can become more of a privilege for a select few within a community.
This study was requested by the City of Galveston’s Comprehensive Plan Steering
Committee in response to their and Galveston City Council members’ interest in creating a
Comprehensive Plan that reflects the perspective of a broad representation of Galveston
residents. Although the study recruited commonly marginalized groups, including those
with lower incomes and Spanish speaking residents, many of the priorities expressed align
well with the views of better-off groups who had previously participated in the planning
process. At the same time, several new priorities emerged centered on reducing land
contamination; attention to the needs of low-income residents in terms of disaster planning
and recovery; improving Community/Police relations; improved use of school discipline; and
non-discriminatory hiring practices. We hope that the results found within the report
provide insight into additional issues that might usefully be incorporated into the
Comprehensive Plan, and the most effective ways to achieve a Vision for Galveston relevant
to all our residents.
This report provides an analysis of focus group discussions to explore visions of Galveston’s
future from people who often don’t have the chance to give their feedback. After a brief
outline of the methodology used to undertake the project, the report provides an analysis
of focus group participants’ thoughts about what Galveston is like and their hopes for the
future. The report then turns specifically to participants’ reaction to the Draft
Comprehensive Plan, and priorities within the plan as well as additional issues to consider
integrating into the Draft Plan.2
Demographics for all groups
Focus Group protocol and recruitment. Age %
In order to explore visions of Galveston’s 18-64 82
future from people who often don’t have 65 or older 18
the chance to give their feedback, Race/Ethnicity %
residents of Galveston were eligible to African-American 50
participate in this study if they were over Caucasian (White) 21
the age of 18 years, self-identified as
Asian, Native American, 0
being in the low- or low-middle income
Pacific Island, Other
brackets, and willing to share their
Number of people in %
experiences and thoughts about their
lived experiences in Galveston. An effort
was made to recruit residents from
diverse backgrounds (e.g.,
race/ethnicities, different occupations, 4 0
socio-economic positions and age 5 4
groups) in order to capture a range of More than 5 0
viewpoints. Individuals were excluded if Work status %
they did not speak either English or Part Time 13
Spanish due to resource constraints for Full Time 37
translation. More than one job 5
Do not currently work 45
Sampling and Recruitment. Participants
were recruited by partnering with local
Annual household income %
employers (including Galveston Housing Under $10,000 47
Authority, Landry’s, and UTMB Health) $10,001 – 20,000 24
and social service and neighborhood $20,001 – 30,000 9
groups and organizations (including the $30,001 – 40,000 7
Jesse Tree, Moody Methodist Church, $40,001 – 50,000 5
Sandpiper Cove, and Gulf Breeze). In Not answered 7
compensation for participation, those
The Draft Plan can be found at http://www.progressgalveston.com.
who were recruited through employers received paid time off, while the others received gift
cards. Participants were provided with study information sheets and asked if they freely
agreed to participate in the focus groups. A total of 69 individuals participated in the focus
group discussions. The demographics of the groups can be seen on the following chart.
Data Collection and Analysis. Following approval from the Institutional Review Board of
The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, whose purpose is to ensure that
studies are undertaken ethically and with appropriate protection of participants, focus
groups were assembled. The focus groups were conducted at local venues, and discussions
were closed to outside observers, including employers or city officials. Focus groups
averaged 12 people for each of the six sessions. All focus groups were audio and video-
taped, using video cameras and a digital recording device. Hand written notes were also
taken for all focus groups to supplement the audio-recordings and aid in capturing the
salient discussion points.
At the beginning of each workshop, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire in
order to allow researchers to assess participant’s demographic characteristics. Focus group
questions included open-ended, semi-structured queries to allow free discussions and
interactions. The Visioning portion of the workshops lasted 30-45 minutes per group, and
the Draft Comprehensive Plan feedback discussions lasted an additional 60-90 minutes. All
focus group recordings were transcribed, and each transcript was cross-checked for
accuracy. Transcripts were analyzed to identify common themes, resulting in commonalities
and divergences of perspectives and opinions.
Residents’ Vision for a Future Galveston
The visioning portion of the focus group discussion was centered on four key questions:
1) What do you value about Galveston?
2) What is it like for you to live in Galveston?
3) What about Galveston would you like to see change? and
4) What are your hopes and dreams for Galveston?
Each focus group began with general introductions and then proceeded with the first
question, asking residents what they value about Galveston. In most focus groups, someone
expressed enthusiastic love for the island. One resident summarized her positive feelings, “I
love it here! I love the lifestyle. I love everything about it.” Most groups also had at least
one person who was not so enthusiastic and did not share in the positive sentiment about
Galveston. One resident said, “I don’t like it here. It’s my home, but I don’t like it anymore
[since Ike].” This complicated relationship with Galveston was expressed in various ways
within every group. Through these focus group discussions, consistent themes began to
emerge as residents painted a compelling picture of what they value about Galveston, what
life is like for them to live on the island, what changes would make life in Galveston better
and what promises they hope Galveston holds for their children.
Q1: What do you value about Galveston?
Galvestonians value many aspects of the island city. However, unresolved feelings over
recent events tend to overshadow its value for some residents. In order to examine
Galveston’s value in light of this past, it may best be broken down into four distinct
categories: general value, the historical significance of Galveston, the uniqueness of
Galveston as compared to other places’ and the impact of Hurricane Ike.
Residents value several aspects of Galveston. One resident painted a vivid picture of the
town and its value to him:
I think you get to see a lot of things that a lot of other people don't get to see as far
as wildlife and incredible sunsets. The smells of Galveston are unique. Riding your
bike through the neighborhoods. that's something all on its own. Taking in all the
beautiful… historical homes. It's incredible the history that's here! And I learn
something new everyday...People cooking, you know… people barbequing through
the neighborhoods. It's really something special. I think a lot of people don't realize
The beauty of and proximity to the beaches is a big plus. Residents expressed that access to
the beach and fishing enhances their sense of well-being and provides affordable family
oriented activities for them to enjoy: “It's a good place for families to come. There's a lot of
things for families to do when they come out of town to go initially to the beach probably.
And, they're developing more and more each day.”
Additionally, residents value the transportation system in Galveston. One resident remarked
on the bus system, “They have mass transit. It's not something that a lot of small towns
have, a bus service. But, they do have a bus service here.” Residents felt that transportation
was a plus, particularly if they did not have other ways to get around the island. As another
resident offered, “Well, I would say the transportation [is valuable], 'cause I'm in a wheel
chair. And, it’s enabled me to get around and go out.” Older adults also valued
transportation and mentioned the half price bus pass that “allows you to get off and on as
many times as you want.” There is a general sentiment that transportation on the island is
good and allows one to navigate easily and get wherever you need to go, though they also
had specific comments about improving the transportation system.
Social networks are a mainstay for Galveston. Many residents have family ties in Galveston
and have strong ties with churches in the area. One resident volunteered, “Galveston is a
place that you have to have lived here to understand the togetherness that some people
have in Galveston, that we do for one another.” Another resident has this to say about the
I have lived here for a certain number of years. After the hurricane [Ike] I went to
another city. There’s a lot of difference… in other parts… you don’t really get to
know other people. Here in Galveston we all, almost all of us, know each other. It’s
like a big family. Especially the Hispanic family. It’s a big family… and in other cities,
in other towns, there is not the same unity as we have here.
Galveston’s small town, friendly atmosphere was mentioned often. One resident remarked,
“The people here in Galveston are friendly people. They’re easy to talk to.” Another
resident added, “I have a lot of friends here, so on the weekends it's just…it's just very easy
and relaxing, easy going.” Another resident summarized the sentiment of a number of
residents in relation to the small town feel and comfort of knowing your neighbors: “… it
does have a small town feel. You see the same people wherever you go, whether you're at
the grocery store or you're out on the Seawall.” There was a general sense that people get
along well and that they embrace and value each other’s differences. A resident in one
focus group volunteered: “And the diversity of it [Galveston]. You got so many different
backgrounds from so many different places,” while a resident in another group put it this
way: “It’s a multicultural city, too. To me there are diverse cultures. There are all kinds of
races, Hispanic, African, so you can learn a little about different cultures.” The valuation of
diverse cultures was repeated a number of times.
Galveston residents value and are thankful for the support they receive through social
service agencies, friends and churches. One resident commented, “There's places you can
go where they will help you, you know, with your bills or you know with food. Like Jesse
Tree. It's a good place. I mean they help us a lot.” Another resident spoke of how access to
food was a plus for those in need: “I value that when you ain’t got no food, there's plenty of
places in Galveston that you can go get you something to eat.” This statement was
reinforced by others in the group who mentioned food banks run by a variety of local
churches, social service organizations, and others. As one participant summarized, “You
ain’t gonna go hungry in Galveston. If you do… it's your fault.”
There is a rich history associated with Galveston that residents, particularly older African
Americans, valued. As one resident put it,
…we have a lot of Black history here on the island. Okay, you have to realize we had
the first Black high school in Texas. We have the oldest Black church in Texas. Slaves
were…the proclamation was read here...So it's a lot of Black history here in
Galveston …And that's one reason I love it here.
Another resident provided more on the unique history:
Well, I like the history and the history value that we have on this island. How things
were done back in the day. …Yeah. Like Jean LaFitte. And we had the Karankawa
Indians. We had our own Indians right here in Galveston, Texas... I like the history.
Historical homes and buildings were also mentioned as a thing of pride. Residents wanted
to see historical homes that were affected by Hurricane Ike restored. In terms of restoring
the homes, one resident commented,
…the people that own the historical homes mostly I think they [the city] kind of like,
needs to help those people. You know, there's a lot of people that come into
Galveston and they want to buy, (and businesses) they want to buy historical homes.
And basically the historical homes, they've been restored and basically it's a good
From these residents’ perspective, this rich and unique cultural history adds value to
Galveston as a city to be proud of.
The uniqueness of Galveston as compared to other places
Many of these residents moved here as adults, some from other cities and some from other
countries. Others were born in Galveston or moved to the city as small children. Compared
to the places they moved from (or other cities that they are familiar with), residents find
Galveston to be friendlier, have more and better social networks, and have better access to
necessities like food, social services, and outdoor recreation.
Compared to other cities, the ability to easily access necessities was mentioned often. One
resident commented, “It's just ease of access…to get to anything that you want is really,
literally like a hop, skip, and a jump away. You know you don't have to drive all the way to
Houston to get a steak.” Another resident commented, “…there's a lot of neighborhood
groceries and neighborhood food establishments that really hits home town, small town
status. …It's like going back forty years ago where you go in and get a nice hamburger and a
cold beer and it's just real laid back.”
Residents often compared Galveston’s access to Houston’s:
I mean, I like living here, because everything is close, versus living in Houston where
you have to drive 30 minutes to get to work, when [in Galveston] you can leave ten
minutes earlier and you'll be at work. I like the closeness. The traffic in Houston - I
used to stay off the Southwest side [in] Bellaire - I'd be at the light [and it has
changed] three times and I still haven't moved.
Along the same lines, another resident remarked:
… I've always lived in big cities. So…you know, it's taken some getting used to…
Living in New York, working in DC, you know, you have the light rail, you have the
subway, you know, it's more fast-paced. You know, Galveston is like she said: pretty
laid back. You really don't need to drive, you know, you just get on your bike and go.
You know, and really if you're a walker you can actually walk to a lot of places that if
you don't have a car or a bike you can just walk to 'em. You know… that's one of the
Experiences and feelings related to Hurricane Ike
Although residents generally found a lot of value in living in Galveston, Hurricane Ike left
many fearful and anxious about the future. One resident explained, “People never thought
that water [would] get that high. You know, we always thought we was protected by the
Seawall. But, when you come back and see what it did-- it was shocking.” One resident
explained feelings of fear of living in Galveston after the hurricane:
I think that the whole community…[has] to be watching the weather on the
television starting in July because we don’t know when a hurricane will come. So, it’s
a…personally it has affected me…
Another resident continued the thought:
A lot of times one has to be in a certain religious state asking God to please send the
hurricane somewhere else so it doesn’t come here. This is something that I have
experienced and that, I don’t know, has often made me think that maybe it would
be better to leave the Gulf Coast because this is an anxiety that we all have.
In the wake of Hurricane Ike, a decision was made by local authorities to demolish most of
the public housing complexes. Focus group residents felt that this was an unfair decision,
which left many with no place to live after the hurricane, forcing them off the island. During
the focus groups, residents discussed this experience with expressions ranging from pain
and anger to helplessness. The outcome, as well as the process by which it was achieved,
left some residents feeling worthless and devalued. This strongly affected how they felt
about Galveston, as well as their perception of how Galveston felt about them. One
resident had this to say: “With Galveston, it used to be that you valued it, but they tried to
throw us under the bus when we lost our homes; they did not want us here. Lots of people,
I don't want to say names, but they tried to kick us off the island, treated us like dirt.” After
describing how changes in her income level, brought about by losing her husband, led her
to public housing, she went on to say: “…everybody that lived in housing wasn't bad. I was a
good person and lots of other people were good people but they [city representatives]
talked like we were scum, all kind of things. So, I don't really value Galveston like I used to.”
When asked what she used to value, she replied, “People were friendly. You know, they
thought that you was…worthy of living here. But, then after the storm...You wasn't human
anymore. It was like, ‘get this scum off the island.’”
This sentiment was echoed in other groups. Another resident shared similar feelings on
how people were treated after the storm:
…And how they treat[ed] us when we got back here, that was uncalled for. It really
was. Because, the other storm, when the New Orleans people came here, oh they
got them with a red carpet, gave 'em everything, did everything for them. We live
here and they didn't do nothing for us. They did us bad. The people down here lost
everything just like the people with Katrina. The people here, they didn't get
assistance as long as the people with Katrina did. The people with Katrina [are] still
getting assistance today. And, they cut people off that [are] living down here…That
wasn't fair at all. I guess they were trying to wash us out of here.
The level of displacement due to the storm left the many of remaining residents with
weakened social networks and a sense of loss of community. One resident commented
about this loss:
The families that live in Galveston, for example, they leave and they take their kids,
and the kids that had little friends here [now they] no longer have them. It affects
you one way or another to see all of those empty houses and sometimes they’re
damaged. …There are a lot of things that are affecting us as they were saying, as well
as the fact that people are leaving. That is, since the hurricane, a lot of people left
and didn’t come back. They didn’t come back. And they didn’t want to come back
and I have a lot of friends that moved because of the hurricane and they didn’t come
back. And you ask if they are going to come back and they look at you like, “Are you
kidding?” Like, “Are you serious?”
Q2: What is it like for you to live in Galveston?
As would be expected, recent events heavily influence the perceived quality of life in
Galveston. When exploring the question of what it is currently like to live in Galveston, an
underlying theme of how things have changed post-Ike was heard frequently. Along these
lines, one resident commented,
My opinion about Galveston? I like Galveston but back in the day, that's when you
could walk on the beach. You didn't have all of this [expletive] this way before Ike hit
here. And then when Ike hit here, just a lot of things done went up. And a lot of
people have to work more harder to get those things.
To describe what it’s like for the residents to live in Galveston, focus group findings are
detailed below according to the following five categories: work life, cost of living,
educational opportunities, leisure time and inequalities (including discrimination).
As with the first question, related to what residents value about Galveston, this question
elicited varied responses. One resident shared heartfelt feelings about living on the island,
speaking emphatically and banging her fist on the table. She shared these sentiments: “I
think Galveston's a good place to live. I love living in Galveston. I could be somewhere else,
but I don't want to be nowhere but right here in Galveston!” Other residents shared
opposite points of view, such as “It's terrible” and even “It's hell.” While several residents
expressed good and bad feelings about living in Galveston, one resident summed up the
discussion in his group by saying “…what you have to understand about Galveston living is:
sometime's it's good and sometimes it's not. Sometimes life is hard and sometimes it's not.”
Another resident offered a broadened view of the living conditions: “Well you know, we can
say what we want about Galveston, but it goes further than Galveston. I mean, the whole
world [is] going through something. We [are] all suffering. I mean it's the economy.”
Residents expressed that finding work in Galveston presents challenges. The challenges
raised most often involved perceived nepotism, discrimination, and finding jobs that offered
salaries sufficient to meet the local cost of living. The inability to find jobs that offer a living
wage and benefits makes living hard for some residents. For example, one resident shared
this comment: “…almost all of us Hispanics work in tourism and, of course, it’s only for a
certain part of the year. It’s not all year. So for people that are middle- or low-income, there
are problems, and if you don’t have medical insurance it’s really hard.”
Nepotism and other forms of discrimination were mentioned by residents, as well. One
resident shared this perception of the problem:
…when I came here, I lost my job within the first year that I was here and I had a
hard time getting a job here. And, I think one of the reasons why is there's a lot of
nepotism here in Galveston. Unless you're a nurse or in the medical field you can't
get a job here unless you're underneath one of the families that controls the job
market. And if you're on the outs with all of them, you're not gonna get a job. You
won't even get a job at McDonald's, because they will make sure that you will stay
under the radar and you will not survive. And, so you find a lot of us in these
situations where we cannot sustain ourselves, because we're not being allowed to,
because of the powers that be.
Cost of living
Closely related to the job situation is the increased cost of living in Galveston. On the topic
of higher prices in Galveston, residents chimed in:
-“Everything's going up, clothes, food - you name it.”
-“Rent. Rent [has] gone up.”
Another resident volunteered,
It costs too much. Everything: groceries, gas. If you go to the mainland, it's all
cheaper. Period. I go to HEB to shop in Texas City because all of the grocery stores
here higher than there. Gas prices are cheaper on the mainland. Rents are ten times
higher here. It's higher here then on the mainland.
When asked what exactly they thought made it harder to live in Galveston, residents in one
group chimed in:
-“Just in general, the cost of living. If it can go down it'd be easier, especially for low-
income families. I mean low-income families can't get out if the cost of living is
higher than what they make a year.”
-“And they can't get jobs...”
-“Can’t get jobs....”
-“Other than minimum wage….”
-“If a low-income family has no education and they don't make any money, how do
you- where do you go? What do you do? So, [the problem is] the cost of living.”
Residents commonly focused in on the high rent in Galveston as a challenge. One resident
I notice that, I lived here my whole life, and, uh, after Hurricane Ike I had to leave
because there just wasn't anything rentable. My apartment was torn up to the point
where I couldn't live in it. And I moved back here probably October of last year
 and I noticed that there was hardly anything that I could afford to rent. The
rents have gone up. Even some of the stuff that was really low end rent, they
wanted almost 200 dollars more a month for it. And, it was, you know, that was
really, really a problem, finding something that you could afford to live in.
Residents do not feel that the wages offered by most jobs in Galveston were sufficient in
light of the high costs associated with groceries, housing and other necessities. When
talking about affordable housing, one resident explained,
… they [are] only paying you minimum wage for all that, and that's not enough
money to survive on, on this island. For people like me, especially with four kids,
that's not gonna work. You can't survive off of that. That's gonna pay a light bill. If
you got a car that's your gas and lights, and you might not even have enough gas to
get to work for the whole week.
Education in Galveston
Education was a big concern for Galveston residents in the focus groups. For some of the
parents, education in Galveston is a plus. One parent of college-aged children had this to
say: “The schools here in Galveston, I can only speak for myself with my kids, you know,
they're still in college. So, I back up all the schools here in Galveston. Education is a plus for
me with my kids.” Another thing that parents really appreciate about Galveston’s school
system is the ability to receive education beyond high school. One resident commented,
…with Galveston College, what an advantage we have that all of us have a free
education. It’s universally free for all of those who graduate from Ball High School or
McConnell. They can go the first two years free. It’s a tremendous advantage that
we have for our children, that they can continue with their studies! So there are
many positive things and we should give thanks for this.
However, not all residents are convinced that they are receiving the caliber of education
that they would like for their children. One resident commented on education after the
hurricane and compared Galveston to other towns:
And a lot of people are leaving because of the schools. Yes they have improved since
the hurricane, well a lot of schools have closed since the hurricane, and they have
improved a little bit in their educational goals, but not as much as in other towns
that have smaller schools than Galveston and that have a higher educational level
than us. And this is what I have heard at my work and with my friends that a lot of
them, when their kids reach a certain age, they plan to move from Galveston
because they want to give them a better education than what they can get here and
supposedly they will be safer, too.
Another parent had a similar comment:
I have two young children and I've had a hard time since I've relocated here finding a
good school for them to go to. There needs to be improvements in the education.
So, um, they're in private school. And, I don't know what the option is after they go, I
guess after they get out of school ‘cause it goes to 8th grade.
In their leisure time, residents enjoy the beach, the free water activities, and the activities
that they can enjoy with their families. One resident commented on the Seawall:
Me, I would say, I-I like the Seawall. Um, it's a good place to relax…you know, get
your thoughts together. So I think that's about one of the most favorable things for
me is being able to walk on the Seawall. Sitting up there, relaxing a little bit.
Another resident commented on taking advantage of activities that are typically thought of
as ‘tourist attractions’:
Well, I value the opportunities we got that only the tourists use, but if you actually
get out there and do 'em like the boat trips and the tours around the submarine, the
duck tour with the boat ride in the water. We've got so much stuff to do down here.
But, since we live down here, we don't really do it.
A big concern is a lack of affordable children’s activities during after school hours and
summer months. One group discussed this:
-“Yeah, it's nothing for the kids. It's nothing. It's nothing for them to go to. It's no
playgrounds. It's nothing.”
-“And, anything costs. Anything costs.”
-“And they wonder why they fight, why they doing drugs, like they don't have no
-“Yeah, so many kids want to play football, but it's so expensive for parents now
after Ike. I remember back in the day, long time ago, when you didn't have to pay.
You had people that helped you out. Now they want 130 something dollars just to
get started to play.”
Another resident provided a more lengthy description of the challenges of trying to
participate in leisure time activities in Galveston:
…the north side of Galveston [is] majority Black and it's not many places we can
go…When you go to the park, on the beach - there's been a thing that's been going
on every Sunday. Go to the beach, you know. And, we got to deal with the GPD
[Galveston Police Department] just sitting there. Just sitting there. And, they will
take you to jail or give you a ticket, ‘Oh you can't park here’. Or ‘too many people
over here’ and they'll close the park down. Now, you make us leave from over there.
Now where [are] we going? You know, we gotta go out of town to have some fun.
We can't say, ‘Well, we’ve got a park right here, let's do something right here’. But,
but [when] too many people gather up, it's a threat. And, it's not a racial thing down
here – everybody’s welcome. It's not ‘what [are] you doing over here?’ It's not that.
You know, it's just, it's just that - I can't say what it is and why, but that's what they
do. You know what I mean? They will close the park down. You can't barbeque at
the park, you can't play music. You know, and that's just enjoyment. That's just
trying to find something to do to stop the violence - that's it. You know, you take
your kids to the park, you bring them to the beach, but your kids see that. And, then
you got to explain to them why we were run from the beach. And, then they like ‘Oh
that's wrong, that's wrong, that's wrong.’ But, that's the way it is.
Although residents enjoy the friendly atmosphere and supportive relationships they have
with family and other residents, this sentiment does not necessarily extend to people in
authority. Police harassment emerged as an important problem for many focus group
participants, and numerous specific incidents with police were cited that left residents in
constant fear of what they perceived to be police harassment. One resident shared his
I'm scared to leave my apartment after 10 o'clock and it's because we got too many
police officers and I'm scared of being arrested, 'cause I've been arrested by so many
police officers. And, I think it's got to do with your color. I think that's got a lot to do
with it. I even have a friend of mine, he won't come on this island no more because
he got arrested so much. And, he lived here for a long time.
Another resident shared a similar story and expressed concern about lack of regard for
children and response time when called. When describing what happens when police come
into her neighborhood, she gave this account “… they just, oh they just go crazy. The police
go around with guns and pull it out on kids running through here. But, when you try to call
the police, they don't come. And, when something happens to you, they won't come.” This
sentiment was echoed by another resident who spoke about the differences in police
response time based on where you live in the city, “You know, but, the other portion of
town, they'll [the police will] get to you when you call them. If they got time and when they
got time. And when they get to you – well, the response time? It's different. I'll put it that
way.” Residents felt that not all ‘cops’ are bad, but that the city needs to be more
concerned with “quality” than “quantity.”
Q3: What changes would you most like to see?
Residents had several changes that they felt would make Galveston a better place.
However, there was also an underlying sentiment that they had very little—if any—control
or say in how Galveston will move forward. Residents do not necessarily feel that they are a
part of the decision-making process. Indeed, even when asked what they value about living
in Galveston, one resident answered, “Basically it's just, it's our home. We feel like we ain’t
got no choice.” Throughout the narrative on choice, residents further expressed their
feelings of exclusion by referring to ‘them’ and ‘they’ as people who are in control. For
example, one resident described perceived intentions for Galveston:
They [are] trying to make this a tourist town. I don't have nothing against that, but
everybody is not a tourist. I stay right here. We stay here, we go home, get off of
work, we be tired, take a bath, want to look at TV. But, I'm just not a tourist person.
…Basically this whole city is set up for the tourists. It's not focusing on the people
that [are] from Galveston, that live in Galveston. The whole focus is for the people
that are coming to Galveston. I like the island, I mean when you look at it, it's nice
but it's a tourist town. This town is for the tourists.
Another resident shared a similar sentiment: “So, you can see, uh, the writing's already on
the wall. You can't really say what you would like to see in the near future because in a lot
of ways the decision has already been made to make this island more tourist-friendly.” In
another account of predetermined intentions for Galveston, one resident offered, “It's like
it's a mind game. I believe that these things are carefully planned and carefully
manipulated…to do exactly what they want to do. It's been in the making for years. It's been
in the making since before we was born.”
Another resident provided details on their perspective that tie current events in Galveston
to a carefully orchestrated plan to rid the city of certain [low income] people:
They [are] going up on the price of everything and it's awful, but they [are] doing
that on purpose to target a certain group of people. And, they want to bring in
upper-class people who can afford that. You know what I mean, like? Like a lot of
the stuff that they have here on the island, people can't afford to do. You only have
a certain class of people who can afford to do that - a certain ‘moneymaking bracket’
that can do certain things. You know what I mean? It's almost like they [are] doing it
on purpose. That's how I really feel. Like they [are] trying to get us out and then
[bring] certain people in.
Even though residents do not necessarily feel empowered, they still expressed a desire to
take part in the decision-making process and appreciate the opportunity to express their
views. When asked what changes he would like to see, one resident asserted,
...basically just involve us more. You know, actually the people of Galveston. You
know, and basically involve us more. ‘Hey, we're having this meeting, come give me
your input.’ …and take it in to consideration, too.
Summarizing the responses to Question 2, the need for change in several areas was
expressed. The changes are categorized as changes in: the education system, availability of
youth recreational activities, job availability, housing options, neighborhood conditions, and
cleanliness of beaches. Concurrently, there were also a few anticipated changes that
spurred debate among some residents who expressed concern about their impact and the
necessity and practicality of implementing them. These heavily debated changes included
gambling and installation of parking meters along the Seawall.
Residents felt very strongly that the education system needed to be a major focus area of
change. One resident shared this view on making sure all students are provided with
opportunities to learn:
We need more focus on education 'cause a lot of kids are falling through the cracks.
They're graduating, but they really don't know.... You know and it's just, don't push
'em through. Give 'em extra days, extra hours on the weekend, I mean it's just we
really need the focus on education.
Residents also felt strongly that educational opportunities should be provided early. One
resident shared, “I think, uh, a kid now almost from the cradle, should be introduced to
computers.” Another resident shared similar feelings about early education: “I think that
they should have programs—pre-schools and a strong pre-school because that is a great
foundation to the beginning of education.”
Residents also discussed the need to provide options other than college, such as trades. For
those who do not choose a college education, one resident suggested this alternative:
Yeah, a trade school here for the young people -if you don't wish to get a college
degree. That's right. You're always going to need a plumber. You're always going to
need an electrician. You're always going to need somebody to build a house, put up
sheet rock, do the flooring. You're always going to need that.
In addition to education, there was a major emphasis on providing safe, affordable activities
for young people in Galveston. Parents were particularly concerned that children do not
currently have easily accessible summer and after school activities. However, parents
stressed that any activity needs to be affordable, supervised, and age-appropriate – without
mixing older and younger kids. One resident made suggestions to address the accessibility:
I think one of the major changes I'd like to see is for our young folks that are in
school right now, when they're out during the summer, that the programs that are
listed at, uh, McGuire Dent, and uh, the one across Broadway I'm not sure of the
name of it. Comy? Cumy? [referring to Wright-Cuny]. Uh, that they get to ride the
bus for free. So they can get there. That would, I mean, if the bus is running there
anyway and we're paying for the gas, just let 'em go. Just have your school ID and
you're on. Let's go. I mean, you know, get our kids into something, get 'em into
something instead of out of trouble.
Other specific suggestions for bringing in new youth activities included skating rinks and
venues for sports-related activities, which they felt would help keep kids out of trouble.
Job availability and pay
Residents would like to see new and better job opportunities in Galveston. There is a strong
concern that the job market is not keeping up with inflation. One resident commented on
the job situation, “The jobs in the place, in the city is supposed to fit the economy. You
know what I'm saying, you don't have a certain way of living. Okay, the rent is this much, I
only make this much. That's not right. Make it where I can make it working the job that I
In terms of changes, residents had some specific changes in mind, including new business
and bringing in industry. One resident suggested several ideas to attract businesses to
…providing incentives and ideas for bringing new businesses to the island. Also,
being in research, I think we should encourage private biotech groups to take
advantage of a new research space that we have here that's underused. So, all the
bright minds are graduating and they leave the island to go to work. Why not like let
them stay here and work and grow?
Another resident made this suggestion to address the need to create new job opportunities:
Have HUD build more storefronts where I could become my own entrepreneur. You
know, where I could live above it and have a small storefront below it. It wouldn't
have to be big, but you see the cupcake lady selling cupcakes out of a van, um, you
know. This is something that I could do if I had a small storefront and I wouldn't
need to depend on the political processes in Galveston to get a job.
There was a general sentiment that housing on Galveston island is costly. Several residents
expressed the need to lower rent and make more affordable housing available. Residents
also stressed the need to make homeownership a possibility for those who qualify. One
resident shared this story about her son, who is disabled and has had a hard time finding
They need to build more affordable houses for people that [are] between—when
they are employed—in that age, when you like fall through the cracks, like he has.
[People that are] retired or disabled and only have a fixed income. So, they need
housing they can possibly afford, and [they] don't want to live in a senior complex,
as we are. So, I think that should be considered - housing, for those people in that
age category - even if you aren't disabled but you [make] minimum wage or et
cetera. So, I think that should be, and homes to be bought, if they don't want to
rent, they should be able to rent with lease to buy if they so desire.
Another resident suggested this solution:
I know that HUD offers a lot of programs and one of the programs that if you come
in and you're in housing and then you-you get a job and you become self-sufficient
or um you can buy a home. You know, as long as you're working to get out of
housing, HUD has, uh, opportunities for that that you can become a home owner,
for I think as little as, what was it, 15,000 dollars?
Residents expressed that all areas of the city need to be kept up to certain standards.
However, they mentioned several areas that need roads repaired or other issues addressed.
When elaborating on specific changes, one resident shared this about the inequality in
upkeep: “…let me see how I would say this. (Pause) There's certain sections of the city that's
been deprived real bad, especially the north side of town. The reason? I don't know. I really
don't know the reason for it.” As far as changes in these areas, suggestions included “better
streets, better lights.” Residents also noted that some areas were in dire need of repairs to
the streets. One resident shared this detailed description of repair work that needs to be
So, you go down, just say... Broadway has been repaved, so that's fine. But, when
you go down to Cove View and you take Stewart all the way down, that back road
behind Stewart will literally destroy your tire! You have a few streets around
Galveston - Ball that's kind of, you know, you feel like you're off-roading. And,
instead of just patching the hole, [they should] just completely repave it. 'Cause if
you see, oh, you know, they're fixing it, then they come out and it's just patched.
And then, months later, it'll be a bigger pothole.
Residents stressed needed changes to the drainage system in Galveston in order to prevent
or curtail flooding. One resident shared his story while several in the group nodded in
I live at the corner of 14th and Mechanic. When it rains that road is not passable.
You can't walk on it. I mean, you literally need a boat. And, that has been one of the
biggest problems I've seen here on Galveston Island even before the hurricane. They
need to find a way of working that system out a little better, a better drainage
system. Because you can lose your car very easy - you might even lose your life
depending on how hard it rains. You see, 14th, 15th, Mechanic, Market, all these
areas are - they can't handle too much rain. They can't. And, from my
understanding, the city supposedly was supposed to have been working on that
problem a long time ago, and they haven't even touched base on it yet. So, if
another Hurricane Ike hits this island again, it's gonna be something else. Because,
you know, they still haven't worked on that problem.
Finally, residents want neighborhoods in Galveston to be more friendly for bike riders and
pedestrians. One resident shared these suggestions for change:
The main thing that I would want to see is-is make it bicycle and more pedestrian
friendly. You know um not even just for the bicyclists or the pedestrians, just for the
drivers also, because it kind of goes both ways. You know, one street, 61st, that's
like dangerous for all bicyclists and, you know, they're tourists, they're from out of
town, they really don't know. So, they'll try to proceed and you have five different
cars going at 50 miles and they have to slam on their breaks. So, it kind of works
Another resident expressed agreement and provided suggestions: “Even if they added bike
paths along you know like high traffic areas- Seawall or whatever, because it is hard to
navigate during the summer when all of the tourists are here. I also agree about the
roadways and the potholes are really bad. I go through a lot of bike tires.”
Cleanliness of beaches
Residents felt that the beaches need to be cleaned up and there needs to be more access to
fishing. One resident shared,
I think along Harborside there should be more access for families to fish, and to
enjoy the-the-the channel area. There's very limited places for people to get to the
water. I think a lot of people go to Texas City, 'cause that's really the only place that
families can go uh besides the beach. It would be kind of neat to see Harborside
dressed up with facilities. You know, with piers. Even, people in wheelchairs, you
know, they need to get down to the water. There's really no access for really a
person that's disabled down there.
Several residents suggested cleaning up the beach and Harborside. When asked what
specific clean up he had in mind for Harborside, one resident offered, “Just to clean it up.
Make it more appealing for tourists that are here at port. You know, for their cruises. And,
they have to come here and spend the day and waste time. Just make it - the area- make a
more nicer area for them to tour.”
In response to this, one resident offered his suggestion for beautifying another area:
“Speaking of that, the nicer area - the oleanders that we once had from the end of 45
throughout to the bridge - I would like to see that brought back, the oleander flowers.”
Other suggestions were specific to the beach, one resident talked about glass on the beach,
“I think glass enforcement on the beach should be a big issue. I walk the beaches a lot and
pick up a lot of glass, which in turn- somebody's gonna go to the emergency room. It's very
dangerous on the beaches at times. Uh, I've seen it just disgustingly left, just littered with
glass and debris.”
Few topics stirred up as much debate as whether or not to bring gambling to Galveston.
Residents presented arguments on both sides of the coin. One resident, who was for
People [are] gonna gamble, you know they’re used to be gambling. So they might as
well just bring it here instead of having them go to Louisiana and stuff. 'Cause they
take them buses and stuff. You know why not just put in machines. Keep the
revenue here. It's fun to go play every now and again, not all the time.
Another resident disagreed:
I'll tell you one thing I don't want to see come to Galveston is I don't want to see
gambling. (Clap) I'll tell you, you think you have crime now, when gambling comes
you gonna really have crime. I mean, it's gonna go through the roof! I mean if you
look at any place, I mean, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, any place they've got gambling,
their crime rate is high. And it's all because of gambling, because the more people
you've got coming down here to gamble then more people that's gonna be down
here trying to rob people and steal their stuff. Uh, it's ridiculous. You know, I don't
think gambling would be a good thing for Galveston.
Referencing a perceived rise in crime, one resident argued that gambling will tax the local
economy by requiring more services to support it, without providing any jobs to locals:
The crime will go up... You can't walk those streets, you can't even go shopping. Not
only that, you gonna have to increase the police department, the fire
department…And, see they're not going to hire us…They got they people trained.
You go to Gulfport, Mississippi, they have a class for people that gambling blackjack,
the roulette wheel, they in training, they getting paid.
Another resident cited the multiplier effect of local job growth, regardless of whether
casino jobs are filled with locals or not:
Okay, like he said, the casinos, if they come, yeah they're gonna bring their own
people. But then, all our HEB’s, all our other stores are gonna come back, 'cause
they're gonna want money! That's where we're gonna get our jobs. See, it's gonna
bring us jobs, even if we don't want to work in a casino...You say they gonna bring
their own people that's educated to the situation. But, also, by them bringing their
own people, don't you think them people gonna need a place to stay? Okay that's a
job for the next family! Don't you think they gonna need people to clean up behind
'em and stuff like that. That's better for us. Don't you think?
Parking meters along the Seawall
The issue of parking meters was another hotly debated topic. Residents felt that there were
pros and cons to this option. One resident was vehemently against bringing meters along
the Seawall. He argued, “I feel like this: When you come to Galveston and stuff you
shouldn't have to pay nothing and you should be able to come here and have a good time
and everything!” When asked outright if he would be ok with the meters, he replied, “I
don't want to see that!” Another resident agreed: “Yeah, you know, tourists coming from
other towns. That economy crunch hit everybody. So they come down and ‘Oh, we gotta
pay to park? Oh no. We're not coming here no more.’” Other residents agreed that people
would not pay and expressed their opinions on what would happen instead: “I don't think it
would be successful. So, if they have to pay...they won't pay to park. Most people, man,
people will start parking in neighborhoods. See it's gonna create more problems.”
However, there were some who thought that meters were a good idea, as long as the
residents were not made to pay. One resident shared, “Well, I'd like to see the Seawall get
enhancement. The parking meters... I mean I can see the people out of town paying for it. I
think residents should get a sticker or something like Texas City did for their dyke.” Another
resident offered a similar sentiment based on the notion that revenue from meters would
lower taxes and allow for needed improvements in Galveston:
Galveston needs to improve the scenery. Coming into Galveston it's great. It look
real good. But, the thing about it, we need parking meters, 'cause the taxes, my
taxes on my property here in Galveston and the county hits me 2,500 dollars a year.
For taxes! And I see people across the neighborhood paying 200 and 300 dollars.
Q4: What are your hopes and dreams for Galveston in 30 years?
In spite of what residents describe as less than optimal living conditions, discrimination,
police harassment, and weather-related fears for their safety; they are open to change and
many still express optimism for the future. One resident had this to say: “It’s a city that has
a lot to offer despite what we have endured. Of course it’s not like it was before but
hopefully in the future we can be like we were before the hurricane.” Similarly, another
resident expressed, “Ike took a lot. Ike took a lot. There's still hope.”
A Vision for the Future
Residents have many hopes and dreams for Galveston. They imagine enjoying times with
friends and family, while getting to know their community in a beautiful city with tree-lined
streets that are pedestrian and bike friendly. Oleanders along the causeway, palm trees
along the Seawall, and stately historic homes add character and beauty to their
surroundings while the beach brings a sense of calm that offers countless hours of peaceful,
fun entertainment and serenity. In this vision, residents feel valued as part of the rich
culture and diversity that makes Galveston a family friendly place to live. Their opinions are
actively sought, to make certain that they are included in the decision making process for
changes affecting the future of their city.
There are no abandoned buildings in this beautiful place. Former abandoned buildings have
been rehabilitated into skating rinks and bowling alleys that offer affordable entertainment
for Galveston families and tourists. A former Senior Center, currently abandoned, has been
restored. During the school year, top notch education systems encourage excellence in pre-
kindergarten through high school, offering education in English and Spanish. After-school
activities are available, providing Galveston children with tutoring, safe activities and
language classes, if needed. During the summer and after school, children attend affordable
camps and participate in activities that are educational and enriching. In the evenings,
families gather to watch their children play on city-sponsored little league, flag football, t-
ball, and soccer teams that are accessible and affordable for all.
There is plenty of affordable, well-kept housing with proper drainage throughout the city.
Well-lit neighborhoods are calm and free of trash and debris. They are peaceful places to
be; police offer fair, friendly protection in a respectful manner for all residents throughout
all areas of the city. Residents of Galveston live and work in the city in jobs that allow them
to feel valued and offer all families the opportunity to earn a living wage and to be more
self-sufficient. Small business owners are encouraged to open store-front businesses.
Trades such as plumbing, electrical work, and construction are offered through the local
college. Employees are proud to live and work in Galveston and re-circulate their money to
support the local economy.
Social services, as well as churches and neighbors, are there for those in need. The most
vulnerable, including homeless people and veterans, are supported back to self-sufficiency.
Health care is available and affordable and jobs offer benefits that include health insurance.
Language is not a barrier to healthcare or needed services, as there are people trained in all
areas of social services who speak (at minimum) English and Spanish. People from different
cultures, different backgrounds, and different economic levels freely mix, communicate well
even between languages, and enjoy one another’s company. Galveston is thriving; its
friendly residents are happy and feel a strong sense of unity.
Resident Feedback on the Galveston Draft
The content of this portion of the report is derived from both the focus group participants’
direct feedback on the Draft Comprehensive Plan, as well as feedback received during the
Visioning portion of the focus groups that pertained to specific parts of the Comprehensive
Plan. Participants were guided through a brief presentation outlining key features of the
Plan, and encouraged to respond to the Plan’s priorities, strategies, and actions. Themes
and supporting quotes were analyzed according to the ten elements included within the
Housing and Neighborhoods
(HN) Natural Resources (NR)
Economic Development (ED) Disaster Planning (DP)
Community Character (CC) Transportation (T)
Land Use (LU) Infrastructure (I)
Historic Preservation (HP) Human Element (HR)
The results of the Draft Comprehensive Plan Feedback analysis are below.
Housing and Neighborhoods Element
HN 2.1 Blight Removal/ Aggressive Code Enforcement (Also referenced in LU 2.1,
HP 3, HP 4)
Blight and code enforcement. Removing blighted structures through building code
enforcement was a concern to multiple groups. Messages centered on the need for blight
removal to beautify the community and bring up property values. Participants considered
strengthening building codes an important way to prevent further damage and abandoned
homes caused by future disasters. This would lower future costs to homeowners and
insurance companies. Seeing abandoned homes throughout the island also takes an
emotional toll. Participants, especially seniors and long-time residents, reported sadness at
seeing the empty homes where friends used to be. Failure to remove blight was also
considered a safety issue: residents are hesitant to walk in front of abandoned buildings
where people may be hiding, yet the only other alternative is to walk in the street, putting
them at risk of an auto-pedestrian accident or a ticket from the police. Along with
demolishing blighted structures, removing abandoned vehicles was also mentioned as a
step toward improving the value and beauty of Galveston neighborhoods.
To consider including in this Element: Blight removal and code enforcement sensitivity
Residents emphasized that blight removal and code enforcement processes must be
sensitive to the rights and needs of property owners. This includes helping low-, middle-,
and fixed-income residents repair their homes that have yet to be restored after Hurricane
Ike. Offering low-cost inspections and grants to these homeowners to make repairs in a
timely manner and avoid demolition was suggested. City-owned lots where structures are
demolished should also be rebuilt to reflect the needs of the neighborhood.
HN 3.3 Assistance to First-Time Homebuyers
Homeownership. Assistance to first-time low- and middle-income homebuyers was
generally viewed in a positive light by residents. Most agreed that this is a goal for many
families and would be a positive thing for their neighborhood.
To consider including in this Element: Homeownership program eligibility
Residents also expressed concern that homeownership was not feasible for many low-
income residents without further supports from the City. If a homeownership program is
created, it should clearly address eligibility requirements and rights of homeowners up
Existing housing programs have eligibility requirements that place homeownership out of
reach for many. For example, one participant pointed out that household income had to be
over $30,000 a year to qualify for the Housing Authority’s homeownership program, yet
many of the jobs in Galveston do not afford families this type of income. Cuts to other
federal and local assistance programs mean that families already struggling to make ends
meet will be even less likely to save for and maintain a home in the future. Other barriers
mentioned include credit history and criminal records of the homeowner and family
members. Another concern with homeownership programs was the issue of being able to
pass the home down to decedents if the home had not been paid off.
Making homeownership programs for all family sizes was also important—programs should
include homes for both families and single people.
In addition to loans and down payment and closing cost assistance already mentioned in
the Draft Comprehensive Plan, residents suggested creating a homeownership program
with a rent-to-own option, assuming rents are kept affordable, and building more houses
through programs like Habitat for Humanity.
HN 3.4 Workforce Housing Assistance (Also referenced in ED 1.3)
Affordable Housing. Developing a housing assistance program to help people who work on
the island live on the island received positive feedback. Many residents voiced concern over
the fact that money leaves the island with the people who work here but choose to live
The lack of affordable housing in Galveston was a major concern for almost every
participant. Many believe this issue forces people to live off the island. Residents remarked
that there is very little housing for those who make too much to be eligible for public
housing or Section 8, but are still unable to afford fair market rents. Several residents also
noticed increased rents following Hurricane Ike, preventing many families who would like to
return to the island from doing so. However, other residents did note that rent and the cost
of living in Galveston are still below other states and major cities. This affordability was
something they appreciated.
One explanation for the high rents was the fact that homeowners try to rent to tourists
instead of workers. Rental assistance was also addressed, including the need to extend
assistance through Section 8 beyond month-to-month assistance. Rents should also match
the income of the renters.
Redeveloping the areas where Cedar Terrace, Oleander, and Palm Terrace once were, and
areas north of Broadway and west of 25th Street should be targeted for affordable housing.
To consider including in this Element: Public housing
The topic of public housing is not mentioned at all in the Housing and Neighborhoods
element. While it is referenced in the Community Character Element under residential
redevelopment, residents felt that restoring pre-Ike levels of public housing and improving
conditions in public housing were key concerns and should be addressed in the Housing and
HN 5 Encourage the Development of Housing and Programs Suited to the needs of
the Senior Population
Programs to support older adults. A key concern for residents regarding housing and
programs for senior citizens was the lack of a Senior Center in Galveston. The need for more
cultural and social programs was also mentioned, as well as transportation barriers to
accessing these opportunities (see also comments in sections T 2.1 and HR 7.4).
Economic Development Element
ED 2 Focus tactical initiatives to grow traditional strengths in tourism, port,
industrial development and higher education, and develop new strengths in
informational technology research
Development of quality jobs. This objective resonates with residents’ feedback regarding
the number, variety, and quality of jobs available in Galveston. Residents overwhelmingly
felt that there are too few jobs, available jobs are centered in too few sectors, and most
available jobs are low-wage, low-quality positions. Residents noted that current industries
like the sulfur plant and former employers like Lipton Tea and Falstaff were good jobs, and
that abandoned buildings that used to house industry should be re-developed.
However, residents emphasized that Galveston should look beyond its past to encourage
new job sector growth as much as possible. As one participant put it, “You shouldn't have to
be either at UTMB or work for the schools to be able to make it on this island.” UTMB is
looked upon by many residents as the high-quality employer of choice on the island, and
they expressed concerns that other large employers like Wal-Mart are not hiring.
Incentivizing these major employers to hire locally was mentioned as a partial solution.
Many believed that new jobs will reduce crime and delinquency.
To consider including in this Element: Living wage
Encouraging current and new employers that pay a living wage (in contrast to the lower
standard of a minimum wage) was also extremely important to residents who repeatedly
noted the gap between wages paid by most local employers and the high cost of living on
ED 2.1 Expand Galveston’s attraction as a quality, year-round tourist destination
Boosting tourism. Responses to expanding Galveston’s attraction to tourists were mixed.
Many residents agreed that promoting Galveston as a tourist destination could impact the
island in a positive way, primarily because of its potential to create more jobs and bring
more revenue to the island. These beliefs supported residents’ goal to keep more money on
the island instead of losing it to other nearby tourist destinations. Others mentioned that
promoting tourism could have other positive effects like increasing safety and enhancing
the island’s beauty and ambiance for residents and visitors alike.
But many believed that promoting tourism should be less of a priority than other ways to
develop the economy because tourists will come for the beaches regardless of other
attractions. And some residents felt that a tourist-centered environment has the potential
to put the needs of visitors above those of year-round residents. For example, many of
island’s recreational activities are geared towards tourists and are cost prohibitive to low-
and low/middle-income residents. Some felt that this was purposefully exclusionary; that
decision-makers were trying to attract higher income visitors while making the island an
unwelcoming place for poorer Galvestonians or visitors.
Furthermore, some residents argued that additional jobs created by the tourism industry
are more likely to be low-wage service jobs and seasonal in nature, a burden for residents
that need a steady paycheck year-round. Yet, overall, residents felt that creating jobs, even
low-wage ones, should be a priority over other economic development tactics.
Gambling. Residents were divided on the subject of bringing gambling to Galveston as a
way to boost the economy. Those in favor of gambling referenced Galveston’s past as an
open city, recalling the good economy and abundance of jobs. Many residents believe that
gambling will bring more jobs to Galveston at both casinos and in the stores, hotels,
restaurants, and other services that will grow as more visitors come to the island. Many
proponents said Galveston is losing out on potential revenue that is going to Louisiana and
other gambling-friendly places instead.
Other residents argued that gambling will not be good for Galveston, pointing to other cities
like Gulfport, Mississippi that experienced higher crime as a result. They argued that the
types of jobs gambling would bring for local residents would still be low-wage jobs, and that
high-paying positions in casinos would be filled by the casino company’s own employees
from out of town. Still others feared that gambling would cause more financial hardship for
families who would risk losing money to gambling. A final argument was that gambling
would push up property values and the cost of living so high that low-income residents
would be forced to move away.
ED 2.4 Position Galveston as a center for technology development, by supporting
the establishment of additional incubator/accelerator facilities
Tech development. Residents felt the City should take advantage of unused research space
to encourage more biotechnology groups and other businesses to locate in Galveston. This
would help keep more of Galveston’s young graduates on the island when they are ready to
begin a career.
ED 3.4 Promote small business development and retention
Small business development. While residents generally agreed that promoting and
retaining small businesses would be a positive thing for the local economy, such programs
should take into account the needs and abilities of residents.
To consider including in this Element: Supports for small business development
There should be a support structure so all Galvestonians, especially low-income residents,
can get involved. For example, training for the skills needed to start and run a successful
business as well as access to credit and start-up funds will be necessary in order to make
small business ownership feasible to those who do not already possess skills or finances.
New business owners will also need support after they open their venture. One participant
suggested putting them through a trial or apprenticeship period to ensure the viability of
their skills and abilities.
A small business development program should be accessible, making eligibility
requirements easy to understand, and the availability of funding and/or support widely
known. A plan to promote small businesses should also address barriers to employment,
such as transportation and affordable child care for those enrolled in business training
ED 4.2 Enhance neighborhood retail uses that provide essential goods and services
needed by local residents.
Neighborhood retail/services. If a small business development program was put in place,
several residents mentioned their own interest in starting a small business, such as owning
a Laundromat and operating a childcare center. These suggestions were mentioned as
reflecting specific needs in their neighborhoods.
ED 6 Promote development of a quality workforce that will meet the needs of
Quality workforce. Undergirding the development of a quality workforce is a strong
educational system. Residents mentioned the need for GED classes and tutoring to give job
seekers the confidence to succeed in job training programs. Residents mentioned other
important job skills, including language training in both English and Spanish, as being
bilingual is a valuable asset to Texas employers. A number of residents mentioned the need
free training in both languages.
Support structures for a quality workforce. Increasing job training and job availability in
general was also viewed in a positive light. This was a recurring theme in almost every focus
However, residents were keen to point out that, in addition to sufficient skills and training,
barriers to employment must also be addressed in order to develop a quality workforce. If
Galveston wants to be a sustainable community, then all citizens should have a chance at
employment. For example, in order to make job training and placement more accessible
and sustainable for young adults, child care should be considered. As one participant put it,
“If they would provide a day care at work where the parents would work, that would be a
big help. It would be an incentive to that mother or father to work because they know that
their baby is right there.” Helping single parents cover the cost of outside child care was
also a needed support. Addressing racial/ethnic discrimination and substance abuse as
significant barriers to employment were also mentioned. These issues are addressed
elsewhere in this document as well.
To consider including in this Element: Support to ex-offenders
Residents also mentioned that a felony charge on an applicant’s criminal history is a major
barrier to employment. They noted that job skills training will do little to improve
employment rates if this issue goes unaddressed. Helping job seekers access legal aid to
seal old criminal records so charges will not appear on a background check was mentioned
as a solution.
ED 6.2 Support Galveston College as the Community’s Lifelong Learning Center.
Adult education and job training. One participant felt that Galveston College should do a
better job of meeting community needs for a trained workforce: “We need training for jobs
on Galveston Island.” Looking at the needs of employers on the island should shape the
college’s curriculum. Otherwise, students are less likely to be hired locally.
ED 6.4 Support Additional Vocational Training Centers (Also referenced in HR 3.1).
Vocational and technical training. The need and desire for more technical and vocational
training opportunities was echoed by many residents. Galveston does not have a dedicated
technical or vocational school. Residents specifically mentioned the importance of several
trades, including computers, automotive, masonry, carpentry, welding, and construction.
Service industry skills like management and bartending were also mentioned. Training for
all Galvestonians is important, not just college-age students. One participant referenced the
Operation Serve program, which provides job skills training for older adults who are not
ED 4 Promote Development and Redevelopment Within Key Districts And Corridors.
Corridor Development. Residents agreed with the idea of promoting economic
development by enhancing key areas of Galveston. For example, they mentioned cruise ship
passengers as supporting local businesses. The Strand was also mentioned as an attractive
destination to tourists. Beautification projects like renovating houses and cutting down
dead trees also make the island attractive.
Community Character Element
CC 1.2 Historic Tree Conservation and CC 1.3 Landscaping (Also referenced in NR
Trees and landscaping. Participants from almost every focus group commented that they
highly value the enhanced quality of life that trees and landscaping add to the city. City
beautification through landscaping was considered important. Replacing the Oleanders
along I-45 was mentioned, as was replacing trees destroyed by Hurricane Ike, focusing on
areas north of Broadway that suffered the greatest canopy loss.
CC 1.4 Strengthen the noise ordinance.
Noise. Only one focus group agreed that the noise ordinance needs to be strengthened,
referring to current noise levels of music, motorcycles, industrial activities like at the port,
and heavy truck traffic. Most residents did not seem bothered by current noise levels.
However, this issue appeared to be more an issue of weighing priorities, with noise losing
out to economic activity. While noise from motorcycles was mentioned as an annoyance,
the biker community’s value as a source of business, culture, and entertainment on the
island outweighed the negative impact of motorcycle noise.
CC 3.2 ADA improvements and CC 3.3 Neighborhood amenities program.
Sidewalks and street lighting. Residents were overwhelmingly in favor of adding more
sidewalks in the city. A lack of sidewalks has been an issue for some residents in
neighborhoods around 39th Street who have been repeatedly ticketed or arrested for jay
walking and walking on the street. Increasing street lighting also received positive feedback.
Some residents said lighting levels were fine where they lived, but others reported it as a
significant problem because it kept them from feeling safe walking in their neighborhood
outdoors at night.
ADA accessibility. A lack of wheelchair accessible sidewalks and intersections was
considered a problem as well. Residents noted that, even in areas that did have sidewalks,
many were broken up by tree roots, making them impassible to wheelchairs. One resident
mentioned the area along the harbor as in particular need of ADA improvements because
there is limited wheelchair accessibility to the water.
CC 4 Enhance the Seawall Corridor as representative of our community character
(Also referenced in ED 4).
Seawall development and meters. Residents specifically noted that they value the Seawall
as a place to walk and relax. As one resident put it, “There's just something about that
vastness of the Gulf of Mexico. And, you know, driving down the Seawall and seeing all the
people having a nice time… I just I like it.” The need to improve this area by adding more
paintings and keeping it clean was mentioned.
When the topic of paying for improvements to the Seawall using parking meters was
brought up, participant opinions were generally divided. Opponents believed that the City
should use the money they are planning to spend on parking meters to make other
beautification improvements like planting trees instead. Others feared that parking meters
will drive customers away from Seawall businesses. Residents also believed the fact that
visitors already have to pay for umbrellas and parking on Stewart Beach was enough—
parking meters would make people not want to return to Galveston. Furthermore, parking
meters would only force more people to park in the neighborhoods. Finally, opponents
objected to the expectation that the meters would pay for more benefits to tourists, rather
Proponents of seawall meters pointed to the Texas City dyke as a parking meter success
story. Others looked at it from a purely financial perspective: “I want the parking meters.
You got…200,000 people coming into Galveston each weekend.”
Both sides agreed that Galveston residents should have a free pass, and that residents
“should be able to park without any repercussions.”
CC 5.2 Encourage Residential Redevelopment.
Public housing and scattered site approaches. Expanding affordable housing options has
already been cited as a significant concern for residents, and re-establishing the public
housing units demolished after Hurricane Ike was recommended as an important step
toward achieving this goal, because “now that they're gone, a lot of people, a lot of
relatives, a lot of friends, family are gone with them.” Residents proposed a scattered-site
approach to public housing would be better than having everyone together in one building.
Multiple residents were concerned that fewer public housing units would be rebuilt, further
limiting the supply of affordable housing.
Improving and maintaining standards of safety and maintenance in current public housing
units was also an issue. For example, security gates should be fixed and requirements for
trash pickup and residential maintenance strictly enforced. (See also comments in section
CC 6 Enhance 61st Street as representative of our community character and a vital
commercial corridor for the City of Galveston.
61st Street. Pedestrian improvements to 61st Street were an important issue for some
residents. The fact that cyclists, especially visitors on rental bikes, often ride on the street in
this high-traffic area was mentioned. (See also comments in sections T 2.3 and T 2.4)
CC 7 Enhance Harborside Drive as representative of our community character and a
vital commercial corridor for the City of Galveston.
Harborside. Making Harborside an appealing and safe place for pedestrians was important
to residents because of the visitors from cruise ships who visit this area. Making Harborside
a clean, attractive place for tourists was mentioned.
Land Use Element
LU 2 Protect, stabilize and revitalize existing neighborhoods.
Redevelopment. When asked about their feelings regarding the ways that land is used on
the island, residents responded that they would like to see the stores that are still boarded
up after the hurricane and empty spaces such as the area behind Magnolia brought back to
life. (See also comments in section HN 2.1 and CC 5.2)
LU 3 Expand the supply of workforce and middle income housing.
Mixed use development. In general, residents were highly in favor of creating more mixed-
use land development. Positive aspects of mixed-use neighborhoods reported by residents
include helping low-income people become self-sufficient and allowing people without their
own vehicles to access the services they need. Residents also enjoy the fact that local stores
and restaurants in their neighborhood contribute to a pleasant “small-town” feel. Some
residents had complaints that key services were missing in their neighborhood. For
example, one participant mentioned the need for a Laundromat in his neighborhood north
of Broadway. Several added the need for more child care centers. Several references to the
need for local grocery stores, too, were made during other discussions (see also comments
in section CC 5.2).
To consider including in this Element: Land contamination
Several residents were concerned with levels of contaminants in the island’s soil, especially
after Hurricane Ike. Residents agreed that the city should let residents know about the
location of contaminated areas and “brown fields”, and how high levels of contamination
are. This will help them stay safe, keeping their children away from these areas. Residents
also agreed that land planned for public building projects should be tested for
contamination before being developed.
Historic Preservation Element
Overall, residents highly valued Galveston’s historic significance. Promoting Galveston’s rich
cultural heritage was particularly important to focus group participants. Black history was
referenced specifically, including the need to include black history in the island’s cultural
centers. Resources that allow residents to research their genealogy and family history
would be important features at black history centers.
HP 3.2 Demolition by neglect.
Demolition of historic neighborhoods. Participants—especially long-time residents—who
expressed their value of historic neighborhoods lamented the idea of having to tear down
the historic buildings and homes they were used to seeing. The nostalgic value of these
places was significant to residents, making preventing demolition by neglect very important.
For buildings that must be demolished, residents mentioned the desire to take pictures
before the demolition takes place so they can remember them.
HP 3.4 Tax relief program for rehabilitation of historic properties and HP 3.5
Historic preservation revolving fund and low-interest loan program.
Historic preservation. Residents were quick to point out their appreciation for Galveston’s
historic homes as well. However, they acknowledged that not all families who would like to
own a historic home are able to do so because of the high cost of maintenance. In order to
preserve more historic homes, residents agreed that there need to be supports in place,
including help with finding reliable, affordable contractors.
Natural Resources Element
NR 2 Protect the integrity and function of Galveston Island’s beaches, dunes, and
bay and NR 4.2 Beach and bay shoreline stabilization.
Beach preservation. Almost every focus group spoke out on their love and enjoyment of
Galveston’s beaches. As one participant put it, “You get a peace of mind when you go down
by the water.” Surfing and fishing were reported as favorite activities.
Residents mentioned the need to protect beaches from erosion and maintain the integrity
of the beaches by keeping big hotels off the edges of the island.
NR 6.3 Improve litter control in publicly managed natural areas as well as
enforcement of regulations.
Litter and seaweed. Keeping the beaches clean and safe was also mentioned as a priority,
including enforcing a “no glass on the beach” rule. While residents generally thought the
City did a good job at cleaning the beaches, one participant commented that there was too
much glass on the beach, and that this poses a health hazard. Others mentioned disliking
the seaweed. They pointed out that keeping beaches clean is essential to Galveston’s
appeal as a tourist destination, and that Galveston competes with places like Florida, Corpus
Christi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Gulfport, Mississippi, which have clean, seaweed-free
Disaster Planning Element
Residents noted that Galveston has recovered quickly from Hurricane Ike in many ways.
However, Galveston’s response to and recovery from this disaster point toward many ways
the City can improve in the future.
DP 1.3 Develop an effective Communication Plan to disseminate information
through all steps of a disaster event and DP 4.8 Implement an Effective
Communication program during the response phase and DP 5.2 Develop long-term
community relations/public information program to inform residents and the
general public of recovery efforts.
Communication. The need for more frequent, user-friendly, and accurate communication
between the City and residents during and after a disaster was a recurring theme in many
focus groups. Many residents were dissatisfied with the information they received following
Hurricane Ike. For example, better communication between retail stores and the public
following a disaster was a desire of many residents. If a building permit has been issued,
stores and businesses should let the public know when they expect to return.
Prioritizing assistance. Greater consideration of resident needs was also important. This
includes the need to streamline and make equitable the distribution of post-disaster
assistance. Multiple residents expressed anger about how the city treated them when they
returned after Hurricane Ike. They noticed that those affected by Hurricane Katrina received
more assistance for a longer period of time than Galveston residents who also lost
everything. These thoughts echo feelings expressed throughout multiple focus groups that
decision-makers and people in power purposely made Galveston an unwelcoming place for
low-income, marginalized groups after Hurricane Ike. One participant commented that the
way she was treated when she returned to the island “wasn't fair at all. I guess they were
trying to wash us out of here.”
DP 2 Develop a hazard mitigation strategy that addresses city assets vulnerable to
natural hazards and determines the best policy to mitigate those risks.
Flooding. Several residents voiced concern over the island’s continued vulnerability to
flooding should another storm come. One participant commented that raising low-lying
parts of the island or building a dyke would be a solution.
DP 2.5 Address property insurance issues, including adequate levels for citizens and
maximizing community flood insurance discounts and DP 5.8 Identify insurance
issues for individuals and businesses to aid in recovery.
Insurance. The need to know about different types of insurance and what protection each
provides was mentioned as an important element of disaster preparedness and recovery.
This would help residents repair their property and keep them from falling into insurance
DP 3.6 Establish a tiered, re-entry plan based on the level of the disaster.
Re-entry policies. Allowing residents to return to their homes as soon as possible following
a storm or other disaster was extremely important to residents. They said this would have
helped save more of their possessions after Hurricane Ike. Specifically mentioned was the
Galveston Housing Authorities’ treatment of residents, in terms of not allowing an
opportunity to retrieve possessions.
DP 5.4 Develop temporary and permanent housing programs.
Housing during recovery. The lack of housing options for low-income Galvestonians
following Hurricane Ike was a significant concern for focus group participants. They
recommended having sufficient funding for rebuilding public housing should it be damaged
by a future disaster.
Residents also suggested maximizing disaster recovery funding by repairing damage to
structures whenever possible, rather than paying for costlier demolitions and rebuilding.
To consider including in this Element: Helping displaced families return to Galveston
Residents expressed the desire to see the individuals and families still displaced by
Hurricane Ike return to the island. Many have yet to return because their homes were
destroyed and have not been rebuilt. A stronger plan for developing temporary and
permanent housing would help address this issue. But re-entry goes beyond having a place
to live in Galveston. As one participant suggested, “You, the people that make the decisions,
have to let the people know that we want you all to come back to the island and this is what
we propose to do...”
DP 5.6 Evaluate Methods to expedite the Building Permit Process during Recovery.
Recovery permitting. Helping residents repair storm damage to their property was another
key concern. Expediting, simplifying, and providing user-friendly communication about the
process for obtaining assistance and building permits would ease stress in the aftermath of
a hurricane or disaster.
Comments centered on difficulty understanding complex “fine print” and the many
stipulations associated with receiving a permit, pointing to a need for clearer rules and
instructions. Residents believed there should be a greater sense of urgency in seeing that
homes are repaired. Goals for beginning and completing repairs in a timely manner should
be established, and homeowners should be kept informed as to why repairs are being
delayed. Residents voiced concerns that, after a permit was issued, the City would not have
an answer as to why repairs had not begun.
Some residents also reported problems with storm damage inspection and repairs,
specifically that repairs would fail to pass inspection multiple times. Residents also noted
conflicts between needing to repair their property in a timely manner and having to wait—
or not knowing that they could wait—to receive FEMA assistance.
To consider including in this Element: Disaster planning and recovery for low-income
The Disaster Planning Element of the Comprehensive Plan does not directly address how to
meet the unique needs of vulnerable and low-income residents during the recovery phase
of a disaster situation. One of residents’ key concerns regarding this issue was the
relocation of individuals and families displaced by Hurricane Ike, and how to help more
families return to the island in a timely manner following future disasters.
T 1.1 Passenger Rail.
Off island links. Focus group participants were overwhelmingly in favor of establishing a
public transportation link to the mainland via passenger rail. This would provide better
access to shopping and key services off the island. They mentioned that the buses currently
stopping on the mainland are infrequent and passengers risk being stranded for long
periods of time if they miss the bus. Residents suggested stops in Texas City, League City,
and Houston. One group said they would be willing to pay as much as $10 in fares to use
T 2.1 Island Transit.
Local bus service. Many focus group participants mentioned that they value and appreciate
the public transportation system in Galveston. Several who had come here from other
similar sized or smaller towns pointed out that having public transportation at all is nice.
However, the need for improvements to the public transportation system was among the
topics brought up most frequently by focus group participants. Comments focused on four
main themes: scheduling, routes, bus stops, and fares.
The limited night and weekend schedule was a problem for residents, especially those in the
service industry who work outside normal business hours. Several residents desired a
decrease in the wait time between buses.
Residents commented that bus routes to essential stores and services on the island were
insufficient. Several mentioned travel times between their homes and Wal-Mart were over
two hours. Others mentioned the long travel time to entertainment like the movie theater
and the 61st Street fishing pier. Residents noted that crowed conditions on routes to key
destinations like Wal-Mart have led to a limit on the number of shopping bags riders can
carry, an inconvenience that points to a need to redesign routes and timing to match
The number and location of key bus stops was also an issue for some. For example, the bus
stop at Kroger is located on the Seawall instead of at the front of the store, making it very
difficult for elderly and mobility-impaired riders to travel between the bus and the store
with their groceries. Residents also suggested having more benches and covers at bus stops.
To consider including in this Element: Island Transit fare affordability
Residents were overwhelmingly opposed to an increase in Island Transit fares. Many
predicted that a fare increase to $2 would decrease ridership considerably and that this
would be hard on parents—especially single parents—who rely on Island Transit to get their
kids to school. Some said the reason they do not rely on the bus system presently is because
they cannot afford it or that putting gas in their own car is cheaper. Others lamented the
fact that programs that used to give bus tokens for free rides under certain conditions were
no longer functioning, making it even more difficult for low-income residents to become
self-sufficient and access job opportunities.
Alternatives to public transportation, such as the Dial-a-Ride service to doctor appointments
and free transportation provided by St. Vincent’s House, are valuable but insufficient to
meet the needs of all residents. In relation to those programs, residents mentioned long
wait times and the need to schedule a ride long in advance. Senior citizen residents were a
group particularly affected by the accessibility of transportation; the desire for a dedicated
bus for senior housing developments was mentioned.
T 2.3 Complete streets and 2.4 Hike and bike.
Pedestrian and bike safety. Galveston’s small size and the central location of popular
destinations were positive community features to many residents. Walking and riding
bicycles were mentioned as frequent modes of transportation.
Those who said they walk often mentioned the fact that they can usually reach their
destination faster walking than when they take the bus. Residents enjoyed the views and
exercise biking affords. Given the significance of walking, designing complete streets in
Galveston, including sidewalks and lighting, was also important. Residents addressed the
fact that many sidewalks are broken, forcing cyclists to ride in the street, and should be
A lack of bicycle routes was a concern for many residents. They mentioned the safety
concern this poses to cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike, especially when it comes to
riding on busy streets like 61st Street and 25th Street. Families and children were expected to
benefit most from bike lanes. Related to cyclist and pedestrian safety was the need to lower
speed limits and put in speed bumps in front of concentrated residential areas. Sandpiper
Cove was mentioned specifically.
Street repair. Repairing and maintaining Galveston’s roads was another important City
responsibility focus group residents brought up. They pointed out areas in particular need
of improvements, including Cove View, Stewart Road, the streets around Ball High, and
Seawall Blvd. between 15th and 45th Streets. Residents noted that streets should be
repaved, as opposed to just filling potholes which offers only a temporary solution.
Repairing streets was also mentioned as a way to make cycling safer.
I 2.1 Storm sewer system maintenance.
Storm sewers. When asked about the island’s infrastructure, residents focused on concerns
about the effectiveness of storm sewers in several areas. One participant mentioned that
the sanitary sewer on 30th Street near Sandpiper Cove backs up when it rains, spilling
sewage on the ground. Another mentioned the flooding between 9th Street and 14th Street
at Market and Mechanic when it rains. Improving drainage should be considered as part of
preparedness for future storms.
Out of all the elements of the Comprehensive Plan, the majority of focus group participants’
feedback pertained to the objectives, strategies, and actions in the Human Element section.
This highlights the importance of human needs and services to our target audience.
Residents generally agreed that the ideas expressed in the Human Element section,
including the development of community centers, enhancing opportunities for togetherness
and intergenerational activities, increasing opportunities for problem solving, promoting
access to fresh food, increasing literacy and access to health care, promoting physical and
mental fitness, and preventing crime would be positive changes if they are carried out.
HR 1 Build supportive relationships with families, neighborhoods, and the
Social networks and cohesion. Galveston residents place a high value on their community,
family, and friends. Residents expressed appreciation for the sense of togetherness and
collectiveness that they feel with their neighbors. Galveston’s “small town” feel was
mentioned, including running into friends around town and in the workplace and relaxing
with family. The importance of having a support network of loved ones close by was also
HR 1.3 Support the development of community centers …
Community centers. Participants in several workshops expressed the desire to see a
community center in their neighborhoods.
HR 1.15 Encourage other government agencies and community-based
organizations to provide opportunities for members of the community to
participate in discussions that shape decisions about their neighborhoods and
Civic engagement opportunities and welcomed participation. Multiple residents believe
that decision-makers and people in power in Galveston do not provide enough opportunity
for the average resident to become involved in community decision-making. Rather, many
feel they have been purposely excluded from decisions about Galveston’s future. For
example, several residents felt decisions about whether or not Galveston should be focused
on becoming a tourist town had already been made and were out of their hands, as
evidenced by more cruise ships coming in, the development of Moody Gardens, and the
slow pace at which low-income residents have returned to the island following Ike.
Letting residents know about community meetings, asking for their input, and taking that
input into consideration were three essential steps residents felt Galveston needed to
engage more. When asked whether low-income people were consulted enough in decision-
making processes, not one participant agreed. A proposed solution to this problem would
be to make City Council meetings—and the opportunity to provide input at these
meetings—during times when workers could come.
As one resident commented, “I think one thing that is a hindrance is that when they form
their committees there are too many educated people and too many rich people on those
committees. The poor man is not considered. When you get there the rich man has already
decided so if you have to say anything it gets overridden. Why aren’t we invited to
participate in various committees where we can be heard?”Access to the mayor’s office was
also mentioned. Residents expressed a desire for the mayor to come visit all parts of
Galveston and learn about what residents would like to see in their neighborhoods.
HR 2.1 Promote convenient access to fresh food for all residents with an ideal walk
of no more than one-half mile to fresh food. Community gardens, farmers’ market,
smaller grocery stores, home gardens.
Affordable, healthy food. While many residents mentioned that they appreciated the fact
that convenience stores are accessible, located within walking distance of their homes, they
commented on the high cost of food in these stores.
Many residents expressed satisfaction with the amount of food assistance in the City,
especially through charities like the Salvation Army, St. Vincent’s House, the Jesse Tree, and
churches. However, others reported that assistance through SNAP (food stamps) was not
enough to get by on. They mentioned that money goes further at stores in places like La
Having more farmers markets, co-ops and community gardens were all recommended as
solutions. One resident brought up having more community gardens as a helpful way to use
undeveloped city land, promote nutrition, and provide opportunities for socialization at the
same time. However, others thought that community gardens, if developed, should be open
to all residents, not just those who have a plot. Bringing back some of the grocery stores
that used to be on the island was brought up as well. Finally, as mentioned in section T 2.1,
improving the public transportation system to help people access grocery stores more
efficiently was another proposed solution to improving nutrition on the island.
HR 3 Promote efforts to provide the education and job skills to lead an independent
life (Also referenced in ED 6.1).
GISD. Improving Galveston’s education system was another key theme throughout almost
every focus group. Residents were concerned with the lack of educational resources in the
school district, including the quality of teachers, the size of classes, the fact that students
cannot always bring their textbooks home with them, and the fact that some students
graduate high school without basic reading skills.
They also offered solutions, including having parents pay for textbook damages out of their
tax returns as they do in Houston, which would allow students to bring books home.
Residents had specific desires to see more computer/technology access and training for
young people. They also voiced the need for more charter schools, tutoring opportunities,
and GED prep programs.
To consider including in this Element: School discipline
Residents also spoke about the need for changes in the way schools discipline difficult
students; however, discussion of school discipline policies and practices is absent from the
Residents were concerned with the fact that students are being sent to alternative schools
for minor behavior problems that could be resolved with teamwork between the parent,
teacher, and student. This is especially difficult on single parents. One resident remarked,
“And, I'm one of those moms. And, I need all the help I can get. I'm the type of mom, I will
listen to you when it's concerning my kids. But, some of these teachers, when they know
they got that power and the power is this pen, they can write whatever they want on that
paper and they gonna abide what's on that paper. And, I think they need to be more
understanding…It's just the people with authority they think that because you wasn't able
to get that education like they got, they think they can, you know, talk to you like a little
different. And, you know, that's not right.”
HR 4.4 Seek to improve the quality and equity of access to health care, including
physical and mental health, emergency medical, and addiction services.
Access to health care. Accessing health care was a topic brought up by multiple residents in
several focus groups. One mentioned that many of the doctors that used to be at UTMB
never returned after Hurricane Ike. Also following the storm, low-income residents reported
a more difficult time getting health care because hospitals would no longer accept them.
The high cost of medication was a final issue.
HR 5 Work to reduce violence and abuse within the community.
Community violence. Overall, residents felt that Galveston was a safe place to live and raise
a family. Residents indicated that there were unsafe areas and violent people, but that it
was a matter of personal choice to stay out of those situations.
HR 5.1 Reduce abandoned and vacant homes and associated problems such as
“crack houses”, drug activity, squatters, fire, disease, and rodents/pigeons.
Neighborhood safety. Blighted, abandoned buildings were mentioned as a safety issue,
especially given the fact that residents reported having to choose between walking in front
of these structures risking a robbery or assault and walking on the street risking being
ticketed by police. Lighting was also mentioned as a way to increase safety.
HR 5.10 Strive to provide competent, professional, and efficient City criminal justice
services, including law enforcement, prosecution, and adjudication. The City should
seek to: find and hold accountable those who commit crimes; reduce recidivism;
and achieve a fair and just system.
To consider including in this Element: Community/Police relations
A significant part of providing “competent, professional, and efficient City criminal justice
services” is maintaining a positive, trusting relationship between residents and criminal
justice system officials. Community/Police relations were a topic of great importance to
focus group participants, but it is not directly addressed in this or other action items.
Multiple focus groups and multiple participants within each group voiced concern over
experiencing repeated harassment from Galveston police officers. While they admitted that
there are many good police officers, they reported that being stopped, searched, and
arrested by police with little explanation was a common occurrence in their neighborhoods.
Jaywalking, riding bicycles without lights, parking in the wrong area, and looking
“suspicious” were all listed as reasons for being stopped. Others reported being harassed in
parks or at the beach on weekends when gathered with a group of “too many” people.
Residents also commented on the use of unnecessary force when arresting suspects, citing
times when officers jumped out of vehicles with guns when there were families and
children present nearby, but little indication of a violent response by the suspect.
Areas especially affected include the neighborhood around Wal-Mart, 34th Street, at weekly
food drives, and near the Sandpiper Cove apartments
Residents proposed solutions to this issue, including having law enforcement issue warnings
instead of citations or arresting people for minor infractions, so that people can know what
the rules are. Prevention is another tactic: residents reported that minor disruptions and
fighting in their neighborhood go unnoticed, even when calls to police are made, and law
enforcement waits until violence is bad to step in with guns.
Other residents worried that police are concerning themselves with arresting tourists on the
beach for drinking instead of targeting more serious crime and safety issues.
Overall, residents indicated a greater need for law enforcement to suspend judgment and
not stop people for simply looking or acting suspicious, and to treat everyone with respect.
HR 6.2 Celebrate diversity through community activities and events that recognize
different groups. Bring people together to experience and learn about ethnic and
cultural traditions. Involve children, youth, and adults of all ages in
intergenerational activities to lend support to and learn from each other.
Diversity. Residents recognized and appreciated Galveston’s diversity, making this objective
HR 6.5 Enhance opportunities for people with low incomes, disabilities, limited
English-speaking ability, and other barriers to service to participate fully in
community life and to access assistance.
Diversity in civic engagement. Residents repeatedly mentioned the need for more
opportunities for disadvantaged, minority, and marginalized groups in the areas of jobs,
social services, and—above all—a voice in decision making. Residents with limited English-
speaking ability mentioned the strong sense of community within this group; however,
Spanish-speaking residents also pointed out a need for more city services in Spanish,
including a community center where residents can take citizenship classes, submit
immigration-related paperwork, and take identification photos.
HR 6.7 Provide opportunities for diverse representation of people and interests on
city boards, commissions, advisory committees, and in the neighborhood planning
Diverse representation in city government. Residents commented on the fact that the City
Council member who represents neighborhoods that are predominantly African-American is
not African-American. Residents stressed the need for neighborhood representatives to be
able to come into neighborhoods, and not be afraid to learn about the culture, daily lives,
and needs of residents. City Council and other leaders should truly represent the
neighborhoods they claim to represent.
HR 6.8 In addition to upholding federal, state, and local laws against discrimination
and bias crimes, the City should work to promote human rights and mutual respect
and to end intolerance and divisiveness. Reach out and bring people together in
ways that build bridges between individuals and between groups.
Discrimination and segregation. According to multiple participants in more than one focus
group, the prevalence of discrimination remains a problem in Galveston. Racial
discrimination in the job market was mentioned specifically, and implied in discussions of
community/police relations. As one resident put it, “There's a whole lot of discrimination,
like a whole lot of people can't get jobs where other people get jobs... it's happening right
now. I'm speaking, but you know, a lot of people [are] scared to speak about it, 'cause it's
happening where we work…” If discrimination were addressed, residents asserted, many
other employment issues would be resolved.
Racial segregation in Galveston’s neighborhoods was also brought up in several focus
groups, as was the belief that a lack of affordable homes in predominantly minority
neighborhoods has forced many of these residents to move off the island.
HR 7 Ensure access to cultural and recreational activities for all Galvestonians.
Affordable recreation. Increasing the availability and affordability of family,
intergenerational, and cultural activities in Galveston was among the most common topics
residents addressed. Although residents acknowledged that there are free activities in
Galveston like the library, riding the ferry, and church activities, many parents mentioned
the high cost of existing recreational and family activities in Galveston.
Residents expressed a strong interest in bringing back some of the recreational activities
Galveston used to have, including a skating rink, bowling, golf, arcades, and a movie theater
downtown. Bringing a pool to Galveston was also recommended, as was bringing more
carnivals to Galveston. Fishing was another important activity that should be promoted and
made more accessible. As one resident said of another who had lived in Galveston her
whole life and began fishing at age six, “She still loves it 81 years later. She is still there and
she is still that young kid at heart because she was introduced to it at a young age.” But
fishing is now cost prohibitive, so a community-sponsored fishing program could be a
Having more intergenerational and cultural activities for the Spanish-speaking population
was also important to residents, as was a lack of activities geared toward seniors.
HR 7.4 Provide additional recreational and cultural opportunities for the increasing
To consider including in this Element: Senior Center in Galveston
The fact that Galveston no longer has a Senior Center was a significant concern for many
participants, not least of all among Gulf Breeze residents, for whom this issue was a key
discussion point during the focus group. This resource added greatly to the quality of life for
seniors, residents reported, and its absence is felt by many.
Programs and activities the Senior Center offered that residents feel should be brought back
to the island include activities in Spanish, tickets and transportation to cultural events at
The Grand and elsewhere, tai chi, cards and games, hot meals, Bingo, exercise equipment,
ceramics, and art classes, among others. Above all, the Senior Center offered a place for
seniors to socialize.
HR 7.1 Support and fund the Commission for the Arts to improve the visual
appearance and cultural interest of the community through further the expansion
of public art, maintenance of public art, and community events.
Arts. Residents indicated a need for promoting the arts at a young age: “Theater, acting, the
arts, that’s a one thing I feel. We have lost that. We have cut those resources at GISD.”
HR 9.4 Further develop the City’s website to provide better information regarding
services to the public…and HR 9.7 Strive to provide better and more coordinated
information to people about the availability of services in the community and make
use of available new technologies to improve access to services and information.
Communication. Keeping residents informed by keeping Galveston’s website up-to-date,
especially regarding emergency events, was mentioned. Having an alert system for the
entire city similar to UTMB’s would also be helpful.
The need for clear, concise, reciprocal, and user-friendly communication with the City was
one of the most prevalent themes in every focus group. As one resident put it, “Include us.
Involve us. You know, let us know... something.”
As mentioned in discussions about disaster recovery, residents brought up the need for a
better understanding of residents’ needs on the part of the City. Residents felt they had
been left “just hanging off a cliff.”
Residents also articulated the desire to receive better information about the availability of
government grants and assistance.
HR 9 Provide coordination and joint planning of services.
Many residents acknowledged the importance of and their appreciation for a variety of
community services on the island. Supports like food and help with utilities were noted
specifically. Several gaps in services were mentioned, however, including “one-stop”
opportunities for services (i.e. wrap-around services). Several sub-populations were also
mentioned as in need of such services, including veterans, the homeless, and ex-offenders.
Helping these groups recover, go to school, and get jobs is important. One resident
suggested employing the homeless population through building projects like Habitat for
HR 9.14 Consider the special needs of pre-teens, teens, and young adults in
planning and designing community facilities and programs…
To consider including in this Element: Child and youth after school and summer programs
The lack of after school and summer activities for youth was a major concern brought up
repeatedly by participants in almost every focus group. Creating more outlets for youth to
be creative and occupied would help keep them out of trouble, especially after school and
during the summers. Many residents felt that the lack of youth activities contributes directly
to youth crime and delinquency. As one commented, “The kids don’t have anything to do in
the summertime but get in trouble.” And as a participant in a different group said, “'Cause if
they don't have nothing for the kids to do, it's gonna be trouble.” Residents felt that current
summer programs are unaffordable. Residents felt the city needs to provide an affordable
day camp during the summer.
Outdoor activities like surfing, jet skis, paint ball, and fishing were mentioned. However, the
current cost of participating in these activities is too high for most of these families.
Organized sports teams were mentioned as an effective way to get kids involved; however,
sports are also increasingly expensive for parents. One resident thought teams should have
fundraisers instead of charging parents for equipment and fees, which excludes low-income
families from participating.
Residents voiced the need for more public spaces for youth: “So far we have only one Rec
Center. That’s on the Seawall. There are a lot of areas where they can build up some kind of
recreational facilities where, if possible, kids could be trained in the process where they
develop their minds and such because there are too many spaces that are not being utilized
enough to benefit the youth of Galveston.”
There should be more satellite locations of the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA so that
youth will have a place to go after school. Residents noted that the skate park at the
McGuire-Dent Recreation Center is an example of a successful development: kids
congregate there, get exercise, and stay out of trouble. Residents expressed the need for
adequate supervision for youth activities, especially at pools.
HR 9.27 Encourage cooperative agreements with on and off island day care for
reciprocal services that are established prior to disaster events. Encourage
development of a master file process for immunization records and child health
Disaster planning for child care. Residents reported difficulty finding child care after
Hurricane Ike, and that affordable child care continues to be a significant struggle. Several
residents mentioned the lack of affordable child care as a barrier to income generation and
Several key themes emerged from focus group participants. These themes were brought up
often and consistently and were named specifically when residents were asked to identify
their top priorities for Galveston. Top priorities are areas that the City should address
directly in the Comprehensive Plan because they are of high importance to residents.
Affordable housing is difficult to find in Galveston, especially post-Ike. Residents place
emphasis on bringing back more public housing and making rents more affordable, both of
which have forced people to move off island and keep those displaced by Hurricane Ike
Small business development
Developing small businesses is highly important, but there is a need for education and
financial supports to make it feasible for the average resident.
Residents consistently called for more jobs on the island. Concerns centered on a lack of
positions, as well as barriers to employment like language skills (both English and Spanish),
discrimination, and education. There are few high-quality employers in Galveston, and the
jobs being created now are still low-wage.
Residents were consistently concerned with the low quality of public school education.
Smaller class sizes, more educational resources and supports like books and tutoring, and
greater cooperation between students, parents, and teachers were top priorities.
There is a need to match training with jobs already located in Galveston. The majority of
residents agreed that more trade and technical training in areas like welding, construction,
and high-tech would help with this issue.
Residents value Galveston’s natural beauty—its beaches, trees, water, and fishing. Bringing
back trees destroyed by Ike, city beautification projects, and beach preservation were all
mentioned as important priorities by residents.
Residents value the public transportation system, but current routes, schedules, and fares
are not adequate. Residents voiced the need for extended hours, lower fares, and off-island
Access to food
Residents value the close proximity of corner stores and the availability of food pantries,
but high prices and inadequate public transportation limit access to current food outlets.
Activities for families, children, youth, and seniors
There are too few activities for families, children, youth, and seniors. Residents mentioned
the need to bring back a skating rink, Senior Center, in-town movie theater, bowling alley,
pool, and other activities and to make these activities affordable for all. Creating more
affordable summer and after-school activities was also a major priority.
Community input and decision-making
Calls for more frequent, user-friendly, and reciprocal communication with City departments
were a focus in each group. Feelings of disconnect with decision-makers and those planning
Galveston’s future as a tourist town or making other plans were commonly reported by
residents. These feelings of disconnect are drawn along racial, class, and geographical lines.
Other topics mentioned frequently in the Comprehensive Plan, including community
character, historic preservation, and natural resources were not top priorities or concerns
for residents. While residents value them greatly, they were mentioned in the context of
being Galveston’s strengths—things to be maintained rather than focused on, changed, and
improved in the future.
Requested by the Galveston City Council, this report and the research it reflects was an
explicit effort to highlight the voices of low-income Galveston residents in the Hurricane Ike
recovery planning process. The report includes their vision of Galveston’s future as well as
specific input on the City’s Draft Comprehensive Plan in relation to their goals and priority
issues. While many discussions have taken place with Galveston residents about the
direction for recovery, low-income residents are often unintentionally left out of those
conversations. But to develop a recovery plan that does not take into account the needs as
well as the assets of low-income Islanders would undercut Galveston’s ability to fully
recover, and to build a stronger community.
The collection of this information, gathered through focus group discussions, provides an
excellent opportunity to include all Galveston residents in the process of decision-making
aimed at furthering human and economic development, promoting job growth and
improving the quality of life for all residents in Galveston. The variety of participants in the
visioning process, and especially the demographics represented, will aid the city in ensuring
that the final version of the Plan is inclusive and thorough.
The process used for gathering the information in this report combined a visioning exercise
with a more guided process for soliciting feedback on the City of Galveston’s Draft
Comprehensive Plan. The approach provided an opportunity for residents to both “dream”
and to also reflect on more immediate, practical needs for improving their community, as
well as their interaction with it. A number of notable key issues arose that were not
included in the Draft Comprehensive Plan, including issues involving the built, economic and
social environments. Moreover, many of these issues relate to physical and mental health
and well-being—critical perspectives for a city recovering from a natural disaster. At the
same time, the report highlights concerns facing many cities across the country, and serves
as a microcosm of challenges related to shifting demographics, the strain created by the
economic downturn, weaknesses of our health care system, the urgent need for social
services, and increasing health inequities, while also exploring economic opportunities, how
to enhance civic participation, and strategies for poverty alleviation.
The Vision that has been presented in this report will undoubtedly serve as a resource for
the next phase of local planning. By embracing this process and engaging all residents of
Galveston in the Vision for its future, the City will assure that future plans for Galveston are,
in no small measure, the result of a collaboration involving the City of Galveston and the
The Center to Eliminate Health Disparities
301 University Blvd.
Galveston, Texas 77555-0434
You can find this document online at the CEHD website.
This research was made possible in part by
a grant from the National Institutes of Health
through The Gulf Coast Trans-disciplinary
Research Recovery Center for Community
Health, also known as Project SECURE Gulf
Coast ( http://www.securegulfcoast.org/).