Galveston Island is a popular vacation spot for many Texans. It is also a city with a long history. This may explain why Galveston’s new mayor, Joe Jaworski, spent more than $200,000 on his political campaign for the unpaid position, according to the Houston Chronicle. His campaign effort ultimately paid off. With 53 percent of the vote, Joe Jaworski won Galveston’s mayoral contest, replacing Lyda Ann Thomas who was term-limited after serving as mayor for three terms.
Although it is a position of relatively little power in the city manager system of city government, the new mayor has big plans for Galveston, says the Chronicle.
Jaworski hopes to use the mayor’s bully pulpit to help the city shed its seedy image and make it more welcoming to tourists and new businesses.
The new mayor is also promising that when the next hurricane strikes, he will try to allow evacuated residents to return within 72 hours. He also wants to speed the return by putting barcodes on residents’ cars that police can scan at checkpoints.
Jaworski promises to find additional, creative ways to expedite re-entry, such as setting up an emergency field clinic and hauling in portable toilets, says the Daily News. But it is important to note that every storm is different and re-entry depends on the severity of the disaster. As City Manager Steve LeBlanc said, “Galveston is a risky and expensive place to live. People who do not have the physical, mental or financial capabilities to live in Galveston, evacuate when necessary and stay away for days as the city recuperates should not live in Galveston,” reports the Daily News.
Rather than encouraging further development on the remaining natural habitat of the west end of the island, Jaworski aims to focus on improving the quality of life for existing residents. The island’s demographics experienced a shift because of Hurricane Ike. 3,000 employees of the University of Texas Medical Branch were either laid off or voluntarily left after the storm and many could not afford to repair their homes. “It’s unclear how the change affected the election or will change island politics. At this stage of the game we are just going to have to wait and see,” said Theron “Bujo” Waddell, who teaches political science at Galveston Community College.
Jaworski hopes that efforts made to change Galveston’s image will help lure businesses to the city, making it a better place to live, says the Chronicle.
Jaworski wants a report from city staff at every council meeting on what is being done to spruce up the city. He wants zoning regulations enforced to rid Galveston of shoddy buildings. And he wants to entice development on the thousands of empty lots that dot the city’s east end.
He also embraces a report by the Urban Land Institute that says Seawall Boulevard could be converted into one the nation’s great boulevards.
(Photo Credit: Galveston.com)
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