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A sad report from Galveston and Chambers County

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PDittie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 09:39 AM
Original message
A sad report from Galveston and Chambers County
From Bill King, in an e-mail entitled "Driving Bolivar":

Currently, there are about 38 persons confirmed to have been killed by the Hurricane Ike with about 40 others still missing. The Governor's Office estimates the total economic impact of Hurricanes Ike and Dolly to be a staggering $29 billion. To put this in perspective, it is $4 billion more than the automakers' proposed bailout.

We also went on a bus tour of some of the damage, including a stop at UTMB. (Click here for a video clip http://www.myfoxhouston.com/myfox/MyFox/pages/sidebar_v... ). The physical damage is extensive, but the economic impact is overwhelming. On the Strand, we passed business after business that were still boarded up. The City of Galveston estimates that is has lost almost a third of its pre-Ike population of 57,000. UTMB, the island's largest employer has cut its workforce from 12,500 before Ike to 10,000. It will clearly take years for Galveston to recover from Hurricane Ike, a process that is being further handicapped by the larger economic woes.

One of the more intriguing issues discussed during the day was the so-called Ike Dike. This is a proposal to extend the existing Galveston seawall from High Island to Freeport. Preliminary costs are estimated at around $4 billion, which is a lot of money, but when compared to $29 billion in damages it looks like a bargain. My friends in the environmental community are greatly concerned about the environmental impact of such a project and rightly so. However, hurricanes also do a great deal of environmental damage to the bay system. In any event, it will be fascinating to follow this issue.

After the Commission meeting I decided to drive back to Houston through Chambers County and see Ike's impact on Bolivar peninsula for myself. During the day, County Judge Jim Yarbrough had shared with us that approximately 80% of Bolivar's 5,300 structures had been destroyed and showed a number of aerial photographs of the damages. However, that briefing did not prepare me for what I saw. The extent of the devastation can not be truly appreciated without seeing it personally.

On exiting the ferry, the signs of damage are immediately obvious. But on that far west end, many structures survived. As you drive farther east the extent of the damage worsens. By Gilchrist, which is a little over half way to High Island, it is nearly complete devastation. I counted only eight houses still standing in Gilchrist.

Before Hurricane Ike, Rollover Pass (which is the only waterway between the Gulf and East Bay and located in Gilchrist) was a hub of activity on the Bolivar Peninsula. It was a favorite of fishermen with a number of bait camps, docks and "joints." When I crossed the bridge at Rollover Pass on Friday there was nothing left. In fact, there was hardly any sign that there had ever been anything there.

The one encouraging note I have to offer is that in both Galveston and on Bolivar the newer buildings that had been constructed to more rigid building codes appeared to have survived the storm with relatively little damage. All of the homes that survived near Gilchrist were newer structures.

As I turned north into Chambers County I saw about a dozen plumes of black smoke on the horizon. Earlier in the day, Chambers County officials had described a bureaucratic dilemma that accounted for these plumes. FEMA will not reimburse local governments for removing debris from private property. If the property owner can push the debris on his/her property to the public right-of-way, FEMA will pay for the removal. The problem is that in Chambers County ranchers and farmers have debris fields that go on for miles. Just moving the debris to a public right-of-way would bankrupt these folks. One Chamber County official told us that he expected to see a good deal of "accidental" fires. And there they were.

As you can easily imagine, burning the debris is not helpful with our air quality problems. Much of the debris fields are made up of "treated timber." Burning treated timber is particularly problematic. See http://homepage.mac.com/herinst/CCAtimber/waste/inciner... . Once again, our government agencies are working at cross purposes . . . FEMA imposing a moronic rule to save an insignificant sum of money and the EPA beating us over the head and shoulders about our air quality.

As I turned back to Houston, my thoughts were on the 40-80 souls lost in the storm. Most have lived, and died, within a few hundred feet of the route I had just driven. The recovery challenges facing this community are daunting, but they will be overcome. The loss of these individuals was, for the most part, avoidable. It is always difficult to understand why some people stay in harm's way notwithstanding the warnings available today.

When preparing this blog entry, I checked the list of those persons still missing from the storm maintained by The Laura Recovery Center. There photos and some personal information posted on eight victims. See http://www.lrcf.net/Ike /. As you will see if you visit this site, several were elderly. As I was looking at the faces of these individuals I began to get a sick feeling in my stomach, wondering if they stayed voluntarily or if they had simply been unable to evacuate themselves.
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sonias Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 12:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thank you for that report PDittie from Bill King
I watched the video news clip and Perry says something like "Simply treat Texas like you did the folks in Louisiana after Katrina and you treated the folks in Mississippi after Katrina". Does he realize that this is how those folks were treated after Katrina by FEMA? Perry this is what a Bush run FEMA did for disaster relief.

I hope that the new administration does a whole revamp of FEMA and that this devastated area gets much more help. But it may not be fast enough and there is no doubt that the Galveston before Ike is not going to come back. It will be a different Galveston.

Sonia
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Baby Snooks Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:26 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. He smells him some casinos...
One or more of our legislators who don't need to worry about the wrath of the religious wrong in our state will propose that the time has come for Texas to have casino gambling. Limited of course. Probably limited to Galveston. Probably proposed by the Democrats who work well with the Republicans. Usually with Republican money.

The governor smells him some casinos. And probably some casino owners with lots of cash for his 2010 campaign if the legislature passes the legislation, he signs it, and the voters approve it.

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sonias Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 03:49 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. I agree
That's what happened in the gulf coast area after Katrina. They sold them as job creators.

Sonia
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PDittie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 07:18 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. The horse race tracks in Texas
will get slot machines in short order. The new Speaker has horse racing family interests, and that industry is hurting. Sam Houston Race Park won't open until the spring because Ike tore the roof off the pavilion and it still hasn't been fixed.
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Vogon_Glory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-28-09 07:09 PM
Response to Reply #2
6. From What I'm Able To Tell
From what I'm able to gleam from the history books, Galveston started its transition from being an lively Gulf port city to dullsville when the goody two-shoes brigade succeeded in closing down Galveston's gambling back in the 1950's.

Of course it was mostly "whites only" back then.
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sonias Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 04:20 PM
Response to Original message
5. Some casino stories post Katrina
Katrina An Unnatural Disaster 8/2007
Gambling with Biloxi

(snip)
The casinos began their push immediately after the storm. Less than eight weeks after Katrina, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour called the state legislature back for an extraordinary session. It passed a new law that allowed casinos to be built on land as long as they were within 800 feet of the coast. The gambling industry had long sought this legislation. Instantly, every piece of land within a mile of Mississippi's coast became a hot commodity. Developers and promoters, sensing potential gold in real estate and retail deals, promised new investments of $20 billion to $30 billion in the area compared to the $3 billion to $6 billion planned before Katrina. Casino interests believe Biloxi will be a $4 billion gaming market by 2010.

This vision, however, has no place for most of the survivors in the eastern end of Biloxi, a mixed neighborhood of Vietnamese, Anglos and African Americans that is often compared to New Orleans' Ninth Ward in terms of its ethnicity and diversity. Their land near the coastline is the area most coveted by the casino and real estate interests.

"This is all about the money," says Bill Stallworth, the only African American on Biloxi's city council and the representative from Ward Two, which encompasses most of East Biloxi. Stallworth, a former high school teacher and computer technician, is leading the fight against the developers on behalf of those who want to keep their homes and neighborhoods. But it is difficult. "People are getting to the point that panic is setting in," he says.



Katrina An Unnatural Disaster 2006
Casino Interests Hit the Jackpot in Post-Katrina Development
(snip)

New Orleans may also get into the act. In late July, the city's Levee Board opened negotiations with Atlantis Internet Group Corp. of Nevada for a proposed $200 million hotel and gambling complex along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

All of these projects will take advantage of the $3 billion in tax breaks for Gulf Coast investors that Congress included in the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act passed in 2005. Sen. Trent Lott, an indefatigable defender of Mississippi business interests, tried to include casinos in the bill. He failed, but the final $8 billion package provided lucrative tax credits to companies investing in Gulf Coast hotels and shopping centers even if their owners are gaming companies.

As a result, the Beau Rivage may claim more than $50 million in write-offs, the Washington Post reported in 2005. That was too much for Rep. Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican, who urged President Bush in a letter to "do the right thing and make sure federal resources go to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable and not the gambling interests who already have insurance to cover catastrophic events like hurricanes." Bush ignored him, however, and signed the bill as presented to him.


Sonia
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