Don’t forget our county, leaders tell Austin
By Lora-Marie Bernard
BUSINESS and government leaders from around the county descended on Austin on Wednesday in our community’s first en-masse lobbying trip to the state capitol.
The so-called “legislative day” put the county’s politicians and members of its chambers of commerce in prime position to showcase the county and its communities to Texas legislators.
Representatives from county and city governments and the chambers of Galveston, Texas City-La Marque, Santa Fe and League City-Bay Area were among some 200 people who signed up for hours of meetings with state lawmakers about projects that need their support, such as coastal protection and port improvements.
During dozens of meetings with house representatives and senators, chamber representatives presented each of their hosts with a coffee-table book about Hotel Galvez and a journal embossed with the county seal as they sought to influence opinion on their pet causes.
A measure of their success could well have been the fact that about double the traveling group’s number turned up for the organized trip’s end-of-day seafood party before a late-night bus ride home for the coastal-community lobbyists.
Several county luminaries voted the day a big hit.
Precinct-four county commissioner Ken Clark said the commissioners’ court had been having conversations for many years about conducting a countywide legislative day but the effort had always languished.
He described the milestone as an “open house at the capitol” because it had created ambassadors who raised awareness among legislators who knew little about the Galveston area.
He said: “It allows us to focus on issues that are specific to our county and gives us the ability to work together to achieve the ability to reach out to the representatives and the legislators and have a common message. It builds camaraderie and unity in the county when we do that.”
Santa Fe city manager Joe Dickson said his team had discussed coastal protection, medical-center funding and tax caps with half a dozen representatives and senators.
“They have a lot of issues they have to deal with so we will see how it all comes out in the wash”, he said. Galveston resident and business owner Rusty Carnes was concerned about immediate coastal issues including a brewing battle about the cleaning process of a superfund site on the San Jacinto river that threatens Galveston Bay.
He said he wanted state legislators to learn the dangers of dredging the site’s waste pits, a process the federal government is proposing in order to rehabilitate them.
“The safest thing to do is to cap them because, once they start stirring them up, that stuff will be distributed all over the bay”, he said.
The county’s district 23 state representative, Wayne Faircloth, summed up the day, saying it had allowed the capitol’s elected officials to “see the rich resources and the incredible people that inhabit Galveston County and our importance to the state economy and our importance to education and jobs and the industry”.
He said: “For me, it’s wanting to shine the spotlight on our county and how important we are and allow the other members of the legislature to experience the people, the seafood and the different things that we have to offer”.