Galveston: Accounts Of Our Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

There is a blog out there called 24/7Wall St., and it went out on the great search for web hits with a almost-scientific survey that produced a list of "America's 10 Dead Cities."

Among them: Buffalo and Detroit. Also New Orleans, which is a little more debatable. And then there was Galveston.

Author Douglas A. McIntyre says Galveston is dead. And his bio lists him as a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, so who are we to argue? Harvard is the Galveston County Community College of Cambridge, as far as we can tell.

This Texas city was one of the largest ports in the US a hundred years ago. It was also the location of one of the greatest natural disasters in American history. In 1900, a hurricane killed between 6,000 and 8,000 people. In the decades after the hurricane, Galveston became a major tourist center due to its location on the Gulf and proximity to several larger Texas cities. Galveston was also a major military recruitment center during WWII. The cause of Galveston's demise is unique. It had become something of the Sodom and Gomorrah of the southern US.

There was a large gambling industry there, some of it illegal, which was controlled by criminals. In the late 1950s,Texas state authorities successfully attacked local organized crime. The regulated tourist trade could not replace the illegal business. Galveston's port and hospitality industries had begun to improve, but where trampled by the effects of Hurricane Ike in 2008. The event destroyed a large part of the city's tax base, and set back the tourism industry once again.

Galveston is upset. Not so much about being called "the Sodom and Gomorrah of the southern US," but on being called dead.

They're not taking it lying down. The city issued a fierce press release jammed with statistics.

Commenters are weighing in via the Galveston County Daily News' story on the matter.

They agree or disagree with the sentiment -- it's not a full-throated defense -- and it includes this:

I went to New Orleans two years ago and I will never go back. The storm had helped the city by washing the filte off the streets. But is was all coming back. The homeless people and thugs wander the streets at night and urinate in the corners up and down the streets. If you dropped a $20 on the ground, you wouldn't pick it up. A cab driver told us to not go out at night.

So Galveston is filling their town back up with homeless people and thugs. Why would anyone want to come here? We don't need homeless shelters or excessive low income shelters in Galveston. Nice people will not come. I am looking for a vacation spot next summer and it won't be Detroit, Chicago or New Orleans.

It came from someone calling his or herself "Island Retiree," shockingly.

Anyway, maybe Galveston's dead, maybe it isn't (we tend to think it isn't). But the debate over whether it is is lively, at any rate.

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