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How To Save Galveston, Part 2: Throw the Bums Out

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This week, Hair Balls is examining the many and varied roads Galveston could take to recover from Hurricane Ike. This week's cover story explores the possibility of casino gambling, while an earlier post here discusses Galveston relying on its existing, tried-and-true economic drivers.

But those are far from the only ideas drifting around town. Island financial analyst and blogger David Stanowski's dream idea is to turn Galveston into a haven for small business, or the Hong Kong of Texas. To do so, all Galveston would have to do is simply elect a solidly pro-business city council.

"Hong Kong is just a rock off the coast of China, a seaport with no natural resources that just became a haven for entrepreneurs and has been a boomtown for a couple of hundred years until the Communists took over," he tells us.

"You could do that anywhere," Stanowski adds. "If you make yourself entrepreneurial-friendly, it doesn't matter where you are. Galveston would just be all the more so because it is such a nice place to live. Lots of people would like to live here but there just aren't enough jobs."

He believes there is precedent in Galveston - he says the city was very much like Hong Kong in its 19th Century heyday. But today, electing that pro-business city council is the hard part, Stanowski admits. He believes the current one is appallingly anti-business and what's more, presides over a bloated bureaucracy.

Stanowski is a native of Chicago, and as such, he says, not burdened with high expectations regarding the performance of his local officials. And yet Galveston's city council has alarmed him.

He believes that most of the problem comes from the fact that too many of the councilmembers are from non-business backgrounds - many are academics from Galveston College, UTMB and A&M-Galveston. "Or somehow or another they are not in the private sector at all - they know nothing about business," he says. "Or now we've got Danny Weber who's a retired fire chief and knows nothing about the business community. So basically you've got government workers coming in to run your government, which to me is the worst thing you can possibly do."

Stanowski has informally attempted to draft business leaders to run for council and they have all told him it takes too much time. "They tell me, 'I'm struggling as it is and it's an unpaid job and I can stand twelve hours a week of meetings, research and talking to constituents.'"

Turning Galveston into a small-business haven would require no initial outlay of money, Stanowski points out. All it would require is a "seismic shift" in the Island's political culture, and despite his bandying about of New Guinean terminology and big dreams of a Hong Kong at the mouth of I-45, Stanowski is, in fact, a realist.

"Making [this idea] work would 'simply' require a rejection of the current Mokita, and a local political revolution," he writes. "And that's something that has very little chance of ever happening."

But it is in interesting idea...

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