The rebuilding requests that Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas presented during last week's congressional hearing on the post-Ike recovery has generated so much controversy that the local paper has published an editorial trying to assure readers that it did not involve some sort of nefarious conspiracy.
One item on Thomas's wish list that's proven particularly suspect was the request that the federal government hand over undeveloped land it holds on the island's relatively unscathed east end. Opponents of a plan championed by Thomas and others to essentially give away that land to private developers "saw a conspiracy" to carry out that plan, the Galveston Daily News reports.
Thomas also requested money for a bridge over West Bay -- a proposal that generated an enormous controversy back in the 1990s and which the state eventually rejected as too expensive. Thomas also asked for a flyover lane off Interstate 45 that had initially been rejected as a political favor for developers. The mayor, we should probably note, is president of Thomas & Company of Galveston, a private real-estate and investment firm.
City Manager Steve LeBlanc said the wish list was put together by the city's department heads and some consultants after a discussion lasting about an hour. The paper scolded city leaders for the undemocratic nature of the process:
...[I]t is also hard to see how anyone at city hall might think large sums of federal money actually might be spent on the items on that list without further discussion by the city council. After all, any money the city receives should be spent on projects that reflect the will of the people, and that is properly expressed through elected representatives.