Tag Archives: City of Galveston

Galveston Deserves Better From Its Leaders

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{Written for and Published by The Galveston County Daily News, October 4, 2013}

{this is the unedited version}

The City of Galveston Deserves Better From Its Leaders

by Kimber Fountain

There once was a city over one hundred years ago that lost three thousand buildings and thirty percent of its population in one night. Even before this happened, the city was already financially destitute with no viable assets, credit, or even an organized form of tax collection. A group of men stepped forward and promised to renew the shattered city, and the people responded. On the backs of these leaders and the citizens that followed them fearlessly, that city was literally raised to new heights, breaking all previous financial records, astounding a nation, and solidifying its legacy as a city that could survive anything. They accomplished all of this without a dime of federal assistance.

Although this may sound somewhat grandiose by today’s perspective, islanders never forget that the only reason any one of us is even here, residing or relaxing, is because of what those people did. They sacrificed their convenience and their well-being, but they did not sacrifice their integrity. The leaders who emerged out of the devastation of The Great Storm maintained those positions because they did what they said they were going to do.

Currently, Galveston has a mayor and a council in place who, much like the leaders in 1900, were put there for a very specific reason. The election in May of 2012 was an unquestionable, absolute referendum on what the community knew was best, not just for the present but for the future of the city. That future specifically is the subject which is denied over and over within the chamber walls.

We have always been a city that has done things our way, but now it seems we have leaders in place who are willing to sacrifice both the promises they made verbally and in writing, and the future of our city. Their current stance on the public housing agenda tells a very clear story, a story that says that we have nothing left in regards to economy or funding except the scraps dropped from the table of the federal government; scraps that we will only receive if we are obedient.

And to whom exactly do they tell this story? They tell this story to the small business owners who have chosen Galveston as a place to build their dreams; to cutting-edge researchers, who could change the face of modern medicine with one discovery. They tell this to the thriving industry in our harbor and in our port, and to the scores of non-profit organizations dedicated to perpetuating the cultural enrichment of the island.

When we survey the history of our great city, we remember the men and women who believed so much in the “Spirit of the Island,” that they resurged from ultimate devastation to a position more glorious and prominent than they had ever known. So I ask you, esteemed Mayor and Council, when residents of Galveston look back on you in one hundred years, what will they remember? Will they remember your courage, your tenacity, your prevalence in the face of great odds? Ladies and gentlemen, this is our city’s history that you are writing, and in the tradition of all of those Galvestonians that have come before us, you owe it to the citizens of Galveston to stand for what is right for our future, not what is easiest for now. You accepted that responsibility so very graciously when the votes were counted, but now it is your legacy that counts. One way or the other, whether on the books or on the ballot, it will be remembered.

Kimber Fountain is a writer for Island Guide Magazine.

kimber.f@gmail.com, 409.692.9656

Galveston’s McGuire Dent Recreation Center: Promoting a Healthy Community

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{Originally Written For and Published By The Island Guide Magazine, January 4, 2013}

Galveston’s McGuire Dent Recreation Center:

Promoting a Healthy Community,

Host of Galveston Island’s Biggest Loser Challenge 2013

                Barbara Sanderson, the Director of Parks and Recreation, has worked for the City of Galveston for over twenty-one years, and so to revel in her tireless enthusiasm for the recent improvements and upcoming events at the McGuire Dent Recreation Center reveals that this place is truly a special thread in the fabric of the Galveston Island community. The Rec Center is free for any resident, employee, or long term visitor of Galveston with a valid state ID, and boasts a full size basketball gym, computer lab, community center, and two racquetball courts.

But the new pride and joy of McGuire Dent is their new, full line of cardio and strength training equipment. They are the first facility in Texas to have installed the latest equipment from Precor, a division of Marathon Fitness. The new machines are part of a new line called the C-Line series. Twenty-six pieces of cardio equipment and twenty-one pieces of strength-training equipment have been professionally laid out and installed, giving the fitness center a new lease on life and a much needed overhaul from their previous, troublesome collection of workout machines.

After Hurricane Ike in 2008, Barbara worked alongside John Armstrong, Superintendent of the Rec Center, to do what they could to keep the facility up and running, with whatever equipment they could find. A representative from Timberland brought in the local Academy store, which generously gave of its time and charitable efforts to outfit the Center. The equipment was of course a blessing, but after a couple of years became prone to breaking down. And every time a machine broke down, the process to repair it was extensive and inconvenient, often taking weeks or months.

Patrons often had to wait to use the machines that did work, and as the “Out of Order” signs became more and more of a regular occurrence, the Rec Center saw its numbers slowly decline until eventually the number daily visitors was whittled down to less than half of what it had been. John himself bore the brunt of the frustration, working constantly to find parts, make repairs, and deal with squeaky machines and squeakier, angry users.

At last the esteemed members of City Council voted to include the McGuire Dent Recreation Center under the umbrella of the funds set forth by the Galveston Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), and they received a generous annual budget. After the budget was announced, John and Barbara set to work on a list of priorities, one of the first of which was new fitness equipment. The selection committee approved the Park improvement budget, and the result is a work-out room practically glows with the spirit of Galveston and the pride of Barbara Sanderson and John Armstrong.

The top of the line equipment is clean, quiet, and at the forefront of modern technology. Each of the pieces of strength training equipment is complete with a QR code; scan it with a smart phone and it links to a video with instructions on how to use the machine. The machines have been placed in compliance with the standards of the American Disabilities Act (ADA), and in such a way that just “flows,” as John remarks. Even though the number of users has risen once again to its previous volume, he attests that the room never feels crowded or invasive.

Along with these new additions comes another first to the Island. In conjunction with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), McGuire Dent will be hosting the first ever Galveston Island Biggest Loser Challenge of 2013. This is a thirteen week weight-loss challenge that begins on January 12th and runs through April 13th. Participation is free, and cash prizes will be given to the first and second place winners in each category: individual male and female, small group (2-10 people), and large group (11-26 people). (Only those eighteen years or older are eligible for cash prizes)

Free activities open to the public will be offered during the challenge; events will encourage all Islanders, whether or not they participate in the challenge, to engage in active living and healthy eating. The Biggest Loser Challenge is spearheaded by Liz Torres of UTMB, and its main goals are to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle, both on the individual and community level. Individual participants will seek to improve their overall health with reasonable goals, such as adding nutrient-rich foods to their diet. It is also the hope of McGuire Dent and UTMB to further enrich the Galveston community by uniting Islanders under this common purpose. For more information on Galveston Island’s Biggest Loser Challenge of 2013, visit www.transforminggalveston.com, or contact Liz at 409.772.2554.

As for the Rec Center, all of the new and exciting improvements and challenges only add to the many offerings, activities, and programs that run year-round. The Center offers programs for both adults and children, including unofficial volleyball and basketball leagues, aerobic kick-boxing and cardio boxing classes given by Fernando Robles, a fifth degree black belt, and their quarterly Life Screening, a preventative service provided for a small fee by Memorial Hermann Hospital. McGuire Dent also regularly hosts guitar lessons, arts and crafts, the Galveston Bridge Club, and the Grandmothers Club of Galveston.

 

McGuire Dent Recreation Center

2222 28th St. (28th and Seawall)

409.621.3177

http://www.cityofgalveston.org