|Lloyd Thomas, who manages the Great Storm Theatre, evacuated to Fort Polk, Louisiana, which he described as Ground Zero. Listen
September 30, 2005
Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas pointed the finger of blame at Texas Governor Rick Perry for long lines of traffic during the evacuation of Galveston Island during the threat of Hurricane Rita. Listen
"Galveston has received a number of comments in support of our evacuation process," Thomas said, admitting that the city's preparation was not perfect. "But when Galveston citizens left the island of Galveston, we had trouble."
Thomas said that the State of Texas had assured her and others "time and time and time again" that Galveston residents would be welcomed at shelters in Huntsville after a three to four hour trip.
"That is not what happened," Thomas said. "As the day progressed on Wednesday things began to happen in the Houston area that caused our good citizens to stay on buses for 12 hours, 16 hours, two days."
Thomas said that local officials and local residents all did the right thing.
"I will not accept the responsibility or the blame for what happened when our citizens hit the Houston area," Thomas said. "I would urge those of you who had such a miserable trip to let the governor of the State of Texas and our representatives know how you feel about what happened to you. I will not shoulder that responsibility."
Thomas called on the governor to immediately make changes in the state's evacuation plans, including establishment of a high occupancy vehicle lane.
"Instead of taking you out of harm's way you went into harm's way," Thomas said. "Lives were threatened and people died on that trip; and dogs died and cats died."
State Representative Craig Eiland, who attended the meeting, said that he would deliver the mayor's message to the governor.
Thomas was very pleased with the public officials in Fairfield, Texas, where the evacuees were welcomed.
"The county sheriff there said 'You need go no further'," Thomas reported.
City Manager Steve LeBlanc said that he is working with the city officials in Fairfield to approve an interlocal agreement to allow Galveston to establish shelter for 3,000 residents, if another evacuation is called; so that the city will not have to depend on the state's plan.
The mayor's emotional speech preceded a special meeting of city council that was called to deal with several items that needed action before the end of the 2005 fiscal year at midnight tonight.
The city council approved new two-year contracts with Municipal Court Judge John Campbell and Alternate Municipal Judge Ted Allmond.
The city council approved a new $50,000 economic development contract with the Galveston Economic Development Partnership; and $15,000 for the GIS program that the GEDP is developing.
Three people, Steve Greenberg, Mike Rogers and Herbert Turner, appeared before the city council to praise the mayor for her leadership during Rita.