I was asked recently why I was not attending the City of Galveston Hurricane Preparedness meetings?
The question took me by surprise because I was unaware that any meetings have been held this year. Traditionally, these have been posted, public meetings - roundtable discussions of preparations for weather emergencies by city officials, representatives of government, business and civic organizations, as well as the general public.
I have been a member of the committee since 1984 when I arrived in Galveston after Hurricane Alicia. The news media was very much a part of the committee.
Then mayor Jan Coggeshall made Vandy Anderson, who was general manager of KGBC Radio, the co-chair of the committee.
Throughout the years I covered and participated in virtually every meeting of the hurricane preparedness committee as it evolved during the following municipal administrations. When the Internet became my medium, I began broadcasting the entire meetings. There was nothing secret about the meetings.
The closest thing to a "secret" occurred when the American Red Cross ended its policy of providing hurricane shelters on the island and local officials formed a plan to open a "refuge of last resort". Some city officials asked the news media to not publish that information - because it would encourage people to remain when they should evacuate. Of course, we could not honor that request. I don't have the authority to withhold public information. We did not spotlight the decision to have a refuge of last resort, but did not delete the discussion from the recorded broadcasts of the meetings and seldom mentioned the plan in print. We are team players.
Guidry News Service was first banned from the mayor's hurricane preparedness meetings in 2008 after we published editorials critical of the city's emergency preparations.
The timing of the ban was unfortunate because I needed to inform the committee about our Emergency Bulletin Board, which has proved very useful to government bodies.
I did not accept the ban last year, and was eventually admitted when I used the words "secret meeting" in my news article about the session.
I don't plan to continue to fight the city administration to be included in the emergency preparedness meetings this year. Frankly, I feel that the city administration is dysfunctional as far as emergency management is concerned and those who depend on it do so at their own risk. I also have more important things to do with my time than hear reports on how we should manage our emergencies like Communist Cuba.
But I did feel a need to share this development with those who depend on Guidry News Service for emergency information.
We will continue to provide up to the minute, reliable information as the hurricane season begins and throughout the summer months.