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 Texas : Feature : Columns : Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories :

AN IRONY OF HURRICANE IKE

by Bill Cherry
When the hurricane of 1900 struck Galveston it was almost to the day 108 years before Hurricane Ike came on September 11-12, 2008.

The part of the 1900 Storm story that is not often told is that Galveston was in such financial straits prior to the 1900 Storm, that it was on the brink of bankruptcy.

It had no bond rating because the city had allowed property owners to become and stay delinquent on their property taxes. And it had been that way for years.

And it was just as likely that the rich avoided theirs as it was that the poor didn't pay because they couldn't.

The city government was impotent.

When the 1900 Storm hit, Galveston had to decide which fork in the road to take -- one to rebuild the city, the other to abandon it entirely. If it was to rebuild, it would have to straighten out its fiscal affairs. It would have to reorganize its government and it would have to become fiscally responsible.

A banker and cotton broker, I.H. Kempner, agreed to be the city's treasurer under a new form of city government, and he immediately began collecting the back taxes. Within two years, the city's financial position was acclaimed as strong by financial markets.

And it was that new position that encouraged lenders to provide the money necessary to raise a major portion of the island to above sea level, and to build the great 17 foot seawall on the island's south side. That the two projects were accomplished is just shy of beyond belief.

Now here's the paradox:

Last week, 108 years later, a storm with arguably the same intensity struck Galveston. None since the 1900 Storm had been that evil.The hurricane wasnamed is Ike. Interestingly, the granddaughter of I.H. Kempner is Galveston's current mayor. Her name is Lyda Ann Kempner Quinn Thomas.

Mr. I.H. Kempner's nickname was Ike.


Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
September 15, 2008 column
Copyright William S. Cherry
All rights reserved
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Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.
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