Isle of Fight

When a battle over public housing engulfed Galveston, the question wasn’t whether officials could reach a compromise. It was whether they wanted to compromise in the first place.
Isle of Fight
Illustration by Thomas Fuchs

When I heard this summer that a big fight was brewing in my hometown of Galveston over public housing, I could not resist driving to the coast to find out what was going on. When I made my way onto the Gulf Freeway, I performed the ritual of opening wide the windows of my SUV to admit the fresh smell of sea breezes. The Island has not been my home for many a year, but when someone asks me where I am from, I always say Galveston. I may live in Austin, but when you’re BOI—“born on the Island,” as we say—it’s a life sentence.

One reason I was drawn to the battle is that this is a presidential election year, and I was curious to see if politics in Galveston is in as much turmoil as it is everywhere else. We live in a time when the public is increasingly alienated from the political process and politicians. The culprit is gridlock, a circumstance that calls to mind the worst aspects of contemporary politics—intransigence, hyper-partisanship, and the breakdown of civility. I hoped I would find that Galveston was an exception to the rule, but to be honest, my expectations were not high.

Politics there has always been

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