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4,C Cedar Terrace, one of four condemned public housing projects in Galveston. 132,000 people left town. The black population has plummeted. Public school enrollment has dropped significantly. Rents have risen beyond the means of many. And the political balance has tilted away from the traditional power base of black Democrats. In many ways, the situation for Galveston’s low-income and working-class residents was even more dire than in New Orleans before their respective storms. The city already had a high poverty rate \(more than 20 percent, similar to that in city under 60,000, with almost half of Galvestonians eligible for federal housing assistance. Before Katrina, New Orleans had about 14,000 units of public housing; Galvestonless than a tenth the sizehad 2,200 units before Ike struck. Unlike in New Orleans, where many African-Americans owned homes, 75 percent of Galvestonians were renters before the storm, says Ted Hanley of The Jesse Tree, a social service organization. Now, he says, “The scramble to find places to live is unreal and the costs are exorbitant!’ It’s far too early to know whether Galveston will go the way of New Orleans and the North Side the way of the Lower Ninth Ward. A similar fate is not inevitable, partly because Galveston’s city government has been more functional than its pre-Katrina counterpart in New Orleans, where the chronically mismanaged housing authority had been in federal receivership since 2002. There’s also hope that the incoming Obama 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 12, 2008 administration will shift HUD’s priorities to address housing shortages in disaster areas like the North Side. City leaders have pledged to bring back their most vulnerable citizensthough, of course, there was similar talk in New Orleans. Exiling public housing residents would be an “injustice,” says Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas. “They must be allowed to come backwhether it’s a year from now or a year and a halfto new sites, which I think would be exciting;’ she says. Thomas has made no promises about what public housing will look like in the future, but suggests that former residents will be first in line for “whatever new structures are built!’ Galvestonians of every background take pride in their ability to bounce back from calamity. After all, this island survived the worst natural disaster in American history, the 1900 storm, which leveled the city and killed at least 6,000 people. Every lament is tinged with a dogged faith in the island-dwellers as a special breed: resourceful, relentlessly optimistic. As one woman shouted at a recent public meeting: “We are Galvestonians and we are resilient!” But beneath the cheerful bluster, many locals detect an ominous murmur. “All across Galveston, you hear people saying it would be a good thing if the projects were not rebuilt and FEMA were not allowed to provide trailers,” Heber Taylor, the editor of the Galveston County Daily News, wrote in a November editorial. “The idea is that the island would be a better place if the poor went elsewhere!’