The next mayor of South Padre Island has a big vision for his town – to make it a world class tourist resort.
Dennis Stahl is currently SPI’s mayor pro-tem. He is also the only candidate on the November ballot to succeed Mayor Barry Patel, who decided not to seek re-election.
“There is confidence on the island, a lot of confidence in the leadership and the direction we are headed. We have a great city council,” Stahl said, in a recent interview with Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports at Cafe Karma on South Padre Island.
“We recently improved Gulf Boulevard. We are in the process right now of spending over $9.2 million to make this a more pedestrian-friendly island, with concrete ADA-compatible sidewalks on both sides of Padre Boulevard and raised medians all the way. The vision is to make SPI a world class visitor resort and a great home for residents. We have a ways to go but we are making good progress.”
ADA stands for American Disability Act.
A crucial component in making South Padre Island a world-class beach resort, Stahl believes, is getting a second causeway built. The project is a top priority for Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority and environmental studies are underway.
“We recently had our 9/15 ceremony, to remember those who died when the Isabela Causeway collapsed back in 2001. “When the barge hit the causeway and we had the collapse, we were separated from the mainland. We were ferried back and forth. It caused irreparable harm,” Stahl said.
“We need a second causeway. Right now, the island is really only three and a half miles long by half a mile wide. We have a lot more opportunities and a lot more beautiful beach north of here we would eventually like the city to grow into. The second causeway would make it very easier to get to the northern end of South Padre Island.”
Whitlock pointed out that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz supports efforts to get President Trump to issue an executive order to grant environmental approval for a second causeway. Stahl said he supports Cruz’s efforts.
As Mayor Patel points out, South Padre Island relies a lot of tourists from Mexico. However, while some cities in the Rio Grande Valley have seen their sales tax revenues drop as a result of the impact the Peso’s devaluation has had on the spending power of Mexican visitors, SPI’s numbers have held up well.
Year to date, with ten months of reporting in, South Padre Island’s sales tax collections are up 5.95 percent. For the most recent month analyzed, August 2017, SPI’s sales tax revenues plunged 7.67 percent. This, Stahl said, was because of the fear of Hurricane Harvey hitting the island in the last week of August. Fortunately, SPI dodged a bullet and the hurricane made landfall further north. Stahl said he is confident South Padre will bounce back and the sales tax revenues will continue to go up.
“I am concerned about the August number, but due to our council’s approval of a $400,000 marketing budget inviting visitors from upstate Texas to come and experience our island, and a $100,000 marketing campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, we are reminding folks and asking them to tell their family and friends, that we were not affected by Harvey and are open for business,” Stahl told Whitlock.
“I’m confident that things will continue to rebound once people know the truth of the fact that Harvey did not hit, or cause any damage to SPI. Our message is, if you have not been here we would love to have you.”
Stahl said he had great sympathy for those living in the Coastal Bend that were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“There by the grace of God go we. I grew up in San Antonio and as a child, and even into adulthood, Port Aransas was my beach, Rockport was my fishing home. We have three dear friends who lost their homes in Rockport. And I never visited South Padre Island until I was 38 years old. To a degree we compete for visitors with Port Aransas and Rockport but I really feel they would come to our assistance as we are trying to do for them. We have raised money and truck loads of product to send to them. This is Texans supporting Texans.”
Asked if he would like to add any other comment, Stahl said: “If you have not been to South Padre Island, we would love to have you. We are working to make the visitor experience an outstanding experience for you.”