I spent thirty years teaching English, and part of my job was teaching literature. Now, I could have taught anything really, but I chose to teach the classics. I especially enjoyed re-reading the pieces each year. Like an old friend, a classic welcomes us to return to hear the same story with new ears and fresh insights supplied by our own experiences. The Ten Commandments and the Constitution of the United States of America definitely are classics in their own rights. They have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as the day they were created. Jesus simplified God’s commandments so that we could better understand them and live by them, but He did not abolish them. Our constitution has been amended to meet the needs of today’s society, but it has not been re-written. When something is good, we really should just leave it alone. Coca-Cola learned this lesson the hard way in 1985 with New Coke. It was a huge flop. Only with the return of Coke Classic made from a formula created in 1886 did the company save itself. Classics are good for a reason; they appeal to the people whose lives they affect.
This leads me to the Corpus Christi Comprehensive Plan from 1987. The writers, all Corpus Christians with an intimate knowledge of the city, somehow beat the trendy “smart growth” movement of that same year and created a plan that is truly comprehensive, including all that is of real importance. Its goals took every person and every element of the city into consideration, thereby meeting the rules laid out in the City Charter. It is easy to understand, allows for forward thinking, and offers direction to those who use the plan on a daily basis. It withstood the test of time and served its people well for nearly thirty years. Should we really change the formula?
PlanCC 2035 is very much like New Coke. It is progressive and supposedly appeals to the young professionals who somehow will move in and save the city by living an auto-free, high-density lifestyle (aka “smart growth”). In the Pew Charitable Trusts article by Teresa Wilz from April 2015, “Returning to the Exurbs: Rural Counties Are Fastest Growing”, we learn that the young professionals who once sought smart-growth cities no longer want that lifestyle. “The Great Recession stalled population growth in the exurbs. But new census data show that the far suburbs are enjoying a renaissance. They are now the fastest growing areas in the country,” writes Wilz.
These young professionals become migrating millennials when they marry, start their families, and start looking for a place with room for the kids, dogs, goats, chickens, and an organic garden. Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV show, “Fixer Upper” are leading the way for others just like them who want the freedom to choose how and where they live. With UPS delivering what they need to the door and many jobs performed via computer from home, the possibilities of how and where to live are endless. Even the under-35 group will more than likely follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before them and opt to own a piece of the rock. However, there are no guarantees – well, except that businesses will follow the people wherever they decide to live, which creates multiple town centers within a municipality (See Fig. 3 from 1987 Plan). The 1987 Comprehensive Plan writers seemed to know that and allowed for such freedom of movement in their Classic-Coke formula. And isn’t freedom to live how and where we want the most important part of the American dream?
“But, what about the $1.2 million spent on consultants out of Massachusetts and Maryland?” you ask. “What about the countless meetings and hours of discussion with all who participated in the creation of the New Plan?” you query. Rather than continue to throw good money after bad, the Planning Commission should simply suggest to council that we continue with the classic 1987 plan. We know it works and is easily updated with a little tweaking at little or no cost, which is what Councilman Chad Magill has illustrated with PlanCC 2036. He took the classic 1987 Plan and re-designed the package to include the ambitions and aspirations outlined in PlanCC 2035, which is a respectful approach that allows for these visions to come to fruition if ample money, time, and human resources allow.
To devise a plan around a particular part of a city or a specific lifestyle leaves not only leaves over half of the population out, it is like getting a trendy, new haircut. It will always require expensive maintenance to keep it in proper shape. Then, when the person gets tired of the look and wants to change it, time and more expense will be required to undo the do. Even with the push of Dr. Richard Jackson, a pediatrician, and Elizabeth Chu Richter, a local architect, both giants in their fields, to get Corpus Christi and other cities across the nation to take the progressive approach and design healthy communities, such designs will quickly fall by the wayside because parents realize that kids will still get fat when they eat fast food every day and live in urban villages where backyards don’t exist and parents don’t have the time to take them to the park to burn off those calories. As it is written, PlanCC 2035 will fail to meet the needs of future generations because it is timely but is not timeless.
Related article: “Why Millennials Are Headed to the Suburbs”