On February 3, 2016, the FBBA held its regular monthly meeting at noon at Funtrackers on Flour Bluff Drive. Melanie Hambrick, President of the Flour Bluff Business Association, opened the meeting by welcoming Jonathan Vela, owner of Dani’s Lock and Key, as the newest board member. The purpose of the FBBA, according to the official website, is “to initiate, sponsor, promote, and carry out plans, policies, and activities that will tend to further the prosperity and development of merchants, manufacturers, professionals, and other parties engaged in trade who maintain a business location in the area known as Flour Bluff, Texas, for their mutual advantage and protection, and to engage in all lawful activities and operations usually and normally engaged in by a non-profit association.”
After recognizing Vela, Hambrick moved on to a report on panhandling in the city and the new ordinance that goes into effect in March. She explained that the ordinance does not include all of Corpus Christi because city-wide restrictions have been deemed unconstitutional by the courts across the nation. Hambrick, who serves on the Advisory Council on Homelessness, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse, voiced a personal concern: “I am right next to Papa Murphy’s. We have a lot of panhandling issues.” Hambrick explained that several initiatives are being put in place to include the entities that serve the homeless. She explained that citizens should re-think handing cash to the homeless since the research shows that this money is typically used to support bad habits. It was suggested that gift cards, pre-packaged snacks, and bottles of water or sports drinks be given in lieu of cash. “Keep the Change” signs are going up around the city to remind citizens to donate their dollars to the charitable organizations, such as Metro Ministries, Timon’s, and the Salvation Army that work to feed, clothe, and house the homeless. “Although we empathize and understand and want to help, let’s not support bad habits,” Hambrick suggested.
The Spotlight of the Month went to Javier Wiley, general manager of the Flour Bluff HEB on Waldron Road. Wiley explained the recent changes to the store, which was built eight years ago. “We added close to 4000 new items, and when new items are added, something goes. That’s just the way it is,” said Wiley. “A lot of the changes came from customer feedback.” Wiley gave the example of how the chips and beer aisles are now separated. Other changes include a new Healthy Living Department with bulk bins and a gluten-free section with a freezer section to be added.
Hambrick thanked Mr. Wiley and said, “We are so grateful to have their participation. Of the $3000 spent for the toys for the children at the Community Christmas event, HEB contributed $1500.”
“I plan on being more involved and being a good neighbor to everyone. I want you to count on HEB,” Wiley responded. Wiley ended with a brief explanation of how HEB is taking advantage of the E-commerce market by creating HEB.com. There is even an HEB app that can tell the customer on which aisle a particular product can be found in their local store. “We’ve been around 111 years. The leaders in our company saw a need for us to get into this as they were planning 10 to 20 years out. We want to be the Amazon of the future.”
The keynote speaker this month was Andy Taubman, a local businessman who re-imagines distressed apartments and turns them into middle market housing, currently serves as the chairman of the Corpus Christi Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee. Taubman lives on Padre Island but has properties throughout the city, including Flour Bluff. Originally from Oklahoma, Taubman worked as a Wall Street banker for many years and moved with his wife to Corpus Christi from San Diego, California, four years ago. Taubman said of his choice to move here, “This is the place where I believe people are free; they’re independent; they’re self-aware; and they are able to make a change because they can do what’s right. We have two small boys, and we want them to grow up in Texas for that very reason.”
Taubman and his wife own 26 units on Barton Street. “We are part of Flour Bluff. This is home to us and something we feel has tremendous opportunity, and we’d like to be a part of it. When one looks at that business as an example, you can see the difference between a vision and a plan. The asset was the same; the building was the same; but it was beat down and maybe had people who were up to no good or on the wrong side of the law. We come in; we re-imagine it; we make it safe; we paint it; we add lighting; we tell the people who aren’t helpful to find some other place to live, and they do. The people who come in are really wonderful people who know how to build neighborhoods, and that’s what we’re personally doing for Flour Bluff.”
Taubman explained how his knowledge of the way both big and small businesses run helps him as he looks into the way the city maintains streets. “From time to time you have to look at what, how, why, and where things are being done,” said Taubman about the role of the streets committee. “And that’s healthy. To be very clear, this isn’t a process that shows up when there are problems. This isn’t a process because we stand in judgment. This is a bunch of people who have a wide variety of experience and expertise who get together and say ‘What are we doing?’ If the goal is to make it perfect, it’ll never happen. If the goal is to make it better, then we can’t fail because I think we already have done that.”
Taubman then told the audience that the committee found that the seal coat program was a year behind, a problem related to a program vested in the practice of using a sole provider for a specific job. “By improving the contracting process, we can get more contractors involved. We can have better time frames between when the analysis of a street is done and work is done and the payment is made. We can get smaller contractors involved because the jobs would be broken down into smaller increments with shorter time frames.”
The second area is related to how streets are chosen for repair. “The city needs to expand information systems and their processes to be proactive so that they keep lists in mind.” Taubman said that PCI (Pavement Condition Index) data is not always indicative of actual street condition but is currently the primary source for deciding which streets get fixed. He said the committee is asking the city staff to look into a better way of looking at street condition, keeping track of street problems and work, and working from lists created by city personnel who actually look at the streets and assess pavement condition, ride quality, and risk. “There’s no substitution for looking at the streets. When people make decisions sitting in an office, and they’re disconnected from what they’re managing, it leads to bad decisions,” Taubman said.
A third topic of discussion at the committee level is that of involving the RTA in assisting more with providing ADA improvements, which are mandated but not funded by the federal government. “When we looked at the SPMP and overlay processes, we found that 23% of every dollar spent did not go to the street. It went to ADA. This is where the RTA can play a big role,” said Taubman. He went on to say that the RTA can serve their target community and be true to their mission, and every dollar spent on streets will actually go to the streets.
Taubman ended by saying, “I’d like to thank the city council for giving us this opportunity. I’d especially like to thank them for giving us the members they’ve given us on the committee. I can say that this committee functions very well. I’d like to thank the city staff and the city management. They’ve been very supportive of our effort and very helpful in getting information to us. At the end of the day, will the street committee be judged successful? I don’t know. We’ve addressed a lot of issues with specific suggestions. We’ve found a lot of areas for improvement. What we bring to the table is common sense. That’s our skill, our special super-hero power that we’re applying. Can the city absorb common sense as a means of doing business? I don’t know. The jury is still out on that one.”