Margie Rose Has Conversation with Citizens at Flour Bluff Community Center

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

Corpus Christi City Manager Margie Rose: “Conferences with the City Manager” at Ethel Eyerly Community Center in Flour Bluff

     “I’m here to have a conversation with you.  I do not have a speech.  I am actually here to listen to you,” said Corpus Christi City Manager Margie Rose to a group of about 30 citizens on February 9, 2017, at Ethel Eyerly Community Center in Flour Bluff.  “I want to hear whatever has been on your mind, something you think I need to be aware of or that needs to be checked out, something you don’t like or something you do like.  This is your opportunity.  I didn’t want you to have to come to City Hall; I wanted to come to you,” Rose said.

     In a meeting that lasted almost an hour and a half, the people thanked Mrs. Rose for taking the time to listen to their concerns.  Many in attendance commended her and city staff for the recent improvements at Parker Park, the Vessel Turn-In Program, and especially the community conversations.  They addressed many issues of concern in their neighborhoods.  Some issues discussed were:

  • standing water in front of houses;
  • poor quality road patching
  • wastewater overflows in heavy rains;
  • issues surrounding flushing of water lines, such as standing water creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes, waste of good water, and finding ways to re-use the water instead of flushing it to the Oso, change of water treatment procedures, and use of free chlorine versus chloramines;
  • animal control officers asking citizens to trap strays and poor handling of animals that are picked up;
  • lack of training by those who clean the storm water ditches and break water and/or gas lines;
  • implementation of Litter Critter program in Flour Bluff;
  • no follow-up on Mustang Riding Stables picking up after the horses on the beach;
  • zoning problems for manufactured housing;
  • poor lighting on Flour Bluff Drive creating hazardous conditions;
  • consideration of red light on Flour Bluff Drive to allow cross traffic to move;
  • homeless and transient issues throughout Flour Bluff but especially in and around Parker Park and Ethel Eyerly Community Center and crimes being committed by this population.

     Mark Van Vleck addressed the water issues.  Flushing will continue for several months in order to fend off problems experienced due to over 1900 dead end mains.  One citizen asked that the city treat the ditch water to kill the mosquito larvae.  Another citizen, a chemist, requested information about what has changed in the way the city does its water treatment since – prior to the last three and a half months – flushing rarely occurred.  Assistant City Manager Mark Van Vleck explained that nothing has changed at the plant.

     “What has changed is the level of chloramines we want to keep.  We used to think a 1 was good.  The system is designed to handle about 200 million gallons of water per day.  Normally, around this time of year, we’re around 80 to 85 million gallons a day.  This year we’re down around 40, and during the really cold spell we were all the way down to 25.  What we’re trying to do is pull it up so that we stay above a 2.  By the time (the water) gets here from Calallen, you’ve already got about 14 days of age on it.  That’s why this area has a lot of flushing.  It’s on the southern end of the system, so it behaves as a dead end.  The water goes in, and doesn’t ever come back out.  There’s a lot of flushing on the island right now, too, for the same reasons.”  Van Vleck added that the EPA decided that free chlorine is bad for us, which is why the city has been using chloramines.

    Many in the group voiced concerns about being penalized for using water to irrigate lawns when the city is pumping it down the storm water drains, especially in a time of water restrictions.  Mr. Van Vleck explained that the city is no longer under the restriction, other than the time of day that watering may occur, after 6:00 p.m. and before 10:00 a.m. one day per week.  One citizens suggested that looping of the water take place if flushing is to be a long-term practice.  Mr. Van Vleck said the city did in the past near Quetzal in Turtle Cove.  He added that citizens can request to be part of the water reuse program to have water dumped on their lawns, with the acknowledgment that doing so could possibly damage property since it is applied with great force.

    The meeting ended with Ruby Martinez, director of the programs for seniors at Ethel Eyerly, describing the homeless and transient activity she witnesses every day.  “The city is spending thousands of tax dollars – bond dollars – on this park, and it is going to be beautiful.  Now, you have to do something to keep it safe and make it usable by families and people who want to exercise here, play here, bring their families here for picnics and gatherings.”  Most in the room were nodding in agreement.  Martinez suggested security officers and faster response times by CCPD when calls are made to report indecent or illegal behavior.

     Margie Rose thanked the group and assured everyone that she would get staff busy working on answers to the questions.  At the end of the meeting, she encouraged the citizens to fill out contact information forms and submit additional questions that did not get answered.

 

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Robert Holt Writes a Sad Commentary on Corpus Christi’s Treatment of Historical Cemetery

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Human Interest, Local history

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The following article on Old Bayview Cemetery is the work of R.W. Holt.  He is an artist, photographer and freelance writer based in Huntsville, Alabama, who grew up between Georgia and Texas calling Austin his second home. Through All Aspects Photography he routinely photographs and documents lost and forgotten cemeteries and places of historical interest throughout North Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Shooting film and Wet Plate Collodion, he is also an active practitioner of many alternative process photographic printing processes. Through an online blog and YouTube channel he is actively spreading the gospel of the photographic arts.  All photographs in this article are the work of Robert W. Holt.

 

Remembrance Deep in the Heart of Texas

 

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Texas is without argument one of the proudest states in the union. The story of Texas is remarkably complex and unfolded over a long period of time. Texas was its own Republic for crying out loud! In many ways the rise of Texas was the result of forces which it did not own. The westward expansion of European immigrants and Eastern Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, Native Americans, the Civil War all are just examples of key ingredients in the caldron within which Texas was brewed. Stories abound of individuals and groups, struggles, tragedies and victories. Texas was not easy for, or on, anybody but it produced a legacy of strength, courage, perseverance and pride. Texas created legends. Texas pride is legendary.

Texans have a lot to be proud of and tend to be fiendishly defensive of their rich and diverse history. It is a state where the inhabitants overtly pronounce their pride both as Texans and as Americans. To be a Texan is to be something unique and there is a feeling that goes along with that. I do not need to argue the point that this pride is something that more and more stands out in stark contrast to our high tech, “its all about me,” nation where we continuously bear witness to a growing antipathy and even disrespect for our history. Been to an NFL game lately? Sat with a gaggle of hipster millennials in a farm-to-table fair-trade coffee-brewhouse-retro-market-bar lately? Yawn!

That Texans take great pride in themselves and their history can be seen in just about all aspects of Texas culture. It is in no way more evident than when it comes to the way they treat historical places. Whether a piece of architecture or a plot of land, Texans revere and mark these material elements of their history with fervor. From the Alamo and Adobe Walls to the State Capital and historic ranches, Texans protect and remember their history. Remember the Alamo! This holds true for historical figures as well. Houston, Austin, Baylor, Bowie, Crockett, King, and Hood just start the long list. Yes, Texans remember their history and they remember their dead. Well, most Texans do that is.

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Deep in the heart of Texas, in the town of Corpus Christi lies Old Bayview cemetery. Ever heard of it? Didn’t think so. You are not really going to stumble upon Old Bayview whilst strolling through the touristy areas of Corpus Christi. It’s off the beaten path a bit. It’s probably more accurate to say that the beaten path has moved away from the cemetery over the years leaving it alone in deep urban shadows.

Stepping into Old Bayview, at first glance you’re left with the impression that you’re standing amidst the aftermath of an air raid. It is more ruins than cemetery. The listing and toppled masses of gravestones amidst shattered sites with bits and pieces strewn about brings to mind the bombing of Berlin or the Battle of Britain. It’s wreckage pure and simple. In fact it is a struggle to find an intact grave site. Walking through the cemetery, from site to site, is when you begin to come to terms with the destruction and the dire state of the cemetery as a whole. Even in the open grassy areas the odds are with you that you’ll feel something under foot and upon inspection discover a piece of a headstone or even one in its entirety fully encased under grass and dirt. Within minutes you will begin to wonder what the heck is going on. You will ask yourself how can this be.

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But wait….it gets worse! You see, amidst all of this rubble reside no less than half a dozen historical markers each covering in extensive detail the history of the cemetery as a whole and then specific grave sites. This is when the real smack to the face comes. I promise you, reading these words whilst looking out over the wreckage will immediately cause you to pinch yourself because you’ll surely feel you must be dreaming.

What will happen next is that you will turn from this first sign, look back over your shoulder at the cemetery, return to the sign rereading parts of it to make sure that what you thought you read is in fact what you’ve read. Again you’ll look back over your shoulder at the cemetery and finally you’ll start to feel something welling up inside you. Don’t be alarmed. What you’re feeling is a sour cocktail of shame, anger and confusion. Looking past the sign from the edge of the “brow of the hill” and you’re looking out over the city of Corpus Christi. From this “beautiful spot” you’re left to wonder how on earth this all adds up. You’ll then continue on your self guided tour with words like Pioneer Settlers, Rangers, Texas Republic and Veterans running through your head. In a state of mild disbelief you will feel extremely compelled to inspect each grave, all of it’s remaining pieces and parts, in detail. This will be no small task and you’ll quickly discover that you’re missing many pieces to the puzzle. You’ll then sink into dismay.

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Yes, it gets worse still. You see, the Old Bayview Cemetery historical marker is an incredible understatement. It merely tickles the surface with regards to the real scope and significance of the history contained within the cemetery. Let’s hit some of the highlights.

The first thing you should note is that if you’re standing in Old Bayview Cemetery, you’re standing in the south. Yes, it matters. You see there are no “sections” in Old Bayview. Unlike just about every cemetery you’ll find from this period in time, in the South, it is a fully integrated cemetery. From anglo settlers to Mexicans, former Slaves and Buffalo Soldiers, all occupants share equally in their rest upon this “beautiful spot” on the “brow of the hill.” So, not only is this cemetery substantial in terms of the breadth of history it offers, its’ diversity takes that great breadth and enriches it yielding a more complete historical offering.

The next thing to contemplate is the fact that this is the oldest military cemetery in Texas. Surely, and I’m not sure, it must rank as one of the older military cemeteries in our nation. From Texas Rangers and those who fell in defense of the Republic of Texas to service personnel earlier and later, the span of military military history represented is unparalleled until you step into places like Arlington National Cemetery. This is a military cemetery of significant proportion covering not just Corpus Christi history, not just Texas history but American history.

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It is when you start to absorb the stories of the “pioneer settlers” that the full magnitude and significance of Old Bayview comes into complete perspective. As noted on the marker, after the Army departed, “the cemetery became the community burial ground.” What a stroke of luck! The stories that every single one of these civilian graves offers up, when taken in combination with the military graves, produces a vivid historical picture of life and times, a true historical record. With origins ranging from all parts of Britain, Europe and Mexico you will move through travail, turmoil, tragedy and triumph.

Let us return to the fact that Old Bayview is a diverse resting place treating all of its inhabitants on an equal basis. This is irrefutably true when you understand its history and consider it’s composition. Unfortunately, it is also equally true today when it comes to the disrespect, destruction and failure to preserve and protect. Military heroes, sheriff ’s, immigrants, former slaves, Mexicans, Anglos and children, yes children, have all met with the same fate.

So, what’s the deal then? Well, let’s be straight about a couple things. What you’ll see at Old Bayview is destruction plain and simple. No two ways about it! The willful defacement and destruction of a local, State and National treasure by humans. We’re not talking negligence, yet, we’re talking maliciousness. You’ll see disrespect for humanity and history on a grand scale. You’d have to look far and wide to see anything comparable to what you’ll find in Old Bayview. To make matters worse, the destruction is still occurring. There is a truly sick and disturbing element at work here.

You will find gross negligence and antipathy. The plain truth is that this destructive activity has happened and continues to happen because it is allowed to. It needs to be said, and even more to the point, measures are not in place to preserve, protect and sustain Old Bayview. While this is of State and National concern the cemetery belongs to the town and while it’s all too easy to blame “the Government” let’s be clear, the Government of Corpus Christi is comprised of elected officials and they’re spending the money of the very people who elected them. If enough people cared, well, it would not be that difficult to get the politicians moving. The reality is, obviously, people do not care. They do not care about their history, Texas history or American history. Even more, they do not care about respecting the dead and respecting the deeply heartfelt commemoration that has gone into each burial site.

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The blindness of the citizenry of Corpus Christi to what has been entrusted into their safe keeping with Old Bayview has resulted in the cemetery not only failing to be heralded the prize possession it surely is but its being relegated to no-priority status and thereby failing to receive the attention and resources necessary to preserve, protect and sustain it. I’m calling a spade a spade here. This is shameful.

Wait, it could get a little better. Over the past dozen years a small band of Corpus Christi locals have at personal time and expense dedicated themselves to efforts to protect the cemetery. Protection seemed the first logical step and I agree. Basic maintenance in the form of grass cutting, the installation of an ineffective fence and even pleading with the town to more favorably place street lamps were all meager but essential first steps. Through their efforts things have improved a bit and a drip of resources have made their way torwards this national treasure. All the while this group has worked with the county historical commission and others to try and raise public awareness. So far, not so good.

Working with the town library a website was established and an effort was made to move through the cemetery photographing, documenting and essentially cataloging as many of the occupants as possible. All of this is publicly available on the main Library’s website. A survey of the cemetery was conducted using ground penetrating radar and this went a long way in terms of allowing for the identification of unmarked burial sites. These efforts are to be applauded. The digital record is essential.

All said and done, it is a strange and confounding problem that Old Bayview presents. Strange in that of all the places in the United States that you’d least expect to see history so disrespected and neglected, Texas would be at the top of the list. Perhaps it is truly and simply mass ignorance about Old Bayview altogether? Well, that’d be a bit easy. Truth is, the Government of Corpus Christi and the County of Nueces know all that is to be known about Old Bayview. That’s a fact. As for the scourge of willful human destructors? Well, I don’t think that Corpus Christi is alone there. That they allow this to occur against a precious heritage is alarming. Everything is big in Texas? Well, shame is big in Old Bayview. What was that saying again? Oh, that’s right…..DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

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Could Fewer Regulations for All Solve Uber Problem in Corpus Christi?

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial, Travel

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     Kirsten Crow’s Caller-Times article, “City Council May Reconsider Ordinance That Drew Ire of Uber,” tells us that there may be hope for the much-desired Uber and Lyft companies to remain in Corpus Christi.  Councilman Chad Magill has shown an interest in allowing the local taxi companies and ride-hailing companies to reach an agreement through negotiations.  This seems like the right thing to do.  Too much regulation certainly can hinder the creative spirit, which can kill new businesses and make people look elsewhere to work, live, and vacation.  Magill’s idea to suspend the effective date of the ordinance for 60 or 90 days so that the primary stakeholders can come up with a workable plan is a good idea, one that will hopefully lead to less regulation for all.

     Regarding the safety concerns surrounding the ride-sharing companies, economists have long argued that stiff competition is often far better than detailed regulations when it comes to fostering safety and quality.  In many municipalities, the taxi lobby has convinced policymakers that there are only two solutions: Either level the playing field by forcing ride-sharing firms to obey excessive taxi regulations or ban ride-sharing completely. Maybe these groups need to stop fighting one another and join forces to get rid of some of the fees and regulations that are not directly related to safety, such as the fees

FTC Edith Ramirez
Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of FTC

     The sharing economy, is not just about sharing. It’s about selling, swapping, trading, and bartering and is referred to as the peer-to-peer economy, the collaborative economy, or collaborative consumption.  Companies, such as Airbnb, Snapgoods, TaskRabbit, Uber, Lyft, DogVacay, Poshmark, provide services that people want and are most likely here to stay.  In a speech at Fordham University Law School, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez warned that imposing “legacy regulations on new business models” can stifle competition and ultimately leaves consumers worse off. But, she said that regulators shouldn’t shy away from enforcing important consumer protections on issues like health, safety, or privacy.  Ramirez ends her speech with questions that each governmental entity dealing with businesses that are part of the sharing economy must answer: 

“Assuming these new business models may benefit consumers, how can regulators provide a regulatory framework flexible enough to allow them to realize their full potential? Do existing regulatory frameworks have to be reworked or even abandoned due to these developments?  How do we also ensure that these same new business models do not inadvertently erode beneficial, existing consumer protections in such diverse areas as health and safety, privacy, and data security? Can the trust mechanisms built into some of these new business models replace regulation?  How do we best avoid creating two distinct regulatory tracks – with one set of rules for the older, incumbents businesses and a different set of rules for the new entrants they now increasingly compete against? I would suggest that picking winners by creating a regulatory differential in favor of new entrants should be just as undesirable as retaining regulations that deter meaningful entry. And how should regulators appropriately respond to a highly dynamic marketing which the business models of today may be completely transformed tomorrow?”

    

     Josh Brustein of Bloomberg Businessweek said, “The so-called sharing economy, which, depending on whom you talk to, is either a lightweight form of socialism or an artisanal flavor of capitalism spawned by the Internet.”  Whatever the case may be, these kinds of businesses pose special problems for municipalities, including Corpus Christi, in terms of what to regulate, whom to regulate, and to what degree to regulate.

Related articles:  “Does Anyone Really Know What ‘Uber’ Means?”

“Uber: Will It Stay or Will It Go?”

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NASCC 75th Anniversary Celebration Update

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

The following is an update from the Public Affairs Office of NASCC:

NASCC 75

     Robert William “Bob” Barker, former Navy fighter pilot and television host for “The Price is Right,” regrets that he will not be able to travel to Corpus Christi for the Naval Air Station’s anniversary celebration March 12, 2016.

     “I spoke to him on the phone yesterday afternoon, and he feels terrible that he won’t be able to make it,” said Capt. Steve Banta, NASCC commanding officer. “He hurt his back, and his doctor says he is not well enough to travel.  Having him participate was an added plus to our anniversary celebration. However, the theme of the event is, and always has been, the cooperation and partnership with the City of Corpus Christi that we’ve enjoyed for the past 75 years.  NAS Corpus Christi wouldn’t be here today without the support of the city and this outstanding local community.”

     Corpus Christi’s civic leaders gave the Navy an added incentive to build here in 1940:  640 acres of undeveloped city land added to what the federal government would purchase. The city also gave $2 million to help with the cost of construction.

Fence line at the construction site of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, July 1940, Lexington Road and Flour Bluff Drive Source: National Naval Aviation Museum
Fence line at the construction site of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, July 1940. Source: National Naval Aviation Museum

     The 75th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, March 12, is free and open to the public. NASCC’s Main (South) Gate will open at 10 a.m. The official ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. with Corpus Christi Mayor Nelda Martinez as the keynote speaker. The ceremony will end at noon with a flyover of historic and current naval training aircraft.

     A variety of static displays, including naval aircraft and historic automobiles, as well as other family-friendly activities and entertainment will be held throughout the afternoon on the NASCC seawall. Entertainment from the local community includes the championship Flour Bluff High School NJROTC drill team, the FBHS dance team and cheerleaders, and numerous other groups.

     Military entertainment includes demonstrations from the Marine Air Training Support Group-22 USMC Martial Arts Program, NASCC Firefighters, NASCC Military Working Dog teams, and a Search and Rescue demonstration by the U.S. Coast Guard.

     There will be games and activities for children as well as food trucks selling refreshments.

     A free concert will begin at 4:30 p.m. with Costello, a local Texas country band, followed by Country Singer/Songwriter Sara Evans at 6:30 p.m.  The day’s celebration will conclude with a fireworks display beginning at 7:45 p.m.

Reminders:

  • Saturday, March 12, the Main (South) Gate to NAS Corpus Christi will open at 10 a.m. to the general public.
  • Driving on the installation, visitors must have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
  • Visitors will be directed to parking adjacent to the ceremony site.
  • All are reminded that they may not bring: coolers; backpacks, large bags, tents and large umbrellas; animals, unless they are service animals; weapons of any kind; alcoholic beverages; cooking equipment; skateboards, bikes, and roller blades; illegal drugs or paraphernalia; fireworks; and kites, balloons and radio-controlled devices.

Costello

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Sara Evans

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Pass & Review – First graduation exercises held aboard the naval air station Nov. 4, 1941. (Photo from Doc McGregor collection, courtesy Corpus Christi Public Library)

NAS Pilots
“Many of the aviators who fought and died in the great naval battles in the Pacific, the battles that ultimately won the war, were trained at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station.” Murphy Givens

An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941, seventy-two years ago today. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.

For more information about the NAS Corpus Christi 75th Anniversary Celebration, call the Public Affairs Office at (361) 961-2674 or 961-3420, or visit the Facebook page “NASCC Anniversary.”

Related articles:

Anchors Aweigh

Captain Steve Banta Talks about NAS CC 75th Anniversary at March FBBA Meeting

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Chad Magill: Leading Corpus Christi in a New Direction

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics, Personal History

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To understand what drives Chad Magill to work so hard to make Corpus Christi a city of which its citizens can be proud, it requires a look into the not-so-distant past. There we find a young Magill responding to a call from his dad, Don, a 35-year veteran in the world of fraud investigation. In May of 2002, Chad moved to Corpus Christi from Houston to help his dad make his business more efficient and more lucrative, a move that would allow him to be a big brother to his sibling James, who was only 10 at the time. It was a move that would chart a course for the direction Chad’s life would take.

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Chad as a boy
Chad and mom
Chad with mother, Heidi Magill
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Chad with his brother, Jame,s and sister, Carla

“My dad specialized in bringing stolen vehicles from other countries. His biggest customer was BMW Financial Services. After all the re-po folks gave up, they would hire my dad. If he didn’t bring the car back, he didn’t get paid. He would find the vehicles somewhere in the world through his decades of experience, contacts, and knowledge,” Chad explained.  Don Magill was making four to five thousand dollars on each vehicle he recovered and solving five to eight cases each month. He had two employees who would fumble through ten, three-drawer filing cabinets for a week looking for the information needed to find one car. They would pull the file, and Don would let his instincts go to work. He would miraculously find the car, but he wasn’t happy with the tedious process. He needed a guy with a keen intellect who could understand data, logically connect it to people and situations, and create a computer program that could “think” like he thought. He called on his son to write a database.

Chad and dad
Don and Chad Magill

“My dad’s instincts were good, but his search methods weren’t. I integrated some logic in the search functions, in the LIKE commands, so you could be close to what you’re looking for and still find it,” said Chad. “When I wrote the database, and he started using it, he was solving 25-35 cases a month.” When Don was doing extremely well, he said to Chad, “You know, I’ve always wanted to buy a building downtown and try to bring it back and show people what could really happen.” That idea led to Chad and his father putting in some offers, which resulted in landing a bid on a building. They went to work. Don invested nearly 500 thousand dollars of his retirement money into the venture but was quickly disappointed as he attempted to navigate an inefficient and broken city government, which included dealing with city inspectors who more than suggested that he take a less-than-legal route (something a fraud inspector could never agree to do). Don shut down the project, and Chad watched his dad give up.


During one of the election cycles when everybody was bashing downtown at a public forum, Chad took the floor. He said to those in attendance, “The problem isn’t that people aren’t doing something. The system is so flawed that they don’t even realize it. I’m standing up right now telling you we spent a half-million dollars. One, nobody knows. Two, I don’t think anybody cares. And, three, I’m going to do something about it.”


This started Magill on a path to leaving Corpus Christi better than he found it, a lesson passed on to him from his dad. He got involved in many civic groups, including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Management District, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas. Though unsuccessful in 2007 in his first run for the District 2 council seat, he didn’t give up. He worked hard for safe neighborhoods and a revitalized infrastructure, seeking to help the residents of his district be proud to live in District 2. In 2012, Magill became their council representative. His philosophy for leadership by multiplication began to take shape along with his mission of focusing on needs before wants, getting a return on investments from tax dollars, and creating primary jobs for the people of Corpus Christi. Like a master chess player, he thought several moves ahead as he planned a new course for the city, one that would lead to major changes in thought and action by council members and city staff, changes Magill hoped would create a culture of pride for the city.

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“One of the ways we can be proud of our city is taking the time and effort to get away from incremental budgeting and go more toward zero-based budgeting (ZBB) or service-line budgeting. That affects the funding throughout every facet of the city. Therefore, it changes the financial culture of the city. By changing the culture and the mindset of each department head of owning and managing their costs, it puts our entire city government on a different path of understanding what their mission is. Their mission is to provide the needs for a community that frankly could evoke pride in itself once they have confidence in city government,” Magill explained.


“At present, when the city goes through the budget process at council, the employees of the Strategic Management and Budget Office make the presentations – not the department heads. That is a key component of how we can improve. Each department head should present what the mission and services are for their department. In doing so, they rightfully take ownership of their costs. It helps change the culture in their department. ZBB forces each one of us to account for the mission and service of that need. Wants get pushed aside because you’re focused on needs; that’s my mission. Part of being proud of your decisions is having trust in the process. I think ZBB helps improve the trust across the board, both with citizens and city staff,” he said.

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Magill explained how some truly talented people in the city departments are always in a reactive mode due to a lack of public trust. “Therefore, the staff’s creativity and ideas don’t flow through. If you’re always in a break-fix mentality, you’re never going to get into what IT folks call a ‘manage services’ mode. If you’re the computer guy who shows up only after the computer is broken, then you spend your time waiting for the next phone call for the next broken computer. When you can step above that, you manage the computers actively before they break. You’re performing a day-to-day service. You can then manage hundreds – even thousands – of computers a day rather than 2 or 3 a day.”


He then talked about employee raises being tied to the process. “It helps align goals. If you can align goals with city employees to be more efficient, why wouldn’t you? I think it’s one of the greatest benefits of this process. As we see savings, we’re going to fund two things: residential street reconstruction and city employee step raises, which are based on merit.”


Magill believes the typical role of council in this process is to create policies to shape the existing city government and the future of the city. This, he said, involves a second role for the council, working with the city manager who in turn directs city staff, the actual people who get things accomplished in terms of service and performance within the city government. A third role, that of holding people accountable for doing the work, is typically highlighted by the public via the local newspaper, print media, social media, television, and radio. “However, sometimes there’s truly not an accountability layer because some who are supposedly holding others accountable need some accountability themselves. When this layer is missing, council members will drop out of the policy-making mind frame and into the accountability layer.”

City Council
Corpus Christi City Council

This, he said, prompts conversations at council meetings where members are asking if a task was completed or not. “Instead of that authoritative accountability role, we should be in the policy-making role. It’s unfortunate that we have to drop in to the authoritative role, but we have to do what we have to do.” He explained that when the public and the media hold the policymakers and city staff accountable, then council members can focus on policies that shape the future of the city, concentrating on long-range plans that include water supply developments, repairing waste water issues, fixing our streets, and improving public safety.


Magill devoted hours to analyzing the proposed comprehensive plan, PlanCC 2035. He found it completely lacking in the areas of support for public safety (fire, police, and emergency response), in support and growth of our military presence, and in support of our port, elements clearly defined in the 1987 comprehensive plan and essential to creating a safe environment where families can thrive. “Since I voted for the process to create the document, it is incumbent upon me to make sure that we aren’t passing an incomplete document,” he said. He identified several aspects of PlanCC 2035 that he classifies as wants. “There’s nothing wrong with having wants, but applying city budgets to them is essential.”

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In his typical, analytical, chess-playing style, Magill went about merging the 1987 plan with PlanCC 2035 and named it PlanCC 2036, to reflect a 20-year plan. “Plan 2036 doesn’t get rid of the wants from 2035; it just puts them in a separate document entitled ‘Ambitions and Aspirations’ that will help guide the city staff in the future. If Parks and Recreation wants to provide free swim lessons to all citizens, let it compete with the other missions and core services and go up through the chain of the budget process. If there’s funding for it, then it will survive.” To him, it is about being a good steward of the resources with which he and the rest of the council have been entrusted.

Ship

When asked how he felt about the naysayers who have criticized his methods, he said, “Our annual budget is about $841 million. Imagine it as an enormous ship. When you steer that ship in a different direction, you’re going to get some waves. If you want the ship to go in the same direction all the time – or the same way it’s been going for 30 or 40 years – you get fewer waves. Some people spend all their time and energy trying to minimize the waves instead of looking at the new direction. The new direction of this ship is headed toward fixing and maintaining our streets, improving our water supply, repairing wastewater issues, and focusing on public safety. That’s a more responsible and practical approach, and that’s where our ship should have headed long ago. Am I afraid of the waves? Absolutely not, because I see the new direction.”

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Sanda, Avery, and Chad Magill

Since 2011, Magill lost both his parents but started a family of his own. “At some point in life, all of us will be focused on other things. My entire life isn’t just about city government. My daughter is everything to my wife and me. She inspires me exponentially more than I was ever inspired in the past. In the future – when I leave city government- I’ll know that I’ve at least helped others lead in the same direction. To me that’s so much more than a legacy of a statue or a building with my name on it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related articles:  Sam Houston: Portrait of a Leader

Chad Magill Seeks Re-Election

 

 

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It’s my Opinion, and You’re Welcome to It!

Corpus Christi, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

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“In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.”  Abraham Lincoln

     My wife is always asking me what I think about what is going on in the city.  Usually, I am like most people; I either don’t know, don’t care, or don’t think anyone wants to hear my opinion on the matter, whatever the matter may be.   Lately though, I have quite a few opinions, especially about city council because some of its members have actually captured my attention, something that only the History Channel and ESPN is typically capable of doing.  Folks like Tom Whitehurst of the Caller-Times can get my attention, too, when he gets on a rant.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve agreed with him, so his Magill and Vaughn bashing not only gets my attention, it makes me want to blurt out my thoughts.

      I live in Corpus Christi and pay taxes, so my opinion is about as important as anybody’s.  Here goes.  I don’t know if Chad Magill has all the answers; I just know he’s actively working to find answers.  He strikes me as the kind of person who wants to do what is right for the city, as does Carolyn Vaughn.  That’s a rare thing; people like that are special.  Most politicians don’t really care about their city or its citizens; they just use the office to make their own lives or the lives of the people who put them in office better, and we have a few of those. These two, along with Lucy Rubio, Rudy Garza, and Brian Rosas, genuinely seem to want to make life better for all of us by holding city staff accountable for the way they spend our hard earned money.  When I listen to Magill speak on Lago in the Morning or at council meetings, I get the idea that this man has a vision and a plan to go with it.  Is it the right plan?  I don’t know.  But, until somebody shows up with a better idea, I say give the guy a chance to prove that he knows what he’s talking about.  It can’t be any worse than what has been done in the past, and it might just be better.

     As he forges ahead – and he strikes me as the kind who will – he’ll have some council and staff who will support him wholeheartedly.  Some he’ll have to carry kickin’ and screamin’ all the way through it.  I wish there were more people like him who can look at a situation, identify the real problem, and fix it.  I know that’s what my customers expected of me when I was hired to repair brick or rock jobs someone else messed up. It’s part of good customer service.  Shouldn’t we expect – no, demand – good customer service from our city?

    And another thing, I really think that the dissenting four on council have to see the logic in Magill’s plans.  Surely they don’t really think that taxpayers should foot the bill for every kid to take swimming lessons.  I am fairly certain in their heart of hearts they know that the real destination is the beach, not the bayfront.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Maybe they really don’t get it.  That tells me what needs to happen in the next election.  Anybody got a rail?

    Yep, it’s my opinion that Magill is onto something, something that focuses on creating an environment where the citizens can thrive without being taxed to death.  I plan on giving him – and those who share his vision – a chance.  What’s more, I plan on sharing my opinion now that I have settled upon one.  Boy, will my wife be happy!

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Turtle Cove: Starting to See the Silver Lining

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff

Oso     On February 1, 2016, a handful of Turtle Cove residents attended a meeting with city officials to discuss the recent problems experienced in their area.  Dianne Bonneau, one of the residents chosen by neighbors to attend, said she left the meeting confident that Chief Markle will ensure follow-through on all the decisions made.  “Commander Blackmon, Council member McIntyre, and Turtle Cove representatives were able to identify some specific strategies and measures to put in place that will improve our current situation,” Bonneau said.

     Captain McCarty, the contact officer for the BRAVO district, which includes Turtle Cove,  along with directed patrol officers, code enforcement, and animal control have already taken steps in correcting some of the problems.  These steps include:

  • Posting signs on the cul de sacs by the park to notify the public that no parking is allowed after the park closes,
  • Providing better lighting in the park,
  • Installing improved cameras with signs indicating the cul de sacs by the park are monitored by video camera,
  • Continuing police presence with officers sitting in their vehicles at the park as they complete paperwork,
  • Conducting more frequent patrols of the area,
  • Continued monitoring of properties connected to criminal activity,
  • Using code enforcement officers to address code violations related to unkempt properties, animal control, vacant properties unlawfully occupied by trespassers,
  • Providing information on tailoring a Neighborhood Watch program to suit the needs of the Turtle Cove residents,
  • Having Captain James McCarty  join the Turtle Cove Nextdoor,  an online social media site that allows neighbors within a particular area to connect with one another and share what is happening in their neighborhood,
  • Encouraging residents, who have installed personal security cameras and are willing to share their footage, to register their cameras with CCPD at Crimepic.com, and
  • Asking residents to use ccmobile app to report code violations and 911 for emergencies.

        Bonneau said that it seems Captain McCarty is committed to seeing the plan come to fruition.  “Overall, I believe we walked away from the meeting in a much better place, and we now have an open dialogue going and are moving forward in eliminating the criminal elements in our area.”

Related Articles:  “Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help” 

                               “Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighbors”

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Takin’ It to the Streets: Addressing the Status Quo

Corpus Christi, Front Page

SPMPsignage

     “Problems are hard to see when buried in a culture of this is how we’ve always done it,”  says Andy Taubman, CC Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee chairman.  He could not stress enough how the City staff are good, decent, competent people who have been more than willing to assist the street committee.  “I believe they are trying to do the right thing.  I’ve had interactions with plenty of government people over the years, and it’s very rare when I can make a blanket statement saying that I really think most of the people are doing it for the right reasons and doing a decent job.”

     Taubman went on to say, however, that the current culture doesn’t foster accountability, importance of shared communications, or respect for innovation.  The system absolutely fosters “We’re going to do tomorrow what we did yesterday, and we’re absolutely not going to look at what we did yesterday because we may not like what we find.”

     Taubman says that this is just typical of human beings in general, so he can’t blame individual people.  “There’s a cultural problem that we have to decide as a community if we’re okay with that or not.”

     When asked if the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) is well-run or efficient, he took a deep breath and said he thought the SPMP is an extraordinarily good idea because it requires that we take care of the streets that are in acceptable condition since the cost of reconstructing a street is enormous.  However, the program is short on funds by $5 to $10 million dollars per year, and if the City wants to take care of what it has, then they need to find that amount to do it.   “Should we scrounge to do that?  It wouldn’t be a bad place to spend money,” Taubman said.

     The residential street committee is staying out of the funding discussion at this stage of their work because “it has a way of sucking the oxygen out of the room,” he said.  Taubman points out that there really is only one source of funding.  The dollars used for any city service, whether in the form of a property tax, a fee, or an excise tax, come only from “the pockets of the citizens.”   He went on to say that it appears that other avenues of funding have not been explored because it just is not the way the status quo thinks about the problem of funding.

     “At the margin, there are some sources out there that ought to have a bigger role in the paying for things.  The RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) has a role to play here.”   (RTA current contributions to streets)

       Kirsten Crow of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported in April of 2015: “The agency draws funds through a 1/2-cent sales tax, which generally supports its day-to-day operations. The RTA’s sales tax allocation dropped about 8.2 percent from 2008 to 2009, but overall increased from 2004-13, from $17.7 million to $32.9 million annually, according to the comptroller.”

Andy Taubman 1     In Taubman’s  report,  “Street Methods and Standards:  Residential Streets”  (Read full document here), presented at the January 4, 2016, Corpus Christi Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee meeting, other findings were revealed:

  • Conditions leading to poor streets
  • Street standards implemented in 2013
  • Additional changes to standards and practices that might be required
  • Focus of current street programs
  • Citizen satisfaction priorities for streets
  • RQI (Ride Quality Index) vs. PCI (Pavement Condition Index)
  • Street safety
  • What a million dollars gets the City in residential streets
  • Residential road management objectives
  • Maximizing road fixed per dollar spent
  • Pot hole / small area restoration focus as strategic part of the comprehensive street plan
  • Additional important street considerations for a new residential street program
  • What City staff and committee need to do next
  • Standard costs for reconstruction, overlays, seal coats, and small area restoration

     There has been no move by the City staff to ask, “Can we ramp up since we’re not going to meet our deadlines?”  Even though the program is months behind schedule, “that question never gets asked,” said Taubman.  “A good private business asks this question all the time and would say ‘I’m hiring this contractor, this contractor, and this contractor, and we’re going to surge here and get it done because my year-one program has to be done by the end of year one.’  That doesn’t happen.”

     “If you don’t ask the question, you can’t address the problem.  Because of the way the system was constructed, when you get to that point, you couldn’t address it even if you wanted to address it because you have one IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity) provider for that particular service.  It wasn’t like there was even the possibility of doing that.  In a new program, these are all shakedown issues.  It didn’t get addressed year two.  Now, we’re in year three.  It hasn’t been sorted out yet.”

           The committee meets through May.  Then, they will make recommendations to the City Council based on their findings.  “Even if we come up with good ideas, is there the possibility of implementation?  I don’t know.  It sure seem like it’s hard.  I don’t know where the impetus is going to come from inside the system to say ‘Wow! Now that my eyes are opened, we’re going to do it differently.’  I just don’t know where that’s going to come from.”

(This is the third in a series of articles about the work of the residential street committee.)

 

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Takin’ It to the Streets: A Man with Questions

Corpus Christi, Front Page

Andy Taubman 4

     Voltaire said we should “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”  Asking the right questions is what Andy Taubman, Ad Hoc Residential Street Infrastructure Advisory Committee chairman, sees as the main role of the group of nine citizens charged with addressing the problem of failed residential streets in Corpus Christi.   Taubman made it clear an hour and 50 minutes into the October 20 City Council Meeting that the questions he and the other committee members  have about engineering, accountability, contracting methods, and information sharing are designed to assist City staff in evaluating the existing program to identify successes and areas in need of improvement, not assign blame.

     At this meeting, Taubman’s Infrastructure Committee Plan came under fire from Mayor Martinez and Council members McIntyre, Scott, and Riojas, who were opposed to the plan and ultimately voted against it.

     Council member Lucy Rubio spoke in favor of the plan:  “What are we afraid of?  We have a group of people who want to help us get this right.” Rubio voted for the plan, as did Council members Vaughn, Garza, Magill, and Rosas.

     At the October 27 City Council Meeting, Taubman was nominated by Councilman Magill who said: “He’s got the mind and the will to actually produce something that is tangible and actionable.”

    In a November 1, 2015, Caller-Times editorial, Taubman proved Magill’s assessment when he wrote:  “Understanding the current situation is a necessary precursor for improving it.”  By posing the right questions, Taubman believes the committee can facilitate change in the existing system, and perhaps even in the existing culture.  “We started the process by looking at an existing program because you get two benefits by doing that. We get to ask: What happened in the existing program? Do we think it is efficient? Well-run? Did the money get spent right? Are we happy with it going forward in its same incarnation?”

     These questions prompted the committee to invite contractors, consultants, and outside engineers who help the City with street work to the meeting on December 1, 2015.  “We think that any problems and any solutions that exist are probably going to come from the people who are doing that work every day.  That’s why we are seeking out feedback – because the goal is not necessarily to be judged on making mistakes.  However, we will be judged on repeating or not repeating the mistakes.  We are looking at the Street Preventative Maintenance Program (SPMP) as a model for what will ultimately become the Street Reconstruction Program.”

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     At the December 16 Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee meeting, Taubman shared “A Private Business Person’s Perspective on a Governmental Process,” a 19-page report co-authored by fellow committee member, Chris Duff.   The committee concluded that the SPMP can be labeled a success because “money got spent” and “roads got fixed.”    Below is a list of some of the information included in the report:

  • An overview of the SPMP Program including current funding sources;
  • A program underfunded by $5 to $10 million per year in comparison to the natural aging of the streets;
  • The high price tag attached to ADA requirements;
  • The cost of seal-coats and overlays;
  • Possible funding sources, including RTA funds;
  • Observation that seal coat is one year behind while overlay were 23% complete at fiscal year end;
  • A method for bidding and awarding contracts that may not lead to the best value and is not small-contractor friendly;
  • A terminology used by City staff to relate information to the citizens that is confusing and rarely allows for real transparency;
  • A lack of feedback to evaluate efficiency in the City system;
  • A need for the use of technology to determine the condition of a street;
  • Staff responses to the committee’s observations and recommendations.

 

Did the committee learn anything beyond that?  In an interview from December 31, 2015, Taubman offered his thoughts on how current street maintenance practices affect the whole program:

      “The seal coat program is one year behind schedule. In two years they’re one year behind. That’s not a little miss; that’s a big miss. The reason the seal coat exists is to preserve the streets. Being behind isn’t just an inconvenience, it has a real cost. Cities don’t do a very good job of measuring opportunity costs. Everyone complains about the $100 being spent in a place somebody doesn’t like. If by not getting the seal coat work done you’ve lost a million dollars in value of the streets, nobody says anything because you can’t measure opportunity costs. If projects are managed well, there are three variables that really get managed: time, quality, and cost. Those are the three variables that get managed in a private situation. The goal is to balance the three. In a city setting time goes out the window. This discussion doesn’t happen because the three types of years (program year, fiscal year, calendar year) don’t match up. So, no one asks the question. Nobody really knows.”

     When asked if City staff has the ability to adjust that, Taubman responded:  “Excellent question. No one asks if the city can ramp things up to meet a deadline. The money is already allocated through our fees, so it isn’t a question of funding. The way they contract for these services is that they wind up in an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery / Indefinite Quantity) with only one provider for each service. In private business, the owner will hire extra contractors and get the work done. If the question is never asked of City staff, then it can’t be addressed. And, since there’s only one provider, the question can’t be asked at all.”

     Taubman believes another question must be asked: “How and why does the money get spent?”

     “If people are concerned about how the money gets spent and why the money gets spent, then it’s important to have a street committee. I’m not convinced people care how or why the money gets spent. I think that businesses that are very well run ask this all the time,” said Taubman. “I’m not saying anything bad about City staff, but they don’t care if the question gets asked or not.  The City council members feel they need to ask the question out of a sense of duty or obligation, but do they really care if the question gets asked or not? Some do.  Some don’t.  Do the voters really care whether the question gets asked or not? I don’t get an overwhelming sense that that’s an important part of what people think about.  The paper definitely doesn’t care about the question. When you think about the role of media in society where they’re supposed to be asking the question, that’s where I say the biggest deficit in dereliction of duty happens.   Do I really think anybody cares? No. So why are we doing this? I don’t really know.”

     When asked why he is driven to lead the committee and continue to ask the question, Taubman said, “Part of why I’m doing this is because that’s not the way governments operate, but it is the way people operate.  In my experience personally and professionally, I think it’s an important thing to do.  Should we as citizens come together and ask that of government? I would otherwise in a vacuum say yes. I just don’t see any evidence that’s the way the world really works, so I don’t know.  People in their own lives and businesses do it, so come hell or high water we’re going to do this on behalf of the citizens in the context of good government.”

     Like the little boy in Han Chrisian Andersen’s “The Emperer’s New Clothes,” Taubman’s questions are opening doors, eyes, and minds to the possible need for change in the status quo.  “Is there a need or willingness for change within the current system?” Taubman asks.  Time will tell.  For now, the committee members continue to take the road less traveled by the average citizen in their quest to “get it right.”

 

(This is the second of several articles covering the work of the residential street committee.)

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Reviving a Dying Breed

Front Page
Corpus Christi Buffalo © Matthew Thornton
A Dying Breed by Matthew Thornton

Will Rogers said, “Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.”

The Paper Trail says, “That leaves so much more to know!”

Mark Twain said,  “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

The Paper Trail says, “Sometimes it takes more than one newspaper to get the whole story.”

Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man: “It was summer and moonlight and we had lemonade to drink, and we held the cold glasses in our hands, and Dad read the stereo-newspapers inserted into the special hat you put on your head and which turned the microscopic page in front of the magnifying lens if you blinked three times in succession.”

The Paper Trail says, “Newspapers are not extinct; they’re just taking on a new look.”

 

Our articles cover a great many topics appropriate for anyone living anywhere. However, we will also serve as an additional news source for Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff. If you have an idea for a local story, please contact us.  So, read on and subscribe to our future editions!

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