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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Ethics Commission Reports to Council

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics

     Today the Corpus Christi City Council named Rob Bailey as the newest member of the City of Corpus Christi Ethics Commission with a vote of 8-1, which meets the two-thirds vote of the full council required for this position.  Councilwoman Lucy Rubio nominated Bailey and all voted in his favor, save Councilwoman Colleen McIntyre who voted for her nominee, Craig Rogers.  Bailey, a husband and father who serves as the pastor at South Side Community Church in Corpus Christi, will replace Rod Wolthoff whose term ends on October 1, 2016. His appointment was the first of several topics related to ethical behavior.

     First came the discussion about a cap on what cab drivers can charge their rides.  Several council members saw a cap as necessary to prevent drivers from charging exorbitant fees.  According to McIntyre, Corpus cab drivers charge some of the highest allowable rates and that a cap is the best way to keep them in check.  Then, during public comment, Joe McComb questioned an assistant city manager’s credentials, saying that the Board of Professional Engineers lists Mark Van Vleck as “inactive”, which could pose a problem if Van Vleck presents himself as a PE (professional engineer) while conducting business for the City.   McComb suggested that the Council look into the matter in order to save everyone some trouble and embarrassment later.   Then, there was the case of a high-ranking city official making inappropriate and heated comments on a social media site over something said by a local pastor during public comment.  This was mentioned in passing as the commission submitted its report, a result of several months of work revising the Ethics Code.  Ethical behavior was the order of the day, especially when the Council received the Ethics Commission’s recommendations for changes to the City’s Ethics Code.

     Chairman Dr. Haysam Dawod presented the following recommendations:

  • Remove Section 2-311(4) which currently allows Council, but prohibits employees and board members, from using the prestige of their position with the City on behalf of any political party or cause.
  • Amend Section 2-311 (8) (A) which currently prohibits City officials, employees, and board members from taking action on a matter before them that benefits any of their “relatives”. The term “relatives” is currently defined as spouse, parents, children, siblings, spouses of children, spouses of siblings. The proposed amendment would expand the “circle of influence” to also grandparent, grandchildren, clients, members of households, outside employer of spouse or member of household, entities in which any of the relatives listed has an economic interest or entity in which the City official serves in policy making position.
  • Add new Section 2-311(8)(B) to prohibit any City employee/official or their family member or friend from profiting from privileged information discussed in confidential city meetings.
  • Add new Section 2-311(8)(E ) to prohibit a city official from using their position to influence a contract or business transaction before the City involving an individual or organization who contributed $2,700 or more to the official’s most recent election campaign.
  • Adds new Section 2-311 (16) to prohibit use of confidential information other than for performing official duties. Also Adds new Section 2-311 (17) to prohibit disclosure of confidential information relating to city affairs. Confidential information is any information not available to the public under the Texas Public Information Act and also any information from a closed session meeting.

     Some of the recommendations generated a great deal of discussion among council members.  Questions arose regarding the actual meanings of words such as “recusal” and “clients.”  Council members Chad Magill and Carolyn Vaughn expressed their approval for the changes, agreeing with the commission that once a council member has recused himself/herself from the first step of a multi-step issue that the council member should do the same throughout the process.  Councilman Mark Scott said he understood that it might address something  such as PlanCC 2035, a project for which his wife received a contract.  He recused himself initially but later took part in the discussions.  McIntyre said she has no problem with that kind of scenario because the council member is still responsible for speaking for his constituency after the point of conflict of interest has passed.

     Carolyn Vaughn disagreed.  “If you profit from the beginning, you should not discuss or vote on it at all.”

     Earlier Vaughn said, “I am so happy this is coming back.  It’s the one thing I wanted to do when I first got on council.”  Later she added, “The purpose of going over the Ethics Code is to close the loopholes.”

     Of all the commissions and boards in the city, some consider the Ethics Commission the most important.  Megan Comlossy of the Center for Ethics in Government National Conference of State Legislatures, “Following the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, ethics laws received new attention at all levels of government.  State governments have enacted stronger ethics laws and created an ethics infrastructure, including ethics training and oversight agencies to monitor compliance by public officials. Both internal and external oversight entities now provide that oversight.

     “As regulatory agencies, ethics commissions serve a vital role in a democratic government. They work to ensure voters’ trust in policymakers and political institutions by monitoring compliance with ethics laws and ensuring ethical conduct by those under their jurisdiction.  Ethics commissions represent the public’s interest and work to maintain public trust in government.”

     As per the City Municipal Code, the Ethics Commission has jurisdiction over complaints involving any “city official”, which includes:

  • the mayor and members of the city council,
  • city manager,
  • deputy and assistant city managers,
  • city secretary,
  • city attorney,
  • department heads,
  • municipal court judges (including substitute judges), and
  • all members of any board, commission or committee of the city, including the board of any corporation created by the city.

In addition, the commission is charged with:

  • preparing and publishing pamphlets and other materials explaining the duties of individuals subject to the code of ethics;
  • reviewing all statements and reports filed with the city;
  • annually reviewing the code of ethics and making appropriate recommendations to the city council;
  • reviewing all public opinions related to the code of ethics that are issued by the city attorney;
  • preparing and disseminating a report listing all campaign contributions and expenditures for each candidate within 30 days following the deadline for filing the last campaign finance reports for each city council election;
  • complying with the Texas Open Meetings Act.

      It was clear that not all the council members were in agreement with the commission’s recommendations.  The next step is for the council to consider each item, amend as they see fit, and vote to accept or not.  Dawod asked Mayor Martinez if the commission would get to review the council’s final changes.  After jokingly saying they would not, Martinez assured him that they would indeed be able to review the final draft.

     Martinez thanked Dawod and the other commissioners for their service.  Dawod repeated what he said several times during the presentation:  “Our recommendations have been made to remove the perception of impropriety and give us a code to follow.”  He added, “Our job is never done.”

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Water, Water Everywhere…

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

     When I read the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in high school, it made perfect sense for a sailor on the briny seas to be writing this line.  Never did I think it would be appropriate for the people of Corpus Christi.  Yet, here we are in the midst of a third water boil in the last 10 months, unable to drink the water from the tap yet surrounded by flood waters from recent rains.  Maybe the citizens should just be issued LifeStraws; then we could simply walk out into our yards and drink from the ponds so many of us now own.

   Image result for lifestraw

     This little device has received accolades from all over the world.  Hikers use them.  Military use them.  People in third-world countries use them.  And for under $20, anyone who is without potable drinking water can use the LifeStraw.  According to their website:

“The LifeStraw Mission is a gravity powered water purifier that uses an advanced ultra-filtration membrane with a 0.02 micron pore size, removing virtually all virus, bacteria, and protozoa. With our Follow the Liters program, for every LifeStraw product sold, a child in a developing country receives clean, safe drinking water for an entire school year. LifeStraw is ideal for hiking, backpacking, camping, travel, and emergency preparedness. The straw-style filter design lets you turn up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water into safe drinking water.

  • Filters up to 1,000 liters (264 gallons) of water
  • Removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (>LOG 6 reduction), including E-Coli
  • Removes 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites (>LOG 3 reduction), including Giardia & Cryptosporidium
  • Reduces turbidity, filtering down to 0.2 microns
  • Ultralight: weighs only 2 oz.
  • Does NOT use iodine or iodinized resin
  • Used worldwide in harsh conditions since 2005

     These handy dandy devices even come in family sizes!  Maybe Mark Van Vleck can check into mailing these out with our water bills this month.  Local schools would save a fortune on bottled water, and everyone could feel good about helping a child in a third-world country who is experiencing similar problems.  Just a thought.

LifeStraw Go     LifeStraw Mission

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