Addressing Homelessness in Flour Bluff

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, Health, Law Enforcement
Melanie Hambrick addresses FBCC (Photo by SevenEleven Photography)

       On October 16, 2017, members of the Flour Bluff Citizens Council were joined by city, county, and state elected officials and city staff to hear a presentation on homelessness in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff.  Melanie Hambrick, a Flour Bluff resident who has served on the city’s Advisory Council for Homelessness, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse, Kae Berry of Timon’s Ministries, and CCPD Chief Mark Schauer helped to educate the residents in the audience at the regular general meeting held at Grace Community Church on Flour Bluff Drive.

     Hambrick began her part of the presentation with a definition of homeless.  “Though many definitions exist, for our purposes we will define homeless as chronic, those who have been continuously homeless for one year; transitional, individuals who have experienced a single episode of homelessness lasting an average of one to two months; and episodic, an individual with three or more episodes within the last year rendering him homeless,” she said. Hambrick said that research indicates the primary reasons for homelessness to be addiction, poverty, lack of housing, lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, and mental health issues among others.  “The number of homeless changes daily, and finding these individuals to talk to them about their personal experiences is challenging and therefore cannot be accurate,” stated Hambrick.

Data based on the 2017 Point-in-Time Survey of 611 individuals in Corpus Christi.  This annual survey is required by the U.S. Dep’t. of Housing and Urban Development.

     “There are lots of factors that contribute to chronic homelessness.  When people are released from public institutio or public systems without adequate discharge planning, they are more likely to become homeless,” said Hambrick.  “Adequate discharge planning is a crucial element to the long-term success of these individuals. Reasons given include release from correctional institutions, release from hospitals, release from mental institutions, children aging out of foster care, and migration for jobs.”  Hambrick added that Corpus Christi becomes a destination for the homeless because of the mild winters and places that lend themselves to living outside, such as bridges, brushy areas, and beaches.

     “All of this does come with a cost to the taxpayer,” said Hambrick.  Though she did not have exact data for Corpus Christi, Hambrick gave the national average, which is estimated between $30 and $40 thousand per individual annually. “This cost is absorbed by many.  For example, the cost for processing and holding of individuals in correctional institutions, hospitals that do not refuse those who seek medical attention, and court-appointed attorneys who represent those who have been arrested, to name a few.”  This does not include the cost to clean up homeless camps in public spaces and parks, which would be absorbed by the Solid Waste Department or the Parks and Recreation Department.

     Hambrick provided data on what services are available for the homeless in Corpus Christi:

  • 10 agencies provide shelter totaling approximately 600 beds (none in Flour Bluff identified and many serve specific populations)
  • 14 identified churches and organizations provide food (none in Flour Bluff identified)
  • 7 agencies, including Timon’s Ministries in Flour Bluff, provide health care and case management services
Kae Berry of Timon’s Ministries (Photo by SevenEleven Photography)

     Kae Berry of Timon’s Ministries told the group that Timon’s was incorporated in 1999 and opened for business in 2000.  “I started there as a volunteer serving food,” she said.  “A year later I became the director, and I’m still there.”  Berry explained that it really began back in the eighties at St. Peter’s by the Sea UMC on Waldron Road as a shelter for the homeless.  “They were feeding the homeless who camped near there out the back door of the church.  It grew and grew and grew.  Then, other churches got involved, and they formed Timon’s.  When it first opened, we were really feeding only homeless people,” Berry said.  “Because of the development of the Flour Bluff area, the number of homeless in Flour Bluff has diminished significantly.  Currently, only about 5% of the people we feed are homeless, usually the chronic homeless.”

     “Our goal at Timon’s is to help people not be homeless,” said Berry.  “Most of the folks we see are people who are just hanging on by a thread.”  Berry told of how they serve many children whose parents have been incarcerated and who are being raised by indigent grandparents who live on fixed incomes and could barely afford to feed and care for themselves, much less the grandchildren. “Those in need are welcome at Timon’s.  If they don’t behave themselves,” Berry said, “they can’t be there.  There may be more homeless wandering around out here, but we don’t see them because they’ve been banned.”

     Berry said that Timon’s is really working to help the working poor and the disabled poor.  “I don’t feel the government does enough for these people, and that’s who we’re after.  We have a doctor on board who has 1700 charts; most of those people are not homeless.  A few are homeless, and with them most of what we do is wound care, spider bites, and that sort of thing,” said Berry.  “We’re helping the uninsured, and it keeps them out of the ER.  This started in 2012.  We opened the first dental clinic in 2009, the first in the Coastal Bend.  We have 3400 charts for people who come in for dental care from all over the place, not just Flour Bluff.”

     “We also help with things like driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and the kinds of things that get people back on the road so they can get a job.  You can’t do anything without an ID; without a birth certificate, you’re dead in the water.  All of this costs money,” said Berry.  “We move about three tons of groceries out every month.  That is increased since Hurricane Harvey since we’re helping a lot of folks with emergency food.  We’re also helping with their medicines.  This is not the time to be standing in water with your house down around your knees to be without your blood pressure pills.  We’re glad to help folks with these things.  However, if we’re going to spend a farthing on you, you must pass the drug test.  We will feed you and give you groceries because there are children involved, but for anything else you have to pass what we lovingly call the ‘Whiz Quiz’.”

     According to Berry, running Timon’s costs about $323,000 a year to operate, most of which comes through grant funding.  Hurricane Harvey did damage to the Timon’s building, leaving them with a 30-year loan for its repair. When clients do not behave, Berry said they call the police and issue a criminal trespass. Timon’s Ministries is located at 10501 South Padre Island Drive next to Pizza Hut and is open from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily.  Berry can be contacted by phone at 361-937-6196 or by e-mail, timonsministries@sbcglobal.net.

Chief Mike Markle (Photo by SevenEleven Photography)

     Representatives from law enforcement agencies were present at the meeting, including Constable Mitchell Clark and Chief Mike Markle who brought several officers to answer questions.  “We often receive phone calls and emails from the public asking what we’re going to do about the homeless.  Unless a crime is committed, we can’t do much.  Homelessness is not a crime.  I understand the frustration of property owners.  I’m a property owner of Flour Bluff,” said Markle.

     “When crimes are committed by the homeless, we deal with those.  However, homeless folks, more often than not, are victims of crimes rather than instigators of crimes,” said Markle.  “We do have many homeless because they see Corpus Christi and its mild climate as a destination city.  They see this and the very giving and charitable nature of the city as reasons to come here, so they get on a bus or get a ride and head down here. I doubt that Corpus Christi will ever be without homeless.  It is more of an issue of co-existing and everyone maintaining qualities of life while being charitable, while being cognizant of the law, while enforcing the laws so that others aren’t impacted negatively by their presence,” continued Markle.  He encouraged the residents to get in touch with Captain Lee Weber who is the district captain in charge of the Flour Bluff area.  He can be contacted by phone  (361) 826-4052  or email: weldonw@cctexas.com.

Chief Markle and Captain Lee Weber (Photo by SevenEleven Photography)

     “We are very much involved in homeless issues outside of just police work,” said Markle as he introduced Assistant Chief Mark Schauer,  a 35-year veteran of the police department, who offered additional information about the homeless situation in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff.  “Chief Schauer has been involved in many homeless initiatives, serving on various boards and working with the Coalition for the Homeless , Metro Ministries, and Charlie’s Place.  He’s also been involved in the Point-in-Time Surveys – as were many of our staff in the police department.”

     “When I got this job, I had been homeless for about five months, but it’s a different kind of homelessness. You can’t paint everybody with the same brush of homelessness.  Some are homeless because of domestic violence, some for drugs and emotional conditions.  You have young people being kicked out of their homes.  The average age of the homeless, as I learned from serving over four years on the Metro Ministries board, is sometimes nine years old.  A mother with kids drives down the average age, and there are lots of mothers with kids who have no place to go,” said Shauer.

Assistant Chief Mark Schauer (Photo by SevenEleven Photography)

     “In my case, I graduated from college, worked for my dad for a year, and decided I didn’t want to live in Illinois any more.  So, I got in my truck and left.  I camped out of my truck on the beach, under overpasses, even the JFK Causeway, and places where I was kicked out because I didn’t know I couldn’t camp there.  A week before the academy started I rented a room in a mobile home on the other side of town.  That was my first place.  I had money in the bank and a desire to get a job, not really the same as for many homeless.”

     Schauer shared with the audience information about homelessness in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff that he and other officers received from a two-year survey with over 400 homeless people.  “We learned that a lot of the people interviewed were homeless less than a year.  Many were not from here but didn’t say why they came here.  A lot of them admitted to having drug and psychological problems.  Some who said they didn’t have psychological problems admitted to being treated for psychological problems,” said Schauer.

 

     “If you ask the intake officer at the city detention center, he’ll tell you that he hardly ever sees a PI (public intoxication) for alcohol any more.  It’s all synthetics.  It’s easy to get and extremely cheap. They can share it. They can take a blunt and make it last for days because they can get high with just a couple of hits. And, it’s deadly. If you see people leaning against a building – looking like a zombie or something – almost for sure they’re on synthetics,” said Schauer. “We think it’s a waste of time to give money to these folks, so we put up the ‘Keep the Change’ signs.  We prefer that you give to the shelters, give to Timon’s, give to somebody, but don’t flat out give them cash.  I think it’s the worst thing you can do.”  Later in the presentation, Schauer told the audience how they could tell if synthetic use is going on in their area.  “Look for the cigarillo packages like Swisher Sweets.”

Image result for cigarillos for weed
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     “We also found out through the survey is that 7% – or about 28 people – said they are just satisfied being homeless.  These are the ones you see all the time,” Schauer said as he described one particular barefooted man whom he sees sometimes 20 times in a day around City Hall.  “He is the face of homelessness for me, but it’s not the representative face because there isn’t one.  Some are mothers.  Some are people who came here for jobs that they didn’t get. This is a complex issue.  All we can do is enforce the law and try to keep it at bay.”

     Shauer said that he worked on the aggressive panhandling ordinance that prevents people from repeatedly asking for money.  “Talking to you is a First Amendment right, but they can’t continually ask you or approach you aggressively.  We can stop it when they’re in the roadway, and we do that a lot.  When we make an arrest for that, it’s an endless cycle.  They don’t have the money to pay, and we don’t have debtors prison.  You can’t hold them.  We arrest them.  They magistrate them and then release them.  We pick them up and try to interrupt their cycle.”

     Some of the homeless activity, Shauer said, takes place on private property, and the police cannot legally get back in there without the permission of the property owner.  “Flour Bluff is unique in that it has large, brushy areas privately owned by oil companies and such, but without their express permission or a direct request, we can’t just go onto the property. Some of these camps are elaborate and look like Apocalypse Now.  If you see them and tell us, then we can address it through the property owner,” he said.

     Shauer explained that many of the people are mentally disabled or emotionally unsound, but there is not a lot of money for them.   “We wish there was.  We commit a lot of people who are out a few days later.  There is no long-term treatment facility unless they are sent to SASH (San Antonio State Hospital),” said Shauer.  “I sit on the board for Charlie’s Place, and they have what they call scholarships for the people we encounter on the streets.  We have a special unit that works around City Hall and out in the Bluff around Parker Park and along Graham Road.  Our bike officers offer them some of these spots at Charlie’s Place, but they don’t always take them up on it, so they end up getting arrested.”

     When asked by a Citizens Council member why these people are not made to work even though they appear to be able to do so.  Shauer responded by saying that some are truly disabled mentally or physically; some will but look for ways to sue the property owner; others do work at Metro Ministries and earn their keep; still others simply do not want to work.  At the Rainbow House, the women are working or going through a job program, and all the kids are in school or in childcare Shauer explained.

     Another member asked what can be done about them urinating or defecating in the park.  “We have ordinances that address that, and they can be ticketed.  We have to see it.  Call us out, and we’ll come out and talk to them.  Most of the time they comply with our requests.”

    Shauer was asked if anyone had used drones to fly over some of the larger brush-covered areas to locate homeless camps.  “No.  We have to respect private rights, too. Just about everything out here (Flour Bluff) is privately owned, and we would need the permission of the property owner to do something like that,” Shauer said.

     Melanie Hambrick talked about possible solutions.  “Many components are necessary for a successful plan to end homelessness,” she said.  “However a plan is just a plan if no action is taken.  It is clearly a waste of time and effort.  This is a community issue, and government can only be part of the solution.”  Hambrick outlined some actions that could be taken immediately, such as locating a coordinated entry center for those in need where they will be met with a process that will maximize potential assistance in changing the homeless person’s current situation.  She added that service organizations that work in tandem with the Texas Homeless Network will provide solutions and pathways for individuals to become self-sufficient.  “This will also aid in our ability to collect true data on homelessness in our area,” Hambrick added.

     Hambrick stated that all who are serving the homeless in some way should take a “collective impact approach” to combat homelessness.  “This means that previously independent and uncoordinated programs in Flour Bluff that address the needs of the homeless should be coordinated to work toward common goals.  Leadership and civic engagement should be collaborative at all levels across all sectors,” she said.  The FBCC meeting ended with an appeal to the churches, businesses, and residents to take an active role in helping solve what is a daunting task for any community.

     At the October 17, 2017 City Council meeting, Amy Granberry, Chairperson for the Advisory Council for Homelessness, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse briefed the council on four recommendations, echoing what Hambrick presented at the Flour Bluff Citizens Council meeting the night before.  Almost all council members were in favor of moving forward with two or three of the recommendations, but District 4 Councilman Greg Smith lead the charge by strongly suggesting that all four recommendations be acted upon swiftly.  The four recommendations are as follows:

  • Coordinated entry to ensure that all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access and are quickly identified, assessed for, referred, and connected to housing and assistance based on their strengths and needs.
  • Parks and Recreation Homeless Workers Program, which is based on the City of Albuquerque’s “There’s a Better Way” Program.  Workers will pick up trash and beautify the city and will work in conjunction with the Community Service Workers Program in the Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Tent City / Tiny Homes in which city could partner with businesses to build a tiny home community  by providing city-owned land and CDBG funding to build bathrooms and showers where residents would be charged a reasonable rent fee.
  • Family Reunification Program, which is a one-time use program designed to reunite homeless with supportive family outside of Corpus Christi.

NOTE:  For information on how you can help, contact Lt. Chris Hooper, Melanie Hambrick, or Shirley Thornton

at

fbcitizenscouncil@gmail.com.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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Flour Bluff Citizens Consider Future Land Use

Community Organizations, Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history
Dan McGinn of the Corpus Christi Planning and ESI Department,  addresses Flour Bluff Citizens Council, July 17, 2017

     Citizens of Flour Bluff were educated on area development plans (ADPs) at the July Flour Bluff Citizens Council general meeting where Dan McGinn, Director of Planning and Environmental Strategic Initiatives, defined what area development plans are, how they are connected to Plan CC, the city’s comprehensive plan, and plans for re-writing the nine area development plans, including the Flour Bluff ADP, which has not been revised since 1993 even though the 1987 Comprehensive Plan stated that all plans would be reviewed and revised every five years. Those in attendance were encouraged to look around the Flour Bluff community and take note of improvements, enhancements, or changes needed or wanted in the community in order to be prepared for future FBADP meetings when the real planning begins.  They were asked to look to the future and envision Flour Bluff in 20 years, a daunting task to say the least.

Flour Bluff, 1863

 

     Flour Bluff encompasses an area of about 18 square miles and is home to 22,876 (according to the 2014 counts), which is about 7% of the total population of Corpus Christi, according to a presentation given by McGinn to the Corpus Christi City Council the day after the FBCC meeting.  Until the Ropes Boom around 1890, Flour Bluff was for the most part inaccessible except by boat.  Flour Bluff Point, where NAS CC sits today, was identified by the 40-foot dunes that graced the landscape.  This area attracted activity (i.e. fishing, packing plants, trade routes) on the perimeter of the Encinal Peninsula, but actual long-term settlements did not take root until the Ropes Boom around 1890. It was then that the few families who moved into the area began building houses (which they moved frequently); fishing; farming;  raising dairy cattle;  establishing a post office;  starting a school;  and building bridges across the Oso and eventually across the Laguna Madre to Padre Island.  They were seeing Flour Bluff as a land of many uses, but without the tethers of local government.

     All was quiet for a while until oil was discovered, which brought many new families to the area, followed by the biggest growth in population with the building of NAS Corpus Christi. With the Navy base came a water line that would bring a source of water more reliable than the individual wells that had at times gone dry.  Electricity, phone service, an independent school district, thriving businesses, a county building with a constable, and other community elements such as churches, sports teams, and civic groups had Flour Bluff functioning as a town, but not officially.  By 1950, the talk of incorporation had begun.  The people of Flour Bluff, a fiercely independent group, wanted to be in control of what happened on their little piece of the planet, something that has not changed.  If they can’t turn back the hands of time and become a town of their own, then they certainly want to have as much influence as possible on what happens in their own back yards.  But, who else will have a say-so in the writing of the plan?

     According to the City of Corpus Christi’s website, “The Planning Division is responsible for developing and updating of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Area Development Plans, Neighborhood Plans, and assisting with Utility and Infrastructure Master Plans.  The Comprehensive Plan contains the city’s policies for growth and development for the land within the corporate limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city. The Comprehensive Plan is mandated by City Charter, Article V, and includes future land use, annexation, transportation, economic development and public services and facilities, and capital improvements.  The plan may also include any other element the City Council may deem necessary.  The Comprehensive Plan is a series of stand-alone documents, referred to as elements of the Comprehensive Plan.”  It should be noted that these plans are not law and can be changed.  Plan CC states:

“The comprehensive plan contains broadly stated goals and policies that can
be implemented in several different ways, whether by adopting or amending
ordinances, policies or programs. The comprehensive plan’s goals and policies
themselves are ideas to work towards rather than law. While the City’s charter
requires that all city improvements, ordinances and regulations be consistent
with the comprehensive plan, the comprehensive plan alone is not an enforceable
regulation. It does not justify the denial of a plat or the development of land. The
comprehensive plan does not obligate the City to provide any program or regulate
any activity. While the comprehensive plan is consulted when making decisions
about rezonings, it does not establish zoning district boundaries or create zoning
regulations, which would require an independent public hearing process. The
comprehensive plan does not restrict the City from preparing plans, policies,
or strategies. It does not restrict the right of the City to adopt any ordinance not
related to the development of land. It does not create any cause of action against
the City or any City official, employee, or agent. It does not constitute a defense to
the prosecution of any crime. Finally, the comprehensive plan does not supersede
Federal or State requirements.”

 

 

     McGinn explained that other key players would be involved.  The Navy still has a great deal of influence over the area, as does the State of Texas, the EPA, and TCEQ.  Add to that outside developers, utility companies, and the tourist industry, and the influence of the local citizenry on the plan seems to lose impact.  One member of the FBCC said that the plan may be necessary as part of the City Charter, but the people must be vigilant before, during, and after the document is written.  “How many people actually read those little rezoning signs that pop up here and there? We should make a point of not only stopping and reading them but calling the number to see what is about to happen.”  He went on to suggest that the City could add a link to the web page that lists every proposed zoning change so that the citizens can easily attain the rezoning information.  This, he thought, would be the most effective way of controlling what happens in Flour Bluff since it is apparent that the area development plans are easily overridden by these zoning changes that go unnoticed unless someone is watching. Melanie Hambrick, Chairperson of the FBCC Committee on the FBADP, has taken on the task of gathering knowledgeable and willing Flour Bluff citizens to take part in the process, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to pay attention to what is going on in their own neighborhoods.

     Flour Bluff (and Padre Island) is unlike the other areas of the city because it has distinct geographical boundaries created by the Cayo del Oso, the Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi Bay, and King Ranch.  The FBADP is also one of the oldest on the list.  The map below shows the boundaries of each ADP, while the chart offers the timeline for development of each plan.  A group of Padre Island residents recently wrote their own ADP, which was accepted by the City Council in January of this year.  McGinn indicated that even this plan would need to be revised with the assistance of Texas-based city planning consultants.  The city planning department currently has two full-time employees to take on the task of re-writing the plans.

     The FBCC meeting was the first of many to come.  The FBCC encourages all those who live, own property, or have businesses in Flour Bluff to stay abreast of this issue and consider taking an active role in the planning process.  The FBCC will post information about upcoming meetings on its website and Facebook page.  In the meantime, it might be a good idea to watch the city council meetings on television or in person, take note of zoning changes in the Flour Bluff area, and stay connected with the community so that the citizens can work together to preserve what is great about this little community while improving the areas that are in need of upgrades.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

City Park Director Addresses Flour Bluff Citizens Council

Business, Community Organizations, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Outdoors
Corpus Christi Director of Parks and Recreation Stacie Talbert Anaya addressing Flour Bluff Citizens Council at January 23, 2017, general meeting
     A crowd of about 60 people gathered at 6:00 p.m. on January 23, 2017, at Grace Community Church in Flour Bluff to listen to Stacie Talbert Anaya, Director of Parks and Recreation, describe what her department does city-wide and what is planned for parks in Flour Bluff. Dr. Lloyd Stegemann, FBCC Chairman of the FB Parks and Recreation Committee and newly-appointed member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for Corpus Christi introduced Ms. Anaya to the audience, pointing out that she lives and works by the motto “The world needs play.”
FBCC members listen while Stacie Talber Anaya, Director of Parks and Recreation, explains what is in store for Flour Bluff parks.
     Ms. Anaya told the citizens council that Parker Park is being upgraded as part of a 2012 voter-approved bond.  New walking paths, lighting for the tennis and basketball courts, improvements to the covered picnic area, and new playground facilities are just part of the plan.  A plan for planting more trees is also in the works.  Parker Pool, which is no longer managed by the city, is not part of the renovation project.  The community was encouraged to assist the Parker Pool Patriots in keeping the pool functional.  (To donate to the cause, visit their website.)
Recent construction at Parker Park
     Plans for an extension of the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve and Learning Center, a 162-acre nature preserve accessible by using the walk-in entrances along N. Oso Parkway and from the Holly hike and bike trail, sits just across the Oso from Flour Bluff.  Anaya said that she and her group are working on making the park accessible to the Flour Bluff community via a hike and bike trail across the existing railway bridge. She said that the plan includes the walkway, fishing spots along the bridge, and perhaps even a trail head parking area at the corner of Flour Bluff Drive and Division Road, a property purchased two years ago by the city to build a citizens collections center, a facility opposed by those who live and own businesses closest to the area.  Anaya’s  idea for the property received many nods from the crowd who also want to see the property used for a more family-friendly space.
Map showing connection of Oso Wetlands park to Flour Bluff side of Oso via old railway tracks
     Anaya also discussed how the Community Enrichment Fund dollars (funds received from developer fees, other donations and interest earned in the Community Enrichment Fund) are used.  The Unified Development Code (UDC), requires that the fees be used for the acquisition or improvement of parks most likely to serve the residents of the subdivision. Community Enrichment Funds shall be used only for parkland acquisition, park development and park improvements including utility extensions required to serve recreational areas. The last appropriation of Community Enrichment Funds was approved by City Council on July 19, 2016.  The next appropriation will be made following approval at the January 24, 2017, council meeting.
    Adding to the discussion of parks and recreational areas in Flour Bluff was community activist and former president of the Flour Bluff Business Association, Melanie Hambrick, who outlined the plans for Redhead Pond (an area purchased to protect freshwater wetland habitat for wintering waterfowl and other birds). Redhead Pond offers a unique opportunity to view large concentrations of wild birds on Laguna Shores Road in Flour Bluff. Ms. Hambrick has long wanted to work with Texas Parks and Wildlife to make this a place for families and visitors to enjoy.  (To volunteer for the Redhead Pond Project, contact Melanie Hambrick at 361-728-7393 or mlhambrick@aol.com.)
Melanie Hambrick
Map of Redhead Pond Wildlife Management Area, Corpus Christi, TX 78418
 
     Joining the FBCC members at the January 23, 2017, general meeting were City Manager Margie Rose, At-large Council Members Paulette Guajardo and Michael Hunter, District 4 Councilman Greg Smith, and Gaye White of Todd Hunter’s office.  Pastor Jess Cole of Grace Community Church offers the church for the FBCC meetings, of which the group is very appreciative.
Better in the Bluff
     As an added bonus, Better in the Bluff t-shirts were raffled to the members in attendance.  Anyone who wishes to purchase a shirt at a cost of $16 ($4 goes to the FBCC for each sale) may visit Caption Tees by following this link.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

District 4 Councilman Greg Smith Addresses Flour Bluff Business Association

Business, Community Organizations, Flour Bluff, Front Page

Keynote Speaker:  Councilman Greg Smith

     Newly-elected District 4 Councilman Greg Smith addressed the Flour Bluff Business Association members at the general meeting held January 11, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Smith, a native of Flour Bluff and small business owner, has been a community activist for many years, especially in the areas of windstorm insurance, desalination, water, electrical transmission, and coastal erosion and protection. He is currently a member of the FBBA and of the newly-formed Flour Bluff Citizens Council.

     Smith gave an update on some of the issues the City of Corpus Christi is facing.  He spoke about the $870 million budget ($2.4 million per day) and how the city is carrying one of the highest debt levels in the nation in terms of debt compared to revenue.  He added that this debt level could very easily prevent the city from borrowing money for much needed street repairs.  “We have borrowed to the limit,” said Smith.

     Smith outlined a few of the big-ticket items.  He assured everyone that the pension fund is much better than before, with $70 million going to the Corpus Christi Police Department and $50 million going to the Corpus Christi Fire Department.  When discussing recent city efforts to consolidate the waste water plants, he asked, “Do we really need to consolidate our plants?”  Presently our sewer cost is second highest in the state.

     The new councilman said that there are lots of good people who work for the city, and he commended them on the jobs they are doing. “This council expects more out of staff,” Smith said, as he spoke about necessary changes that the council would be discussing at their retreat on January 13, 2017.  He expressed how he wants to see a culture of value developed within the city departments so that progress can be made.  Smith wants everyone to be more aware of what is being spent and how purchasing technology should offer some savings in another area of the department.  He spoke of a $337,000 software for Development Services that was intended to streamline the department, how it had not met the expectations that many had in terms of customer service, and how it failed to eliminate any positions.  He ended by saying that industry is very interested in Corpus Christi and that he was looking forward to the retreat where he believed the conversation would continue to be centered around streets, water, and waste water and emphasized that the “status quo is not acceptable.”

Other FBBA Business

    Out-going president, Melanie Hambrick, was recognized by newly-elected president, Jennifer Welp, for her service on the board. Hambrick is credited with actively growing the association and building positive relationships with local, state, and federal agencies. President Welp will lead the new board which includes Vice-president Roshan Bhakta, Secretary Shirley Thornton, Treasurer Jonathan Vela, Programs Director Michael Morgan, Membership Director Lynn Kaylor (appointed to replace Jeff Rank who resigned in December), Director Mark Thomas, Director Tom Hollingsworth, and Director Cliff Zarbock (appointed to replace Melanie Hambrick who resigned in January). Welp expressed how she is looking forward to serving with the new board and growing the association even more.

President Jennifer Welp thanks Melanie Hambrick for her work on the FBBA board, serving as both a director and as president.

     Welp thanked all the Flour Bluff businesses, Flour Bluff ISD school groups, and board members who made Community Christmas a success.  Over 300 children received gifts at the event, while dozens more were distributed by the Flour Bluff Fire Department via the Santa Float.  Still more were donated to Driscoll Children’s Hospital when the need for more gifts was shared with the FBBA.  Businesses and organizations who helped with Community Christmas include:

  • HEB Plus
  • Fleet Reserve
  • Funtrackers
  • Walmart #490
  • Colonia del Rey
  • Ethel Eyerly
  • Children’s Center
  • ESD#2 (personally delivered Santa and Mrs. Claus to the event)
  • County Commissioners Brent Chesney and Mike Pusley
  • County Judge Loyd Neal
  • Flour Bluff HS NHS
  • Eisenhauer’s School of Twirling
  • Flour Bluff Intermediate Choir
  • Jack and Jill (Santa stage, lighting, and Christmas tree)
  • Monette Bright
  • All the small businesses and individuals that donated toys, supplies, or time

     Welp recognized new member Hilde Hermann of First Direct Financial, a credit card processing company located in Flour Bluff.  Member Susan Lawson reminded everyone to support the Parker Pool Patriots.  Elaine Motl of Barefoot Mardi Gras updated the group about the plans for a bigger and better Mardi Gras Beach Parade on February 25, 2017.  The event is a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the island charter school.  The board of directors held a financial workshop immediately following the regular meeting.

     Next month, the FBBA will host its regular meeting at noon on February 10, 2017, at Funtrackers.  The keynote speaker will be Jim Lago, the host of the long-running morning show “Lago in the Morning,” on KKTX radio here in Corpus Christi.  Lago was recently named to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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Flour Bluff Business Association Holds November Meeting: Community Christmas Is Coming!

Community Organizations, Flour Bluff, Front Page

FBBA Community Christmas Promotional Video by Jonathan Vela

 

     Before welcoming keynote speaker Margie Rose, City Manager of Corpus Christi, FBBA President Melanie Hambrick called the regular meeting to order at noon.  First, she welcomed all members, guests, and dignitaries.  She went on to thank Funtrackers for allowing the association to hold their monthly meetings at the Raceway Cafe’.  Hambrick encouraged everyone to access the FBBA website to stay abreast of what is happening within the association.

New Businesses:  The following businesses submitted applications for membership and were approved by the Board of Directors:

Spotlight of the Month:  Unlock Texas, Owner Thomas Corey

thomas-corey
Thomas Corey, owner of Unlock Texas

     Thomas Corey, owner of Unlock Texas, was named the Spotlight Business of the Month.  Unlock Texas is owned and operated by Thomas Corey. With over 10 years of experience, he provides locksmith services, tire changes, jump starts, and fuel delivery. They serve Corpus Christi and surrounding areas 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

     “We started off as a roadside service company, but we are now licensed by the State of Texas to be a full locksmith company,” said Corey. “Thanks to Jonathan Vela for all his help through this process.  We provide many services and offer military and first-responder discounts. We offer a 10% discount to them.  We also provide a community service, a child lockout service when a child is locked in a car or a house, absolutely free.  That’s a little bit of our way of giving back.”

FBBA Board Elections:  

     Elections for the Board of Directors was held.  Jennifer Welp, Jeff Rank, and Shirley Thornton are up for re-election for 3-year terms.  No additional candidates submitted their names for consideration.  All members in attendance filled out and turned in paper ballots.  New board members will be inducted at the FBBA mixer on December 14, 2016.  Directors will take office in January 2017.

Announcements:  

  • Jeff Craft, publisher of The Flour Bluff Messenger, announced that he is celebrating the first anniversary of the newspaper.  Craft went on to say that he will begin publishing a paper every two weeks instead of monthly.  He encouraged everyone with a business in Flour Bluff to advertise in the Messenger.  Ads run for as little as $30 per month.
  • Melanie Hambrick thanked HEB for their generous contribution to Community Christmas.
  • Javier Ramirez was introduced as the new Edward Jones financial adviser working out of the office of Melanie Hambrick on Waldron Road.
  • Anyone wanting to help with the Community Christmas event may contact Jonathan Vela, Events Coordinator, at 361-434-0332.

Next General Meeting:  The next meeting will be a mixer at 6:00 p.m. on December 14, 2016, at Candlewood Suites.  

 

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

FBBA Receives Funds from Chesney, Pusley, and Neal

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page

FBBA

     At the regular meeting of the Flour Bluff Business Association on June 8, 2016, County Commissioners Brent Chesney and Mike Pusley presented the association with two checks totaling $3500.  FBBA President Melanie Hambrick along with other FBBA board members graciously accepted the checks on behalf of the members.

     Commissioner Chesney explained that each commissioner has funds that can be used to assist groups like the FBBA.  “We really appreciate the Flour Bluff Business Association and all the hard work its members do, especially in the way of economic development for the Flour Bluff area.”  He explained that Judge Loyd Neal also sent his check for $1000, bringing the total contribution from the county to $4500.  “We just want to show you how strongly we feel about what you do and what an impact you have on this community.”

     “We want to offer you some money to help you with the things that you do that are so important,”  said Chesney, referencing the upcoming Flour Fest set for September 17, 2016.

     Commissioner Pusley added, “We have a little money that we give out each year to different organizations to help stimulate the economy in our county.  With all the great things that are going on out here in Flour Bluff, it’s hard not to recognize that and help spur it forward.”  He went on to thank current and past boards and members for their work in the area.

     Jeff Rank thanked the commissioners by awarding them with Keep It in the Bluff t-shirts.

    

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Read more about this meeting at:  Representative Todd Hunter Addresses FBBA

                                                               Cliff Zarbock, “Mr. Real Estate”, Receives Spotlight Award from FBBA

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Cliff Zarbock, “Mr. Real Estate”, Receives Spotlight Award from FBBA

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FBBA

Spotlight Business of the Month

     Cliff Zarbock, local realtor, received the Spotlight Business of the Month Award at the Flour Bluff Business Association regular monthly meeting on June 8, 2016.  As is posted on the FBBA website, “Cliff was born and raised here in Corpus Christi and graduated from Flour Bluff High School. Before getting into Real Estate, Cliff was a school teacher at a local private school. He jumped into Real Estate in 2011 and quickly became ranked in the TOP 5 PERCENT of all the local agents. On average Cliff currently sells 45 homes every year totaling over $6 Million in sales volume. He represents the seller on an average of 50% of those sales making him an expert at representing both sides of the transaction. Whether you’re wanting to buy or sell, Cliff has the experience you’re looking for.  He and his wife Ashley are currently raising 3 children, Zach(16), Ava(3) and Easton(2) with another on the way.”

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     “I am happy to announce that I have moved my office into Flour Bluff at 10001 SPID.  The new name of it is Flour Bluff Realty.  It is a brokerage dedicated for Flour Bluff. If you have questions about Real Estate or need free advice, just come let me know.  I am excited to be part of the association, and I appreciate the board for acknowledging my presence with the Spotlight.  It’s kind of a pinnacle for me.  Growing up in the Bluff, I really have a fond passion for the area.  I feel like we are the heartbeat of the Bluff, and for me to be a part of that feels like I really made it to the top here,” said Zarbock upon receiving the award.

New Members

Six local businesses were accepted into the association this month.  Five are regular members, and one is an associate member.  They are as follows:

  • Awesome Apartments, Andy Taubman
  • Bookkeeping Plus, Crista Walton
  • Coastal Area Properties, James Skrobarczyk
  • Children’s Center, Monica Salazar
  • Sports Fitness Solutions, Jeff Paluseo
  • Better Weight Center, Dr. Lloyd Stegeman (Associate Member)

Contact information for all of the businesses can be found on the FBBA website.  (Click here.)

Other Business

  • Charlie Zahn, Chairman of the Port of Corpus Christi will address the FBBA at the July 13, 2016, regular meeting.
  • The FBBA by-laws have been updated and standardized.  Members are encouraged to read them at the FBBA website and submit comments to the board.  These will be voted on at the July 5, 2016, board meeting.  (Click here to read the by-laws.)
  • Jeff Craft was commended for his work on the Flour Bluff MessengerSusan Lawson gave an update on Parker Pool .  The opening is delayed due to ADA compliance issues.  $2000 is needed for the upgrade.
  • Dr. Lloyd Stegeman was recognized as a District 4 candidate for City Council
  • On May 12, 2016, Oso Mini Storage hosted a mixer for their grand opening.  Melanie Hambrick encouraged other new businesses that are hosting mixers to contact the FBBA so that all could attend.
  • As part of Beautifying the Bluff, four new trash cans have been installed by the City of Corpus Christi at Mud Bridge.  Melanie Hambrick thanked those who had a hand in the acquisition of the trash cans, including Councilwoman Coleen McIntyre.
  • Information was shared about the invasive plant, the Brazilian pepper tree.  It is changing the natural environment and creating a huge problem for property owners.  Various groups are working at eradicating the plant. For tips on doing this yourself, please click here.
  • The next general meeting will be held at Funtrackers on July 13, 2016, at noon.

 

Read more about this meeting at: FBBA Receives Funds from Chesney, Pusley, and Neal

Representative Todd Hunter Address FBBA

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Congressman Farenthold Visits with FBBA at April Meeting

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page

https://i0.wp.com/farenthold.house.gov/uploadedphotos/mediumresolution/14d18942-321b-4372-b418-1c20a807f9e9.jpg?resize=208%2C313&ssl=1

 

     Michael Morgan, FBBA Events Coordinator, welcomed U.S. Representative Blake Farenthold to the April 6 meeting.  The congressman is serving his third term in Congress representing the 27th District of Texas.  Representative Farenthold is working towards a smaller, more accountable and transparent government through his service as a committee member on the House Oversight Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee. Prior to being elected to Congress, his diverse career included working as a conservative radio commentator, seven years of law practice with the Kleberg Law Firm, and founding Farenthold Consulting LLC, a computer consulting and web design firm. He continues to pursue his passion for broadcasting, appearing frequently on radio and television.

     Farenthold addressed a great many topics with the group.  He talked a little about the primary election and the presidential election, assuring everyone that the Congress still has its work to do no matter what is happening with the elections.  Proud of the work that he has done, he looks forward to the possibility of working with a Republican president.  “We want actual legislative language that will indicate the changes to be made in the tax code.  We have to lay out what we as conservatives want,” said Farenthold.

     The congressman answered questions from the audience on several topics, including:

  • Problems within the Veterans Administration mounting with the increasing numbers of veterans as the U.S. pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan; antiquated computer system used to pay doctors of veterans is still an issue that will hopefully be resolved soon;
  • Update on the widening and deepening of the ship channel, as per the Army Corps of Engineers, in the next budget cycle;
  • Possibility of getting rid of the Department of Education with Trump or Cruz in the White House and a cooperative Congress (Forty percent of all federal education dollars never make it to the schools);
  • FAA Reauthorization Bill;
  • Second Amendment concerns;
  • Non-citizens to be counted for redistricting purposes to maintain status quo;
  • Credit unions versus banking;
  • Section 8 housing projects and the role of the federal government.

Other Business:

       Melanie Hambrick, President of the FBBA, welcomed the many dignitaries who were in attendance and moved on to announcements:

  • April 22, 2016, Beautify the Bluff Community Clean-up
  • Flour Fest:  a first-time event in early stages of planning to include live music and food at the Gateway to Flour Bluff next to Candlewood Suites
  • Ethel Eyerly Senior Citizen clothing drive for needy students
  • FBISD Foundation for Educational Excellence Big Event
  • Children’s Book Festival at the Central Library

 

Special Recognition:

Larry Teeter was given a certificate of appreciation for the past 16 years he has spent with the Flour Bluff Business Association.

 

 

    Spotlight of the Month: NavyArmy Community Credit Union representatives Mary Mata and Dan Tribble accepted the award.

 

Important Updates:

Meeting dates for the FBBA will be moved to the second Wednesday of the month starting in May to make it easier for more members to attend.  The time and place will remain the same:  Noon at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.

The new website is up and running.  Visit it here.

Board of Directors

Melanie Hambrick, President

Jennifer Welp, VP

Roshan Bhakta, Treasurer

Michael Morgan, Secretary

Mark Thomas, Director

Dr. Tom Hollingsworth, Director

Jonathan Vela, Director

Larry Teeter, Director

Jeff Rank, Ex-Officio

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

FBBA Holds February Meeting

Flour Bluff, Front Page

FBBA

     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.”

Jonathan Vela FBBA
Jonathan Vela, owner of Dani’s Lock and Key

     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.

Melanie Hambrick2
Melanie Hambrick, President of FBBA

     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.”

Javier Wiley
Javier Wiley, General Manager of Flour Bluff HEB

   “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 FBBA
Andy Taubman, FBBA Keynote Speaker

     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.”

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     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.”

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Magill Speaks to FBBA at January Meeting

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

     FBBA

     The Flour Bluff Business Association, a task force of business leaders who promote the safety, service, and growth of the Flour Bluff community, welcomed Councilman Chad Magill as its keynote speaker at the January 6, 2016, meeting held at noon at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Magill focused on the new year and talked about “big ticket items” for the city.

     “The EPA expects us to agree to pay $853 million on your wastewater system over the next 12 to 15 years.  We can’t afford it.”  Magill admitted that the system absolutely needs improvements and that the City has been discussing the issue since 2009.  Magill said that part of the reason for his failure to support Destination Bayfront stemmed from the knowledge of the pending wastewater bill.

     “Anytime we spend 72 million of tax dollars on anything but what we have to spend it on, you have to ask if we can afford it,” Magill said.

PlanCC

     Magill told the audience he believed the City should be focused on reconstruction and maintenance of streets, public safety, wastewater, and water supply.  He emphasized the importance of getting the fundamentals right and putting needs before wants.  This led Magill to address PlanCC 2035 (now 2036).  Magill said, “Your city government shouldn’t have to be the ones to create the social environment for success.  We shouldn’t be the ones to pay for free swimming lessons or for free internet service across the city.  We see a lot of those proposed policies in PlanCC 2035.  I have some serious doubts whether that plan moves forward.”  Magill added that he put a plan together based on the existing comprehensive plan and sent it to City staff in December 2015.  “It takes the good from our existing plan – which actually includes public safety – and includes parts from the proposed PlanCC 2035 to create a real-world plan that keeps us focused on our needs.”

      Magill talked about the new harbor bridge and what an amazing feat it was to bring together the Port of Corpus Christi, the City of Corpus Christi, Nueces County, TxDot, and a number of local organizations and finally settle upon the building of a billion-dollar bridge.  He praised the efforts of Representative Todd Hunter who was “a champion for the bridge.”  Magill said that the new bridge should be looked at as an essential part of economic development for the area and that construction should begin as soon as 2017.

 

     The councilman then shifted to the topic of zero-based budgeting.  “You’re going to see – for our generation – the largest push for a zero-based budget in our city government ever.  It’s a challenge to City staff, but City Manager Ron Olson accepted the challenge.”  Magill said that some of his colleagues on council believe he may have challenged staff too much.  “They have concerns.  I understand that, but at the same time, these are your tax dollars.”

      Magill explained that zero-based budgeting will require City departments to justify spending tax dollars by aligning the spending with the mission.  “Everyone has to budget where their dollars go.  You do it.  My wife and I do it.  Shouldn’t we expect that of our City government?”  He sees it as an opportunity for the department heads to shine.  “If they embrace it and do well,” Magill said he would fight for their funding and for them to be successful.  Magill FBBA

     Magill then turned to the topic of Flour Bluff and spoke about his desire to get Laguna Shores Road on the 2018 bond.  “Every time I’m in Flour Bluff, I drive down Laguna Shores to remind me of the need.”  He went on to commend James Skrobarczyk, who was in the audience, for serving on the residential street committee and praised the ad hoc committee for accomplishing so much in a short period of time.

     He explained that they had uncovered some wasteful practices and inefficiencies in the Street Preventative and Maintenance Plan (SPMP).  He offered an example. “Kingsville spends about $2.50 per square foot on overlays while Corpus Christi spends $8.00 per square foot for the same work.”  When asked how that could be, Magill said, “Part of it is inefficiencies of government; part of that is multiple inspection layers; part of that is – frankly – writing contracts that allow contractors to make ‘obscene amounts of profit.’ ” He told the FBBA that he would love to speak to them again in June or July to fill them in on the recommendations from the street committee and how the City will move toward zero-based budgeting.

     When asked if Council member Colleen McIntyre’s proposal last year to raise property taxes by 8 cents to pay for residential street construction is the only form of funding available, Magill said, “The Caller-Times reported that 8 cents of ad valorem property taxes per year would raise $20 million, when in actuality, it would raise $13.6 million.”  After texting Ron Olson that his numbers were wrong, Olson came back a couple of days later and agreed Magill was correct in his calculations.

IMG_4005   “When they’re talking about throwing more taxpayer money at an inefficient system, how much of that money is going to be wasted?  I took an unpopular stance on council, and I said, ‘No, I can’t support a property tax increase without a plan.’ “

     Magill said that oftentimes a government entity will ask for a lot of money first then develop a plan around it second.  “Then they do the work and go on the defense and tell you how good it was. We’ve got to change that process and ask everyone to be open to a change in that kind of thinking.  The missing component is being able to put a plan together, share that with the community – which we’ll do in June or July – and ask how much of this plan would you like to invest in?”

     “Multiple funding sources is the key.  From re-purposing sales tax, we can pay the debt service off on Whataburger Field, and that gives you between $2 and $2.5 million a year.  That’s sales tax, which is mostly a tax that is appropriate for infrastructure.  In good times, you do more; in bad times, you do less.  Then, you look at cutting from within the budget.  We tried a 1% cut last year; that didn’t work.  We held the line on increasing materials and operations costs, but effectively we didn’t save much money.  That’s why we’re going the zero-based route.”

    Magill explained that savings within the budget will go to two things:  One is streets and the other is City employee raises.  “Think about the people who are going to do the work to find those inefficiencies within their own department budgets.  If we’re going to challenge them harder, we have to somehow align goals.  If you tell a department head that he/she needs to save money in the department and that part of the money saved will go into giving that department a raise, then people’s goals are starting to align.  Efficiency is part of good, quality government.”

     “Another funding source is potentially the RTA.  They could be a funding partner, and I think they’re open to that now.  The key here is to go to multiple funding sources with property taxes being the last in line.  If we had raised property taxes last year at 8 cents, your only guarantee is that your property taxes will go up.  If we had passed Destination Bayfront, that would have also added to the cost for the taxpayer.  If we’re going to focus on needs, let’s do it the right way.  The residential street committee is culling the bad from the current program and keeping the good to find out the most efficient way to tackle residential streets.”

     Precinct 4 County Commissioner Brent Chesney and ad hoc street committee chairman Andy Taubman have the same thought as Magill about the RTA redirecting more funds to the streets.  New RTA chairman, Curtis Rock, has not officially weighed in on this possibility.

     Magill answered questions from the audience on the topics of the failed Citizens’ Collection Center (Solid Waste Transfer Station).  He cited the main reasons for the failure as:

  • the $4.65 million price tag, which would have come in the form of a 20-year debt,
  • a raise in solid waste rates, and
  • a petition against the facility with 700 signatures from residents who live near the proposed site on Flour Bluff Drive.

He also discussed the positive aspects of privatization of City services and used the municipal golf courses as an example of how privatization has improved the quality of the golf courses while saving the City money.  Magill FBBA 2

     FBBA member, Michael Morgan, encouraged fellow members to stay in contact with Chad Magill.  “He is very accessible and very approachable.  He’ll tell you the facts, and he won’t rose-color anything.  If you have concerns or want to learn something, of course we have our District 4 representative, but Chad also represents us as an at-large council member.  I just want to thank him publicly for the job he’s doing for us out here.”

 

 

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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