You Just Thought Anti-Uber Policies Place Restrictions on the Citizenry and Free Market!

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

uber-serp-logo-048389ae0a

     For over a month, Corpus Christi has been up in arms over the policies governing taxis and ride-share companies. Why?  According to those who work for Uber, use Uber, or just like the name Uber, cities across the nation are killing freedom of choice when it comes to calling for ride.  The topic of taxis and TNCs has dominated local council meetings, set social media on fire, and forced friends on opposite sides of the issue to part ways.  I find it odd since most people in Corpus Christi drive their own vehicles everywhere.  But, something is looming over this city that could create more restrictions in the way we live than anyone can imagine.  That something is PlanCC 2035.   If you like the freedom to build in an area you choose, want to retain the few private property freedoms you currently have, prefer driving the vehicle of your choice, and want to see taxes, city debt, and utility costs decrease or remain static, then you must pay attention to what is about to happen in this city with the comprehensive plan, the law of the land that governs what the city will allow us to do with our land. 

     If you want to know more about this plan, I encourage you to attend the Planning Commission meeting tonight (April 20, 2016)  at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to hear for yourself what could be in store for all of us if this plan goes into effect.  If you haven’t read the plan, please do so.  You should read and compare the existing 1987 Plan, PlanCC 2035, and Councilman Chad Magill’s PlanCC 2036.  Then, read what citizens from other cities have said about the smart growth (aka sustainable growth, new urbanism) plans and how they feel the elements of these kinds of plans have bound them one little rope at a time.  Note:  Watch this VIDEO of Congressman McClintock talking about the effects of “smart growth.”

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Related articles: “Free Market Not Quite So Free”

                             “1987 Comprehensive Plan Is a Classic”

                             “A Map Is Worth a Thousand Words”

                             “Is PlanCC 2035 the WISE Choice for Corpus Christi?”

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:

1987 Comprehensive Plan Is a Classic

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

Comprehensive plan 1987

     I spent thirty years teaching English, and part of my job was teaching literature.  Now, I could have taught anything really, but I chose to teach the classics.  I especially enjoyed re-reading the pieces each year.  Like an old friend, a classic welcomes us to return to hear the same story with new ears and fresh insights supplied by our own experiences.  The Ten Commandments and the Constitution of the United States of America definitely are classics in their own rights.  They have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as the day they were created.  Jesus simplified God’s commandments so that we could better understand them and live by them, but He did not abolish them.  Our constitution has been amended to meet the needs of today’s society, but it has not been re-written.  When something is good, we really should just leave it alone.  Coca-Cola learned this lesson the hard way in 1985 with New Coke.  It was a huge flop.  Only with the return of Coke Classic made from a formula created in 1886 did the company save itself.  Classics are good for a reason; they appeal to the people whose lives they affect.

     This leads me to the Corpus Christi Comprehensive Plan from 1987. The writers, all Corpus Christians with an intimate knowledge of the city, somehow beat the trendy “smart growth” movement of that same year and created a plan that is truly comprehensive, including all that is of real importance.  Its goals took every person and every element of the city into consideration, thereby meeting the rules laid out in the City Charter.  It is easy to understand, allows for forward thinking, and offers direction to those who use the plan on a daily basis.  It withstood the test of time and served its people well for nearly thirty years.  Should we really change the formula?

1987 ToC 1
Table of Contents 1987 Comprehensive Plan, p.1
1987 ToC 2
Table of Contents 1987 Comprehensive Plan, p.2

     PlanCC 2035 is very much like New Coke.  It is progressive and supposedly appeals to the young professionals who somehow will move in and save the city by living an auto-free, high-density lifestyle (aka “smart growth”).  In the Pew Charitable Trusts article by Teresa Wilz from April 2015, “Returning to the Exurbs: Rural Counties Are Fastest Growing”, we learn that the young professionals who once sought smart-growth cities no longer want that lifestyle. “The Great Recession stalled population growth in the exurbs. But new census data show that the far suburbs are enjoying a renaissance. They are now the fastest growing areas in the country,”  writes Wilz.

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     These young professionals become migrating millennials when they marry, start their families, and start looking for a place with room for the kids, dogs, goats, chickens, and an organic garden.  Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV show, “Fixer Upper” are leading the way for others just like them who want the freedom to choose how and where they live.  With UPS delivering what they need to the door and many jobs performed via computer from home, the possibilities of how and where to live are endless. Even the under-35 group will more than likely follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before them and opt to own a piece of the rock.  However, there are no guarantees – well,  except that businesses will follow the people wherever they decide to live, which creates multiple town centers within a municipality (See Fig. 3 from 1987 Plan).  The 1987 Comprehensive Plan writers seemed to know that and allowed for such freedom of movement in their Classic-Coke formula.  And isn’t freedom to live how and where we want the most important part of the American dream?

Edge cities

     “But, what about the $1.2 million spent on consultants out of Massachusetts and Maryland?” you ask.  “What about the countless meetings and hours of discussion with all who participated in the creation of the New Plan?” you query.  Rather than continue to throw good money after bad, the Planning Commission should simply suggest to council that we continue with the classic 1987 plan.  We know it works and is easily updated with a little tweaking at little or no cost, which is what Councilman Chad Magill has illustrated with PlanCC 2036.  He took the classic 1987 Plan and re-designed the package to include the ambitions and aspirations outlined in PlanCC 2035, which is a respectful approach that allows for these visions to come to fruition if ample money, time, and human resources allow.

     To devise a plan around a particular part of a city or a specific lifestyle leaves not only leaves over half of the population out, it is like getting a trendy, new haircut.  It will always require expensive maintenance to keep it in proper shape.  Then, when the person gets tired of the look and wants to change it, time and more expense will be required to undo the do.  Even with the push of Dr. Richard Jackson, a pediatrician, and Elizabeth Chu Richter, a local architect, both giants in their fields, to get Corpus Christi and other cities across the nation to take the progressive approach and design healthy communities, such designs will quickly fall by the wayside because parents realize that kids will still get fat when they eat fast food every day and live in urban villages where backyards don’t exist and parents don’t have the time to take them to the park to burn off those calories.  As it is written, PlanCC 2035 will fail to meet the needs of future generations because it is timely but is not timeless. 

     Related article:  “Why Millennials Are Headed to the Suburbs”

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:

Is PlanCC 2035 the WISE Decision for Corpus Christi?

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

City Hall

     The marathon Council meeting on March 22, 2016, may have driven some to drink, but it drove me to think.  Of late, I have spent countless hours listening to people at City Council meetings, City Council retreats, school board meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Street Commission meetings, and town hall meetings.  Add that to conversations I’ve had with public servants, volunteers, community activists, business people, media personalities, school teachers, neighbors, Bible study groups, and the average citizen in the line at the grocery store.  Their words reside in my brain, like the family photographs I’ve placed in separate boxes and stuck on shelves here and there in the storeroom.  Only by opening the boxes and looking at the photographs could a stranger discover the common thread that ties one to the other, the thread of the subjects in the pictures.  Through careful and complete unpacking of the word boxes filled with the needs of the people, I discovered the common thread that connects them is actually twine (defined by Webster as “a strong string of two or more strands twisted together”).  The four strands that make up the twine are as follows:

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  • Water (i.e. reliable clean water source, reliable waste and storm water systems)
  • Infrastructure (i.e. streets, bridges)
  • Safety (i.e. police, fire, hurricane and emergency preparedness)
  • Economic Development  (i.e. education, training, jobs, transportation, communication)

     If one looks closely, it becomes apparent that each strand is connected to the other three.  For example, if my house catches fire, I use my telephone service provider (Economic Development) to dial 911.  The operator contacts the fire department (Safety) who dispatches trained firefighters who drive the streets (Infrastructure) to get to my house where they connect a hose to a nearby fire hydrant (Water) to douse the flames and hopefully spare my family loss of life and property.  If the council members adopt a comprehensive plan that makes WISE use of tax dollars to ensure these four strands are in place and well-maintained, then my family stands a better chance of moving on with our lives after the smoke has cleared.  Fortunately, we the people of Corpus Christi already have such a plan in place, the 1987 Comprehensive Plan, a plan that meets the legal requirements of the City Charter (Article V. Sec. 4) and gives clear direction to City staff so that they can make WISE decisions.  Two very WISE gentlemen, Councilman Chad Magill and local businessman, Andy Taubman, have been saying this for some time.  One might ask why they are saying anything at all if we have a workable plan in place.  The answer lies in a document entitled PlanCC 2035, a plan that could become the law of the land unless people educate themselves and speak out against it.

Comprehensive plan 1987
1987 Comprehensive Plan

     On February 11, 2015, the City hired Goody Clancy & Associates of Boston, Massachusetts, to serve as the lead consulting firm for PlanCC 2035.  The firm held public meetings where they engaged residents, neighborhood and business leaders, community advocates, and stakeholders in the creation of the plan, collected $957,487,  but evidently failed to check the City Charter to see if they were on the right legal track.  Maybe the tax payers should ask Goody Clancy to repair the plan or refund our money if the plan cannot be brought up to local standards.  It’s what we do when we spend hard-earned money at an eatery, and they mess up the order.  “It started out as a viable plan until it morphed into something I can no longer support,” said Bart Braselton, a local developer who worked on the plan and offered his opinion before the city council last year when the document was presented to council.

     Ralph Coker, a retired petroleum refinery plant manager who writes on business, economic, military and political topics for the Caller-Times, describes it as “a detailed plan for the next 20 years that cannot work.”  Chad Magill sees many problems with the plan and has offered his comments in the form of an alternative plan entitled PlanCC 2036.  Magill highlights some differences in the two plans on his website:

plancc2036Councilman_MagillwSig200

“Plan CC 2036 takes the best of the existing Comprehensive Plan (a bricks and mortar type of plan) and the best of the Plan CC 2035 (a vision-based type of plan) and marries them into Plan CC 2036. Many ideas in Plan CC 2035 become a Vision Document (Ambitions & Aspirations) that may be used as guiding principles for city staff to use in their future budget recommendations.  Plan CC 2036 becomes the Comprehensive Plan that with support by City Council, becomes the Rule of Law. It is important to make very clear that ‘Imprecise language leads to unintended consequences.’ Precise language in the Comprehensive Plan is extremely important. For example, Plan CC 2035 includes absolutely no mention of Public Safety. Even the 1987 Comprehensive Plan included Police, Fire, Public Safety, and other critical public services.”

Taubman PlanCC 2035
Andy Taubman addressing Tea Party on PlanCC 2035

    Andy Taubman outlined the problems he sees with PlanCC 2035 at a Tea Party meeting on March 22, 2016.  He began with what he calls flawed wording.  In a document he presented to those in attendance, Taubman states:

“According to the City Charter, Article V, Section 5, ‘All city improvements, ordinances and regulations, shall be consistent with the comprehensive plan.’  Future City councils will be guided by it; City staff will be bound by it; and the citizens will make choices in reliance upon it.  Because this document will become law, every word must be considered, and each word has the awesome potential to shape the future of our City.  For example, the word ‘support’ is used throughout the document.  I take this to mean that this could include financial support – thus creating numerous unfunded mandates.  The word is so imprecise, one cannot determine the meaning.  Imprecise words create bad law.  Bad laws will be misused or misapplied.”

     Taubman then addressed “Private Property Issues” and the impact of PlanCC 2035 as it is written.  For example, on page 13, under Goal 2, it states: “Wetland areas are protected or effectively replaced so that there is no net loss of wetlands.”  The private property concern that Taubman sees with this goal is that it “seems to authorize the City power to identify wetlands on private property to halt development or otherwise require expensive mitigation.”  Following are a few of the many issues Taubman addresses, along with his analysis of each (Click Andy Taubman PlanCC2035 Analysis July version with markup-1 for full document):

  • “Support initiatives for preservation of bird rookeries and similar critical habitat sites.” (p. 13, Policy 3)  Private Property Concern:  Seems to authorize the City power to identify bird rookeries or other wildlife on private property to halt development or otherwise require expensive mitigation.
  • “Support initiatives to improve water quality so that shellfish beds are open and can thrive.”  (p. 13, Policy 1)  Anti-industrial Regulation Concern:  Increased water quality standards will burden the port, port industries, and shipping.  It will also probably bring increased scrutiny to run-off which affects farming and other heavy industry that produces or deals with chemicals of any sort.  Also, numerous municipalities and industries impact water quality.  Will the City have to become the supreme regulatory authority over the bay?
  • “Develop a plan for facilities and programs so that every resident has the opportunity to learn how to swim.”  (p. 14, Policy 9)  Unfunded City Government Mandate:  This is the domain of scouting organizations, YMCA, and numerous other private organizations.  This is not the appropriate role of government.
  • “…reduce single-occupancy vehicle use…”  (p. 27, Policy 4)  Unfunded City Government Mandate:  Unnecessary government regulation.  Most likely achieved by making car use more expensive.
  • “Support programs to manage the balance of fresh and salt water in the estuary.”  (p. 13, Policy 1)  Anti-industrial Regulation ConcernProbably would eliminate or substantially burden the possibility of a desalination plant.  The effect of a plant is to increase salinity in a localized area.
  • “Seek provision of high-speed Internet and telecommunications access to all residents and businesses.”  (p. 30, Policy 8)  Unfunded City Government Mandate: This is generally envisioned as being provided by the City.  Anti-competitive with existing communications providers.  Very, very expensive infrastructure required.
  • “Support a greenhouse-gas audit and use of renewable energy sources.”  (p. 17, Policy 3)  Anti-industrial Regulation Concern: First you measure; then you regulate.  Targets natural resource extraction, refining, manufacturing, transportation.  Will lead to high-cost choices for government programs to make government green.

     Taubman said, “To say it’s the role of City government to herd us into those development opportunities is wrong.  Not only is it wrong in choices for freedom and what it means for property rights, but it’s a choice which will lead us into bankruptcy.”

Planning Commission
Corpus Christi Planning Commission

 

     On March 23, 2016, Annika Yankee, the PlanCC 2035 Project Manager, gave input to the Planning Commission on the process to review and incorporate City Council members’ comments into the proposed plan.  Yankee explained, “We will present all the comments in a matrix by element and chapter.”  She also said, “We heard it was a lot of to read and that it would help if staff summarized those comments.  We plan to show the actual edit in PlanCC 2035 that results from the comment.”  She assured the committee members that they would receive the document two weeks in advance of the hearing which will be held on April 20, 2016, at 5:30 p.m., in Council Chambers.

     Hopefully, those who are reading this will take the time to review the current plan, PlanCC 2035, and PlanCC 2036 in order to see the major differences.  Then, mark your calendar and weigh-in at the April  20th meeting.  The plan must be a WISE one, complete with all the strands, or it should be rejected.  It’s just that simple.

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:

Chad Magill: Leading Corpus Christi in a New Direction

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

Councilman_MagillwSig200

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.

Chad bowlcut
Chad as a boy
Chad and mom
Chad with mother, Heidi Magill
Chad Carla James
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.

Corpus-Christi-Hispanic-Chamber-Of-Commerce

“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.”

plancc2036
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.”

Avery_Sanda_Chad
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

 

 

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: