Keep Up with Flour Bluff History Pieces

Flour Bluff, Front Page, History

 

 

     If you are interested in reading about Flour Bluff’s rich history, please visit https://texasshorelinenews.com/.  Each edition has a little piece of the past specifically related to the people and events of Flour Bluff (Encinal Peninsula). (To date, there are 32 issues.) I am the editor of both publications, The Paper Trail News and Texas Shoreline News. I encourage the readers to contact me to correct or add to the stories.  The goal is to make sure these stories are in print and on the internet so that they are not lost to the ages.  A print copy of each edition is on file at the La Retama Central Library.  Send any information regarding Flour Bluff history to shirley@texasshorelinenews.com .  This is a labor of love that I am performing for “those who came before us and made us so strong,” and I need the help of all those who have information and pictures.

 

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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.

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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.  

 

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Flour Bluff Citizens’ Council (FBCC): What You Need to Know

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics

https://i0.wp.com/www.clipartkid.com/images/55/meeting-clipart-ZLnwhz-clipart.gif?resize=260%2C195

     In light of all that has occurred in the last two weeks involving the Flour Bluff Citizens’ Council, as chairperson of the steering committee, I thought it a good idea to let everyone know what is happening.  The founding group that met on Monday, July 25, 2016, at Janet Harte Library was composed of people in Flour Bluff who expressed a desire to see if they could get anyone else interested in the Flour Bluff community to come together to discuss issues specific to Flour Bluff. We met and one of the attendees wrote a story about all that happened the night the FBCC was born. The story tells how the group came up with a name, a vision, and a mission.  We posted the article, and that started a huge buzz on Facebook. We learned that lots of people are interested in taking part, which is very exciting.

     With the response we received, we decided to move forward and form a steering committee.  (NOTE:  The steering committee does not discuss issues.  It is charged with finalizing the vision and mission statements, creating bylaws, selecting a person to handle PR and social media, laying the groundwork to establish the group, and setting the date for the first general meeting.)  Those who have done this assured us that grassroots groups die when there is no organization or leadership, and we didn’t want to fail before we even got started.  So, we agreed to tell more people and try to get enough volunteers for a steering committee.

     The steering committee held its first meeting on Monday, August 1, 2016.  Those present were:  Justin Green, Kyle Pape, Melanie Hambrick, Lynn Kaylor, Cliff Zarbock, Weston Beseda, Susan Ludka, Billie Reeves, Christy Zamora, Jeff Craft, and Shirley Thornton.  Those who said they wanted to serve on the steering committee but could not make the meeting are:  Miles Graham, John Michael, Robert “Buddy” Seeds, James Skrobarczyk, Tina Green, and Inna Klein.  (Two additional community members have volunteered to serve on the steering committee:  Lloyd Stegemann and Steve Woolery.)

     Though the group is really happy about all the talk the group has generated, there is a bit of misinformation that has been sent out.  I will attempt to set the record straight below:

  • WE HAVE NOT HAD A GENERAL MEETING YET.  We will be signing members up for the FBCC at the town hall meeting called by Congressman Blake Farenthold which will be held on August 22, 2016, at 6:00 p.m., at the Ethel Eyerly Community Center on Graham Road.  The congressman will be granted all the time he needs since he asked to meet with us.  The steering committee will set the date for the first general meeting where the input of the community will be needed to launch the FBCC.
  • The next meeting is a steering committee meeting on August 15, 2016, at Janet Harte Library meeting room, which has a capacity of 50. (I chose this site because it is available and free to use.) It is not a secret meeting or one where people will be excluded.  It is an organizational meeting. We will not be discussing any of the issues that many of you are anxious to discuss.  We will be finishing the bylaws and setting a date for the first general meeting.  We want to pull the Bluff together, so please stay informed, ask questions as many of you have already, and invite everyone you know who might want to join.  The Facebook page will be up soon, and that will help a great deal with getting the word out.  Lynn Kaylor has graciously volunteered to take on this task.  Until then, I volunteered the Paper Trail to help communicate what is happening.
  • If you want to send me your email address so that you can receive the minutes of the meetings, please shoot your email to me at fbcitizenscouncil@gmail.com  .  I’ll be happy to add you to the list.)
  • Please know that no one was intentionally left out.  We just took a leap of faith and grabbed a group of people to get this party started.  Your presence and input are essential to making this whole plan come to fruition.  We can’t do it without you.  Let me reiterate: Our main goal is to bring the people of Flour Bluff together – regardless of past issues that may have divided us – and work to be a voice for our community.  We have been called “the sleeping giant of Corpus Christi.”  He is waking up!
  • It is true that the first meeting included people who are running for office or are currently holding office or both. They learned of the meeting because they are already actively involved in the Flour Bluff community in some manner.  Our hope is that all these folks will continue to join us when we hold our general meetings, whether they are elected or not.  We want them involved, and we need them to hear what we have to say. County Commissioner Brent Chesney already contacted us to see how he could help out.  Councilman Chad Magill offered us valuable advice on how to get started.  We are building relationships with the powers that be, and that is a very good thing.  Our goal is to work WITH these folks to solve the unique problems of our community.
  • Cliff Zarbock has volunteered to have a logo made for the FBCC that we can use on the social media sites.  We will have our own brand!  I am seeing t-shirts in our future!

     For now, the steering committee is hustling to lay the foundation.  If you wish to attend the August 15 meeting, you are certainly welcome.  Just don’t forget about the seating problem.  We may have to turn some people out into the library, which is not so bad.  They have some wonderful reading material!  We have had a Flour Bluff church offer its building for our general meetings.  What a blessing!  I hope we have so many members that we have to meet at the football stadium!

     Thanks for taking the time to read what was supposed to be a short article, and please share it so that everyone will have the facts.  God bless you and God bless Flour Bluff!

Contact the FBCC at fbcitizenscouncil@gmail.com

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A Plan to Fix the Water Issues and other City Woes

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

“The mission of the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, is to deliver municipal services which meet the vital health, safety, and general welfare needs of the residents and which sustain and improve their quality of life.  As we work to achieve this mission, we will employ fiscal discipline, continuous improvement, first-rate customer services, and straightforward communications.  In this work, we will tolerate no mediocrity.”  City of Corpus Christi Mission Statement

 

     Either the City staff has no idea what the word “mediocrity” means in its Mission Statement, or they simply don’t know how to avoid falling into the state of mediocrity.  Since we can’t do a single thing about what has happened in the past, we must use the past to attend to the future as much as possible.  This plan is not about changing chloramine levels, developing a seal coat plan, or overcoming budget shortfalls, though these problems will be solved as a direct result of the plan.  This plan is about avoiding the Peter Principle (promoting people to their level of incompetency) when hiring or promoting personnel.  This plan is about seeking out the best problem-solvers, allowing them to work unfettered, and paying them to stay in their areas of expertise.

  • Step 1:    Elect council members who do their homework, speak plainly, ask the most probing questions of city staff, and have the best interest of the public in mind with every decision they make.
  • Step 2:    The council must hire a city manager who has common sense, an ability to see the big picture and the details, the courage to mind the store, the ability to identify problem employees and fire them if they don’t produce at a quality level, and a willingness to develop a compensation system that rewards those who are doing an excellent job based on the quality of the final product.  (Note: Many jobs in the city go unfilled or are filled by mediocre candidates because an engineering degree is required.  Not all with a degree actually know what they’re doing.  The city must avow to hire the best person for the job, not the one with the thickest resume’.)
  • Step 3:     The city manager must hire bright people with an exceptional work ethic who know how to get the best out of their employees they manage. The city manager must hold these assistant managers completely accountable for what happens in their departments.  Only answers founded in empirical evidence will be tolerated.
  • Step 4:    Department managers must look inside their departments for people of integrity who are problem-solvers, the unconventional thinkers who see the story behind the numbers, and the code-breakers who are capable of creative, lateral thinking.  These people should be paid bonuses for consistently making a positive difference in their department that saves the city time and the taxpayers money while still getting a quality product.  (When the word gets out that the city is committed to hiring people based on their exceptional gifts and talents and rewarding them for their ability to use those gifts and talents, the best and brightest will apply for the open positions.  The thought process should be:  If my child needs a heart surgeon, I want the best one I can find.  This may cost more, but what is gained in the long run will prove that the money was well-spent.)
  • Step 5:    The media and the public must be kept apprised of all that goes on in the city.  Transparency cannot just be a word that is thrown about haphazardly.  It must be a commitment to the people that “mediocrity will not be tolerated.”

     These kinds of people exist right here in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Will the city do what is necessary to prevent the problems of the past from slapping us again in the future?  That remains to be seen.

 

 

 

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The Story of a Smart Plan Gone Awry

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

Update:  Let there be no mistake.  This little story is fiction.  Such a plan exists, but it has not yet left the hands of the Planning Commission.  The public hearing on PlanCC 2035 will be held on May 18, 2016, at 5:30 p.m., in Council Chambers.  READ the updated plan complete with council members’ and staff’s comments, COMPARE it to the current plan and to PlanCC 2036, ATTEND the hearing, and WEIGH IN with the commission.  The comprehensive plan, whatever shape it takes, will become the law, as per the City Charter.  It will directly affect the way we live in Corpus Christi for many years to come.  It is the duty of every citizen to become educated on the issues, so I implore you to become involved.

     Once upon a time in the City of Corpus Christi, a man and his girlfriend fought for the implementation of “a new kind of comprehensive plan” that was designed to allow the city to “make choices that result in higher quality of life and a more diversified economy.”  It was a smart plan, and they knew it, by golly! It even called for free swimming lessons for all.  Hadn’t they lived in Portland, Oregon, while attending college and loved the little flat they shared in the heart of the city?  It was in a walkable, downtown community where bicycles and buses were the order of the day, where a dog park gave Goody a nice place to run and frolic with other urbanite canines, and where they didn’t add to the very congested streets by driving their own cars – even to Clancy’s pub that was more than ten blocks away.  They loved it and felt good about what they were doing for the environment and future generations.  Why, they didn’t even have a yard, so they weren’t hurting the air quality by using a lawnmower!

     They just knew that laws should exist in Corpus Christi to start easing everyone into this better way of living.  They even secretly laughed at their parents, who assured them that such a plan for the city could be detrimental to them in the future, especially if they wanted to buy an affordable piece of property near their places of employment and build a little house of their own.  “Why would we ever do that?” they thought.  They were certain that they could live the life of the “new urbanite” forever.  They were even more certain that once the naysayers of the plan saw how “cool” it was to live like the people in such great cities as Portland, San Francisco, Boston, and Beijing, that they would soon welcome the plan that would become the law of the land.  Oh, how they celebrated when the plan went through! “The times, they are a changin’,” they thought.

     The happy couple soon married and immediately moved into an apartment in downtown Corpus Christi.  They awoke at 5:00 a.m. each day to have time to get to work.  On hot days, which is actually most of the year, they didn’t bother to shower because they knew that would be a waste of time- and water.  They simply dressed, grabbed a granola bar, hopped on their bikes, and peddled to the bus stop near the beautiful, new RTA Taj Majal.  There was always plenty of room on the bus since most people were so self-centered that they still drove their own cars.  There they caught a bus to a drop-off spot about two miles from their place of employment.  Then, they got back on their bikes and peddled into work, making it just in time to clock in at 8:00 a.m.  On cold, rainy days, they simply pretended to be back in Portland, where they learned to carry a change of dry clothing in their backpacks.  On the weekends, they rode their bikes along the bay front, took in the events along the seawall and on the green spaces that were within walking distance of their high-rise, and enjoyed the urban life.  They sometimes longed to go to the beach as they did in their youth, but their commitment to the environment by not putting another car on the streets to belch out CO2 helped the feelings subside.  All seemed well enough – at least for a while.

     One day the man returned home to find his wife sitting and staring out the window.  She wiped a tear from her cheek as he wiped the sweat from his brow.  The August heat and humidity certainly cleansed the body, especially when riding a bike or walking! He leaned his bike against the wall, and asked, “Are you all right?”

     The man’s wife looked up and apprehensively said, “I’m pregnant.”  He smiled.  She smiled.  They hugged.  “We’ll have to get a car,” she added.

     “A car?” he said.

     “A car.  You can’t expect me to go to my doctor appointments all the way across town on the bus.  I’ll never get there in time.  I’ll have to take the whole day off from work if I do that.  Plus, how will we even bring the baby home or take him – or her – for checkups? ” Her voice cracked as she spoke.

     “Can’t you just call Uber?” he asked.

     “Uber?  Really?  Do you know what that will cost?  Besides, I don’t know if I trust those drivers with our unborn child.  No, we must get a car,” she said.

     With a heavy heart, the man agreed.  That night he lay awake thinking of Portland and Boston and San Francisco and Beijing.  “Yes, the times they are a changin’,” he thought as he drifted off to sleep.

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     The next morning they told their parents the good news.  By noon, the future grandparents, their siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins immediately started filling the once roomy apartment with all kinds of baby “stuff.”  Soon, only a path existed in their trendy, open floor plan.  Goody took to sleeping on the couch because all of his favorite spots disappeared one by one.  “Something has to go,” the man thought.  He said as much to his wife.

    “Get rid of the bikes,” she said without a hint of regret.  “We can get a car today and put the bikes in storage, along with your skateboard and that ridiculous weight machine thingy.  We need more room in the closet, too, and those fishing poles you never use are taking up valuable space.”

     The man started to protest, but he knew she was right.  Plus, she had that tone in her voice.

     So, he did what she said.  He bought a car, put the bikes and other belongings that represented the changing times into storage and tried to be positive.  He just never saw their future going down this path. Gee, that’s exactly what the PlanCC 2035 opposition had said; they believed it tried to control an unpredictable future.  “Even the best-laid plans go awry,” he found himself thinking.  His life was certainly proof of that.

    The man sat among the gifts of love and expectation that filled the apartment.  His wife came out of the bathroom, picked her way across the floor, and sat next to him.  She stroked the back of his neck lovingly then snuggled up close to him.  He leaned back and wrapped her in his arms.  She kissed his cheek and nibbled his ear.  Just as he was losing himself in the moment, she said, “Honey?”

     “Yes,” he whispered with his eyes closed.

     “How would you like to…”

     “I would love to!” he said.

     “You would?  Oh, Sweetie, I love you so much!” she said, sitting up and pulling out her phone.  “I have already been looking at the schools.”

     He sat up and stared at her.  “Schools?  What schools?”

     She tapped on her phone and slid her finger back and forth until she found the site.  “We have to think about where the baby will go to school.  It would be a good idea to build a house in the school district now so that we will be settled into the neighborhood before he – or she – is ready to start kindergarten.  There’s a great preschool nearby, too.  And we could get another dog – or a pony!  Oh, Honey, every kid wants a pony.”

     Her excitement was more than he could handle.  House?  School?  Pony?  What was happening?  This was not what he had in mind at all!  He looked at all the baby paraphernalia that lined the walls and filled the corners.  Again, he knew she was right.  He decided to start the hunt for a small, affordable house that would suffice until they found the piece of property suitable for a forever house.  He called his real estate friend to help him find a house they could afford.

     “Two bedrooms, one bath, a garage, and a yard in that school district?  Yeah, we’ve got houses there but not in your price range,” the friend said when the man called him.

     “Why not?”  the man asked.

     “Well, the city’s new comprehensive plan actually drove the price of single-family housing way up – even the so-called starter houses.  Pretty ironic since the plan calls for affordable housing.  We tried to tell the folks who supported that plan, but they didn’t want to hear it.  The planners were so sure that they could convince everybody to live – well – like you live.  The truth is that nearly 80% of people still want a house in the suburbs with a yard and breathing room, something that many will never be able to afford now that fewer and fewer of these houses are being built,” the realtor explained.

     “What if we build our own house?  Maybe something near the water so I can teach the little guy – or girl – to fish.  I could hang onto my poles that the wife is certain I need to sell!” the man said.

     Shaking his head, the realtor replied, “Right now, the restrictions are so stringent when it comes to building near the wetlands and bird rookeries that you really can’t do it anymore.”

     “What about farther out but still in the city limits?” the man asked.

     “Nope.  Those regulations and guidelines to promote interconnected development have prevented that.  Gee, I guess you could just stay in your apartment, pay to park your car now that you have one, and send your little boy – or girl – to private school. God knows you don’t want to send the kid to an inner city school!  Maybe by the time the little tyke is in high school something will come open in the area you really want to live in. Of course, the prices will have gone up.”

     The man reeled with the realtor’s words.  “Why didn’t we look deeper into that stupid plan?  How could we not see this coming?  Why didn’t we just listen to our parents?  We should have just written the million bucks off as the price for learning a valuable lesson! But, no!  We had to be like Portland and Boston and San Francisco and Beijing!”  The man turned and hurried to his car.

     “Hey, where’re you goin’?” asked his friend.

     “Home, to cry through Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” the man said.  With that, he got into his car and tried to find solace in the fact that his little boy – or girl – would at least receive free swimming lessons.

 

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Chicago, 1855: Digging Down to Reach New Heights

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial, Travel

The stories of Corpus Christi battling its streets problems reminds me of another story…

Chicago River Clark Street Bascule Bridge
Chicago River Clark Street Bascule Bridge

     A man who was passing through Chicago discovered another man buried to his neck in mud. “Sir, it appears you have a problem. You must need some help,” the passerby said.“No, thank you, I’ll be all right. I have a fine horse beneath me,” the man in the mud replied.

    People have proven many times over that while under the influence of necessity and behind the power of many, a whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. As the old adage goes, “Together, we can move mountains.”  A brief look to history shows us how Chicagoans demonstrated the truth of this idea during the mid-19th century. Only they weren’t moving mountains; they were moving the entire city!

     At the time, Chicago was young – a mere 20 years – and it had a severe drainage problem. Streets became impassable in wet weather. Chicago is situated along the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan – a body of water the size of a small ocean.  The elevation at the time was essentially no different than that of sea-level. Besides being an annoying living condition, health and sanitation issues quickly became a major concern. The people needed an answer if they hoped to see their city grow and reach a point in which it could eventually become home to nearly 3 million people and one of the tallest skyscrapers the world has ever seen.

    After several failed attempts to plank over the streets and redirect standing water into the river, the Chicago Common Council (i.e. City Council), behind the plans of E.S. Chesbrough, determined that the only hope was to manually elevate the city (anywhere from 4-14 feet, location pending) and install the country’s first comprehensive storm-sewage system to solve the drainage quagmire and ensure the city would not become a permanent cesspool and breeding ground for cholera.

     A solution of such extreme measures, however, stimulated a greater and far more interesting obstacle: How in the world would they lift a city full of large buildings, homes, hotels, and not to mention – people – 14 feet in the air?  Enter George Pullman. Pullman developed a method employing hundreds of men turning thousands of jack screws beneath building foundations. Over the course of two decades, they jacked buildings up like cars (many with people still inside them) so that new foundations could be successfully poured beneath them, leaving both the city and its structures permanently elevated. Smaller homes and businesses were placed on rolling devices and wheeled to new locations. The streets were then leveled up to new heights to meet the level of front doors. New sewage drains were installed and designed to run from the streets down to the river and lake in an amazing effort which lifted Chicago from a wasteland of sludge.

     A report by the Chicago Press & Tribune in the March of 1860 issue:

“The entire front of first-class buildings on the north side of Lake Street between La Salle and Clark streets is now rising to grade at the rate of about twelve inches per day. It will be at its full height by tomorrow night, when it will constitute a spectacle not many of our citizens may see again, if ever, a business block covering nearly one acre, and weighing over twenty-five thousand tons resting on six thousand screws, upon which it has made an upward journey of four feet and ten inches.”

 

Raising of Chicago
The task of raising the Briggs House, a hotel at Randolph and Wells Streets, in 1857 involved the coordinated efforts of hundreds of workers. During the raising, the hotel remained open for business. (Chicago Historical Society)

     Cities, they say, develop a persona of their own, all of which is nothing if not indicative of the spirit of its citizens. Ultimately, when problems arise, people become faced with choices: accept your collective fate, ignore the coming future, or act accordingly. Mid-19th century Chicagoans proved early that they were determined to create the possibility that their city might eventually become the megalopolis that it is today. Little did they know that shortly after they were able to ascend from the squalor of sewage, the citizens of Chicago would be faced with yet another test in 1871, The Great Chicago Fire.  This time they would be forced to ascend from the ashes.  Ultimately, the people, like their story, now belong to the ages. But, such as any good anecdote – if remembered and studied – it can offer deeper answers for particularly troubling problems of the present. Perhaps Henry Ford said it best: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

 

Chicago_River_from_Lake_Street_bridge
Chicago Today: Chicago River from Lake Street Bridge

Articles about Corpus Christi streets:

Takin’ It to the Streets: A Highly Qualified Committee

Takin’ It to the Streets: A Man with Questions

Takin’ It to the Streets:  Addressing the Status Quo

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Takin’ It to the Streets: A Highly Qualified Committee

Corpus Christi, Front Page

    

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     On October 27, 2015, nine dedicated citizens set sail on the CC Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee, on a seven-month voyage through oceans of engineering, accountability, and information sharing documents as they celebrate the successes of the current program, identify areas in need of improvement, and develop a plan of action for moving forward.  This is the first of a series of articles that serves to log their progress and offer information and insights into the picture that is so much bigger than the pothole at the end of the street.

     The Corpus Christi Caller lists the members as:

  • Chris Duff, 43, is a  Realtor who views the streets through the eyes of prospective residents;
  • Toby Futrell, 61, is a retired city manager from Austin who hopes to offer a different perspective on an old problem;
  • Alan Guggenheim, 65, is a civil engineer and conservative thinker with an analytical mind who seeks to develop an improved plan that is cost-effective;
  • Javier Huerta, 44, is an architect and former Planning Commission chairman who wants a cost-effective plan that achieves good results and more accountability while creating more competition among contractors;
  • Kyle Pape, 41, is an engineering consultant who offers his project management skills to help find the lowest-cost solutions to the problem of residential streets;
  • Darrell Scanlan, 50, is a chemical engineer and lifetime resident who wants to make his hometown better by offering his expertise in the areas of business and construction;
  • James Skrobarczyk, 65, is a real estate broker who specializes in real estate development, construction, and sales in the Corpus Christi, Texas area, and whose love for the area motivates him to help find an answer to the street problems;
  • Richard Stracener, 59, is a heavy machinery salesman who has called Corpus Christi home for over 50 years wants to find ways to save money while increasing the longevity of the streets;
  • Andy Taubman, 48, a real estate investor and manager serves as the chairman of the committee and hopes to create public trust in the city government by implementing his Infrastructure Committee Plan  which outlines the role of the committee and was approved by City Council on October 20, 2015.

     The committee is subject to the Open Meetings Act and meets at City Hall on the first Monday and third Wednesday of every month at 4:00 p.m. As of this writing, the committee has had five meetings, the first two being organizational in nature.  Andy Taubman was elected chairman and Javier Juerta, vice-chairman.  The committee discussed its purpose and expectations, established subcommittees, and proposed dates for presentations from each subcommittee.  An online message board was set up to keep the public informed, and an ccStreetCommittee@gmail.com account was created to accept public feedback.  Valerie Gray, Executive Director of Public Works, gave a presentation on Street Operations and the Street Improvement Plan Strategies.  Additional information was provided by Andy Leal, Interim Director of Street Operations, and Jeffrey Edmonds, Director of Engineering Services.

 

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

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