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.
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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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. She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.