Turtle Cove: Adjustment Day Has Arrived!

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

Cameras in Turtle Cove

     First, the Turtle Cove neighbors voiced concerns about the crime in their area and too little police presence.  After several months of making calls, writing emails, setting up town hall meetings, and teaching neighbors to be on watch, needed changes started to happen.  Chief Markle saw to it that cameras and lights were installed in various places throughout the neighborhood to help deter criminal types from prowling the park and streets in Turtle Cove.   The neighbors praised these efforts on Facebook and Nextdoor, social media sites they used to connect with each other.  Residents in surrounding neighborhoods were impressed and a little jealous of all the attention that Turtle Cove was receiving and responded with comments, such as: “How did you get the cameras?”  “I wish we could get more patrol cars in our area.”  “Our neighborhood needs to get organized!” Citizenry in action was the rule of the day.  Then, the police showed up along with code enforcement officers to sweep the area and identify problems of all kinds, even at the homes of the very neighbors who requested this help.  Some of the Turtle Cove residents were outraged and accused the police of  retaliating against them for waging complaints.  Hm.

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     At a Flour Bluff town hall meeting held at Ethel Eyerly on the evening of February 10, it all came to a head.  I watched as tempers flared on both sides when Commander Blackmon explained what happened and why.  Some  folks defended what the police were doing and applauded their efforts.  Chief Markle, a man of sound judgment and cool demeanor, offered an apology for what he saw as a lack of communication between the residents and the police force.  One person refused to accept the apology, but just about everyone else did.  It was a tense moment for all and felt a whole heck of a lot like the first night at HEB Foundation Camp in Leakey, Texas, with a group of girls who realize that they will have to learn to live together for a whole week!

     Now, these girls choose their cabin buddies weeks in advance of the trip.  They WANT to be in the company of one another.  They are friends who have played, laughed, cried, and done life together, sometimes since kindergarten.  Yet, the first day at camp is always the same.  Each girl shows up with a different set of house rules.  True colors begin to show when selecting bunks and cubby holes.  They begin to discover the slobs, the neat freaks, the night owls, the snorers, and the self-righteous among them.  Words are said; feelings are hurt; lines are drawn; and the bickering begins.  Such is the way on what I call “Adjustment Day.”  I allow them to suffer through their new-found living arrangements until after dinner on the first night.  That’s when I call a cabin meeting, tell them to figure out how to tolerate each other, step out, and allow the girls to learn to co-exist for the week.  Some groups can do it quickly and get on with the business of camp fun, while others work on it all week.  It is painful in the beginning but quite rewarding in the end for everyone involved, and the kids almost always have nothing but fond memories of camp.

     Well, “Adjustment Day” has arrived in Turtle Cove, and it is going to take everyone a little bit of time to get used to the new way of life in the neighborhood, a way of life they requested.  Are some of the neighbors ungrateful, while others are happy to see the change?  Were the police retaliating against people who complained about being ignored by law enforcement, or were they doing what they thought the neighbors wanted? Were they simply sending a message to the bad guys who might be watching?  Only the individuals involved know the real answers to these questions.  All I know for certain is that a select group of neighbors, a council member, and representatives from law enforcement put a plan together to help the situation in the neighborhood.  But, as most folks know, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” so the plan must be tweaked until everyone is reasonably happy with it.  They need to do just that.  Hopefully, there will be enough people who are willing to continue with the plan until they see a positive change in their area.  Then, they will be able to look back and speak fondly of the days they spent in Turtle Cove.

 

Related articles:

“Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help”

“Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighbors”

“Turtle Cove: Starting to See the Silver Lining”

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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.

Turtle Cove: Starting to See the Silver Lining

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff

Oso     On February 1, 2016, a handful of Turtle Cove residents attended a meeting with city officials to discuss the recent problems experienced in their area.  Dianne Bonneau, one of the residents chosen by neighbors to attend, said she left the meeting confident that Chief Markle will ensure follow-through on all the decisions made.  “Commander Blackmon, Council member McIntyre, and Turtle Cove representatives were able to identify some specific strategies and measures to put in place that will improve our current situation,” Bonneau said.

     Captain McCarty, the contact officer for the BRAVO district, which includes Turtle Cove,  along with directed patrol officers, code enforcement, and animal control have already taken steps in correcting some of the problems.  These steps include:

  • Posting signs on the cul de sacs by the park to notify the public that no parking is allowed after the park closes,
  • Providing better lighting in the park,
  • Installing improved cameras with signs indicating the cul de sacs by the park are monitored by video camera,
  • Continuing police presence with officers sitting in their vehicles at the park as they complete paperwork,
  • Conducting more frequent patrols of the area,
  • Continued monitoring of properties connected to criminal activity,
  • Using code enforcement officers to address code violations related to unkempt properties, animal control, vacant properties unlawfully occupied by trespassers,
  • Providing information on tailoring a Neighborhood Watch program to suit the needs of the Turtle Cove residents,
  • Having Captain James McCarty  join the Turtle Cove Nextdoor,  an online social media site that allows neighbors within a particular area to connect with one another and share what is happening in their neighborhood,
  • Encouraging residents, who have installed personal security cameras and are willing to share their footage, to register their cameras with CCPD at Crimepic.com, and
  • Asking residents to use ccmobile app to report code violations and 911 for emergencies.

        Bonneau said that it seems Captain McCarty is committed to seeing the plan come to fruition.  “Overall, I believe we walked away from the meeting in a much better place, and we now have an open dialogue going and are moving forward in eliminating the criminal elements in our area.”

Related Articles:  “Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help” 

                               “Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighbors”

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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.

Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

        

     A vacant home on the corner of Blue Jay and Oriole with grass waist high, cars speeding down Oriole, meth addicts loitering in the park that borders NAS property, and a tent city along the Oso that appeared to be a haven for the homeless and drug users prompted Diane Bonneau and other Turtle Cove residents to take action in their neighborhood in June of 2015.  This subdivision is the home to many long-time residents who love their once serene neighborhood that was built around Turtle Cove pond where many water birds, including the Black-bellied Whistling Duck, glide in at sunset and settle in among their human neighbors.  In the last few years, Bonneau and her neighbors have grown tired of the illegal activity taking place in their neighborhood and are worried about the effects on the children in the area.

Turtle Cove 4

      “I love my amazing view on the Oso and my incredible neighbors who have become my extended family. I don’t believe I will ever live anywhere else,” said Bonneau.  “I am saddened by what I see in and around the Bluff and the drug that has robbed so many lives and all the collateral damage that goes along with a meth addiction.  It’s a community problem and requires a community response. I am frustrated with the mentality that ‘It’s the Bluff. There will always be meth in the Bluff.'”

Oso

     Like many neighborhoods across America, Turtle Cove is suffering from the fallout from the methamphetamine problem that is growing daily.  The difference is that the neighbors of Turtle Cove decided to take control of the situation.  After promises made by City officials at a town hall meeting failed to come to fruition, Bonneau and several of her neighbors made multiple calls to code enforcement, law enforcement, Parks and Recreation, and District 4 Council member Colleen McIntyre but got no results. The residents decided to clean up the tent camp on the Oso themselves.  This prompted  McIntyre and the other contacted entities to follow through with the promises to clean and patrol the area.  With everyone working together, the homeless tent community was cleared out and hauled off; the park was mowed and lighted; and all seemed well in the little community.

Turtle Cove 1

Turtle Cove 2 Turtle Cove 3

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     Six months later, the neighborhood was faced with a new problem.  On December 29, 2015, a man later identified as a registered sex offender and known methamphetamine user who had been evicted from his parents’ home, allegedly entered a house unlawfully on the corner of Raven and Oriole, took a shower, exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl who resided there, and left, according to Diane Bonneau and other neighbors. The owner of the house, who is the father of the victim, called the police.  After the responding officer dusted for fingerprints,  collected articles for evidence, and took statements, he left, and the owner sent his wife and daughter away for the night.

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     The next morning, between 4 and 5 a.m., the intruder returned, allegedly opened the window to the room of the 12-year-old girl, then fell asleep on the back porch.  Upon discovering the man, the owner of the house called the police and reported the incident.  The officer who responded recognized the intruder and stated that the man was known to do this.  When the officer addressed the intruder, the man jumped the fence.  The police apprehended him and removed him from the neighborhood.

     Later that morning, the owner of the house was going to breakfast at a nearby restaurant when he spotted a suspicious-looking man walking down the street, so he followed him in his car.  It was the intruder from earlier, and he was attempting to enter the man’s yard again.  When he saw the owner, he ran off.  The next day, the intruder was seen at approximately 7:00 a.m. by a neighbor.  He was again attempting to gain entrance into the man’s back yard.  The neighbor chased him, but the man escaped through a hole in the fence surrounding a nearby apartment complex.  The Turtle Cove neighbors did not give up.  After many calls and emails to CCPD, Mayor Martinez’s office, and anyone who might be able to offer assistance, they were able to provide enough information to have the man arrested.

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    Within two weeks, Bonneau sent an email to Chief Markle’s office when she heard that he would be in attendance at the Town Hall meeting held on Tuesday, January 12, 2016.  She let him know that increased patrols had “calmed things down.”  She also had several questions she wanted him to answer at the meeting:
  • What can we realistically expect this time around knowing that there are issues throughout the city, and resources can’t be continually concentrated in one area?
  • Is there a long-term plan to reduce the drug activity and crime that inherently goes along with drug issues for our area?
  • As a neighborhood, how can we help?
  • Since most neighbors are not interested in participating in a Neighborhood Watch program that requires meetings and a block captain, what are the other options?

 

     Two days before the meeting was to occur, another incident occurred in the Turtle Cove neighborhood.   Bonneau explained in an email to Chief Markle that she had seen a male wearing a red, Under Armour hoodie.  The man seemed to be upset and was cussing about something.  She watched as he walked to a light maroon, Dodge Ram, four-door pickup that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  The vehicle’s reverse lights were on, and a woman was inside. The man got in and continued to sit there. Within a minute, a neighbor on Lovebird walked out of her garage and yelled something at them about being in her garage.  A  girl in the front seat of the truck started yelling and cursing in response.  Bonneau then walked toward the truck and took a photo of the plates with her cell phone. The driver backed up a little and said, “We aren’t doing anything.”  (Please find below a clarification submitted by a woman who was involved in this incident.)

     According to Bonneau, an officer stopped by her house later to let her know that the couple tossed some of their possessions and ran into a home on Flour Bluff Drive.  The officer recovered a phone belonging to the female.  Bonneau was hopeful that the phone might offer some information that would lead to an arrest or at least to the discovery of other people who might be driving through neighborhoods, entering open garages, and taking valuables from her neighbors.

Cdr Todd Green

     Chief Markle was unable to attend the January 12 meeting but sent several officers in his place.  The officers who were in attendance were unable to appease the Turtle Cove residents and left them wondering what to do next.  Bonneau was unhappy that the only advice they were given was to look out for each other, something that the neighbors of Turtle Cove have been doing for some time.  The next Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting will be February 10, 2016, at the Texas A&M Center for Innovation, at 6:30 p.m.  Council members McIntyre and Magill have agreed to attend and attempt to answer the questions posed by this very connected neighborhood.  Another meeting just for the Turtle Cove residents has been tentatively scheduled February 1, at 6:00 p.m.

Note: Watch for an update in The Paper Trail News relating recent events in this neighborhood.

Clarification:   “My garage door had apparently not closed all the way when I’d last come home. I walked into my garage to do something and realized the door was opened. At the same time, the man was approaching the garage and walked in towards me. I believe I startled him, because he quickly said he was going to come ask if he could use my phone. He said something about that he probably shouldn’t have come up ‘like this,’ referring to the bandana he had on his head. I said no to the phone request, and he walked back out. When I came back in the house, I noticed him walking down the street on a phone. Just then, my mom pulled into my driveway. I didn’t want her out there alone with this man so I went out to walk her inside. He was yelling into the phone, attracting the attention of other neighbors. The man got into the back of the truck that had been parked in the cul-de-sac. It was then that Ms. Bonneau approached and started taking pictures of the truck. I did not come out yelling at the girl in the truck. She rolled down the window and began yelling at me for ‘mean-mugging’ her because I was standing in front of my house looking at the truck. She yelled obscenities at me as they drove away as well. “

Related Article:  “Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighborhoods”

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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.

Involved Neighbors Make for Good Neighborhoods

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page

Waxwing House

     In light of a recent rash of criminal activity in the Turtle Cove subdivision in Flour Bluff, it is understandable that some residents have been more than just a bit unsettled.  In the last week alone, the police raided a home on Waxwing that neighbors have suspected for some time was a haven for illicit drug use, answered a call where a 28-year-old woman reported her door kicked in and her home on Oriole burglarized, and responded to a shooting at 3:00 a.m. on the 900 block of Oriole where they met several people outside their homes after a car was damaged from gunfire.  Are the neighbors ready to give up and move out?  Residents who were interviewed love their neighborhood and have no intention of leaving.  They do, however, have a plan of action for returning their neighborhood to the quiet, safe area it was not so long ago, starting with a select group of residents meeting with District 4 Council member, Colleen McIntyre, and representatives from various departments of law enforcement.

     “It’s something that needs to happen since the last town hall meeting really didn’t give us any answers,”  said Wes Womack, a long-time resident who patrols his neighborhood four times throughout the day and even at night.  “From midnight to 4:00 a.m., there are lots of people on bicycles carrying backpacks through the neighborhood.  I’m just asking for more police to patrol our neighborhood and see what these people are up to – to be a deterrent.”

Turtle Cove Park

     Womack said that after the town hall meeting, he did see more of a police presence for a few days, but then there was nothing.  “I don’t want promises,” Womack said.  “I want solutions.”

     Womack said that he is trying to be proactive and even convinced his neighbors to install and turn on security lights a few months ago.  He said that many residents are gun owners and are headed to a local shooting range to receive training in handling, cleaning, and shooting a gun.  “Safety is the most important factor,” Womack said.  “They need to be proficient with a weapon if they are going to use it for protection.  You can read a book on being an astronaut, but it won’t help you fly a rocket.  You have to practice.”

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     The young woman whose home was burglarized said, “I’m not afraid to live here.  I have always lived in Flour Bluff, and I love it here.”  She, like Womack, has no intention of allowing a “few bad apples” in the neighborhood to steal her possessions or her peace of mind.  She said that she understands that the limited number of police officers in the BRAVO district make response times slower for non-violent offenses, such as the break-in at her house.  “Luckily, I have people – neighbors and family members – who come to my aide.”

      “Neighbors helping neighbors, we definitely have that happening here. I’ve not been the victim of any of the situations out here, but I do try my best to help my neighbors with information, and I do look out for those around me. We are networking together to share info and are exploring our options,” said Diane Bonneau, a Turtle Cove resident who has been a leader in getting the residents to communicate with each other through social media sites such as NextDoor and Facebook.

    OsoAll residents who were interviewed, expressed a desire to work alongside law enforcement and other social service departments to make a positive impact on their neighborhood.  Bonneau said, “I’ve lived in the Bluff for about 25 years, all of it on Oso Bay, starting in the Wharf Apartments as I finished college. I would sit on my patio and look out at the strip of houses that backed up to the bay and said, ‘I will live in one of those houses!’  I live on Oriole Street in Turtle Cove in one of those houses now. I love the Bluff. Love my amazing view on the Oso and my incredible neighbors who have become my extended family. I don’t believe I will ever live anywhere else.”

 

 

 

Related Article:  “Turtle Cove: A Good Neighborhood in Need of Help”

 

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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.

Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting Has Big Turnout

Flour Bluff, Front Page
Hogan and Skrobarczyk
Dan Hogan and James Skrobarczyk

Flour Bluff residents, Dan Hogan and James Skrobarczyk, organized the Flour Bluff Town Hall Meeting held on January 12, 2016, at the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Innovation Center located at the corner of First National Drive and South Padre Island Drive.  A group of about 125 people showed up to hear from several community leaders.

Justice of the Peace Thelma Rodriguez started the meeting by fielding questions about the duties of her office and how she works with school officials to do what is best for the students.

State Representative Todd Hunter followed her with a presentation on the local implications of state legislation for windstorm insurance.  Hunter said that James Skrobarczyk accompanied him to Austin and stood with him as they battled the Department of Insurance.  “After 12 years, we got the bill passed.  Finally, Nueces County is going to be treated like human beings,” Hunter said.  He told the audience that insurance companies are already creating policies as they begin to compete for business in the coastal areas.  “They’re high, but they’re coming down.  You are going to see a rate reduction, but there will be a 12- to 14-month transition period.”

Todd Hunter Town Hall Meeting
Rep. Todd Hunter

Hunter also addressed the possibility of cruise lines in Corpus Christi.  He said that the problem is that Brownsville wants it, too.  “We’re going to bring travel tourism here.  We’re going to set up a local group – a resource group from my area – to back us up when we start having these State hearings,” Hunter added.  He encouraged interested parties to contact his office if they want to be part of that group.

Hunter ended his part of the meeting with information on the expansion of Hwy 361 and the safety issues related to the roadway leading from Port Aransas to Flour Bluff.

 

 

Sheriff Jim Kaelin, who has served 9 years as sheriff, said that nothing is as important to this community as a safe, sanitary, secure jail.  “People need to understand that inmates in the jail have been accused of crimes.  Any one of us could wind up there.  Penitentiary inmates have been convicted of crimes.”  Currently, 900 of the 1068 beds are filled.  Kaelin said that increasing capacity has been slow, but the bed count has grown by 50 since he took over.  He is currently working on adding 144 beds by opening two areas in the annex.  The construction plans have been approved and that renovation could get the county through the next 10 or 15 years without added expense to the taxpayers.

Sheriff Jim Kaelin
Sheriff Jim Kaelin

An audience member asked the sheriff to talk about the inmate commissary.  “Our ratio of officers to inmates is 1:48.”  Kaelin said that in order to get chronically non-compliant inmates to follow rules, certain privileges are offered:  use of pay phones, weekend visitation by family members, television in the day room, co-mingling with other inmates, and commissary privileges.  The inmates use their own money to purchase items at the “jail store.”  The 42 cents made from each dollar goes into an inmate benefit fund that pays for shoes, uniforms, mattresses, bedding, and cleaning supplies.  $400-$500 thousand per year goes into the account.  Currently the balance is around $800,000.  “This saves the taxpayer from footing the bill for these items,” Kaelin said.

Kaelin finished with offering advice to the attendees on using cell phones to take pictures of suspicious cars, people, and activities to help monitor what is happening in their neighborhoods.  Skrobarczyk added that the Next Door website is another way to connect with neighbors and look our for each other.

Cdr Todd Green
Cdr. Todd Green

  

Cdr. Todd Green with CCPD, addressed concerns raised by audience members on several topics, including stray dogs, ways to protect their own property, knowing their neighbors, and calling the police.  Green responded to questions and concerns about ongoing problems in the Turtle Cove neighborhood.  He encouraged all to call the police every time something occurred, which one man said they had already been doing.  Another officer suggested that citizens take advantage of the CCPD social media websites and form Neighborhood Watch groups.

Captain David McCarty
Captain David McCarty

Captain David McCarty introduced himself and said that he took over the Bravo District on January 11, 2016, and wanted everyone to be able to put a face with a name.  He said he looked forward to working with and getting to know the residents of Flour Bluff.

Andy Taubman, Chairman for the Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee for Corpus Christi, addressed the group on what the committee is finding as they research the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) and the standard practices.  “The phase the City is in right now is truly reactive.  There’s not a lot of planning, record keeping, or accountability in the system.  The committee is trying to get the City to emerge from this reactive behavior to a proactive behavior,” said Taubman.  They are trying to convince the City to repair the streets in a neighborhood rather than addressing pot holes only as they are reported by residents.

Andy Taubman Speaker
Andy Taubman

Other problems include master plans that have not been digitized and have missing elements, such as a missing sewer in the plans for Flour Bluff Drive.  One man spoke of his street that has 47 houses and not a single fire hydrant, which is a problem with the master plan according to Taubman.  To report problems, Taubman suggested that residents use the City website  so that a work order can be made.  Questions were raised about various streets, including Caribbean and Purdue.  James Skrobarczyk, who also serves on the committee, said, “There’s a lot issues where Flour Bluff has just been left behind.”

Greg Smith, longtime resident of Flour Bluff and member of ISAC (Island Strategic Action Committee), said, “Several communities are putting together an Area Development Plan, which falls under the Comprehensive Development Plan.  It would be a good idea if Flour Bluff got a group together and met and NOT be left behind.  That would allow the people of Flour Bluff to come up with their own plan instead of the people from Massachusetts coming up with a plan.”

The final minutes of the meeting included Melanie Hambrick, President of the Flour Bluff Business Association, who spoke about the Homeless Commission and the concerns surrounding the new ordinance to ban panhandling downtown.  She said the concern of many residents and businesses is that enforcement of the new regulation could actually bring more homeless to Flour Bluff.

Melanie Hambrick

A representative from Brent Chesney’s office (Precinct 4 County Commissioner) was open for questions from the audience.  After several comments about people fishing from Mud Bridge on Yorktown in Flour Bluff, she offered to talk to them after the meeting.  She also volunteered to help create the Flour Bluff area development committee through Chesney’s office.

Chesney rep

Since many questions were left unanswered, Dan Hogan suggested later in the meeting that another gathering be held in February just to address concerns of crime with Chief Markle and to cover other city issues with the Council members Magill and McIntyre who were unable to attend.

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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.