City government responsiveness and transparency
We need a city government that is responsive to the public, not just to donors to political campaigns. Public comments should be welcomed at City Council meetings, not cut by 2/3. As much as possible, the Council should make the public aware of the issues it will vote on, rather than burying those issues in consent agenda votes. Too often, the Council has acted on behalf of corporate interests with little consideration for the citizens who fund the City. In the interest of transparency, City Council meetings should be scheduled to begin after 5 p.m. so that working people will have a greater chance to attend and make their views known to the Council.
The City Council has rushed to plan, build and operate multiple desalination plants without giving due consideration to the environmental impacts of these facilities. The proposed desalination plants will desalinate Corpus Christi Bay water to create fresh water and will discharge the salty brine into Corpus Christi Bay. Environmentalists have warned that this will increase the salinity of the Bay, threatening plant and fish populations like the red drum fish. As many as six desalination plants plan to dump millions of gallons of salty brine into the Bay each day. Engineers contracted by the City have said that no one knows the cumulative effect of multiple desalination plants and have urged such a study to be done. To date, none has been ordered.
Desalination plants are expensive to build and to operate. The desal plant the city currently is considering will cost $2billion. Only a fraction of that cost will be born by industry, though the deal plant is being proposed to provide water for incoming heavy (petrochemical) industries. The majority of this cost will be born by Corpus Christi water rate payers. Cities that have adopted desal have seen their residential water rates rise significantly, sometimes by as much as eight times.
Desalination is the most expensive way to create fresh water. It should be the adopted only as a last resort, after conservation, improved water storage (below ground where evaporation is much less), and effective use of natural ground water supplies have been adopted. Without adopting desal, Corpus Christi’s water supply is sufficient for the next 30-50 years of expected residential growth. Desal should be shelved until the second half of the 21st century, when the desal technology (or less expensive innovations) likely will be developed. If industry wants desal (and it does) then industry should pay for it—all of it. We need to end the practice of the public bearing the cost of projects that will benefit private interests.
We need to diversify our economy. Our local economy is too dependent on the turbulent oil and gas industry. We need to attract other industries to the region and we need to finally acknowledge and promote our greatest asset—the local environment. Local beeches, the wetlands, the bays, the fishing, the birding draw people to this region. We should celebrate this rather than constantly threaten its existence.
We need to alleviate law enforcement from performing those social services for which they are not trained. We need to increase social work services in the City. Hundreds of cities across the country, such as Dallas, Tx, have placed social workers in the public libraries to make them available to library patrons. Corpus Christi should adopt this model and adapt it to local circumstances. In similar fashion, mental health services should be increased so that trained professionals can treat affected populations rather than untrained law enforcement personnel.
The City, after a 20-year hiatus, has set about repairing city streets. This effort should be stepped up. The promised projects to replace Ocean Drive and Laguna Shores Drive are long overdue. The 2020-2021 budget however says nothing about Santa Fe Street, arguably far worse for wear than Ocean Drive (particularly between Louisiana and Dodridge). Repair of these trunk lines, as well as long neglected neighborhood streets, will save motorists substantial money in vehicle suspension repairs and wheel realignment and repair.
Everyone in the City should pay their fair share to cover the costs of its operations and services. Industrial District Agreements should be re-examined. These allow area industries to make a much smaller payment to the City in place of property taxes based on valuation. These payments typically are 60% of the expected property tax payment for these facilities. Collection of property taxes based on valuation in place of these smaller payments will provide the additional revenue necessary for Corpus Christi to offer services that are standard in many American cities of comparable size.
Awareness of our surroundings
We need to be aware that we live along the coast and that the threat of tropical storms is present every year. Our city planning should reflect this—greater consideration should be given to the elevation of new areas proposed for development. Constructing residences in flood plains recklessly invites extensive damage if a significant hurricane passes through Corpus Christi.