Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Bit of a Rant

We're all due one every once in a while, so here goes. I was reading another periodical and it was a bunch of folks running down Crockett. The thread was full of comments like, "This town is going down the tubes", "This place is dead", "Crockett has nothing going for it", and on and on.

Well, that was enough for me to get a little defensive. After all, many of you are like me and do all you can to make this a great place to live and work. So, I thought I would list just a few of the positive things going on right here in our community-

  • We have a brand new vocational/technical college about to open to provide higher education opportunities right here in Crockett, Texas.

  • We have a huge highway improvement project going on on Loop 304 that will enhance traffic flow and make it a little safer for all of us when it's completed (I know, it's hard to be patient while it gets completed).

  • We are about to complete a brand new 3,000 square foot addition to the Crockett Civic Center that will provide much need conference/meeting rooms and additional storm shelter if and when the time comes. And thanks to the Crockett Garden Club, the landscaping in front of the Civic Center is looking great.

  • We have made numerous improvements to the Porth Ag Arena, such as new fans that help to cool the arena, as well as electrical upgrades that will help the concession stand to work smoother. And that's not to mention the awesome statue of Myrtis Dightman that was just unveiled that will help to bring tourists to our community.

  • There have been several homes sold recently in Crockett, which is always a good sign, and in case you haven't noticed, the natural gas activity in parts of Houston County have heated up again.

  • There are several new businesses about to relocate and or open right here in Crockett.
I guess it all boils down to how you want to look at things. You can choose to take a positive stance or a negative stance. Of course, there are always negative aspects to a community, and if you are looking for a perfect city, good luck finding it. In spite of things like the Crockett State School closing, let's stay positive and keep working together.

There, that should do it, thanks for allowing me to rant.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Local Official Participates in Congressman Barton's Mock Congress

This past weekend, your Crockett Mayor and about 150 other constituents from Congressman Joe Barton’s 6th District participated in a Mock United States Congress Event in Arlington. It was only the second time Congressman Barton has held such an event and the first time for me as the Mayor to participate. I have always been deeply interested in politics and the budget process, and this gave all of us a hands-on opportunity to actually ‘be’ members of Congress and work towards passing a budget. It was fascinating.

Each of us was assigned a different member of Congress, some Republicans and some Democrats. For the entire weekend, your job was to ‘play the part’ of the member of Congress, and vote as they would actually vote. We each wore large name placards that made it easy to identify who you were and what party you were affiliated with. The Democrats wore blue placards and the Republicans wore red. I was assigned to ‘play’ Oklahoma Republican Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. I had to give an opening statement to the committee just like they do in the real Congress. The Agriculture Committee met and heard real testimony from different groups representing actual agriculture issues in our state. Giving testimony at our Agriculture Committee hearing was a group from the Tarrant Area Food Bank as well as a 5th generation farmer from Hill County.

The following day, the Agriculture Committee had the task of determining just how much money to send to the Budget Committee. There was some honest debate and frank discussion but in the end, the Ag Committee passed to the Budget Committee a number of $17.2 billion in discretionary spending. President Obama’s proposed budget for agriculture was an estimated $27 billion. Keep in mind something I wasn’t aware of, the Agriculture portion is only one quarter of 1% of the entire federal budget. Other authorizing committees included Armed Services, Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means. As well as the committee assignments, there was also the Budget Committee, Rules Committee and the important Appropriations Committee. Each committee submitted their respective budgets to the Budget Committee, who then passed it on to the Appropriations Committee for further review, eventually bringing three different budget versions to the House floor for debate.

Throughout the day, Congressman Barton and staff were there to assist in the process, but for the most part, the event was designed to mimic the actual Congressional process. Throughout the day, there were party caucuses where we met to strategize about the issues important to our party. You had to take breaks for lunch, etc. when you were finished with your committee assignments.

For those of you who are fans of WBAP radio station in Dallas, Mark Davis played the part of Speaker of the House John Boehner. He did an excellent job and kept us all in good humor through the entire process. In the end, just like as the current House sits, the Republicans had the majority and we actually passed the Budget, using the Congressman Paul Ryan Budget model.

I want to thank Congressman Barton for holding this event, and thank his staff, including Karla Carr, Congressman Barton’s District Assistant from here in Houston County. There is a good chance that due to redistricting, we will lose U.S. Congressman Joe Barton as our representative here in Houston County, and unfortunately, we will be losing one of the best. It was a great event and a great opportunity to see first hand how Washington politics works. The picture above is me wearing the red Congressman Lucas placard, Karla Carr, District Assistant to Congressman Barton from Houston County, and Congressman Joe Barton.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let's Take Care of Our Trees

I don't have to tell you that we are in the midst of a severe period of dry weather here in our neck o' the woods (better known as a drought but that's such a dirty word I won't use it). And unfortunately, because we have seen a long term lack of moisture, along with everything else that grows outside, our trees in Crockett are suffering.

One of the things I love the most about our city is the number of beautiful old trees. Many of our trees have been here longer than some of us! Drive down any of our streets and you will see majestic oaks and tall pines. They are beautiful to look and at and provide wonderful shade for our hot summer days. But as healthy as our trees might appear, many are slowly dying due to the lack of rain.

So, although I'm no arborist, let me encourage you to water your trees. Now, I know what you're thinking-leave it up to the Mayor to tell people to water their trees because that way, the City makes more revenue from increased water sales. Actually, I pay the same water rates you pay and I'm doing my part to keep my trees alive .

So, let's not forget about our trees. Trees do better from prolonged, slow watering, such as with a soaker hose or a low set sprinkler. Our trees need moisture deep in the ground; because of evaporation, surface watering often times doesn't get the water where it needs to be. So, early morning and late evening slow watering is the best approach to giving our trees a drink.

Trees add value to your property and add value to our city. Let's not forget about our tall, leafy friends this summer. They are doing their part, let's do ours.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Crockett State School To Close

The Texas Youth Commission voted Friday, June 3, 2011 to close three of its State School facilities. As the meeting wore on, we all became painfully aware of what was about to happen. The Executive Director, Cherie Townsend, gave a detailed summary of each facility, and gave seven different closure scenarios. Crockett was on six of the seven scenarios. When Board Member Joseph Brown read the motion to close Crockett, it was as if someone had just sucked all the air out of the room. A second was made, and the vote was counted. In a matter of a few seconds, all of the time, effort, prayers, reports, presentations, everything, just went down the drain. Crockett State School will be closed. The Crockett contingency-myself, County Judge Lonnie Hunt, Crockett Economic Development Director Thom Lambert, DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles, and City Administrator Ron Duncan, sat in shock as the grievous announcement was made.

There were lots of reasons given for the closings, but safe to say that the State of Texas and the Texas Youth Commission ran out of two things-money and youth. Due to budget cuts, TYC was being asked to cut $116 million. Along with reductions in staff in the Central Office, the closing of the three units will save them the millions of dollars that the legislature asked them to cut. And over the course of the last ten years, the State has had a huge reduction in the number of incarcerated youth. In reality, every State School had beds to fill. Even though we had the most comunity support, even though we made many political contacts in Austin and Washington, D.C., even though we made one last pitch to the entire TYC Board, in the end, there was nothing we could do.

I feel terrible for our employees. Many will not be able to transfer to another unit to maintain their job. And unfortunately, we just don't have the jobs here in Crockett to sustain a layoff like this. I'm afraid this event will be have a lasting impact on our community and we will be a long time recovering.

But, I do know that we are a resilient community and some how, some way, we will survive. My prayers are with all the families affected by this event. In spite of this incredible setback, we will continue to press on.