June 2016

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Response to Kinlaw letter to the editor

City seeks to fill volunteer positions

AISD opens new Ag Center

Brothers feted at ceremonial groundbreaking

Farewell

 

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Response to Kinlaw letter to the editor

June 1, 2016

 

I wish to respond to the letter submitted by Karen Kinlaw last week regarding the Manvel EDC taking criticism.  I was bewildered by the tone of her rant and the accusations of “blatant omissions, incorrect information, and unfounded criticism.”  I could easily turn those allegations around to the personal attack she visited on me.  Nowhere in the article did I criticize the MEDC’s effectiveness.  Those who read my stories know that I consider any investment in infrastructure a good thing for the city.  But I believe the EDC should do more than fund infrastructure and I have promoted a more active approach to its economic development initiatives.  My views are clearly in conflict with many who hold positions of authority, be it by election, appointment, or station.  When personalities come to be distractions, as is becoming ever more common among the city council and boards, the work for the people is stifled.  The letter by Ms. Kinlaw is but the latest example of the dysfunction permeating Manvel’s city government.  I do not care to be part of that and have resigned my position as an EDC member.

 

Regarding the assertion of a conflict of interest in my writing and the claim of disingenuousness in my seeking a paid position, I will trust to those who know to understand my intentions and motivations.  Any attempt at justification to those who disapprove of my words and deeds would most certainly prove futile.

 

The EDC can and should be a vital tool for the city as it meets the challenge of impending growth.  I wish only great success as it moves forward.

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City seeks to fill volunteer positions

June 1, 2016

 

City council regularly debates issues with long term consequences for the city and its residents.  Many of their choices are guided to some degree on recommendations from citizen committees.  The Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) is perhaps the most influential in affecting council decisions as they analyze and consider most every plan and program submitted by citizens and developers who are looking to construct some form of improvement, be it a small home extension or a multi-home development.  PD&Z is also instrumental in the development and revision of the city’s various guiding plans that lay out a vision for future growth and development.  Significant documents such as a Comprehensive Plan, a Master Thoroughfare Plan, a Master Drainage Plan, and other similarly important documents are in place largely due to PD&Z efforts.  The Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) also serves as a key group dedicated to improving the city’s commercial tax base, enhancing local employment opportunities, and improving the overall quality of life for Manvel residents.  Volunteer citizen involvement is a critical cog in the practice of a more enlightened city council.

 

Manvel has difficulty attracting qualified residents to volunteer their time and service.  Manvel residents typically show little interest in local government as borne out by the consistently poor voter turnout at elections which traditionally hovers around 10%.  In the most recent election last May only 520 voters, or 9% of those registered, participated in the selection of two council positions.  In the May 2015 election, only 271 voters participated, less than 5% of registered voters.  Manvel citizens for the most part just want to be left alone and citizens become involved only when a particular hot-button issue affects them directly.  Reacting to ordinances and policies already authorized leaves citizens little opportunity to influence the action, however.  Proactive participation in the process as matters are being discussed is the way to have meaningful impact on the city’s actions.  Serving as a volunteer on one of the city’s commissions or boards is an excellent way to provide a positive influence on council actions.  Former council member Melody Hanson often bemoaned the lack of citizen involvement, saying previously that she “firmly believes that citizen involvement is key to strong government.  Our city is growing and changing as new residents move into the community.  We need to draw from the experiences and qualifications of a wider base and bring some fresh faces and new ideas to our meetings.”

 

Requirements currently in place for a new appointee to the PD&Z commission follows: a prospective new member will be required to attend two consecutive PD&Z meetings, submit a resume to the city secretary (though a city produced application has been used in place of a resume), allow for a background check, and be favorably recommended by PD&Z and subsequently approved by city council.  Additional qualifications to be considered for appointment to PD&Z include being a citizen of Manvel, have no outstanding debts owed to the city, over 18 years of age, and be a registered voter.  A felony conviction precludes any involvement in city business.  Participation on the MEDC does not require Manvel citizenship.  Residency within a neighboring community is allowed.

 

A background check is not done routinely but is allowed should sufficient reason present itself.  Tammy Bell, Manvel’s city secretary, explained that the application asks the applicant to affirm they have no felony convictions.  She says the cost for a background check can run several hundred dollars and many applicants do not want their private records, even if no felony is present, to be open for anyone to see just for the privilege of sitting on a city commission as an unpaid volunteer.  City attorney Bobby Gervais added that applicants are aware that signing the official application knowing it contains false information can result in a charge of tampering with a government document and could result in criminal penalties.

 

The City of Manvel is always looking for volunteers to serve.  Applications are currently being accepted for the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the Planning, Development and Zoning Commission (PD&Z).  Positions on other boards and commissions routinely become available.  Appointments are made annually and as vacancies occur and most terms are for 2 years.  Volunteers play a key role in keeping the City government close to the people it serves by providing ideas, feedback and suggestions and serving as a sounding board for proposed policy.  Manvel City Council depends on the input from residents serving on boards, commissions and committees which advise the City Council, City Manager and City Staff.

 

Those interested in volunteering are required to print a Volunteer Application (PDF) from the city’s website, or pick one up from the city secretary's office during regular office hours.  More Information can be acquired from the city secretary at 281-489-0630, ext. 4.

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AISD opens new Ag Center

June 1, 2016

 

The Alvin Independent School District (AISD) officially dedicated a new Agricultural Science Center last week.  The 12-acre facility is located in Alvin across the street from the Fairview Junior High campus on CR 190 (Old Manvel Rd) and CR 284 (Bennett).  The project was approved as part of the district’s 2013 bond in the overall amount of $252.6 million.  The Ag Center was apportioned $4.5 million for its construction.

 

Students district wide with an interest in agricultural related fields, animal husbandry, and horticulture will be able to enjoy the safe and efficient environment for themselves, their animals, and the visitors that will attend shows and competition.  The Center provides classroom space, an outdoor pavilion and show area with ample seating for visitors, and animal pins of various sizes.

 

The new Ag Center was named in honor Bobby Verdine, a long time AISD teacher and administrator.  According to a district press release, Verdine started his educational career AISD in 1968 as the principal at Mark Twain Primary and at R.L. Stevenson Elementary (later Primary).  He had the respect of students, faculty members, other principals, and parents.  In 1992 he moved to a position in the Central Administration Building.  Verdine became the Acting Superintendent of Schools upon the retirement of Bill Hasse.  After retiring from the district in 1999, Verdine was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Alvin Independent School District where he continued to represent the citizens by looking out for the operations of the school district.  He served a total of nine years as a district trustee.  Superintendent Buck Gilcrease told the crowd his opinion that “this is the kind of person that we name buildings and facilities after in education.  People who continue to have positive impact on the students and the future of our community and state and nation.”

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Brothers feted at ceremonial groundbreaking

June 8, 2016

 

In January 2012, Alvin ISD’s then Director of Public Information, Shirley Brothers, retired after 40 years of dedicated service to public education and the district.  She has remained active in district functions often serving on volunteer boards and always promoting the district in any way she can.  In a recent request to AISD stakeholders to nominate names for new schools soon to be constructed, Shirley Brothers was overwhelmingly included in the responses.  Last week a ceremonial groundbreaking of the district’s elementary school #17, located in Shadow Creek Ranch, saw a great turnout despite flooding conditions throughout the region.  The large crowd served as a solid testament to the high regard Brothers enjoys in the AISD community.

 

In her customary humble fashion, Brothers was opposed to having a school bear her name.  But after pressure from friends and family she relented.  Her family impressed upon her that she could either accept the honor now while she is alive and able to enjoy it, or know that as soon as she passed away they would consent to the naming request.  The school is currently under construction and is expected to see students in the 2017-2018 school year.

 

It is easy to write a litany of her many professional and personal accomplishments, but perhaps there is no better testament to her esteem as recognizing the number of folks who braved inclement weather to attend the ceremony in her honor.  Brothers is truly one-of-a-kind.  She habitually and continually provides a positive influence on the lives of anyone fortunate enough to make her acquaintance.  She represents the embodiment of the type of individual a school should be named for.  If a building can become an embodiment of its namesake, elementary #17 is destined to be a special place.

 

Brothers began her career in 1971 as a special education teacher in Alvin ISD.  After 14 years of teaching, she became the District’s first Coordinator of Public Relations.  She was soon named the Director of Public Information, and held that post for 26 years.  During her tenure she worked with eight different superintendents, multiple Board members, and an array of administrators, teachers and staff.

 

Former Superintendent Fred Brent declared at her retirement: “She has been the voice, the face and the spirit of Alvin ISD for nearly 27 years.  She has created a standard of excellence in public relations, community involvement and commitment to students that will be hard to match.  She is an invaluable asset and resource to the District and will be missed by all.”

 

During her years of service Brothers has served on multiple committees, held many leadership positions, served on several Boards, and received numerous awards and accolades for her outstanding work and involvement in civic and professional organizations.  She was named the Longfellow Elementary Teacher of the Year, and then selected as the Alvin ISD District Teacher of the Year in 1985.  Her dedication to the community was rewarded when she was selected as the Alvin Manvel Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1996 and again in 2008.  She also received the Soroptimists of Alvin Woman of Distinction Award in 2009, and the Texas School Public Relations Association Professional Achievement Award the same year.

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Farewell

June 8, 2016

 

This will be my final regular submission to the Manvel Reporter News.  I end mostly with good memories of friends made and relationships established.  Other recollections will reflect a subjective frustration with a city of lost opportunities.  An oft-quoted epigram written by a French writer nearly two hundred years ago well sums up my seven plus year’s association with the city: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  Reviewing my published stories from the preceding 390 weeks returns a striking constancy of issues and debate.

 

In 2009 the current police station on Masters served as the city hall.  It was a small, cramped, and stuffy space and it was usual back then to see a standing room only crowd.  The walls along the perimeter were lined with exciting plans for development projects.  Presentations were routinely given by various high-priced consultants on a range of themes including zoning ordinances, drainage and thoroughfare plans, and myriad other issues.  Delores Martin was serving her fourth term as mayor.  Council consisted of Ed Armstrong, Tommy Pollard, Gary Garnett, Melody Hanson, Tommy Pollard, and Buddy Williams.

 

Today city hall is more comfortable and accommodating but the content of meeting agendas remains much the same.  Council members have come and gone, some serving with distinction and some with irrelevance.  Delores Martin endures as mayor.  There is a city manager and city attorney.  Most city leaders claim enthusiasm for growth and council continually invests hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants, studies, and plans seemingly in order to proactively prepare for development.  Yet time and again it seems they are unable to get out of the way.

 

Those that have followed my writing over the years know well my perception on the city’s deficiencies.  I will not repeat them here.  I have attempted fairness and objectivity with the hopeful intention of perhaps affecting meaningful change.  In light of the increasingly present vitriol among city personnel, council and boards, and a general feeling of personal resignation, I was unable to proffer a satisfactory answer to a recent question posed to me by my wife; why do I continue to care so much about Manvel when I don’t even live there?  I guess the simple explanation is that I see (saw?) such potential.  With a few exceptions the city is basically a clean slate and needs only the vision and leadership to make it into something unique and special.  But after so many years I think it time to admit that my vision is incompatible with most who hold positions of authority, be it through election, appointment, or civic standing.

 

I will miss the regular interaction with city officials, business and land owners, and developers.  But I do look forward to having more time to spend with my family.  My son begins junior high next year and it seems like just yesterday he started first grade.  No more night meetings and working late to meet a deadline will be well received by my wife.  And me!

 

I am obliged to Laura and Randy Emmons, the paper’s owners, for the opportunity to write for them.  Though we have not always seen eye-to-eye on things, our relationships have been respectful and I have most always been granted considerable latitude in my submissions and for that I remain extremely grateful.

 

I sincerely wish the best for Manvel and hope one day in the not too distant future to see a grocery store and other meaningful economic development in process.  That would bring a smile to my face.

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