Opinion

What’s the Sense?

What IS the sense?

Several months ago I was approached and asked to seek election as the Mayor of Port Arthur.  I agreed to at least think about this, but also stated that I wanted to speak with people throughout the community regarding their impressions relating to a variety of topics.  I learned much. but not all of it was favorable.  Let me explain.

I’ve always considered Port Arthur to be not much more different than the hundreds of other communities that dot the American landscape all vying for new businesses and industries to relocate or expand there.  However, the difference with Port Arthur, as opposed to those other communities, is that Port Arthur continues to appear as an unkempt battle zone dotted with vacant lots and buildings, buildings in various states of disrepair, or abandoned altogether.  Furthermore, efforts to clean up the appearance of not only the business and industrial zones, but also neighborhoods, has been little more than a desperate failure.  Simply stated, Port Arthur is a dismal, dirty mess!

Making matters worse is that Port Arthur just loves to proclaim itself “an ethnically diversified community“.  If this is true, then how come only two ethnic groups are the least bit interested in taking control over the city, its government and administration, and run the other out altogether?  And, why is it the other ethnic groups represented within our community are largely ignored until someone wants something?  Basically what this is saying is that Port Arthur is one of the most bigoted, biased and ethnically separated communities in the country; and, not one that any respectable business or industry is willing to commit to expansion or relocation into.

One thing is for sure, very few citizens of Port Arthur think that the downtown redevelopment effort is much more than a means to put more money into the greedy hands of those trying to control it.  Right from the very start, the project was pretty much no more than an unplanned scheme for which only certain people would benefit.  Although hundreds of letters were sent out to national retailers inviting them to participate in the revitalization effort, only two bothered to respond; each respectfully declining.  The rest didn’t even bother wasting the cost of postage or a phone call to decline.  Yet revitalization continued.

But pretty building fronts and remodeled building interiors do not make for a revitalized downtown area.  The primary problem here is far too many people recall what downtown Port Arthur was decades ago before the fall of the petro-chemical industry.  And far too many people want this city to be taken back to better times; times when stores and places of business dotted our downtown streets.  The problem is that this dream isn’t very likely to be revisited unless the community surrounding it don’t require visitors to need GPS to get into and out of it, and not require travel through some of the most blighted areas in the city.

I’ve long promoted something a newly elected Mayor of Detroit, Michigan, started following that city’s declared bankruptcy.  Much of what he did was well described in an article that appeared in an online publication:

CityLab:  A Conversation With Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

What interested me so much in what this man had to say is that he attacked the problem of the blight in neighborhoods before worrying about the city’s various business districts; and, it made sense.  Improve the neighborhoods first, and then worry about getting them back on their feet.  Take a look at how many of our city neighborhoods, as well as locales surrounding downtown Port Arthur, remain in the dark.  As is stated in this article, nothing makes neighborhood residents more comfortable and feeling secure than having street lights lit.

The plan that Mayor Duggan had was to approach the owners of vacant properties, and properties upon which abandoned, dilapidated and burned out structures stood to demand from them they enter into a contract with the city to replace or rebuild on those lots or structures.  The property owner would have six months in which to accomplish this, and get them occupied.  For those who refused to enter into such a contract with the city, they city would add the costs associated with preparing the property for revitalization and foreclose on them; giving the property owner the option of entering into the contract, or deeding their property to the city.  The City of Detroit would then auction those properties for a minuscule minimum bid and require the new owner to enter into a redevelopment contract.  Why can’t we do this here?

The idea here is that once you have an attractive neighborhood, one where people feel safe and at home, it doesn’t take long before small business move in.  Although those new businesses could be little more than convenience stores of gas stations, if they thrive it won’t be long before bigger businesses move in.  Things like grocery stores, restaurants, etc.  Once they become established and prosper, even larger businesses will come along, too.  Do you see what I’m getting at?

But Port Arthur has yet another problem that absolutely has to be addressed:  crime!  I believe that the Port Arthur Police Department should be provided the support it needs to hire more officers, and acquire the necessary vehicles and equipment to put those officers on the street.  Now, I’m not promoting a virtual Christmas shopping tour to get their hands on stuff that may never be needed, but to do what has to be done to attack our local crime from all available angles.  And, we also need a judicial system more likely to work with those convicted of crimes to get back on the right path to becoming productive members of our community.  This could mean developing resources with Lamar Port Arthur to offer skilled labor training, etc.

But what I’ve learned more prominent than anything else is that Port Arthur needs the cooperation and support of not only city government and administration, it needs the cooperation and support of its people here, too.  Inasmuch as Port Arthur so proudly proclaims itself as “an ethnically diversified community“, why is it them that only two ethnic groups have shown any interest in anything other than taking control of the community for their own gain; and, running the other one completely out on a rail?

Without the willingness of the people of Port Arthur to work hand in hand with city government and administration, none of this will ever amount to much more than farting into the wind.  And another thing the people of Port Arthur have to realize.  It took years, decades of years, for Port Arthur to become what it is right now.  And, it’s going to take years, and decades of years, before things can be turned around and Port Arthur made into something different than it is right now.  Anything less will only result in Port Arthur falling further into the muck, and becoming a place where no one (at least anyone in their right mind) would ever want to be.  At this point, I simply don’t see that willingness to work together.

So in response to those who approached me with the idea of seeking election as the Mayor of Port Arthur, I have to decline their invitation.  I simply cannot justify spending tons of money, and now running against literally every Tom, Dick and Harry thinking they’re going to be taking over the community and all its alleged funding for purely personal reasons.  As the title of this states, “What’s the Sense?