Hutto Discussion continued – finding solutions

31 Aug

Late Tuesday night Jason Wirth sent me this second post.

I think in reading my comments that they do seem a bit negative and really don’t give clear paths for a fix. I sound bitter and ranting and I’m sure that’s not what Mahlon was looking for in this round table discussion. He asked for solutions and positive commentary.  I would like to clarify some statements and try to help find some solutions.

I do stand behind my feelings about the Council, it’s purpose, and how things have gotten to this point for us to even be having a discussion like this. The negative aspects of what they do and how they have handle others viewpoints just seem to resonate much louder for me than the positives. City Awards and personal achievements are NOT answers to our problems. I believe the Council and Staff do excel in many ways and do many things that are great for the community as a whole. For the most part they have good intentions and want the best for our community. They have very good presentation skills and a unified front is great in some aspects. It helps paint a vivid yet positive picture of our community for people that want to come here to live, work, and play, but what does that do for those of us that already live here and are having to foot the bill?

The city winning an award for best budget presentation at the TML awards doesn’t help lower the cost of my taxes. It doesn’t get streets fixed or sidewalks built. With that said something has to be done about how we deal with the negative issues whatever they are and what ever rock they come out from under. How can you point out all the good, but not acknowledge what we do badly, or where we might be having trouble? Sweeping things under the rug or running to executive chambers to hash it out behind closed doors doesn’t do our community justice, and for me it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It doesn’t paint a good picture for those of us that are watching and have unanswered questions to our concerns.  Our town is in desperate need of some kind of economic help. This is not a secret. Businesses are failing, people are losing jobs, homes are getting foreclosed on, children are being put out on the streets. No one is blaming city government for this. It is just that city government tends to turn a blind eye to these problems and how they are handled. These are serious issues and someone or something needs to give for us to find our path, our identity, our answers. What can the city do to help? How as neighbors can we help?  How do we overcome what other cities are facing also? How can we be the ones to find the solutions? How do we get on the same page and keep what we have built and set examples for others to follow?

I know it may have sounded like I was bombarding the boards and commissions for not being proactive. Not true. Start with the EDC. I sat on that board for many years. Scott Martinez, the staff, and the board are hard workers, smart, and out of the box thinkers. Case in point as they were the driving force behind getting the college to come here over Taylor. I tip my hat to them for their hard work and effort. It does cost a lot to run that office. I know that budget….maybe not dollar for dolla, but I’m probably not off on my figures for the overall cost it takes to make that machine run on a day to day basis. It’s not chump change by any means. How can the EDC give more of that sales tax money back to the community/businesses? I have a hard time seeing us spend that money on the college and not anything else. Does having a college here make manufacturing companies want to move here? Does it help keep other manufacturing companies staying here? It may but it will take some time.

Just an idea, but helping existing companies expand or getting new companies to move here is what it’s purpose is and what it was designed for not for chasing colleges that don’t help offset property taxes. That’s not a dig…just an opinion. The college pays no property tax and generates no sales tax. Being out there at Veterans Hill pretty far away from town it’s my assumption will be that it will generate very little for the businesses in town. I think that we really need to get back on the right track in chasing down some new business now that the college is coming to town. I haven’t talked to Scott in awhile and he may already be heading in that direction. I leave it up to you to make some meetings and ask the questions.

The other boards and commissions don’t have as much impact on economy as the Chamber, EDC, or the city, so to me they are mute points in economic impact for discussion purposes. They are important chess pieces and need to be informed and have inputs and a voice, but they have no ability to help fund or drive the economy by in large.

Now on to the Chamber. What can it do to help? What is the Chambers real purpose in all this? Good questions. I think for years they have been focused on the Old Tyme Days, Banquet, and Golf Tournament. That’s been there mainstay most of its existence: to raise money so they can start over and do it again the next year. Hard to poke holes in any of that as they are all great events for the community. BUT that’s what business has come to know them as. The Chamber is in business to put on events ,but not really getting down and dirty on giving back and promoting the local economy or helping that struggling business find the buyers they need to keep the doors open. When businesses go to them looking for help there are no solutions behind the doors at the Chamber. That’s just what I have heard over the years so don’t shoot the messenger.

I don’t have the answers to why this is or how it can be changed. I do know the Chamber operates on a limited budget and are not set up to give handouts. My question is why not? Don’t we have a food pantry for when someone is hungry and needs a meal? Don’t we have a place to send people to get some money if they can’t make their electric bill? Why can’t we have some kind of entity for a business to go to if things aren’t going well: a business pantry for lack of a better term? We have all these tax dollars flowing into all these entities. How do we give some back? Tax breaks for businesses? Funds/Grants? Short term funding with some performance agreements built to get them back on their feet or to keep them here? I don’t know but there has got to be a way for everyone to come out ahead, for us to be good, caring neighbors, for us to all get along and fight for the same causes. Better yet, not just to fight but to win the battle.  Suggestions anyone?

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