, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

July 8, 2010

'Texas Country Reporter' engages PA in vision quest

PORT ARTHUR — The method of navigation was a bit different for “Texas Country Reporter” host Bob Phillips Thursday night in Port Arthur. Since 1972, the Emmy award winner has barreled down many an uncharted, dusty road in his quest to meet a new face and tell a new story.

Exchanging his dusty SUV for a meeting room at the Robert ‘Bob’ Bowers Civic Center and the open roads for a blank canvas full of locals’ ideas, he put a metaphorical paint brush in each citizen’s hand and asked them to draw a picture of what they’d like Port Arthur to look like 10 years from now.

The vision quest — Pride Fueling Progress — will put stakeholders who live, work and play in the driver’s seat in determining how best to grow this port city of about 55,000.

Port Arthur City Councilman Jack Chatman Jr. said each citizen needs to “clean up their AO.” This was an expression — meaning area of operation — used during his stint in the U.S. Army for straightening up your 60 feet of property.

“The problem is rooftops. We’ve got to repopulate, but everyone collectively has to take pride in their own property,” he said.

Many stakeholders have said this change has to occur inside out, beginning with what is spoken about their own communities.

“If we are going to stop asking the citizens to stop acting like thugs, then we need to stop acting like thugs,” Chatman added.

Area leaders addressed false perceptions that have grown into cancerous moles on the body of the city, especially with regards to the downtown and West Side development.

One of most damaging perceptions, participants say, has had to do with crime.

“The West Side has the lowest crime rate in the city,” Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said. Officials said the crime rate by comparison to city’s of like size is actually lower than some neighboring cities.

Both Prince and City Manager Steve Fittzgibbons emphasized the strong need for private partners in the development of projects that have been on the books for years.

“If it’s all government, it’s not sustainable for long-term development,” Fittzgibbons said. Designs for a sprawling boardwalk, an elevator and a waterside destination restaurant are just a few examples of long-term projects just needing investors.

Both Richard Riggs and Thomasene Thomas spoke of Pleasure Island as an underutilized diamond in the city — one they’d like to see shine more. Riggs would like to see the golf course development to move farther along and Thomas and Aletha Kirkwood supported the idea of possibly having a water park on the Island.

Business leader Fernando Ramirez said citizens need to quit reaching into the 1920s for vision and build a new city for everyone — seniors, children and adults.

Mary Ann Reid, Port Arthur chamber president, pointed out the trickling of empty seats in the room Thursday. Those belonging to the youth.

“The heads that are in here, need to be a bit younger,” she said. She said the young people need to be engaged in the vision to break the pattern of going to college, learning a trade and moving out of the area.

The last question of the night charged each and every citizen: What are you going to do to make these changes a reality?

The city of Port Arthur recently engaged Phillips Productions, Inc. in the process of branding and designing a perpetual framework drawing people to live, work and play in all parts of the city.

There are several ways citizens can participate in the process and set the tone for the goals of the city over the next 10 years.

• Fill out a community questionnaire online at, or pick up a hard copy at the Port Arthur City Hall annex, 444 Fourth St.

• Communicate with the city at

• Contact us at and

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