PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 19, 2013

Working together to move PA forward

Roger Cowles
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — A group called Start Up Port Arthur has been meeting once a month at the Holiday Inn for a little more than a year. Community leaders from business, industry and government get together and give updates on what is going on in their area of expertise so, for example, everyone at the table will know what’s going on with the City Council, at the Port, at Valero, with the real estate community, with the Chamber of Commerce and so on.

It’s a very open group and the Chamber’s Joe Tant has done a super job of planning and organizing, reminding and arranging. I suppose the group could grow too large, and that’s why the Chamber is kicking off a series of Leadership Breakfasts, so there will be a place for everyone who wants to keep up with developments in the many different parts that make up the whole of the community.

At last week’s Start Up meeting several updates of interest were given. Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, happy about her re-election and receiving congratulations from around the table, said votes will be canvasses at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and she and new council member for District 4, Robert Troy, will be sworn in.

During a discussion of the propositions on the May 11 ballot, Mayor Prince noted that we need a simplified method of presenting things like charter changes to the voters. The legalistic language is difficult to follow and the mayor said she knew of one woman who was at the voting machine for more than 45 minutes because of the wordy propositions. That caused some raised blood pressure and toe tapping among those waiting in line.

The mayor also pointed out that she wasn’t pleased that all of the propositions passed. Proposition 12, which allows the use of EDC money for entertainment and related infrastructure, was singled out for criticism.

“There are some things as a taxpayer I would have a fit if I knew I was funding,” the mayor said. She never mentioned what it was that would cause such a fit, but others in the group did not hesitate to mention The Breeze, a low-power FM radio station that was instrumental in a petition drive to get the proposition on the ballot and has hopes of getting EDC funding for expansion plans.

A contingent including Commissioner Linda Spears, Executive Director Floyd Gaspard and Deputy Director Larry Kelley represented the Port of Port Arthur. If you drive on Houston Avenue you will see the silos. That means something good is going on, was the message from the waterfront. The management team at the Port is doing what it can to keep the longshoremen continuously employed.

A number of Floyds have attended Start Up meetings, including the city manager, the EDC director, and the above named port director. But the man with the designation of Floyd No.1 is Mr. Mardi Gras, Floyd Marceaux.

Floyd No. 1 asked the port contingent if it were true that there are 100 trucks a day that are driven from Woodville to the Port of Port Arthur. The project that will ship wood pellets to Germany will indeed create the traffic of 100 trucks a day, but it will be over 24 hours so “you won’t even notice.”

The port is a downtown success story that we hope continues bringing trucks by the hundreds. While their cargo may be wood pellets, it’s just as though they were filled with dollars being spread through the economy of Port Arthur.

The discussion about the trucks grew into a discussion about access to downtown. Frank Cricchio, master photographer, noted that we need a straight shot through road to downtown that would provide easy access. The idea of improving Savannah Avenue to a through street all the way to Procter Street seemed to gain wide acceptance.

Jeff Hayes said the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission is in the process of doing its transportation planning and suggested sending SETRPC the idea of extending Savannah’s state spur designation all the way downtown.

Start Up Port Arthur is just a voluntary gathering of people who are interested in helping Port Arthur chart a positive course into the future. The group can’t levy taxes or pass any regulations, but if the discussions and cooperation continue around the long table at the Holiday Inn, it could, over time, have a real impact on the city. Start Up is harnessing the power of people working together for the betterment of their community. That’s the best way to overcome the political divisiveness that too often creates roadblocks for us.