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What (or who) perpetuates PA’s decline

By Ronald C. Spooner

Recently, News publisher Rick Macke and former State Sen. Carl Parker wrote columns expressing the need for Port Arthur to “move forward” commensurate with its many assets and its under developed — or undeveloped — potential.  Hence, the question: What or who caused the decline in the first place, and apparently continues to  hinder Port Arthur’s moving forward?
Among the first questions we must answer are (1) what did Port Arthur do and look like during its glory days, and what could moving Port Arthur forward look like in the future if we could actually get something constructive going in that direction?  Specifically, what things are we talking about?  Without considering the causes (We’ll deal with those later), what are the problems that need fixing? And, lastly, what would the solutions look like after all problems have been properly addressed?
The people of Port Arthur have not changed.  They still come into this world as babes needing to be nourished, loved and taught, having the ability to respond to that nourishment, love, and proper instructions with not only feelings of self-worth but with commitments to being the best person, the best prepared and most confident persons, and the most productive persons they can be in terms of their ability to succeed, when they desire successful futures badly enough to work hard enough to get it.
What, then, went wrong? What needs to be done? And most troubling what can be done?  Unfortunately, these three questions are so linked that what went wrong likely will continue to hinder any chances of returning Port Arthur to its best or hoped-for days.  The vision for such a future must first recognize and then acknowledge reasons for Port Arthur’s decline.  These reasons must either be eliminated or ways found to succeed despite the what and who that caused and continue to sustain the decline.
Contrary to the opinions expressed by others about selecting the right people to serve on a committee to plan Port Arthur’s turnaround, I believe the elected officials of PAISD, the city of Port Arthur, Jefferson County and perhaps the Economic Development Commission should serve of that committee.  They include the elected leaders of Port Arthur, citizens who expressed a desire to serve the patrons of Port Arthur, the ones the majority of the voting public trusted to look out for their best interest, which is what is at stake  They are the people most responsible to the citizens of Port Arthur, and are the only ones voters can hold accountable, either rewarding them with re-election for Port Arthur’s successful turnaround or punishing them with rejection if their efforts result in failure.
Both Rich Macke and Sen. Carl Parker seem to believe that 12 is the right number of members for the committee.  Who will select committee members is equally debatable, as would be the way the chairman of the committee is to be selected — and the authority that person would have to dictate the direction of the committee.  Certainly, Mr. Macke’s appointment to the chairman position would be inappropriate, given his expressed desire to see the city returned to Port Arthur’s former days and the old ways, ways that limited black citizens to one member at a time to serve on the school board and city council.  Most of the times, the black representative elected was not the black community’s choice.  That system proved not to be a way to sustain the glory days, and it certainly is no way to move forward toward their return.  Also, Mr. Macke — and, at least, one of the voters he probably would like appointed to the committee — seem to believe that because Senators from the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico will likely have to vote on bills that will affect people who live in Texas, Texans should have the right to help determine those Senators by voting in those state’s elections.
The establishment of single-member districts in Port Arthur, while finally giving black voters a chance to elect representatives from their own communities, gave them — and all Port Arthur residents — input into the City’s needs and elections.  The new system allowed for the election of two at-large positions and two expanded single-member districts, both of which provided opportunities for voters in different parts of the city to vote for or against candidates who resided outside their own districts or communities, based on those candidates’ ideas about governing the city and protecting the city’s future.
It is unfortunate that the citizens of Port Arthur did not see the need to have single-member districts adopted for PAISD.  Two attempts were made by me: once as a member of the school board and once after having decided not to seek re-election.  The suggestion was to superpose the city of Port Arthur’s districts on the school district since the city and school district occupied mostly the same land and residents. The proposals were rejected both times by the board  and received no support from Port Arthur voters — including those who had fought so hard to have the old city’s election system changed.
It is within that culture of residential indifference — and little or no community-wide dialog among community leaders — that Port Arthur will attempt to find another way (a better way) to pursue, perfect and preserve another better day.
Ronald C. Spooner of Port Arthur is a retired educator. Contact him at rcspoon@earthlink.net.