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MARY MEAUX — Port Arthur miserable? Not to everyone

A recent article in Business Insider listed Port Arthur, Texas, as the second most miserable city in the U.S., putting us below cities such as Flint, Michigan, which was No. 7, Detroit, Michigan, which was No. 3, and Camden, New Jersey, No. 8.

And while the story stressed “not the worst, just the most miserable,” criteria reportedly takes into consideration population change “because if people are leaving it’s usually for a good reason,” percentage of people working, median household incomes, percentage of people without healthcare, median commute times and the number of people living in poverty.

This revelation struck Dr. Glenn Mitchell, principal at Memorial High School in Port Arthur, with surprise.

A native Port Arthurian and longtime educator, Mitchell sees the city with clear eyes.

“I say to myself, you’re surrounded by industry worth more than a trillion dollars of finances representing these industries and you have a reputation of being the worst? Well show me the best.”

Mitchell sees a bright future with the city’s youth through a partnership with industry and business leaders who are willing to lend a hand and a recommendation to them.

He’s a staunch proponent of going to college if you are college bound but there are those who want to go into the crafts field or work in industry, he said.

But the article hit the nail on the head in some instances.

  • “Often these cities have been devastated by natural disasters” — Port Arthur saw devastation with Hurricane Rita in 2005, Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
  • “They’ve had to deal with blight and with high crime rates” — Port Arthur does have many vacant and dilapidated homes and there is a process to remedy this, it just takes time.

Crime is another issue of its own. Last year saw 14 homicides in the city. So far this year there have been 5 certified homicides and one incident under investigation to see if it was homicide.

  • “Economics have struggled after industry collapsed” — this item doesn’t quite fit in with our city where Motiva has purchased several buildings downtown, they purchased Flint Hills Resources and is working on a multi-billion expansion. A joint deal between Valero and Darling will bring a renewable diesel plant to the city, Port Arthur Liquefied Natural Gas company is looking to expand to four trains and other LNG’s and plants are expanding or are involved in major projects.
  • “The cities also tend to have high rates of addiction” — That is likely true. A drive around town, especially in areas near Twin City Highway and Texas 73, areas near both Walmarts, some gas stations, etc. and you will see people under the influence of, well, something. Crime reports also show this to be true.

All of this — the miserable ranking combined with upcoming work and possibilities is a bit of an oxymoron leaving one to wonder how can this be and what is the answer.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman “Bill” Bartie held a roundtable discussion Tuesday with local business and industry leaders, educators including Mitchell, and lawmakers with the guidance of Texas Public Policy Foundation hoping to find that solution on how to improve workforce readiness for Port Arthur youth.

There is now open dialogue — the next step is action.

Mary Meaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com