Letter to Victoria council members, citizens

Aug. 6, 2011 at 3:06 a.m.

It is a fact that across the nation small towns are dying as young people leave to find meaningful employment in big cities.

The economy here in Victoria is different from the national norm. I want our citizens to know why we are bucking the national trend. Also, I want to give my opinion on how we can maintain, or increase, our present level of prosperity.

We proudly invested $159,000,000 in our public school system and it shows visitors that our voters are serious about education.

Investments have been made at the Port of Victoria, which now has more tenants and activity than ever before.

We are in the process of re-building Laurent Street, part of Red River Street, all of Sam Houston Street and have completed the Lone Tree Street project.

We invested in the land that Caterpillar is building on.

We have rebuilt some of the sidewalks downtown, done some paving in the area, and we are replacing the underground utilities in the area. Main Street has never looked better.

This year, the state granted approval for only one city to make its final application to the state for a sanctioned Main Street Program, and our Victoria was that city.

About three years ago, some of the leaders in our community invested their time in successfully convincing the Board of Regents of The University of Houston to offer freshman and sophomore classes. Now, in the second year of this operation, with more than 2,000 student applicants for this coming fall, it is a major disappointment that the regents and main campus management team of UH didn't see the value and potential of higher education in Victoria. To this date, no acceptable master plan for UHV's future has been presented to the community. Still, a four year university program is a selling point for Victoria.

Two or three years ago, no one in Victoria could have predicted that Caterpillar would invest in Victoria or the economic windfall that the shale oil activity would bring to us. Sales tax revenues have increased and property values have, for the most part, been stable or raised only a little. So far, one apartment complex is under construction and another apartment complex has announced an expansion. We have had an announcement from the owners of the mall that they are going to upgrade their investment. Discount Tire, Pier One, The Pump House Restaurant and Wells Fargo have buildings under construction. Also, I am confident that the building of more motel/hotel rooms will soon be announced. Residential house sales are starting to increase, and new home construction looks promising for the first time in years.

Like never before, developers of all kinds are contacting the city planning department and The Victoria Economic Development Corporation with questions about making investments here.

I, personally, have met with and driven investors and developers around Victoria. I give a good tour because we have a lot to show. But when I'm driving them around, I don't go on or talk about the residential streets that were built 40, 50, and 60 years ago. I don't drive them on Trinity Street and I also don't mention that under those streets are pipes that need to be replaced.

When I am showing Victoria to investors, I don't mention that if we don't spend more money on residential streets the property values in some of our neighborhoods will fall.

Looking ahead, there are some situations that need to be addressed:

n We need to annex out North Main Street and North Navarro Street. If we don't extend our jurisdiction and utilities out from town, rural subdivisions will block planned growth in these areas.

n We need to build another street that connects North Main to North Navarro. We already own Ball Airport Road, and if we could get some land donated, we could build this street, which would open more property for development and improve traffic flow closer to town.

n We could extend Glasgow, from North Navarro between Walmart and Lowes, around to Business Highway 59.

These above projects first take vision, then commitment and, lastly, money. Lots of money. All of these projects are needed now. Someday our children and grandchildren may gravely doubt our intelligence if we don't properly plan for their future.

Every year, the City Council sets the budget for the following year. The city administration is recommending that we keep the same tax rate of 65 cents per $1,000 valuation, as last year. This recommended tax rate plus the additional sales tax that we expect to collect will generate additional money that can be invested in our future.

This year, I am going to ask the council to accept the administration's recommended valuation. I would like to see the budget pass with all seven votes. This is the time to plan for organized growth and for us to invest in Victoria's future.

If our own citizens, elected officials and governing bodies are not committed to the education of all young people, and if we don't maintain our city and, above all, protect and invest in our future, then we can't expect others to come and invest in Victoria.

If we lose our economic momentum, we lose our young people. If we lose our young people we miss seeing our grandchildren grow up.

P.S.: Unlike Washington, our city has a balanced budget, and the Victoria economy is doing a lot better that the stock market.

Will Armstrong is mayor of Victoria. Contact him at will@armstrongmovers.com



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