Victoria has winning hand in university poker game

March 17, 2011 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated March 16, 2011 at 10:17 p.m.

In the poker game Texas Hold 'Em, there is a betting concept called being "pot-committed."

A card player is pot-committed when he has so many chips already invested in the hand - relative to the odds of winning and his remaining chips - that he simply must call the bet.

Folding the hand would be a mathematical mistake.

Victoria city and business leaders found themselves pot-committed in a high stakes, higher education card game involving the future of what is now the University of Houston-Victoria.

Having grown dissatisfied with what was perceived as a lack of commitment by the University of Houston System to make the Victoria campus a destination university, leaders developed a new strategy.

The strategy centered on finding a different university system to shepherd the Victoria campus into the future. Texas A&M was identified as a likely new partner. Tactics were developed to shift control of Victoria's higher education assets currently held by UHV to the Aggie system.

Such a move requires legislative action, and leaders worked with area legislators, particularly Rep. Geanie Morrison, to draft what would become HB 2556, which was introduced in Austin earlier this month.

The card-playing metaphor becomes even more appropriate with the filing of HB 2556. Approaching the legislature for action significantly upped the ante into the pot, so to speak, and resulted in a move that has been viewed by some as controversial.

Last month, the Victoria Economic Development Corp. approached the Victoria City Council and the Victoria Sales Tax Development board to request an addition to the VEDC budget of $100,000. It was revealed this week that the funds, approved in executive session without public debate, were to be used to support passage of HB 2556.

Opponents of the expenditure objected to the lack of transparency in approving the funds, particularly in the challenging economy in which our community finds itself. Many were bothered that taxpayer monies were being spent "behind closed doors," as one vocal opponent was quoted.

We, too, are troubled by the perception of a clandestine action in this matter. However, given the circumstances, we understand that city leaders did not want to "show their hand" too early in the game, to extend the poker metaphor even further.

While we advocate transparency in public actions in every case, it's clear no laws were broken in appropriating these funds. Leaders were simply taking positive action to support their higher education strategy.

There can be no doubt that a destination university in Victoria would be a huge economic benefit for our community.

In community development, as in poker, hope alone is not a winning strategy. Seasoned poker players will tell you that winning takes bold action. Seasoned economic development professionals echo that sentiment.

In this instance, we endorse the use of public funding to assist in the passage of HB 2556. We recognize the need for careful and circumspect planning with regard to the future of higher education in our community.

We believe the community has a winning hand and supports the city's efforts to be victorious. Now, it's time for the private sector to enter the game.

We encourage private companies and citizens to join with Victoria leaders in supporting passage HB 2556 and the future of higher education in our community.

When that happens, all of Victoria and the surrounding area can, in poker parlance, "rake the pot" of commerce generated by a destination university here.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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