Victoria has history of progressive change
By BY WILL ARMSTRONG
Jan. 11, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 10, 2014 at 7:11 p.m.
Back in 2005, some members of City Council were asked by interested parties to support a very strict smoking ordinance. The ordinance would ban all smoking in buildings open to the public. These ordinances are now common all across the United States and in some foreign countries, but they weren't then.
The proposed idea was public knowledge, but an ordinance had not been written. I personally liked the idea; at the same time, I never thought it had a chance of passing.
In mid 2005, I was with a group of about 20 people. We all knew each other. There was a lull in the conversations around the tables, and I tapped on my glass for attention. When people turned to me, I said, "As you know, a strict smoking ordinance is being discussed by the council, and I'd like to impose on you. With no discussion, would each of you raise your hand if you would vote to pass a smoking ordinance?" Of about 20 people, four hands went up.
Then without prompting, Dr. Tim Hudson, who was then the president of the University of Houston-Victoria said, "I'm a newcomer to Victoria, and I'd like to give you my viewpoint. If, as an outsider looking at Victoria and aware of the fact that a strict no-smoking ordinance was in force, I would think, 'wow, this is a progressive town.'"
Without discussion, I called for another vote, and about 12 hands went up. Then, I asked for a show of hands of those who would definitely vote against an ordinance, and if I remember correctly, only three hands were raised. Progressive action was the clear winner; thank you, Hudson.
If you didn't live in Victoria back in 2005 and 2006, you missed something that resembled a dog and cat fight. Eventually, after a lot of scratching and biting, a strict ordinance was passed by the council in 2006.
During all the time I was on the council and even to the present time, no other ordinance has been more controversial. After the strict anti-smoking ordinance was implemented, no other ordinance has been more appreciated by the majority of Victorians.
In the first three years of this decade and all of the last decade, we (this city) made many progressive decisions and investments. All of the citizens that supported or didn't support these progressive decisions and investments will someday be dead. The lifespan of our investments will easily outlive all of us, and Victoria will be a better place for our descendents.
All of the above is background information; next is the reason I'm writing this article.
We need to thank our City Council and the city manager's staff for working together on a long-range plan to properly maintain and rebuild many of our residential streets. They are working on a good plan, but every time a plan is introduced that costs money, the naysayers complain about taxes.
In 1733, Benjamin Franklin wrote in "Poor Richard's Almanac" that "Taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride and four times as much by our folly."
It is a costly folly for us to forgo maintaining our residential streets, and if it takes an increase in taxes to get the job done, so be it. The longer we postpone doing the right thing - rebuilding dilapidated residential streets - the more it will cost.
The issue of rebuilding residential streets is just one example of doing something progressive, there are many more. Over and over again we, as citizens and local government officials, need to look to the future and make decisions that will make our quality of life blossom for us today, and for future generations to come.
If Victoria is to be thought of as a progressive city we must continue to invest in our city. If we are unwilling to invest in Victoria, how can we expect our children and grandchildren to invest in their future here?
Currently, this area exports mainly cattle, grain, cotton, plastics, petrochemicals, oil, gas and Caterpillar excavators. If we aren't considered a progressive city by making progressive investments, then we will be exporting our most valuable possessions: our children.
Will Armstrong is a resident and former mayor of Victoria.