Page 1

TEXANS HIT ROAD AGAINST RAVENS

$1.50

HOUSTON WILL TRY TO END BALTIMORE’S PERFECT RECORD AT HOME. SPORTS, 1C TIME: NOON ■ STATION: CBS

SUNDAY, JANUARY 15, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

69˚/62˚

HOW WE GOT HERE HOW WE FIX THEM

Mostly cloudy with a shower 19A

OUR ROADS

Quick Read

A SPECIAL REPORT

HARBOR FERRY RIDERSHIP UP More passengers rode the Harbor Ferry in 2011, but that doesn’t mean the fees collected increased. Only 15 percent of the annual operating cost was recovered. LOCAL, 1B

PLENTY OF GOOD FISHING Weekend anglers sometimes are beset by crowded waters, but David Sikes still finds spots where fish are plentiful. SPORTS, 14C-15C

INDEX BUSINESS COMICS CROSSWORD LOTTERY OBITUARIES WEATHER

16A 1D 5G 2C 6B-7B 19A

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883-3800

8

13.4% $6,685,7 35

General governm en

21% t $10, 497,86

7.9% tal $3 ,964,861 6.1% ing $3 ,031,919

Inspectio & operat ns ions

11.7% $5,854,4 61

3

ZON E

Street

Parks & 898 recrea tion

8

Le o

Source:

city of Co

city of Co

rpus Christ

i

get: $

upport

rpus Christ

i

, $478

Nue c Bay es

Source

: city

of Co

8% Utility $809,3 c 36 5% Potho le $539,0 re 17 11% Base failure $1 3 ,176,580 20% Level u $2,12 p 9,178

4

rpus Ch

risti

2

,761

2% Stree 18in 1 spe $172,8

358

INSIDE: 1AA-4AA ■ The city has letl 3.2%

8,733

4% Office s

7

7% Minor impro street v $750,0 ements 00

ENT

10,56

19% Re4c4on structi $1,99 on 7,165

32S %

Police ZON $63,53 1,290 E TOT A SCO L 0 RE 1 65.6 1 2 67.1 224.4% 3 3 .41 Fire $44,840 4 53.2 9,766 6 5 58.7 9 6 64.6 6 7 54.1 3 8 56.2 5 6013.4.9% Gene $27,4467, 100797 gove ral p rnment 55 p oint s ca4% oint 3. le s loowe Nonr is f and$6,755,5 57 depa ailin rtmenta g

2 Bud

pa rd

$6,421,9 78 deteriorate Engineer streets ing 11.7% So $23,29 for decades. Now 2,637 w lid aste 2010 CIT we’ll have to pay if Y STREE The city T CONDIT uses a pa we want to fi x them. chart sh IONS ows the vement condition number of square score to determ ■ ine what yards of Streets in the worst pavemen m Poor (rec t that fa aintenance is ne Score* on ll into ea Fair (ove struction) Resident ch catego eded on a road. rla 0-55 ial The condition also are ry. Satisfact y) Co lle 5,745,45 ctor ory 56-70 2 Arterial Good (sea (overlay) 2,057,74 1,494,83 9 l coat) 71-85 2 Total to be 1,772,83 likely least Total 70 1, 1 1, 820 584,160 86-100 9,576,03 745,126 2 649,505 1,957,35 2,941,77 4 61 fi xed. 1,148,74 1,714 8 10,781,7 2 98 2,845,37 1,549,27 4,557,81 9 4 6 4, 655,370 678,945 ■4,Better streets can 20,018,5 59 improve economic Source:

24% Seal c o $2,51 at 5,826

37

let

401

7.8% $15,539,

Rob stow

30

T DEP ARTM

r 201

ne

Fire

Engineer

how it compares with others in Corpus Christi using an interactive map. ■ Watch a video about what it’s like to drive on some of the best and worst streets in the city. ■ Upload photos of your street to Click and Share. ■ See more photos from the streets project to learn about how city streets are built and repaired.

ld

Fie conditions in dd the s le Ro ap t city —S if1businessesf uf Bl can survive longlourconn F ro struction periods.Wald 0 ■ Poor roads can Lag u Mad na damage the pride of re neighborhoods and the entire city. ■ Should we pave roads with concrete or asphalt?

Squirrel Busters abandon ship

■ Ingleside on the Bay back to normal collettem@caller.com 361-886-3678

CRIMINAL

21.4% $10,676, 08

Nondepartm en

■ Find your street condition score and see

77 n

Police

/STREETS

By Mark Collette

HELP CATCH A

46

l Yea

2011

5.5%

$10,847,

8.3% $4,155,0

Fisca

ID

NATION, 5B

13

Parks & recreatio n

FISCAL YEAR

STRE E

SP

Remains from two dozen graves of freed slaves and their children, buried in a longforgotten cemetery, may be moved to a new cemetery soon.

10.2%

$5,119,2

DGET

og

EXCAVATION OF CEMETERY ENDS

UND BU

t ra

BUSINESS, 16A

BY Z ONE

The city ’s years, th budget for streeeet e police ts and and s has been decr ea fire depa rtments sing as a percen saw the largest in tage of the gene FISCAL rral fund. creases. Y During th EAR 1981 Street e last

Sa

Customer service is more accessible than ever, with most major companies employing social media teams to resolve complaints.

he conditions of city streets touch every part of your life — your commute to work, trips to the grocery store and which areas of town you show off to visiting friends. It shapes how you feel about your city. About half of Corpus Christi’s streets are in poor condition. They are beyond repair and need to be rebuilt. The problem didn’t happen overnight, and now it’s going to cost $1.2 billion to bring the streets back to a level that can be maintained. The city doesn’t have the money. A committee of five local professionals is figuring out how we can fund a street maintenance plan. There are no easy answers to the problem, but something has to be done. At stake is not only your car suspension, but also neighborhood pride and the city’s ability to grow.

Airli

CUSTOMERS CAN VENT ONLINE

NERAL F

COR E

inzie

WORLD, 11A

T

CITY GE

Vio

The Costa Concordia, which went down off the coast of Italy on Saturday and left three people dead, prompted international response.

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Roadwork continues on Kostoryz Road recently as city officials discuss how to pay the estimated $1.2 billion needed for repairs and new roads in the city. Half the roads in Corpus Christi are beyond the point of repair and need to be rebuilt. S

McK

CRUISE SHIP SINKS IN ITALY

The bizarre saga of a Scientology film crew in Ingleside on the Bay may have come to a close. No one has seen a Squirrel Buster since September. Residents have turned their attention back to more mundane matters: equipping the new firetruck, hammering out a water supply contract with neighboring Ingleside, celebrating one local couple’s 60th anniversary, a little fishing here and there. But in one long, surreal summer, something bewildering happened here — something that showed what this little seaside hamlet is made of. For five months, the Squirrel Busters flitted around in their golf

INSIDE Timeline of Squirrel Busters events. 6A

cart and popped up with cameras everywhere Marty Rathbun went, even filming him from a paddleboat in the canal behind his house. They engaged in what the sheriff ’s chief deputy and the county attorney called provocation until Rathbun snatched a pair of sunglasses from one of the Squirrel Busters, leaving a scratch on his forehead. They filed charges to have Rathbun arrested for assault; the county attorney dropped the case. They peppered him with questions about unauthorized e-meters and other squirrelly business that, more or less, made no sense to anyone who lives here. The townspeople held council meetings, put up signs warning

MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES FILE

Mark “Marty” Rathbun, at his home in Ingleside on the Bay, continues to speak out against the Church of Scientology. He said Ingleside on the Bay has stood up for him even though he drew unwanted attention from a Scientology group called the Squirrel Busters.

away the fi lm crews, and stuck up for Rathbun, despite not really knowing him or his role in what has been dubbed one of the world’s most secretive religions. “I anticipated I was going to have to defend myself” to the neighbors, Rathbun said. “I did not once have to defend myself on what I believe

and what I practice.”

CHECKERED PAST To most, it is known simply as the religion of the stars, of Tom Cruise and John Travolta. To some, it is science fiction. To

See SCIENTOLOGY, 6A


1AA » Sunday, January 15, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

HOW WE GOT HERE HOW WE FIX THEM

OUR ROADS A SPECIAL REPORT

RACHEL DENNY CLOW/CALLER-TIMES

Without sidewalks on this street near Ray High School, Terry Guerra walks in the street as she heads to a bus stop in December. The problem is heightened when it rains and potholes fill with water. Nearly half of the city’s 1,200 miles of road are in poor condition and need to be replaced.

‘This is almost an

INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEM. This is a problem that there are

NO EASY ’ ANSWERS TO.

PAT VETETO, ENGINEER AND CHAIRMAN OF A STREETS MAINTENANCE COMMITTEE TASKED WITH FINDING A SOLUTION

■ With no money

to repair streets, officials try to find road to recovery

By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

Every weekday a barrage of school buses and cars rumbles down Harry Street, leaving the uneven, pocked pavement more vulnerable. It’s been 20 years since the street behind Windsor Park Elementary was rebuilt, and it hasn’t received any maintenance since. A seal coat over the road or a layer of asphalt every five and 10 years would have kept it from becoming an uneven patchwork of potholes. It needs to be replaced again, which likely won’t happen for several more years. “I’ve been here eight years and all they’ve ever done is patch holes,” resident Eddie Gonzales said. “Patch, patch, patch.” The city streets plan has reached a dead end. Decades of neglect have left about half of Corpus Christi’s 1,205 miles of roads — from Calallen to Corpus Christi Beach to Padre Island — crumbling beyond the point of repair, and they will continue to worsen because the city doesn’t have money to rebuild them. Public frustration has grown during recent months. Mayor Joe Adame handpicked a committee to research and recommend a plan. The committee’s recommendation is expected at a City Council meeting Jan. 31 with a final plan by July 31. It’s likely the biggest issue the council will decide this year. The problem is much larger than a bond election or the city budget. It will require

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Roadwork continues on a three-year construction project on Kostoryz Road as city officials discuss how to pay for repairs and new roads .

a new tax — one the council wants voters to decide. To get the streets back to a manageable condition will cost an estimated $1.2 billion and take decards of road reconstruction and maintenance. That price includes road reconstruction and regular maintenance. One glaring question remains: How much of a tax increase can residents and businesses take to repair the streets? “This is almost an insurmountable problem,” said engineer Pat Veteto, who chairs a streets maintenance committee tasked with finding a solution. “This is a problem that there are no easy answers to.” Most of the poor roads are residential and collector streets, such as Harry Street, because priority goes to the heaviest traveled roads in the city. Also, the longer a street goes without maintenance, the more expensive it is to repair. That’s how the city ended up where it is today. Historically the city has relied on voterapproved bonds leveraged against residents’ property taxes to pay for the bulk of the work. About $25 million in street

reconstruction is being done this year as a part of $100 million in road projects voters approved during a 2008 bond election. Almost all of the projects are to tear up and replace sections of some of the city’s most heavily traveled roads, such as Staples Street and Kostoryz Road. It’s still not enough.

THE BEATEN PATH The streets haven’t always been this bad. A bust in the oil and gas market in the mid-1980s derailed the Corpus Christi economy and major street projects. Businesses left, and property values declined. Voters in 1986 approved about $111 million in bonds for street projects and other public improvements. Council members promised the projects would be done without a tax increase. As the economy deflated, so did that promise. A drastic drop in local property tax revenue meant the projects couldn’t be done without a tax increase. See ROADS, 2AA


2AA » Sunday, January 15, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

OUR ROADS

A SPECIAL REPORT

STREET DEPARTMENT Fiscal Year 2012 Budget: $10,568,733 4% Office support, $478,761

24% Seal coat $2,515,826

Eddie

Street Department FY 2012 B Gonzales, $10,568,733 who lives at

2% Street inspections $172,870

Chase Drive

Office supportand Harry Street inspections Street, has Utility cut repairs complained Pothole repairs to the city Base failure repairs for years Level up about the Minor street improvements Reconstruction condition of Seal coat Harry Street.

8% Utility cut repairs $809,336 19% Reconstruction $1,997,165

5% Pothole repairs $539,017

TODD YATES/ CALLER-TIMES

11% Base failure repairs $1,176,580

7% Minor street improvements $750,000

20% Level up $2,129,178

Source: city of Corpus Christi

ROADS

BY THE NUMBERS

from 1AA

Also during that time, the city cut its capital budget, which slowed the replacement of equipment used to build and maintain streets, said Kevin Stowers, assistant director of city engineering services. When former Mayor Loyd Neal was elected mayor in 1997, he set out to finish the 1986 projects so the city could move forward. “The trust factor was terrible,” Neal said. “The city hadn’t grown. We had gone down.” The 1986 bond dragged out for nearly a decade with no bond elections for streets. Members of the Corpus Christi Taxpayers Association frequently spoke during a public comment period at City Council meetings to remind elected officials about their unfulfilled promise, Neal said. The City Council issued a few million dollars in debt in 1998 to complete the projects. After those were under way, Neal campaigned for a $30 million bond election to pay for streets and other major public improvements. It passed in 2000. Neal said his hope was that bond projects would be completed in four years and then another set of projects proposed to voters. Since then, residents have approved two multimillion-dollar bonds without a tax increase to pay for them. The 2008 bond included $100 million in street construction projects, several of which expand the city’s infrastructure, such as the widening of Yorktown Boulevard between Staples Street and Cimarron Drive. To afford another bond election in 2012, residents would have to agree to a tax increase because the city has reached its debt capacity. The tax increase depends on the bond amount. Council members haven’t decided whether to ask voters to approve another bond. Even with another bond election, street committee members say one every four years is not enough to reverse the problem. There also needs to be a dedicated funding source to pay for routine street maintenance.

LOSING TRUST In February a banker, an architect, a street construction contractor, an engineer and a former university president had their first street committee meeting. They have met several times to discuss funding for street maintenance and given two presentations to the council. A final one is expected Jan. 31. The committee members agree there needs to be an additional fee on utility bills dedicated to street maintenance. There are

1,205

Miles of streets

City population Street miles Maintenance budget Maintenance budget (adjusted for inflation) Maintenance percent of general fund Maintenance budget per person Maintenance budget per street mile

The city’s budget for streets has been decreasing as a percentage of the general fund. During the last 30 years, the police and and fire departments saw the largest increases.

48 percent

FISCAL YEAR 1981

In poor condition and need to be reconstructed

Parks & recreation

$10.5 million

$55.7 million

Committee recommendation for the city’s annual street maintenance and reconstruction budget

21.4% $10,676,088

Fire

13.4% $6,685,735

$40 per month

Fee on every utility bill that would get us there, if it’s the only funding source

Street

7.8% Parks & $15,539,898 recreation

8.3% $4,155,046

Police

5.5%

$10,847,401

$5,119,213

$1.2 billion

Current annual street budget, not including bond projects

FISCAL YEAR 2011

10.2%

Street

Needed to bring all streets to a satisfactory level

32% Police $63,531,290

22.4% Fire $44,409,766

21% General government $10,497,863

22 years

Needed to bring streets to a satisfactory standard the city can maintain if we spent that much

13.9% General $27,467,797 government 7.9% Nondepartmental $3,964,861

30 years

Engineering

Life cycle for properly maintained city streets Source: Corpus Christi Street Maintenance Committee

Inspections & operations

6.1% $3,031,919

3.4% $6,755,557

Nondepartmental

3.2% $6,421,978

Engineering

11.7% Solid $23,292,637 waste

11.7% $5,854,461

Source: city of Corpus Christi

about 100,000 utility customers in Corpus Christi. They also want the council to consider redirecting sales tax revenue from the seawall maintenance fund, Regional Transportation Authority and Crime Control Board. A street user fee is the best option, committee members say, because it will go only to streets. The money can’t be used to pay for other city services, as property tax revenue can. During the past 30 years, the city street maintenance budget, which comes from property taxes, has been cut in half. In 1981 the city street maintenance fund made up 10 percent of the general fund budget. This fiscal year it is 5 percent of the budget. Fire and police saw the largest percentage increases during that time and collectively make up more than half of the city’s budget. Former Mayor Henry Garrett, who served on the council for six years and then as mayor for two terms beginning in 2005, said public safety was the No. 1 priority. Street maintenance was not adequate when he served, but he said the bond elections were important. “The council had good intentions,” he said. “We spent a lot of time identifying the roads we wanted in the bond issue.” As budget funds moved away from the streets department, the city added more streets to its inventory. Residential development moved farther south. Developers built new sprawling suburban neighborhoods along with winding streets

STREET BUDGET TRENDS Year

CITY GENERAL FUND BUDGET

reallocated sales tax money. If utility fees solely funded streets, it would cost about $44isper month per The utility The city uses a pavement condition score to determine what maintenance needed on a road. chart shows the number of square yards of pavement that fall into eachcustomer. category. The utility fee model Score* Residential Collector Arterial Total likely would have a flat Poor (reconstruction) 0-55 5,745,452 2,057,749 1,772,831 9,576,032 monthly fee for single famFair (overlay) 56-70 1,494,832 701,820 745,126 2,941,778 ily homes. Commercial Satisfactory (overlay) 71-85 1,584,160 649,505 611,714 2,845,379 properties, multifamily and Good (seal coat) 86-100 1,957,354 1,148,742 1,549,274 4,655,370 Haas Chu Veteto Furgason Guerra industrial would pay more Total 10,781,798 4,557,816 4,678,945 20,018,559 Richter because they typically genSource: city of Corpus Christi erate more traffic. Mayor Joe Adame formed ■ Robert Furgason, The user fee and how to the street maintenance president emeritus of committee more than Texas A&M Universitypay for streets would be a a year ago and asked Corpus Christi decision from either the members to come up with ■ Gabriel Guerra, executive council or voters.

CORPUS 2010 CITYCHRISTI STREETSTREETS CONDITIONS MAINTENANCE COMMITTEE

a funding source for city streets. They were told there was no money in the city budget to pay for the estimated $1.2 billion problem and given three objectives: the funding must be reliable, easy to explain and have a direct cost benefit to drivers. Committee members are:

with cul-de-sacs. The suburban neighborhood design, rather than a traditional grid design, has caused bottleneck traffic on arterial and collector streets, accelerating their deterioration, said Elizabeth Chu Richter, an architect and streets maintenance committee member. “To connect those areas with the rest of the city, there’s a cost for that,” Chu Richter said. One way to reverse the street maintenance problem, she said, is by encouraging dense population growth. Redeveloping older areas of the city also would increase the city’s tax base to help pay for better maintenance.

1980

1990

257,453 1,039 $5,883,850

277,454 1,128 $6,681,979

287,439 1,205 $10,117,639

$4,433,358

$4,084,872

$3,603,311

$4,318,241

10.3

7.2

5.4

5.1

$19.10

$15.87

$12.99

$15.02

$4,803

$3,970

$3,194

$3,584

232,134 923 $4,443,358

Source: Corpus Christi Street Maintenance Committee

2000

2010

vice president of Kleberg Bank ■ Darryl Haas, co-owner of Haas Anderson Construction ■ Elizabeth Chu Richter, principal of Richter Architects ■ Patrick Veteto, committee chairman, engineer and president of RVE Inc.

“It’s about catching up to where we were and maintaining an acceptable level of good streets,” she said. “My hope is that we are going to get our city to grow so we have more development in place, so the system can take care of twice as many people.” The committee recommends the city fund a $55 million per year maintenance plan. At that amount, it would take 22 years to get the streets to a satisfactory standard the city could maintain. The city builds streets to last 30 years with proper maintenance. The money to fund the plan would come from a new utility fee dedicated to street maintenance and also

OTHER CITIES’ FEES The idea is not unique in Texas. Bryan and Austin charge a transportation fee on customer utility bills. The Bryan City Council approved the new tax on utility bills in 1997 to pay for street maintenance, which was lagging, said Dale Picha , director of traffic and transportation for Bryan. “It stretches our resources,” he said. “If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t be able to do as many overlays for roads.” Residents pay $14 per month, and commercial properties pay on a sliding scale, from $49 per month to $210 per month, depending on square footage and the traffic a business generates. The city has 29,000 utility customers and collects about $4 million per year for street overlays, a routine maintenance requirement to prolong the life of asphalt pavement. Picha said the city also has a street maintenance budget, which pays for de-

Office support Street inspections Utility cut repairs Pothole repairs Base failure repairs Level up Minor street impro partment salaries, equipmentReconstruction and materials. For larger street projects, such Seal coat

as road reconstruction on thoroughfares, the city relies on voter-approved bond projects. In Austin the City Council approved a transportation user fee in 1992. The tax for residents is applied based on the type of home, such as a duplex, garage apartment or a mobile home. The cost is about $7.29 per month for a home. The commercial fee also is applied on a sliding scale based on acreage and the number of trips generated. It starts at $36.47 per month per developed acre. Austin has about 329,000 utility customers. This year the city expects to collect $43 million from the transportation user fee. The fees, along with $1.6 million from the general fund, make up a majority of the street maintenance budget, which also pays for city street employee salaries and other overhead costs. Any major street reconstruction projects are usually paid from bond projects posed to voters.

FINDING MONEY Most of Corpus Christi’s roads are made of asphalt, a material that requires routine maintenance. A few are made of concrete, which usually is more expensive to build but requires less maintenance during its life. The less maintenance on asphalt roads, the quicker the road deteriorates and the more expensive it becomes to repair it. Street reconstruction is expensive because of the amount of work involved to tear out streets and replace them along with the outdated storm drains and utility lines beneath them. The projects can take several months or, in the case of Kostoryz Road, three years because of the amount of work required. About 70 percent of the work for road reconstruction goes toward replacing inadequate storm drainage. Contractors tear out the old road and then dig underneath to remove older, smaller storm drains. Those are replaced with larger, square storm drains. In some cases, old storm drains are more than 6 feet underground. “It’s an extraordinary effort to do these things,” said street construction contractor Darryl Haas, who also is a member of the streets committee. The remaining work includes curbs, gutters, sidewalks and road pavement, which can take a matter of weeks to finish, depending on the scope of the project. See ROADS, 3AA

This neighborhood near Ray High School features streets such as Miami Drive which lacks sidewalks and has cracked streets. RACHEL DENNY CLOW/CALLER-TIMES


C A L L E R -T I M E S

OUR ROADS

« Sunday, January 15, 2012 « 3AA

A SPECIAL REPORT

City officials debate which mix is best ■ Streets made RECONSTRUCTION COSTS

with asphalt or concrete By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

Recent City Council debates have raised questions about which road material is better — asphalt or concrete. Asphalt pavement, or hot mix, dominates in Corpus Christi. More than 90 percent of local roads, both city and state maintained, are built using asphalt. Decisions about road materials often are driven by some of the city’s most experienced road contractors, including two who also manufacture asphalt. Contractors, city staff and council members continue to disagree about which material is best. Twice in recent months they’ve hotly debated the question before the council voted on multimillion-dollar road construction contracts. On Tuesday the council voted 5 -3 to rebuild one of the busiest sections of South Staples Street, between Williams Drive and Saratoga Boulevard, using concrete. Mayor Joe Adame and council members Chris Adler and Mark Scott voted against the contract. Adame said the asphalt bid appeared to be a better designed road for the price. Adler and Scott agreed. They also said asphalt provides a better ride, pointing out that the rest of Staples Street is built with asphalt. The $15 million contract went to local company Bay Ltd., which submitted the lowest bid. Bay Ltd. also owns an asphalt manufacturing plant. Concrete will cost the city $342,730 less than

A street is built to last 30 years. An asphalt street requires overlay and seal coat maintenance during that time. A concrete street requires joint repair work to keep the street level. Most of the time and money it takes to reconstruct a street goes toward rebuilding storm water drainage, such as curb and gutter. CONCRETE

$35 to $75 Price per square yard of concrete

ASPHALT

$25 to $40 Price per square yard of asphalt pavement (hot mix)

asphalt during the next 30 years, according to an analysis for the project presented by City Engineer Pete Anaya. The decision Tuesday followed a controversial vote several months ago for another road construction contract paid for with voter-approved bond 2008 money. For Airline Road, city engineers and residents recommended the road be rebuilt using concrete. Just before the City Council voted on the contract, local street contractors told them a vote for concrete would take business away from Corpus Christi. And they pointed out the concrete bid was 10 percent more expensive than asphalt.

St a ff-recom mended Houston-based company Texas Sterling Construction received a $6.32 million contract for the job. They said although the upfront cost was more expensive, it would be a better deal for the city because maintenance would cost less. Staff also held a town hall meeting where neighborhood residents said they preferred a concrete road. Philip Skrobarczyk of Fulton Construction and Darryl Haas of Haas-Anderson Construction asked council members to reconsider the staff recommendation and choose asphalt to support local business. A vote to use concrete and award the contract to the Houston company failed with a 5-4 vote.

RACHEL DENNY CLOW/CALLER-TIMES

Steam rises from the ground as Haas-Anderson Construction workers lay hot mix at an intersection on Bear Lane in November. More than 90 percent of local roads, both city and state maintained, are built using asphalt.

Larry Elizondo, Priscilla Leal, David Loeb and John Marez voted for concrete. The council then reconsidered a $6.26 million contract with Haas Anderson to build the road using asphalt. It passed with unanimous support. Haas, who has built roads in the area for 28 years and owns two asphalt plants, later said asphalt unfairly has a poor reputation, which he blames on lack of maintenance. “People have the idea that concrete is better than asphalt because of the streets built here,” Haas said. “They forget that most of (the roads) were built 40-plus years ago.” Anaya said he has a policy to bid both concrete and asphalt materials for road construction projects. Then engineering staff can determine which type of road will be the best deal for taxpayers. A majority of road projects have been built with

Businesses pay price for roadwork ■ Construction

deters patrons from stores By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

Six 10-feet-high storm drains block drivers’ view of the Times Market at Kostoryz Road and Foley Street. Construction hasn’t started outside the convenience store, but the market already is feeling the effects. Owner Sung Jang has seen a 50 percent drop in sales since construction began 10 months ago on Kostoryz. “I don’t understand why they are spending so much time on it,” he said, pointing toward the storm drains along the street waiting to be placed underground. He and other small-business owners along the congested thoroughfare are worried about surviving the three-year, $10 million construction project. A few have closed their doors. The contractor, Houstonbased Texas Sterling Construction, is working in sections to complete the concrete road project and replace the inadequate storm drains beneath it. Voters in 2008 approved about $100 million in road construction projects, many along the city’s most traveled thoroughfares including Kostoryz Road, Staples Street and Airline Road. Streets in good condition can foster development and growth in cities, but construction also comes with a price for business. “The natural reaction is when you see congestion to take another route, and that’s what a lot of people have done,” City Engineer Pete Anaya said. “We have tried to alleviate some of it.” The city had meetings

MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

Two 10-foot-by-10-foot storm drain blocks rest in front of a sports bar on Kostoryz Road . Business owners have complained that the three-year road construction project is hurting their businesses.

with business stakeholders to listen to concerns. Business owners said they were worried how traffic congestion and construction would affect access to their stores. They wonder why the project is taking three years to complete. Much of the time is spent on a large upgrade for storm drain capacity to help ease street flooding problems. Workers are removing a 4-foot diameter storm drain underneath the street and replacing it with a 10-foot-by-10-foot box. The city faces the same issue on most road projects. It makes sense to replace the aging and inadequate stormwater system underneath the streets at the same time roads are being replaced. But it also significantly lengthens the amount of time spent on construction. To ease concerns from business owners on Kostoryz, the city installed blue signs along the road to help drivers locate businesses. The signs haven’t helped

stop plunging sales numbers, business owners said. Diana Rivers, who owns Tweety’s Sports Bar and Grill, is nearly out of business. She says the customers quit coming about six months ago after construction ramped up. Her only business is on Friday and Saturday. Tweety’s is for sale. “I’m just about bankrupt,” she said. “It’s almost ruined me. I’m just trying to hang in there.” Bright Beginnings owner Norma Holmes hasn’t seen business this bad in the 30 years she’s owned the child day care center. Parents are upset about traffic congestion, and construction contractors are storing equipment in front of her store and ruining the parking lot, she said. The city’s signs help, she said, but she’s not sure it will make a difference in business. She’s worried whether the center will survive construction. “This is my livelihood,” she said. The Kostoryz Road project is one of several sections of city thorough-

fares under construction or planned for construction. On Tuesday the City Council approved a contract to begin street construction on South Staples Street between Williams Drive and Saratoga Boulevard, one of the busiest stretches of road in the city. City staff said they learned from the Kostoryz project. They are planning to have a public meeting and place business signs along the road, as they did for Kostoryz, and staff hired a firm to handle public outreach. District 2 Councilman John Marez said the same type of public outreach campaign should have been done for the Kostoryz project. The damage already has been done, he said. “I think we missed the opportunity,” he said. “Half of the road is done on one side. We need to have this institutional knowledge within City Hall that anytime we do a project of this magnitude, we have outreach. We have businesses going out of business, and I think that is inexcusable.”

asphalt, primarily because it’s cheaper, Anaya said. However, only recently did the price of concrete dip low enough to compete, at about 8 to 12 percent more than asphalt. A concrete road typically is more expensive to build but requires less to maintain during a street’s 30-year life cycle. Maintenance includes repairing joints, or the areas where sections of concrete meet. Without maintenance, those sections shift like tectonic plates and cause an uneven ride. An asphalt road usually is cheaper to build but more dependent on regular maintenance. It requires a seal coat at seven years, a new layer of asphalt at 15 years and another seal coat at 22 years. Without maintenance, potholes, cracks and deep ruts form, causing the road to crumble. The city doesn’t have enough funds to keep up with the required mainte-

nance, which is why about half of the streets are beyond repair and need to be reconstructed. Local engineers say deciding whether to use concrete or asphalt is a matter of preference. Either material will work for Corpus Christi’s clay soil and semiarid climate if the road is built correctly and routine maintenance is done, said Ernesto De la Garza, a state highway department engineer in the Corpus Christi office. The state maintains several roads within city limits, including portions of Weber Road, Ennis Joslin Road, Saratoga Boulevard and Agnes Street. The Texas Department of Transportation has a dedicated funding source for laboratory research and road design. When the department issues a construction bid, it usually specifies which material the contractor will use depending on road use and amount of traffic, De la Garza said.

ROADS

When it rains, it floods outside Brittany Palacios’ home at Blevins Road and Maryland Drive. To avoid ankle-deep puddles, she parks her car on the lawn. “It doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” Palacios said. Blevins connects the Bel Aire neighborhood to nearby thoroughfares Ayers Street and Kostoryz Road. Portions of the road haven’t received any significant maintenance, other than pothole repairs, since 1989. Decades of wear and tear along with inadequate storm drains have flattened the curb line, pulling the sidewalks down with it. Grass grows into the street, which makes it difficult to tell where the curb meets the road. It’s a common sight in many city neighborhoods built before 1970. A block away, Laura Torrez can’t park in her driveway off Blevins Road. When it rains, that section of the road, where the asphalt has worn away, turns to mud. She parks along Miami Drive to avoid the hassle. “It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “That’s just the way the street is.” The council faces a cynical public, one that has watched the roads crumble for years without anything being done, said Robert R. Furgason, president emeritus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and a member of the street maintenance committee. A committed funding source for street repairs will restore public confidence, he said. People want to know their tax dollars are going toward street improvements, he said, adding that the council should vote for a street user fee, just as it votes on annual water rates. “This is a defining moment,” Furgason said. “I think the council needs to stand up and do it. There is a reason they are being elected, and this is it. It sends a message that this is a community willing to tackle its problems.”

from 2AA

‘WE CAN’T KEEP UP’ Many of the roads in Corpus Christi haven’t seen significant maintenance in years. Valerie Gray, who oversees the stormwater and streets departments, understands public frustration. She’s watched the streets maintenance department’s budget continue to erode over the years. This year it’s operating with $10.5 million, an amount that’s not nearly enough to maintain the street system much less pay for the enormous cost to replace a street. “We can’t keep up with the system, so it keeps getting worse,” Gray said. Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez, who oversees city infrastructure, said the funding cuts are so severe that all the city can do is react to street problems by patching them. The city has budgeted about $5.4 million to fill potholes, rebuild the road where underground utility repairs are made, patch areas where the city’s roads have failed and rebuild ruts in the pavement. About $2.5 million is spent on preventive road maintenance for seal coats. The rest of the budget, most of which covers the $2 million in street reconstruction, also pays for salaries and inspections to keep a current inventory on street conditions. City staff and street maintenance committee members say the city can’t continue along at the same rate. “The worst thing we could do is nothing,” Martinez said. DEFINING MOMENT Some residents say they are used to the road conditions. For others, it’s a tiresome topic. Repeated requests for the city to repair the roads — beyond minor pothole patches — have gone unfulfilled because the city doesn’t have the money.


4AA » Sunday, January 15, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

OUR ROADS

CITY GENERAL FUND BUDGET

SCORE BY ZONE

The city’s budget for streets has been decreasing as a percentage of the general fund. During the last 30 years, the police and and fire departments saw the largest increases. Portland ortl

FISCAL YEAR 1981

8.3% $4,155,046

5

6

44

Police

$63,531,290

7 Fire

13.4% Sar $6,685,735 at

Fire 22.4% $44,409,766

21% General government $10,497,863 2

1

7.9% Nondepartmental $3,964,861

SP

ID

0

6.1% $3,031,919

Engineering

361

General 13.9% $27,467,797 government Laguna 3.4% Madre $6,755,557

Nondepartmental

3.2% $6,421,978

Engineering

P22

1 mile

11.7% Solid $23,292,637 waste

11.7% $5,854,461

Inspections & operations

Police

358

oga

100-point scale 55 points and lower is failing

Ingleside In e

3

Flo ur Blu Wa ff ldr on

65.61 67.13 48.41 53.26 58.79 64.66 54.13 56.25 60.44

4

Sta ple s

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Corpus Christi Bay32%

21.4% $10,676,088

Airline Ro dd Fie ld

McKinzie

Leo par d

Aransass

Street Pass

Parks & 7.8% $15,539,898 recreation

We be r

Violet

Parks & recreation

ZONES TOTAL SCORE

$10,847,401

Bay

8

ZONE

5.5%

181

$5,119,213 Nueces

37

Robstown Rob Ro bst b

FISCAL YEAR 2011

10.2%

Street

77

City’s worst roads not priority Source: city of Corpus Christi

■ Streets more 2010 CITY STREET CONDITIONS

costly, least likely fixed

The city uses a pavement condition score to determine what maintenance is needed on a road. The chart shows the number of square yards of pavement that fall into each category. Score* 0-55 56-70 71-85 86-100

Poor (reconstruction) Fair (overlay) Satisfactory (overlay) Good (seal coat) Total

By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

It’s a 39-way tie for the city’s worst street. Sections of Water Street in downtown and portions of residential streets on the city’s Northside, Southside and Westside received a zero, or the lowest score, on the city’s 100-point street ranking system. It’s reflective of a larger issue: Poor streets affect every area of Corpus Christi. And the worst streets are least likely to be reconstructed, in part because they’re the most expensive. The street condition scores are determined by two city street inspectors, who manually measure sections of every street in the city. The process takes about three years to assess the more than 3,000 streets in Corpus Christi. Many factors determine a score, including the size of a pothole, the depth of road ruts and the length of cracks, said Andy Leal, assistant director of city street services. “It’s trying to come up with a number that represents the condition of that area,” Leal said. The antiquated scoring system doesn’t consider how bumpy or smooth the ride is, but it’s an accepted industry standard and it’s all the department can afford with a $10.5 million budget. If the city did allocate more money to the streets department, Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said he would want to invest in a van equipped with modern technology, such as cameras to help streamline the scoring process.

Residential 5,745,452 1,494,832 1,584,160 1,957,354 10,781,798

Collector 2,057,749 701,820 649,505 1,148,742 4,557,816

Arterial 1,772,831 745,126 611,714 1,549,274 4,678,945

Total 9,576,032 2,941,778 2,845,379 4,655,370 20,018,559

Source: city of Corpus Christi

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

The pavement condition of Harry Street is rated 2 of 100, making it one of the worst streets in Corpus Christi. The city’s streets in poorest condition also are least likely to be reconstructed because it costs more and many of them are residential and affect few people.

Find your street condition score and see how it compares to others in the city using an interactive map.

The scores keep an accurate inventory of the system and help the street maintenance department figure out which streets to maintain. Those that score higher than 71 are in good condition and will require a seal coat about seven years after they are built. Those that score between 56 and 70 are in need of a new layer of asphalt. A street that scores 55 or lower needs reconstruction. But low scores don’t necessarily mean a street will be rebuilt. City streets in the worst

condition, which are about half of the city’s 1,200 miles of road, are low on the priority list unless they become a traffic hazard. That’s because it’s more expensive to tear out a road and replace it than it is to maintain roads in fair condition or better. To tear out a road and replace it costs about $81.60 per square yard for a residential road, or at least three times the cost of maintenance for a street overlay. A street seal coat is the least expensive for about $6.06 per square yard. That means streets with a score of 55 and below likely won’t receive any work beyond minor pothole or patch repairs. Residential streets, which make up a majority of the city’s poor streets, fall

and score 55 or less. A street that scores 55 or less needs reconstruction, according to city criteria. Those that score between 56 and 70 are in need of a new layer of asphalt. Those that score higher than 71 are in good condition and will require a seal coat about seven years after they are built.

even further down the list because the city considers arterial streets, such as Staples Street, a priority as they affect more people. The city has a history of funding major street reconstruction through voter-approved bonds. A few residential neighborhoods received new streets through bonds, but it’s not likely residential street projects will go before voters again. Assistant City Engineer Dan Biles said the department is writing a new matrix using the pavement condition index scores. Arterial streets receive better consideration for inclusion in a staff compiled list of potential bond projects, he said, because they affect the entire city instead of one neighborhood.

Mayor

At-large

At-large

Joe Adame, Graham Road

David Loeb, Del Mar Boulevard

Nelda Martinez, Cole Street

At-large

District 1

District 2

Mark Scott, Bermuda Place

Kevin Kieschnick, Pecos River

John Marez, Vaky Street

District 3

District 4

District 5

Priscilla Leal, Lamont Street

Chris Adler, Rainbow Lane

Larry Elizondo, Yaupon Drive

31 Scores for each of the city’s nine council members.

Rainbow Lane

13

Corpus Christi Bay

SP

ron

31 Wa ld

ur Flo

Yaupon Drive

Blu

ff

6

50

95

Graham Road

dF

Airline

ield

ID

s ple Sta

We b Locations are of streets and do not represent residences.

Northwest

19

er

ga

17

Pecos River

24

Ro d

rat o

Lamont Street

624

94

Riv er

50

1/2 mile

Bermuda Place

19 Sa

Nu ece s

Del Mar Blvd.

Vaky 95 Street

Better roads can boost local pride ■ Residents

encouraged by improvements

savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

It’s likely your street condition is similar to your City Council representative’s street. An analysis of the city’s pavement condition index data shows the average street condition score for the city’s elected officials is 45 on a scale of 1 to 100. More than half of the city’s residential streets are in poor condition

9 17 94

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Sections of the 600 block of Hoffman Street show wear and tear, while the 500 block has been replaced. Better streets can cause more homeowners and businesses to invest in a community.

By Jessica Savage

COUNCIL MEMBER STREET SCORES

Cole Street

A SPECIAL REPORT

Laguna Madre 1 mile

24

13

6

Pot holes don’t just beat up cars. They bruise neighborhood pride. The condition of city streets have a ripple effect on transportation, private investment and public perception. They are a critical component of a city’s quality of life, said urban revitalization expert Rosemary Wakeman, who directs the urban studies program at Fordham University in New York City. It’s important for people to see streets as public space, not just infrastructure, she said. “They are where we meet with each other and interface,” she said. “The First condition of the streets and reported on tells us much the sidewalks about our public domain and civic life.” A few years ago a cluster of residential streets in Corpus Christi were rebuilt using voter-approved bond 2004 money. The bond issue paid for new streets and utility funds for new drainage in one section of Lindale, a neighborhood behind Ray High School built in the 1950s. New streets, curbs and gutters inspired several residents who lived in the improved block to revamp their property. Some rebuilt their driveways, planted new landscapes and painted their homes. Property values increased. “Before, the streets flooded; you couldn’t keep your yard nice,” said Brianna Villarreal, who lives in the 500 block of Sorrell Street. “After they fixed them, we redid the landscaping. The new streets have definitely helped.” Her younger brother Brandon, 12, said he can play football in the front yard now. Along with the new streets, the city installed flashing lights and a crosswalk, which he said helps because there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood. The improvements ended, though, only a block east. In the remaining twothirds of the neighborhood, the streets have failed, the sidewalks are uneven, and storm drains are inadequate, leaving the streets filled with water when it rains. It frustrates those who live west of Reid Drive, the division between the old and new streets. Brandon’s 8-year-old twin sisters Brooke and Bridget Villarreal said they won’t ride their bikes

through the other side of the neighborhood because the streets are so bad. Resident Ann DeGaish lives on Deforrest Street, a few houses away from where the improvements were made. She’s lived there 16 years. “It’s so dramatic,” she said. “It’s just blatant that it’s not as nice. People want to live in this neighborhood, but it leaves a bad taste when you see the streets.” A year ago DeGaish decided she couldn’t wait on a bond project, so she spent the money to rebuild the sidewalks, driveway and a walkway to her front door. “It bothers me that they only did one-third of the street,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense.” Attractive public spaces, such as streets, not only increase access through a city, but also fuel revitalization. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as rebuilding a road, Wakeman said. The city can spend money to improve sidewalks, add bike lanes and plant flowers, trees and shrubbery. Mayor Joe Adame, whose background is in real estate, has worked to improve community pride. When elected, he organized three committees dedicated to quality of life, including the Clean City Committee, Corpus Christi Pride and the Mayor’s Fitness Council. Appointed committee members organize volunteers who work in neighborhoods to change perception through education, planning and sweat equity. Volunteers regularly mulch and weed the bayfront landscape and clean up trash. “I think everyone saw it needed to be done but maybe thought it was another person’s responsibility,” Adame said. “The city can support it when the initiative of citizens is there to improve it and want it to shine. When you partner like that, a lot of people get together and meet each other. It creates ownership.” Adame said streets are an important part of improving the city. When residents and business owners see public space improvements, it encourages them to invest, too. City leaders are trying to figure out how to pay for new streets and aging infrastructure. Cities across the country also are grappling with the same problem, Wakeman said. The important thing, she said, is keeping residents informed and engaged in the discussion, so they understand why a new tax is assessed and how it will benefit them. “People are more willing to support it then,” she said.


Recipes satisfy need for big flavor on Super Bowl Sunday. FOOD, 8B

75 CENTS

77˚/62˚ Mainly cloudy

11A

Quick Read

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

Fee proposed for street repairs

■ Mayor calls

for input from city residents

To read more about city streets, go to Caller.com/ streets.

By Jessica Savage

INSIDE

savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SERIES Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month, is the first in a series of profiles of those who have made a lasting impact on our world today. PAGE 2

Other council business. 9A

Residents will have their say about how to pay for repairs to the city’s crumbling streets. Mayor Joe Adame wants the community to weigh in on the issue, and three City Council members want voters to decide in November.

Council OKs district changes. 1B

“I see what’s going to happen now,” Adame said. “We are going to get the community involved. It’s got to be a dedicated source that we can be disciplined with to fix the

streets.” A street fi nance committee, hand-picked by Adame, gave a fi nal recommendation Tuesday about how the city should pay for street repairs and maintenance. City Manager Ron Olson said staff will bring the street maintenance issue back for council discussion to figure out a solid plan. The problem is much larger than a bond election or the city budget. It will require a new utility fee, See STREETS, 9A

MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

Vehicles drive past the potholes Tuesday along South Staples Street near Texan Trail.

Vigil for a leader RIGHT: Crystal Mead (second from

BEARS AGAIN TOPPLE BUCS The West Oso boys basketball team holds off Miller 65-60 in District 31-3A play — only this time the Bears don’t need six overtimes. SPORTS, 1C

INSIDE

ELECTION

GOP super PAC raises $51 million. 8A

2012 FLORIDA

Santorum, Paul campaign out West as Florida votes. 8A

Romney wins big in Florida

left) and daughter Sandi Mead listen as former students talk about Crystal’s husband, Lt. Cmdr. Rick Mead, on Tuesday during a candlelight vigil at Ray High School. More than 100 current and former students gathered with some of Mead’s family and friends to share stories and mourn the death of the longtime leader of Ray’s Navy Junior ROTC program.

GALLERY

■ Victory

See more photos from the vigil.

is worth 50 GOP delegates

YMCA TO ADD TO FACILITIES The YMCA of the Coastal Bend’s facilities are set for an upgrade that will include a youth center, a health and wellness area and a renovated parking lot.

By David Espo and Steve Peoples Associated Press

LOCAL, 1B

FACEBOOK SET TO OFFER IPO Facebook is expected to file to sell stock on the open market in what will be the most talked-about initial public offering since the 1990s. BUSINESS, 8C

INDEX BUSINESS 8C-9C COMICS 6B-7B CROSSWORD 7B OBITUARIES 4B-5B LOTTERY 7C OPINION 10A-11A ABOVE: Navy Junior ROTC members Taylor Perez (left) and Victoria Lopez, both sophomores, lean on one another Tuesday during a candlelight vigil for Mead .

/RFDO QHZV QRZ

LEFT: Sophomore Serena Canales hugs her boyfriend, sophomore Antony Lametrie , as they listen to students tell stories about Mead during Tuesday’s vigil.

Download our app with the QR code.

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney routed Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary Tuesday night, rebounding from the previous week’s defeat with a commanding victory and taking a major step toward the Republican presidential nomination. Despite the one-sided setback, Gingrich vowed to press on. “Thank you FL!” an exuberant Romney tweeted minutes after the race was called. “While we celebrate this victory, we must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama.” Returns from 98 percent of Florida’s precincts showed Romney with 46 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Gingrich. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had 13 percent, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul 7 percent. Neither mounted a substantial effort in the state. The winner-take-all primary was worth 50 Republican National Convention delegates, by far the most of any primary state so far. But the bigger prize was precious political momentum in the race to pick an opponent for Democratic President Barack Obama this fall That belonged to Romney when he captured the See FLORIDA, 8A

SIGNING DAY

Today is the first day for high school players to sign with college football programs across the country. We’ll have updates throughout the day. To subscribe:

883-3800

Judges skeptical of Texas’ redistricting motives ■ Panel hears

final arguments; decision pending By Henry C. Jackson Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Three federal judges weighing the legality of Texas’ new political maps reacted with skepticism Tuesday when

the state’s lawyer suggested the intent of the redrawn boundaries was to maximize the influence of Republicans, not to minimize the influence of minorities. The U.S. Justice Department and a coalition of minority groups contend the legislative and congressional maps the Texas Legislature drew last year recut districts in a way meant

to dilute the state’s burgeoning minority voting population. They say the maps violate a section of the Voting Rights Act that requires states with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices to get so-called “pre-clearance” from the Justice Department before making electoral changes. Texas is gaining four congressional seats this

year due to population readjustments made in the 2010 census. That has increased the redistricting stakes, with Hispanics and Democrats often clashing with the GOP-controlled Legislature about how the lines should be drawn. John Hughes, a lawyer for Texas, which is seeking to keep the maps in place, said during closing arguments before a Wash-

ington federal court panel that the maps were the result of partisan gerrymandering that didn’t violate federal law. He argued that “a decision based on partisanship” is not based on race, even if it results in minority voters having less political influence. “Political motivation is not evidence of racially

See REDISTRICTING, 9A


C A L L E R -T I M E S

ÂŤ Wednesday, February 1, 2012 ÂŤ 9A

FROM THE COVER/NATION from 1A

discriminatory intent,� he said. All three judges expressed doubt about that line of reasoning. “It’s really hard to explain (changes to the map) other than doing it on the basis of reducing minority votes,� presiding judge Rosemary Collyer. Judge Thomas Griffith also pressed Hughes: “Doesn’t the law require mapmakers to look at the consequences?� Timothy Mellett, a Justice Department lawyer, said the federal government contends there is overwhelming evidence the new maps would reduce minority voting clout, and that the burden should be on the state to prove racial motives weren’t taken into consideration. He also portrayed the state as unwilling to give a full account of how the maps were drawn, saying

the state’s claim that nearly all decisions were made at the staff level with minimal input from elected officials was simply not credible. “The fate of the congressional delegation, 100-plus lawmakers, is being decided ... and (Gerardo) Interiano is a lone wolf?â€? Mellett said, referring to the Texas House’s top redistricting staffer. “I ďŹ nd that implausible.â€? The Justice Department and the state were each given an hour each to make closing arguments Tuesday. Each of the minority groups was given 15 minutes to address the court. The groups mostly backed up Justice’s arguments. John Tanner, a lawyer for the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said the evidence showed Texas clearly sought to reduce minorities’ voting sway. “The state broke up these districts with a racial pur-

pose,â€? He said. “And with a racially discriminatory effect.â€? Gerald Hebert, a lawyer representing State Sen. Wendy Davis, who has sued maintaining her Senate district was cut apart on racial grounds, said his client — though white — was a clear choice of minority voters. He said his client was dismissed when she inquired what was going on during the redistricting process and that it reected the state’s attitude toward the Voting Rights Act. “Every time she wanted to see a map, they patted her on the head and told her to go away,â€? he said. The federal panel in Washington hasn’t indicated when it might rule in the case, but the judges reiterated Tuesday that they would like to move as quickly as possible. In addition to two weeks of testimony, each side submitted thousands of

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pages of documents as additional evidence and each will be ďŹ ling additional legal briefs to the judges next week. The Washington trial has continued even as attention shifted to a federal court in San Antonio that also is grappling with the redistricting issue. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected interim maps the court initially drew, it asked the San Antonio court to redraw the maps with more deference to the ones originally drawn by the Legislature. The San Antonio court gave Texas and the coalition of nine groups until Monday to agree on temporary maps that would remain in place through November’s election, or see the state’s April 3 primaries delayed. But on Monday, an attorney for one of the groups said the settlement talks had stalled, putting the primary date in jeopardy.

Utah teens held in school bomb plot By Brian Skoloff Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities on Tuesday charged a 16-year-old boy with a felony in what they say was a plot to detonate a bomb at a Utah high school. The teenager, along with Dallin Morgan, 18, had planned for months to bomb an assembly at Roy High School, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, then steal a plane from a nearby airport and flee the country, police said. Both were arrested last week. Morgan has been charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruc-

tion. He is set for a court appearance today and faces a possible life sentence if convicted on the ďŹ rst-degree felony charge. Prosecutors on Tuesday charged the 16-year-old with the same count in juvenile court, but have ďŹ led a motion seeking to try him as an adult. “The defendant’s emotional attitude, pattern of living, environment and home life demonstrate that he has sufficient maturity to appreciate the seriousness of these charges and to be tried as an adult,â€? prosecutors wrote in the motion filed Tuesday in Ogden’s 2nd District Court.

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Vehicles drive past the potholes Tuesday along South Staples Street near Texan Trail.

STREETS from 1A

the committee said. The city needs to spend $55.7 million per year — or ďŹ ve times the amount it currently spends. At that rate, it would cost each residential utility customer about $20 per month and take about 22 years for all city streets to be in a manageable condition. The utility fee costs could be offset by reallocated sales tax revenue, some of which is dedicated to seawall repairs. The committee left it up to the council to decide how much of the $55.7 million would come from utility fees or sales taxes. The council should establish a 30-year life cycle standard for all new streets, encourage inďŹ ll development and include a sunset provision for the street user fee to monitor whether it is successful, the committee said. Decades of neglect from city funding cuts have left about half of the city’s 1,205 miles of streets in poor condition, or past the point of repair. Also, more streets have been added to the city’s infrastructure at a faster rate than the city’s population growth. In 1981 the city spent 10 percent of its budget on street maintenance. This year the council allocated 5 percent of the city budget, or $10.5 million. It’s a trend the city needs to reverse, said streets committee member Robert Furgason. “It has to be addressed,â€? Furgason said. “This is the hottest issue in town.â€? Councilwoman Nelda Martinez said that for years council members have given a lot of lip service to the streets problem. She thanked the committee for the report and said she feels educated about the issue. “Now that it’s been brought to light, what are we going to do?â€? she asked. The committee said council members should

IN OTHER BUSINESS

++ +++ (3&#$ ')

â– A new storage warehouse planned for the Police Department is moving forward. The City Council approved a $147,000 design contract Tuesday with LaMarr Womack & Associates for a new building planned on city-owned land at 1501 Holly Road. The city purchased the property with money voters approved in 2008. â–  The building is being paid for with $1.3 million set aside this year from public health and safety capital improvement funds. Building construction is expected to cost $950,000 and will go out for bid this year.

decide how much residents can afford to pay, much like they do for city water rates. “You could take care of this next week and pass an ordinance to add a utility fee,� Committee Chairman Pat Veteto said. Council members David Loeb, Priscilla Leal and Mark Scott said they want voters to decide because they would be asking residents to pay. “At this point it’s about whether we have the political will to move forward with a decision,� Loeb said. “If we do not have this on the November ballot, I will consider that we have failed. I think it’s our responsibility as council members to have a conversation with the public if we don’t have the funds to pay for it.� City Councilman John Marez, whose district includes some of the oldest neighborhoods in Corpus Christi, said good streets would restore city pride. Residents wouldn’t have to be ashamed about driving on their city streets, he said. “It will be a hard sell and a difficult sell, but I think that people already know what it’s like when we don’t address the problem,� Marez said.

   

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6A » Thursday, February 2, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

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Editorial

Council should exercise its power to repair streets

A solution to the city’s billion-dollar street problem is within the City Council’s grasp — if only it would squeeze. A committee appointed by Mayor Joe Adame has recommended a new utility fee averaging about $20 a month. The fee would raise $55.7 million a year to be used for streets alone. At that rate, the city’s deplorable roadways would be upgraded to an acceptable condition in 22 years. “At this point,” Councilman David Loeb said Tuesday, it’s about whether we have the political will to move forward with a decision.” By all indications at Tuesday’s council meeting, they don’t. By political will, Loeb meant exercising the will to let voters decide. “If we do not have this on the November ballot,” he said, “I will consider that we have failed.” Sounds impressive but actually it’s the opposite of political will. The council could demonstrate actual will by taking the advice of street committee chairman Pat Veteto, who said: “You could take care of this next week and pass an ordinance to add a utility fee.” Neither the council nor voters should be surprised that the council has this authority. If the council exercises it and we the people don’t like it, there’s a council election on that same November ballot. We the people don’t like unacceptable streets, nor will we the people like paying the price to solve the problem. Given the choice, we the people are likely to decide that we want the streets brought up to standard without having to pay extra. We the people are likely to reason that the council already wastes too much of our money and that it can pay for streets by not wasting so much. But the possibility — or should we say likelihood? — that a referendum would fail isn’t the reason not to have one. The reason not to have one is that, unlike a bond election, none is required. A referendum has the appearance of democracy at work but in this case it would be democracy not working. City voters elected the council to do a job, not to let voters do the job for it. Avoidance of difficult decisions is how the streets fell into disrepair. A succession of city councils chose short-term appeasement over long-term maintenance. This council has acknowledged the problem. It has been presented a solution. Veteto deserves the community’s thanks not only for the work he has done on the committee, but for reminding the council that it has the authority to accept the committee’s solution rather than hope voters will accept it. Loeb is not alone, or even an instigator, in pushing for a referendum. Nor is he alone in spinning it as the principled way to proceed. He was just more quotable. The mayor also was quotable in preparing the way for a referendum: “We are going to get the community involved.” The community has a right to be involved — by reviewing the proposal, listening to the discussions and giving comment. And if voters don’t like the outcome, they can petition for a referendum to rescind the ordinance. This manner of reversing an ordinance is not impossible but it’s difficult, as it should be. The streets have been tended inadequately long enough. The council need not delay until November what it can address next week. If the council decides on a referendum, more than likely the council elected in November will inherit the street problem — and the opportunity to show leadership by making a hard decision.

EDITORIAL BOARD DARRELL COLEMAN PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER

SHANE FITZGERALD VICE PRESIDENT/EDITOR

TOM WHITEHURST JR. VIEWPOINTS/OPINION PAGE EDITOR

ADRIANA GARZA COMMUNITY BOARD MEMBER

NICK JIMENEZ EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR EMERITUS

CONTRIBUTIONS Letters should be 200 words or fewer. They must be signed and include name, address and phone numbers for day and evening. Letters will be edited. Inquiries about individual letters cannot be answered. By mail: Letters to the Editor P.O. Box 9136 Corpus Christi, TX 78469

By email: ctletters@ caller.com By fax: 361-886-3732

LETTERS Edna Corona

and I were so impressed with the quality of our stay that we have made plans to return this summer. When private business supports public institutions, everyone benefits.

Leader will be greatly missed After opening the Caller-Times Tuesday morning I felt very sad upon reading that Lt. Cmdr. Rick Mead, Ray High School NJROTC leader, had passed away. It seems like only yesterday I had gone to Ray High School to see if the Ray High School NJROTC drill team could perform for the Lindale Senior Center Veterans Day celebration. Without knowing who I was, he took time off his busy schedule to come and see what it was that I wanted. Because of him, the present and past Ray High School NJROTC students have gained a wealth of guidance and will become better citizens. He will be greatly missed not only by his students but by everyone who knew him. May he rest in peace.

Michelle Belto, San Antonio

Partnerships benefit all As a visiting artist to the Art Center of Corpus Christi, I recently experienced firsthand the value of public/private partnerships. The Omni Hotel, a good corporate sponsor, quietly offers free rooms to visiting artists who teach at the Art Center, providing the ability of the Art Center to offer area residents the expertise of artists outside their community. My students benefited directly from this partnership. Without needing to pay for lodging, I was able to reduce my fees. This was our first experience of the Omni hotel chain. My husband

Terri Longoria

Health care: To repeal or not The GOP debates have not only shown that there is no respect for each other among the remaining presidential hopefuls, but they also have no respect for the president. They continue to bash each other week after week and along the way are trying to take down the president with some outrageous accusations on him personally and politically. Calling the president corrupt, dangerous and the captain of a sinking ship will not create jobs or enhance our economy. Distorting the facts about social issues will not help our country get back to its prosperity and greatness. Promoting fear and anxiety among the electorate about our health care seems to be a regular theme for these GOP candidates and they are succeeding in promoting this agenda by using the very media that they so despise. Health care is a very personal subject and there have been enough twist and turns about the question since it was adopted. What does it mean for you and your family? To each one of us it may be a different experience. Abortion and the issues about when life begins is and should be up to the individual. After sixty years of fighting against a health care system, the American Medical Association finally supported it and played a key role in writing the bill.

Calling the president corrupt, dangerous and the captain of a sinking ship will not create jobs or enhance our economy. Distorting the facts about social issues will not help our country get back to its prosperity and greatness.”

We may not like it for various reasons: if we are business owners and don’t want to provide health insurance to our employees; if you are the church and have an issue with abortion, you will not provide health insurance to your employees; a rich family that doesn’t like the tax on your Wall Street returns; or as in the eyes of these candidates, our health care reform is socialism. Fact Check: there is no government takeover, there are no death panels, it is not a gift to illegal immigrants, it will not be the end of capitalism or freedom and it is not socialism. Extending health coverage to millions of uninsured, improving competition, choice of insurance, promoting prevention and wellness, reducing administrative burdens and promoting equal medical care to all Americans should be a right, not a privilege. Remember this when it comes time to vote in November, remember these lies and who tried to scare you with them.

How do we address ‘economic inequality’? This debate over economic inequality is getting confusing. Am I supposed to be furious that America charges Warren Buffett a lower tax rate than his secretary, or proud that this is the land that let an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs change the world? In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama took all sides of the question, calling for higher taxes on the rich while praising Jobs as the widow of the Apple billionaire looked on. But I don’t really blame Obama, because if the president was talking out of both sides of his mouth, he was merely voicing the conflicting emotions of his fellow citizens. We Americans admire the rich and try desperately to copy their success — when we’re not questioning the legitimacy of their wealth or rooting for someone to knock them down a peg. Of course, the fact that Americans feel this much ambivalence toward the rich sets us apart from other countries. In continental Europe, the debate is over how, not whether, the government should redistribute wealth and income. We need a principled approach to the competing claims of social justice and wide-open opportunity. Fortunately, there is an economic concept that can help clarify the issues: rent.

CHARLES LANE COLUMNIST

In this context, “rent” doesn’t mean only what a landlord charges each month. Rather, it refers to any kind of income that people get by controlling existing resources — or exercising officially conferred privileges — as opposed to creating new wealth through labor or investment. A classic example of economic rent is the profit reaped by owners of the “medallions” that confer the right to operate a taxicab in New York. Two of these sold for $1 million apiece last year. Not surprisingly, much political activity consists of trying to create, or keep, opportunities to collect economic rent. That’s what lobbyists for various licenses, tariffs, tax breaks and subsidies — from the sugar industry to Solyndra — have in common. Rentiers of various stripes are well-represented among the top 1 percent of the income scale. Indeed, roughly onequarter of the ultrarich are lawyers or doctors, a study by economists Jon Bakija, Bradley Heim and Adam Cole found. Both professions are open only to people who meet certain eligibility criteria, which are enforced by existing

members and by government. As those examples illustrate, of course, not all economic rent is necessarily illegitimate or even undesirable. On the whole, medical licensing beats a free market in quackery. Those who hold patents and copyrights get to collect rent, aka royalties. That’s how society rewards innovation. Many calls for government intervention are selfinterested and disingenuous, but not all. Sometimes it is necessary to correct “market failure” — to ensure the supply of things such as “orphan” drugs or basic research or public parks, which benefit society but in which the private sector underinvests. Americans may never agree on an optimal distribution of income, either morally or practically. But they probably could agree that, to the extent possible, government should limit its interventions to bona fide cases of market failure, and that the system should reward productive effort and discourage rent-seeking. My hunch is that this is already the consensus view, or close to it. What annoys Americans is not that some of us get rich — it’s that some of us get rich just through connections. Newt Gingrich’s influence-peddling for Freddie Mac and its governmentprotected mortgage fi-

nance business is a pretty pure case of the latter. Mitt Romney’s privateequity career, however, is a hybrid. He took risks to start Bain Capital and provided a service — corporate turnarounds — that the market demanded. On the other hand, his rewards have been magnified by a special tax break, the favorable treatment of “carried interest” income, that is hard to defend in economic terms. Eliminating rent-seeking won’t be easy, partly because some of it is unavoidable — and partly because our two political parties are, to a great extent, coalitions of rentseekers. The oil and gas industry shelters under the Republican tent, while trial lawyers flock to the Democratic banner. Wall Street and ethanol-makers are well represented in both camps. This is why it’s so hard to reform the tax code, even though eliminating loopholes in return for lower tax rates would boost fairness and efficiency. New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan gave us the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Maybe someone else can start a Too Damn Much Rent Party. Sign me up. Charles Lane is a member of The Washington Post editorial page staff.


18A » Sunday, February 26, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

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Editorial

RTA should give double-decker buses a try

For those predisposed to shoot down the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority for the ways it spends money, its consideration of doubledecker buses is a canned hunt. We share the naysayers’ desire not to ride the roof of a bus at noon in July or any of the seven other months of July-like weather in South Texas. We also share concerns about safety and liability, though we think RTA critics exaggerate when they predict that Darwin rejects will find creative ways to take a header off the roof so their surviving family can win the litigation lottery. If the bus roofs were that much of a safety If the bus hazard they’d have been roofs Naderized out of exiswere that much tence by now. Also, as much as we don’t want of a safety haz- to be on top of a doubleard they’d have decker at noon on July 4, can’t think of a better been Naderized we place to be at 9:30 p.m. out of existence on July 4 when the sun is down and the fireworks by now.” show begins. Actually, the top of a double-decker sounds like a fun place to be on any non-precipitous evening or early morning. We who have faulted RTA ventures such as the Harbor Ferry see the double-decker bus idea as entirely compatible with the RTA’s mission to deliver public transportation. It’s also not the frivolous expenditure that critics claim. The RTA is considering buying as many as three double-deckers for downtown-bayfront-Corpus Christi Beach service. The cost, $470,000 apiece, sounds high except that it is about what the RTA pays for single-decker buses with half the seating capacity. So if the RTA buys two or three double-deckers and nobody wants to ride on top in the heat of the day, no harm no foul. Promoting tourism isn’t the RTA’s core mission. But double-decker buses that appeal to tourists still achieve the core mission of public transportation. Double-decker buses, no matter how strong a tourist magnet, are primarily a mode of transportation. A ride on the Harbor Ferry, in contrast, is primarily a lark, and at $3 per round trip a bargain one. The riders are in it for the boat ride. If what they need is transportation across the ship channel, RTA buses do a better job via Harbor Bridge. Let the double-deckers do that. They appear to be a worthwhile experiment with little risk. We commend the RTA staff ’s initiative.

WEB COMMENT OF THE DAY In response to our editorial Friday commending two City Council members for questioning the proposed zoning for a Padre Island water park, The_Trash_ Heap writes: There are a dedicated few posters who object to every question or unsupportive comment about a proposed development as evidence of an attempt to kill it. They call those who ask to see the pig in the poke or want to kick the tires “aginners” or worse. The name-callers do not recognize prudence as a virtue, no matter how many times it has been shown that the lack of trust was well-founded and abject gullibility was the mistake. No good development idea will ever go away if it merits the public’s support, no matter how much initial scrutiny is given to the details of that idea. The result will be a more trustworthy endeavor, which will encourage others with similar ideas to use it as an empirical model for the next development. Bad ideas will get through the screen of practical questions and commentary only when fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

EDITORIAL BOARD DARRELL COLEMAN PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER

SHANE FITZGERALD VICE PRESIDENT/EDITOR

TOM WHITEHURST JR VIEWPOINTS/OPINION PAGE EDITOR

ADRIANA GARZA COMMUNITY BOARD MEMBER

NICK JIMENEZ EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR EMERITUS

CONTRIBUTIONS Letters should be 200 words or fewer. They must be signed and include name, address and phone numbers for day and evening. Letters will be edited. Inquiries about individual letters cannot be answered. By mail: Letters to the Editor P.O. Box 9136 Corpus Christi, TX 78469

By email: ctletters@ Caller.com By fax: 361-886-3732

LETTERS Wayne Dennis

Too hot, humid for open-air rides Regarding the proposed double decker bus, I would like to respectfully suggest to the mayor (and others) that riding one of these in Canada does not compare to riding one in South Texas. It was a pleasant day when they rode one here in Corpus Christi, but I don’t think it will be as pleasant on a windy, humid day from May to October. As a matter of fact, the average weather here does not lend itself to open-air riding. How many open-air convertibles do you see running around our city? At nearly half a million dollars (each) this would be another boondoggle passed off on the taxpayers by the RTA.

Melodie Wallace

Lack of pride, integrity I was born here and have lived here for over a half century so yes, this is MY city. I’m ashamed that my fellow residents have so little respect for themselves, others and also this city. If everyone complied with the ordinances already on the books we wouldn’t have a problem with plastic bags, dog waste, cellphones in school zones, trash cans left on the curb, weeds, the

list is endless. The problem is the lack of personal integrity and pride and, sadly, you can’t legislate those.

Kip Layton

Wasteful wind turbines Let me see if I got this straight. Two wind turbines to cost $974,040 (federal income tax dollars) plus $243,510 (school ad valorem tax dollars). Over the 20-year life, the school district saves $673,200 (estimated), less maintenance costs over 15 years (no estimate given) for a maximum net of $429,690 assuming no maintenance costs. It appears there are plenty of wind turbines, constructed principally as a result of tax credits (i.e. uncollected income taxes), in the Sinton area to provide the classroom applications described, apparently, as additional benefits. I would hope this is the only such project of this nature in the U.S., but I doubt it. With projects such as this, there is no wonder our nation is so in debt.

Ben S. Garza

Don’t ruin the island The housing, population, wildlife and ecosystem in Padre Island is in a fragile and precarious state. It does not need a Schlitterbahn Water Park there at all. There is only one road to get there (which is already often jammed,

especially on nice warm weekends) and one road to get back on the mainland, unless one takes the Port Aransas return route via the ferry that often takes forever to get on either way. It is obvious a few business people who are promoting it will benefit from this project that could so easily be located in Calallen or elsewhere nearby, but these same people may not have the land there at these other locations and the area at the beach does not need it to attract people. We already have so many good things there that it is questionable how much more nature can stand and still thrive and survive as it was meant to with all the elements only God and nature itself can give us. Our freshwater supply today for the area is already low. It is difficult to understand why this park is being located by the beach and the saltwater. Why? Are people supposed to go swimming at the beach, then come rinse off at the park? I don’t think so. Also, the first direct, even indirect, small hurricane will be totally disastrous, doing several hundred thousand or more dollars damage easily. Find another location for Schlitterbahn. Let’s not ruin the island. The attractions there are some of the best to be found on the Texas coast. Let’s not crowd them. They can only take so much wear, use and abuse before they start to irreplaceably deteriorate. To borrow some lyrics from a song, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” They pave paradise and put up a parking lot. In this case that plus a water park.

The culprit who let our streets go to ruin I have a confession: The deplorable condition of Corpus Christi’s streets is my fault. That’s right. More than $1 billion in neglect in the course of about 30 years is all on me. Not the current mayor, or the immediate past mayor, or the tall guy before him. Not the past several city managers. Me. You’re probably wondering how I went about wreaking all this havoc singlehandedly, especially if you live on Harry Street, which I’ve driven maybe three times in those 30 years. I did it all without a fleet of 18-wheelers or mishandled road graders, or even an F-150. I’ve driven mostly small cars in that time and five of those years I bicyclecommuted. My road-user footprint has been insignificant. So how did I do it? Simple. Mine is a sin of omission. I was on sentry duty and the roads went underfunded and under-maintained while I slept. The elected and appointed officials who oversaw the underfunding and under-maintaining were just doing what elected and appointed officials do, which is to appease and kick cans down the road. The Caller-Times’ job is to catch them doing it and to point it out before it’s too late — to shed light so that the people will find their way, as the E.W. Scripps Co. motto says. Sometimes we professional journalists pass ourselves off as mere observers. That’s a cop-out. We don’t just shed light for light-shedding’s sake. If the people don’t find their way,

TOM WHITEHURST JR. COLUMNIST

our so-called detached observing is way too detached and our observations are just random. I’ve been working for the Caller-Times nearly 29 of the 30 years that the streets went to ruin, mostly in positions of enough influence to have used the Caller-Times for its intended purpose. So if initially you thought you detected sarcasm in my blaming myself and myself alone, un-detect it. And if you’re of a mind to tell me not to take myself or the Caller-Times so seriously, reconsider. There is nothing grandiose in what I’m about to say: The Caller-Times is that powerful a potential instrument of change. And my responsibility not to have squandered that potential over these many years has been that big. I take the Caller-Times and my role in it — my culpability — that seriously because it’s that serious. If I were looking for excuses, which I’m not, I could argue that I didn’t have sufficient authority in my first eight months here, on the copy desk. But that sells short the power of story placement, headline wording and last-line-of-defense editing, all of which I did in those eight months. The new kid’s responsibility was not insignificant.

Maybe there’s some exculpatory wiggle room for the year and a half I spent in the Sports Department. But that was valuable training, resume-broadening and relationship-building that helped put me in position to accomplish what I haven’t. There’s certainly no excuse for the many years I spent on the metro desk, where a newspaper makes its most important decisions on what to report and what resources to commit. I was in the middle and on top of those decisions during way too much of the time that the streets were left to deteriorate into the sorry state they’re in today. I can say with neither braggadocio nor hyperbole that from the late 1980s until less than two years ago, the vast majority of our best, most award-winning reporting passed through my fingers on their way to publication. That includes my two stints as business editor — not exactly an out-of-theloop position, believe you me. Newsrooms know their metro editor; communities know their business editor. How much of the awesome resource at my disposal in all those years, I ask myself now, could have been better spent recognizing and calling attention to the street neglect, to the decisions either not to tax enough or to divert too much of the revenue elsewhere? I could grouse about promotions I didn’t get to yethigher positions of what might appear to be greater influence. But editors, managing editors and publishers have come and gone and I’m

still here. And they actually weren’t as strategically situated as I have been to make the difference I’m talking about not having made. No one else at this newspaper is in the position to say credibly what I’m saying now truthfully. Scripps’ new vice president of newspaper content, Mizell Stewart III, visited the Caller-Times recently and told us about his belief in a newspaper’s responsibility to its community — a belief I’ve shared since becoming interested in newspapers back in high school. He had seen enough of our streets and our recent reporting on the problem. Why not make streets a cause, he asked. That’s when I faced the error of my ways. I confessed, to him and to the newsroom, and now to the world. That confession to the newsroom wasn’t without calculated purpose. Every Caller-Times employee who was in the room is on notice now that it’s their responsibility, too. And I’ve mentioned enough of my former job descriptions to make clear that every position here is influential if its occupier accepts the responsibility to make it so. I’m not their assigning editor any more but, by God, I’ll appoint myself their conscience if they don’t exhibit one. I hope this confession has your undivided attention. Getting your attention is the first step in making amends. Keeping it is step two. Tom Whitehurst Jr. is Viewpoints/Opinion Page Editor of the Caller-Times.


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Quick Read

Street funding options talked about ■ More public

INSIDE

workshops to take up issue

Municipal court administration to see changes. 1B

By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

ALICE PREVAILS OVER RAY Junior pitcher Rony Chavarria leads the Coyotes to a 2-0 District 31-4A win over the Texans on Tuesday night.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

A dedicated funding source for the $55 million a year needed to return city streets to a good condition likely will come from several sources, such as a new city tax or redirected sales tax revenue. “I’m open to try to make it fair to everyone by having a little bit of each or

several funding options,” Councilman David Loeb said. “That’s what I’m hearing from the community and is reasonable.” The issue of how to pay for streets was one of the several City Council members and staff discussed Tuesday morning during the first in a series of five planned public workshops to figure out how to repair the crumbling roads. They also talked about the pros and cons of funding options, whether local

contractors could handle $55 million a year in road construction and how to pay for street utility needs. About half of the city’s 1,205 miles of streets are in poor condition — past the point of maintenance and need to be torn out and reconstructed. It will cost an estimated $967 million, a number staff revised from the original $1.2 billion price tag. Among the tax options See STREETS, 5A

City’s code of ethics revised By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

It will be easier for the public to fi le an ethics complaint against a city official under a revised ethics code that the City Council approved Tuesday.

The city’s ethics code applies to City Council members, those appointed to a city board or commission and city employees. Sworn complaints are filed with the City Secretary’s Office and investigated by the See ETHICS, 5A

SPORTS, 1C

Police seek female officers

NAVY CAPTAIN RETIRES

CCISD HONORS TOP TEACHERS Two Corpus Christi ISD teachers are honored as the district’s outstanding educators of the year. LOCAL, 1B

MITT ROMNEY TAKES ILLINOIS Romney is the clear winner of the state’s GOP primary.

Peers salute service

■ U.S. Justice PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

Retired Capt. Broderick shakes hands with Navy officers Tuesday.

By Steven Alford alfords@caller.com 361-886-3602

ELECTION

2012

NATION, 3A

DATSUN MAKES A COMEBACK Nissan is bringing back the Datsun name three decades after shelving the brand synonymous with affordable, reliable vehicles. BUSINESS, 7C INDEX BUSINESS 7C-8C COMICS 6B-7B CROSSWORD 7B OBITUARIES 4B-5B LOTTERY 2C OPINION 8A-9A

Department following up

Capt. Thomas Broderick (left) laughs as Rear Adm. William Sizemore tells stories about his time working with Broderick, during a naval retirement ceremony for Broderick on Tuesday on the Lexington Museum on the Bay. Broderick, who served in the Navy for 38 years, retired as the most senior unrestricted line captain in the Navy.

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Claudia Broderick, wife of Capt. Broderick, applauds her husband during his retirement ceremony.

Capt. Broderick salutes the flag at the start of his retirement ceremony at the Lexington Museum on the Bay.

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice will meet in the coming weeks with city officials about the Corpus Christi Police Department’s hiring practice for female officers. In late 2009, federal officials sent a letter to the city stating they were investigating the department’s low ratio of female employees. In January the department released preliminary fi ndings to the city noting its physical assessment test, in particular its upper-body strength tests, was discriminatory to some female applicants. In response to the investigation, the Police Department created a reorganization team last year to look at the issue, and of 17 recruits accepted to the police academy, three were women. City Attorney Carlos Valdez said ongoing negotiations between the Department of Justice and the city should avoid future litigation. “My expectation is that we will be able to arrive at some sort of agreement,” Valdez said. Valdez declined to release the federal letter sent to the city, citing potential litigation. The CallerTimes submitted an open records request Tuesday for all correspondence between the city and the Department of Justice on

See POLICE, 6A

Employers now asking for Facebook passwords STEVEN ALFORD VS. SPRING BREAKERS The challenge was put down last week as Caller Entertainment’s Steven Alford took on a group of spring breakers. See how he did at Caller.com. To subscribe:

883-3800

■ Many can’t

afford to balk at the request By Manuel Valdes and Shannon Mcfarland

Robert Collins was asked for his Facebook login during a reinstatement interview.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for some-

thing else: his Facebook username and password. Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search

for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profi le. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information. Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around. “It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.” Questions have been

raised about the legality of the practice, which also is the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks. Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publicly available Facebook profi les, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about

See FACEBOOK, 6A


C A L L E R -T I M E S

ÂŤ Wednesday, March 21, 2012 ÂŤ 5A

FROM THE COVER STREETS from 1A

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Motorists traveling along South Staples Street near the intersection of Williams Drive navigate through roadwork Tuesday.

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE Workshop No. 2 10:30 a.m., Tuesday Topic: Follow up to topics presented during the ďŹ rst workshop Workshop No. 3 10:30 a.m., April 10 Topics: Citywide municipal management district, division of resources, pavement condition index consideration, priority for street maintenance and

Any work that adds to the city’s street system will be included in a bond package for voters to decide. Utility work, such as new storm drains and sewer lines underneath the streets, could be a cost covered by monthly utility fees, staff said. Otherwise, it would mean less miles of street work would get done within the $55 million. For every $1 the city spends to tear out and replace a road, it costs an additional 75 cents to replace outdated storm drains and sewer lines. That cost was not included in the $55 million estimate. Several council members asked city staff to estimate what the cost would be to utility customers if they were to go that route. Staff plan to present those ďŹ ndings at a March 27 workshop. Relying on monthly utility rates to pay for street utility work is not new. Utility work for street projects included in the 2004 and 2008 bond packages are paid for with water and wastewater utility fees. Some council members have referred to that method as a “hidden costâ€? because it wasn’t what some voters thought they were approving when they voted for a bond project. Cou nci l m a n Joh n Marez said it was his hope that one day the city would not have to ask voters to approve street projects in bond packages and it would have enough money to sustain a successful maintenance plan. “That way one day the city could use bonds to update recreation centers, senior centers and other things we could use in the community,â€? he said. The bond program returned in 2000 after a 10year gap in street repair

utility work impacts Workshop No. 4 10:30 a.m., April 17 Topic: Follow up to topics presented during the third workshop Workshop No. 5 10:30 a.m. April 24 Topics: Timing considerations, design standards, street cut issues and community outreach plan

work. An oil and gas bust in the mid-1980s left the city without funds to keep up with previously obligated bond projects. Also, past City Councils also continued to cut funding for the street maintenance department. Councilwoman Nelda Martinez said the most important issue is that the money is dedicated to streets, so no one can put “their hands in the cookie jar.â€? A street maintenance ďŹ nance committee, composed of ďŹ ve community members, has recommended the city dedicate $55 million a year to street repair. At that rate, streets would reach a manageable condition in about 22 years. The committee has recommended the council approve a street user fee and divert sales tax revenue. The budget for street maintenance is $10.5 million. It’s not nearly enough to make a difference, which means most of the time and money is spent patching potholes or sections of the street when the department can afford it. Part of the problem with current funding is the street maintenance budget relies on the city’s general fund, which is mostly funded by property tax and sales tax revenues. That money is then divided among more than 20 departments, including police and ďŹ re, which make up 50 percent of the general fund budget. “(The streets department) was competing with every other department in the general fund and we took our eye off the ball,â€? Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said. Leal quipped, “Well, let’s get our eye on the ball.â€?

ETHICS from 1A

City Ethics Commission. City Council members approved 5-2 the ďŹ rst of two readings needed to make the changes ďŹ nal with John Marez and Priscilla Leal against it. The City Ethics Commission recommended the changes after finding the ethics complaint process cumbersome and discouraging to the public. Five people are required to ďŹ le a complaint before the commission can investigate it. Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Dragoo said other cities, including Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, require one person to sign a sworn complaint — a process similar to ďŹ ling a police report. “This is to let the public know here’s what you have to do,â€? she said. “I think the public was unaware of the process.â€? The new process will require a person’s name, address, a description of the complaint with facts, the state code of ethics provision believed to be violated and documentation to support the complaint. Some council members are concerned the new process will encourage people to ďŹ le false statements. Marez asked the city to require three people to sign a sworn statement, which he thinks will discourage abuse of the complaint process. Councilman David Loeb said public officials already are scrutinized, and the new rules won’t change that. If anything,

             

      

They can accuse us of anything they want on a daily basis anyway. I don’t think that we can regulate lying and politics. It would be great if we could, but we can’t�

David Loeb, councilman

the changes will make the process better, he said. “They can accuse us of anything they want on a daily basis anyway,â€? Loeb said. “I don’t think that we can regulate lying and politics. It would be great if we could, but we can’t.â€? Leal asked city legal staff to outline the consequences for ďŹ ling a false report in the city’s ordinance, so people know up front what they are doing. Councilwoman Nelda Martinez agreed with Leal that the complaint process needs more clariďŹ cation. Those who ďŹ le a false complaint can be prosecuted under the state perjury law, a misdemeanor. The city doesn’t outline the state penal code in its code of ordinances, said Attorney Jay Reining said. The custom is to point to the consequence. Reining, who has worked as a city attorney for about 20 years, said he couldn’t remember the last time someone ďŹ led an ethics complaint. It’s rare, he added. Marez asked for City Manager Ron Olson’s opinion about the recommendation. Olson said he thinks there should be a requirement to have three people back up a statement because the reputation of the person

being accused could be severely damaged by an ethics complaint. Community activist Abel Alonzo said the public has lost trust in City Hall, and anything that hinders accountability is a bad thing. He thanked Olson to restore trust and said he supports the idea of one person being able to ďŹ le a sworn complaint. “You can’t make it so difficult where people who see something wrong can’t report it,â€? he said during a public comment period in the meeting. A deďŹ nition for conict of interest was added to clarify the code. Councilman Mark Scott had several questions and was concerned that it would discourage people who have business interests from wanting to serve on the council. Dragoo said when in doubt someone should make any potential conict of interest known to the city secretary and city manager. Also, someone with a conict should abstain from voting on it. “Common sense should prevail,â€? she said. Violations of the ethics code include accepting bribes, using a city position for ďŹ nancial gain and voting on contracts from which relatives could beneďŹ t.

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are a street user fee added to utility bills, an increase in property tax, diverting sales tax revenue from the Regional Transportation Authority, a local gasoline tax, an added fee to vehicle registration and a street assessment fee paid for only by residents who agree to it. Several RTA officials attended the meeting Tuesday to listen to discussion. Councilwoman Nelda Martinez said she was glad to see them there. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want there to be a us versus them,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We need to make sure we are working in a spirit of cooperation.â&#x20AC;? The transit authority received about $20 million in sales tax revenue this ďŹ scal year, which is something the council has discussed redirecting to pay for street repairs. Redirected sales tax revenue could come from the RTA, Crime Control Board or dedicated funds set aside for seawall maintenance, the American Bank Center arena and incentives for economic development. The funds, other than the RTA, arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t available until at least 2018 because of debt that needs to be paid off. For any of the RTA money to be redirected to the city, the governing board would have to make a unanimous decision. The transit authority redirects about $1 million a year to Corpus Christi, which goes into the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s general fund and is not earmarked for streets work. Councilman Mark Scott said the city and RTA should revise the agreement, so the RTA can provide additional funds for street repairs. He also asked staff to come up with a study that shows, in dollars, how RTA buses cause street damage. Councilwomen Chris Adler and Priscilla Leal want staff consider a heavy user fee, which would require heavy trucks driving Corpus Christi streets to pay their fair share. Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said that would be difficult because the state collects that money. It, along with a local gasoline tax, would have to be decided by the Texas Legislature, which doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t meet again until 2013. An added fee to vehicle registration would have to be decided by Nueces County commissioners. Councilman David Loeb asked staff to ďŹ nd out how many times the state Legislature has fielded similar requests from other cities and the outcome. The council will decide how much residents and businesses can afford for the city to collect $55 million. Then the issue will be presented to voters to make a ďŹ nal decision, council members have said. For that to happen, the council must take a ďŹ nal vote on a recommendation by Aug. 14. During a staff presentation, City Manager Ron Olson emphasized the $55 million a year only will pay to repair and maintain existing streets. It wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pay for widening a street or building a new street.

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The earliest vegetables of the season are tender and tasty — so grab them fast. FOOD, 8B

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

75 CENTS

82˚/66˚ Clouds breaking; breezy 7A

Quick Read

Street discussion shifts to utilities ■ Residents’

INSIDE

bills could be 30% higher

Ethics complaint process gains support. 2B

By Jessica Savage

In other council business. 2B

savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

SCHOOL LIKELY TO BE SMALLER New plans for a Southside high school show a smaller building and eliminate a 10,000-square-foot auditorium to meet a $70 million budget. LOCAL, 1B

JUSTICES EYE HEALTH CARE Conservative justices sharply question the core requirement of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul that almost everyone carry insurance.

The high cost of replacing underground utilities dominated discussion Tuesday during the second of five planned City Council workshop meet-

Incentives to help create job positions. 2B

ings aimed at figuring out how to pay for the city’s deteriorating streets. About half of the city’s streets are past the point of repair and need to be rebuilt. The cost is estimated at about $967 million. But

AGGIE is out of this world

costs under the roads’ surface tend to add up, city staff said. Utility work, such as storm drains or sewer lines, typically costs an additional 75 cents for every $1 spent replacing the street. Historically, the city has rolled those costs into residents’ monthly utility bills along with other capital projects, such as the expense of replacing aging sewer plants, among other state regulated utilities.

During the 2004 and 2008 bond projects, any street projects that required new storm or sewer lines were paid for by rate payers on their monthly utility bill. Some council members have called it a “hidden fee” because it’s not something many residents realized when they agreed to bond projects. Monthly utilities without paying for underground street work will increase by 17 percent dur-

ing the next 10 years. The average utility bill next fiscal year is expected to cost about $128 a month. By 2023, it increases to $150. City staff showed what monthly utility bills would look like during that same period if storm and sewer costs for underground streets repairs were included. The average bill would increase by 30 percent to $166 a month.

See STREETS, 5A

STATE OF THE COUNTY

Astronaut Mike Fossum signs a photo for a student Tuesday.

NATION, 3A

Assets prime topic at address ■ Judge Neal

urges leaders to work together By Julie Silva silvaj@caller.com 361-886-3627

GRINER NAMED ALL-AMERICAN Brittney Griner is a unanimous pick on The Associated Press’ All-America team, a day after leading unbeaten Baylor to its second Final Four in three seasons. SPORTS, 1C

TESTING SET FOR CHANGES Students who take the SAT or ACT must submit photos of themselves when they sign up for the exams, under a host of new security measures.

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

Astronaut Mike Fossum, who returned from the International Space Station four months ago, answers a student’s question Tuesday about what it feels like to be launched into space during a presentation at West Oso High School. Fossum is a Texas A&M University graduate who also was in town to speak at the Corpus Christi Aggie Moms Club banquet .

NATION, 3A INDEX BUSINESS 7C-8C COMICS 6B-7B CROSSWORD 7B OBITUARIES 5B LOTTERY 2C OPINION 6A-7A

/RFDO QHZV QRZ Download our app with the QR code.

■ Texas A&M grad

speaks about days in space as astronaut By Steven Alford alfords@caller.com 361-886-3602

It took seven tries and 13 years before astronaut Mike Fossum finally was selected for the space program. The South Texas native told West Oso High School students Tuesday that hard work and determination will help spark their own soaring goals, too. “The key is to go beyond just dreaming,” he said. “Figure out what it takes and turn it into action.” See ASTRONAUT, 8A

COWBOYS’ NEEDS With most of the big free agents already signed, what is left for the Dallas Cowboys to focus on? We take a look at their needs before the April draft.

To subscribe:

883-3800

Freshmen Jasmine Rodriguez (left) and Keren Sosa ask Fossum questions Tuesday after his presentation.

Assets such as the Harbor Bridge and the Corpus Christi Army Depot can only be protected and improved if local leaders work together, Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal said Tuesday at the State of the County address. Neal said those involved in plans to replace the Harbor Bridge need to put aside their egos and work on a plan because the state is opening up a fund that could aid the project during the next legislative session. However, there will be competition. “We are at a critical point in the replacement of this Harbor Bridge,” he told an audience of about 800 at the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center. “The clock is actually ticking. We have a period of time open to this community where if we come together we can do something. But it’s going to take a serious effort on the part of all of us.” Neal said the Texas Department of Transportation recently announced billions in funding for projects and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is working to designate several hundred million dollars for the Harbor Bridge. Neal said the goal is to obtain $400 million to $600 million from the state and to combine

See COUNTY, 5A

Kingsville resolution opposes wind farm project ■ City officials

fear negative impact on base By Mark Collette collettem@caller.com 361-886-3678

Kingsville city officials are opposing a planned wind farm near Riviera over fears that the turbines would interfere with military radar, but a Navy base commander said he is pleased with steps the developer took to reduce

conflicts. Defense budget cuts have renewed worries that installations in the Coastal Bend could be shuttered in the next round of base closures. Kingsville officials are trying to prevent turbine developments that would make Naval Air Station Kingsville less attractive as a training ground for pilots. The City Council voted 5-0 Monday for a resolution opposing the Riviera wind project in hopes of protecting the base that, by city estimates, pumps

$400 million a year into the local economy. But the commander of the Kingsville base said project developers closely have worked with the Navy to minimize impacts to radar, and the turbines should not affect the base’s mission. “Wind turbines are not going to BRAC this base,” said Capt. Mark McLaughlin, using the acronym for Base Realignment and Closure, the government’s process of periodically reassessing its inventory of military installations. “I

just don’t see it happening.” McLaughlin has spoken at public meetings and testified before a state legislative committee on the impact of turbines on radar, saying encroachment of turbines near military bases could reduce flights and impair the Navy’s ability to carry out its mission of training pilots for aircraft carriers. Turbines can block radar signals, creating swaths of airspace in which planes cannot be See TURBINES, 8A

ONLINE Read the city of Kingsville’s resolution opposing the Riviera wind farm project. View an interactive map of U.S. wind farms.

IF YOU GO

What: Kleberg County commissioners public hearing on Riviera wind farm When: 7 p.m. Tuesday Where: Kaufer-Hubert Memorial Park recreation room, off Farm-to-Market Road 628, north of County Road 2295


C A L L E R -T I M E S

ÂŤ Wednesday, March 28, 2012 ÂŤ 5A

FROM THE COVER

That cost doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t include a dedicated street user fee to cover the cost of rebuilding and maintaining roads. The street user fee is one of the funding options the council is considering. Others include a local fuel tax, additional property taxes, rededicated sales tax revenue, such as money from the Regional Transportation Authority, an added fee to vehicle registration and a street assessment fee paid for only by residents who agree to it. Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said city staff are looking for ways to minimize underground utility costs during street construction. For example, some underground utilities may be intact for certain street repairs. It would require an assessment for each street project. Councilman Mark Scott asked the city to combine the cost of the street and underground utilities so residents could have a more accurate picture of what the price tag is. He thought it would be closer to the original $1.2 billion estimate, which city staff revised. Councilwoman Nelda Martinez wondered how to go forward without a better cost estimate. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is where it all starts, right here,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Until we can answer these questions, are we going to be able to determine how to unfold the process?â&#x20AC;? Before the workshop meeting, street maintenance ďŹ nance committee member Robert Furgason had a message for the council. He along with four other members spent nine months researching funding options before giving a ďŹ nal recommendation that the city should commit no less than $55 million a year to rebuild and maintain streets. The council shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t aim below that number, he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We came up with our best estimate of what we think is achievable to get a ďŹ re going,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If you underfund this problem, you will perpetuate it forever.â&#x20AC;?

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COUNTY

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

from 1A

from 1A

Workshop No. 3 10:30 a.m. April 10 Topics: Citywide municipal management district, division of resources, pavement condition index consideration, priority for street maintenance and utility work impacts Workshop No. 4 10:30 a.m. April 17 Topic: Follow-up to topics presented during the third workshop Workshop No. 5 10:30 a.m. April 24 Topics: Timing considerations, design standards, street cut issues and community outreach plan

At the recommended rate, the streets would reach a manageable condition in 22 years. To pay for it, the committee has said the council should start by implementing a street user fee on monthly utility bills, which would be dedicated to street work. Also, the council should consider reallocating dedicated sales tax revenue once that money meets its obligation as voters intended. Councilwoman Martinez asked whether Furgason thought the council should make the ďŹ nal decision or pose it to voters. â&#x20AC;&#x153;My person opinion is you folks take on the issue, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll support you 100 percent,â&#x20AC;? he said. Time ran short during the hourlong presentation as Oscar Martinez tried to work through the answers to 45 questions council members posed last week. The second workshop was meant to follow-up on discussion during the first meeting on March 20. At the councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s request, he is meeting with the RTA to discuss funding options. The bus transit authority reallocates about $1 million a year through an agreement. Martinez said both are committed to working on a revised funding amount. He estimated the buses cause about $3.3 million in annual damage to city streets, according to ďŹ gures extrapolated from a 1999 study.

it with local and federal money for the project, which could cost as much as $800 million. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But we need a community-backed plan, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to take a lot of work between now and the fall when people start talking about the January Legislature,â&#x20AC;? Neal said. Neal emphasized the importance of the Corpus Christi Army Depot and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and the more than 8,000 employees at both entities. Neal said there may not be a formal round of Base Realignment and Closure, but the Pentagon is taking action based on President Barack Obamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proposed budget, which calls for pulling the military out of Afghanistan. Communities should prepare now and talk to Washington legislators, Neal said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Those are the communities that will stop the train before it gets loaded,â&#x20AC;? Neal said, adding that local leaders need to work together through a task force to make an impact. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Can you imagine this community without those 6,000 jobs at the depot? You wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have a recession; youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d have a depression.â&#x20AC;? Neal noted projects within the county that were completed under budget or with state funding. The installation of handrails at Bob Hall and Horace Caldwell piers was budgeted at $750,000, but ended up costing the county $574,000. The county also saved almost $1 million by repairing the Padre Balli Park Office instead of spending $1.3 million to tear it down and rebuild it. After the event, Charlie Zahn, chairman of

PHOTOS BY TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal delivers the State of the County address Tuesday at the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center.

Neal talked about how organizations need to work together to get new funding to replace the Harbor Bridge at the State of the County address Tuesday.

the countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s parks board, said many of the projects wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be possible without Nealâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s support. Zahn said heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s looking forward to a project Neal discussed to develop P.J.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Marina in Port Aransas through a public-private partnership. Gabriele Hilpold, a member of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island Strategic Action Committee, said she was most excited to hear about the Northwest Youth Sport

    



          

    

 

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have a retention pond and walking trails. Neal said he has spent almost 50 years working with others to serve the community, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what it takes to succeed because no one person can do it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We set our eyes on something that is good for this county and good for the people of this county, and we can get it done,â&#x20AC;? he said.

  

       



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18A » Sunday, April 8, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

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Opinion

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Editorial

A recovery fragile enough for D.C. politicians to kill

Friday’s disappointing jobs report highlights an important point about the state of the U.S. recovery: It’s not so strong that the country’s politicians couldn’t kill it off. Almost three years after it hit bottom in mid-2009, the economy has been showing signs recently of entering a virtuous cycle in which rising employment, consumer spending and business activity reinforce one another. Even with March’s relatively meager 120,000-job increase in nonfarm payrolls, the three-month average gain comes to about 212,000. That’s more than enough to make a dent in the unemployment rate, which fell to 8.2 percent in March from 8.3 percent in February. If the strengthening trend persists, the United States, which accounts for about a fifth of the planet’s economic activity, could become an engine of growth just in time to help offset a slowing in the rest of the world. Economists expect the euro area to suffer a recession this year as austerity measures bite. China’s government has lowered its growth target as it seeks to engineer a soft landing. Still, as the latest employment report demonstrates, the U.S. isn’t out of the woods. We’ve seen false dawns before, and the recovery remains weak. The job growth in March fell far short of expectations, and a decline in the number of people looking for work drove the drop in the unemployment rate. Forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg News expect the economy to grow at an inflation-adjusted rate of just 2.2 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2013, below what most consider to be its long-term potential. Payroll employment, at about 133 million, remains about 5 million short of its peak in December 2007. More important, the economy faces some daunting man-made obstacles. Under current law, the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts at the end of this year will add about $4 trillion to Americans’ tax bills over 10 years. An additional $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts could take effect as a result of last year’s debt-ceiling deal. At the same time, stimulus measures such as payroll-tax breaks and extended unemployment benefits are scheduled to end. Much larger tax increases and spending cuts will eventually be needed to get the U.S. government’s longterm finances under control. But with the economy already operating well below capacity, and with the Federal Reserve’s ammunition running low, the risks of making such moves now are skewed heavily to the downside. A renewed slump could permanently stunt the economy’s growth as despondent businesses failed to invest in the future and the long-term unemployed dropped out of the labor force permanently. By contrast, putting off the cuts — or even engaging in more short-term fiscal stimulus — could be a great investment. Costs are extremely low: Markets are willing to lend the U.S. government money for 10 years at an interest rate of only 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, the danger of falling into a spiral of self- perpetuating high unemployment makes the benefit of any added job creation particularly large. In a recent paper, economists J. Bradford DeLong of the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Summers of Harvard University estimated that in these unusual times, a temporary boost in government spending would actually reduce the U.S. debt burden, because the added tax revenue would outweigh the increase in debt-service costs. We recognize that a new round of stimulus is a political nonstarter in this election year. At the very least, though, President Barack Obama and Congress should refrain from doing exactly the opposite of what is advisable. If they can muster the responsibility to make a deal before the end of the year that extends the Bush tax breaks in return for a postponement of spending cuts, they would greatly increase the recovery’s chances of survival. Bloomberg View

EDITORIAL BOARD DARRELL COLEMAN PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER

SHANE FITZGERALD VICE PRESIDENT/EDITOR

TOM WHITEHURST JR. VIEWPOINTS/OPINION PAGE EDITOR

ADRIANA GARZA COMMUNITY BOARD MEMBER

NICK JIMENEZ EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR EMERITUS

CONTRIBUTIONS Letters should be 200 words or fewer. They must be signed and include name, address and phone numbers for day and evening. Letters will be edited. Inquiries about individual letters cannot be answered. By mail: Letters to the Editor P.O. Box 9136 Corpus Christi, TX 78469

By email: ctletters@ caller.com By fax: 361-886-3732

LETTERS Bill Behrens, Port Aransas

These travelers still have manners I have an answer to Lance Sanchez’s question in his April 5 Letter to the Editor, “Where have the good times gone”? To Goliad. I frequently travel between Port Aransas and Austin along U.S. Highway 183. At the intersection with U.S. Highway 59 in Goliad, there is a very large gas station and convenience store with two fast food franchises and countless counters of anything a traveler may want. I was sitting eating at a table one day and watching people going in and out of the main door. The traffic was heavy with many going in and out at about the same time. I was impressed by the observation that just about everybody who was just ahead of or behind someone else, held the door open for the next person. This was REGARDLESS of age, race, gender or any other perceivable difference between them. Where have the good times have gone? I suspect that they’ve never been gone from Goliad.

Isaac H. Kimmel, Robstown

Porn not a First Amendment issue Presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently announced that if elected, his administration would make a priority of enforcing existing anti-obscenity laws and cracking down on pornography. In response

to this, porn purveyors and advocates have argued that any censorship of the photos and videos they produce would be a violation of their First Amendment rights. Pornography should not be viewed as a First Amendment issue. Rather, it should be treated like cocaine or heroin. After all, like cocaine and heroin, it is highly addictive, often leads to commission of other crimes, and (according to the U.S. Attorney General’s in-depth 1986 investigation into the social effects of porn) closely tied to organized crime. Like (and even more than) cocaine and heroin, it destroys families. Like cocaine and heroin, pornography should be banned, and the ban should be enforced by the DEA. Porn’s inkon-paper format, and therefore the First Amendment, are irrelevant to the fact that it is a dangerous psychoactive drug with grave societal consequences.

Roy E. Reed, Port Aransas

Changing tunes on insurance mandate The “individual health insurance mandate” was conceived in 1989 by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank. For the next 20 years, it had considerable conservative appeal because it embraced the concept of individual responsibility. Newt Gingrich, supporting the idea in 2007, explained it best, “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance

… and expect others to pay for their care when they need it.” During the 1993 debate over health care reform known then as “Hillarycare,” 20 Republican Senators co-sponsored a bill requiring “employers to withhold health insurance premiums from employee wages and to remit such premiums to the employee’s chosen insurer.” In 2006, Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., signed a bill into law requiring a health insurance mandate and even Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., praised it saying, “That’s something we should do for the whole country.” But in our current “up is down and down is up” political environment, conservatives now claim the mandate is an unconstitutional overreach by an intrusive tyrannical government, but forcing a woman to have an invasive, medically-unnecessary procedure without her consent and making her pay for it, is not.

S.D. Brock

Biting into fixed incomes

I wonder when it gets to the point when residents on fi xed incomes can’t pay their utility bills if there will be many disconnections. It seems so easy for the City Council to add any extra expense to the utility bill without considering that cost of living keeps going up but fixed incomes stay the same. There are other resources the city can tap from. Why not add to the sales tax? Those who can afford luxury items can afford a little extra tax.

Does the council want to forgo this much? As much as City Council members want to avoid the heat for imposing a street user fee, surely they’d relish the opportunity to reduce or rescind it. But if they follow through with their intent to put the fee to a referendum rather than decide upon it themselves, most likely they forfeit the opportunity to reduce or get rid of it later. In the unlikely event that voters approve the fee, voter approval also would be required to remove or reduce it unless legal and creative ballot language specifies otherwise, according to City Hall’s most informed authorities. And we all know creative ballot language’s effect on voter trust. The question would not be whether voters would want to cut or delete the fee, but how soon. How soon is the problem. The matter would have to await the next available election — assuming the council would be willing to schedule it for a referendum. As safe as is the assumption that both the council and voters would be willing, that process would take a lot more time to unfold than the undoing of a council-imposed fee. Undoing or reducing a council-imposed fee would require only a public hearing and council votes at two separate meetings. So, as little as

TOM WHITEHURST JR. VIEWPOINTS/OPINION PAGE EDITOR

two weeks. There’s also the matter of election expense — about $180,000, according to City Secretary Armando Chapa. The expense of a council rollback of a council-imposed fee would be minimal — the staff time of adding the agenda items to the meetings, plus the meeting time. If council members were willing to forgo grandstanding and since no one would be likely to speak against reducing or ending the fee, five minutes for the public hearing and five minutes apiece for the two readings and votes should wrap it all up. The fee was the recommendation of a special committee assigned to assess Corpus Christi’s alarmingly dilapidated streets and figure out what to do about them. The committee, which included professionals who design and build roads, spent a year at the task before recommending the fee. The committee members warned that the user fee wasn’t a good solution, or the only one. It’s just the best and most imme-

diate way to start raising the $55 million a year that the committee figured would need to be spent for 22 years to restore the streets. The most recent estimate for bringing the city’s existing streets to an acceptable condition is $967 million — revised down from $1.2 billion. Those figures don’t include the associated costs of dealing with the utilities under the streets, which add about 75 cents of utility expense per dollar spent on streets. Nobody wants to pay a new fee, including the committee members, one of whom anticipates that the fee would cost his business many tens of thousands of dollars a year. Council members not only don’t want to pay the fee, they don’t want to be the ones to impose it. So, rather than approve it as the committee urged them, they decided to let voters decide. Prevailing wisdom says that letting voters decide is tantamount to killing the fee. Waiting for the November election keeps the council’s hands Pilateclean. But not approving the fee outright robs the council of all sorts of flexibility. For example, what if the city eventually gets a local dedicated gasoline tax through the Legislature and local voters? Or, what if Nueces

County commissioners go against their nature and add a street fee to vehicle registration renewals? And what if the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority kicks in a few million extra dollars from its sales tax revenue? The council and everyone in Corpus Christi being charged a street fee would want to cut it immediately, dollar for dollar, for every new, offsetting source of street repair revenue. Immediacy won’t be possible if voters rather than the council approve the user fee. But that’s all hypothetical, based on the unlikelihood that either the council or the voters approve the fee, when the probability is that neither will. At least the council has the answer to the question: How soon can we remove or cut a street user fee? Not that it will prevent some council member from asking, nevertheless, at one of the three remaining street maintenance workshops where they’ve done nothing but ask questions already answered repeatedly by the committee and by this newspaper. The question for council members to answer is: Will they solve the street problem and, if so, when? OK, that’s two questions. Tom Whitehurst Jr. is Viewpoints/Opinion Page Editor of the Caller-Times.


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Quick Read

MOODY COACH REINSTATED Moody High School baseball coach Corky Gallegos is reinstated to full coaching and teaching duties Tuesday after being suspended following a March 30 arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

Lack of access to evidence cited

■ Overton trial

attorney called for testimony By Michelle Villarreal villarrealm@caller.com 361-886-3716

One of Hannah Overton’s trial attorneys testified Tuesday that the state failed to turn over evidence of the boy’s stomach contents, which he said could have changed the outcome of the trial.

ONLINE

Check out Caller.com for live coverage of Hannah Overton’s hearing starting at 9 a.m. today.

But prosecutors argue that defense attorneys said they had access to the evidence and cannot prove that it would have made a difference. Overton, 35, was convicted of capital murder in 2007 in connection with the death of her foster

child, Andrew Burd. The boy died at a Corpus Christi hospital in 2006 from elevated sodium levels. Overton’s attorneys called Chris Pinedo, one of Overton’s trial attorneys, to testify about discrepancies in various documents and photos of the boy’s stomach contents. Pinedo said he could not say with 100 percent confidence that the stomach content information would See TRIAL, 6A

TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Prosecutor Doug Norman looks over his notes Tuesday during the second day of Hannah Overton’s evidentiary hearing while Overton watches .

LOCAL, 1B

KING RANCH CASE DROPPED Charges against a man accused of poaching a feral hog on King Ranch property are dismissed by the Kleberg County Attorney’s Office days before he was scheduled to face them. LOCAL, 1B

Rare bird is shot, killed

Extreme makeover

■ Bayfront transforms for annual

■ Whooping

Buc Days parade and carnival

crane found in South Dakota By David Sikes

BP ENGINEER ARRESTED

sikesd@caller.com 361-886-3616

A BP engineer is arrested and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence sought by federal authorities. NATION, 3A

SOFTBALL STAFF SUSPENDED John Paul II softball coach Ray Heenan and his assistant coaches have been suspended for the rest of the season by the TAPPS 3-4A district committee. SPORTS, 1C INDEX BUSINESS 7C-8C COMICS 6B-7B CROSSWORD 7B OBITUARIES 4B-5B LOTTERY 6C OPINION 8A-9A

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IF YOU GO

ABOVE: A worker ties down the tent covering the carousel Tuesday at the Buc Days midway along Shoreline Boulevard .

What: Buc Days Stripes Carnival Where: Shoreline Boulevard and Park Street (the former site of the Memorial Coliseum) When: 5-10 p.m. Thursday 5 p.m. to midnight Friday Noon to midnight Saturday Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday 5-10 p.m. Monday through May 3 5 p.m. to midnight May 4 Noon to midnight May 5 Noon to 10 p.m. May 6 Cost: $5 for adults (18 and older); $3 for seniors (65 and older); $3 for children taller than 36 inches; and free for children shorter than 36 inches. Tokens are $1 each, and all-you-can-ride wristbands are $20. Parking: There will be free parking and a shuttle busing people from Sunrise Mall to the Buc Days Festival grounds noon to 12:30 a.m. Saturday and noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday and May 5 and 6. Information: www.bucdays.com

TOP: Bruce Wolf, of Rental World in Corpus Christi, zip ties banners to the main entryway Tuesday during setup for the Buc Days carnival along Shoreline Boulevard . LEFT: John Gosnell, of Austin, adjusts some of the bulbs on top of the Arctic Blast ride as Rob Kearney, of Corpus Christi, tries to pass him some equipment Tuesday as they help set up the Buc Days carnival along Shoreline Boulevard in Corpus Christi. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

TEXANS NEED DEPTH Free agency took the luster off the playoff push by Houston Texans. Thursday will be the start of replacing those players lost. See who else is likely to go in picks 17-32 of the NFL draft.

User fee likely for street repairs

■ Tax may be best

option, council says By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

To subscribe:

883-3800

A new tax for utility customers likely will be the initial funding source for street maintenance, which has been ignored for years because of a lack of funds. Some City Council members

DATA

Check out areas of the city with streets in the worst condition, and read more about why Corpus Christi doesn’t have money for street maintenance at Caller.com/streets.

agreed Tuesday a street user fee is the best way to start paying for overlays, seal coats and road reconstruction to begin reversing decades of street neglect.

The council’s input marked the final workshop with city staff. During the past four weeks, staff led four presentations to discuss funding options . The street user fee , used in Bryan and Austin, would require more research by city staff because its formula is based on land use and the number of trips generated, City Manager Ron Olson said. For example, a commercial business, See TAX, 6A

An adult whooping crane that spent the winter in Texas was shot in a South Dakota cornfield before it could reach the endangered birds’ breeding grounds in Canada, federal wildlife officials said. The Whooping Crane Conservation Association is INSIDE offering up to See a map $10,000 for in- where the formation that Wooping leads to the con- crane was viction of the shot. 6A shooter. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also offered a reward. The bird was killed Friday about 17 miles southwest of Miller, S.D. In a news release, investigators with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks wrote that the endangered bird was traveling with two other whooping cranes when it was shot in the afternoon with a high-power rifle. Chester McConnell, of the whooping crane association, said 11 other whooping cranes have been shot in about two years, all of them from experimental populations and a nonmigratory Louisiana population. See CRANE, 6A

TIPS LINE Call 888- 683-7224 or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at 605-224-9045 to report any information that could aid officers in the apprehension of the shooter. Callers can remain anonymous.

REWARD DONATIONS Donations to the Whooping Crane Conservation Association’s Reward Account should be mailed to Whooping Crane Conservation Association, 2139 Kennedy Ave., Loveland, CO, 80538 or online at www.whoopingcrane. com. Click on the membership icon.


6A » Wednesday, April 25, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

FROM THE COVER TRIAL

WHOOPING CRANE SHOT

from 1A

have helped Overton’s case, but the state didn’t fulfill its duty to provide the evidence. Pinedo said prosecutors failed to turn over a supplemental report from an officer that detailed when and where the boy’s vomit was collected. Gerry Goldstein, one of Overton’s attorneys, asked if the stomach content samples would have affected Pinedo’s representation of Overton. “I cannot be effective if I don’t have all the evidence,” Pinedo said. Prosecutor Bill Ainsworth pointed out that Pinedo and David Jones, another of Overton’s trial attorneys, also are her appellate attorneys. A i n swor t h a s ke d Pinedo why they would be kept to represent Overton if they were ineffective at trial. Pinedo said he did not know the reasons behind choosing Overton’s defense counsel. The subject of lesser charges also was discussed. Pinedo said Overton had the option to allow the jury to consider lesser charges besides capital murder at trial. Despite her attorneys’ advice to take that option, she refused. “You never know what’s going to happen at trial,” Pinedo said. “Mrs. Overton made her own decision.” Late Tuesday afternoon, Overton sat with her elbow on the table and her cheek resting on her right hand. Her husband, Larry, sat in the second row behind her. Overton’s appeal for an overturned conviction includes two key claims: that her trial attorneys failed to properly represent her and that prosecutors withheld test results that showed low levels of sodium in the boy’s stomach contents. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered District Judge Jose Longoria in February to hold the evidentiary hearing to look into the merits of Overton’s claims. Longoria won’t rule in the case but will make a recommendation and report his findings to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The court will then determine whether the evidence is grounds to set Overton free or order her a new trial, or has no merit. The trial’s lead prosecutor, Sandra Eastwood,

Wood Buffalo National Park CAN NA ADA DA

0 0

250 mi 250 km

Miller Sioux Falls

USA

MEXICO

2,500-mile migration path

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

PHOTOS BY TODD YATES/CALLER-TIMES

Dr. Michael Moritz, called as an expert witness for Hannah Overton, is the first to take the stand on Tuesday, the second day of a hearing related to her capital murder conviction.

Overton’s attorneys show a document stating that photographs were taken during an investigation of Andrew Burd’s stomach contents.

I cannot be effective if I don’t have all the evidence.”

Chris Pinedo, one of Hannah Overton’s trial attorneys

Chris Pinedo, one of Overton’s trial attorneys, takes the stand on Tuesday to point out evidence he said should have been turned over to the defense.

is expected to take the stand today. Dr. Michael Moritz, a clinical director of pediatric nephrology at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, also was called Tuesday. Moritz said he has diagnosed intentional salt poisoning when the parent tries to fake medical illness in the child. “It’s a very perverse form of child abuse and suggests psychological disorders,” he said. In cases where a child is salt poisoned, there is obvious evidence of other forms of abuse, he said. With Overton,

those signs were not there, Moritz said. Moritz suggested that vomit should have been collected at home, on Andrew’s clothes and in the car to test the salt levels. He said that when Andrew was in the hospital, he was given more salt in saline solutions because the doctors did not diagnose sodium intoxication immediately. Moritz described Andrew’s situation as a “perfect storm.” He said there was a time when the boy was not being watched. Moritz suggested Andrew voluntarily ate

the seasoning because he liked it, the sodium was easily absorbed in his system, and he ate an unimaginable level that proved to be fatal. Prosecutor Doug Norman pointed out that Moritz spoke with Overton’s attorneys before the 2007 trial, but the defense chose not to use Moritz’s testimony. Norma n asked if Moritz was aware of Overton’s children’s testimony during trial that the Cajun seasoning was given to them as a form of punishment. Moritz said he thought it was pepper. Overton’s defense has long argued that the boy had emotional and medical problems and would eat odd food, including the salty seasoning. Prosecutors say the defense claims of Overton’s wrongful conviction are unfounded and nothing new.

Maine regulators pave way for U.S. tidal power By David Sharp Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine regulators on Tuesday put three utilities on the path to distribute electricity harnessed from tides at the nation’s eastern tip, a key milestone in a bid to turn the natural rise and fall of ocean levels into power. The Maine Public Utilities Commission set terms for a contract that would be in place for 20 years. The regulators also directed the three utilities to negotiate with Ocean Renewable Power Co. to put electricity onto the grid this summer, the first long-term power purchase agreements for tidal energy in the United States. “It’s a landmark in the commercialization of tidal energy in the U.S.,” Chris Sauer, president and CEO of the Portland-based company, told The Associated Press. Ocean Renewable intends to install its first underwater turbine unit this summer on Cobscook Bay under a demonstration project. Power production will begin modestly, with the first unit producing enough electricity for 20 to 25 homes; the pilot program calls for additional units at sites off both Lubec and Eastport to bring production to 4 megawatts,

SD

A whooping crane was shot 17 miles southwest of Miller, S.D.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Energy Tide 2, the largest tidal energy turbine ever deployed in the U.S., appears on a barge in Portland, Maine. The Maine Public Utilities Commission set contract terms and directed three utilities to negotiate with Ocean Renewable Power Co. to put electricity onto the grid this summer.

enough to power up more than 1,000 homes by 2016. All told, the company sees up to 50 megawatts of tidal power potential off Lubec and Eastport, home to one of the world’s best tidal sites, where the tide rises and falls 20 feet twice a day. The Maine Public Utilities Commission established what’s called a contract term sheet for the project. It sets the rate to be paid for the tide-generated electricity at 21.5 cents per kilowatt hour, a subsidized rate that’s far higher than the current standard offer of about 11 to 12 cents paid by most Maine residents.

Central Maine Power, Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co. will negotiate a contract with Ocean Renewable under the framework established by regulators. Richard Davies, Maine’s public advocate, said there were some mixed emotions over setting a rate that’s so much higher than the current cost of electricity. But Davies and his staff came down in support of the project because the cost of energy produced by fossil fuels will likely grow much faster than the cost of tidal energy over the course of the 20-year contract. In

fact, he said, the energy could become competitive within five years. The 21.5-cent rate, which grows 2 percent a year over the contract, makes the project feasible, Sauer said. It’ll be subsidized through a previously established state fund. Ocean Renewable’s Maine Tidal Energy Project is one of two tidal programs to receive pilot project licenses earlier this year from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The other company, Verdant Power, is working to advance its own tidal energy system in New York City’s East River.

CRANE from 1A

Those birds are not as wary as the wild birds that annually migrate to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, he said. It is rare for wild whooping cranes to be shot, he said, adding that most shootings are the result of youths’ mischievous behavior. “But some are just mean people, the kind of person who would murder someone on the street for no good reason,” McConnell said from his home in Spanish Fort, Ala. Whooping cranes are among the rarest birds,

TAX

from 1A

such as a fast-food restaurant, generates more traffic and would pay a higher fee than a residential property. Council members said they think the street user fee likely is the best option because it will be dedicated to street maintenance, unlike the current funding. The council previously has said they want voters to decide on the fee. But Tuesday, council members Nelda Martinez and Larry Elizondo said they want to implement a street user fee as soon as city staff have a proposal ready. That could be as early as June, Olson said. Martinez said the council cannot afford to wait for a public vote in November. If the public didn’t pass the user fee, the cost to repair the streets would further increase, she said. “Let’s either pay now, or if not, we’ll pay a lot more later,” she said. Elizondo agreed. “I think we have to realize that we are not going to appease everyone in this community 100 percent,” he said. “That’s a fact.” He added that he didn’t feel comfortable raising rates to generate $55 million a year, the amount a committee recommended. It’s too much, too soon, he said. “Where’s the tolerance level and where will it be acceptable to the citizens?” he asked staff. Cou nci l m a n M a rk Scott agreed the best option seemed to be a user fee, but he didn’t say whether he thought the council should decide. Councilman John Marez said whatever the council does, staff need to make sure they are in touch with Rep. Todd Hunter, R- Corpus Christi, chairman of the powerful Texas Legislature Calendars Committee, so the city can pursue legislative options, such as a fuel tax, vehicle registration tax or increasing property tax. Gov. Rick Perry recently asked state lawmakers not to propose any tax increases during the next legislative session, which begins in January. Council members Priscilla Leal, Kelley Allen and Chris Adler didn’t say whether they thought staff should move forward with a street user fee proposal. Adler is concerned about the level of debt the city will absorb dur-

with a population of about 600 worldwide, about half of which are captive raised birds. The crane that was shot this week, its mate, and their sub-adult offspring were among the estimated 300 whooping cranes that migrate from South Texas to the Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta and the Northwest Territories in Canada. This population of cranes is the only self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the world. In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Let’s either pay now, or if not, we’ll pay a lot more later,” Nelda Martinez, Corpus Christi City Council

ing the next 20 years to pay for streets. “The whole process is overwhelming, and we can’t think of just the streets,” she said. “We can’t tie up every penny we can spend on this one thing. We can only do the best we can with what we have. And we can’t have everything.” Mayor Joe Adame and Councilman David Loeb weren’t at the meeting Tuesday. Adame was attending a conference, and Loeb had a shoulder injury, City Secretary Armando Chapa said. Each year the streets budget, which is about $10.5 million this year, competes with general city services. Parks, libraries, police, fire and trash services make up some of the general fund services, which are mostly paid for with property tax revenues. Police and fire make up about half of the general fund. During the past 30 years, the streets department budget has been cut in half, dropping from 10 percent to 5 percent. The cuts have reduced the street maintenance efforts to filling pot holes and patching poor sections of streets. A new maintenance plan would generate as much as $55 million a year, splitting the money to pay for routine maintenance and street re con st r uc t ion . It ’s enough money to get the city streets department back on a maintenance schedule, so the city can improve the road conditions, said members of a committee who studied a solution for a year. About half of city streets are past the point of repair and need to be reconstructed. The estimated cost to return streets to a manageable condition is about $967 million. That doesn’t include underground infrastructure repairs, such as replacing storm drains. The committee also recommended the council offset the user fee by considering other funding options. Council members said Tuesday they want staff to write a proposal that includes an option to redirect sales tax revenue from the Regional Transportation Authority and a fund set up to pay for seawall repairs.


Don’t dismiss the bold flavor of mesquite beans in shortbread and even fish, writes Karey B. Johnson. FOOD, 8B

75 CENTS

91˚/66˚ Partly sunny

11A

Quick Read

JURY SOUGHT IN CITGO CASE Federal prosecutors want a jury to decide Citgo’s punishment in the ongoing sentencing process for the refiner’s felony environmental offenses. LOCAL, 1B

OBESITY RATE LIKELY TO RISE Advocacy group Trust for America’s Health predicts that by 2030 more than half the people in the majority of states will be obese. NATION, 3A

UT-EX YOUNG OUT OF MONEY

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

Street user fee resolution OK’d ■ Funds will be INSIDE

used for road maintenance

By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

Plans to establish a street user fee to restore the city’s street maintenance are moving forward, City Council members agreed Tuesday. The council approved a resolution dictating they will work toward approving a street user fee that would be dedicated to annual street maintenance,

Proposed street program. 6A

including overlays and seal coats to prolong the life of streets in good condition. “There are still citizens out there that believe it’s not our problem, but it is,” Councilman John Marez said. “It’s all of our problem. We are having to deal with it. I’m supporting this today for the sake of moving forward. We still have a lot of details to work out.” A monthly street fee, estimated to be between

HOW IT WORKS

The street user fee would apply to those who have active water meter accounts. It would be based on living square footage and land use for the property. Those who don’t pay the street user fee could have their city water, gas and wastewater services discontinued. Also, a lien could be placed on the property for failure to pay. The fee for each property will be based on property records on file with the Nueces County Appraisal District. School, city, state and federal properties would be exempt. There will be no credits applied or retroactive adjustments. The street fee will have a 10-year sunset date, so the City Council can reassess whether the street user fee was effective.

See FEE, 6A

Rowing gets added to the 3 Rs

Chaparral Street plan moves ahead ■ Building may INSIDE

begin within two months By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

After months of delay, a voter-approved project to improve two blocks of Chaparral Street is moving forward with an approved construction contract. The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $4.8 million contract with Reytec Construction Resources, of Houston. The contract will not include infrastructure for

Council eyes police in-car recorders. 6A

an upscale, overhead lighting system included in the project design plans or brick paver covers at utility clean-out areas. Those items will be removed from the contract under the terms the council approved, which reduces it to about $3.9 million. Construction could begin within the next two months as city engineers work to fi nalize the paperwork for the approved contract. The final decision See CONTRACT, 6A

DR. HECTOR P. GARCIA DAY Garcia’s legacy will be remembered with a variety of events and school lessons in the Coastal Bend.

Peter Peralez puts on his life vest before the freshmen launched into the water.

Former Texas quarterback Vince Young is without a team and has a fraction of the money he got from a $26 million deal. SPORTS, 1C

Texas, Coastal Bend reflect ■ Civil rights

leader’s legacy to be honored

OILFIELD EXPO EXPECTS CROWD

By Sarah Acosta acostas@caller.com 361-886-4318

The sold-out South Texas Oilfield Expo is expected to bring more than 15,000 key oil and gas industry insiders to Corpus Christi.

filed in federal court. Valdez said a court will set hearings for people affected by the testing between 2005 and 2011. He said the process could take longer than two years depending how many people come forward. The $700,000, which will come from the city’s risk management and liability fund, is for potential back pay for women

South Park Middle School eighth-grader John Avalon always had seen the name Dr. Hector P. Garcia on buildings around Corpus Christi. John didn’t know the person or legacy behind INSIDE the name until he visited Dr. Hector Garcia’s me- P. Garcia morial statue events. 8A at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi last year with classmates. He learned what was beyond Garcia’s name. He learned that Garcia fought for minorities’ freedom and civil rights. “He made a difference for us,” John said. “If it wasn’t for him, our freedom wouldn’t be how it is now.” Garcia’s legacy will be remembered Wednesday with a variety of events as well as teachings in Coastal Bend schools in honor of Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day. In 2009, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill making every third Wednesday of September Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day to remember his legacy and contributions to civil rights. Garcia’s daughter Cecilia Garcia Akers’ main goal behind the holiday’s establishment was to have his message remembered and implemented into the education system. “We didn’t want the day off. That doesn’t accomplish anything,” Akers said. Garcia created the American GI Forum in

See COUNCIL, 7A

See GARCIA, 8A

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David Saenz Jr. (front right) and Jorge Leos paddle their way back to shore Tuesday as freshmen in the Innovation Academy at Moody High School learn to kayak along Fish Pass on Mustang Island. The training makes it possible for students to access marine habitats as part of their environmental and marine science studies.

F

reshmen in the Innovation Academy took to the water Tuesday to learn the kayaking skills they’ll need to study environmental and marine habitats. This is the third year freshmen in the Innovation Academy for Engineering, Environmental & Marine Science at Moody High School teamed up with the Office of Research, Commercialization and Outreach at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to learn how to kayak. Students started their training Tuesday morning in the pool at the university before going out along Mustang Island with instructors and a lifeguard.

Freshman Michaela Leal helps pull her kayak into position as a group of freshmen test their kayaking skills at Fish Pass on Mustang Island.

Michael Zamora

GET A SC GET SCOR ORE E OR L LEA EAVE EA VE A S SCO CORE CO RE Get updates of high school football scores each Friday night from across the Coastal Bend and the state of Texas at Caller.com/ live-chat from 7 p.m. to midnight.

City accepts terms in police complaint ■ 18 women

who failed test may be hired By Michelle Villarreal villarrealm@caller.com 361-886-3716

To subscribe:

883-3800

Corpus Christi City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the terms of a federal consent decree in connection with Police

Department hiring practices regarding female applicants. The Department of Justice fi led a complaint in July alleging the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and challenged the city’s entrance exams as being discriminatory against women. The City Council and attorneys met in executive session last week to discuss the issue, and the

council voted Tuesday to accept the terms of the decree with federal recommendations. Federal officials have recommended the city hire 18 women who did not pass the physical test and offer $700,000 in compensation. City Attorney Carlos Valdez said in Tuesday’s meeting that the city arrived at a settlement that is best for its interests. He said the decree will be


6A Âť Wednesday, September 19, 2012 Âť

C A L L E R -T I M E S

FROM THE COVER

PROPOSED STREET PROGRAM The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s proposed street maintenance program has four main funding elements, including the street user fee for maintenance, city debt to pay for major reconstruction, new design standards for roads and a self-imposed assessment program for rebuilding residential streets.

CONTRACT from 1A

Maintenance:

$15 MILLION/YEAR â&#x2013; Street user fee on utility bills for street overlays and seal coats â&#x2013;  Property tax â&#x2013;  Legislative initiatives, such as possible local fuel tax â&#x2013;  Shift budget priorities to streets

Reconstruction/ Rehabilitation: Local/ Residential Streets:

$435 MILLION

$531 MILLION

for arterial and collector streets â&#x2013; Funded with bonds approved by voters in phases

â&#x2013; Neighborhoods

could agree to fees to pay for 90 percent of costs for local roads â&#x2013; City pays 10 percent â&#x2013;  $5 million/year dedicated from city

â&#x2013; Major construction

Policy changes â&#x2013; Higher street construction standards â&#x2013;  New street cut policy

Source: City of Corpus Christi

FEE

from 1A $5 and $10 a month for the average residential user, will generate $15 million a year in street maintenance during the next 10 years. City Manager Ron Olson said his staff plans to have a user fee cost estimate by Dec. 31. A new street user fee plan on utility bills could be in place by Aug. 1, so the city can dedicate more money each year to maintaining city streets, which have been neglected for decades. The council approved the resolution in an 8-1 vote, with Councilwoman Priscilla Leal voting against it. She voted against working with city staff toward a solution because she thinks the street user fee is unfair and will place a bigger burden on residents who are living on a ďŹ xed income. About half of the city streets are past the point of maintenance and need to be torn out and replaced. One way the city can maintain streets in good condition is by restoring a maintenance plan, city

A

bout half of the city streets are past the point of maintenance and need to be torn out and replaced.

staff have said. The price tag to bring streets up to a manageable standard is about $967 million. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not enough money in the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s general fund to cover the cost. City staff and council members will work together during the next several months to come up with a street management plan. Several council members said they want staff to ďŹ gure out a public education program to help residents and business owners understand how the plan will work. During the past 30 years, the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s street maintenance budget has been cut in half, to about 5 percent of the general fund. It has eroded the street department budget to $10.5 million a year, which has reduced the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plan to ďŹ lling pot holes and patching sections of the street. The cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s street maintenance plan has four funding elements. They include the street user

fee, city debt to pay for reconstruction, new design standards for roads and a self-imposed assessment program for rebuilding residential streets. The $35 million annual plan includes $15 million from the street user fee for road overlays and seal coats, and about $15 million in debt to rebuild the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worst arterial roads, such as parts of Staples Street, from Brawner Parkway to Interstate 37. The council also has discussed asking voters to decide on $55 million in bond work every two years. The city also would dedicate about $5 million to rebuild neighborhood streets, and would require property owners to pay for 90 percent of the repair work. Neighborhoods would have to agree to the assessment. Under the staff-recommended plan, about 85 percent of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s streets would have some form of maintenance or reconstruction within 10 years.

Tuesday was bittersweet for an Austin development firm that purchased the old Lichenstein Building with plans to tear down the vacant department store to make room for a $28 million, ďŹ ve-story retail and residential apartment building. The company, RealTex Development Corp., decided to invest in the building after viewing the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s design plans for the public improvement project. Upscale lighting over the streets is what attracted RealTex, said John D. Schleider, vice president of development for the company. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re very excited the city is ďŹ nally moving forward on this project,â&#x20AC;? he said before the vote Tuesday. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I still got to say weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re still disappointed itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not the full-blown concept.â&#x20AC;? At-large Councilman Mark Scott said the city would come up with a lessexpensive lighting solution, asking engineering staff to work with RealTex while ďŹ nalizing those plans. One idea for lighting could include wrapping the trees in lights to mimic the look of Second Street in Austin, Scott said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are still going to provide you with the atmosphere you need to be successful,â&#x20AC;? he said. RealTex plans to move forward with its redevelopment, Schleider said. Voters approved the project during the 2008 bond election. It will improve the two blocks between William and Schatzell streets, and that will serve as a pilot project for an 11-block plan to improve the infrastructure and pedestrian appeal along Chaparral, which many consider the heart of downtown. The project will reconnect Chaparral Street to the arts and entertainment district across Interstate 37. The downtown portion of the street will be returned to a two-way road. The revised project scope includes brick pavers at the street intersections and on the widened sidewalks, new trees, irrigation, power outlets, traffic signals and underground utility improvements. Council members John Marez and Nelda Martinez

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Renderings show the bond 2008 project to improve two blocks of Chaparral Street, which include wider sidewalks, patterned concrete and brick pavers at the intersections.

IN OTHER BUSINESS The City Council:

â&#x2013; Approved a ďŹ rst reading to purchase 164 in-car video recording systems for police squad cars. An ordinance would transfer about $1.4 million so the Police Department could sign an agreement for video cameras from Coban Technologies under a cooperative agreement with the Houston-Galveston Area Council of Governments. Corpus Christi has the largest Police Department in Texas without mounted dash cameras inside police cars. The cameras will help police capture evidence which can be used in court, during arrests and trafďŹ c stops, department ofďŹ cials have said.

said they believe the progression of the Chaparral project could have been handled better. Several downtown business owners and investors made plans around the original Chaparral design. They were upset about the delays as city staff worked to reign in the project budget. Under the original project timeline, the improvements would have been completed this summer. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Maybe we just didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have the foresight that the bidding would change on this project, but we are moving forward on it,â&#x20AC;? Marez said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s long overdue.â&#x20AC;? The project design exceeded the estimated budget even after engineers rebid the project in an attempt to get a better price. A few weeks ago, council members decided to scale back the design after the design exceeded the original budget estimate of $3.5 million. Plans for an overhead lighting system, expected to cost $1.8 million, were scrapped along with the cost of specialized utility cleanouts, for a total of $2.2 million. Money is available to pay for the entire cost of the design, but the council has pledged to spend it on other projects not approved

by voters, including a bridge on Padre Island and a Southside road realignment at the intersection of Yorktown Boulevard and Rodd Field Road. There is about $12 million in anticipated savings from the street projects in the 2008 bond. Resident Johnny French, who has attended several council meetings to voice concern about bond projects, asked the council to table the item because he thought it should be reconsidered. He thinks the councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s decision to pledge money for other projects and scale back a voter-approved project is a mistake. District 3 Councilwoman Priscilla Leal said she was disappointed in the outcome of the Chaparral Street project and thought the city should have completed the full design using the money pledged for other projects. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I believe the 2008 money should have been used to get you what you want,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I know you made a big investment, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sorry you had to go down to a low use of what it was before. Thank you very much for still making that investment in our downtown.â&#x20AC;? Councilman David Loeb abstained from the discussion and vote because his office is on Chaparral Street.

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10A » Friday, September 21, 2012 »

C A L L E R -T I M E S

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Opinion

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Editorial

A step forward in solving city’s street problem The City Council took a step Tuesday toward reversing three decades of neglectful street maintenance. How decisive a step? That’s difficult to decide. The council resolved, 8-1, to work toward approving a street user fee to fund street maintenance. “Work toward approving” are words chosen carefully by Caller-Times reporter Jessica Savage. They mean the council is headed in that direction, not that the council approved the fee. As District 2 Councilman John Marez said: “We still have a lot of details to work out.” By when? Well, City Manager Ron Olson says the staff will have a user fee estimate by Dec. 31. It could appear on utility bills by Aug. 1. The council election is Nov. 6. Is it a cheap shot to point that out — to hint that the council has kicked a can down a pothole-pitted road? That’s difficult to decide. The council has been Current haggling this issue since January, when a special council mayoral committee recmembers can ommended the fee and claim with that it be high enough to generate $55 million credence that a year. The committee they made a said the streets needed difference in the more than $1.2 billion in work. It’s understandoutcome. ... And able that council membecause of their bers suffered sticker shock. They were conmonths of fused and skeptical. wrestling with Their questioning led to a revision of the esthe funding timate to $967 million. mechanisms, How does the old saying go? A hundred million the payment here, a hundred million plan is more there ... affordable.” It was a huge change, owing to the council’s inquisitiveness — and the city manager’s. They should be commended. But the city still had billion-dollar problem on its hands, rounded up slightly instead of rounded down significantly. January seems forever ago. More forceful leadership from Mayor Joe Adame, who correctly identified the street problem as a priority, would have pushed the process faster. But the ensuing months of discussion resulted in an agreed-upon solution significantly nearer a comfort zone for the council, staff and all who will bear the cost for street work. The solution is a combination of mostly the user fee and bond funding, and partly a targeted assessment for reconstruction of neighborhood streets in which the neighbors, if they agree to have their street rebuilt, pay 90 percent. The user fee is expected to be between $5 and $10 for the average residence. That’s a whole lot of between between “between” and “and.” Commercial and industrial properties will be assessed more, in some cases a lot more. No matter how much more, or how equitable in relation to what households pay, it won’t be enough to quell criticism of the council that approves the fee schedule. That council will have, at minimum, four new members. Current council members can claim with credence that they made a difference in the outcome. Their questioning shaved significantly more than $200 million from the grand estimate. And because of their months of wrestling with the funding mechanisms, the payment plan is more affordable — the committee’s fee estimate was $20 for the average household. Marez was correct — there are a lot of details to work out. But the council’s resolution to “work toward approving” a street user fee is a step forward.

EDITORIAL BOARD DARRELL COLEMAN PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER

SHANE FITZGERALD VICE PRESIDENT/EDITOR

NICK JIMENEZ EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR EMERITUS

ELVIA AGUILAR COMMUNITY BOARD MEMBER

ADRIANA GARZA-FLORES COMMUNITY BOARD MEMBER

ALLISON EHRLICH ARCHIVIST, EDITOR OF LETTERS

TOM WHITEHURST JR. VIEWPOINTS/OPINION PAGE EDITOR

CONTRIBUTIONS By mail: Letters to the Editor P.O. Box 9136 Corpus Christi, TX 78469

By email: ctletters@ caller.com By fax: 361-886-3732

LETTERS Rebecca Esparza

Making cancer a national priority Last week, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent cancer patients and survivors from South Texas to call on Congress to make cancer research and treatment a national priority. I joined more than 600 American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers from across the country to ask lawmakers to protect funding for cancer research and prevention programs. I met with Representative Blake Farenthold and made it clear that Congress needs to put partisanship aside on behalf of the nearly 14 million cancer survivors in the United States and more than 1.6 million people in America who will be diagnosed this year. Funding for research at the National Institutes of Health and for cancer prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and through the new Prevention and Public Health Fund must be top priorities in the federal budget. Legislation recently introduced in

Congress to improve the quality of life for cancer patients must also be an important priority. By making these lifesaving programs a priority, we will ensure that progress continues in the fight against cancer. As a two-time cancer survivor, a cure is my only hope. Research is the key to eradicating this hideous disease in our lifetime.

Helen Woytovech

Street user fee a bad idea If you are a listed property owner and have a registered “active water meter” you will be billed (by square footage and land use) a street user fee and penalized for nonpayment (“Street user fee resolution OK’d,” Sept. 19). How does square footage or water usage determine the number or types of vehicles associated with the property? Considering the types and volume of motorized vehicles (cars, motorcycles, buses, semis or any other vehicle placing tires on the

street), it seems more feasible that street user fees be collected by the county or state during commercial and individual registrations and driver’s license issuances. Why make people owning property who walk, ride with others or take the bus be taxed (yes, taxed)?

Rocky Freund, Nueces River Authority deputy executive director

Great explanation of lake levels David Sikes did an excellent job explaining the reason behind the low lake levels (“The truth about environmental flows”). There are many factors that play into the reservoir system operation, and he presented this complex topic in a way that is easily understood. The city operates the system in the manner that maximizes the amount for all uses for as long as possible, and it’s up the users to use this water wisely and efficiently. We should all promote and practice year-round water conservation measures.

Health care law aids women’s health Americans receive only about half of the preventive services and screening tests recommended to promote health and wellness, which is crucial in the prevention of developing diseases. The good news is that the Affordable Care Act is increasing women’s access to services that promote their health. This new access to preventive services and screening tests is expected to fill the gaps in current women’s access to comprehensive medical care. Different barriers still exist against the promotion of public health and the establishment of preventive practices that are a fundamental part of medical care in any population. One of these barriers is certainly the financial aspects involved with people undergoing recommended preventive services. By removing the financial barriers to these services through this Act, our women are being offered the opportunity to access needed preventive care. On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148 into law, creating new reforms that increase access to affordable health coverage for everyone and protect consumers from abusive insurance company practices. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Public Law 111-152, was enacted on March 30, 2010 (collectively known as the “Affordable Care Act”). This law establishes the creation of an office to be known as “The Office of Women’s Health,” which aims to coordinate ac-

DR. ANA M. RODRIGUEZ FORUM

tivities related to disease prevention, health promotion, service delivery and research for issues of particular concern to women throughout their life span. Since Aug. 1, under the Affordable Care Act and the new Office of Women’s Health, it has been required that most private health plans cover preventive services for women without having to pay a copayment or a deductible. Some of these preventive services include: ■ Well-woman visits ■ Screening for gestational diabetes ■ Screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older ■ Screening for breast cancer (mammograms) ■ Screening for colorectal cancer (colonoscopies) ■ Screening for cervical cancer (Pap smears) ■ Counseling for sexually transmitted infections ■ Counseling and screening for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) ■ Domestic violence screening and counseling ■ FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling ■ Breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling ■ Prenatal care ■ Blood pressure checks ■ Tobacco-use counseling and evidence-based tobacco-cessation interventions ■ Obesity screening Public insurance programs, such as Medicare, on Jan. 1, 2011, started to cover without cost-sharing

It is now our role, as health care providers, to educate our communities on the importance of looking for these preventive services and to help to increase the number of women having mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap smears, tobacco-use counseling and the other preventive services available without cost-sharing or co-payments.” an annual wellness visit that includes a health-risk evaluation and a customized prevention plan based on individual needs. Similarly, in 2013, state Medicaid programs will have incentives to eliminate co-payments for preventive services and screening tests. It is now our role, as health care providers, to educate our communities on the importance of looking for these preventive services and to help to increase the number of women having mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap smears, tobacco-use counseling and the other preventive services available without cost-sharing or co-payments. The implementation of these services and the facilitation of access to the no co-payment screening tests will continue moving prevention as the main source of health in women and communities. Prevention and early detection of disease continue to be the fundamental actions to improve the health of our individuals, communities and nation. Therefore,

it is vital for health care providers and community leaders to get involved in this new initiative. As a gynecologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, I have a strong commitment to women’s health and am pleased that we provide many of these services through our new Comprehensive Women’s Health Care Center. The Center’s principal role will be to address all aspects of women’s health, treating for common medical illnesses and promoting wellness. This clinic will be co-located with the current women’s health clinics in both Galveston and Bay Colony. Let’s start, everybody, making our female patients, friends, neighbors and family members aware of the new preventive services and tests available at no cost and their importance in women’s health. Dr. Ana M. Rodriguez is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.


C A L L E R -T I M E S

Viewpoints Maybe Texas should elect insurance chief Our property insurance costs are often the largest bills we pay. On the coast, the price coastal homeowners pay for windstorm insurance is often more than a regular homeowners’ insurance premium. On Nov. 6, voters will decide who makes decisions on oil and gas, on which history books will be used in classrooms, and what punishments will be assessed to defendants. But the office of insurance commissioner, which sets insurance rates, won’t be on the ballot. Maybe it’s time that it was. There are good reasons an insurance commissioner should be appointed, as Texas’ is now. But the continuing debate over windstorm insurance may be the best argument for Texans having an elected official in the position. At the recent hearing before a joint House-Senate committee on windstorm insurance, state Rep. Todd Hunter pointedly asked the insurance commissioner, Eleanor Kitzman, and the windstorm association director, John Polak, as well as the executive director of the Office of Public Insurance Counsel if they knew how much the 14 coastal counties contribute to the Texas economy. There was much head scratching. (The answer: A study done several years ago said the 14 coastal counties contribute more than 30 percent of the state’s annual gross product.) Did anyone know how many coastal residents were on the windstorm advisory board? More head scratching. (The answer: “Zero,” Hunter told them.) Would an insurance commissioner who had to answer to voters, had to explain how rates were set and defend those rates

Visit: /opinion

A tale of two city streets My little corner of Corpus Christi could raise some interesting questions that the city’s new, evolving street care policy doesn’t yet resolve. I’m sure I’m not alone in worrying about how the voluntary residential street reconstruction part of the plan affects me. According to the resolution passed Sept. 18 by the City Council, residents would pay 90 percent of the cost to have their street redone, if enough neighbors agree. This plan, as I mentioned before, is evolving. But in the hierarchy of street policies that need to be fi gured out, City Engineer Dan Biles says, it’s the lowest priority. I can understand that, considering all the other issues, the main one being how and when to start assessing a street user fee, and for how much. The whole community has been concerned about that. But the neighborhood street plan gives me a worse case of heebie jeebies. I won’t even get into whether there should be a voluntary neighborhood assessment, whether it should be lower, how big a majority of neighbors it should take to outvote the holdouts, or whether neighbors, on principle, will hold out until their streets are worn down to the dirt. Today I have a different issue and I’m sure I’m not alone. Both streets that intersect at my corner are classified as residential and, therefore, 90-percenters. But they’re not really the same. Just about anyone traveling the street in front of my house is either a neighbor or someone coming to visit, deliver

NICK JIMENEZ

be any more accountable? As any South Texas coastal property owner can attest, rates set by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association result in backbreaker bills. If, like all insurance, rates were set by the claims experience — that is, the number of hurricanes that have hit the coast and the damage they have done — it would be hard to argue that they should be lower. But a hurricane hasn’t hit Corpus Christi in more than 40 years. The state’s own records show that South Texas coastal areas have been spared over the decades. Of those storms that have hit, many have gone ashore in sparsely populated area. If South Texas were a person buying car insurance, we would be getting a price break, not a huge bill as we are now. But if you’re a coastal resident, you are probably beginning to sense that politics more than actuarial experience has a hand in those windstorm rates. A state representative from West Texas has a bigger hand in insurance policy than the appointed commissioner. Well, if it’s politics, let’s suit up and play South Texas hardball politics. Let’s elect the insurance commissioner who has to come to the coast, look us in the eye and tell us why hurricane risk is treated as strictly a coastal event when such storms rip through Texas far from the coast. Electing a commissioner would allow the poor and low-income voters, who often can’t afford steep windstorm rates, to have a say in who sets insurance rates. Election would mean that the commissioner would have to listen to coastal residents’ concerns and

Weather

COLUMNIST

campaign for our votes to keep the job. And those aren’t the only insurance concerns that Texans are worried about. Homeowner insurance rates in Texas are consistently among the highest in the country. Maybe joining the 11 states that elect their insurance commissioners, including California and Oklahoma, might shake things up and get Texans a better break. Electing the insurance commissioner is not a new idea. Former state Reps. Juan Garcia and Abel Herrero both advanced the idea, but it got no traction. Indeed, the arguments against election are formidable. The public shouldn’t be asked to select an expert, whether it’s a judge or an insurance commissioner. Nevertheless, we elect judges. Yes, it’s likely that insurance companies and other special interests would pour millions of dollars into such elections. Nevertheless, we elect Railroad Commissioners whose campaigns bulge with oil and gas interest money. All are good reasons to keep the post appointive. The real focus of an effort to bring some sanity to coastal insurance rates ought to be the next Texas Legislature, not fighting to get the insurance commissioner on the ballot. Not yet anyway. If that effort fails, then coastal residents ought to at least get the satisfaction of casting a ballot in who determines those insurance bills that are hanging so heavily over our lives. Nick Jimenez is Editorial Page Editor Emeritus.

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mail or a package, or collect garbage or recyclables. Without benefit of a traffic analysis, I’ll concede that my neighbors and I are the ones wearing out the street. So there’s a better argument for us having to pay 90 percent, much as I’d rather not. The street alongside my house is a different matter. It connects Ocean Drive to Alameda Street. People who don’t live in the neighborhood use it as a shortcut. Since I generously accept my and my neighbors’ responsibility for the non-shortcut traffic in front of my house, I deserve some artistic license in estimating the non-neighborhood-generated traffic on this other street at 107 percent. Until now, my only issues with the traffic were intrusiveness and danger. My across-the-street neighbor petitioned successfully a few years back for a speed hump. She encountered some push-back, especially from some empty-nesters who didn’t have toddlers or pets to allow to be endangered. But she wrangled enough signatures, barely, and paid the shares of some neighbors who refused. We still get our share of fl attened cats, unfortunately. But we enjoy seeing traffic having to slow down for the speed hump, at least. Her difficult signature-gath-

Contact Tom Whitehurst Jr. at whitehurstt@caller.com or 361-886-3619.

MON 1

TUE 2

WED 3

THU 4

FRI 5

SAT 6

87° 66°

89° 88° 89° 88° 68° 66° 68° 57°

80/62/t

86° 89° 68° 64°

82/63/pc Galveston

South Texas Choke Canyon Reservoir (220.5 ft. max cap) 204.80 +0.20

76/68/t

Cuero

83/62/pc

Breezy with some sun

Mostly sunny

Mostly sunny and pleasant

97, 1977 54, 1984

97, 1989 52, 1985

97, 1977 56, 1992

Victoria

Mostly sunny and pleasant

Bright and sunny

Sunshine

Sunny

96, 2000 53, 1975

96, 1989 53, 1975

RECORD

82/62/pc

Beeville

94, 1990 54, 1961

96, 1990 52, 1961

85/64/pc Refugio 84/65/pc George West 86/65/pc

Combined Capacity Lake Corpus Christi (94.0 ft. max cap) 77.40 +0.20

Rockport

Sinton

85/67/pc 83/67/pc

Robstown

Freer

Port Aransas

86/66/pc 86/67/pc

81/71/pc

Alice

Corpus Christi

89/67/pc Laredo

VIEWPOINTS/OPINION PAGE EDITOR

SUN 30

San Antonio

Kingsville

Hebbronville

91/69/pc

TOM WHITEHURST JR.

ering experience could be predictive of what we’d encounter trying to get the street rebuilt. But I digress. My issue, the low-priority one in the evolving street plan, is that having to pay 90 percent of the work on a street used heavily by people who don’t live in the neighborhood seems a bit unfair. It may not be easy to classify these more heavily trafficked residential streets differently but it ought to be done. Biles said it makes sense to have some subcategories for residential streets that could acknowledge differences such as the ones between my front street and my side street. The street funding resolution passed Sept. 18 by the City Council is just a prelude to a whole lot of work for the staff — work that will undergo second-guessing by the council and residents, as it darned well should. As much as this issue I raise today concerns me, the staff has its priorities straight. Not surprisingly, Biles said the assessment program is the street funding issue that seems to raise the most questions — not the least of which is, how to deal with neighborhood income differences. Many times, in this job, I’ve heard, “This is the fi rst time I’ve written a Letter to the Editor.” For those who have never called or written a council member, sharing their questions, complaints or ideas on how to shape a street assessment program would be a good reason to start.

Weekly Forecast

82/60/pc

/weather

41.1%

« Sunday, September 30, 2012 « 21A

86/68/pc

87/65/pc

86/66/pc

Sarita

Falfurrias

88/65/pc

87/65/pc

Forecasts and graphics provided by AccuWeather.com ©2012

Gulf of Mexico

Moon and Sun

Mexico Harlingen

McAllen (For the 48 contiguous states)

Brownsville

High: 103° at Thermal, CA Low: 25° at Embarrass, MN

89/70/pc

Boating

Pollen Count TYPE

Winds:

COUNT

10 miles

Grass 4 Trees 5 Weeds 12 Ragweed Mold 6325

Tides:

Source: Dr. Gary L. Smith, M.D.

South at 10 to 20 knots.

Visibility: High 3:43 am, 5:10 pm Low 9:34 am, 10:06 pm

UV Readings

(Yesterday) RATING

Low Low Moderate N.A. Low

Surf:

Bay water:

7 rows at 4 feet

80°

First Quarter Oct 21

Full

Oct 15

Sunrise Sunset

7:22 a.m. Moonrise 7:30 p.m. 7:17 p.m. Moonset 7:47 a.m.

Oct 29

88/68/pc

91/71/pc

Yesterday’s extremes:

New

Today’s national weather

Last Quarter Oct 8

Almanac

Expected level of ultraviolet light from the sun.

(Yesterday until 3 p.m.)

High 89°, Low 75° Peak winds at 20 mph from the South by Southwest at 4 a.m.

Rain: Yesterday until 3 p.m. 1.21 in. Month-to-date 3.59 in. Year-to-date 18.01 in. Normal year-to-date 24.27 in. Normal yearly rainfall 32.26 in.

c: cloudy; pc: partly cloudy; r: rain; s: sunny; sh: showers; sn: snow; sf: snow flurries t: thunderstorms; i: ice

Texas

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■ Homeowners

By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

Part of the city’s plan to rebuild its crumbling streets includes asking

See a list of the 600 students who Texas A&M University-Kingsville graduated Friday. LOCAL, 6B

MAN KILLED IN SHOPPING MALL A man is found slain inside a Sunrise Mall bathroom on one of the busiest holiday shopping days.

$53 identia 1 M l Str cou eighb ILLI eets: o pay ld agr rhood ON e

homeowners to shoulder most of the costs for residential roads in their neighborhood. But some City Council members question the plan, saying it’s not fair to ask homeowners to pay fees — beyond the taxes everyone pays — to rebuild poorly maintained streets. The city has used such a program, known as a residential street assessment, before. An analysis shows that it historically has a low level of public participation. It’s a lengthy, time-con-

Rec Reh onstr

■N

Street plan hits residents could pay costs for the repairs

A SALUTE TO GRADUATES

Loc Res al/

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

gra ds and onstru mainte ment tenan s mf c or r a self ction, nance , inclu e pro g , d ebu -im n ildin pose ew de city de ing th r g re d as sign bt t e side ses sta o pa ntia sme ndar y ds l st nt ree ts.

suming process that in one case has taken a decade for construction to begin after neighbors signed a petition. Part of the proposed city streets plan, still in draft form, calls for all residential streets in need of rebuilding to be paid for through the assessment program. About 25 percent of the city’s streets are residential roads in poor condition and need to be torn out and

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See the city’s proposed maintenance program. 11A

ONLINE ■ See an interactive map of the 13 street assessment projects at caller.com. ■ Read more about the city’s proposed streets plan and a special report that explains how the condition of the streets got to this point at caller.com/streets.

See STREETS, 11A

Killer’s motive remains elusive HOW TO HELP

LOCAL, 1B

To donate, fill out and mail coupon found on 2B or go to Caller.com.

INSIDE See the donors’ list. 10A Groups help San Patricio youths have a merry Christmas. 1B

PREPS EARN TOP HONORS The best on the volleyball court and the cross-country course are recognized as AllSouth Texas. SPORTS, 1C, 5C

GRADE DISPUTED BY HOSPITAL Christus Spohn Hospital Beeville officials contend the low mark doesn’t reflect its record.

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOS

A man weeps while praying in front of a memorial for shooting victims Saturday outside Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn.

INSIDE No rise in mass killings, but their impact is huge. 5A

LOCAL, 1B

As Conn. shooting story unfolds, media struggle with facts. 5A A list of the school’s shooting victims. 6A

Adam Lanza left no note or manifesto behind before Friday’s school shootings, according to a law enforcement official. Lanza has been described as awkward.

■ Connecticut STEELERS NEXT FOR COWBOYS Dallas’ playoff hopes could ride on the outcome of its home game. TV: CBS, 3:25 P.M. SPORTS, 1C INDEX BUSINESS 18A-19A CROSSWORD 5G LOTTERY 2C NATION/WORLD 4A OBITUARIES 8B-9B OPINION 20A-21A WEATHER 21A

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LEFT: Kathy Murdy (left) and

her husband, Rich Murdy, react as they look at the list of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting Saturday.

town, world wonder why By John Christoffersen and Matt Apuzzo Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Investigators tried to figure out what led a bright but painfully awkward 20-year-old to slaughter 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, while townspeople sadly took down some of their Christmas decorations and struggled Saturday with how to go on. The tragedy brought forth soul-searching and grief around the globe. Families as far away as Puerto Rico began to plan funerals for victims who See SHOOTING, 6A

Jean Bradley (from left), Steven Turchetta, 9, Jean’s son Matthew Bradley, 9, Ashton Baltes, 10, and his mother, Elonda Baltes, pay their respects Saturday at a memorial for shooting victims near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Voucher helps family of five ■ Readers’

generosity goes long, long way By Michelle Villarreal villarrealm@caller.com 361-886-3716

Generous donations to the Caller-Times Children’s Christmas Appeal already have made the holiday one that many families in need will remember. A Corpus Christi family of five, including children ages 8, 6, and 5, received a $150 voucher to Target earlier this month from the Nueces County Department of Human Services. The family, who was living paycheck to paycheck with barely enough left to buy groceries, was able to buy items the family needed, plus Christmas presents for their children. “They know that they were very blessed and wanted me to thank everyone who was involved in making this a very memorable Christmas that they will never forget,” social worker Elsa Adams said on the family’s behalf. But the giving didn’t stop there. After the Caller-Times profiled the family Nov. 28, readers donated a day bed See CHRISTMAS, 10A

CAL120564


C A L L E R -T I M E S

« Sunday, December 16, 2012 « 11A

FROM THE COVER

CALLER-TIMES FILE

A view of Barbara Whiteside’s front yard on Vaky Street after a rain in September 2002. She circulated a petition that year asking neighboring property owners to pay for a new street and storm drains. Voters agreed in the 2004 Bond to repair the 500 blocks of her neighborhood. The petition she started finally received approval and funds to repair the 600 and 700 blocks of Vaky Street.

STREETS from 1A

replaced — at an estimated cost of about $531 million, or more than half of the total $967 million needed to bring all city streets up to a manageable condition. Under the plan, property owners would be responsible for 90 percent of the cost of streets in their neighborhood, and half the homeowners on a street would have to agree through a petition process to pay the assessment. Over 10 years, the 9010 split would equate to a collective $47.8 million per year for residential property owners and $5.2 million per year for the city. Individual property owners could pay between a couple hundred and a few thousand dollars, depending on the length of street in front of their houses and other factors. The option is unpopular with some City Council members. That portion of the plan is the least developed of the four-part streets plan, which city managers call the comprehensive solution to reversing years of neglect that led to heavily worn, pockmarked city streets. The City Council might discuss the assessment program Tuesday when city managers present a more detailed proposal for the street-user fee portion of the plan. Discussion for the overall plan is being presented in four parts to council members so they can take one decision at a time, City Manager Ron Olson said. The plan includes a street user fee for citywide maintenance on all streets, city debt to pay for reconstruction of arterial and collector roads, new design standards for all roads and the self-imposed neighborhood assessment program for rebuilding residential streets Up first is a decision about the proposed street user fee, estimated between $5 to $10 per month, to pay for street maintenance on residential, collector and arterial streets. In September the previous council approved a resolution in support of it. City staff is asking again for a decision from the recently elected council. Opposition to the assessment portion of the plan — the last of the four parts slated for discussion — has been building among council members. The lack of support surfaced during a council orientation workshop Dec. 4. Council members Chad Magill and Priscilla Leal told city staff they are against the assessment plan as it’s proposed. Others also have said they don’t support it. “I think it’s unfair for people to pay up front and on the back end,” Leal said in an interview this week. “I understand that the maintenance fee is going to be to maintain good streets, but what about the bad streets?” Olson said the assessment plan will be worked through later. If it’s brought up Tuesday, he’ll steer the conversation away from it, he said. The focus needs to be on the street user fee, which he called the most important component. Making sure there is funding for street

PROPOSED STREET PROGRAM

MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

Barbara Whiteside stands at the corner of Vaky Street and Reid Drive, a section of residential roadways that was rebuilt as part of the 2004 bond election in her Lindale neighborhood. Whiteside petitioned the city to fix the flood-prone street before the bond election.

Maintenance:

$15 MILLION/YEAR ■ Street user fee on utility

The city’s proposed street maintenance program has four main funding elements, including the street user fee for maintenance, city debt to pay for major reconstruction, new design standards for roads and a self-imposed assessment program for rebuilding residential streets.

bills for street overlays and seal coats ■ Property tax ■ Legislative initiatives, such as possible local fuel tax ■ Shift budget priorities to streets

Reconstruction/ Rehabilitation: Local/ Residential Streets:

$531 MILLION ■ Neighborhoods

could agree to fees to pay for 90 percent of costs for local roads ■ City pays 10 percent ■ $5 million/year dedicated from city

$435 MILLION ■ Major construction for arterial and collector streets ■ Funded with bonds approved by voters in phases

Policy changes ■ Higher street construction standards ■ New street cut policy

Source: City of Corpus Christi

maintenance is what will get the city back on track, he said. “If we don’t put money in street maintenance, the same thing will happen,” he said. “It will fall apart.” The city’s street maintenance plan has been under discussion for the past year at the urging of former Mayor Joe Adame, who put together a streets committee to research the best way to reverse decades of neglect. During the past 30 years, the city’s street maintenance budget has been cut in half to about 5 percent of the general fund. It’s eroded the street department budget to $10.5 million per year, which has reduced the city’s maintenance program to filling pot holes and patching sections of streets. The committee recommended a street user fee as the most fair funding source to help the city catch up on street maintenance. Staff then developed the four-part funding plan. A residential street assessment program is not a new concept for the city. There’s a program in place, though City Engineer Dan Biles said it would be simplified to make it easier for residents to participate. During the past 12 years, there have been 13 city streets whose property owners had their streets rebuilt through the assessment program — a lengthy ordeal that, in most cases, took the tenacity of one or two property owners to navigate the bureaucratic red tape. In 2002, Vaky Street resident Barbara Whiteside knew something had to be done to fix her street and storm drainage. Every time it rained, water would reach the front step of her house and flood the garage. She had flood insurance, which paid to replace her edger and lawn mower, both ruined from the constant flooding. “It looked like I lived on Lake Corpus Christi with an inch of rain,” she said. She contacted city engineering, and staff there explained the only solution was for residents to pay for it themselves through the street assessment program. The current program requires property owners to pay for 80 percent of the street work with the city covering 20 percent of the cost and any underground utility work

CURRENT PROCESS

City Engineer Dan Biles has proposed a revamp of the city street assessment process for any resident wanting to rally support among neighbors to pay for street work through the city’s Voluntary Paving Assessment program. The process needs to be made easier for the public, he said. Here’s what the process requires: ■ A resident requests a Voluntary Paving Petition from the city’s engineering department. ■ The petition is circulated by that resident among property owners on his or her street to get signature support for street improvements. ■ City engineering staff review the petition and determine whether more than 50 percent of the property owners on that street support the assessment. To validate the petition, city staff contact each property owner to verify the signatures. ■ If the city engineering staff determines the petition is valid, the street is placed on a list of validated streets until the city has funds available to pay for the its portion of the assessment costs. The current split is 80-20,

with all property owners of the street covering 80 percent of the street work. Property owners have 10 years to pay their share of the bill. The city pays for 20 percent of the street work and any underground utility work needed. ■ When city funds are available, city engineering staff requalify petitions on the street list. The city’s street assessment costs are usually funded through general obligation bonds and utility work through the capital improvement fund. The re-validation process involves city staff contacting property owners again to verify they’re in support of it. If more than 50 percent are in support, the project moves to design and then construction.

Source: Corpus Christi Engineering Services

STREETS ASSESSED

MICHAEL ZAMORA/CALLER-TIMES

Barbara Whiteside laughs as she talks about her previous petitioning efforts to have Vaky Street repaired. The city requires half of homeowners to sign a petition then pay 80 percent of the costs to repair their residential street.

needed. Whiteside, then in her late 70s, took the lead for her neighbors. She walked door to door for signatures and received the more than 50 percent support needed to start the process. That took about a month. The city qualified her petition in March 2004. Vaky Street was placed on a list. The city would need to secure funds for its portion of the bill through a general bond election. That year also brought a policy change to the way the city paid for residential streets. The late Angel Escobar, then city engineer, included Whiteside’s neighborhood on the 2004 bond. Lindale was one of seven neighborhood cluster projects where a portion of the neighborhood streets would be rebuilt. No assessment was required. The money would come from city-issued debt. The bond work only included the 500 block of the Lindale streets. Whiteside lives on that block, so after the construction was completed she forgot about the petition to repair the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Vaky Street. In 2008, city policy switched again to allow only for a street assessment program. The 2008 bond included money to pay for a portion of the street assessment work. Vaky Street was one of six streets on the list for the assessment program. City staff worked to validate the petitions for those streets,

some of which were signed several years ago. Only three streets — Vaky, Clare Drive and Ivy Lane — had property owners who still agreed to pay for the assessment. Construction is expected to begin in March for those streets. Upon hearing the news, Whiteside said she was glad the work would be done for the 600 and 700 blocks of Vaky Street. Those property owners have agreed to pay 80 percent. The total cost of the project, including any utility work, is $233,960. The cost for each property owner depends on the length of street in front of their property. The city measures and applies a price. A new curb, gutter and pavement costs $9.75 per square foot. A new sidewalk is $1 per square foot. A new driveway is an option too, but that cost comes at full price for the property owner. Whiteside lives at the crossroads of all the policy changes during the past decade. Her block was paid for in full by taxpayers who approved the 2004 bond. Her neighbors in the 600 and 700 blocks are getting something different. They will have to pay for 80 percent of the street work out of their own pockets through the assessment program. Councilwoman Leal said that kind of policy change erodes public trust. When the 2004 bond was put together, residents who lived in the cluster street neighborhoods were told that

Since 2000, only 13 streets have been funded in part by the city through the Voluntary Assessment Program. The city pays for 20 percent of the street costs through public bond issues and covers the cost of any underground utility work needed. More than half of the property owners on the following streets agreed to pay for 80 percent of street reconstruction work. The cost for a property owner, which can range from a couple hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, is based on the length of the street in front of a person’s property. For example, a property owner of corner house would likely pay more than a house in the middle of the street. Below is the total cost of the projects funded through the city’s assessment program. The amounts include street and utility work. ■ Lyons Street, from Airline Road to the end of Lyons — $608,464 ■ Birmingham Street, from Airline to Lyons — $633,503 ■ Azores Drive, from Caribbean to cul-de-sac — $597,840 ■ Catcay Drive, from Caribbean to cul-de-sac — $657,223 ■ Annaville Road, from Violet to Starlite — $1,536,666 ■ Jamaica Drive, from Mediterranean to Caribbean — $1,322,551 ■ Brookdale Drive, from

Gollihar to Sunnybrook — $690,553 ■ Laguna Shores Road, from Mediterranean to Caribbean — $3,734,696 ■ Woodlawn Drive, from South Padre Island Drive To McArdle — $570,465 ■ Whiting Drive (sidewalks only), from Churchill to Lanier — $113,306 ■ Vaky Street, from Swantner to Reid — $233,960 ■ Clare Drive, from McArdle to SPID — $690,140 ■ Ivy Lane, from Horne to Gollihar — $679,150

Source: Corpus Christi City Engineering Services

would be the first phase of a three-phase project to be included in subsequent public bonds, she said. That didn’t happen. Instead, city staff and council members put together a bond package in 2008 that included funds to pay for 20 percent of the work on six residential streets. The assessment program also proves to be troublesome for low-income neighborhoods and for property owners who are living on a fixed income and can’t afford the cost of rebuilding their street, some council member have said. Low-income neighborhoods could be eligible for federal block grant funds, which would help pay for new streets and sidewalks, city engineers said. Some council members are advocating for a street assessment program that has a more even cost split between the city and property owners, while others say residential streets should be rebuilt in clusters using bond money, much like what voters ap-

proved on the 2004 bond. Olson said whatever is decided will be policy for the next 10 years, so taxpayers have consistency and know what to expect. As discussions continue, Councilman David Loeb said he thinks a hybrid solution that includes the assessment and a bond option to pay for residential street reconstruction is the best scenario. Neighborhoods with the worst streets should be first, he added. Still, he’s not sure it’s possible to have an overall solution for street problems. “The problem is so large and so offensive that it is difficult to come up with a firm, comprehensive solution all at once,” Loeb said. “I think what we may be doing is expecting staff to give us a comprehensive solution so we can go and say we have solved our streets problem when we maybe need to take step back and realize that this is a mountain and we need to get halfway up the mountain.”


The Miller boys hold off Ray in District 31-4A action. SPORTS, 1C

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11A

Quick Read

OUTLET MALL GETS TAX HELP Robstown announces $38 million in tax incentives for the proposed Outlets at Corpus Christi Bay, which developers plan to start construction in the spring. LOCAL, 1B

NEWTOWN STILL IN AGONY

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2012 ■ CITY EDITION

Street user fee possible for May ■ Residents may

pay less than $4 per month By Jessica Savage savagej@caller.com 361-886-4316

A monthly fee to maintain the city’s crumbling streets could be in place as early as May. It could cost residents as little as $3.96 per month or businesses as much as

$139 per month to pay into a fund that would solely support regular maintenance of city streets. Every seven years a street would receive a seal coat; at 15 years, a fresh layer of asphalt; and at 22 years, another seal coat before being torn out and replaced at 30 years. On Tuesday, city staff presented more details about the street user fee to the City Council, which is being asked to give staff direction as they continue to write a comprehensive

INSIDE Council reappoints Kostelnik to second term on the Port of Corpus Christi Commission. 2B Plans to revitalize Butter Krust Bakery building advance. 7C

plan for repairing and maintaining streets. “We are no longer dealing on a hope and a prayer on our streets crisis,” Mayor Nelda Martinez said. “No one wants to pay any more, but it is about paying See STREET FEE, 8A

RACHEL DENNY CLOW/CALLER-TIMES FILE

A street user fee that charges residents as little as $3.96 per month or businesses as much as $139 per month could be in place as early as May. City staff presented more details Tuesday to the City Council about the street user fee, which is part of a comprehensive plan to reverse decades of street neglect.

Santa gets a Head Start

Newtown, Conn., returns students to their classrooms for the first time since last week’s massacre, and faces the agonizing task of laying others to rest. NATION, 6A CALLER-TIMES FILE

Bishop Edmond Carmody receives a hug from Manual Salinas, a resident of the Corpus Christi State Supported Living Center, during the center’s Ash Wednesday service in 2010.

GIFTS FOR THE CONNOISSEUR Karey B. Johnson, chef and owner of Glow restaurant in Rockport, offers tips on what to get for the foodie in your life this Christmas season. FOOD, 8B

PHOTOS BY RACHEL DENNY CLOW/CALLER-TIMES

Wiggins Head Start Center student Abrizelle Peña , 4, opens a Christmas gift Tuesday from employees at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial. Hospital employees delivered bags of gifts to each of the 34 students , many of whom wouldn’t have Christmas without the donations, said school director Roslyn Lott.

A TAPPING INTO SOCIAL MEDIA During the lucrative holiday shopping season, many department stores are uncovering a valuable use for social media: market research. BUSINESS, 7C INDEX BUSINESS 7C-8C COMICS 6B-7B CROSSWORD 7B OBITUARIES 4B-5B LOTTERY 2C OPINION 10A-11A

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special delivery by elves from Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial on Tuesday means more than 30 children ages 3 to 5 will have gifts to open Christmas morning. Students at the Wiggins Head Start Center each received a large bag of gifts from the employees, as well as a visit from Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. “Many of these children don’t receive Christmas gifts,” said Roslyn Lott, school director. “Some of these parents just don’t have the money for gifts, and many of the kids haven’t seen Santa this year because transportation is an issue.” Students each had a chance to meet the Clauses before opening one gift each. The remaining gifts will be saved to open on Christmas. Each child received a coat and toys from their wish lists. Employees at the hospital embraced the project, said Sylvia Buentello, a supervisor in the laboratory department. “This is Christmas for these kids,” she said. “I love to see the excitement on the kids’ faces when they open gifts and see Santa coming. This is so the kids know there is kindness in the world.”

Former bishop tasked again

■ Carmody to

return to Tyler for new role By Mike Baird bairdm@caller.com 361-886-3774

Student Natalie McNabb, 4, gets to meet Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus before receiving a bag of Christmas gifts . Eric Bouldwin , 3, keeps an eye out for Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus .

See more photos of a special Christmas delivery to Wiggins Head Start Center.

Rachel Denny Clow

Bishop Emeritus Edmond Carmody is leaving Corpus Christi next week to again work in Tyler, he said. Tears flowed from students and faculty alike Tuesday at Pope John Paul II High School as Carmody’s departure was announced, Principal Perry Le Grange said. “I promised him we would make this the best school possible,” Le Grange said. “I want to move forward with his example, witness, excitement and deep devotion to young people.” T he school was Carmody’s vision as part of his threefold commitment to fight against dropouts, homelessness and diabetes See CARMODY, 8A

CRIME RATES

Find out the crime rate in your city with 2012 FBI stats at Caller.com/data.

Children left hoping for miracle ■ Mother with

cancer is too sick to work By Venessa Santos-Garza Special to the Caller-Times

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ALICE — There isn’t a whole lot he can do for his mother. While bright, it’s difficult for a 7-year-old to cure cancer or to fathom how serious an illness it is.

So instead he does what he can. “I bring the bucket,” Patrick said. His mother, Marie, was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. Sometimes the chemotherapy and radiation leave her feeling so sick she is unable to get out of bed when she is feeling nauseous. Patrick helps out by bringing the mop bucket to her bedside. It’s been a rough year

for Patrick, his sister Gwen and his brothers Ben and Jake. Their mother has been too sick to work and often is in and out of the hospital. There is little hope for Christmas, but the kids try to be positive by focusing on the time they will get to spend with family and friends. It would be nice if their mother got to spend it with them. The children repre-

sent thousands who will be helped by the CallerTimes Children’s Christmas Appeal. The names of the families profiled have been changed to protect their privacy. All money donated to the drive benefits the children; all overhead costs are borne by the Caller-Times, United Way of the Coastal Bend and participating agencies. See CHRISTMAS, 8A

INSIDE

Christmas appeal donation coupon can be found on 2B and on Caller.com.


8A Âť Wednesday, December 19, 2012 Âť

C A L L E R -T I M E S

FROM THE COVER

STREET FEE from 1A

now or paying later.â&#x20AC;? The council is expected to vote on a resolution in January pledging its support for the user fee. On Tuesday, no one voiced opposition to the fee, which received support from the previous council. Several council members had one demand before they take a vote: They want to set policy that requires all streets be built to a 30-year standard. The city has a 30-year standard in place for building roads through the bond program, but there is not one in place for developers. For example, a developer who builds a new subdivision, including the streets, has a lower standard than the city. That infrastructure is later turned over to the city to maintain. Part of the problem for years has been a lack of maintenance, but another large part of the problem are poorly constructed streets, Councilman David Loeb said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I need to know, along with those who are begrudgingly going along with the fee, that we have real standards that are being enforced and will be enforced in the future,â&#x20AC;? he said. Street standards will be ready for a vote before or at the time the council votes on the user fee, City

Aug. 28, 1957: Ordained as a priest September 1957 to December 1983: Priest in San Antonio January 1984 to December 1988: Parish priest in Ecuador Dec. 15, 1988: Ordained as auxiliary bishop December 1988 to May

schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision to provide superior Catholic education for the poor,â&#x20AC;? said Marc Cisneros, chief executive officer for the John G. and Marie Stella

Kenedy Memorial Foundation, which committed $2.5 million during the schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ďŹ rst four years. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sad to see him go.â&#x20AC;? Carmody, 78, served as

Manager Ron Olson said. He has never worked for a city that didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have welldeďŹ ned street standards, he added. It has been a part of his plan to get better standards on the books; the request by the council moves up that timeline. The comprehensive streets plan includes a street user fee for citywide maintenance on all streets; city debt to pay for reconstruction of arterial and collector roads; new design standards for all roads; and a self-imposed neighborhood assessment program for rebuilding residential streets. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s based on the city collecting about $35 million per year and has a sunset provision that calls for a review of the plan in 10 years. The street user fee is what Olson considers the most important component of the plan â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a comprehensive solution to reversing years of neglect that led to heavily worn, pockmarked streets. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expected to collect about $15 million a year from residents and businesses through a tiered monthly fee tied to square footage and a trip factor, which is based on a federal standard that shows how much traffic certain businesses generate. Council members Priscilla Leal and Chad Magill are concerned the fee might be too high for seniors and those on a ďŹ xed income. Leal said her con-

STREET FEE

Tier 4: More than 30,000 square feet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $139

1992: Served as auxiliary bishop in San Antonio May 1992 to March 2000: Served as bishop in Tyler March 17, 2000: Installed as bishop of Diocese of Corpus Christi Jan. 12, 2009: Submits resignation as bishop after celebrating 75th birthday Source: Diocese of Corpus Christi

A look at the draft user fee amounts, as updated by city staff. The amounts are a monthly fee based on property records and water utility records the city has veriďŹ ed. There are approximately 144,000 utility customers. The city is going through each record to verify the information, such as an active water meter and the size of a buildingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s square footage on that property. City staff will present ďŹ nal numbers in March. RESIDENTIAL

Tier 1: Less than 1,000 square feet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $3.96 Tier 2: 1,001 to 2,300 square feet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $6.95 Tier 3: More than 2,300 square feet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $13.90 NONRESIDENTIAL

Tier 1: Less than 1,000 square feet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $3.27 Tier 2: 1,001 to 10,000 square feet â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $14.80 Tier 3: 10,001 to 30,000 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; $69.50

stituents living on a ďŹ xed income understand they have to pay, but many of them are unable. Magill asked whether there would be exemptions to the fee, like those in Austin, which exempt residents who donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t drive. Councilman Mark Scott said that the more exemptions are made, the more those who are paying will have to pay to meet the bottom line. He took an all-or-

REVENUE

The amount in fees the city estimates it will collect each year based on the proposed street user fee schedule. RESIDENTIAL

$6,592,349, or 43 percent NON-RESIDENTIAL

$8,710,085, or 57 percent TOTAL

$15,302,434

BILLING PROCESS

â&#x2013; Charge all active nonirrigation water meters â&#x2013;  Bill customer where individually metered â&#x2013;  Bill water account holder where master metered â&#x2013;  Apportion building square footage for properties served by multiple meters â&#x2013;  Establish â&#x20AC;&#x153;Street Fee Onlyâ&#x20AC;? accounts where property is ICL, but does not take city billable services

nothing approach to imposing the fee. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think we all have an obligation to pay into that fund,â&#x20AC;? Scott said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m concerned that if we start peeling off certain segments of the community then thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sure to be a rate we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bear. If we want better streets, we got to pay for them. End of the story. Now we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to if we as a community decide we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want better streets.â&#x20AC;?

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â&#x2013; Appeal only active meter status â&#x2013;  Adjustments effective upon download of corrected data from county appraisal records â&#x2013;  No retroactive adjustments â&#x2013;  No credits

ENFORCEMENT

â&#x2013; Failure to pay may subject user to discontinuance of utility services â&#x2013;  Delinquent users may be subject to a lien being placed on their properties

EXEMPTIONS

â&#x2013; City, county, state or federal properties â&#x2013;  Independent school district properties â&#x2013;  Nonmetered properties â&#x2013;  Properties with inactive water meters, which means the property owner doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t receive a water bill from the city Source: city of Corpus Christi

Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a chance the cost of the fee could be lowered if the city receives additional funds from other sources, such as the contribution from the Regional Transportation Authority or if a legislative proposal works out. Possible street funding sources decided by other government entities could include a gas tax or vehicle registration fee. The city is focused on doing what it can and not relying on other entities, Martinez said. During the past 30 years,

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APPEALS

CHRISTMAS



 

people of this good community ... for their goodness, their generosity, kindness and hospitality.â&#x20AC;? In Bishop Wm. Michael Mulveyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s absence Tuesday, the Diocese of Corpus Christi issued a statement: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bishop Edmond Carmody has served the Diocese of Corpus Christi with compassion, distinction and great love for more than a decade. While we are sad to see him go, we do know that his dedicated service and stewardship in South Texas will endure for many years in the

The kids donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like to talk much about their motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s illness. The youngest, 3-year-old Ben, talks about Marie going to the hospital as if she has just gone to the corner store. Gwen, 14, doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t talk at all. Instead she focuses her attention on her little brothers, encouraging them to sit up straight and behave. Jake, who is 11, said itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s difficult to watch. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not sick, she is in a lot of pain,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;She has to take a lot of medicines.â&#x20AC;? Gwen does her best to keep the boys corralled while Ben jumps from couch to chair giving random kisses along the way. When he grows up, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to be a cop â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and a zombie. The older boys

hearts and minds of the many people he has encountered. We offer our prayers and well-wishes for him and his new work in Tyler.â&#x20AC;? Carmody sold his possessions after retiring, to help fund the high school. He leaves alone next Wednesday in his personal car for the daylong drive to Tyler, he said. He will reside in his former house there, on Easy Street, he said with a gentle chuckle. There are many friends there, he said, but there will remain a hole in his heart for Corpus Christi. the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s street maintenance budget has been cut in half to about 5 percent of the general fund. It has eroded the street departmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s annual budget to $10.5 million, which has reduced the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s maintenance program to ďŹ lling pot holes and patching sections of the street. The committee recommended a street user fee as the most fair funding source to help the city catch up on maintenance. Staff then developed the four-part funding plan. Leal and Magill pointed out that street maintenance doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pay for streets that are past the point of being maintained. About half of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s streets are beyond maintenance and must be replaced. Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said those streets will not beneďŹ t from the user fee, but will be put on a list to be reconstructed. If the street is a heavily traveled road, such as an arterial or collector street, those funds will come from the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bond program. City staff has discussed ramping up the street portion of the bond program so one goes to voters every two or three years. For residential streets, the only proposal on the table is an assessment program that requires neighbors to petition one another to pay 90 percent of the costs to replace their street. The assessment proposal is the least popular among council members and also the least developed portion of the plan. giggle, but then admit it may be cool to do both. Jake and Patrick could use school uniforms and shoes. Ben, who is in an early childhood education program, needs school clothes but is not required to wear a uniform. Gwen said she makes due with what she has in her closet. The boys remind her she could use winter clothes. Gwen has been dreaming of a cellphone for Christmas. The boys would love a PS3 and video games. They think it might also be fun to share a karaoke machine. Ben would love anything that is Team Umizoomi. Thanksgiving was hard. An unexpected hospital visit left the kids staying between grandparents again. They are looking forward to Christmas ďŹ lled with family, friends and â&#x20AC;&#x201D; with a little Christmas miracle â&#x20AC;&#x201D; their mother.

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during his 10 years of leadership in the Diocese of Corpus Christi. After retiring in 2010, Carmody settled into an office at the school, where he has led the Centurion charge â&#x20AC;&#x201D; from pruning bushes in the summer to teaching church history. The then-f ledgling foundation for better education now ďŹ&#x201A;ourishes with 368 students. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Obviously Bishop Carmody has been an invaluable asset for the

bishop in Tyler for about seven years. Bishop Joseph E . Strickland, who was ordained Nov. 28 as Tylerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fourth bishop, asked Carmody to return to work in the chancery office to help him spend more time in parishes. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a very competent person,â&#x20AC;? Carmody said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;who came to ask face to face. I had to think and pray about it. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I hope to do some good and make a difference in the lives of people by helping them experience the presence of the Lord. I want to thank the

CARMODYâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S SERVICE

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CARMODY

Corpus Christi streets  

Articles on Corpus Christi streets for the community service category

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