Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What is the plan Stan? Do we have one?

I waited with bated breath as the city announce that there was a study commissioned to study future growth in our fair city. It was talked about in the news now and then and appeared to take quite a while to compile, so I am expecting much information with maps and statistics and a PLAN. That was a few years ago and I have a copy that I have read and is gathering dust in one of my file cabinets. Alexandria 2010 (the title of the study) was much ado about what a lot of us already know, like population and the highways that cross here and what kind of industry we have here. In all earnest, the study was a fair analysis of our city at that point in time - nothing more.
For $400,000.00 I would expect a thorough analysis of our city, plus a plan. Like a more sensible layout for the main arteries that we use, or what industries would best fit our population skill set, or what would suit the blighted and barren areas within the corporate limits.
The only plan that folks in charge seem to have these days is how to study separating the public from their tax dollars at 200 and 400 thousand a whack. OK, enough whining because a lot of us already know the score and I am now obligated to offer a solution.
Maybe some space in the newly acquired utilities building could be dedicated for a war room complete the three basic items for planning as follows; (1) a big map (2) a big conference table (3) a coffee pot. Just add some folks , look at the map, have some coffee, and come up with a plan. Does anyone think we could do this for less than $400,000.00. I have a conference table to donate, a map shouldn't cost too much from the RAPC (which is actually designated as our city planning body - see the charter), I am sure we could scrounge a coffee pot, and I would bet we could get enough folks with diverse talent and interests to provide input. Any takers?


12 comments:

Blogger said...

Please make sure and alert the local media when you get this group together. I think yet another "presser" as we call them will confuse our readers and viewers and give us more fodder for our coverage of the city. Even better, ask for everyones opinion and input and watch the property owners act like unbiased residents. That's always good for a few laughs. LOL

Spanky said...

I suppose that in order to formulate a plan, there would have to be some agreement on what the destination would be. Alas, I feel that you have hinted upon a sad truth of our town that gathering concensus is a bit like herding cats. My main point is that there is no "Master Plan" or template to guide growth in our area, only those that can sway development in the direction of their interest. FastTrack is a prime example. Look around town at the Fast Track Signs. Most of the projects are relatively inexpensive and amount to no more than routine maintenence, except the Versailles Boulevard project, which will be revenue intensive and more expensive than originally stated. The plan by the interested parties appears to be to throw out some crumbs for diversion, then raid the capital outlay projects fund to complete Versaille and to hell with the rest of the needed projects. It might also be noted that since 1996, the surplus that the city has enjoyed may not have been a surplus at all if the excess revenues had been applied to the capital outlay budget to properly fund the projects therein.

bird said...

If you actually READ 2010 it does provide recommendations to grow the city. 2010 wasn't focused on industry development, it was focused on community development. The City, despite not making an actual effort to meet the recommendations of 2010, has been successful in achieving a few successes.

2010 needs to be updated. But remember this is a community development plan NOT an economic development plan. If you don't have infrastructure in place, you can't recruit new business and industry, much like you can't recruit without an educated workforce, good schools for transferred families to send their kids to, recreation and arts programs for their families to participate in, etc. That is where 2010 focused its efforts.

Spanky said...

Bird,
How about a physical growth plan? Can you see a pattern to the direction of street growth? Have you noticed that Jackson Street is too narrow and becoming heavily traveled because no one planned for parallel routes to what is supposedly the next high growth area of town? Have you noticed that we have ever larger blighted areas where infrastructure must still be maintained and patrolled by fire and police without the accompanying population increase? While I agree with your observation, 2010 was sold to the public as a master plan.
If no one is going to drive the bus, please don't announce that everything is under control when that is far from the truth.

bird said...

The resolution for Jackson Street is to add a 5th lane. Now what property owner is going to give up some of what he owns - and this will require half a lane being given by each side of the street - for this to happen???? NONE! Not a one, even though they would be the largest benefactors.

I don't recall 2010 being sold as a masterplan - I do know the Pat Moore and McElroy plans were sold as master plans, which make 3 plans in the last 15 years to address the blight areas you are talking about.

During this time, remember I-49 displaced some homeowners and created some of the pockets of blight we presently have while making other areas worse. In addition to this it doesn't help that the AHA doesn't enforce the rules regarding no guns and no drugs on public housing property. They can't get landlords to put the verbiage in their leases stating if drugs or guns are found on their property section 8 vouchers can be lost. There are plenty of ways to begin to clean up certain areas of the City, but the agencies overseeing some of thiese issues, have to enforce their policies. More than that, the people who live in the neighborhood have to take responsibility for the places they live in.

I drive past plenty of lower income neighborhoods where homes are kept neat and tidy. There is a sense of pride. There is no reason that all levels of income and all areas of the City shouldn't take that same pride.

Spanky said...

My point is that we do suffer from a lack of planning. Dallas knew in the 1980's that growth was going to be extensive in all directions and they planned for it. North-South main artery streets were spaced on one mile centers on the north side of town while the land was still cow pasture and cotton fields. East -West laterals followed the same pattern. As the city grew even more, access and free flow of traffice was ensured as the main arteries were planned as 5-lanes even when there was nothing around. Hence, when growth came, there was no hassle about where major streets would be and and developers could do as they wished with the in-fill according to code. Houston faltered as their growth outstripped their planning until they realized the scope of the growth for the future and got a grip on it. Developments built after the mid 80's began to show more planning and the results can be seen today. This is 2007 folks and other cities have made mistakes and learned from them. We do not have to re-invent the wheel.
The next time you are in Beaumont,TX, check out their downtown revitalization. It is working. Also, their Old Town District strongly mirrors our Garden District with their mall on the northwest side with their new subdivisions there also. I would say they aree similar to Alexandria in many ways and are about 10 years ahead of where we are. They would be a good case study for us. The point is that we need to plan and not wait on the next study that contains no direction. I am sure that there are some of us that are intelligent enough to formulate a workable plan for the future that will attract talented citizens and retain our young people. They are the future.

Spanky said...

Bird,
If you reflect on the lower income neighborhoods that are neat and well kept, I am sure that you will concur that there is a high level of home-owners vs. rentals in those places. Home ownership is the key and that is one of my personal goals to make that happen in greater numbers. I feel it is the single-most thing that will get people involved in community affairs whether they be high or low income.

bird said...

Since I conduct business in Beaumont and am there quite frequently I would beg to differ that they are 10 years ahead of us in anything. They began to revitalize downtown, but let's consider what they did -

First, downtown is HEAVY government owned - city hall, convention and tourism offices, police station, a convention center (soon to be torn down), the library, and the Julie Rogers theater. OK, so far we're tied.

They have one strip of clubs and restaurants that struggle to survive and would be DEAD if it weren't for college life - that's 4-year recruiting students in college life.

With the exception of the Entergy building, which is mostly vacant, the newspaper office and a few other offices, there's not much more downtown than we have in Alexandria.

Beaumont was SMART in one thing - they used MAIN STREET money to fund stuff. Gaeda has been a member of Main Street since Clifford came on board and we don't even have any Main Street funding! HELLO!

Spanky said...

The reason I used Beaumont as an example is that there are similarities. Their fenced in downtown plaza is nice for a few bars and restaurants and I enjoyed looking at the custom bikes parked on the plaza, but walking a block over brings you to blighted area. I was not meaning to say that they are successful and all is well, but that they provide a nearby city for a case study of what works and does not. If you look at the nightlife activity downtown, it is showy and a few blocks look revitalized, but it is for show, which is my point. Downtown Beaumont is largely governmental with the post office center and the courthouse and the docks. I did not see any retail to speak of as most had moved to the mall area. I would say that they have had success and failure, but that there are enough similarities that we could learn by observing.

bird said...

And you just made my point. Crockett Street represents a few showy successes, much like what we have on Third Street. We at least have a few retailers left if you want to count Sentry Drugs and New York Hi Style. House of Java and Critics Choice provide options during the day and at least one is open on the weekends.

Like Beaumont we have a long way to go - not only in Downtown, but in several other areas as well. We are more fortunate than Beaumont in that our City is more compact and we can get from one side to the other much more quickly, which should provide opportunities to redevelop several areas, not just one.

Spanky said...

Bird,
I agree totally with your obbservations. I was born here but have a made a conscious choice to remain and make my humble contibution here - my home of choice regardless where my travels take me.

bird said...

I, like you, have lived several places outside Louisiana, I wasn't born here, but moved here early in life. I left here after college and returned so that should say something.

I can live anywhere sometimes I wonder why I choose to be here.