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2016-01-07

My View - Time to get rid of city council

By Steve Ball

By Steve Ball
Special to the Courier

The recent spate of staff firings at Bandera City Council offices is just one more symptom of the deep malaise that afflicts the city's management. In the 10 years that I have lived in Bandera, I cannot think of a single accomplishment that has been achieved that improves the wellbeing of the residents of Bandera - and the primary duty of the Council is to do just that.
Instead, the city continues to depopulate, Main Street hollows out and the stock of housing and commercial buildings continues to decline and deteriorate. Let's be honest, parts of Bandera are positively "Third World" and yet nothing is being done or discussed about it.
At the same time, taxes continue to rise, bureaucracy increases and costs appear out of control
Do we really want this state of affairs to continue for another 10 years?
What are the root causes of our problems?
Firstly, there is a lack of voter turnout at local elections, which allows the triumph of the mediocre over rational, professional and experienced leadership. In any event, the total voter franchise in a city of less than 900 people is way too small to produce a meaningful electoral outcome.
Additionally, for so few votes, the city council has too much power and has exercised it poorly over the years
There is - and never has been - "a plan" for the city. Despite lots of talk, wasted surveys and commissions to advisors, no concrete decisions have ever been made nor plans published and acted upon.
To produce a meaningful plan in the first place, leaders need to demonstrate they have a vision for future city development and the energy to sell that vision to the community at large. In the last 10 years, leaders past and present have clearly failed miserably in this primary task. We are all now paying the price many times over in missed opportunities and lost voter and business confidence.
A failure to implement even a basic proposal or carry out the simplest improvement in the City has been blighted by poor decision-making, bad management and lousy staff relations. The root cause of this is the ridiculous manner in which "short-term councillors" have been allowed to hire or influence the hiring of inexperienced or unprofessional managers - management much needed over "the long term" to implement concrete plans.
It begs the question: "Would any career-minded professional manager in his right mind even contemplate working for the City of Bandera on this basis?"
There's an old saying: "Change is coming whether you like it or not. You either embrace change and steer it to avoid negative consequences or you have change thrust upon you!" Management of City of Bandera needs to change now - the faster the better!
In short, we need to increase the voter franchise to a number more likely to produce a sensible result. There is no way we can do this by limiting voter influence only to those residents inside the city limits.
The fastest and fairest way to do this is to "unincorporate" to enable the city to merge with Bandera County. A countywide management system would be more representative, more efficient and much cheaper for all. Duplication can be avoided and a more "professional and experienced" management team can be recruited to carry out the long-term goals of all its citizens.
There is no shortage of bright, old and young visionaries and experienced people in the county who could very quickly scope out a "vision" for Bandera that can be sold to the citizens and openly voted on during a mini referendum.
Finally, I would like to remind the people of Bandera of a simple fact. The place they hold dear is presently a place that holds no future for their children and their children's children. We need jobs and the right kind of investment to allow us all to thrive and move forward with confidence. Let's not waste another 10 years allowing the City to "muddle along!"