By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
It was with interest and reflection I read Friday's story about a new beautification effort in Corsicana - joining forces with the "Keep Texas Beautiful/Keep America Beautiful" campaigns.
It was also with a sincere hope this effort is successful in doing what we have been told time and time and time again is a big problem in Navarro County - cleaning up its overall appearance.
A frequently referred to survey from several years ago (The Retail Coach) identified the city's appearance with a grade of "D" - and that's not short for "delightful" - it's the "D" that got me "grounded" as a school student.
The chamber meeting referenced in Thursday's story took place in January 2011, when newly elected president, Xavier Villarreal, asked for input from the board of directors during the board's annual retreat. The fact that beautification was mentioned as a priority of the chamber at that retreat was frequently discussed during 2011, and again in 2012 (I know this because I was a member of the chamber board until I resigned in May 2012) but nothing was accomplished.
Several years ago, a group called the "Strategic Planning Group" was formed at the request of Corsicana's then-mayor, C.L."Buster" Brown III. I recall doing an interview with the group's first two leaders - Frank Steed and Bill Spae. It was clear to that organization one of the problems Corsicana had was its appearance.
They had a simple approach - take it one step at a time to try to reach the goals the committee had set.
"Right now we're just trying to get people to stop parking in their front yards," I recall them saying in that interview that took place at the now-closed Two Doors Down coffee shop.
One of the group's sub-committees was charged with contacting business and property owners along the I-45 Business Route, encouraging them to help "clean up" the appearance. I'll let a drive up and down the highway speak for itself there.
That group, as such, has dis-banded - with parts of the its committees morphing with the Chamber of Commerce - and that goal of getting people to stop parking in their front yards - well, not so much.
So, reviewing here, some of our efforts - well meaning to be sure - ended up like those early years of the Dallas Cowboys of the Jerry Jones era - 1 for 15.
However, those same Cowboys - with a few new players added, and a few old ones removed - went on to win a few Super Bowls.
Perhaps we can do the same this time - we're due for a winning season.
But to accomplish that, we're gonna need to straighten out a few things, including rules and enforcement of same chief among them. And, if the "rules" are wrong, or ineffective, get them changed and follow them.
Examples? OK, if you insist.
Here is a "no-brainer" to start with. We need to eliminate the use of portable toilets in our "Historic" Downtown District - the single-most, unbelievable sight I believe I've seen driving through our downtown (that is unless we're not driving our industrial prospects down that street during the official tour).
If there is a zoning rule or ordinance or "waiver" or "adjustment" or "bending of the rules" allowing that to happen, then we've got a much bigger problem than just a dirty city.
"Porta Potties" at a downtown business, being marketed as a "destination" in downtown Corsicana.
Not to be a party pooper (no pun intended) but if we are going to allow businesses to use portable toilets in our downtown - or anywhere in town - we are waisting our time and money pursuing a beautification program.
And, with Seventh Avenue as our "main drag" through town (leaving the construction completely out of the discussion here) we've got a lot of work to do there as well - with the equivalent of a "junkyard" (as far as appearances go) operating in full view of one of the treasures of our town that draws visitors like flies to honey. And, we've got another of those "junkyard" examples serving to greet all who enter our town from the north as well.
I don't profess to have all the answers, but I do know that what we've tried in the past either has not worked or has not lasted.
What I see as the best bet for any group's efforts to succeed is consistent, across the board support from the entity or entities that have some "teeth" to enforce rules that will improve our appearance, and keep it that way.
And, if the problem is the "rules" or the lack of them - make fixing that obstacle the first "baby step" of this new effort.
- - - - -
Bob Belcher is Managing Editor of the Daily Sun. His column appears on Saturdays. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to "Soundoff" on this column? Email: email@example.com