Monday, November 25, 2013

S.O.U. in Commerce Texas

Strange, odd and unusual in Commerce, Texas...

I have tried to pay attention to the things that go on in our City government for the past 15 years. One thing I've never seen:
A City Council Workshop held at a private residence.

It was held on November 15, 2013 (a Friday evening at 5:30) and was to discuss tourism and city events. Click Here for the Notice.

How many people knew of the workshop? Never in paper; never to my knowledge promoted by the Commerce Tourism Director even though when hired by the City of Commerce she said: “I’m here to bring new excitement and new events for Commerce. I want to have more involvement from citizens and seniors to help make the city a place where people want to live and play.”

If the majority of Commerce doesn't know of the meeting, how can you have “more involvement?”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Pot Can't Call the Kettle Black

The answer to the Question in the last blog,  the Median Household Income in Commerce: $30,870

Two cities out of the 12 on the list were lower. At the end of this blog is a list of those cities with there median household incomes from 2011 and where they were in 2000.

Sorry this blog rambles...

Why is median household income important? One of my beliefs is it reflects on the standard of living that has become acceptable to most who live in Commerce.

With a median household income of $30,870 it has attributed to:
32% Poverty Level in Commerce
Almost 70% of Students in School District are "Economically Disadvantaged"
"Socioeconomic Flight"
Home Ownership Rate: 42.3%
Lack of new residential construction
Attracting the "overflow" of government housing from other communities

I don't know if it's an official term, but to me one could equate "socioeconomic flight" to what became known as "White Flight". People leaving the cities to move into the suburbs. 

People tend to want to live around other people of similar socioeconomic status.  

Why do the majority of professors/administrators at the University not live in Commerce? They want to live and socialize (attend churches, shop, dine, have their children go to public schools, etc) with other people who are in a similar income bracket. They don't want to "lower" their standard. Harsh, yes. True, yes.  We typically all do this.

Let's face it, Commerce needs to attract families who are well educated, well paid, "white collar" workers. Until we attract those type of people to live in Commerce, we will not raise the standard of living.  By "those type of people," I am really referring to jobs. Jobs that pay $50K+ per year. You know, the jobs of most professors or administrators at the University. Did you know that there are over 300 employees at the University that make over $50K per year? All public record, so take a look.

For 20+ years, manufacturing, manufacturing, manufacturing has been the cry of many in the city. Why? Does an $8-$10 an hour job raise the standard of living in our city? No.

Now if you are looking for a job or don't have one and you were willing to work for that wage, then that would be great. But lets be truthful and look in the mirror: how many of our citizens want to work on the manufacturing floor? Not a high percentage. If they did, a high percentage of current employees at our local plants would be Commerce citizens.  

Unfortunately, I would bet a nickel that the majority of employees at local plants don't live in Commerce. Prove me wrong and I'll gladly pay the nickel. 

Come out on a Friday between 4-5 o'clock to Tex's T and see how many manufacturing job employees stop there on their way out of town. I doubt you'll recognize many as Commerce citizens.

So why do we give tax abatements to companies that create jobs that our citizens don't want to work? 

In the past we have created jobs in our Community, but when will it be jobs that raise the standard of living for our Community

But then again do you honestly think our city leader really care where employees live? Remember look at what they do, not what they say.  Two of five EDC Board Members do not live in Commerce. The City Manager lives in Bonham. How many city department heads don't live in town? I believe at least 4. Or simply ask how many city employees live in Commerce. I believe you'll find the percentage to not be much better then the University. Yet many in leadership in our community complain that not enough University employees live in Commerce. Sing with me: "The pot can't call the kettle black..." 

We need to raise the standard of living in Commerce by creating and promoting "white collar" jobs. "Blue collar" jobs, although important, when they became the focus of our growth efforts did not push our community forward. Unfortunately in many ways it pulled our community back. Step outside and look around your neighborhood, drive around town and look where we are today:

As I already mentioned:
32% Poverty Level in Commerce
Home Ownership Rate: 42.3%

And where else in a city of 8000, would you have 2 Dollar General Stores,  a Dollar Tree, a highly successful Goodwill, The Bargain Box and My Sister's Closet? On top of that add 2 Payday/Title loan businesses within 50 feet of one another.

We attract who we are. 
The question: Is that who we want to be?

A popular term circulating in the media today is unintended circumstances.  Over 20+ years, the unintended circumstance of going after "blue collar" jobs has come to light in Commerce over the past several years we have seen:

  • Decrease in Public Schools Enrollment
  • Increase in Poverty Level from 22.9% in 2000 to over 32% today
  • Decrease in home values
  • Increases in section 8 housing and Government (subsidized) Housing
  • I challenge you to drive the neighborhoods north of Culver (vacant houses and unkempt houses abound)
  • High Property Taxes

 Does what goes on in our town hamper our University's ability to grow? You bet it does.

 It was the stated goal of the University to grow by 1000 students per year through 2013.  Headcount in 2010; over 10,000. Headcount in 2011; over 11,000. Headcount in 2012; 11,187. Headcount in 2013; Only the U knows. As of yet, I have found no official number that has been released.  On August 21, 2013, the University did say that the headcount stood at 1.08% less than the headcount of 2012. So on 8/21, the head count was basically at 11,067 students. Goal 13,000; 2013 Fall numbers appear to be closer to 11,000.

The population of the town is stagnant. The enrollment at the public schools is decreasing. The enrollment at the University is stagnant.

My belief: You will have long term sustainable economic growth when you have population growth.

Population Growth = Economic Growth. 

You cannot have economic growth without population growth, otherwise your businesses are chasing after the same dollar. Of course, I got poor grades in economics in college, so what do I know.?.

Yes, I have made yet another complaint about the state of Commerce. Well, I have tried to point out possible solutions in many of my blogs and most have been focused on the use of 4B sales tax revenue; which I still support. My next several blogs on this site will hit on possible solutions to get some of my perceived problems in Commerce addressed, so this town can move forward and grow. Or at least get some ideas flowing.

The breakdown of Median Housing Income:

Median Household Income 2011
Median Household Income 2010

Caddo Mills
Lone Oak
Royse City
Sulphur Springs
Wolfe City