By Sandy Wright Kibby, Chair of the Board
Sustaining a Growing Community
The New Braunfels Chamber-sponsored 47th Texas Legislative Conference once again successfully attracted a Civic Convention Center full of interested people to learn from the speakers and panels. Texas A & M Chancellor John Sharp was appropriately honored as Texan of the Year and gave a fantastic speech on Friday morning that would have made any Aggie proud, as he boasted the many accomplishments of his university.
Former Senator and Chair of the Conference Jeff Wentworth introduced our keynote speaker George P. Bush (who recently announced his candidacy for Texas Land Commissioner), as he offered us his first presentation as an announced politician. Some of his ideas were very well received and applauded, and one that really struck me was the following: Texas needs leaders who come from a business background and who “recognize that it’s not politicians who create opportunity. What politicians can do is create the conditions by which entrepreneurs and job creators can create opportunity.” Now, there is something that we should all remember, not only on the state and national level, but also at the local level as we elect fellow citizens to lead and mold our community to be a viable and sustainable one for decades to come.
The city’s Development Coordinator Jeff Jewell graciously spent some time with me recently to discuss the subject of sustainability, in the broad sense of the term. He shared with me an article from the June 2012 issue of “Public Management Magazine” which defines sustainability thusly: “the ability of communities to consistently thrive over time as they make decisions to improve the community today without sacrificing the future.” The Chamber Board also used this definition as we set our goals for 2013 at the Chamber retreat in November 2012. We focused on how to sustain the cultural and historical heritage of a growing community while meeting the needs of small businesses. The results of this day-long retreat and planning session resulted in an update to the Chamber’s 2020 Plan, defining issues that the Chamber’s membership feels command attention in order to move the city forward.
Jeff referenced the city’s Economic Development Task Force in which local leader Jay Brewer chaired the Services Committee last year. Jeff pointed me to page 110 of the task force report and the section titled “Sustainability: A Call for Action”. Jeff noted that a community should consider sustainability in the capital forms of “natural, physical, economic, human, social, and cultural”. Each one of these subjects could be discussed as they pertain to our city, and we should consider these in the future as we look to better our community.
And, speaking of “bettering our community”, the theme of the political action committee supporting the city’s upcoming bond package is “Build a Better New Braunfels”. Several members of the Chamber’s board served on the Bond Task Force; so, when their work was done we invited the Mayor to make an informational presentation to the Board. Mayor Gale Pospisil informed us that the task force started with a list of over half a billion dollars worth of wants and needs for the city. The task force cut that down to just over $100 million, and our city council cut it to $86 million. The Chamber’s Board of Directors voted in March to urge local citizens to study the four bond proposals and to support all four propositions.
Bonds are a long-term method of paying for some necessary local improvements that a growing community expects in order to sustain itself. Going back to what George P. Bush said, we in the business community need to consider that our elected city officials are trying to “create conditions” so that the business community can thrive and so that citizens have a better living environment. Indeed, we all need to read and explore the possibilities that the bond package will provide for future sustainability. For starters, the city has put together a wonderful “Information Guide” which anyone can pick up at City Hall. Please educate yourself and consider the needs of this growing city rich in heritage and with so many attractions for visitors and future residents. We should consider sustaining what we have by improving our infrastructure and quality of life in New Braunfels.