Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Median Project - Former Alderman Kirk Mills Weighs In

(Posted with the permission of the author)

I was one of the most vocal opponents of the Padre Blvd. median project. When it was first voted on by the voters, the sales tax proposition was to "beautify" and improve access to Padre Blvd. Great --- who wouldn't want to improve the looks of Padre Blvd.! But, along the way we found out that Txdot would only participate with funding for the project if the project was for safety. Therefore, the project became all about safety. We weren't told we were voting in favor of medians when we voted on the temporary sales tax increase to beautify Padre Blvd. We were told it wouldn't cost the city anything at the time because the revenue generated by an increased sales tax would cover the costs of the project. As it turned out, the cost of the project has far exceeded the tax revenue generated by the temporary sales tax increase.

I met with the Texdot officials many times at public meetings and asked how could this project increase safety by putting palm trees in the field of vision of traffic on Padre Blvd. I was told that wouldn't increase safety but that they could put some small areas of low growing ground cover type of plants to get the effect of green space. I love green space as much as anyone, perhaps more than most. Upon studying the plans and sketches provided by Txdot. I concluded that this project was a bad idea. It appeared to me as though the sea of concrete and pavers would be greatly exaggerated by being raised and surrounded by a curb. I thought it would make much more sense to concentrate on the sides of Padre Blvd. and use the monies collected to improve drainage, sidewalks, and landscaping. While I was on the BOA I voted against the medians for these reasons.

People only heard what they wanted to hear and didn't take the time to study the drawings, because what we are getting is just what we were sold by Txdot, the mayor, and three boa members who voted in favor of the project (Ridolfi, Hoff, and Evans). Aldermen Tara Rios and Phillip Money voted against the final version which included a substantial cost overrun (about a half million dollars more than the sales tax collected). In our May 2007 elections we may have the opportunity to hold those responsible for the medians accountable , including Rick Ridolfi and Jim Hoff.

Kirk Mills

I have to admit that I was one who did not look closely at the renderings. I was never enthused about the plan but took city officials at their word that the median would make Padre Blvd. both safer and more attractive. Seeing what is happening out there is making me think that we were in fact mislead. It is butt-ugly and what person in their right mind would think that losing a whole lane of traffic wouldn't make the Sunchase bottleneck even worse than it already was?

I am trying hard to keep an open mind and not judge until the thing is done but geez that is a lot of pavers....

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a more important issue that Mr. Mills should be addressing. That is the construction sites which do not put the fencing around them to prevent debris from going into the street and washing into the drain. Much of the flooding we get is because the drains are clogged. TxDot is doing work on that now, but if we don't control the construction sites and what goes into the drains, it won't be long before they are in the same condition.

5:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OF COURSE, the medians cost more than the original estimate some 3 years ago. During that time, Hurricane Katrina occurred and gas prices rose dramactically. Both of these events had the effect of driving up costs of construction materials and labor. Both are now hard to come by. It costs more to transport materials and that increase is passed along to the buyer (us). This has happened throughout the country and probably the world. It is not the fault of our Board and the fact that Mr. Mills would try to twist it as though it is makes me wonder......

TxDot paid the lion's share of the cost of the medians. They were willing to contribute more when the costs went up because they understood that delaying the project would not only cost even more, but would endanger the lives of more pedestrians.

The medians were installed, not just for beautification, but for pedestrian safety. An impartial source (the parking consulting firm) observed that Padre Blvd is one of the most dangerous streets they have ever seen for pedestrians. I think human safety should mean something.

We need citizens and politicians who show creativity in finding SOLUTIONS to our problems.
Identifying the problem is always easy, finding the solution is not.
We need creative people with new ideas, not those who will just gripe about how bad things (and people)are. I always challenge those people to present their own programs.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

I think it is fair to question as to whether a proposed solution might not create new problems. Pedestrians are still going to have to dash across Padre Blvd. and the sunchase logjam is just going to get worse for losing a lane.

The problem is that one can propose ideas until one is blue in the face but those in power feel no particular compunction to listen. The rest of us are just so many flies buzzing around your heads.

7:24 AM  
Blogger just wandering said...

look at Mr. Mills record while an alderman and judge his comments through that mirror. Is he using this blog to start to run again? The reaction to the median at this point is mixed. Many people I talk to like it, like the pavers, do wish there was more green, are glad to have it happening. The people who didn't want it in the beginning still hate it. A lot of folks who complain are the very ones who did not go to meetings, did not contact public officials, did not (in this case) look at the plans that were available. C'mon, guys! As for secret meetings, what secret meetings? Easy to say, but give us specific examples. And don't say if they were secret of course we don't know about them. There is no project in this Town that is going to please everyone. The developers want high rises everywhere, the long term islanders want it to look the way it did tweny years ago...
And many of us just want to control the growth so we don't turn into Miami Beach.

8:36 AM  
Blogger just wandering said...

just a quick question/clarification.
Are you referring to beach and dunes or cpac and NOT meetings about the median? I am putting two parts of your comments together -- maybe that is a mistake. Sorry if it is.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Kirk has some good ideas although I would question why the median project would be protested when it is nearly completed. Let's move forward.

As to the claim that "long term islanders want it to look the way it did tweny years ago," I don't know if that is accurate since many know that development is coming down the path like a very big dog.

We just don't know if the dog will be gentle and calm, or have very sharp teeth and a bad disposition.

So far the "bad dog" paradigm seems to be winning, although the purpose of the CPAC was to try to help create a level playing field. The CPAC could use a little help instead of gnashing of the teeth!

11:11 AM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

orlI'm peeved about not being informed about the B&D meeting on Monday. And not getting any answer at all from anyone about the CPAC meeting that didn't happen on Thursday, even though many of us wanted to meet. As a result, I will miss two instead of just one meeting.

I think it is very simplistic - to say that longtime residents want things to stay the way they were 20 years ago. We are not idiots. You could even say we are smarter than many because we beat the crowds here. We know things have to change but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To those who " like" the new median prodject. It is going to be somewhat pretty. However, how much damage is being done to the businesses along that area. Time will tell. Anything that makes it hard to get to a business has to be bad for business dosen't it? The median is so long that clearly you will have to drive 1-2 blocks PAST many businesses and then do a U-Turn in order to get to them ( the business). I have heard that construction has already caused several businesses to see a 50% or more drop in sales. As for the anonymous comment that " Of Course" construction cost more than estimated 3 years ago....that seems to be a theme on this island. Perhaps the next prodject should have in some sort of a built in inflation adjustment?? So people know what the true cost will be. ( at least close) It just seems to me that several things built with tax dollars on the island and in the valley have been allowed to go over budget and it is never any elected persons fault.

5:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks, it's a dead end street.
Anyone going north has to come back south and will drive by all businesses equally...
Do you buy a t-shirt and go to the beach or do you go to the beach and then buy a t-shirt?
Come on.......

7:39 AM  
Blogger just wandering said...

ok, ok, I didn't mean ALL long term islanders. I was just trying to set some parameters and end up with not becoming Miami Beach or Las Vegas, which some people are touting! (not any Town officials) -- just a developer or two.
As for why bring up the median when it is almost done, elections are coming and it may stir up voters to support some yet-to-be-determined candidates.
Thanks for the clarification, Sandy. It sounds pretty weird, especially the Beach and Dune one!

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of you islanders are spoiled. Okay, you're ALL spoiled - you live by the ocean for Pete's sake!

Padre Blvd. is small potatoes, at least to the tourists who shop and dine there. We are more than accustomed at home to driving the necessary distance to turn around and come back to where we're headed!

Come on, there aren't that many businesses along the blvd. If you need groceries or t-shirts, you'll make the small extra effort. As one accustomed to driving around Fort Worth, this whining takes on a humorous tone, guys.(I say that fondly. I love you islanders.)

I guarantee ya that on our next SPI trip, we will dine at Blackbeards and buy supplies at the Blue Marlin.

Medians happen. Thank goodness, from my own viewpoint. The good at least appears to outweigh any inconvenience.

If you want less car traffic during peak seasons like Spring Break (I've read here that you do), you'd better make it safer for people to park their cars and walk.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I had to laugh at myself after that last post. Sheesh, some of us Islanders sure can whine, bitch, fuss, moan, and carry on, can't we? Guilty as charged, although I hope I do have some redeeming qualities.

And you know, the real cool Islanders don't throw stuff around like that, getting all upset over nothing. I have to learn that Mojo. You have to admit I've decompressed from living in Austin a couple years ago, which was pretty darned stressful.

I am going to be a little vague here, but there are some very special Capricorn Girls out there, wild all over the Island, and unique only here. That means that if you have a birthday coming up this week this is your turn to rule the Island. Approximately 105% of the Capricorns on this Island are girls and have a birthday this coming week sometime. I have no idea why, but this is a very basic fact.

Every one of them are really cute - take one or two out to lunch sometime! There's about five or six of these little rascals at least. We'll be conspiring as to a pachanga on the beach, by special request ... bonfire to follow. /sammie

10:21 PM  
Blogger Hershal said...

Without a median, where are the folk from Monterrey supposed to drive?

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so the median is great, no one has and no one has a problem with U-turns. We will see. Thank God we now have a beautiful street. I am sure the new median, played up in future SPI ads, will attract at least 10,000 more visitors this coming year. At least we will be safer on the road. I was saddened watching them scoop up people almost daily who couldn't walk across the road as it was. Now they will be safe and everything is pretty.

However,here is perhaps something you don't yet know. The street widening ( side streets) has caused the Blue Marlin to lose its loading dock. I am sure it is no big thing for them to unload on one side of the building and then hand cart it through their old ( only) access door. I would love to hear from all of the business people along Padre now. I think many thought only "pretty roads" and "more drainage" , without understanding how things would really look.

As for you "Big City " people, emmm been there, done that. I have seem road construction like this ruin BIG CITY Businesses many times. Also, you it may not be a matter of go to the beach or buy a t-shirt. It is buy a t-shirt or eat where I can get to easily. IF I can't easily get somewhere and another business IS easy....guess where I am going. Also see again proposal to not allow U--Turns ( It is a state highway).

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And.......the sky is falling!

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Papabeare, there is no proposal to stop u turns. There is only one intersection that is left turn only and all the rest in the entire project will allow u turns.
Please, find out what you are talking about before you present it as fact...

10:07 AM  
Blogger just wandering said...

Port Isabel Press for January 4-6 lists on the front page the kinds (not the mumbers) of plants which will be on the new median by the end of February (with luck!).

5:44 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I'm all for native plants, but could resist the urge for some humor here:

1) Ornamental Paver Bladder-Wort (Canus sprayus maximus, tex-dotii). This specially engineered plant attracts dogs to pee there but when they get close the automatic sprinkler comes on.

2) Giant Venus Trap (touristi tastus goodus). This is a true tropical marvel, which is baited with special stuff from Whataburger. Only problem is, it hardly ever moves!

3) Cretin's Cellphonius (cerebellum lactus). This is a very pretty, low plant with white flowers ... and 20 foot long roots that can snatch a cellphone right out of a car window.

6:44 PM  
Blogger just wandering said...

Sam: I think I love you!!

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahahaha, Sam!

Just so long as "Touristi Tastus Goodus" doesn't hang with one of these spiders. It could sully the reputation of the entire medianhood:

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corrected link to above:

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well phooey. I don't know why after c&p'n the entire link, the entire link didn't transfer. I'll enter the link myself and maybe that will work. If it doesn't, I apologize and never mind.

9:59 PM  
Blogger don Miguel said...


Try this one LOL!

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The poor planning of the construction has hurt many businesses. Employees of Louie's, Amberjacks, Wahoo's, etc....have told me that January of 2007 has ben their worst month ever income wise. I was also told that last night Amberjacks was basically giving food away via 2 for 1 specials just to motivate people to navigate construction to find them. Were the lost wages of many people worth the poor planning of construction? Captain Roy's has taken a huge hit as well. I agree with Sam's excellent point people will not frequent businesses that cannot easily get to. Unfortunatly the median project is not near complete. There is a phase 2 and 3 in which the median will go all the way north.

10:39 AM  

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