Monday, March 31, 2008

how the world views spi

I was reading an online article about our new fire chief, and this is how it describes SPI:

"The city has one small neighborhood and the rest of the town is primarily hotels, motels and high-rise condominiums."

Do tell.



Friday, March 28, 2008

Help Clean Up Boca Chica Beach TODAY!

I just got a call from Scarlet Colley. It seems that some folks went to a lot of trouble to pick up and bag spring break/holiday trash on Boca Chica Beach, but were not quite able to finish the job. The mound of trash-filled plastic bags left behind is of obvious interest to coyotes and other critters. According to Scarlet, right now it will still a relatively easy matter to pick up and properly dispose of the bags. In another few days, it probably won't be.

Breakaway Cruises has generously offered the use of the Xcape Aquadog so volunteers can finish the job. Anyone interested in helping out should show up at the Xcape dock (at the Sea Ranch) prior to 4 PM Today (Friday) and be prepared to sling some trash bags.

p.s. If you still haven't seen me kick sandsculptor ass on the Travel Channel, (or you can't get enough of watching it!) the show will be airing again on Sat. March 29 at 11 AM

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bike-Cam 2

Once again, I pedal into the heart of spring break, where I have fun at the expense of a bull-riding lassie who is probably not what you would call "army strong" material...


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bike Cam 1 - sandy feet pedals padre to the heart of spring break

Take a virtual bike ride down the beach to Army/National Guard/Geico Beach. I have just uploaded the first installment, and more will follow....


Bongodogs at WW 2nite!

The B-Dogs! Tonight! at Wanna Wanna!

This is something worth leaving the compound for. (Yes, "Holy Hell Week" has got some residents feeling a bit... beseiged.) But it's almost over, everyone rolling in dough and looking forward to Pirate Days in April.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Just in Time for Easter

The Celtic Cross is ready for a beach wedding.

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Andy Bowie Park in Danger

This from Surfrider Rob Nixon:

South Texas Surfriders!,

On Friday, March 14, Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter submitted a sealed proposal to the Cameron County Purchasing Department in response to RFP #080204 which requested proposals to develop a time share hotel resort on all or a portion of Tract 1, 20.91 acres, inside Andy Bowie County Park on South Padre Island. We are simply asking Cameron County to leave Andy Bowie a public park for use by the residents and visitors of Cameron County under the control of the County Parks System without the development of a private time share hotel resort.

Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter believes that allowing this development to go forward in Andy Bowie Park is a direct contradiction to Cameron County Park's mission statement, "To provide safe, quality outdoor recreation opportunities to the citizens and visitors of Cameron County at an affordable price and to develop and protect the County's coastal resources and natural habitats." The South Texas Chapter of Surfrider Foundation fails to see how the development of a hotel resort will protect the County's coastal resources and natural habitats. Furthermore, allowing this project in Andy Bowie Park, a public county park, will reopen the door to Isla Blanca Park by setting a precedent for allowing private hotel resorts in County public parks.

Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter is of the opinion that all of Cameron County's public parks are exactly that, public land that is to be used by all of the citizens of Cameron County. It is not the Cameron County Parks business to be leasing out this public land to private resort developers at a premium price when other privately owned land is available to be purchased for the purpose of private development. All one has to do is refer to the Cameron County Parks mission statement to define the boundaries and duties of the County parks system.

Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter urges all concerned citizens of Cameron County to call, write or email your County Commissioners, Judge and Parks Directors and express your opposition and concern in regard to the private development of Andy Bowie Park and all other Cameron County Parks. The following is a list of Cameron County Commissioners and Park Directors and their contact information:

Judge Carlos Cascos:

(866) 544-0830

Sofia Benevides (Commissioner Pct.1)

(956) 574-8167

John Wood (Commissioner Pct.2)

(956) 983-5091

David Garza (Commissioner Pct.3)

(956) 361-8209

Edna Tamayo (Commissioner Pct.4)

(956) 427-8069

Javier Mendez (Park Director)

(956) 761-3700

Joe E. Vega (Deputy Park Director)

(956) 761-3700

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Pt VI

Re: Am I That Candidate?

Well, no.

Honestly, I don’t feel I have the knowledge or experience to do the job justice. I think I could learn what I need to if I really threw myself into it, but being a single, self-employed person who has to travel a fair amount to earn a decent living, I simply can’t afford to commit to three years for the going rate of $3.

Furthermore, Wednesday is ukulele night here at the Sandbox Inn.

I appreciate the calls of support I received - had there been a few more of them I might have been persuaded to see it through - but today is the last day to pull out gracefully and I have no wish to be the spoiler in a 3-way race. Therefore, I have withdrawn my name from the ballot.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Part V

Here on South Padre Island, there is core of smart, like-minded people who are interested in the issues facing our town, who keep themselves informed of developments and are articulate enough to persuade others that they know what they are talking about. I would call this group the island “Brain Trust” and while the individual members don’t always agree on everything, I do believe they can -- with spirited discussion -- come to something close to agreement about what is annoying and what is pleasant and how we should prioritize methods for decreasing the former and increasing the later. I know this because I encounter it day after day - in email, on the SPI Forum, at an end-of-the-road beach party, in the check out line at the Blue Marlin or sitting around the table at a CPAC meeting. The Brain Trust draws on the individual strengths of its members, reasonable people can be expected to listen to reason and eventually - in even the most diverse of groups - consensus can be reached. And that’s when things get done.

An effective alderman needs to pay close attention to the Brain Trust. S/he needs to initiate discussions and explain how and why s/he’s voting and not just allow the voters to see the decision-making process but encourage them to take an active part in it by participating in the Brain Trust Forum.

What would this forum look like? Well, it would bear more than a passing resemblance to This forum and I have enjoyed a love/hate relationship, but Jason has come closer to getting it right than anyone -- a thankless job to be sure -- and some good things have come from it. As I see it, the main problem is the bullying. Some posters have a nasty tendency to ridicule, gang up on and shout down anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The result is that a lot of people who read the forum refuse to post anything, and that is unfortunate.

If I were an alderman, I would set up a new forum (or work with Jason to create a new “room” in his existing forum) that would be much like what he already has done -- with the following important differences:

1. While the forum would be open to everyone to read, I would not allow anyone to post who is not signed in with his/her real name and a fully-developed profile identifying the poster’s relationship to the island (i.e. full-time resident; business owner; 3-times yearly visitor; property owner; P&Z member, etc.) This would help make the forum more like an actual meeting where flesh & blood people talk face to face and know exactly who they are dealing with. I believe such a system would encourage and reward civil discourse - because expressing contempt for your opponent is not a terribly effective way to win him over to your way of thinking.
2. But if/when discussion does get too heated, posters who cannot disagree amicably would be bounced out (i.e. banned from posting) for a “time-out” period of a week or two. I know this puts a lot of pressure on the moderator(s) who must decide when someone has crossed the line, but there is no way around it. Respect and courtesy for opposing viewpoints is the only way you are gong to get the participation of everyone who has an opinion.

To take this idea even further, I think it is absolutely essential that we no longer allow candidates for office the luxury of public silence. You don’t like SPIRIT? Can’t stand the SPI Forum? Then brother you better get busy and set up a forum that you _do like because an office-holder who cannot or will not explain and defend his/her stances on the issues in a public forum is disrespecting the people who voted him/her in. I don’t agree with Mayor Bob on everything, but I am impressed that he takes the time to address the public at large using his real name, and that is why he will likely get my vote. (JoAnn Evans has participated on the forum as well as her opponent Mary Phillips -- who did not deserve the reception she got there and I don’t blame her for not coming back.)

A candidate for office who wants my vote would agree to let me in on his/her thought processes and s/he would be willing to do so in a totally public place (i.e. online forum) so that I know s/he is saying the same thing to me as to everyone else.

Next: Am I that Candidate?

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Candidate Posts - Pt IV

A government’s one and only function is to make the lives of the governed more pleasant. Its only reason for being is to remove the things that annoy us and increase the things that please us. It is there to enhance not just the lives of the few but of the many. And government becomes dysfunctional when it doesn’t know or care what the majority of its constituents really want.

Some would argue quite convincingly that the SPI town government at this time is borderline dysfunctional and that it is crucial that new, more responsive board members be elected in May. Candidates who limit their communications to pachangas and other small groups of like-minded friends are suspect - fairly or not - of telling those small groups whatever it takes to get votes.

The town council form of government has been around for a long time. Community members elect their representatives and then hope for the best. Accountability shows up 2 or 3 years later in the form of another election. Like the electoral college, this system is a hold-over from the days when most of the “common folk” had no or only limited access to breaking news or detailed position statements from the candidates. These constituents had little opportunity to interact directly with the government and had to trust their elected representatives to speak up for their interests.

The ubiquitousness of the internet has changed everything, of course. Now news and opinions can be posted nearly instantaneously in a place where almost everyone can read and respond. This is a marvelous tool for a true democracy to have and I for one can’t wait to see how local government will evolve as a result.

Clearly the effects are already being felt: Witness exhibit A -- the SPI Forum, imperfect as it may be. (More on that in the next installment!) I understand that the new BOA Boardroom is chock full of gadgets that will allow meetings to be recorded and broadcast on the internet and/or TV. I think it is past time to insist that this system be put into action, giving all SPI stake-holders near and far an opportunity to see our elected officials in action.

Then, once we get the meetings truly open to all, we need to fire up the Brain Trust Forum.

We have a lot of very smart people in this town: Folks who know a lot about building codes, who understand parking issues, who have developed a real appreciation for local flora & fauna and how to best protect it; people who have great ideas for marketing the island; people who understand municipal finance way better than I do (quite a lot of those, probably) and people who know a lot about beach erosion or traffic patterns or sand and sand sculpture contests (that would be me!) These smart people can’t all be alderpersons, because they also have to make a living or spend time with their families or go fishing. However, we are crazy stupid if we do not figure out a way to tap into all that knowledge and experience by making it easy as pie for those smart people to spill the beans.

Next: How I Would Do It

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Friday, March 14, 2008

spring break in the sandbox

still working on that celtic cross....


The Candidate Posts - Part III

What I Want...

is a say in what SPI will look like in 5-10-25 years... because I plan on being here at least that long! I want this bad enough that I was willing to give up almost every Tuesday night for nearly two years to go duke it out with the other members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee.

CPAC was a really interesting experience. I have to hand it to the board that created us -- I think they did an amazing job of deciding who should serve on this committee by handpicking a group seemingly chosen for the amount of suspicion and hostility to which we were likely to be predisposed for one another. The first meeting was in many ways a disaster. (In fact, the committee collectively requested that a photo shot that night be struck from the final document -- the memory was just that unpleasant.) Several members quit fairly early on -- I very nearly did but am glad I did not because I was able to witness an amazing transformation first hand. This group of people with completely different agendas sat down face to face on a weekly basis. We interrupted and we rolled our eyes and we threw up our hands and buried our faces, but we also took turns telling our small stories and describing the SPI of our dreams and at some point we started listening -- really listening -- to one another. And we were able to reach consensus and complete our assignment. Our last meeting was the antitheses of our first: a purely social potluck with spouses at Clayton’s amazing beach home where a good time was had by all.

(Of course it’s not all unicorns and rainbows and feel-good Obama stuff. Writing by committee is my idea of hell. There is stuff in that plan that makes me wince -- but hey, nobody wins every fight. The key of course is picking your battles carefully; knowing when to say, “I will not vote for something that weakens this statement” and when to say “all right, whatever, let’s move on.”)

I really wouldn’t have believed it possible had I not witnessed it for myself. And that makes me think that what worked in the microcosm of CPAC could work towards uniting the various factions at odds in the town.

While it is not practical to propose that the whole town gather weekly for a cozy little boardoom chat to discuss our real feelings, there are ways we can use the internet and new city hall’s fancy high-tech gadgetry to open the lines of communication.

Next: Harnessing the Power of the Island Brain Trust

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Vote for the LM Humane Society

Please take just a minute to vote for the dog pictured on this link. It is a contest that Bissell is having for the next dog model - and the prize is $10,000. The Laguna Madre Humane Society is sponsoring this sweet dog, and they could really use the money!!!! They are the Humane Society Shelter for South Padre Island and Port Isabel, and people bring animals from Brownsville even, as this is a no-kill shelter. They have more animals than they can take care of many times. Some of my good friends do volunteer work there, and they work so hard for these poor animals. So, PLEASE take time to vote for Rosie. And if you have any friends who would participate, please send the link to them. Thanks so much! Help-a-loo -- Lucy


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who I Am and What I Want

(The Candidates Posts Pt II)

Most of you know me. I have earned a modest amount of fame as a sand sculptor and I really love teaching others how to build better sandcastles here on beautiful South Padre Island. I write books and blogs, design & host websites and I own and operate the Sandbox Inn. This is my 27th spring break. Google has decided that I am a trusted authority on two subjects: sand sculpture and South Padre Island. I attend more meetings than I want to, but not as many as I should. I was for five years the significant other of former SPI Alderman Fred Mallett, which makes me at least as qualified as Hillary.

If you want to learn more about me, please look at Read my blog. My life is an open book with no hidden agenda or mysterious financial backers. Not all of my income is locally generated, but enough of it is that I have a vested interest in a happy business climate fed by a steady flow of tourists. I live here because I love the climate, I love my job, and I love the people this place attracts. (Most of them, anyway.) I think this place - just as it is - is pretty swell, which is not the same thing as saying it always needs to stay the way it is right now, or that it couldn’t be even more swell in the future.

So that - in a nutshell - is who I am. I also said I was going to tell you what I want. But I think it might be easier to start by telling you what I don’t want.

Your money - I am not for sale (unless you are looking for a kick-ass sand sculptor, in which case, I’m your woman.)

SPI Politics as Usual: I hate the us vs. them mindset. Let’s start from the premise that we all love the island and we all care about the local economy, our town’s appearance, and our neighbors -- even if they do let that dog bark until all hours.

Pigeon-holing: All retirees want to kill spring break; business owners only care about the bottom line; developers want to tear down houses, pave paradise and cover the island with high-rises and casinos; longtime residents are just a bunch of cannabis-smoking hippies who were lucky enough to get in while land was still cheap and don’t have the good grace to grow up or move on; environmentalists are nutcases who won’t be happy until our yards are all overrun with weeds and our houses with vermin; people who oppose raising taxes are all CAVEmen; anyone who stays in the same room with Clayton Brashear for more than five minutes falls under his spell and must be deprogrammed, etc. etc.

Sound familiar? The people who live and work here are not two-dimensional cut-outs. I am a resident who wants to preserve the local flora and fauna first, a business-owner who wants to earn a living second, a non-rich person who worries about taxes going up third and an aging progressive (don’t call me hippy) who used to frolic naked in the dunes north of town (and might have time to do that again some day, who knows?) fourth.

The last thing I don’t want is to devote more of my hard-earned leisure time to sitting in meetings.
(More on that in the next installment.)

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The Candidate Posts - Part I

Note: I have indeed filed for the position of Alderman of South Padre Island, Postion #4

How I Got Here

So there I am, minding my own business enjoying the enchiladas and a (Blue Moon) draft at Dorados with Nancy Marsden and Lori Wells when the call comes in from a prefers-to-be-anonymous friend in city hall. The time for filing is running out and the voters’ options are looking mighty limited. Would I consider tossing my pith helmet into the ring?

What a funny thought.

Another Blue Moon with the Brain Trust (that would be Lori & Nancy, with a few words of wisdom from our hostess, Leah) and the thought is growing less funny and more interesting. Calls are made. It appears that Candidate A is running unopposed. No wait. It appears that candidate A has in fact filed for candidate B’s position, ostensibly to enable candidate C to run unopposed in candidate A’s former position.

We swing by city hall to pick up a filing packet -- just for grins. Candidate D is hangin’ in the lobby and turns a whiter shade of pale upon learning of my possible candidacy. And suddenly the latest word is that candidate A is rushing back from the airport to change filing positions again due to a silly mistake having to do with not knowing which position said candidate is currently the incumbent of. Or so it is explained to me by Candidate D, with what is obviously a mighty attempt at a straight face. (Candidate D is a lousy liar -- which is maybe a good trait for an elected official to possess, no?)

So the brain trust (“Champagne Manager” and “Keeper of the Booty” soon joined by Diane “Vender Queen” Hofmeister) and I are filling out forms and discussing platforms and issues and bumper stickers and foot-shaped cookies as the phones ring on and it turns out that Candidate A has made it back from the airport in time to successfully change filing positions; candidate C has also pulled the expected switcheroo and candidate E is waiting in the wings to ride in on a white charger at the last possible moment -- so as not to tip the old hand too soon, one might assume.

If this story doesn’t make your head spin then it is because you are already well inoculated to politics as usual on South Padre Island -- this new “places” twist to the aldermen race has just added to the intrigue. The town is divided and the candidates are already employing deception and subterfuge while busily gaming the system to get their shot at this dollar a year position. In the meantime, plenty of voters are feeling that at least some of their elected officials don’t listen or - even worse - are only listening to people who have money and/or who are part of some powerful inner circle.

So how do we break out of the “SPI politics as usual” mindset? Is it possible? Or even desirable?

I don’t know. But I do have some ideas that I would like to present for your consideration, if you will bear with me.

Update 3/13: I have been assured by "Candidate D" that the candidate switcheroo detailed in the above narrative was in fact attributable to an honest mistake, and I am willing to concede this as a possibility. The place system is brand shiny new and it does not seem unreasonable that confusion could reign. The timing of all of it still seems a bit suspicious, but I am willing to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and report that it could very well have all happened just the way Candidate D said it did.

Next: Who I am and What I Want

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not your typical garage sale

Sherrie Gomez called me today to let me know about the garage sale she is planning for this coming Sat., March 15 at Gomez Realty (112 W. Corral St.)

As many of you know, Sherrie and her late husband Steve had eclectic tastes in just about everything and there will be some incredible finds for the discerning eye at this sale, including Steve's electric cart and lots of the cool stuff the couple imported from Mexico.

More importantly, Sherrie is in financial straits with medical bills, etc. so this is another opportunity for the community to help one of its own by helping her liquidate some of her treasures. Hope to see you there.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

a nice day in the sandbox

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sand Blasters III Premier Sat. (tomorrow) night!

If you are on SPI on March 8 please come by the new city hall at 8 for the premier of Sand Blasters III. (on the Travel Channel) YOu will be watching the show with three of the competitors - local sand sculptors sandy feet, Amazin' Walter and Christy McDonald (aka one half of Team Trowel and Error and all of Team Nitty Gritty.) Refreshments will be served, everyone is invited and it will, be lots and lots of fun. Hope to see you there!

(Here is a short video from Sand Blasters II)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Last CPAC "Meeting"

Members of the SPI Comprehensive Advisory Committee gathered one last time at member Clayton Brashear's home to celebrate the completion of our report -- nearly two years after we started work on it. Members were joined by their spouses, staff members Cate Ball (+ baby Tony) and Jason Moody and alderpersons Kirk Mills and Tara Rios Ybarra.

Any time you put this many diverse personalities and visions of what the future of South Padre Island ought to look like together, you are going to get a --- certain amount of conflict. Over the past two years I have learned a lot about city planning, about designing buildings and pedestrian-friendly walkways and running a restaurant and legal jargon and native plants and etc. and etc. But more importantly, I learned that even in this group consensus could be reached when people were willing to listen and respond to each other's concerns with respect and courtesy. (Something I wish those people over on the SPI forum would get around to figuring out.)

Thanks to Clayton for hosting this gathering in his lovely home. Thanks to Cate and Jason for sticking with us through the whole process and being so giving of their evenings. And finally, thanks to all my fellow committee members for their time, their expertise and their willingness to listen. I really feel like we have established something of a bond over the past two years...

I only hope the town's residents will approach this document with an open mind.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Announcing the SandBox Cam...

About a month ago Spi-Cam -- the webcam Fred and I had jointly invested in many years back and that he had left set up on the north deck of my beach house - finally died. It was an expensive camera that I did not feel I could afford to replace, so I didn't.

Instead, I got an inexpensive security cam and with the help of my friend JC I was able to get it recording the activities in my sandbox. I will be the first to admit that long stretches go by without much activity out there, but today I am working on a foam celtic cross commissioned for a beach wedding, so it may be at least a little bit interesting -- if you would like to peek into my backyard, consider yourself invited :)

SandBox Cam

p.s. I am in the market for big chunks of styrofoam if you happen to come across them. I particularly like getting pieces that had been destined for a landfill...



Saturday, March 01, 2008

So Who's Beach Is It, Anyway?

Thanks to Amazin’ Walter for alerting us to this weird banner on Coca Cola Beach.

Who owns the public beach? In Texas, everyone does. That is why we found this photo so curious. Someone has posted a banner on South Padre Island's "Coca Cola Beach" threatening dire consequences to anyone shooting video. No law is referenced. Looks mighty fishy to me...

See more of Amazin's spring break 2008 photos