By Gregory Moore
Saturday’s Eastside re-investment summit was well attended by citizens of this community and others who live in Bexar County and it was an event that showed a lot of promise and gave a lot of promises to those who were in attendance.
As one attendee said, “Well, they handed out the government cheese,” after many city and county leaders gave reports and said what they wanted to see happen in the coming months.
Which brought me to the phrase of an old Wendy’s commercial.
So in my best Clara Peller voice in response to everyone liking what they heard, my question to everyone in attendance is, “Where’s the beef?”
My question is in response to a list of fifteen objectives that everyone talked about and while some of them may be new, the others continue show that there are still segments in the Eastside community that are not getting the message of what their responsibility is in its growth.
When I saw the list, I turned to a friend and started laughing.
Not because of some of the objectives but because they thought that certain objectives were more important than others.
For instance, the top one on the list was the need for better media awareness of this community.
I know who ratcheted that one to the top. As a matter of fact I know exactly what neighborhood group did that and I wasn’t even in attendance of the first meeting when this voting process was taking place.
There is a reason why this community continues to get negative press and that is because of the high crime rate that is very prevalent in this community.
Is that the media’s fault?
Is the cleaning up of the perception the responsibility of the various neighborhoods in this section of town?
Yes, with the help of law enforcement.
So who is to blame for this negative image?
The very groups that continue to assail against the media saying it is giving this part of the city a bad reputation and yet their neighbors are partaking in illegal activities and no reporting is being done to help curtail such activity.
You cannot have it both ways and these groups need to step up and be proactive on these issues.
That includes realizing that some of the objectives on this list are projects that are already in place.
Taking pride in the Eastside is not a new concept; it was actually a slogan for the Weed and Seed programs of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Brining more bond money for better school upgrades is a voter issue and unless the residents understand the importance of education and vote for the bonds from their property taxes, schools like Sam Houston cannot keep up with other peer schools in the city and/or state.
Making sure that little Johnny or Jenny does well in school may be a community issue but if the household where Johnny or Jenny lives doesn’t care about their education, how can you expect them to care about whether their classmates get a proper education.
The list talks about retail and commercial expansions in Willow Woods, along East Commerce and on W.W. White Road and that is a noble goal. But what’s the realistic approach to these projects?
Are their investors who are willing to pluck down $10 million for the Freidrich Building, plop down another $7 million in asbestos clean up and maybe another $12 million in renovations?
What of the mega eye sore known as the Mega Warehouse on W.W. White Road? What can be done to buy the property from the current owner so that development can be implemented or what programs can be shown to the current owner so that he can start implementing growth on his own?
What of the strategies to bring in middle class families, whether it is for BRAC or other reasons? Is there a parcel of land where 50 new homes, ranging from $100,000 to $150,000, can be built?
And I haven’t even touched infrastructure that needs to be better enhanced, developing the East Commerce entertainment district that will be attractive to tourists coming ‘across the tracks’ or the need to have viable incubators in place that are on par in development like those on the southside, west side, north side and downtown.
It’s not just the words and promises that came forth on Saturday from various officials that everyone wants to hear, there needs to be action on those words and promises.
There should have already been action on a lot of items on this list from years prior because some were complete do over’s from previous Eastside summits.
What the citizens in this district need now is the “beef” to go along with that cheese that was served.
And so I stand with Clara Peller and scream out, “where’s the beef” because if true action is not taken from the feedback gathered from this summit, we will be right back here in ten years discussing the same topics on the same parcels of land and debating why this part of town still gets a negative rep.
This time, this community needs to take the messages and ideas being shared and implement them without looking for Big Brother to do it for them.
It is the only way this summit can be seen as a success in the future and not referred to as another summit that had no substance in solving the issues.