Councilwoman Brick: What makes a great city?
By Blanche Brick, Place 1 City Councilwoman
After serving on the College Station City Council for the past four years, I would like to offer my reflections on what makes a great city.
College Station has been experiencing a vigorous rate of growth. This experience has led the city council, city staff and the community to think long and hard about how to respond in a reasonable and sustainable way.
The Comprehensive Plan includes a vision statement for the kind of city we want College Station to be. It suggests we will be that type of community by:
- Ensuring safe, tranquil, clean, and healthy neighborhoods with enduring character;
- Increasing and maintaining the mobility of College Station citizens through a well-planned and constructed inter-modal transportation system;
- Expecting sensitive development and management of the built and natural environment;
- Supporting well planned, quality, and sustainable growth;
- Valuing and protecting our cultural and historical community resources;
- Developing and maintaining quality cost-effective community facilities, infrastructure, and services which ensure our City is cohesive and well connected; and,
- Proactively creating and maintaining economic and educational opportunities for all citizens.
College Station’s land is limited because it borders Bryan on its northern city limit and is moving toward Grimes County to the south. It is also unique in that it was created to be the home of Texas A&M University. Thus, it has no one area known as its downtown.
A&M has always been the physical and emotional center of College Station. The city has grown toward the south and is no longer a collection of small shopping areas known as Eastgate, Northgate, and Southside.
In spite of this growth, College Station continues to be the kind of community people want to call home. It has done this because it has been blessed with good leaders in the past who valued their relationships with Texas A&M, Bryan and Brazos County, and who built strong neighborhoods, businesses, and civic and religious institutions for the families who lived here.
Today, it is important for all the citizens, not just city staff and the city council, to think about how we want College Station to grow as well as where we want it to grow. In 2015, the city created a citizen advisory committee to identify and prioritize the needs we face due to the expansion of Texas A&M and the city’s corresponding growth.
City staff has just revised the water and wastewater master plans to assure that we can provide for these needs as we grow, and we have recently completed a review and update of our Comprehensive Plan and our Thoroughfare Plan.
These efforts have provided new insight into the challenges of growth as well as the opportunities. Each plan offers an amazing array of facts related to the miles of water and sewer lines required, the miles of roadways that must be built, and the land uses in place to guide our growth and development.
We have also financed a study to provide the facts we must consider in deciding if we should adopt impact fees as one method for offsetting some of the costs of providing the core infrastructure the new growth requires. I encourage all citizens to spend some time looking at these documents that are available on the city website and to attend public meetings to have input into these issues.
But all of these facts, useful and necessary as they are, can only go so far in guiding us as we continue to work on being the kind of city that people choose to call home. Concrete roads and water and wastewater lines provide a city’s infrastructure. But as vital as these things are, they do not make a great city. They do not and cannot provide what people value most and that is a feeling of pride in their homes and city.
This is what I have referred to as our cultural infrastructure, and it is something that only citizens can provide as they work each day to make their neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and religious institutions places where families can raise the next generation of Americans in safe and productive ways.
City staff and the city council can and should do much to use our tax dollars wisely, but the real challenge of building a great city is one that only the citizens can meet as they work each day to be good neighbors in their neighborhoods and the larger community.
Yes, facts can tell us many things about a city, but only citizens can tell us how it feels to live and work in a great city.
We need to listen as our citizens as they share their feelings about their lives in College Station as well as to those who tell us what kinds of roads and how much water infrastructure are required. In my mind, knowing the facts will allow us to continue to grow, but respecting the feelings of our citizens will also allow us to build the kind of city we want for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.
That was my vision when I ran for city council, and it will continue to be my vision for the remainder of my term.
Blanche Brick is in her second term on the College Station City Council. She was elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2014. Brick also serves as a history professor at Blinn College. A native of Longview, she received a bachelor’s degree in education from Baylor in 1961, a master’s in education from George Washington University in 1965, a master’s in history from the University of Hawaii in 1970, and a doctorate in education curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M in 1983.
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