Friday, December 23, 2005

Sundry Solstice Thoughts

The last two weeks I have mostly lived in a truck, had lots of time to listen to radio, and sometimes even think. Turning of the year may be characterised as arbitrary, but at least in this hemisphere there is a certain tug in the direction of the solstice, so a few random thoughts with the turning of the calendar.

There has been a lot of commentary on the proposal to build a physical wall along the Mexican border. This is of limited local impact, save for the INS dumping OTM illegals at our bus station, but it did give me reason to reflect on one of my simplistic axioms. I do not intend to pronounce for or against what is really a national issue, but one radio guy caught my ear when he wondered how the party which virtually worships Reagan could embrace a wall, when one of Reagan's most famous quotes was, “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev!” My theory has always been that the freedom quotient of a country with a border fence could be measured by one simple fact: is the fence designed to keep reluctant citizens in, or too many aspiring citizens out. On that basis, we rank as one of the most free nations on Earth. Keeping us that way will always be an ongoing task, but our comparative status is worth a Christmas toast.

Speaking of Christmas, another highblown radio controversy is the “War on Christmas”. I think it speaks well of San Angelo's generally tolerant people that we have, as usual, a predominately religious display on the courthouse lawn, and no one has ever called in the ACLU to move or abolish it. My fundamentalist church gives no theological significance to Christmas, but I cannot imagine trying to rain on the parade of those who still think the holiday primarily religious rather than commercial. Being raised Church of Christ with an aunt who was a Catholic nun might have broadened my perspective.

Actually, I find San Angelo, compared to other places, very broadminded, and not just among the educationally advantaged. The change from the early 70's is dramatic. Today, even in blue-collar beer joints, the revelation that so-and-so is gay is most often met with “and your point is?” Racism and related “isms” definitely still exists, but it just as definitely does not rule a city with a freely elected Mexican-American police chief and a popular city manager of the same ethnicity. Look at how hard the paper had to work to get a quote from our supposed local klansman. Another Christmas toast to our city.

I believe we have the best city government in living memory. There are still factional issues, council representatives are elected to represent their specific precincts, but this Council seems to have more willingness to look at the city as a whole than I can remember.

On that thought, let me move to Christmas wish list. On the positive side, Council reacted to the deplorable Kelo decision on imminent domain by declaring that San Angelo would not engage in such takings for private use. It would be preferable to have this as a City Charter measure than a more easily reversed ordinance, but our last Council saw fit to take Charter elections off the table for two years with an appointed polce chief measure no one took seriously.

I would hope that Council would appoint a board to look forward to next year when Charter measures can be put to a vote. As this Blog has pointed out, there is some housekeeping to be done before a change in selecting a police chief can be properly put forth if at all. I hope the next eligible election puts imminent domain limits in the Charter on the ballot. As the lamentably retired Jack Cowan pointed out recently, we could try to synchronise traffic lights, something Mr. Turner has past experience with. We should consider allowing the Economic Development Board a little leeway to deal with changing needs. We can pray that a faith-based prison, if built at all, gets built elsewhere, on somebody else's nickel.

Overall, San Angelo is doing well. Employment is high, if still less well paid than we might like. The Art Museum just got an exceptional recognition for a community our size. We are about to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse with the Library project. We are an unusally generous city, while others worry about “cuts” to say, Meals on Wheels, a federally funded program, we have Meals for the Elderly, a totally voluntarily funded local program. The seemingly bottomless well of qualified volunteers to pitch in and work on local solutions to our problems continues to astonish me.

Problems we have, as does any city. What I do want to do at this season of reflection on the past year, is to acknowledge the good, celebrate the things and the people that make San Angelo such a nice place to live. A Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and an even better New Year to all.

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