Published Brownsville Herald May 18, 2008
In my last column, I looked generally at the Navigation District election with a little speculation as to skills and baggage each brings to the table. Personally, I consider each a patriot for coming to the forefront to serve and am aware of the sacrifice of time and efforts involved and often only receive criticism.
I wish there were even more candidates, especially – just real folks with “Common Sense,” so we could have more choices at each election. That is what that forms the foundation of my political activity. It is how the, now ex-candidate acquit themselves in office that improves the community or disadvantages it.
Within the community, any community there are many influences the come to bear on the office holder, each for the lack of a better term, I will call power centers. Many are groups with specific altruistic goals others are for more personal ones. The animal welfare, ecology, historical preservation, and anti-war interests are indeed focused on increasing their political influence and are no less power centers than the industry specific development, raw power seekers, banking, legal and real estate power centers are. They often use their abilities to raise funds in support of candidates that may be inclined to support the “correct” position. Very frequently the candidate campaigns on issues that are attractive to a particular power center and benefits his campaign, but occasionally the power center brings influence in other ways to advance its goals. A big part of the election process is the divination of the direction of the professional candidate or just assess his or her capacity to be straight forward, fair and sensible. I go for fair and sensible every time over power accumulators!
For sure, the election will result in a mixture of power goals and altruistic ones in the elected candidates and incumbents that remain. While we must continue to be aware of the blunders of the past we must assure that steps are taken to assure that proper controls are in place and uniformly used. Perhaps a quality system such as ISO 9002 could be used to advantage not only to assure continued proper administration and management but also demonstrate our commitment to the ports, automotive and European customers that are committed to that style of quality control, and perhaps improve business relationships.
The next step needed, is to get past the bad feelings left by the bridge debacle especially as none pf the past players will no longer be there. Perhaps the management position descriptions be audited and position requirements be evaluated to see that the trustees and all workers are fully aware of the responsibilities of the position and real functions performed. Minimum position requirements would need to be ubdated and performance will need to be evaluated in light of any changes. Should any employees not meet the new minimums and requirements for the position occupied time and assistance could be made available. In order to maintain the confidence of our clients and the community we must demonstrate a qualified workforce doing an excellent job. Positions filled due to political largess are currently being blamed by the port critics for the weak controls being exercised at the port and surely will fuel controversy in any future port problems; therefore they can no longer be tolerated. In the political process I saw that much has been made of a using a master plan and at several meetings over the past few years there have been frequent references to master plans. It would appear there may be several or none; perhaps references may be made only to serve the purpose of the moment.
Having a plan is one thing but having one that is realistic in goals as well as markers measuring progress. I would very much like to see a Master Plan Report at each Public Port Meeting. One of the keys to the success in the port is a clear marketing plan that describes current customers and how we can improve our relationship with them. Perhaps we could assign one of the marketing positions to provide marketing support. This position would serve as an advocate in getting the best service in the port as well as help identify areas where we could assist our customers with a better understanding of different shipping and facilities possibilities or various government requirements that could make the process more efficient and less expensive.
During a recent Port Meeting during a discussion on meetings with federal authorities in regard to dredging in the area the group was complimented because the Ports of Port Isabel, Harlingen, Port Aransas and Brownsville pooled together to take advantage of the combined influences. I submit this concept should be expanded upon to make the most of our regional resources. Every effort needs to be made to combine all of the public transportation facilities in the Region so that they could be managed as an entity that complements each of its parts and does not waste effort in competition. Perhaps a Regional Transportation Authority could be considered to take advantage of the economies of scale and the political influence of the whole Region that more and more depends on all of the parts working well.