Council reaffirms Master Plan
by Robin Cravey
The City Council reaffirmed it support of the Barton Springs Master Plan at their August 25th meeting. The vote was unanimous. And Mayor Lee Leffingwell made a strong statement that the short-term projects in the plan should move forward without further delay. Right on!
I mean really, what is a plan for? Some people think a plan is a substitute for actually working, a way to keep people talking until they run out of energy. Some think it is a beautiful work of art that should be given a prominent place on a coffee table or a line in a resumé. I don’t. I think a plan is blueprint for action.
When the board members of Friends of Barton Springs Pool made the rounds of council offices in 2006, we wanted something done. We were asking the council to end the long-shameful neglect of the pool, take care of the long-deferred maintenance, and perform the upgrades that the pool so clearly needed to meet the ever-increasing demand on facilities.
We had a list of projects that we considered important. We came up with this list of projects by talking with a lot of swimmers and staffers. We didn’t expect to get all of these projects done immediately, but we wanted some done in short order.
Led by Councilmember Sheryl Cole, the council responded by directing the staff to hire a consultant, to work with FBSP and other stakeholders, and to write a master plan for improvements to the pool. We were a little taken aback.
Writing a master plan sounded like a lot of work. But we accepted the challenge in good faith, and resolved to work through it. We went to stakeholder meetings with staff, and then with the consultants, then with the public. We attended weekly meetings for months on end, working through many issues. We had public hearings.
Finally, in a series of decision meetings, we hammered out the elements of a plan. It was far-reaching, comprehensive, visionary, and practical!
The consultants went into drafting mode and wrote the plan. It’s a beautiful book. Then they re-emerged and took the plan through presentations to all the boards and commissions.
Out of the plan, we identified about 20 short-term projects. These were urgent. While the consultants were drafting, the council approved the short-term projects and allocated over $6.2 million to implement them. Later the council adopted the master plan.
The council approved the short-term projects in September 2007. Slow forward to September 2011. Less than half the projects are complete.
During the four intervening years, various boards and commissions have held scores of public meetings on various elements of the plan. The staff has sponsored scores of more public meetings. Yet some call for more ‘public process.’
I was at a meeting the other night, a special meeting requested by a few people who missed the previous meeting because they weren’t paying attention. As the chair explained how the meetings are scheduled, one of the requesters interrupted, “You talk like we go to public meetings all the time. That’s not what we do.” To which I replied, “No. That’s what we do!”
What is public process for? Some people think it is a way to hold off action until they have a chance to think about something that they never thought about before (and really don’t want to think about now). Some people think it is a method for harrying the opposition. And some people think it is an opportunity to strike a noble pose. I don’t. I think it is a method for gathering input and arriving at a decision.
A plan and a public process are something else: They’re part of a covenant. When government calls for a plan, if a dedicated group accepts the challenge, faithfully works through the public process, and writes a plan, the covenant is that action will follow.
FBSP accepted the challenge, and worked through the process. Week in and week out, FBSP has done the work. We have done so because the goal, a pool restored to its rightful glory, is so worthy.
This is what the council reaffirmed on August 25th. Let’s get on with it.
We hosted the 6th annual Council Cleans to Pool Day in August. It was another great success. Mayor Lee Leffingwell delivered the remarks. Councilmember Mike Martinez again showed his steadfast support. Councilmember Chris Riley, out of town, sent his staff to representative him.