EDITORIAL: Port Arthur’s future affects region too
The Port Arthur City Council might not realize it, but their city faces a sharp fork in the road. One path continues the shaky recovery led by former City Manager Brian McDougal and current ISD Superintendent Mark Porterie, who before Harvey had brought all schools up to state standards after coming close to a state takeover. The other path basically pushes Port Arthur toward - or over - the brink into fiscal ruin and population loss - at a big cost to the whole region.
Council members didn’t help the odds by forcing out McDougal. As with any personnel change, the full story may be unknown. McDougal was criticized for not moving more city trucks to safer ground before Harvey, and that loss was significant.
McDougal did some things no one can argue with. He came in as a reformer, someone who would fire city employees who stole instead of coddling them, someone who wouldn’t tolerate a water system where a fourth of the customers refused to pay their bills.
If Port Arthur backslides into that dysfunction, its future is bleak.
The best way to avoid that would be for the council to hire a bold, no-nonsense city manager with a strong track record. Someone, perhaps, like the guy they just ran off. If the next city manager is unable or unwilling to make the tough calls, the outlook is grim. The police chief already received a vote of no-confidence from 85 percent of the police union, so there’s turmoil in that important department too.
All communities in the area face population loss after Harvey, but the situation in Port Arthur is particularly dicey.
Its current population is about 53,000. If it falls below 50,000 in the 2020 census, it will become ineligible for many types of federal aid it has been counting on.
Port Arthur’s future affects others too. It’s the second-largest city in Jefferson County, and the region. In practical and psychological ways, its fate ripples through Southeast Texas.
This is our opinion; what is yours? Email us a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org Make sure to include your name, mailing address and phone number so we can contact you to verify the letter, but only your name and city of residence will be published. You can also mail letters to The Enterprise, P.O. Box 3071, Beaumont, TX, 77704. The limit on letters is 200 words.