Like so many of you, I open my tax statement and take a good look at the five different entities to which I pay taxes. Like most everyone else I wonder how my home can be worth that much and then wonder what else my money is being used for among five different entities. I often wonder, when might we unite behind a shared and unified vision for our taxes. Or, said another way, how can we unite to solve our pressing issues and meet our largest needs?
…how can we unite to solve our pressing issues and meet our largest needs?
This question of vision, even purpose, and unity was forefront in my mind as Midland and Odessa journeyed down the bond election path this past year with differing outcomes. While differing bonds met different outcomes, the larger question still looming for both cities is where we are collectively headed? Let me attempt to be a little more specific.
I often wondered what would be the next “big ask” for Midlanders after the road bond. After my fellow citizens took their turn at the ballot box was anyone else wondering what the next bond election might be? Would there be an ask for another road bond? Would there be a school bond around the corner? Where was the county going with tax dollars? What did the hospital need? Where were we headed with our growing, and excellent, community college? And certainly, what was the city planning? All of these questions and more loom large as we experience unprecedented growth, stress, and opportunity throughout our city, with little relief in sight. Questions similar to the ones I was pondering about Midland were almost certainly being asked by citizens of Odessa. All of these questions – be they in Midland or Odessa – are rooted in one large desire; a desire for clarity of vision and direction in such opportunistic times where tax dollars are not infinite but opportunities seem to be.
This is no diatribe against elected officials, nor is it a harangue against one initiative over another. But when historic days call for a historic response this is a question, as we start the conversation, of vision – of leadership. It is a question regarding how we might unify behind a bold plan and direction where the priorities gain some order and the citizenry gains some clarity on what is ahead for their support, their votes and ultimately their dollars.
We most certainly cannot expect to become as world renown above ground as we are below ground with fragmented priorities and multiple visions of what might be done.
Like so many other efforts towards excellence and changing the status quo there will no doubt be the standard responses of, “Well, that’s not how it’s done.” Or, perhaps, the other standard reply, “We can’t do that.” But the reality behind the nature of change is it addresses what hasn’t been done or couldn’t be done and makes it happen.
There was a time not long ago when we were getting all the oil and gas we could get from under the ground and people were saying, “That’s it!” But someone decided that what everyone said could not be done was not going to stop them from doing more. Today, we sit right in the middle of historic opportunity because someone decided it could be done. So what should you do?
Part of the solution is to:
1. Start the conversation about expectations with work associates and your circle of influence.
2. Make sure you are involved politically.
That means becoming informed about issues, voting, attending meetings and becoming completely aware of the issues and challenges. Though we all rightfully expect much from our elected officials they also should rightfully expect our input as much as they must endure our criticism.
One of the recent and great, examples in our communities of ownership of the vision and action among the citizens is the initiatives underway in Odessa and Midland to form collective impact organizations to address head on the challenges we all face with elevating our education outcomes to world class.
It is not enough for us to point fingers and level blame at the school districts if we are not willing to step up and step out to make change happen.
These initiatives are a great start to a shared movement towards excellence above ground that must begin to make its way into all sectors of a great region.
Leadership and shared vision are never easy. But then again, none of us living in the Permian Basin ever asked for easy. As a matter of fact, we thrive when times are tough.
Let’s push towards a unified shared vision for all of our efforts – and all of our tax dollars; and become the region not just known for oil and gas, but historic ambition and once impossible, shared accomplishments.
So what can you do now?
• Invite others to this conversation.
• Share your ideas of what we need and what we should expect right here on this website.
• Choose not to complain unless you are committing to act towards fixing your area of complaint.
• Get involved politically. Know what is at stake and what needs to be done.
• Refuse to except old ways of thinking about our home and our region.
We look forward to hearing from you.