If that date means nothing to you, let’s start the New Year with a history lesson. In 1870, the U.S. declared Christmas a national holiday, which could be a column unto its own. Basically, Jesus was crucified around 33 A.D. That means it took us 1,837 years after that crucifixion before we declared it a holiday.
Christopher Columbus died in 1506. It only took us 431 years – in 1937 – before we made Columbus Day a national holiday. Heck, George Washington died in 1799. We gave him his own federal holiday (President’s Day) a brief 86 years later in 1885. Don’t worry about the pesky fact that we didn’t gain our independence until 1776.
But back to the practice of New Year’s resolutions. Seems to me we began those right around 1870, because that’s the first time we all were given a vacation for Christmas, which means we all had to find things to talk about with our extended families. And we all know how awkward that gets.
The scene probably looked something like this: A Quaker fellow was sitting by a fire, staring squarely across a freshly churned barrel of butter, trying to figure out what in the world he could say to his sister-in-law.
There was no NFL, and the NBA wasn’t televising its games yet, so my guess is they had absolutely nothing to talk about once they complemented the creaminess of the butter.
And that’s when it happened: “So what are your resolutions for the New Year,” the fellow asked.
That’s the only logical conclusion I can make about the genesis of these resolutions, because in the past week, I’ve been asked the question about six times.
Of course, I had to answer, so I said I’d like to eat more kale and take more trips with my bride. But it also got me to thinking about this community. If the areas of the Heights, Oak Forest, Garden Oaks and all our wonderful neighborhoods had to come up with a consensus list of New Year’s resolutions, what would they be?
Since no one else is asking this question, let alone answering it, let me offer a few resolutions for our community in 2018.
We’re going to slow down our growth
A couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from a reader who contributed to The Leader’s voluntary pay program, and I’ve kept that letter right next to my computer ever since. Here’s what the writer said:
“The Leader is a great newspaper. Unfortunately, you all don’t cover fully the negative side of the ‘progress’ in the Heights, Garden Oaks and surrounding areas. Our area is now over-built, over-crowded and RIDICULOUSLY over-priced. Keep up the good work.”
The man who wrote me this note is absolutely right. We have not done a good enough job covering the negative impact of enormous development over the past five years. In 2018, we’re going to do a better job of that.
But I think this should be the impetus for our first resolution of the year. There’s absolutely no way for this to happen, but we should resolve to say enough with all the new strip centers going up around the area. Not that the ones under construction are bad for us, but it’s the unknown that should scare the buzzard out of us.
Once H-E-B and all the new developments along Shepherd are finished, what in the world will traffic look like between 11th and 23rd Streets? Is it going to take 40 minutes to reach 610 if you’re driving north on Shepherd from I-10?
Same question for the intersections of Ella and 34th Street. Once those projects are built, full of restaurants and shops, how long will it take to drive Ella from 610 to 43rd Street? My guess is people will shift over to T.C. Jester, which means that thoroughfare will become unpassable, as well.
And that’s just traffic problems. What about new flooding concerns? (I haven’t seen any retention ponds built, and if 2017 taught us nothing else, shouldn’t we fear where our water flows even more today?)
Again, you can’t stop developers from buying land, but it sure would be nice if we finished what’s started and see how the area looks once cars start swerving in and out of parking lots.
Focus on our Schools
For more than five years, we’ve seen the tremendous growth of parental involvement in our local schools. From Hamilton to Hogg, from Black to Waltrip (and dozens more), we’re seeing that when the community gets involved in our schools, they miraculously get better.
In 2018, we should resolve to build a consortium of businesses (ours included) that take more of an interest in helping our local schools improve. The students at Stevens and Durham and Clifton and Sinclair need the same support the students at Harvard and Oak Forest and Garden Oaks feel every year.
We’ve made wonderful strides in our local schools. We need to do more in 2018.
Get our community working together
I could write about this forever, but our area of Houston is a unique one. We don’t have our own local government – we are washed in with the rest of the city of Houston. But in a lot of ways, we are a single community, all interested in the same things; all concerned about the same problems.
Whether it’s the Greater Heights Chamber of Commerce, the North Shepherd Community Alliance, the Near Northwest Management District, or any of the area neighborhood associations, we have a whole lot of people in a whole lot of different places all talking about the same thing.
Maybe this is the year that some leader in our community makes it his or her mission to bring our agencies and businesses together to form one voice that takes care of the educational and infrastructure needs of our neighborhoods. We could do a heck of a lot to improve the future of our community if we’d do a better job talking to each other about the needs we have today.