LIFT: What Do We Want Our City to Become?

by Brian Goesl
Executive Director, Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council, Inc.

I have been reading with interest the previous columns in Friday’s Texarkana Gazette in support of LIFT: “Leadership Initiative for Texarkana” and I have to admit that I signed on fairly early in support of this idea. I certainly feel that this is a worthwhile endeavor on the part of our two cities and those of us who live and work in Texarkana. All of the articles that I have read were extremely well written and I can’t say that I have any new ideas to express that haven’t already been better stated. However, and isn’t this how major dissenting statements often begin? The point that I want to make is that I have been a participant at several of these types of retreats over the years, and what I’ve discovered is that during the time of the retreat every participant is almost passionately convinced that this event will change his or her life. They have “Drunk the Kool-Aid, “Seen the Light” and “Rededicated Their Life” in some sort of fashion. Two weeks later many of us then begin to fall off the wagon and renege on our promises of commitment and a month later we have most often returned to our previous lives.

It is difficult for humans to change their behavior and to look at the bigger picture when we all tend to be so narrowly focused on our own day-to-day lives. We all have a personal behavioral system that has evolved into a well-developed self-supporting method, which is our fallback system of existence. Not many of us always consider the consequences of our seemingly innocent actions, but for the sake of the whole, Texarkana, USA and its future, this may be our last chance.

NO, I am very serious, we have had numerous studies completed over the years that many people put stock in and we never saw mature. Communities such as Longview and Marshall, which looked to me to be not much more than mud puddles on the side of the road when I was a kid, have outperformed us. They didn’t have the rail system, the highways or workforce and yet they passed us by as if we were standing still during the last twenty-five years. We are now looking to them for ideas and direction. What did we do wrong? Maybe we can blame it on insufficient funding, lack of political support or “The city fathers were conspiring to maintain their powerbase by keeping outside investments limited.”

We ourselves are to blame as citizens of this community for allowing this to happen. We failed to work together for a future that would benefit us as a whole community. To outsiders we appear to be two separate football teams fighting it out annually on the gridiron. We always take pride in one side winning over the other. For many years we were permanently locked in a battle over which had the best math or science department, the best band, the better swimming pool, and the better police department. “My Arkansas church is better because it’s stained glass windows are older and more beautiful;” my church in Texas sent more kids to Bible Drill; my Texas Boy Scout troop had more Eagle Scouts; the hospital on the Texas side has the latest imaging equipment and back and forth it went. We took extreme pride in outdoing the competition and we have taught our children to do this and they their children. Friendly bickering initially yes, but it was planting a seed that was taken seriously and would grow to disable us as a united community.

Luckily several years ago, the school districts, hospitals and some organizations realized that everyone benefits when you share. TECAP, the Texarkana Educational Cultural and Arts Partners was created about this same time. This was an “Ah Ha! Moment” when the educational entities, two city governments, the Chamber and local cultural organizations sat down monthly at the same table to discuss everything that concerned them and the ideas flowed freely.  It was a beginning, but it morphed into another organization and ultimately disappeared. The shared voice of common ground fell silent.

We have another opportunity with LIFT, but we must be vigilant, we must follow through, look at the bigger picture and work on again finding our common ground.  TECAP was just a small entity of our two cities. LIFT needs to involve both cities, multiple businesses, organizations and individuals who understand the need for sharing a common vision for TEXARKANA, USA.

If we don’t learn to live and work together, we will continue to lose the best and brightest. We know that they will continue to leave to pursue an education, jobs and careers in other cities. Who would honestly want to stay and live in a city that is constantly bickering and has no apparent future for our own citizens, let alone others looking to relocate to our community?

We needed a university for our future growth, we worked together to get one and we didn’t give up until we actually got one.  And if we are vigilant, it can become a great university; we have a workforce than can be and is willing to be educated; a community college that is looking to the future by developing more technical training opportunities; a medical community that is well trained and growing. We have natural resources and are no longer dependent upon just one or two industries; we now have multiple industries, which ship their products not only across the nation but also quite literally around the world.

However, and here it is again, if we don’t actively pursue working together endlessly, the old habits will creep back before we are even aware of it. Our worst enemy is when we allow “our friendly competition” to become hurtful, divisive and vindictive. We must each take a stand and say, “NO WE WILL NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO OUR COMMUNITY AGAIN! We will work together to be two cities sharing a common state line and united in our vision. We will be the city that we know that we envision. We will grow and become a vibrant community where new industries, new families, students looking for a better education, professionals looking to relocate and our children will want to stay and raise their own families. Do we want to be nothing more than a place to stop and get gas, eat and take a bathroom break?

LIFT is presenting an opportunity for all of us to plan together for our future as a community and to ”follow through” with our dreams. I urge you to join today.

Share this post:

Comments on "LIFT: What Do We Want Our City to Become?"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment