Monday, February 27, 2006

Sand Dollars?

After a year or so I got tired of the old foggy theme and changed to the "sand dollar" theme and obviously I need to work on it but there's more white space. Plus, fonts such as Trebuchet and Verdana sound so manly, for a dude in mid-life crisis! Yet, I wanted something light and airy. Bah, we'll see how it works. Hey Sandy I added links to ya!

The Island is just a-twitter with all this stuff about Isla Blanca Park, 450 acres, being sold to some slimey condo developers - there is a big Board of Aldermen meeting on Wednesday on just this topic. It should have good viewing potential.

I read with interest today about a commune in California that is just for old folks. Hey, thats just what we need here! Isla Blanca sounds good to me ... the gals can watch the yound manly surfers and us geezers can check out the booty. I'll throw down on that. Ok, and bingo and kino at the most, folks, we're on a limited income ya know!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

High Point on SPI

Today this is mostly likely the highest topographic elevation within SPI town limits, barring all the man-made stuff. Unfortunately for this dune, it is not protected because it is not by the beach. The dune mysteriously started falling down last week.

The sign there is a clue that this is a “spec house” because it has not been sold yet. I suppose a person has rights to do whatever he or she wants with their property - and all it perfectly legal. Oh well, that was an old dune, probably here since town founder John L. Tompkins bought the five miles of sand spit back in 1950.

Goodbye, old friend.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Where's Dick When Ya Need Him?

By now the quail-hawk incident involving Dick Cheney shooting a lawyer has become a national joke. One funny circulating the email said the TPWD (the state game agency) would start selling licenses for open season on all lawyers, $100, not a bad deal. Maybe we should invite Dick down here and see how he does duck hunting with the local hi-rise developers. He can worry about the, err, duck stamp later.

I think I'm going to have to sick these girlz on them, meanwhile.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No no I don't smoke it no mo'

There’s a good battle going about whether to allow the United Arab Emirates (UAE, also known as Dubai) to control about six major port terminals in the U.S. The biggest are several locations in the New York area. The deal was part of a sale by P&O Ports to a UAE consortium for approximately 5.6 billion dollars and includes terminals in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, New Orleans, and Baltimore. As such, “Dubai Ports World” would take over all assets, leases, and operations from P&O. These are very profitable cruise ship and containership terminals and apparently it was a sweet deal.

The U.S. government approved the sale but apparently forgot to ask local politicians and the Congress if that was alright with them. According to the latest New York Times article on February 21, big names like Bill Frist (Senate Republican leader), Dennis Hassert (House Speaker), Michael Bloomberg (New York City), and George Pataki (New York State) have accused the executive branch of some major misconduct. The reason for a second take was because of the potential for terrorist activity.

Now let’s step back for a minute and see what this is all about. Ninety percent of the ships are owned by overseas companies and over half of the port terminals are already owned by foreign interests. Why are all the major Republicans joining in the tirade? Doesn’t the Coast Guard or Homeland Security provide the protection? On the West Coast hardly any facilities are really “American” except for some Alaska tanker lines and a route to Hawaii. I just don’t get it.

In spite of common sense, this has become such a huge issue that Shrub Bush intends to veto anything coming out of the U.S. Congress on the matter. So you know there are some legislators just wanting to see if they had a vote to over-ride a Presidential veto or find some other constitutional remedy. The viewing could not be much better, folks! My thinking is that Shrub did cut a deal with the UAE but that some people still remember that two of the 9/11 terrorists were from that place, a coalition of seven warrior tribes.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hurricane Plans

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Governor Rick Perry appointed a task force to make recommendations about how to make such disasters easier to manage. Their report was made available just today.

One of the key findings was that local control was a real big problem, with over 100 coastal communities. Then, as we saw in the two hurricanes, the evacuations impacted not only those communities but hundreds of others located upland, as far as Dallas, El Paso, and Brownsville.

Solving the problem would involve statewide and regional planning. One of the key recommendations was to give the Governor the power the order evacuations and set in motion emergency disaster plans. Currently those powers are in the hands of the mayors of each coastal town in Texas. Legislation would be required to change that.

I must say, after moving here to South Padre and having Hurricane Emily three weeks later was something of an eye-opener. But I thought that Mayor Pinkerton called the shots right and we hunkered down right here.

So I see a need for regional planning but I don’t think I need the Governor up in Austin ordering me out of my house and home. Okay, maybe I could take it from Kinky "The Texas Jewboy" Friedman if he asked nice ... get yer biscuits out of the oven and your buns up here.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Medium Speaks

That’s me conjuring up a big ole sea trout there, maybe 30 inches. It feels good being the Island Medium. Yup, the Board of Aldermen voted 4 to 1 for the Medium and I feel great. I might need some advice from Raybo about how to fulfill all my various and sundry duties, but I think it was high time we got a Medium in this town. I’m a little nervous, like if I run into some weird transmogrified freaks like Hoteb or something, and channeling isn’t my biggest strength excepting if it involves a dredge barge, but hey, I feel good providing for a needed public service.

Now some people they just don’t like mediums. I mean, one Alderman voted against me and there’s a whole business group formed to get rid of all mediums like me. Imagine that! They even took a full-page ad in the local paper saying how mediums could harm business, block emergency vehicles, scare the citizens, and generally run amok. And here’s the strange part – they did this AFTER the vote.

And you know, one of my first tasks as Island Medium I tried reaching out to these people like getting into their minds but there wasn’t nothing except for a big stinking black hole. I’ll never do that again; I tell you it was scary. If there are 20 I can’t fathom spiritually, well, I got about 2,000 others to try to do some good. Public service is all about reaching out to the greatest common benefit, right? Did I mention I do this service for free?

I just don’t know what some folks have against mediums.

Medians? You have to be kidding!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Weasel Snipers Everywhere!

That’s the Weasel Sniper, or better known as Fang on the Sonic Hedgehog games. He’s one bad dude and he’s making a come-back. I’ve been cruising around the webs, forums, and blogs and can’t believe how nasty people have gotten – and graphic to boot! You’d think with a mild winter, an easing economy, and lower gas prices people would lighten up a little.

No way and our little burg on South Padre Island is not exception. I won’t go into the details but you can say the Weasel Sniper is alive and well here too. A Weasel Sniper is a person who hunts down things that piss him or her off, and then they let you have it with both gun barrels, often foaming at the mouth like a rabid possum. Rarely do they make any sense, which is comical except they darned near had a stroke inventing how to write about bad things like about the most graphic parts of your body.

I think there is a whole bunch of people that grew up around Sonic Hedgehog and stuff of that ilk and they just turned worse, like their whole life is grumpy … and that as the population grows, there are more numbers of these inherently unhappy folks. “Born to flame” seems to be their motto. One must guard against the temptation to join the League of Slime and become a Weasel Sniper.

On a more positive note, Christy the Clown gave me the coolest necktie in the universe the other day. It was patterned after the Dr, Seuss book about green eggs and ham, complete with some graphics saying “Eat at Sam’s,” Strangely, in a way, it resembles some of the techniques used for the picture of our Weasel Sniper here, although I think in a much more fun way, retro 50’s. I’ll see if I can photo-blog it soon. Thanks, Christy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Let's Go Parking!

It used to be “parking” was fun back in the happy high school days, like sneaking some beer and trying to get smoochy-face in the back seat. Not so these days, where parking in some areas has become a huge problem during peak times. Of course there’s no big problem this time of year, so I leaned over the porch railing and grabbed a shot of our Island mascot, ‘La Bamba.’ Nice off-road potential on this puppy!

The problem is most acute by the Gulf side when everyone wants to go to the beach, which of course requires many SUV’s even if you live two blocks away. The condo owners try to fight off the crowds, threatening with towing, fines, and the glorious “Denver Boot” while at the same time their over-flow customers park on public lots. One suggestion by the Town was to meter the public access parking lots but I think that one went down in proverbial flames.

Then we have developers that want less parking so they can build more condo complexes. With land worth several hundred per square foot, I can see their point, but where are all these people going to park? Some families come down here with one car but some come with as many as six. This begs the question of whether the Town should build a huge parking garage to finance development, one which I am starting to think is a rather silly idea.

So my latest crusade is to do a master parking study and to require all large developments to evaluate their impact on parking before getting a permit to construct multiple dwelling units. No, it will not be popular and no, I’m not referring to sneaking some joy juice and smooches in the back seat.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Willacy Getting Freaky

Just when you thought Willacy County couldn’t get any weirder, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times informs us of yet another “man bites dog” story (‘Mansfield port work good news for boaters,’ February 2, 2006). Apparently, the stars are lining up so the Mansfield Channel will be dredged with boat ramp money supplied from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in addition to Corps of Engineers projects related to Hurricane Rita restoration (North Jetty and Padre Island National Seashore [PINS] renourishment on North Padre). The big boats can come back, maybe in a year.

The TPWD money would be used to dredge the channel from the boat ramp to the intersection of the Intracoastal Waterway. As part of the agreement, the Willacy County / Port of Mansfield Navigation District would come up with about $75,000 of a total cost of $225,000 and have to maintain the small channel for a number of years.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Navigation District doesn’t have a dime, and port director Mike Wilson claims that periodic maintenance dredging would cost about a million bucks every five years. As mentioned by columnist David Sikes, the outdoor feature writer, “anglers and local business people may not be looking that far ahead.”

Understatement of the year, David!

See, the only source of revenue for the Navigation District is some houses, docks, a boat ramp, and a small airport. About 1760 acres of land were seized by eminent domain in 1948 but there isn’t a town and there isn’t a major: you pay rent for squatting on Navigation District property. The only way to get more revenue is to jack up the rental fees, since they have no taxation powers. I don’t think these campers will be very happy.

But wait there is more to the story. The Navigation District is the same outfit that wants Willacy County to expand its holdings by seizing hundreds of acres of conservation lands on South Padre Island – by you guessed it, eminent domain. This is presumably for one boat ramp and two Port-O-Potties, a similar theme rejected by the federal boys and gals over at the PINS.

I swear I’m not making any of this up.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney Shoots Hunter, Freed

Today's top story, other than a huge snowstorm in Yankeeland, was that Vice President Dick Cheney shot a fellow hunter up the road in Kenedy County. Blasted him good with a shotgun, by all accounts. Funny how he can run a war yet can't even figure how to blast a poor little quail without taking somebody out. At least President Bush only whacked a kildee one time, another federal offence, but not a real person. At last report, Cheney had been released from police custody.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Big Bayside Ugly

That’s a shot of the end of our street on South Padre Island. There are about 39 streets that dead-end into Laguna Madre like this, although each one is different. Ours may look nice at a distance but up close it is so ugly it could make a freight train take a dirt road.

So I’m on this Bay Area Task Force and one of our jobs is to make some recommendations about how to fix up this mess. It has been a rough ride so far, since this was done already in 1999 and was shot down in flames. There are a thousand competing things to spend Town money on, like fixing the beach accesses which were destroyed by last summer’s hurricane waves, to making Padre Boulevard more sexy and appealing. The bayside is more like an ugly kissing cousin.

However, if you think about it there are only two resources on the island: the beach and the bay. Over the last ten years millions have been spent on the beach for beach renourishment, access improvements, and cleaning; on the bayside I doubt that much more than $75,000 has been spent in as many years.

Some street ends actually are in pretty good shape, although most of the bulwarks were constructed in the 70’s and 80’s and are now falling apart. Many street ends such as ours turned into a construction waste dump, fondly called “rip-rap” comprised of broken concrete, concrete truck dregs and trash. Even the General Land Office loves the construction dump appearance, noting oysters and eel grass growing rampantly.

So my initial recommendations were purely clinical at first, using an engineering approach to bring the street ends up to date and to clean up the dump sites. As far as “beautification” which could involve native plants, benches, paths, and so forth, I think residents on each street should have a say on what they want – or to put it the other way, if the locals start bitching, screaming, and hollering in protest, forget it.

Take a ride on a boat sometime and explore the bayside of our Town. I’m sure you’ll see the ugly parts as being rather obvious.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dog Wars

I mentioned to Sandy Feet some time ago that us dog owners sometimes face some serious discrimination here on the Island. She responded something like “Yeah, they always look at me like my dog was a fully loaded poop-bomb ready to go off at any second.”

We got a good chuckle out of that one, but I tell you we can’t get no respect. I mean we walk the girl dogs and they squat in perfect unison and I have to helpfully point out “DON’T WORRY - IT’S ONLY PEE!”

We do use some abandoned lots for the real thing, which I have to say is pretty well mined with all kinds of cat and dog bombs. So the dogs are in “lock’n’load” position and the Temperance League walks by saying “You’re not going to leave that there, are you mister?”

Naturally, I’m a nice guy so I don’t mention curt things like that I was about ready to chunk a steaming loaf of it in their direction. I mean here I am in a half-acre of wild field, no wetlands or anything, grass up to my knees, and these folks want me to do Dooty Patrol? Get real. I always considered these wild areas as a DMZ – doggie maintenance zone.

Oops, the dogs are getting hungry, time for more ammo!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Huisache Dance

Boy I tell you there are some plants and shrubs that look like from a different planet down here. I had enough of a hard time getting used to the plants in Central Texas after moving from Connecticut – at least there were recognizable things like oak and ash and pine and even an odd-placed maple. One of the strangest ones is the Texas Huisache.

Those are thousands of golden puff-balls flowering. In February! I thought horse chestnut trees were weird but this puppy takes the cake. I mean really, until the plant flowered this week it was just a scruffy-looking bush, with evil-looking spikes and thorns. I think I like this bush, the Huisache.

They say they attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and birds but so far all I saw was one very busy bee, so loaded with pollen he could barely fly, dancing slowly.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Dunes: Week 3

It’s been three weeks since we seeded the dunes with some Christmas trees, hay bales, and snow fencing. So far all looks real good in the study area from Bahia Mar to near the Iverness. Lori and I thought the Christmas trees did especially well and wished we had more than the ten or so collected.

Here is a shot of the hay bales.

The undercutting and toppling we noticed a few weeks ago was not evident and they are still building the highest dunes. The best ones were backed up to the existing dunes, since sometimes a “wind tunnel effect” was noted where the sand was scooped out between the hay and the old dune. As said before, the snow fencing was effective for building low, broad dunes in between the fencerows.

And after all that walking and hard work, a stop at our favorite watering hole was well earned. Hi Teresa!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Flying Pigs Spotted on SPI

“I moved here from the Northeast with one goal in mind, to put a high rise cond complex on every vacant lot I could find. America is the land of opportunity, and South Padre Island is fair game baby. My investors from Cali, Florida, and New York are going to put this place on the map, and you can't stop US.”

That was a direct quote from something written on a blog by Sandy Feet. It’s getting a little feisty down here, and the locals fear that if they stand around too long they’ll be paved over by some big machine. Consider the following:

- Cameron County grants a lease option for 160 prime acres in Isla Blanca Park for a 28 story gambling and hotel venture.

- Willacy County hires a lawyer to file eminent domain for hundreds of acres on the north end of the Island so they can put in a boat landing and a Port-O-Potty

- Major projects are planned north of the Shores including at least one high-rise condo

- Laguna Madre Water District doesn’t get state funds but proceeds with a study to install a huge desalinization plant on the north side of Town

- A major highway project is scheduled to restart negotiations on another causeway to the Island, tolled, which would run smack into a residential street

- As more erosion and storm waves strip the beach of sand, a flurry of permits are granted to remove dunes so first-floor residents can see the Gulf

- The Laguna Madre Business Association promises to replace the Board of Aldermen with pro-development stooges

We all know that development is inevitable and I think there is a “gold rush” because the Town is working on a comprehensive plan that could limit growth in certain areas. The prevailing conservative philosophy is “if you don’t like it, hit the highway.”

Oink, oink.