PULL UP THE GANGPLANK THE STREET

April 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby 14 April 2014  — Here comes the garbage truck grinding along, stopping, starting, stopping. Wonder what its brake linings look like? The reason we are contemplating something so gross as saying goodbye to yesterday’s pizza is that Texas is facing a landfill problem. Then there is our other garbage: air, water and noise pollution. As you have probably guessed, I am referring to a new U.S. Census Bureau report which found Harris County and the Houston metropolitan areas are leading the nation in population increases, and Big D is even bigger. Then there’s Beaumont. I shall explain: During the year ending last July 1, Harris County gained 83,000 residents, while the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area added 137,692. Harris County, with about 4.3 million residents, remains the nation’s third-largest county, and the Houston metro area, with 6.3 million residents, keeps its ranking as the fifth-largest, one place behind Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington. Remember that in most cases it costs more to advertise on a Dallas TV station than a Houston station because the Metroplex has more people than the Houston area. How big is this deluge of newcomers? Every single morning last year, including weekends and Christmas, when Houstonians backed out of the driveway on the way to their job at the toxic dump, there were 276.2 more vehicles on Harris County roads than were there the previous morning. I don’t know if I want to live in the fastest-growing state and solar system. What do we do about parking spaces and schools? The Census Bureau found that three of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas — Odessa, Midland and Austin-Round Rock — are in Texas. Fort Bend County was listed as the nation’s ninth-fastest growing county. This report from the U.S. Census Bureau comes only days after a Federal Reserve Bank study which found that Texas has led the nation in creating jobs since 2000, and that more than half of the new positions paid salaries in the top half of the pay scale. This last stat has an asterisk. Living in Texas is so much cheaper than in most of America that you can receive a lousy paycheck here and still live rather well. Our teachers don’t buy that. Actually, they can’t buy much of anything. If our numbers are growing, our ages are lowering. About half of Texas’ population growth is the result of natural increase — babies minus bar arguments. About one-fourth comes from domestic migration, and the remaining fourth is due to international migration. In Harris County, births accounted for 142,820 new residents; international migration for 62,599; and domestic migration for 40,006. Do you ever get the idea the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river? And still they come. Texas added more residents than any other state in 2013 over the previous year — more than twice the national rate of population growth. There are now almost 26.5 million people in Texas. You can spot the newcomers by their license plates, which they will change after 10 years’ residence. Another tell-tale sign is the bumper sticker — LSU, OU, NYU, IOU — and front yard flags. Particularly on football weekends, my neighborhood looks like an NCAA convention. Even so, all these newcomers want to send their kids to UT or A&M. It’s cheaper than back home. Another point: The Census Bureau study shows the nation is increasingly becoming metropolitan. That is certainly true in Texas, although 96 counties lost population from 2010 to 2012. No one moves to Wichita Falls or Pampa or apparently Beaumont. That city has been named among the worst cities in the nation for well-being, according to a national survey just released by the Gallup-Healthways group. (Provo-Orem, Utah, came in first.) The study was based on phone calls to residents asking them questions about the quality of life in their area. Everything from financial security to work environments, physical and emotional health and access to healthy food were included in the questionnaire. For the second year in a row, the Beaumont-Port Arthur area came in among the lowest ranked places: 184 out of 189 metro areas. Conversely Austin-Round Rock came in at number 30, the highest spot for any Texas city. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown made it to number 60 while Texas overall came in with a similarly so-so ranking of 21 out of 50 states. Not to be defensive, Gallup-Healthways, but my wife is from Port Arthur — they are all FROM Port Arthur — and if Texas is so mediocre, why is everyone flocking here? Well, we’ve been warned about this population explosion. Indeed, some guy just blew up in the Ship Channel. We will need double-decker busses. We’ll live on top of one another like Manhattanites (Manhattaners? Mad Hatters?) TxDOT will pave over most of the pastures between our major cities. Your local EMS will have to ambulance-pool. We shall have more Congressional seats filled with embarrassments. Our high schools will compete in Class 45-A. No more singles bars. Double up. The New Yorker magazine had a slogan about its sophisticated readers: “It’s not how many, it’s who.” So Texas needs more quality, less quantity. You think our expressways are crowded now? We should have more mass transit so everyone else will take the train, leaving the roads open for us. We need a better class of criminals. Better smelling air pollution. Our Legislature needs upgrading to the 19th Century. As for the neighborhood garbage truck, it is off to dump my debris somewhere. The average American generates more than 5 pounds of garbage a day. That means our 26.5 million Texans dispose of uh, a lot of garbage. By 2020 our population will hit 30 million. We need a huge landfill. I suggest Arkansas. A few weeks ago we discussed our state’s water shortage. More people, more swimming pools. Finally, we must ask ourselves, is bigger really better? Is all this growth good? Maybe not. You and I are aboard. Pull up the gangplank. Ashby feels crowded at ashby2@comcast.net

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