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Thoughts on May 5th

From a 20-something citizen of Wichita Falls

TLDR: I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for what's happening downtown

I was born and raised in Wichita Falls. After graduating from Old High my plan was simple, get the heck out. I, along with most of my classmates, thought of Wichita Falls as a stagnant community with little potential for growth. We saw no investment in the future taking place and no reason to believe that it’d become a better place any time soon. As soon as I walked the stage I moved to the metroplex for college and then lived in Austin and San Francisco before returning back to Midwestern State to finish my college degrees. The plan was to walk off the stage and onto an airplane for somewhere like Seattle or San Francisco where engineering and technology opportunities were plentiful.

Everything changed when I started spending time downtown. I found a tribe of people that were artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, engineers and doers. I found a community that was growing into a place I’d actually want to live. I found a community with local leaders that were supportive of issues that matter to my generation. I found a place where I felt that my presence had a tangible impact. I found meaning, authenticity and agency. I found my home.

An army of creative people are rethinking the big city (due to cost of living, quality of life, ability to have an impact, etc.) and heading to previously unexplored locations across middle America. Wichita Falls has the opportunity to become one of these new hot spots. A place where people actually want to live/work and start new companies. The impact of this shift is unimaginable and will positively impact the entire city (not just downtown). What would it mean for Wichita Falls if several new technology companies were founded here? What would it mean for our community to have hundreds of new high paying technology related jobs? Is it possible that the biggest employer five years from now hasn’t even started yet? Is it possible that it'll be started by a student that went through the Career Education Center or a local high school that decides to stay in town?

This is why the bond election is so important. Everyone is focusing on the short term benefits - which there will be a lot of… improved streets, downtown development, new municipal facilities, Lake Wichita, etc. But what I’m more interested in are the second order effects. If we take on the burden of responsibility required to build a city that attracts (and creates) talented individuals then incredible things will happen in terms of talent recruitment and retainment, entrepreneurship, population growth, our schools, civic engagement and overall perception. I implore you to vote yes on May 5th (yes even on D) not just for what it will mean for us today, but for what it will mean for us tomorrow. I dream of a Wichita Falls where students graduating from Old High don’t feel like I did. Imagine our children being excited about the future of their city and feeling the buzz of innovation, growth and opportunity. Imagine our children holding high expectations for what a community ought to be, not content with the status quo (see the current Police HQ or City offices for example). Imagine people from all over the world visiting Wichita Falls as a case study in how to turn a forgotten city into the city of the future.

I'd rather live in a thriving city with higher property taxes ($.86788 per $100 of assessed value) than a dying one with lower property taxes ($.70598 per $100 of assessed value). Because if we fail to build a city worth living in, it won't matter what our tax rate is... no one will be here to pay them - myself included.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

If you're considering voting no out of a principled stance on limited government, I get it. I've read the same books you've read (End the Fed, The Creature from Jekyll Island, Atlas Shrugged, etc.), voted for Ron Paul and have the 'Don't Tread On Me' flag. I'm philosophically on your side, but the evils of big government and taxation we should be fighting aren't in our own backyard. We should be focused on issues like our federal government spending $1.5 trillion on a fancy new fighter jet (http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-f-35-14-trillion-dollar-national-disaster-19985), not our local government investing in infrastructure that each one of us will use on a daily basis.

But we need a new school first! A good school is like a flower that emerges from well cared for soil. If we can build a city that people want to actually move to (with a growing tax base) then the school system will prosper as a second order effect. Did you guys not play Sim City as kids?

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