Thursday, March 10, 2011

A&M? Really?

The whole UHV situation has gotten bizarre. There may be a better word to describe it, but I can't think of one. Last week the citizens of Victoria were told that the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation (VSTDC) had approved a $100,000  transfer to VEDC for "an unnamed economic development project." Then a blog was posted on the Victoria Advocate website that suggests the $100,000 was for the hiring of a lobbyist to align UHV with another University system. While the blogger admittedly qualified the information as unsubstantiated, it certainly does raise some eyebrows. The story seemed to come full circle earlier this week when a group of Victoria's most wonderful citizens traveled by bus to Austin for "Victoria Day." To those that had heard of the shady deal surrounding the $100,000 the announcement by State Representative Geanie Morrison that day of the filing of a bill to realign UHV with another system was enormously predictable. What was not predictable was that the new system would be Texas A&M. I don't know anyone that saw that coming.

For me personally, I don't have any allegiance to either A&M or UH. I was raised in an Aggie household and I am a fan of Aggie sports, but the various campuses that are under the several University systems have nothing to do with the flagship University. They don't bear the same mascot names, and usually don't even share the same team or school colors. Graduates of UT-Tyler are not Longhorns, graduates of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are not Aggies, and neither are the graduates of West Texas A&M. More on that later. My two cents is that these University "systems" are not a very good idea. There may be positives that I am unaware of, but I think they restrict effective branding. Does anyone honestly believe that UTEP will ever be mentioned in the same breath as UT? Will Texas A&M Kingsville ever be on par with Texas A&M? I guess the immediate financial resources are a plus, but that is all I can see. From where I sit, these "system campuses" will always be known as the younger brothers. No matter what they do, they will always have a big brother. If these campuses stood on their own, they could possibly compete with and even exceed the reputations of the other universities, at least in one area or another. Does anyone think that any single department of UT-Pan American will ever be considered superior to its counterpart in Austin? What about Texas A&M International? I don't think so.

OK, so there's nothing we can do about the administrative and legislative structure of University systems. I get that. I just wanted to toss the idea out there. Anyhow, ever since the story broke about the filing of Morrison's bill, it seems as though most people have firmly aligned themselves either for or against the idea. I don't really care whether out local university is aligned with UH or A&M, but I want everything that transpires to be above board. I also don't want any of this business to have unintended consequences. It is this that I think has been overlooked. More on that later as well.

I would like to go back to the idea of these exterior campuses that are placed under another University system. Most of the folks that are in favor of the alignment with the A&M system seem to think that we are now going to magically become College Station. They don't seem to understand that the main Texas A&M campus is not shutting down. None of those students will be transferring to Victoria. There will be no Corps of Cadets. Kyle Field is not being placed on train cars. Reed Arena will still be located in Brazos County. The Aggie baseball team will be playing at Olson Field, and not Rosebud Stadium. You see, this is not the same as a franchise. When the people of various towns around the country hear they will be getting a Super Wal-Mart, they get pretty much the same thing as every other town with a Super Wal-Mart gets. The same goes for Burger King, Walgreen' get the point. This is something completely different.

Now let's explore the idea of unintended consequences. Keep in mind that I have no inside knowledge of any of the hypotheticals I am about to share. These are all just things that have been swirling in my head since the filing of Morrison's bill.

1.  What if A&M doesn't want UHV? It seems as though everyone is assuming that A&M would be more than happy to set up shop in Victoria, but can anyone make that claim with 100% certainty? From a logistical standpoint, the acquisition doesn't make much sense to me for A&M. If you will remember, the majority of the underclassmen that attended UHV's first year of downward expansion were from the Rio Grande Valley. Evidently that was an area that was overloaded with prospective students. It made sense for UHV to recruit there, because there were no other UH schools in the area. The same cannot be said for A&M. Do you really think A&M is going to recruit students from the Valley to Victoria, and imply that they ignore the two other A&M campuses that they pass on their drive north? I just don't see it. Also, how do you think UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville will react to active recruitment in their vicinity from their main rival?

2.  How hard will UH fight to keep UHV? This is really the key to the whole deal. From what I understand, the Morrison Bill would transfer not only the Victoria location to A&M, but also the Cinco Ranch and Sugarland locations. If it were only the Victoria campus, they might not put up much of a fight, but I can't see them letting A&M come right into their backyard and snatch of two campuses in the Greater Houston area. So let's assume for a moment that UH resists the move. If that is the case, and the bill passes anyway, it could be harmful for Victoria in the future. If there is any amount of solidarity amongst the many Houston area Reps and Senators, they could do quite a bit as payback for Victoria in the future. They could block appropriation bills, or block State agency locations in Victoria, or a number of other things.

3.  What if A&M doesn't see much value in the current UHV, and puts them on the back burner? As it stands now, the A&M System has quite a bit on its plate. Galveston has always played a major role for A&M, and they appear to be very aggressive in Amarillo and San Antonio right now. So what happens if they take over UHV, and then don't pony up the new campus? Do you think the State Legislature will care if Victoria comes back them whining about A&M?

4.  To my way of thinking, some of this posturing is akin to a kid asking for a really expensive Christmas gift right after Dad gets laid off from work. There is no denying the current financial quandary that the State of Texas finds itself in. We all know there is a serious shortfall, and we all know that education was the first areas mentioned for cuts to get the numbers straightened out. So here comes Victoria, which already gets a considerable amount of State money, and it wants the proverbial pony. The difference between the spoiled child and Victoria in this analogy is that the child is not expected to understand the error of his ways, but political and business "leaders" of a community should know better. I just hope all this foot stomping doesn't cost us down the road. Whether we like it or want to accept it, we only have one State Rep. Someone please enlighten me, how many does Houston have? Once again, I think you get the point.

In summation, there are two areas of concern for me in this ordeal. The first is that everything done is legitimate and legal. The second is that we don't end up with egg on our faces. I guess whether my fears are founded or not is something that only time will reveal.

In my next blog, I will delve more deeply into the $100,000. I am waiting to get the whole story on that one before I comment fully.


Edith Ann said...

Excellent blog, Matt!

I truly believe certain folks have gotten myopic in their vision and have failed to fully consider ALL aspects of this deal.

'Franchise thinking'--this is what is going on at the Advocate! The headlines, the slant of the stories--franchise thinking! Then the Einsteins of the community--Lamppost, Radiobabe, jlordtree! They suffer from the same misconceptions!

Matt Ocker said...

Well...some of those folks you mentioned have my pity. It must be terrible to go through life only capable of 'thinking' that which you are told to 'think'.

justataxpayer said...

I read in the Victoria Advocate where some of UHV students think this is great. Thats ok. But what is great about it?

One girl's thought of being aligned with "her dream university" is far from the truth. Darling you are not an Aggie. You will not be part of the Aggie Network, period. Your's and my rings will not look alike.

I can paraphrase the gospel, you will knock on my door and say "I am an Aggie. And I will say, I do not know you." Aggies help each other. Just two months ago an Aggie called me on the phone looking for a job. I didn't have one but the first Ag I sent him, looked at his ring and hired him, immediately.

That is the power of the Aggie Network. Darling, TAMU-V is not an Aggie School.

BIGJ said...

Is there anyone who is willing to run against Geanie Morrison in 2012?

Anonymous said...

I think Matt should run against Morrison.

Matt Ocker said...

You can forget that. I am unqualified to be a legislator; I have a soul.

Anonymous said...

What happens the first time TAMU Regents make a decision that Will and others do not like? Will they run for another system to give them what they want?

Was there more than meets the eye to the recent appointment of Cliff Thomas to the A&M Board of Regents?

I thought the quote from the A&M talking head was quite telling "if the legislature approves this we will accept it."

Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Jared said...


That reminds me of a couple of years ago. I have some close friends that are A&M grads that will "loan" me their ring. It came about one day that I was applying for a job and I joked that I needed their ring. Of course, those great buds that I grew up with reply, "You this could be a good business venture."

Matt, btw, I replied to your question at EA's blog.

Matt Ocker said...

I appreciate that Jared. I have written a response. It is my sincere wish that you really internalize my words, and not take them personally. In my opinion, you actually have some credibility right now. However, if you continue on your current path, that will no longer be the case. Let me know what you think.

Jared said...

"Well Jared, I can clearly see that nothing will sway your opinion."

An opinion is belief in something not certainly known. So when I know, it will no longer be my opinion, rather my knowledge. Hence, my reply on facts.

"It will take you getting personally burned for that. Of course, you stand to gain by ingratiating yourself to TPTB."

What is TPTB? I am not familiar. I am sure I will get burned. This happens in life. I have been burned before, but I think people are generally trustworthy.

"You know, private individuals and companies build buildings too; not in Victoria, but elsewhere. I guess we can bank on seeing K&T Construction snagging a few contracts from Krueger in the near future."

I don't know what you are trying to say.

"Hopefully someday you will see the error of your ways. When you do, you will have a choice to make. You can either admit to yourself that you have been a fool and participated in evil, or you can turn your back on your Christian beliefs. The folks from the Tuesday meeting have already made that decision."

There are more good people at the Tuesday meetings than you think. I don't like back-handed deals any more than the next Joe. I will continue to defend myself from "guilt by association." You wouldn't want this for yourself, so why label others with it?

Matt Ocker said...

Couple of things here.
TPTB is The Powers That Be. I presume you know the term.

Are you serious that you don't understand my comment about K&T? Does K&T not submit bids for public contracts? Does your sudden jump into politics have nothing to do with your employment? Come on now, at least be a little bit honest.

For the record, I have not applied "guilt by association." You are correct that I would not like it, and I am no hypocrite.

"There are more good people at the Tuesday meetings than you think."


Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe you don't really know them? Let's play a game. You tell me which one you think is as pure as the driven snow, and I will prove otherwise.

Jared, for me, the jury is still out on you. Presently, I want to believe that your intentions are noble. However, the more you talk, the more I wonder. You may be inquisitive as to why I am singling you out. The reason why is because I will do all in my power to ensure that the graft and corruption ends with the outgoing generation. You are a member of my generation, and I never want my children to be disappointed in me because I knew what was going on and did nothing. But don't worry, there are a few others that I keep an eye on as well.

Matt Ocker said...

Well Jared, to be honest, I would rather see people who want to be considered philanthropic spend their own money. Don't you ever wonder why these "good citizens" who surround you always need public funds to "do good deeds"?

I figured you would not give me a name. Your sidestep of that question speaks volumes to me.

BTW, I don't appreciate the accusation (particularly a second time) of tossing around guilt by association. I have not done that, and you know it.

At the end of the day, it is you that will have to live with yourself. If 30 pieces of silver does it for you, get after it. I am just not built that way.

Very surprising that you serve on a board (which I already knew). Are you also of the opinion that these positions are only filled by a stunningly small number of citizens because of lack of interest?

I am not a self promoter, but I will use myself as an example of how this is total crap. I ran for local office, spent $10,000 of my own money doing it, and received 48% of the vote. I won almost every single voting precinct outside the City limits, and was the first County Republican ever to win Precinct 14. Why am I never asked to "serve" on any boards? Do I not have any of the "skills" that you have? Take a stab at that one.

Matt Ocker said...

That is a pretty funny comment Jared. I like that. Don't worry one bit about posting here as often as you like. That is why I created this thing.

Anyhow, I want to be very clear. I am not insinuating anything negative about you because of your VEDC attendance. What I am challenging you on is the glowing reviews you are steadily handing out concerning anything and everything Victoria government. This is on you. You don't have to sing their praises, but you choose to do so. All I am asking for is a little honesty. From what I have seen here lately, I am pretty convinced that you could witness a human sacrifice on Main tomorrow morning, and find some way to explain it as noble.

Far fetched analogy, yes, but I think you get what I am driving at.

Perhaps some day I will introduce you to my retired friend who had to pay Urban Engineering for 6 surveys from start to finish on the construction of a small storage garage on his property. Maybe you can explain to him that Tom Schmidt is really a super guy, and there was no funny business going on with the City. I'll stand back when you do that.

BTW, Guadalupe always has cold beer. Come on out and grab one sometime.

BIGJ said...

Matt Ocker.

If you don't want to run, then who should? Does anyone have a suggestion?

Matt Ocker said...

I can't think of anyone who would want that job. Even though I am a fiscal conservative, I think State Reps and Senators should make at least $100,000 a year. However, we should accompany the pay increase with tighter campaign finance restrictions, and impose very strict conduct standards on affiliations and activities with lobbyists.

BIGJ said...

Then,I guess we as a district is S.O.L for years to come.

Matt Ocker said...

I guess it is all a matter of perspective. Some people are more than happy the way things are. My personal viewpoint is that it won't matter. If this State does not change its ways, we will not have much of a government at all anyway.

BIGJ said...

Too Bad I do not money

Kyle said...

Are there a few comments missing from Jared here? I'm trying to follow the conversation but there seems to be some missing or perhaps it's just my computer?

Matt Ocker said...

A few of the comments were posted on EA's blog. Sorry for the confusion.

Matt Ocker said...

Yes Jared, both campuses had dorms prior to joining the A&M System. Remember, Kingsville has been around since 1925 and Canyon since 1910. Another thing both of these campuses have that Victoria doesn't is a much larger town in much closer proximity. So can we now agree that the line "proven track record in rural communities" is a lie?