It’s not sexy, but there are some basics to city life

By Ferrell Foster

The people are beautiful and colorfully dressed. The landscape is a luscious green of vegetation. But as I rode recently along the highways and roads of rural northern Ghana in West Africa, I asked myself, What makes this place different from home? 

The answer that came to my mind surprised me. I do not normally concentrate on the subject, but suddenly out of some deep place in my mind it occurred to me that the difference is infrastructure.

This thoroughly unsexy subject is not something we often think of, but it has come to dominate my thoughts upon returning to Waco.

Jackson, Miss., is providing us the essential lesson in the importance of a city’s infrastructure. Jackson’s water system has failed, and it is extremely difficult for that city and state to navigate the situation.

We all know that every human needs plenty of clean water to drink, and a turn of the faucet delivers it readily to each of our homes. Until it doesn’t.

Water is only one part of a city’s infrastructure. There are roads and bridges, sewers and drainage, electricity and cable, safety and security, zoning and rules. Life in cities is simply unmanageable without great attention to these important matters, and yet most of us think so little about them.

We may think The Silos and Baylor and Amazon and the Brazos are what make Waco special, but none of those things suffice to make group living possible and good. Cities need solid infrastructure.

It’s easy to complain about the poor quality of streets, but we are not so keen to pay the taxes needed to pave and maintain them. It makes me think about the city budget, which, unfortunately, I haven’t even looked at. Shame on me. Shame on all of us who want to make Waco great.

The City has adopted a $694.58 million budget for 2022-23. That’s a whole lot of money, and yet I suspect most of us didn’t study it during the month between its proposal and its adoption. 

There’s a nice graphic on the City’s budget web page that shows the major categories of the budget. We can all see that we are expecting the City to do a lot on our behalf:

Infrastructure is there in the midst of lots of things the City will do. I guess all of them are important, and I suspect all of us have our views on levels of importance..

I come home from Ghana thanking my City government for the things we call infrastructure. We have great leadership here in Waco, and they are trying to do what the people of Waco think is important. Maybe all of us should get more into the details — $694.58 million can go a long way.

Ferrell Foster is directing communications for Act Locally Waco. He is president of Kortabocker LLC: Communications Built on Caring. Ferrell also does communications work with Prosper Waco and TBM: Texans on Mission.

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