The Bottom Line: Council member should embrace change in Waco

Reubin BW new titleBy Reubin Turner
City Editor

This year, Waco city council member Alice Rodriguez is running against Baylor alumnus Jake Russell to fill the council seat for District 2. The most divisive issue in the election is one that pits two very separate ideologies against each other, and that’s economic development within the district.

While Russell thinks embracing economic growth in the area is key to progress, 20-year veteran Rodriguez, who is one of the longest serving council members in the city’s history, said she disagrees.

Although Rodriguez said she’s not completely opposed to development, she’s trying to protect the few homeowners that remain in her district who feel their privacy is being invaded by the influx of college housing and development.

While this is certainly a noble effort by Rodriguez to protect her constituents — which is ultimately her job — the councilwoman must be mindful that demographics do change, and to stay current, she must change with them.

In years past, the Hispanic population has dominated portions of Waco, including District 2. However, Hispanics no longer make up a majority of the district where 43 percent of residents are Hispanic. According to an article published by the Waco Tribune-Herald, the district that once consisted of several Spanish-speaking, working- class Hispanics has become more populated with student housing complexes. It’s clear that with Baylor’s advent onto the national scene, both the times and demographics are changing. As a result, Rodriguez should be open to embracing economic changes that better fit the needs of the community.

It’s understandable that Rodriguez has a passion to protect the citizens who feel threatened by economic growth in the area. Many of these citizens are the very ones who has gotten her elected in the past 20 years. But one of the mistakes of several politicians is failing to acknowledge that they have a changing constituent base. In the past, this has been a deciding factor in several elections on both national and local levels.

There should be no doubt as to whether Rodriguez has the interest of her district’s citizens at heart. She has even conceded to the fact that development in the area is somewhat warranted. But trying to fight powers that would be tough for any council member to tackle alone, seems to be a waste of time and energy. Instead, Rodriguez should work on embracing the inevitable, and run on a platform centered on preparing constituents for change.