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Painters will often times lay down broad brush strokes as a foundation for future, detailed work. And as College Station's City Council met in Del Lago Monday, it was the broadest of strokes being laid down, so far as the coming year's plan goes.
The two days of meetings began without new council member Ron Gay, who had flight delays delay his arrival. But once he made it, Gay was as vocal as his other counterparts, all eager to jump into the issues facing the city.
Through planned exercises and discussions, the council was able to narrow down their collective issues into four broad strokes, all of which somewhat mix on the canvas.
First discussed was growth management. The group agreed the city's land use plan should be reevaluated, and that the public should be involved.
Second on the list: collaboration and cooperation with local entities, whether it's higher education, the sister city Bryan, Brazos County or the state. Council members called for cooperative efforts that would mutually benefit both sides.
Third, economic development, including expanding tourism, attracting business, creating jobs, and with job creation, keeping A&M and Blinn students in College Station.
And finally, the issue of neighborhoods, and keeping longtime residents and students happy, even if they live next to each other.
This retreat comes in the early stages of the new council, with speculation abound about the potential for a potent group of leaders. One thing College Station's city council can agree on: fighting gets you nowhere.
"From my experience, you just don't get the things you want to accomplish accomplished," said Mayor Ron Silvia.
And who knows? That may be the last consensus the council reaches.
More than likely, though, it's not.
But with all the campaign clashes and hot-button topics, this week's retreat to Del Lago serves as a chance to set a rough agenda next to calm waters, and to get to know each other.
"It's less about setting any specific type of policy and more about getting to know each other and learning how each other works where our priorities are" said council member Chris Scotti.
"We have that responsibility to represent the citizens," said a fellow newcomer to the council, Ben White, "and to do that, we've got to be on the same page, and be working together as a team."
"That's really the success of a good council is that you trust one another and count on their word," said the new mayor pro tem, council member John Happ. "These kind of functions build that kind of trust."
Speculation among many citizens is that this council will fracture.
Arts vs. business.
The newcomers vs. sitting members.
Isolationists vs uniters.
And while the members are quick to note that they differ on many topics, to them, it's more a fostering of ideas than a fracturing from ideology.
"Now, we may not all see everything exactly the same," said council member Susan Lancaster, "but that's good because that tension makes us all think outside the box creatively."
"I think it's quite healthy for any team that there is a certain amount of conflict," said Gay. "Certainly, you don't want to have a situation where everyone agrees with everything all the time."
And they obviously won't. But maybe, just maybe, this retreat is the beginning of a charge towards change.