As Permian Basin energy production attracts national and international interest to our region, our beloved Midland, Texas, is getting a bad rap right now. And … let’s be fair … much of that bad rap, we earned it.
From the roads to the schools to the health care to the affordable housing market to the looming generation gap to the general feel around town, most Midlanders agree: we have problems to address. Many of us also know that various businesses, politicians, nonprofits and other civic entities are working hard to develop progressive plans for the benefit of our city. But even some of the most engaged residents among us are functionally uninformed and ignorant about the happenings behind the closed doors of these decision-makers.
In the past few months, in conversations at my own kitchen table and in meetings across several boardroom tables, I have listened with growing concern about the problems Midland is facing today. My own sense of concern for Midland has reached a boiling point, and I am no longer content to merely sit at my kitchen table and grumble in ignorance about what is taking place around me.
I am a native Midlander, born and raised in our little boomtown. As a Class of 2000 graduate of Midland public schools, a taxpayer, a parent of three school-aged children and a small business owner, my life is invested here. Just like many of you, I have so much to gain or to lose in these popular debates regarding our trajectory as a city.
Let it be known: I can speak positively and genuinely about Midland, too. I am fully a product of Midland, and I am proud of the way I have been shaped by the unique personality of our bipolar little oil city. I deeply love this town and I love the people here. We have a heart and a sense of community which have carried us through some of the ugliest economic times the oil business has seen. We know what it is to face drought in the desert and stalled energy in a downturn … but we have always been able to pull together as a community, to find common ground and solutions for our issues.
We have a community full of some of the most ingenious, out-of-the-box minds in our entire nation, as the Permian shale revolution and drilling renaissance of this century have proven. Our little oasis is a place many outsiders eschew, but it is nevertheless a place where our nerds and roughnecks, our geologists and bit-salesmen, our mothers and fathers, our housewives and career women, our executives and dayworkers have always been happy to work together, getting grease under our collective fingernails, to find solutions to the problems that plague us.
I drank the Midland Kool-aid as an infant and I still carry the flag of allegiance with West Texas pride.
But today? We have some problems and it is now past time to address them as a community, before we lose some of the best of our citizens in a brain-drain of those who are weary of the fight. There are easier places to live and work and educate our children. But this is the place we have chosen, the place where God has planted us and the place we have been entrusted to steward into a new era of leadership and strength. Let us turn our innovative, ingenious minds toward solutions.
Certainly, no one of us has all the answers. With polarizing politics staring us down on the national stage, we here in Midland are facing some dramatic polarities of our own making. The mouthpieces of our local politics seem to swing violently between those who speak only in criticisms of our fair city and those who speak only through the rose-colored veneer of public platforms or social media presence.
I propose to you: we must find a middle way, between the polarities. The moderate voice often goes unheard. The moderate, collaborative call to action too often goes unanswered. But hear me! Collaboration is the only way out of the mess we face in our community, and we must not leave the work of collaboration only to elected officials and prominent business people.
Work is already being done to press forward into a new era of promise for Midland and the Permian Basin … but we average residents must not remain content in our ignorance and grumblings. Let us all step forward to inform ourselves, join the larger conversation and press into the work of meaningful collaboration.
A middle way always exists. Now is the time we must search until we find that middle way. The future of my children and yours depends upon it.
In the coming days, look for my series on this topic, as I continue to share what I am learning in this collaborative conversation. Stay tuned…