CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — In a step toward pre-COVID-19 pandemic normalcy, the Corpus Christi United Chamber of Commerce will host its 17th annual State of the City luncheon, in which Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo will deliver a speech to a sold-out crowd Thursday at the American Bank Center.
While last year’s luncheon was held despite the pandemic, half the crowd watched from home and the rest of the socially distanced crowd showed up in person to watch then-Mayor Joe McComb deliver his address.
KRIS 6 News contacted Guajardo for an interview previewing her State of the City address. She originally agreed, but later decided to decline the invitation, instead suggesting that we talk to Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zanoni.
Zanoni agreed to a one-on-one interview, one in which he said he is proud of the progress the city has made in his two years on the job.
"I think the City is in great shape," he said. "Mayor Guajardo, and city council, myself and our professional team, are working great as a team, and when I came here two years ago, that wasn’t necessarily the case."
Zanoni said that some of the big problems he has addressed in his time here stemmed from the fact that the city's staff at the time wasn't performing its function, leading to city council trying to pick up the slack.
"However, the professionals in the city should be just that, professionals and experts at what they do," he said. "And so we have re-established that in the past two years."
The city has about 60 executive positions, Zanoni said, and he is proud to have appointed half of those staffers. They include positions in public works, development services, the airport and others.
"We have a temporary (director) right now in parks, but the key thing is that we’re bringing in executives that are professionals," he said. "Best in their trade. And craft."
Of the 30 hires he has made to those positions, about 15 are "of a protected class," he said.
"So female, Hispanic, African-American," he said. "Top talent is first-cut though. We’re getting the best of the best not only through Texas but throughout the country."
Zanoni hopes recruiting such top-tier talent will help city residents believe in city government once again.
"So when people think of our talk about City Hall it’s in a positive way," he said. "They know that we can deliver. They know that we’re working great as a team with a Mayor and the City Council and the staff. And they have confidence in City Hall, which is great.”
And while the outlook is good, what about issues we have dealt with for decades, such as poor drainage? We saw the results of that last week.
Some residents had sewage that backed up into their yards as the result of last week’s rains.
"In August we are going to be presenting . . . some improved recommendations on those design standards," he said. "So when new subdivisions are being built they're being built at a higher standard."
Currently, Zanoni said, city developers have to build to a code that only requires the area to be able to withstand a five-year rain event. He said the current standard isn't high enough to tolerate even last week's storms.
"That is pretty low," he said. "Many cities in Texas have moved to a 50- or 100-year event, meaning your infrastructure has to be strong enough to handle a . . . rain event that is one that doesn't happen but once every 50 years."
He hopes the city will be able to implement a stormwater fee that would account for a property's location, size, and the amount of asphalt and concrete it has, since those properties would create a more significant amount of runoff.
"We are the only major Texas City that does not have a stormwater rate, that the repairs would pay to help manage a stormwater program," he said. "So by having that separate fee and identification, really, of a utility -- by us having a mindset that 'We have a stormwater program and this is what we are going to do for the next five years or 10 years,' it's something that has been missing."
You can watch a live stream of Mayor Paulette Guajardo's Stae of the City address beginning at about 12:20 p.m. on KDF, as well as KRISTV.com and our other digital platforms.