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Lubbock's State of the City Event takes on New Look Amidst Pandemic

Kaysie Ellingson

Just like many things amidst the COVID pandemic, Lubbock’s State of the City address looked a little different than in years past. Mayor Dan Pope conducted a series of remote interviews with different members of the community discussing topics ranging from transportation, to education, to the economy and more.

The address focused on how the different members of the Lubbock community adjusted and persevered through the traumatic year of 2020 and looked ahead at what is to come in 2021.

“From the hardship of 2020 rose the very best of Lubbock,” Pope said. “Perseverance, creativity, collaboration, grit, kindness and ingenuity were in full bloom.”

One of the biggest transportation challenges in Lubbock is maintaining the city streets. According to City Council representative Jeff Griffith, the city of Lubbock spent $10 million cash for street maintenance and continued an initiative to tend to the unpaved dirt roads across the city as well.

“It hasn’t really been addressed. We’ve been doing a little bit, between $400,000 and $800,000 a year,” said Griffith. “That initiative will continue in the future.”

In regard to transportation, the airport has been most effected by the pandemic in 2020 as fewer people are flying. Mayor Pope still emphasized the importance of investing into the airport and what it means to the community. Airport Director, Kelly Cambell, shed light on a $45 million project to renovate the terminal building that began in the beginning of last year. That project has continued throughout the pandemic. The renovations include basic infrastructure such as plumbing and flooring to enhancing the crosswalks.

“When people do resume flying, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised at what a coat of paint and new floors can do, because it looks like a new place,” Cambell said.

The pandemic forced many people to adjust the way they do things, none more so than the education system. Some change has been for the better, according to Lubbock I.S.D Superintendent Dr. Kathy Rollo. She said the pandemic has caused instructors to be increasingly innovative in the ways they’ve used technology to enhance instruction. Many of the tools they’ve learned to use could be assets in the future, even after the pandemic subsides.

Even amidst the pandemic, Texas Tech’s enrollment numbers continue to grow. School President, Dr. Lawrence Schovanec, attributed this to the concerted effort the school made to provide a more traditional college experience.

“I saw a report this week that listed Texas Tech among the 16 percent of universities in this nation that offered more face-to-face than any other modality,” said Dr. Schovanec. “I believe that’s what parents and students wanted.”

Mayor Pope concluded the address by touching on the status of the economy in 2020, stating that he felt overall, the result of the year was positive given the circumstances. He pointed out that sales tax exceeded the budget for the year and that housing starts were at an all-time high. At the height of the pandemic, unemployment rose from 2.9% to nearly 11%, but has since fallen to 5% as people are beginning to return to work.

“People are going to work every day,” Pope said. “I think in general we’re in a pretty good spot.”

Every year, a portion of the proceeds of the State of the City address is donated to a charity of the mayors choosing. This year, Mayor Pope selected the Early Learning Centers of Lubbock as the recipient.

You can watch the 2021 State of the City address here.

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