Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Finally a Senior Center on Pierce Birch

Yesterday in the afternoon session, Council finally made a decision to support a dedicated stand-alone Senior Center, or as some would prefer and Active Adult Center.  Now this didn’t come easy.  I would liken it to pulling molars.  But Lemuel Randolph, the Director of Parks and Recreation, was looking for direction on where and what to put on which piece of property.  The three properties were Pierce Birch off Green Oaks south of 303, Veterans Park on Arkansas, and Vandergriff Park along Center St..  Veterans Park was removed quickly because of size and access. 

I had to try and put two and two together and hopefully coming up with four.  It was decided through a brilliant display of deductive reasoning, that Council did in fact want a stand-alone Senior Center.  Due partly to the demographic results from the architects, it was decided that Pierce Birch would be the best and only site to accommodate a Senior Center.  Essentially Vandergriff was the only site to fit a Multi-Generational facility, due to its size and location.  So I simply stated that, “for the last 2 yrs. I have been trying to get support from this body for a stand-alone Senior Center.  Each of you has pledged your support to our seniors over this timeframe.   I am now asking for you to fill the void in our city services and provide 65,000 sq/ft of space in this 100 sq mile city, to programing a facility for our seniors.”  How could such eloquence go unnoticed?  I won’t go into the rest of my tirade, but essentially that got it done.  Mr. Randolph even got the message. 

I want to extend my gratitude to Elva Roy and the rest of the Ambassadors for Aging, for attending the afternoon meeting.  I can assure you that your presence was noticed, and you were the elephant in the room.  I would probably have been considered the Donkey, for lack of a better word.  Now we have our guidance and our land, and approval to commence design, all we need from here is money to fund the facilities.  Your persistence and participation will be required to pass a quarter cent sales tax in the Presidential Election in November 2016.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lamar Narrowing Issue

The issue of the Lamar narrowing went viral about the middle of last week when I was in Baltimore discussing a sizable investment in our city.  My email started to blow up and the accusations started flowing in to a website called Next Door.  I was called names and threaten with being voted out of office, etc., the usual.  So I thought the best plan of action was education.  I thought that even the most fanatical citizen would at least listen to reason, if reason was presented in a logical manner.  So I called Bob Kembel the developer of the project and asked if he would consent to an impromptu meeting with the citizens of North Arlington on Monday evening.  Now at this time I really was undecided as to how I was going to vote.  Jamie Sullens was called and found a space at 6:00 on Monday at Shackelford Jr. High. 

The meeting was very well attended and the estimate was about 150 people.  We are blessed with citizens that want to know the facts about issues and want to be well informed about what is happening in their community.  Mr. Kembel made a small presentation and then took questions for 1:45.  I read an excerpt from the ordinance stating that if the level of service(LOS) dropped below a certain category, that is nationally determined, then the issue must be remedied.  He can do this either by mitigation or reinstallation of the lane, at the developer expense.  Mr. Kembel asked, how many were willing to give his plan a chance?  I was standing in the back of the room so I could get a good view.  An estimated 75% of the people raised their hand.

Tonight at the Council meeting about 40 supporters were in attendance and 6 citizens were against the issue.  Ms. Canon was in attendance but left early, and did not voice her views.  I did make a statement saying that this was a very difficult decision, but my personal views were not in consideration.  My vote represented my constituents.  One speaker against stated that there were many Viridian people in attendance, but he failed to mention that he resided in south Arlington himself. 

I am certain that this issue will be watched closely in the future.  Although Mr. Kembel has done everything he has promised in the past, we will see how it affects the quality of life of the Parkway Central residents.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Budget Meeting, 10 Sept.

Last night I witnessed something that I didn’t want to see.  The Council voted 8-1 to remove spouses from City insurance if the spouse could get healthcare insurance elsewhere.  I was the one vote in descent.  The reason for my no vote was because this didn’t have to happen.  But it did.  Several Firemen were in attendance and it is because of their union APFA, that this occurred in the first place.  The City was prepared to give employees a 3% raise across the board with a 4% raise to the firefighters.  It was their union leader that rejected this amount.  Police and Staff were very happy, but not the Firefighters Union.  They wanted more.  So the City Manager went to work to get them more. 

By removing the spouses from the protection of the City’s healthcare umbrella he could save $1.2 million.  Couple this with a few other innovative ideas and he was able to come up with another 1.5%.  I had a solution to the problem avoiding this outcome, but it was summarily dismissed by the Council and a vote was taken to remove the spouse.  Now here’s the rub.  APFA leadership will never give Trey credit in dollars for benefits.  That’s the problem.  Trey provides a package and APFA leadership only cares about W-2.  That is unfortunate for the rest of the employees that work for the City because benefits are a big part of why they want to work here. 

Last night APFA leadership had Firefighters in the audience, and everyone that spoke stated the City was giving raises on the backs of the employees.  Well we didn’t give you the first 4% and ask you to do anything.  But when the last 1.5% required something of you then squawking about taking something from the employees was the theme song.  Greed isn’t always good, and sometimes it has its consequences.   This didn’t have to be this way, but the greed of one man made it happen.  I think that it is time for him to own up to that responsibility.

We don’t know what will happen with Healthcare in the future.  There might come a time when the City will no longer be able to provide healthcare insurance to its employees at all.  Then we can give firefighters an even bigger raise.  APFA has cast me as the bad guy because they won’t take responsibility for their actions.  That’s fine I’m a big boy and can take their brunt and I know how Unions work.  The problem is that I like the firefighters, they are good people and perform a great service to the Community.  It is unfortunate and embarrassing that current AFPA leadership will never get along with Department leadership.  I have always counseled them to take the high road.  This is what happens when you don’t.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

APFA Leadership

Well I really didn’t want to write this post but I think it should be said.  About a month ago I was approached by APFA (Fire Department Union) leadership.  I was given a book compiled by them.  The book was slanted against the actions of Chief Crowson.  APFA leadership wants the Chief gone, and that's no secret.  After being briefed I specifically pointed at the book and stated, “Are you sure you want to have this conversation?”  Leadership replied in the affirmative.  I replied, “This is not the Union’s job.”  They replied that they wanted to go ahead.

One of the subjects addressed in the book was manning.  Now it is known that Arlington has the least number of firefighters per 1,000 people of any department in the Metroplex at .80.  The book illustrated that over a 182 day period, the department was only manned with the requisite 84 firefighters 44.5% of the time.  Therefore, the only way to man the department properly is to get firefighters to come to work on overtime at 1.5 times their normal pay.  After doing some research I found that the Arlington Fire Department is number 2, in the Metroplex in overtime behind Ft. Worth.  Our overtime for 300 firefighters was $2.3 million last year.  The year before was $2.5 million.  In the book that was given to me, the overtime request was $3.0 million for the next five years totaling $15.0 million dollars.  This is not going to happen on my watch.  My solution to this problem, is to get the equation into equilibrium and hire more firefighters to staff the department properly.  Union leadership howled and stated that it would cost more money because you have to buy their bunker gear.  That will only take a few hours of overtime and it is a one- time purchase.  I can assure you it will be well south of $15.0 million. 

The Council has taken the accusations of APFA leadership seriously.  We have requested an audit of Fire Department expenditures, and I have requested that 18 new firefighters be hired to properly staff their shifts.  For taking their problems under consideration and hiring new firefighters, my name was dragged through the mud at the APFA Union hall, and I was told by their leadership that my campaign would not be supported by them in the future.  Leadership couldn’t tell me this in person, so they left a voice message on my phone.  I find this to be unfortunate and another poor decision by APFA leadership.  After all, if they hadn’t produced the book in the first place and been so greedy in their budget requests, none of this would have happened.  It is very important that leadership take responsibility for their actions, and stop blaming others.     

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poor Decisions

Throughout the Christian Taylor incident, I have always maintained that, the result was the consequence of many bad decisions throughout the evening.  These decisions rest on both sides, subsequently  causing the ultimate tragedy.  From the Toxicology Report we know that Mr. Taylor ingested marijuana, #1, then ingested 25I or “NBOMe” #2. Mr. Taylor got in a car and drove to the dealership, #3.  This impaired state endangered every person on the road.  After arriving at the dealership he demonstrated destructive behavior, as caught on video, #4.  He then drove his car through the locked and chained front gate and the glass doors of the dealership showroom, #5 & 6.  When confronted by police officers he failed to respond appropriately and advanced toward them, #7.  As a police officer on probation, Officer Miller decided, by himself, to proceed into the dealership alone,  without his training officer present #8.  Evaluating the situation, Officer Miller decided deadly force was needed and deployed his service weapon #9. 

  As you can plainly see, there is a litany of decisions that were made resulting in the taking of a young man’s life.  It should serve as an example to us all, that the decisions that we make as individuals affect others.  Our actions have consequences, and those consequences are our responsibility.  These two young men dealt with each other’s poor decisions resulting in fatal consequences that ripped up our community and rippled through this nation.  As I look back on this incident, I see the first incident of proper judgment came from our Police Chief.  It is my belief, and only my belief, that Officer Miller was not malicious or reckless, nor had a pre-conceived notion to do harm, so I would hope that the Grand Jury will let Mr. Miller go without prosecution.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

25 August Council Meeting

Yesterday’s afternoon workshop was very lengthy and also very interesting.  I started in a Municipal Policy Committee meeting.  The primary subject had to do with Pay Day Loans.  Essentially there are two avenues to take on this subject.  The first is a land use issue.  This is an area that the city can currently take a stance.  It was my suggestion that the city move ahead to utilize our zoning capability now.  The Unified Development Code will be amended to reflect another use of “Alternative Financial Establishments.”  These businesses would have to be in a standalone building, and cannot be within 1,000 ft of each other.  They have to be 200 ft from residential homes and at least 500 ft from major highway entrances.   Although current establishments will be grandfathered in at their current locations, the above will establish strict guidelines for new applicants.  The second avenue will be business guidelines.  Since the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is currently looking at guidelines concerning these businesses, it would be foolish for a city to establish policy that would be overruled by their decisions within the year.  So this avenue is closed to the city, for the time being.

The other area of interest had to do with the budget and the wages for sworn and staff employees.  Trey Yelverton is trying to establish city employees’ wages at a level commensurate with the amount of work expected of them.  I pointed out that there is a discrepancy in the manning level of the fire department.  We have the lowest number of firemen per capita of any department in the metroplex, by a wide margin.  Looking at a manning document provided to me by the AFFA union, it was noted that the fire department was only manned properly, at the 84 man level,  44.5% of the time.  Then I compared the overtime numbers to the rest of the metroplex, because that would be the only place that manning could get its solution to the equation.  Sure enough, Arlington is second in overtime per capita, in the metroplex.  Ft. Worth was number one.  So I submit that this is an equation out of equilibrium, and not the proper way to man a fire department.  Now I am aware that the people that work the overtime are doing the job and working for their pay, and that is appreciated.  But the numbers are way off the charts, and they were brought to me in a book supplied by the AFFA.

The last item is the fact that Trey is trying desperately  to get sworn positions up to a 75% level over the next 5 years, while simultaneously getting staff to 50%.  This disparity is untenable.  I pointed out that turnover is very low with sworn positions, and that the employees that are leaving are mostly staff positions.  Therefore, the inconsistency in percentile ranking is a flawed hypothesis.  What monies that are to be distributed need to be targeted strategically in an effort to maximize their affect in certain categories and maintain job satisfaction. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chief Will Johnson's Decision

After the statements given by the officers associated with the incident, Chief Johnson had enough information to make a determination.  Chief Johnson then applied the facts that were brought out in that testimony and weighed those against department protocols.  Termination was the only conclusion that he could make.  I thoroughly support his position on this issue. 

I have received letters not supporting this decision.  Those letters do not consider the facts that Chief Johnson has at his disposal.  Although termination was the result of the process, I can assure you that he made this decision based solely on violations of department stand operating procedure and departmental protocols.  He did not consider pressure from other sources, and those pressures did not affect his judgment, concerning the career of one of his officers.

The article in the Ft. Worth Star that questioned Chief Johnson’s decision highlighted the comments of a  Union called AMPA (Arlington Municipal Patrolman’s Association).  This Union is very critical of Chief Johnson’s position in an effort to garner rank and file support for an upcoming election.  There is no place for inflammatory rhetoric in this incident.  The Union that currently represents the Arlington Police Officers  APA (Arlington Police Association) wants to consider all of the facts before making a determination.  I ask you to please consider the unfortunate incidents in other cities, and be appreciative of the way that Chief Johnson has handled the events of this instance.  Again, I totally support Chief Johnson’s decision.