Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vote Official


Yesterday was an interesting day for the city of Arlington.  We started out the afternoon with an Arlington Tomorrow Foundation meeting.  Now this meeting had two elements that I thought were of merit.  The first was $4.0 Million to be granted to the new library from the fund.  The remaining amount is to be issued in certificates of obligation.  This is an example of a new library and Council Chamber that is to be constructed without the use of citizen tax revenue.  That’s correct, there isn’t a burden to the taxpayer for these new structures.  The second item of interest is the “Dream” sign that is to be installed near the Levitt Pavilion.  Although this expenditure passed, I simply couldn’t bring myself to vote for it.  The reason being is simply that I don’t think that it was a good idea to arbitrarily construct something of this nature.  In short I think it will look “cheesy”.  Now I have to print a disclaimer and state for the record that I am no authority on the arts.  That being said I simply could support something of this nature.

Last night the vote was canvassed and became official.  Mayor Cluck pounded the gavel for the last time.  It was a very emotional event for the Mayor.  You can either love the Mayor or not, but you can’t deny the fact that he has dedicated the last sixteen years of his life in the service of our city.  During that time Arlington has evolved into the entertainment capital of the Metroplex.  We, as a city, have thrived in a time where other cities have floundered, through an economic downturn.  Arlington has more projects completed and underway than any other city in north Texas.  Mayor Cluck has played a large part in making those project become reality.  He can be proud of the work that he has done.  So we said goodbye to him at a reception last evening.  Where one door closes another door opens and new opportunities arise.  I look forward to working with the new Mayor and setting out on new challenges for our city.   

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Election


While everyone in Arlington was going to the polls to vote on Mayor, Council, School Board and Prop 1, I was lucky enough to be removed from the process by attending my son’s wedding in Cabo.  I was surprised by some of the results, especially in the school board races.  I was not surprised by the Mayor and Prop 1 results.                                                                                                                                                
School Board races gave me pause because this current School Board was voted Number 1 in the state, and the one race that kept Aaron Reich was within 1% of losing.  Peter Baron was in the same situation with a losing result.  I find this unwarranted due to the performance of the School Board over the last few years.  I feel that these are good people doing a thankless job, to create a positive learning environment for our children.  We will see what results can be achieved.                                                             

The Mayoral race I saw before leaving was a very close contest.  Jeff ran a very good campaign and was simply rewarded with this victory.  I spent yesterday with the Mayor at our Council meeting and he seems to be taking the defeat very positively, and in good spirits.  It may have been time for a change and some fresh ideas, but Mayor Cluck’s body of work over the past 16 yrs. has been remarkable and good for the city.  He can be proud of the accomplishments that he and past Councils have achieved with a good conscience.  Isn’t that what we all strive to do in our lives?                                                                    

Concerning the Red Light Cameras, the people have spoken, and my hands are clean.  I have tried to educate the citizens on what will happen and we will see if accidents increase like in other cities.  I have every confidence that the RLC company will sue the city and that the election will be ruled illegal, just as it has been in the other six cities in Texas.  I can only hope that your loved ones will not be injured in the future, because of this poor decision by the voters.                                                                                                        

Concerning my son’s wedding, it was beautiful.  The groom was handsome, the bride was beautiful, the setting was remarkable, and I caught a 150 lb. striped marlin.  This event was successful in removing me from the political process and enjoying the time with my family.  I am blessed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Vote No on Prop 1 and Keep the Cameras


I will leave this post up until after the election is over.  4/28/15 the only significant item on the Council's plate was the tax abatement for General Motors 80% off for 10 yrs.  They are very happy with those numbers.


A letter in support of RLC's by the Chairmen of the National Safety Coalition.  We have an opportunity to keep our intersections safe.  Early voting starts today.

Dear Legislator X

We write to express our support for continuing Texas’ red light camera programs and urge you to vote against [BILL #] at the [NAME] committee on [DAY], [DATE]. Texas communities use traffic safety cameras to reduce red light running, reduce crashes and save lives, and these programs have had enormous success. However, [BILL NUMBER] seeks to ban, limit or place restrictions on the use of red light cameras and put the public’s safety at risk.  This would drastically reduce the ability of our Texas police departments to enforce and hold accountable drivers who run red lights. 

Law enforcement officials understand the dangers affecting their communities, particularly the dangers we face on our roadways.  Local police departments know the needs of their communities and understand the need for the added enforcement on our roadways. We believe they should have every available technology at their disposal to enforce the crucial traffic safety laws that keep us safe and hold red light runners accountable.

The data is indisputable that Texas’s red light camera programs have successfully changed driver behavior and reduced red light running, crashes and injuries on our state’s roads.  The most recent statistics from police departments show traffic safety cameras have reduced crashes at the state’s most dangerous intersections:

  • Ft. Worth: 83% reduction in the number of collisions after one year of installing safety cameras (Star-Telegram, 2/1/15)
  • Arlington: 75% reduction in the number of collisions at photo-enforced intersections (The Shorthorn, 2/11/15)
  • Sugar Land: 59% reduction in the number of intersection crashes at photo-enforced intersections (City of Sugar Land, 2012).
  • Plano: 50% reduction in rear-end collisions, 43% in intersection collisions, and 20% in red light running collisions at photo-enforced intersections (City of Plano, 2013)
  • Killeen: 47%  reduction in red-light violations (Killeen Daily Herald, 8/3/2014)
  • Austin: 40% reduction in the number of collisions at photo-enforced intersections (Austin American-Statesman, 3/5/12).

We are concerned if the red light camera programs do not continue we could see dramatic increases in red light running and crashes, as has happened in other communities:

  • Houston: The Houston Police Department reported a 117% increase in collisions – from 4,100 to almost 9,000 – and a 30% increase in fatal crashes since safety cameras were turned off in 2010 (ABC 13, 10/28/14). Injury crashes increased by 350% and one dangerous intersection saw crashes increase by 1,300% (KTRK-13, 6/8/11).
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico: 584% increase in speeding and red light running five months after cameras were turned off (KRQE, 5/27/11).
  • Garfield Heights, Ohio: 214% increase in speeding after safety cameras were turned off (City of Garfield Heights, 2011)

Even more, many Texas police departments face resource challenges. Red light cameras have served as force multipliers, allowing them to address other public safety needs without having to sacrifice the enforcement of our most basic traffic safety laws.  Local police officers have utilized safety cameras to make roads safer for all of us, and they have worked.  If municipalities had not had the right to determine what is best for their roads, who knows how many more accidents would have occurred?  Unfortunately, for many families, it is already too late. 

Photo enforcement keeps our roads and residents safe, but we need your help to make sure these traffic safety camera programs continue to be successful. In the next ten hours, at least one person will be killed on our Texas roadways.  We cannot wait for more innocent bystanders to be killed while we allow more drivers to ignore our most basic traffic safety law – red means stop.  We urge you to oppose any effort to ban or limit the use of traffic safety cameras.

 

Sincerely 

Paul and Sue Oberhauser                                                    
National Co-Chairs, Traffic Safety Coalition

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 14 Council Meeting


I’m sorry I did not post after the Council meeting on the 14th, but I left town very early the next morning.  There were two items of interest on the agenda.  The first was the issue terminating the agreement with the developer on the Sapphire Project.  That was a student housing project on Center St. and Hosak.  This project was approved two years ago and never got off the ground due to lack of funding.  The city paid the developer to demo some ghetto apartments that were on the land in question, but funds were never available to start construction.  In the last moments the developer produced a financier to start the project, but it was too little too late.  The Council voted 9-0 to cancel the agreement.  I was never in favor of this project because it allowed 172 students per acre.  I stated at the time that I would not allow 172 dogs in an acre of land much less students.  I was the only no vote as I recall.

The second item was the request by the Athos Academy (Bardin & Bowen Rds) to increase their student count from 1206 to 1416.  The residents were concerned because of the increase in traffic.  I spent 4.5 hrs. watching traffic from 7-8:30 and 3-4:30 on three separate occasions.  I took this issue seriously and came away with the fact that after each green light interval the traffic queues were empty.  I drove the area and found that travel was manageable and acceptable.  So traffic was not the issue for me.  The issue was trustworthiness.  You see the school had an agreement with the city to operate at 1206 students.  They didn’t honor that agreement for one day.  They opened the school with over 1300 students.  At the time of their request they were operating in the 1390 range of students.  So residents were not telling the truth about the traffic and school management didn’t uphold the agreement with the city.  What finally blew me off the fence was a letter from the school’s attorney stating that they were in full compliance with state statutes and only had to comply with certain numbers of teacher to student levels.  The ratios were K-8th grade 1 teacher for 28 students and 9th-12th grade 1 teacher for 34 students.  Now the school employs 78 teachers so if you do the math, the school could go to over 2300 students according to their lawyer and be within the guidelines of the Commissioner of Education’s rules for Charter schools.   In defense of the school, they stated that they would bus any number over 1200 students in an effort to ease traffic concerns.  But since I could not trust them to comply with the 1206 number, I certainly couldn’t trust them to maintain their word concerning the proper number of students to bus.  That is the reason that I voted no on this issue.  The issue was denied 5-4.  When asked how they could regain my trust in the future, I simply stated that they should operate within the confines of the original agreement with the city and readdress it as we see what the impact it is on the community.

Of note also, there was a Reinvestment Zone established for General Motors.  The reason for the RZ is to establish an abatement, should General Motors decide to make an investment of $1.2 billion in the Arlington Plant.  I believe that this abatement will be approved at the next Council meeting, setting the table for GM’s decision.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Town Hall Meeting


I will be holding a Town Hall meeting on the 23rd of April at Shackelford Jr. High.  It will be an update on the projects that are going in mostly in North Arlington.  I will also discuss the library and 100 Center street project. 

Topics to be covered:

Arlington Commons, I30/360 Interchange, Ditto Golf Course, TXDOT Property, Viridian update, Aloft Hotel, Convention Hotel, General Motors update, Roquemore and Eddie & Debbie Peach Elementary Schools/Boys & Girls Club, Library, Champion's Park, 100 Center St. and the MGM Grand hotel.  If I have left anything out your questions will surely cover it. 

I hope to see a good turnout as we usually do.  I will start the power point presentation promptly at 7:00.  And as always I look forward to an active question and answer period.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dallas Morning News Red Light Cameras

Red-light cameras have caught a lot of folks in the act, but they’ve also succeeded in changing behaviors — making people hit the brakes, not the gas.

Of all the innovations that have made life safer for us, I wonder which one is the most hated.
I remember lots of grumbling about seat belts in the beginning. And so many motorcyclists hated helmet laws that Texas threw out the mandate.
I’m sure construction workers still gripe about some OSHA protections. I know I’m irked at times by all the safety paraphernalia on my lawnmower.
But I’m going to bet that the least-loved lifesaving innovation is the red-light camera.
Last week, a judge in Tarrant County cleared the way for Arlington voters to decide on a ban of red-light cameras in their city. A legal challenge arose after a petition drive put the matter on the May ballot.
In Chicago, red-light cameras have emerged as a major issue in the runoff next month between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Garcia has promised he will rid the city of red-light cameras on his first day in office.
Me, I’ve always liked red-light cameras.
Many hate them down to their toenails, however. And while I’ve never understood that level of revulsion, I do get the milder forms of distaste.
There’s something a little Big Brother-ish about an automated system that catches and convicts us of our wrongdoing. It’s so cold and remote — and relentlessly effective.
The things never rest, while cops seldom seem to have the time for traffic enforcement these days.
But I guess it comes down to picking your poison. Would you rather have the irksome cameras keeping watch over us? Or would you rather turn intersections into a free-for-all?
Just last week, I easily stopped when a light ahead of me turned yellow. The car behind me whipped around and shot through the fully red light.
That’s not a common sight these days, but I can remember 10 or 15 years ago when it became rampant. When a signal light turned green for you, it was routine to see a car or two zip through the intersection on red before you could go.
That was the situation that brought red-light cameras into widespread use. And I believe the cameras succeeded in changing behaviors. People began to hit the brakes, not the gas, at yellow lights.
The debate over red-light cameras has gotten bogged down in conflicting studies over how much they increase driver safety. Some studies find that decreases in side crashes are offset by an increase in rear-end crashes.
But those tend to be minor — and they illustrate the extent of our problem. They happen when the driver of the second car has every expectation that both he and the driver ahead will blow through a changing light.
I don’t really care what the studies show. I’m satisfied with what the cameras show — and that’s people plainly, clearly, boldly driving through red lights.
That is so dangerous to my family and to yours that I would think we’d welcome almost any measure to stop it.
Another rap against red-light cameras is that they produce so much revenue for both cities and the camera companies. Again, to me that just illustrates the frequency of the violations.
Now, I’m completely sympathetic to complaints that some red-light cameras have been operated unfairly — with unusually short yellow lights, for example.
Every state should set clear regulations on how cities can use the cameras — giving a little extra yellow light time, if anything, at monitored intersections.
I don’t love the cameras. But I have visited countries where red lights are treated as suggestions and intersections become a game of chicken.
I love that even less.