Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Texas Rangers Golf Club



There has been a great deal of discussion about the re-naming of Ditto golf course to the Texas Rangers Golf Club.  The city has invested $24mil in the renovation of this city owned facility, and it is the city’s desire to make this course a "destination" golf course.  To say that you have played a certain golf course or simply enjoy the challenge of a new golf experience is a thrilling event.  This course will improve the level of the game of golf in Arlington.  Ditto, before the make-over, was rated #49 in Avid Golfer.  We look forward to making this course one of the top five in North Texas.  It was the city’s decision to spend the money for the course make over.  $4 mil from bond elections and $20 mil from gas well funds that are available from the Parks Department.  We have over 90 parks in Arlington.  When a gas lateral goes through park land, then a royalty is paid to the Park’s fund.  This money is not tax money, however it is public revenue and is dealt with as such, requiring elected oversight. 

I have toured this course at least twice and it is truly remarkable.   The quality of the course is commensurate with Cowboy’s and better than Star.  But to make this a destination venue, it would require a name change and some marketing.  We have to get our name out there.  Therefore, we approached the Rangers and through a partnership agreement, and marketing strategy, the Council voted unanimously to change the name of the course.  The Ditto family is prominent in Arlington, and their recognition will remain.  The Club House will be named the, “Chester W. Ditto Club House.”  One must remember that the land was purchased from the Ditto family with the stipulation that it be utilized by the public.  The course itself will be owned by the city and every dime earned will go to the City of Arlington.  The Rangers will get some rounds of golf in exchange for a commensurate amount of tickets.  They will host tournaments and events at the club house.  They will advertise via video at the games, advertise in their year book and their programs.  The tickets will be received by Parks and Recreation and used in promotional efforts.

There has been concern about the pricing of green fees.  Our seniors and residents will be priced on a reduced scale.  Those out of city residents will be expected to carry their weight.  This is a nice course and will require a commensurate green fee.  We believe that aligning ourselves with Major League Baseball and the Texas Rangers will elevate the old Ditto property to the level of quality and recognition that will make Texas Rangers Golf Club the best in North Texas.  Arlington you deserve this!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017



Well I haven’t written anything on the blog in a couple of months, simply because there wasn’t much subject matter to write about.  But I believe the passing of 2017 is noteworthy.  There have been several events that I can certainly be thankful for in my personal life.  Professionally it was incredible, but now it’s time to put those things in the rearview mirror and move forward.  

1.        The Eagle Mountain Tavern is a new endeavor for me.  It has been wildly successful in north Ft. Worth.  Brian Olenjack is back in the kitchen and creating remarkable food that I have missed, for the last 3 years.  Our reviews from the Ft. Worth Star Telegram have been very positive, and the reviews of our customers have all been very favorable.  We hope to do something in North Arlington in the coming years.  Brian enjoys a strong following in Arlington and I believe that Arlington deserves his talent as an outstanding Chef.

2.       The voters have allotted $45 million for a senior center on Green Oaks Blvd. near the West Police Station.  This center will be designed next year and constructed in 2020.  It will be a 67,000 sq./ft. facility that will accommodate citizens over the age of 50.  I believe that the city of Arlington will benefit greatly from this addition, and that this particular facility will be well received by our seniors.  A senior community will be built around the facility and be a showpiece in senior living.

3.       Ditto golf course has been getting a facelift.  This facility has been totally redone.  From the course outline to the practice range and the maintenance building, it is something the city can be proud of.  There will be decorative iron fencing around the entire course and a new 18,000 sq./ft. clubhouse that will be used as a gathering place for golf tournaments, social events and dining.  Even the name will be changed to make Ditto a destination golf course and move them from 49th in Avid Golfer into the top 3 in the Metroplex.

4.       Arlington Commons phase 1 has started to move in tenants.  This was a $200 million project that is coming to fruition.  The completion of phase 1 has told us that given the quality of tenants, our young professionals do want to stay in Arlington.  The goal was to increase the financial level of tenants and at $1.85 a sq./ft. Bob Kembel is accomplishing just that.  I am looking forward to the linear park that will start construction shortly.

5.       I-30 Arlington Gateway sign is operational and is beautiful.  This sign is programmable and is like Arlington’s own Eiffel Tower.  City Staff programed the colors of Ohio St. and USC to welcome the two teams that participated in this year’s Cotton Bowl matchup.  This is a quality product and something that I had promised back in 2012 when I was elected.  Arlington citizens can be proud of this entryway sign and more are on the way.

6.       Texas Live is being constructed rapidly and also the Loews Live hotel is on its way.  This is another milestone that was promised back in the day, and is becoming a reality in 2018.  Construction as a whole is starting to pop up in and around the stadiums.  Plains Capital is putting in a headquarters across the street on Collins.  AISD is putting in a Performing Arts Center and Natatorium in the old Eastern Star property. There are talks about another new larger hotel near the stadiums.  Billions of dollars will be poured into the entertainment district in the years to come because of the groundwork laid in 2017.  Also we are going to get a new stadium for the Rangers.  The work is going strong and the design is still in question but our grandkids will be able to watch baseball in Arlington.

7.       Another new hotel was approved in 2017, the Drury Plaza Hotel.  I was based as an airline pilot in St. Louis.  This was the home of the Drury family and I certainly was not impressed to find out that Drury wanted to come to Arlington.  But I traveled to inspect the Drury Plaza Hotel in Chesterfield.  I was surprised!  This is a quality product and will sit on the Northwest corner of Center and Road to Six Flags.  At 9 stories and 268 rooms this will be a great addition to North Arlington.  Believe me when I tell you that we don’t need another garden inn product.  Done that, and we are saturated with that level of hotel.  The Drury Plaza is a giant step up, and will start the development of that corner.

8.       Lastly, let me say that this year the citizens gave the fire department civil service.  Because of Union Leadership and its animosity toward AFD management, it has made our fire department something less than it has been in the past.  The local union and its state affiliate wanted civil service in Arlington for personal reasons.  The fire union is now threatening to sue the city over promotion exams taken after the civil service vote.  These exams were not civil service exams that were part and parcel to Part 143 of the Local Governance code.  The union fought against this type of promotional testing and now they are suing because we had to resend the results and retest.  Remember the phrase, “We want advancement and hiring because of what you know not who you know.” Now they are suing because we used the old test not the new ones.  I might add that this was the decision of the Civil Service Commission.  The city can’t change the decision of the Commission.  We didn’t even have a Commission before Civil Service was voted on.

Well I guess that kinda wraps up 2017.  There were many different decisions that had to be made also, like the smoking ordinance, transportation etc. but those are everyday battles.  I look forward to 2018, my last year in office.  Just a reminder that I have another Town Hall Meeting at Lamar High on Monday the 8th of January, 6:30-8:00.  The subjects will be Transportation and Short Term Rentals.  I hope to see you there.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Firefighter Sick Leave Abuse


In the afternoon work session on 26 September Trey Yelverton, the city manager, presented an update on civil service.  The first chart he put up was a pay scale depicting that the average fire fighter in Arlington makes $86,000 a year.  All that is required is a high school diploma.  One must consider that firefighters only work 8 days a month in earning this wage.  But then Mr. Yelverton started putting up sick leave utilization charts and how, since August (start of budget talks) sick leave has increased requiring an increase in overtime expenditures.  So please let me elaborate.

As you can plainly see from this chart unauthorized absences increased dramatically from the time budget discussions started concerning the reductions in fire department benefits.  I might add that no other departments at the city had this increase in sick leave.
This staffing chart, illustrates that sick leave abuse drove the department staffing down to 76 firefighters per shift.  76 is the number that is required to staff all trucks and keep them in battery for the entire 24 hour period.  In order to accommodate the abuse of sick leave by our firefighters we had to call in others and pay them overtime, depicted on the chart below.


The increase of FY17 overtime due to excessive sick leave, cost the taxpayers an additional $1 million dollars just to staff the fire department and would have cost the department $1.5 million if the department hadn't gone to minimum staffing.  Chief Crowson has taken the overtime budget and lowered it from 36,000 hours annually down to 6,000 hours.  I can only look at these numbers and come up with one conclusion.  Certain union following firefighters, with high school diplomas making $86,000 a year, who swore an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Arlington, find it more convenient to call in sick than to uphold their oath to the citizens.  In doing so they have cost those same citizens an additional million dollars in overtime.  I believe that since this phenomenon is only indigenous to the fire department and no other part of city staff, that this action was contrived by their union leadership.  I find this action by the fire union to be despicable, and that the actions of anyone participating in this organized labor action, to be reprehensible.  These firefighters should be ashamed of themselves, but they have no contrition, therefore no moral compass.  How you can put the safety of the citizens, below your personal agenda is beyond comprehension.  How you can denigrate the uniform and ignore your sworn oath, speaks volumes to your lack of character.  Shame on you!

To those good firefighters that have been caught up in this I apologize.  But the actions of the Union President and his selected e-board have clearly gotten you into this situation.  How they can do this without remorse astounds me.  Good luck to those who chose to retire and those that leave for greener pastures.  Your service was greatly appreciated.