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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

D. R. Horton Comes Home

Last night I supported the relocation of D.R. Horton’s headquarters to Arlington.  We have been in negotiations for the last 2 yrs.  trying to get him to come back home.  Last night the final piece fell into place.  I must say that I had my reservations about giving a billionaire $5.5 million to entice him to our city.  The Horton complex will be located on the I-30 west bound frontage road, between Progressive and the IHOP.  The reason for the move is to get out of downtown Ft. Worth and take advantage of Arlington’s location and our easy access to DFW.

Horton will be given $1.83 million a yr. for the next three yrs.  This money will not come from the taxpayer’s pockets.  This was essential in order for me to support the move.  The money will come from some gas funds from the city’s side of the ledger, not the ATF’s.  Then Buzz Pishkur, Arlington’s  Water Department Director, will sell purified water to other cities to make up the difference.  This line of revenue was the brain child of Buzz and Trey Yelverton our City Manager.  I couldn’t in my mind justify the movement of taxpayer dollars, directly to Horton.  That doesn’t work for me.

Horton has already started to do work at the site.  He will start to move dirt in the next couple of weeks.  The campus will be a collection of buildings that will house America’s largest home builder’s new headquarters.  Housing 350 employees initially, they are required to stay at that location for the next 20 yrs.  If they expand to 500 employees they only have to stay for 12 yrs. and will ensure that the city gets it $5.5 million back.  The campus is currently planned to encompass 165,000sq/ft.  Welcome back home to Arlington D. R. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Dave Lieber Article

Yesterday, in the Dallas Morning News a Mr. Dave Lieber, a self-appointed Watch Dog wrote a biased article about me with an extremely negative theme.  Mr. Lieber did this on purpose.  That is the article that he wanted to write from the beginning, and he did.  He wrote this article around contents from two individuals. 

The first was a Ms. Musser.  Ms.  Musser wanted to know if the city of Arlington had a policy or an ordinance concerning e-cigarettes.  I simply stated that we had discussed the issue and had not come to a conclusion concerning the subject at this time.  Ms. Musser wrote back, “I hope that you are not taking money from the e-cigarette industry.”  My integrity was questioned by a slanderous and liable remark made by a lady I had never heard of before.  My reply was on target, “Excuse me!  I don’t take money from anyone.  Don’t ever e-mail me again.”  I was being accused of being on the take by industry from someone I’d never heard of or talked to before.  She stated that I was “overreacting a little.”  I replied again on point, “I give all the money I make at this job to veterans.  To insinuate that I take money to sway a decision in any way is repulsive.  If that is how you think government works then your opinion has no value to me.”   I stand by this comment.  Just because I am an elected official doesn’t mean I am a target, and I’m sorry Mr. Lieber if you think my comments are to honest for the accusing constituent to digest.  If you are going to accuse someone for being on the take, then stand by for a response.  I think that is deserved.  Ms. Musser knew exactly what she was implying and made the statement without corroboration.  She should be ashamed of herself for implying such an act.  But I’m the villain.  Nice job Mr. Lieber. 

Next would be me calling a study sent to me on RLC’s (ancient history).  I called the study “garbage” because it was done four months after the RLC’s were removed from Houston.  This was an old article written in the Houston Chronicle that Ms. Canon sent to me, trying to justify her position.  The pertinent article from the same paper was done four YEARS after the cameras were taken down.  This article showed fatalities up 40% and accidents up 117% in the same city. 

Now let’s continue the discussion concerning Ms. Canon.  Ms. Canon has lied to get people to sign her petition.  She has knowingly lied to newspapers concerning RLC’s being a violation of Constitutional Rights, and she has perjured herself making the same statements under oath in Austin.  Mr. Lieber, you can respect this type of behavior all you want, but I cannot.  Canon wanted the collection of violations prior to removing the cameras forgiven.  Guess what, that violates the Constitution of the State of Texas.  I think that is enough said about Ms. Canon.

I have tried to be as transparent and as open a representative as possible.  This blog speaks to that fact.  I have given town hall meetings every 6 months.  Gone to various social clubs to speak and give information.  Given leadership lectures at UTA, for Professor Saxe.  I have accomplished all the things I said I would do in my campaign, in just three years.  Gangs gone, Prostitution and Drugs down 90%, no gun shots at President’s Corner at night.  Also accomplished the following:  apartments down, property values on the rise, TXDOT property in work with Trammel Crow, Arlington sign to be installed this fall on I-30, Lamar repaved and Brown soon to be.  I have fought hard to get a Senior Center on the ballot in November/May, benefitting 54,000 seniors.  And on the daily side I have responded to each of your emails to try and correct what you see wrong with our community.   

So please Mr. Lieber don’t just take a couple of emails and judge a body of work.  If you wanted to write about an individual, not a politician, who works hard for the people of Arlington, you could have.  It just takes you doing a little more work.