Sunday, September 11, 2016

Professional Fire Fighters Speak Out but not the AFF

This last week I had the privilege of going to a fire station, where I encountered actual Professional Fire Fighters.   One was a union member, another was not, and a third was resigning from the union.  I went there because I wanted to educate myself on the matters that concern the claims of the union.  Although Victoria Meyer also attended with me, I can only state my observations:

  1.  Although 90% of the fire fighters pay dues to the union, very few are supportive of the leadership,  nor the direction of their union representation.  Of the six none wanted the Chief fired.  Some even think that the Chief is doing a good job, with some reservations.
  2. Although the union demands transparency from management, the rank and file was blindsided by the publishing of the “Book.” 
  3. Foremost in their minds, they believe that union leadership has a “personal vendetta” against the Chief.
  4. Lastly, they were surprised that a letter was filed with the city to start the civil service process.  Again a travesty of transparency.

I told them that as a response to the ”Book” the city took  union accusations seriously and had an audit accomplished.  Union response, “she did what Trey and the Chief told her to do.”  This is unfounded and not true.  Essentially, the chief took care of the personnel conflict, and hired fire fighters to correct the manning and overtime problems.  The other accusations contained in the “Book” were simply not true.  Secondly, the city took union claims of low morale seriously and appointed the Coleman Group to accomplish a survey.  When complete the survey had issues on both sides of the fence.  The Chief addressed each area of concern in a four page reply.  The union did not reply at all.  And lastly Councilwoman Meyer requested that a mediator be utilized, as an unbiased observer, to try and solve the union/Chief issue.  Union leadership reluctantly said that they would try.  The day before the meeting to discuss the mediator, the union files a letter to start the civil service process. 

Last Tuesday a fire fighter got up in front of Council who I respect as a person and as a professional fire fighter.  He stated that “he wanted the issue resolved.”  He also stated, “we spent $28,000 for the Coleman survey, so let’s do what Mr. Coleman told us to do.”  Although he was wearing a yellow shirt he spoke to the issue that everyone wants except the union leadership.  I don’t think that Mr. Coleman said to fire the Chief.  What he said in the survey was that until both sides want to discuss the issues, there will never be a solution.  So now the civil service process starts because this is what union leadership wants.  The line is in the sand and your union leadership has taken you across it.  As Professional Fire Fighters, are you going to follow the AFF or will you stop this train wreck that they are taking you to?  If you think civil service is the answer to your problems we will talk about that next time.   

PS:  Don't know if you all got this email so I wanted everyone to get it:

We have been made aware that Councilman Charlie Parker is currently visiting with our members at fire stations. Parker continues to be critical of us and the APFF.  He has called us "greedy" fire fighters and has discontinued using Professional when referring to the APFF because he does not believe we are.  We are asking you to record any conversations you have with Parker if he visits your station.


Friday, August 26, 2016

AFF vs. Chief Crowson

I have deleted the “P” from the APFF because I don’t believe that there is anything Professional about the Fire Fighter’s union.  I believe in our Fire Fighters and think they do an exemplary job in the service to our citizens, but I have no respect for their union officers.  Please let me explain.

Since I have been in office the AFF has been trying (unsuccessfully) to get the Chief fired.  Last year they stepped up the effort and published a book telling of the Chief’s inadequacies.  I read the book and took it for action and pointed out that the fire department was undermanned and that the overtime number was the second highest in the Metroplex, even higher than Dallas.  Half of the yearly shifts were undermanned requiring overtime.  This is a rip off, and they have been getting millions in overtime each year by not manning the department as they should.  The Chief subsequently hired 26 new fire fighters and the AFF hit the roof.  Now I know about unions since I started one at American Airlines.  We started with 17 members and now they are over 400 in membership.  Usually more members are what a union wants but not the AFF.  The Chief has saved $1.6 mil in overtime for FY16 and the AFF doesn’t like it.

So the Council took the book for action and had the City Auditor make an independent assessment of the workings of the Fire Department and I was right.  The Chief was given a clean bill of health for running his department in a stellar fashion.  But Ms. Brooks found that overtime was off the page.  The audit stated the following:

                                FY13                       FY14                       FY15         Overtime           FY13           FY14        FY15

F1                           $92,430                 $90,870                $75,173                                 $22,998   $17,445   $15,423
Fire Fighter

F2                           $95,789                 $92,490                 $83,413                                 $21,447   $15,673  $15,423

F3                           $109,414              $104,426              $91,549                                  $30,200  $17,949   $12,553

F4                           $123,818              $117,083              $91,549                                  $30,212   $15,469   $25019

F5                           $$131,119            $148,142              $119,893                              $26,985   $35,511   $23,489
Battalion Chief

So the Book backfired on the AFF and its leadership. 

Last year we gave all staff members across the board a 4% raise because we had a little extra money. 
That wasn’t enough for the AFF.  It got greedy and had to have 5.5%.  So in order to get the extra money to give to the AFF, we were forced to remove spouses from the City’s insurance plan if the spouses had another means of procuring insurance.  All 2,500 city employees were affected in some way by the greed of this union.

The relations got so bad between the AFF and the Chief that the city requested another report.  Arlington Fire Department and Feedback Report accomplished by Coleman and Associates.  What stood out to me in this 47 page report is the following comment:  “The Chief is taking all of our overtime.”  The report stated that:  “Conversations regarding overtime are directed more to concerns about a “promised” income as opposed to absolute provision of full staffing for service operations.”  In other words the overtime isn’t yours.

 So in last week’s Council meeting a number of AFF members approached the podium during citizen’s comment and stated that moral is at an all-time low due totally to the actions of Chief Crowson and the way he has been running the department.  Baloney!  Their claim is that people are leaving due to the Chief’s way of running the department.  Although we do have retirements, it is due to the W2’s not  increasing because of reduced overtime.  The retirement amount is based on W2’s. Therefore, the expectation of increased retirement amounts will not materialize, due to the realization that W2’s will not increase due to overtime reductions.  Approximately  2 fire fighters  a year are leaving  for other reasons.  This is well below the national average.  So overtime is the real reason for low morale, not the Chief’s policies.  This is proven by a new open records request dated the day after the meeting by Scott Hofstrom Vice President of the AFF.   He requests open records for 1.  AFD FY16 Overtime Budget.  2. Expenditures for FY16 Overtime Budget to date.  3.Purpose for Expenses for AFD FY16 Overtime Budget to date.  4.  Anticipated Overtime expenditures from AFD FY16 for the remaining budget year.  5.  Is anything other than Overtime being paid out of the AFD FY16 Overtime Budget as of August 24th 2016.  So the actions of the AFF prove that overtime is the issue not low morale.

The Coleman report did have some claims about other subjects that the Chief is addressing and he gave a 4 page response concerning those issues.  The response from the AFF about the audit is that the Auditor put down what the Chief and the City Manager told her to address.  I have talked to Ms. Brooks concerning this allegation and it is totally false.  The AFF has been totally silent about the issues in the Coleman survey that address their actions.

In Conclusion:  1. I have a total respect for our Arlington Fire Fighters, and I do not associate the exemplary work they do for the citizens of Arlington, with the actions of the AFF.  2.  Our Fire Department is held in high esteem throughout the nation.  The policies implemented by Chief Crowson are cutting edge and other departments come to the Arlington Fire Department because they wish to emulate them, to see how they work so that they can implement them in their own respective departments.  3.  AFF leadership is having a hard time assimilating acceptance of these same policies.  They are not the Fire Chief.  They are fire fighters that come to work and do a good job for a good wage.  So do your job.  4.  Attempting to fire the Fire Chief is not the job of a union.  Jobs and job protection is, and the Chief wants to hire more fire fighters, to bring the overtime solution into equilibrium.  The union doesn’t want this, ergo low morale.  5.  Council is very tired of this friction, and is frustrated by the actions of the AFF.  6.  AFF actions have become a personal vendetta against the Chief.  7.  Fire Department pay for all ranks has been raised to 102% of the Metroplex average, so standard pay categories are commensurate with other fire fighters in the area.  8.  Lastly. There must be made clear throughout the department that overtime pay cannot be counted on as a guaranteed extension to an employee’s base pay and compensation.     

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Economics and the New Stadium

Today at the Arlington Convention and Visitor’s Board meeting we had a report on a study accomplished by a firm in California.  They provide this type of service for most cities across the U.S.  What I gleaned from the report was that Arlington has 13.9 visitors a year, and they spend $140 mil in our city each year, not to include hotel, and rental car.  We are looking at about $100 a night/person to our local economy.   This is significant in that VISA tells us that 52% of our sales tax is paid for by visitors or people that live in zip codes outside the city.  So when you look at the price of a new stadium the numbers prove that the citizens of Arlington will pay less than half of the price.  But remember that rental car tax and hotel tax is also being thrown into the subsidy.  These are likely visitors also.

Let’s break down the numbers for the stadium.  I will do this without figuring in interest, because if the stadium is paid off early, like all the others, that could reduce the obligation by hundreds of millions of dollars.  So let’s keep it simple.

The stadium cost to the city is capped at $500 mil.  If you divide this by 30 yrs. you will get $16 mil a year as an obligation.  Remember that 52% is paid for by visitors or people that simply don’t live in Arlington.  So now we are down to $8 mil to the taxpayers.  The Rangers will pay $2 mil a yr. for rent or the right to play in your stadium.  So now we are down to $6 mil a yr.  So let’s include the Rental Car and Hotel tax also paid by our visitors at $2.5 mil.  That brings us down to the actual cost of $3.5 mil a yr. to the citizens of Arlington.  So for $3.5 mil a yr. the city of Arlington gets major league baseball and an economic impact of $77.5 mil to the economic engine of this city.  Don’t get me wrong, $3.5 mil is not chump change, but the return on investment is much greater.  These numbers clearly indicate the fact that Arlington is a major entertainment venue and we are adding to it with Texas Live and additional hotels in the area.  I hope that you can understand the magnitude of this decision and the impact that it has on the economics of our city and its ability to provide services to our citizens.

I will be voting YES to keep the Rangers in Arlington.  I hope you can see the reasoning in my decision.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Short Term Rentals

With the AirBNB issue on the front burner, I guess it is time to talk about some of the issues.  A couple of years ago we had a party house that went viral on several weekends and the neighbors were fed up with the actions of the short term renters.  I brought this forward to Council and there was little appetite for a resolution at that time.  It was determined that it would be advantageous to list the residence with the city and if they were rented as short term rentals then a hotel tax should be added, because it took away from the business of our hotels.  It would also register the home so we could see if there recurring issues with certain rentals.   Now this is part of the economic impact that our city has because we enjoy a vibrant entertainment district.  People will come here for any number of events. One such event that was problematic was Texas/OU weekend.  You can imagine students renting a 5,000 sq/ft plus house to party for the weekend next to your home.  This is what we need to stop! 

Now I believe that there are legitimate and responsible people that can rent their homes without the discourse that some irresponsible owners allow.   That is where some regulation and guidance would be advised.  Austin doesn’t allow you to rent you’re home unless you are the resident of that home.  This would allow people to rent their own home for events such as Super Bowls and World Series etc.  This also would preserve home owner’s rights, which is a big issue.  The second possibility would be to have the home owner live within a certain distance from the rental property, say 300 ft.  That way if there was a problem then the neighbors would have recourse to the owner that lives in the immediate area.

If you own a property, you should have certain rights.  One of those rights is to rent the home to help defer the cost of the mortgage.  But the rights of the owner should not allow the degradation of the neighborhood.  The problem is that there are good landlords and there are also slumlords that only care about cash flow.  The city will have to regulate for the lowest common denominator, to insure that neighborhoods are protected and still uphold property owner’s rights.  That is why I brought this back up to the Council as a new agenda item.  I suggest that you watch the June 28th afternoon session of the meeting, on the city website.  It is very informative and will give you an idea as to the depth of this issue.

Now some people say that this is the same thing as running a business in a neighborhood, zoned for residential.  No it is not.  The swinger’s house was in fact a business that had a revenue stream dedicated to providing a service.  Renting your home does, in fact provide a revenue stream.  But the service is shelter, just like the homeowner next door, and we are all entitled to shelter.  If a homeowner rents his home for a year, we don’t know what that renter is like.  They might be very nice people.  The duration of the rental seems to be the problem, because if there is a more frequent turnover of the inhabitants, then there is an increasing the possibility of problematic tenants.  That is why I think the city should look at this issue and come up with a solution. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Jeff Mosier's Article

Jeff Mosier wrote this article in response to Brett Shipp's biased investigative piece written this week.
Jeff has the integrity to tell the truth about the contract with the Rangers.  His article follows:

People nationwide are wondering if the proposed $1 billion Texas Rangers stadium is essentially a scam of Arlington taxpayers after investigative reporting this week by WFAA-TV (Channel 8) bulldog Brett Shipp.
His story — picked up nationally — said the city-team contract features a secretive provision that increases Arlington taxpayers’ share of the deal from 50 percent to 80 percent. Shipp described this as something they didn’t want “you to see and aren’t eager to talk about.”
 Popular sports website Deadspin picked up Shipp’s story and concluded: “Spending public money on stadiums to give to billionaires is bad. Stop. [Expletive]. Doing it.”
The story was also aggregated by Yahoo NewsNBC Sports blog Hardball Talk and conservative website Breitbart.
The report brought up both long-running concerns about stadium financing but missed the mark in several aspects when it comes to the details, including the basic math.
This story doesn’t go into the debate about public financing of stadiums; that’s another story entirely. But here’s what you need to know about the stadium deal. 
What are the parking and ticket taxes?
The story’s gotcha element is the possible parking and ticket taxes. Those taxes haven’t officially been added to the deal, but they seem likely to happen.
If approved, the city would create a tax of up to 10 percent on Rangers stadium tickets and up to $3 on Rangers stadium parking. But the revenue would count toward the Rangers’ share of the debt rather than the city’s.
Using as a template AT&T Stadium — which has the same parking and ticket taxes — Shipp estimated this could raise about $300 million for the Rangers’ portion of the debt. When adding that chunk to the city’s $500 million share of the debt — where the report said it belongs — he estimated Arlington taxpayers would be hit with $800 million in debt or about 80 percent of the stadium cost.
But city officials pointed out this fails to take into account interest.
That $300 million Shipp calculated would actually pay off $120 million in debt, not $300 million. He said this city’s deal isn’t even close to 50-50. But math says it isn’t close to 80-20.
Arlington taxpayers’ debt load
The report also misses by continually referring to Arlington taxpayers and their share of the debt burden.
The parking and ticket taxes would be paid by those who go to the game. Some are Arlington residents. Some live outside the area. Also, roughly half the city’s sales tax money comes from nonresidents. While that $500 million debt is on the city’s ledger, about half will be paid by outsiders.
Precise numbers weren’t immediately available. But it’s possible that Arlington residents will pay for about 30 percent of the stadium, even when factoring in the parking and ticket taxes.
The numbers can tell varied and contradictory stories.
Reason for the taxes
The Rangers could have generated the same amount of money by raising ticket prices and parking fees by an equivalent amount. But doing it this way allows them to get a lower interest rate, since the bonds are backed by a dedicated revenue source.
The city considers this part of the team’s debt since the Rangers on the hook for the debt, not the taxpayers. If the revenue falls short, the city would charge the Rangers additional rent to make up for the shortfall.
That actually happened early on at the Cowboys’ new stadium. The parking and ticket taxes didn’t initially generate enough revenue so the Cowboys paid extra rent to meet the bond’s obligations. Those taxes are paying for nearly $148 million worth of bond debt for that football stadium.
There are many, though, who think this is sneaky math on the part of the city and the Rangers. They argue that these are taxes that are being handed over to a private business.
Same story, different team
The same complaints were lobbed against the Cowboys stadium project about a decade ago. The opposition to the use of those taxes was covered extensively back then by The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as by Shipp.
Here’s an excerpt from a 2004 Dallas Morning News story I wrote shortly before early voting started for the Cowboys’ new stadium:
Q: Is this a 50-50 deal between Arlington and the Cowboys?
A: To borrow from past presidential politics, it depends on how you define the question. The city would pay $325 million or half of the cost, whichever is less. Supporters say that means that if there are cost overruns, the city is protected. Opponents have criticized that assertion, saying that the Cowboys will have part of their debt funded by an additional tax on tickets and parking. Also, they explained that the Cowboys would get almost all the revenue from the stadium.
Was the city trying to hide these taxes?
Shipp also popped on the Dennis and Friedo show at KESN-FM (103.3) Wednesday to discuss the stadium deal and said he knew when the Rangers stadium was announced that there would be a similar tax provision.
“Guess what? I found it,” he told the hosts. “Hell, it’s on Page 2. They didn’t even try to hide it. It’s just nobody decided to read it. But I read it, and I did the math. And the math means essentially that the citizens of Arlington will being paying for 80 percent — at least 80 percent — of that stadium, if it gets built.”

Arlington officials said the use of the parking and ticket taxes for the Rangers’ portion of the stadium debt wasn’t a secret. It wasn’t mentioned in press releases, but the information was widely available to the media and public.
Those taxes were featured in a pair of PowerPoint presentations Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton gave to the City Council last month, when the deal was approved.
The taxes also were mentioned in the stadium deal frequently asked questions on the city’s new Rangers stadium web page.
In addition to other sources of funding, the Texas Rangers plan to utilize user fees to support construction of the new ballpark. These user fees could include a tax on admission tickets, a parking tax, and revenue from the sale of individual ‘Stadium Builder Licenses’ that enable the license holder to buy tickets for certain seats in the new ballpark. The City would issue these bonds, which are backed solely by ticket and parking taxes and not by any other source of tax revenue.
City officials initially ignored Shipp’s report but assembled this public statement after questions from The News.
“The city has endeavored to be as transparent as possible by providing all documents on a public website and making public announcements and presentations about the deal well in advance of a City Council vote to call an election,” Marketing Communications Manager Jay Warren said in a written statement. “Additionally, this was announced six months prior to a possible election, giving the public ample time to make an informed decision.
The statements from the city were measured. A press release issued Thursday afternoon from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce was a little less so, describing the story as “grossly inaccurate.”
“There has been a steady stream of biased coverage about the new Rangers ballpark from Dallas media,” wrote Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber. “I am sure they have their motives, and it is possible that they are not in the best interests of Arlington. But the good news is outside forces will not make this decision. We are fortunate that Arlington’s future rests in the hands of our citizens on November 8th who will vote yes to keep our beloved Rangers in Arlington.”

In a way, they can agree on that.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mayor Richard Greene's Article

All kinds of myths and imaginary scenarios have appeared in the news, commentary and social media since the announcement of a new Texas Rangers ballpark. One of the most misleading areas of discussion unfolded in the wake of the latest plans to ensure that the Rangers remain right where they belong — in Arlington.  It’s the irrational conjecture by some that Dallas isn’t really trying to lure the team, and they cannot afford the cost of building a downtown stadium.  To realize how nonsensical that is we need only to be reminded that efforts to steal the Rangers began 27 years ago when the team’s ownership changed hands.
Newspapers repeatedly declared the team would be moving to Dallas, that plans were already drawn up, and multiple downtown locations were available.  Facing that serious threat, Arlington voters saw to it that the Rangers’ future would unfold in a new ballpark that opened in 1994.
About two years ago, knowing the current lease on the Arlington ballpark was coming to maturity, Dallas dusted off its old plans and resumed its determination to steal the team.  Current team owners didn’t ask Dallas to do that. They never needed to because Dallas leaders were aggressive in their efforts to entice the team.
Arlington officials learned of the renewed initiatives from Dallas City Council members who couldn’t manage to conceal their enthusiasm.  The forces at work included the current mayor, who had declared, upon his election, that relocating the Rangers was a major goal.  He had the support of Downtown Dallas Inc., its CEO who has acknowledged the organization’s role, and its nearly 100 board members with vital interests in the future of the central business district.
Among those leaders are the city’s bankers, investment managers, utility company executives, real estate moguls, lawyers, accountants, news media chiefs, architects, landowners, tourism officials, oil barons, hotel owners and managers, retailers, transit officials, construction company owners and politicians.  The president of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, a former Rangers officer, is among them, thereby opening up an entire support system beyond downtown.  Obviously, they have a huge jackpot to win by bringing the Rangers and their 3 million fans to town and driving incalculable monetary benefits to them all.
What about the question of how Dallas would fund a new billion-dollar retractable domed stadium?  First, the Rangers would likely pay for half the cost — just as they have agreed to do in the Arlington proposal.  Entirely believable reports say the city of Dallas, not needing voter approval, would arrange financing for maybe half the remaining cost.   With an annual city budget exceeding $3 billion, payment on that much new debt is entirely doable.  That leaves the remaining money coming from the downtown interests named above.
Take a look at who these people are. Imagine the magnitude of their immense personal and corporate wealth.  Then consider what hosting a major-league baseball team will mean to them in terms of financial gain. When you do, the realization of how and why they would come up with that investment would be obvious.  Don’t be surprised if any of those identified above now equivocate about their plans or deny the structure of the deal being worked out.  When so many are involved in such a scheme, it’s hard to keep it under wraps.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Well today the cat got let out of the bag.  No more secrecy.  The Rangers will be staying in Arlington for the next 37 years!  Right?  Not so fast.  The Rangers will be staying in Arlington if the voters approve the continuation of the 1/2 cent sales tax after AT&T Stadium is paid off.  The purpose of the sales tax continuation is to buy ½ of a new retractable roof stadium for the Rangers to play in for those 37 years.

Why the urgency since the Rangers have a contract to play here for the next 8 yrs?  The Rangers were being pursued by our friends from the east.  Dialogue from a billionaire was started and overtures were made that perked the ears of certain people in local government.  Although we had been talking to the Rangers for a few years,  this accelerated the process.   We had formulated a partnership with the Rangers,  and the Cordish Group for Texas Live, and a new 300 room hotel.  The new ballpark will be an extension that will perpetuate the synergy at the stadiums for decades to come.  However more additions to the Texas Live project might be added in the future.

What would happen to the old ball park?  The City and the Rangers are in discussions concerning the future of Globe Life Park.  Some signature elements could be preserved like the fa├žade, and the Center Field Office spaces.  Some Retail could remain and or be added.  But most likely an office development, some parking features and/or possibly the extension of Texas Live will be Globe Life’s future.

What is the timeframe for the building of a new Stadium?  With the Rangers providing the initial funding as early as 2017, the hope is that construction will start in that year, with play starting in 2021.

Why not just put a roof on the existing ball park?  In order to roof the existing stadium it would cost around $900 million, and I’m certain that it would look terrible like the Mariners Stadium in Seattle.  Essentially it looks like a huge erector set sitting off to the south of the field, hideous!  This new domed/retractable stadium will serve the Rangers fans for decades to come in air-conditioned comfort or when the weather is nice the roof will be opened.

Before I close I wanted to add that the $500 million expenditure for the stadium will return $2.53 billion to the community over the course of paying off the bonds.  Anytime I can spend a buck and get five in return it’s probably a good thing.  I like 500% on my money even if it takes 30 yrs.

Remember that the future of the Rangers is in the hands of the people.  A “YES“ vote will keep the Rangers in Arlington, where as a “NO” vote will send them to Dallas.