Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Civil Service Is Coming


Yesterday at the afternoon Council meeting we dealt with the unknowns of Civil Service in consideration of the FY18 budget.  It is budget time and we have to deal with this creature before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st.  The first thing that was accomplished was the termination of meet and confer.  A letter will be sent today advising the APFF that meet and confer, the vehicle used by Arlington Unions to negotiate with City management, has been terminated for the Firefighters Union.  The reason is that Meet and Confer is not required in Part 143 of the Local Government Code, therefore it is not a requirement of the City to provide it.  Meet and Confer will be continued with the police union.

It has always been the position of Council, that if Civil Service was approved by the voters, the increase in cost would come from the Fire Department Budget.  The City has allotted a budget of $49 million for FY18, for the Fire Department.  Contained in that budget is the purchase of two fire engines costing $1 million.  We have allowed the first engine to be purchased and held the purchase of the other until later in the year to see if there are any unexpected expenditures connected with Civil Service.  The City Manager has identified a cost for the implementation of Civil Service for the first year to be $807,000.  As stated this additional cost will come from the Fire Department’s budget, namely the pockets of the firefighters themselves.  A listing of benefits that have been removed are as follows:

  • Meet and Confer
    1.  Withdraw & Remove Previous Concessions
  • Vacation
    1.  Start with 180 balance on October 30, 2017
  • Sick Leave
    1.  Amend policy affecting covered Fire Fighters to align with 143.
  • Cost of Civil Service ($807,000)
    1.  EMT-1 ($396,000)
    2.  Holiday Pay ($160,000)
    3.  Education Incentive 30/60/90 ($59,700)
    4.  Sick Leave Sell Back ($87,500)
    5.  FLSA ($90,000)  *still under consideration*
    6.  Swing Pay ($12,500)

Since FSLA overtime would unfairly affect other employees, it remained untouched leaving an additional $90,000 to be cut elsewhere.  I also stated that I didn’t want our military reservists to be touched by the advent of Civil Service.  A lie was sent to our citizens from the Union stating that military reservists were having to use vacation to serve their country each year.  The truth is that reservists are allocated 150 hrs. in Part 143.  The City currently allocates 180 hrs. each year, and I wanted to insure that the higher of the two was maintained instead of the lower Part 143 requirement.  Those serving our country should not have to bear the brunt of Unionism.

Lastly, we told the firefighters that benefits would be cut, and that they would not be able to enjoy the benefits that were given to them at the City level when seeking protection at the State level.  This is the truth of that statement.  The only individual that stated, ”your benefits won’t be touched,” was the Union President.  Now that same Union President has already threatened to sue us over two items.  The first is the advent of the Deputy Chiefs becoming salaried employees and the second is the Apparatus Operator list.  Bring it!  Litigation is very expensive and we knew that the Union would try to sue the City at every opportunity.  That is why we have held the $807,000 from benefits and the $500,000 for the fire truck in abeyance.  The fire union has asked the citizens for civil service and the citizens have given it to them.  It is now time for the Council to implement the wishes of the voters.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

There Is A Need - Please Help


I want to tell you about a special need that our community currently has, and I hope that you can find it in your heart to help. Scout Troop 517 has been operating in Arlington for the last 25 years. They are a special needs troop and contains challenged scouts of all ages both male and female. On or around 29 June their trailer was stolen containing approximately $10,000 of special need equipment that made camping out possible for these scouts. https://www.dallasnewscom/news/arlington/2017/06/27/special-needs-scouts-stuck-homeafter-trailer-stolen-arlington-church.
.   Now the reason that this incident has affected me so is that most of these scouts are friends of the YMCA. Each year, for the last 5 years, I have sent these friends to a Rangers game so that they could enjoy baseball. Someone has stolen their camp trailer that was stored at the First United Methodist Church, with all of the necessary gear that allowed them to go on campouts. Luckily the residents of the City of Arlington have taken issue with this injustice and several have offered to help, in essence making lemonade out of lemons. I was approached today by Mr. Brad Thompson, who has started a website to raise money to replace the stolen equipment. He felt that he simply had to do something to assist those in need who required a helping hand. So he started a fund at: www.gofundme.com/troop517 . I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to help these special scouts to go to this website and make a donation. Brad currently has $8,600 and is looking to raise the full $10,000, that will allow these scouts to continue to enjoy the pleasures of the great outdoors and permit them the opportunity to appreciate nature. I hope that you can find it in your heart to help out.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Drury Plaza Hotel



This is the Drury Plaza, that was voted on and passed unanimously at the 27 July Council Meeting.  As you can see it is situated on the Northwest corner of Road to Six Flags and Center St. across from Calloway's Nursery.  This is another integral piece of the North Arlington puzzle that will greatly benefit our community.  First let me explain the project and then I will explain why the benefit.


The hotel is a 9 story structure with 268 rooms.  There will be an additional building to the west and then a restaurant located on Road to Six Flags and an art sculpture on the corner.  As a pilot stationed in St. Louis for 18 years, I was a professional hotel dweller.  St. Louis is the corporate home of the Drury family and I was very skeptical of this product, for the last year.  I was a NO vote on this project.  But I got on an airplane and went to St. Louis unannounced, and simply walked into the Drury Plaza in Chesterfield.  This Plaza was 10 years old, and I wanted to see what it looked like after 10 years of operation.  I was thoroughly impressed with every appointment and aspect of this hotel.  The lobby, rooms, personnel, and facilities were all extremely nice.  The quality was on the same par, if not better, than the Hilton or Sheraton currently in Arlington.


The model of Drury is not to have a restaurant inside the hotel.  This was problematic for me, I like food.  But they put independent restaurants on the premises, that are also known for high quality.  This Plaza had a streak house, located next to it.  There is however, food in the hotel.  A breakfast is complimentary.  Ours will be complete with an omelet station.  In the evening they offer another buffet known as a kick back.  They will have nachos, hot dogs and taco stations for example and open the bar for complimentary beer, wine and mixed drinks. (three per tenant)  This is all included in the price of the room.  For those patrons that want a full meal, a restaurant will be located on the premises


The Drury team will also build an additional building to the west for retail and office use.  It will be located next to LA Fitness and compliment the Plaza aspect of the structure.  The Drury family will also install an object of Art, as depicted in the picture, located on the corner for all to appreciate.  This art object will be approved by the city staff.


Now the benefit of this project to the community is obvious.  The Calloway's property just got very expensive.  Coy Garrett owns most of the property on the south side of Road to Six Flags and down Center street.  This is perfect for development, or to flip to someone else, for development.  The boarded up houses on the Southeast corner, now become highly desirable.  I look for them to go away, and new development to start.  Construction on this hotel will start by the end of the year.  The Drury Family has been great to work with and they really want to be in North Arlington.  I believe that the Drury Plaza hotel will be a tremendous asset to the community.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Seaman First Class George Anderson Coke Jr. Returns Home

The family of a World War II U.S. Navy sailor killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor will finally be able to lay him to rest after officials identified his remains. He was previously buried in a mass grave in Hawaii.

Texas native, Seaman 1st Class George Anderson Coke Jr. was killed in action in the “Day of Infamy,” December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor without warning. The Arlington High School graduate served on the USS Oklahoma. While the great battleship survived the attack, 429 of her crew did not. Seaman Coke died in the attack and Navy officials buried him in a mass grave with his crewmates, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
More than 75 years later, Coke returns to his Arlington, Texas, family after being recently identified.
Doland Maner, 94, is one of the few remaining people who knew Coke personally. Most simply remember his through family tales.
“We weren’t buddies,” Maner told the Fort Worth newspaper. “But he was an all-American boy. He was into a lot of devilment, but if you didn’t like George Anderson, you didn’t like anybody.”
One of his family members, 73-year-old Milton Coke said the young Sailor was a celebrated boxer at Arlington High School. The family still has his medals earned in the ring.
“George was an athlete his whole life,” Coke told the reporter. “The family lore is that they had a Pacific Fleet boxing championship and George won his in his weight class — 156 pounds.”
Cole joined the Navy less than a year before the now-famous attack on Pearl Harbor. The early morning attack came just days after his 19th birthday. A Japanese torpedo ripped a hole in the Oklahoma. The ship’s wound caused her to capsize and resulted in the deaths of 429 Sailors.
The family first learned that Cole might be returning home eight years ago when Navy personnel called and requested a DNA sample. In 2015, the Department of Defense released the news they were working on identifying the remains of those who died on the Oklahoma.
Finally, in December, the Navy announced they had identified Cole’s remains.
The family debated about returning him to Texas for burial or having him buried “where he fell” alongside his crewmates in a new marked grave.
“Military tradition is very strong that you have to be buried where you fell, but I made the decision to bring him back,” Coke’s cousin, Milton Coke of George told the local newspaper. Milton Coke is designated as the closest living relative. “He was my father’s little brother.”
PBS reported on the project to identify the remains of USS Oklahoma Sailors.
Seaman 1st Class George Anderson Cole Jr. will be laid to rest alongside his father, George A. “Dutch” Coke Sr., and his mother, Juliana Jane Tomlin Coke. She is believed to be the person who purchased a headstone memorializing her son’s death which has held a spot for him for 76 years. He will be buried with full military honors.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Overtime

Well here it is.  Overtime, just like I told you months ago is what the Fire Union was trying to get back with the entire civil service campaign.  What the Firefighters don't understand, because their union hasn't told them, is that civil service will not get you back one dime of overtime.  Isn't it interesting that now the Fire Union has shifted their rhetoric to manning levels.  That equates to overtime.  They tell certain people to call in sick, which drives down the daily numbers, and then point to the numbers that they manipulate with sick leave.  They do this self imposed drill, and then blame the Fire Chief for not having enough people on the trucks.  What is the most shameful act is that they then send wives of firefighters, that possibly are at work, and tell the City Council how dangerous it is for their husbands to work in the Arlington Fire Department because of guess what?  The manning level that has been altered by the Union telling firefighter to call in sick.  I also get a kick out of the issue of not being home for holidays.  They state that we don't know what it's like.  Really?  I slept on the wing of a fighter on top of the USS Midway Thanksgiving 1977 because the air conditioning was out below decks and it was 130 degrees in my room.  I was gone for only 3 months, and missed Christmas also.  Firefighters are home the next day.  So don't tell me I don't know what it's like.  Military families all over this country are telling firefighter families that they don't know what it is like to have their loved ones away.

Several years ago the Fire Union came to me with a book trying to get support in an effort to fire Chief Crowson.  In that report they stated the same argument.  Manning levels are too low and we need $750,000 more in overtime.  I parted ways with the Fire Union over this book and its subject matter.  That would put the Fire Department at $3,000,000 a year, and for what?  What you get for $3,000,000 is the Fire Department doing what they swore to do when they graduated from the academy.  We had the lowest number of firefighters per capita in the Metroplex, and we were second in overtime.  Ft. Worth was the only city higher.
 
Chief took this issue to task and slashed the overtime budget from 35,000 hrs. to 6,000 hrs.  He took the Battalion Chief position, that gets the bulk of overtime hours, and created a Deputy Chief position which was salaried.  Fire Departments all over the United States are having overtime problems, but Arlington is in compliance.   Here is a link to Austin's issue with over 1,000,000,000 overtime hours billed to the city.
 
Arlington runs a terrific fire department.  There was no need to change it, but the citizens and a lot of the firefighters didn't know what they were changing.  They only knew that the Fire Union wanted it changed.  So now the Council will direct staff to stand up a Civil Service Board, and impose Part 143 of the Local Governance Code upon the Fire Department.  Lots of benefits will be removed and few will be added back.  I had one firefighter tell me, "thanks for the generosity!"  My thought was, I was generous before civil service and you didn't appreciate it.  So now after all the raises and the benefits that you didn't seem to care about, you want me to be generous?  I love our firefighters but not their union.  The union will get exactly what the people have stated they should get, civil service.  
The Union President stated to his faithful that he had talked to all City Councilmen , except me, and that their benefits will all be restored, " don't worry."   There are two huge lies in his statement.  1)  I asked all the other Council members if he had talked to them about benefits.  All shook their heads NO!  2)  If your current benefit is contained in Part 143 it will remain.  All others will be removed. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Civil Service


At the last union meeting David Crow stated, “Don’t worry about your benefits, they will remain untouched.  I have talked to all the Council members except Charlie Parker and they have assured me of this.”  Really!  I knew that Sheri was in England and I know he didn’t talk to her.  As I sat eating dinner at the last Council meeting, I was surrounded by Council members.  I asked, “Did Crow talk to anyone about benefits under Civil Service?”  They all said No.  We have all been called liars by the Fire Union, but we didn’t lie at all.  I listed 10 of the most prominent lies that Crow has told to the Union members, but this is the biggest one of them all.  Maybe now you will understand who was telling you the truth all along. 

The Council, on its agenda of the last meeting, has hired a law firm that is adept in administering Civil Service.  They will be guiding Council in the proper ways to establish Civil Service in Arlington.  I assure you that there is no emotion here, just the business of doing the work required of the city, asked for by the voters of Arlington.  But I have stated several times there will be no cherry picking in the process of establishing Civil Service.  What is stated in the statute of Part 143 is what will prevail, and it will be established because it is the written word and can be backed up accordingly.  The Police department will continue to enjoy the generosity of the City while the Fire department will enjoy the generosity of the State.  It is important that you recognize the truth, and what it looks like, not following a union leader blindly thinking he has integrity.  The truth about Civil Service will arrive on October 30th, enjoy!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wayne Ogle's Article

This past week a citizen in District 1 wrote an article to the Star Telegram concerning how to institute Civil Service for the Firefighters in Arlington.  He recommended two items be accomplished quickly, in an effort for the Mayor and City Staff to put their best foot forward to the firefighters.  Well I was with the Mayor Tuesday evening when he did just that.  At the Mayor’s campaign party several firefighters and their wives came to that party uninvited.  They were all wearing their red vote yes T-shirts and the Mayor approached them to shake their hand and congratulate them for their win on Prop 2.  The firefighter state, “there ain’t no way in hell I will ever shake your hand.”  It was apparent that they were drunk and wanted to fight.  I got on the phone and dialed 911 to dispatch a cruiser.  They left the building promptly.  So much for good will and putting our best foot forward.

Next Mr. Ogle requested that a committee be formulated, comprised of citizens, three picked by the city and three picked by the firefighter’s union, so that starting up civil service would go seamlessly.  He adds, “Obviously, the final decisions regarding Civil Service implementation must be guided by the law itself.”  That would be correct, so why the committee?  The law is explained very clearly in Part 143 of the Texas Local Governance Code.  There is no room for interpretation, so formulating a committee is meaningless.  It would seem that Democrats always want to form a committee to get consensus.  You can see it in the news every day.  “Russians affect our election” so let’s form a committee to investigate.  “President fires Comey”, so let’s form a committee and get a special investigator.  The City of Arlington doesn’t need a committee to implement Civil Service.  It is in black and white. We have a City Manager, a Deputy City Manager with a PHD in Urban Development.  We have a Nationally Recognized Fire Chief in Don Crowson, and they are very capable of establishing Civil Service in Arlington.  We don’t need no stinking committees! 

“What the City did to you guy was absolute B#llsh1t.”  That is what Mr. Ogle told the Firefighters last night at a Union rally.  I disagree with his assessment.  If someone has to tell lies and deceive the public to get their way, then I have no respect for them at all.  The Union’s actions at the polls, calling the Chief’s wife names, the actions of Union members in the firehouse bullying younger firefighters, is reprehensible.  The lies that were told by the Union President and the E-board were disgraceful.  But when you are dealing with a Union there is no shame because there is no contrition. The Union will get Civil Service.  It will not get them more overtime.  It will not remove the Chief.  It will not make them happier.  It will not get them bigger pay checks, on the contrary they will get smaller.  What it will do is provide them with Part 143 Civil Service.  Nothing more and nothing less.