Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Red Light Cameras

Yesterday afternoon at the work session there was a discussion concerning the operation of Red Light Cameras in our city.  The subject was brought up by Robert Rivera.  He continues to take positions that are controversial because he is running for Mayor in the May election, if Mayor Cluck doesn’t run.  All indications are that Mayor Cluck will run again.  So we discussed the liabilities and attributes that Red Light Cameras bring to our city.

All Red Light Cameras installed on or after January 1, 2008 required pre-camera data be captured for the eighteen months prior to installation,.  Of the active red light cameras online, 14 red light cameras were installed after January 1, 2008. The variances between the pre-camera data and 2013 current data is significant.  2013 Red Light related camera crashes, when compared to pre-camera crashes, are down 75% (106 to 27). Subsequently, right-angle crashes are down 58% (50 to 21) and rear-end crashes (56 to 6) are down 89%.  Therefore, data shows the safety of our citizens has been improved by the installation of these cameras.

I have received emails that state that the city has tampered with the duration of the yellow light in an effort to increase the number of violations.  This is not true.  Every yellow light in this city has been set at 3.2 seconds as a constant.   Violators state that tickets are being issued by a company in Cincinnati.  This isn’t true.  Each violation is reviewed by an Arlington Police Officer and he issues the ticket for the violation. Some people are concerned about the revenue that is collected.  The revenue from these cameras goes to the camera company, the State of Texas, and also to the City of Arlington.  The money that goes to the city is used to fund 28 additional officer positions on our police force. 

If we were to get rid of the cameras that are currently in place, and maintain the same level of surveillance, it would cost a million dollars.  That would be calculated by 23 intersections and three daily shifts would equal 69 officers, plus the 28 officers that were previously mentioned wouldn’t be employed, due to lack of revenue.  The City would have to outfit them with cruisers and place them at each intersection.   Then violators would get a ticket for running a red light that would cost them $250 instead of $75.  The difference is that if an officer issues a ticket in the field that is a criminal offense, while the camera issued ticket is a civil offense.

Now I personally don’t like the Red Light Cameras, partly because I have gotten two tickets for rolling right turns.  But I saw the video, and I broke the law.  Therefore, I paid the ticket, as I should.  But when you look at the safety statistics, accidents are down.  The prime directive of Government is to keep their citizens safe, therefore, I have to vote to keep the cameras in place for that reason.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Animal Turn-In Fee

There seems to be some concerns about a pet drop off fee at the Arlington Animal Shelter.  This fee is proposed in the 2015 Budget, and it seems to be the only concern of our citizens about the budget.  Now the reason for the fee is that it takes money to accept a citizen’s pet and care for it until the pet is either reclaimed or euthanized.  There will also be an expenditure, for the purpose of hiring an animal abuse investigator.  This investigator will respond to calls where animals are observed being in abusive environments.

Now there has been some citizens that have stated their collective concerns about individuals simply dumping their pets at schools or open fields etc..  I get your concern and I have weighed your emails against other factors, and I have come to the conclusion that I support the collection of the fee.  The following are my reasons:

1.  When an individual accepts the responsibility of pet ownership, they have made a commitment to that pet and their family to give the animal a good home for its entire life.  This responsibility cannot be taken lightly, and should be made good because of the inability of the animal to care for itself.  Therefore, there should be some penalty when that promise is broken. 

2.  If someone decides to turn in their pet there is a cost to the city.  That cost to the city is one that is passed along to the tax payers as a whole.  Why should I or anyone else be saddled with the financial burden of caring for the pet that you have turned into the city.  Therefore, you should pay for the cost of turning your pet over to the city.  Again, you broke the promise.

3.  Our society is made up of a spectrum of people.  Some are responsible individuals and some are not.  This is true of our society as a whole, and not just Arlington residents.  Therefore, we will always have the type of people that simply release their pets into the city, without regard for their requirements of care.  This is a sad statement but true.  This will happen if there is or is not a fee.

Studies have shown us that the utilization of a fee structure for turning in a pet, in other cities, has not resulted in an increase of stray animals.  I personally am a dog lover.  I have had German Short Hair Pointers my entire adult life.  When the day comes to say good bye to these members of our family they die in my arms, and are still loved to this day.  They are brought home and buried in the same yard they use to play in throughout their life.  It is a sad day, but they are paid the respect that they deserve for their constant love and devotion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Arlington Bucket Challenge

Yesterday afternoon when it was 100 degrees, the Arlington City Council made good on the challenge by the AISD school board members.  You can see that it is much more cerebral to do it in this manner than at night, like they did.  As a matter of fact I was dry before I got to the truck.  You might notice that Michael Glasby doesn't get wet.  He has Mayor duty.  Also Robert Shepard has on girlie colors.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Council Meeting August 19th


Yesterday afternoon was a little interesting.  First, because a child was hit at the corner of Brown and Collins a school crossing was proposed and passed on the first reading.  My concern about this crossing is that traffic would be limited to 35 mph north of Brown on Collins all the time, even when the school zone is not in affect.  This concerned me because Collins/Brown is a major thoroughfare in our city, and I didn’t want to see further congestion in Arlington.  Normally changing this wouldn’t be a big deal, but since FM 157 is a state road, then we have to comply with state regulations.  I coupled our efforts with the traffic staff and we were able to remedy this situation, while complying with state regulation, without much change.

The second item of interest is that I put the subject of a senior recreation center on the floor as a future agenda item.  What I am trying to accomplish is to put this subject to the voters on the May 2015 ballot.  Funding for this center would be a 1/8th or 1/4 cent sales tax increase.  This would allow the center to be paid off in 3 yrs. or 1 ½ yrs. respectively.  The Citizen’s Bond Committee had little interest in this subject because it was not on the Parks Master Plan and of course who presents to that committee, Parks and Recreation.  So I will try to get this subject on the ballot for the people to decide if they want a facility like the Summit in Grand Prairie.  I want you to know about this subject and get organized and vocal if this addition to our community interests you. 

Last night there was an issue concerning a storage facility in the south 360 area.  Planning and Zoning put certain stipulations on the development and Councilman Shepard added to that list.  The vote was unanimous with the stipulations in place, however it is unclear whether the applicant will want to comply with those requests.

There will be a budget town hall meeting this Thursday night at the South Police Station at 6:00.  I suggest that anyone who is passionate about next year’s budget be there so that our City Manager Trey Yelverton can explain the budget and answer all of your questions.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Defeat

I want to thank all the people that either phoned the office or sent emails to Council Members, either in support of a Senior Center or in support of Hugh Smith.  Yesterday at the afternoon session of the Council Meeting, I had the support of the community to fund a senior recreation center in the west or northwest.  The problem is that between Kathryn Wilemon and me, we simply came up short on horsepower.

Let me just say that in my opinion, the arguments against the senior center were hollow.  The fact that there wasn’t a study done is moot.  The fact that we didn’t know exactly where we wanted to put the center is irrelevant.  We were there to fund projects not build them.  Dr. Cavazos doesn’t know where he will put the natatorium, but he has the funding for it.  That’s how bond issues work. 

The real reason for the defeat of the senior center is that it was not previously on the Parks Master Plan.  You see the Parks Department presented the senior center to the Citizens Bond Committee.  The Parks Department’s job is to fund the projects on the Master Plan and get them off the books and funded.  If someone comes along with a need that is higher than those on the Master Plan, it simply gets paid lip service, and projects on the Master Plan get promoted in the funding process.  That is what happened yesterday.  The fact that $50.2 million in capital funding went to two recreation centers in the east and southeast is of little consequence.  The fact that the utilization of Hugh Smith is abysmal, and that the Parks Department is hoping to return 49% at best in Operations/Maintenance costs was disregarded. The needs of the city and our seniors went neglected, again. 

We elevated the discussion of a senior center to the surface.  Now it is time to put it back on the table in a context that will be supported by the voters.  It will not set next to the bond election on the November ballot.  But we will bring this subject back to Council for the May election and I hope to allow the voters an opportunity to hear your voice again.    

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hugh Smith or Senior Center (2014 Bond Issue)

The time to determine the contents of the 2014 Bond Issue is at hand.  The Citizens Bond Committee has spoken and what they have determined through hours of diligent work is that the Bond Issue will be 193 million dollars.  In that 193 million, 133 will be for roads.  Of the 60 million that is left over, two large capital projects were selected to be accomplished.  1)  25 million for a recreation center in the southeast area of our city.  2)  25.3 million for a 67,000 sq/ft combination East Library and New Hugh Smith Recreation Center, in east Arlington.  This was the original plan for the Bond package until it got to Council.

When it got to Council, Jimmy Bennett proposed an additional year to the issue and the total increased to 242 million for a four year period.  The increase of 49 million will all go to roads, although this was not Jimmy’s plan.  So we still only have the original 60 million for capital projects.  One year ago I proposed a Senior Recreation Center to be constructed in the west or northwest, where majority of our seniors reside.  This center would be like the Summit over in Grand Prairie.  Right now we allow the YMCA’s to accommodate the need for our seniors at $30 per month.  I recognize this need and I’m trying to do something about it, but the Council needs your input.  So contact them.

My plan is to cancel one dead end road project at 5.4 million, cancel the energy efficient street light bulbs at 3.0 million and a parking lot renewal for River Legacy Park for 1.0 million.  If we do not move fire station one we can save another .4 million and take .3 away from the 25.3 for Hugh Smith and that would give us 10.2 million to knock down Hugh Smith and rebuild it to a size commensurate with it’s utilization.  The new library would go away until other funds could be located to add it to the construction project or we could partner with AISD as Dr. Cavazos has urged because they will be constructing a new library a couple of blocks down the road.

Then it would be my intention to take the 25 million and construct a 60,000 sq/ft Recreation Center for Adults that would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per month for membership.  In the first year that the Summit was built, membership was 6,000.  It has been in existence for four years now and the membership has stabilized at 5,500.  It is a remarkably active and vibrant facility, and something that our seniors deserve.  In the last four years Euless, Grand Prairie and Irving have all met the need of their seniors by constructing Senior Centers. North Richland Hills has given the seniors lip service with their Multi-Generational Center.  Possible locations would be either a location central to downtown, Dottie Lynn area or Randol Mill Park.  With this location and the need of our seniors in Arlington, I would estimate memberships around the 8,000 level.  Please contact your City Council and let them know what Your desires are for this Bond Issue.    

Monday, July 21, 2014

Arlington Commons

It has been a little time since my last post for a couple of reasons.  1)  The Council is on vacation and doesn’t meet during the month of July, 2)  I have been on vacation for the last two weeks out of the country.  But as soon as I returned I had to find out what was going on with out apartment project on Lamar and report any progress.

I met with Bob Kembel this afternoon and got a one on one concerning his progress.  The asbestos abatement team showed up today and the long process of dismantling Huntington Chase has begun.  Each piece has to be removed, bagged, have Kembel’s name on it and placed in a special landfill.  This process will require that the demo of Huntington Chase take about 45 days and that is the bad news.  The good news is that the relocation of residents is ahead of schedule.  There is only one apartment that will require eviction in Huntington Chase and they will be gone on 1 August.  The Pointe and Country Wood will have their residents relocated by the end of August.  There is more asbestos in the stucco of the Pointe, so that will take even longer to get to the dozers.  All in all, construction will be moved back 90 days to the end of March.  Progress is slower than anticipated but the relocation process is running ahead of schedule.  Some additional news that I just received is that Mr. Kembel originally planned this project in the $160 to $178 million range and because of the upgrades and increased quality of the materials it is well over $200 million.   I have seen the architect's renderings and the project is extremely nice.  This will be a quality addition and redefine this neighborhood.

The Arlington Commons project is moving ahead and I’m positive that you will be pleased with the result, once Phase I is complete.

On a completely different subject:  The Mayor had a hip replacement this morning and is resting comfortably.  The operation was a remarkable success and we look forward to him getting up and around in the very near future.