Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wages for FY16

During the month of July the Council has been on vacation.  However, I have been here for most of the month doing the city’s business.  As a whole the city runs a little slower during the month of July.  When we start up in August, we get into the budget cycle and that means that the Tuesdays that we didn’t meet in July are all packed into August and we have a meeting on something every Tuesday next month. 

I have been working on a concept that would bring our first responders up to the 70th percentile of the other cities in the Metroplex as far as W2.  Our tax base grew last year by 6%, which means that the pie got bigger.  If you read the article in the Star Telegram a week ago concerning police officers, you would realize why it is important to address W2.  The paper confirmed that 14 of the last 20 police officers hired by Ft. Worth, were Dallas police officers.  It was the W2’s that made the Ft. Worth positions more attractive.   We don’t want that to happen in Arlington.  So it is important to address W2’s and how we rate in the market place.

When a raise is given you simply can’t just give a raise to the first responders only. (Police and Fire)  Our staff is also under paid, and we are losing good people to other cities.  Bridget White, Clayton Husband, Andrea Roy were all key figures in our staff that were lured elsewhere due to better offers.   That is why a raise is required across the board.  Our staff personnel are compensated well  below the market average, and this must be addressed in order to maintain the high caliber of professional services that our community deserves.  These are the reasons that I believe W2 is so important, and should be addressed in the month of August for FY16.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

General Motors

Tuesday was a very important day for the city of Arlington.  It was the day that General Motors announced the largest single investment in the history of our city.  The table was set by the City Council back in April when we established a re-investment zone for GM specifically.  This allowed an 80% reduction of taxes for the next 10 years.  With that incentive in place General Motors pulled the trigger on a $1.4 Billion investment in their plant in Arlington.  We are lucky to be chosen because they decided to close the plant in Shreveport and invest in Arlington.  It could have gone the other way.

This decision is part of GM’s plan to spend $5.3 Billion on needed upgrades to plant facilities throughout the United States in the next five years.  Arlington is the largest single investment for GM.   The Arlington plant has been running three shifts in an effort to meet demand for their quality SUV products.  Arlington produces 75% of all the SUV’s purchased in America.  The plant will increase in size by 1.2 million sq/ft.  To put this into perspective AT&T Stadium is 1.0 million sq/ft.  This investment is four times the size of the Toyota headquarters deal in Allen.  Arlington is a General Motors city and it has been for over sixty years.  We can be very proud of this accomplishment for our city.  This is a perfect example of  your local government working in conjunction with a private enterprise in order to bring jobs and revenue to our city.  Thank you General Motors for having the faith in our community to make the largest investment in our city ever!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

July 10th (Vacation)

Although the Council takes the month of July off each year for a much needed vacation, many of us remain in the City and continue our efforts.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the Rangers Hall of Fame luncheon, inducting Juan Gonzalez, and Jeff Russell.  The luncheon was very entertaining with an interesting cast of Ranger Hall of Fame members.

Then it was over to UTA where the NCAA Champion Movin’ Mav’s played an exhibition game of wheelchair basketball with a bicycle club that was riding across American to elevate awareness of those with disabilities.  Needless to say the Movin’ Mav’s did not let this opportunity pass.  At half time the score was 38-2.  I read a proclamation acknowledging this tremendous effort by these young bicycle riders from all over the United States, and congratulated them on a successful ride to Arlington.  They are scheduled to arrive in Washington D.C. on August 8th.

Then my efforts landed me in front of the City Manager for a discussion concerning the elevation of W-2 wages for our employees throughout the city.  In short our staff and first responders are considered to be below the 50% median of cities throughout the Metroplex.   If the entire compensation package is considered we rest above the 50th percentile in dollars.  My efforts were to level that playing field and put the items in the compensation package into W-2 and let the employee decide where the dollars should go, W-2 or 401K.  The City Manager was very receptive but we will see how the discussion plays out during our budget talks.
My last consideration for the day was putting the finishing touches on a power point presentation to be given to the New World United Methodist Church on Tuesday.  I enjoy this presentation every year because these people not only put on a great lunch, but they are very plugged into the Community.  So I look forward to this event.  However,this year there will be a conflict.  General Motors will be making a big announcement concerning the largest investment ever in our Community.  Although I will miss the announcement I will make the reception later that afternoon.  Does this sound like a vacation to you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Economic Development Corporation

     Why do we want one of these things?  This is what will fund projects like the Senior Center and the Multi-Generational Facility.  Essentially most of the 2014 Bond package went to improving roads in our city.  $166 million of the $234 million went to improving our roads.  That coupled with the 1/4 cent road repair tax that was approved on the same ballot puts over $47 million in Arlington roads each year.  Couple all that construction with the I-30/360 project for the next five years and you have yourself a mess.  But I digress.
     Since the Senior Center nor the Multi-Generational Facility made it on the bond package, and their is truly a need for both, it should be on the ballot for the voters to decide.  So there will be a Proposition on the November ballot to allow a 1/4 cent sales tax increase to fund these facilities.  The money will go into, you guessed it, an Economic Development Corporation, comprised of 3 civilians and because it is tax money it must have elected oversight.  So four members of the Council will also serve on the board.  The civilian members will be Kevin McGlaun, Juan Fernandez and Laura Capik, while the Council members will be, Jeff Williams, Michael Glaspie, Jimmy Bennett and Me.  As the monies come to the Corporation they will be directed to projects that are high priorities but didn't make it on the Bond election.  This path will get you a Senior Center and a Multi-Generational Facility before the next Bond election. 
     So it looks like the issue will be on the ballot in November and it will be up to the voters to decide the fate of the Senior Center.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Council Meeting 6-16

HOORAY!!  The afternoon meeting was extremely important yesterday.  After 7 months of dragging the Senior Center horse out of the barn, I finally got a commitment from Council to go ahead with the establishment of a stand alone Senior Center.  The center will be constructed with the Summit over in Grand Prairie, as an example.  But Arlington should communicate and find out the pitfalls and attributes of their success.    The construction and programming will be dedicated to active seniors of 50 years or older.  The importance of this decision by Council is that it will not be competing with a Multi- Generational facility, for funding or getting lost in the operation of a larger recreation center.  In this operation seniors come first!  I want to thank Alva Roy and her Age Friendly Arlington group that has supported this idea since their formulation in November of 2014.  There is strength in numbers and although our seniors are polite and respectful of the process their diligence and presence was noticed and appreciated by Council.  This is a big win for Arlington.  We currently have 54,000 seniors capable of using this facility in Arlington, and more baby boomers become eligible everyday.  It is about time that we filled this void in our city services.  My hat is off to my colleagues on Council and Parks and Recreation for their tolerance of my actions in pursuit of this project. 

Now comes the task of funding these projects.  It was discussed that since the Senior Center and the Multi-Generational facility are now on the Master Parks Plan, and we will not have another bond election for about five more years, this can be funded by an election to increase sales tax by 1/8th or 1/4 cent.  The tax would amount to 6.9 million or 13.8 million per year respectively.  The money would go into an Economic Development Corporation with a board comprised of citizens to make the proper expenditure decisions.  With a 1/4 cent increase, the Senior Center could be paid off in two years.  The funding avenue decision could be made as soon as next week during the budget meeting.  When the time comes we will call for the item to be put on the November 2015 ballot election.  Then the people can make the final decision.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Council Meeting 2 June

Tonight was an very interesting meeting.  Let’s start with the good stuff.  The Chick-fil-a is going to expand.  They are going to tear down the store on Collins and buy the building to the east of their property and demolish it.  This will allow for an expansion  and increased parking.  Carmenza Moreno will continue to use her parking lot to benefit charitable organizations by using it for event parking on Sundays when Chick –fil-a is closed.  She is investing heavily in north Arlington and it is much appreciated.  We need more business owners like her.

Next was a senior living facility by Grey Star.  This will be a much needed 176 unit complex across the street from the Highlands shopping center.  This is an untapped market and these types of facilities need to be replicated throughout our city.

The third item was a bail bonds issue that was very difficult for me to decide.  The Unified Development Code, UDC, was adopted in June of 2014.  In January 2015 an individual put in for a bail bonds business in an area next to the jail.  The current zoning under the new UDC does not allow this use.  But the certificate of occupancy was issued by the city.  In March the city revoked the CO, bringing attention to the zoning error.  The applicant had spent tens of thousands of dollars and now had to shut down his business.  So he appealed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, P & Z.  The vote to deny was split 4-3.  So he appealed to the Council to hear his case.  The lawyer for the applicant pointed out that the attorney opposing the case was in fact a part owner in a bail bonds business.  I can’t tell you how polluted it made the case for me.  I had decided that I was going to rule in favor of the applicant, but when I heard this it made my decision very easy.  The vote was 8-1 in favor of the applicant.

Lastly, was Kelly Canon and Richard Weber.  Mr. Weber stated that the minutes of previous meetings were illegal because Citizens Comments were not televised nor were the comments published in the minutes.  Kelly Canon stated that she was taking this issue to the State Attorney General because we were conducting illegal meetings in violation of the Open Meetings Act.  Ms. Canon gave us a sheet that stated that a “deliberation” is being conducted and needs to be recorded either by video or in the minutes.  That’s all well and good except that there is no deliberation!  The Council cannot not speak because the subject that the citizen brings before us is not on the agenda, ergo no dialogue and no deliberation.   The purpose of Citizens Comment is to allow access to the entire City Council at one time in an effort to hear any subject that is on the citizen’s mind.  If there is something that can be fixed, we send a staff member to the address to solve the issue.  The problem, according to several Council Members is that certain people were using the city videos to post on You Tube to further their issue, without Council D-E-L-I-B-E-R-A-T-I-O-N.  The definition of deliberation is – a verbal exchange during a meeting between a quorum (a lot of Council Members) of a governmental body and a person.  Well we had the person, and the quorum, but no exchange.  The right to address the Council is covered under the 1st Amendment and I love to hear from the citizens in case we can do something for them.  There is no right to be on TV.  It is a shame that certain folks abused the privilege to further their personal agendas.  They can still post on You Tube but they have to make the recordings themselves.     

Thursday, May 28, 2015

New Mayor

     Last Tuesday evening we had the pleasure of welcoming our new Mayor to Council by having him sworn in during our scheduled Council meeting.  The chamber was standing room only, and there was a sense of excitement in the air.  Justice of the Peace Mary Tom Curnutt performed the oath of office, and a new chapter was started for Arlington, Texas.  I might add that all the incumbent Council members were re-elected and sworn in by the City Secretary.
     As for me, I am looking forward to working with Jeff, and I think that a new energy will add some vitality to Council.  Sometimes we need a different perspective and I hope that Jeff will offer his insights and experiences in the business and engineering areas where he has been successful.
     I think that Jeff and I are very like minded, in that we want to accomplish the same goals for the City.  At a lunch we had last week I outlined my objectives, and he was on board.  I look forward to his support on establishing a state of the art senior center in Arlington.  I am also looking forward to seeing what can be done about establishing senior living facilities in north Arlington where apartments are currently setting.  It is our combined belief that we owe a debt to our seniors, and that there is a void in the services that we currently provide.  So I am excited, and now that we are done with all the ceremony and celebration I'm looking forward to getting back to the job of building a better Arlington.