Friday, August 30, 2013

State of the District

I have been remiss in not posting on this subject earlier.  My efforts were channeled in having a successful Town Hall Meeting and I haven't gotten to this subject until now.  I had an opportunity to attend the "State of the District" luncheon held about a week ago.  This is an annual luncheon sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, for the purpose of announcing results of AISD student performance, and solutions to existing challenges.  The AISD Superintendent, Dr. Marcelo Cavazos conducted the body of the presentation.

This was the first year of the new state standard, and the AISD as a district performed admirably.  As you may know, it is very important for potential residents in our area to know that a quality education can be attained in our public schools.  After the testing of the 2010 school year, my district had three of the five "Academically Unacceptable" schools within its boundaries.  The AISD has made strategic changes to meet these challenges and they have paid off.  All three schools were brought up to "Meets Standards'.  Two of the three schools have done so with "Distinction".  Results:

Lamar High                         Met Standards with Distinction               Principal Dr. Larry Harmon

Shackleford Jr. High            Met Standards with Distinction (3)          Principal Andy Hagman

Roquemore Elementary        Met Standards                                     Principal Yvonne DuPont

It is important to note the the following:

3 of 6 high schools, 12 of 12 junior high and 24 of 50 elementary schools received at least one distinction.  Shackelford Junior High has received "Distinction" in all three categories.  Ellis and Speer elementary were the only schools in District 1 that did not "Meet Standards".

I want to personally thank Dr. Cavazos, the AISD Board, the Principals and all of the hard working faculties for the successes that they have achieved.  The education of our children is the most fundamental investment that we can make in our future.  The dedication of our AISD educators are already paying dividends.  Well Done!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


The town hall meeting was a huge success.  We had 500 people in attendance and all seemed very interested and supportive of this project.  My purpose in calling this meeting was to lay all the cards on the table so that you now know what I know.  You know where we are with Fannie Mae.  That there is one piece of the puzzle that isn't under contract, and why.  We tried to answer all the hard and commonly asked questions.  This town hall meeting on the Lamar Project was our effort to be transparent and open concerning every aspect of this issue.  You responded admirably!

As a result of the meeting, I have not heard one negative comment.  I have been asked several questions that are difficult and I will try to answer a few here.

1. You supported the Lamar project and voted against the Abrams Lofts.  The density is the same, how can you do that?  A.  If you do the simple math you will see that the number of door knobs are the same but the number of people are twice as much on Abrams as Lamar.  692 students divided by 4.25 acres is 165 per acre.  Lamar is 78 people per acre.  The number of door knobs is 53 per acre for both.  The two student housing projects on the south side of Abrams are 67 and 116 people per acre, that's enough.

2.  Why would I want to rent and pay $1,200 to live next to the hood?  A.  This single project will infuse $178 million into that area.  You are looking at this project as it looks today.  The interest that this project will attract is already starting to show and we haven't gotten everyone under contract yet.  Senior living people have showed interest.  The TXDOT properties are back in play.  Today's hood isn't going to be tomorrow's hood.  Have some vision.  Also changing neighborhoods doesn't happen over night, be patient.  If you have better ideas or solutions, I will be glad to entertain them.  If you have more money I will be glad to put it to work in this area. 

3.  Apartments don't commit crimes people commit crimes and you will simply relocate people to other apartments and the problem will simply be relocated.  This doesn't solve anything.  A.  When I took office gun shots were commonly heard each night.  With police and code cooperation we have moved gangs out and relocated them elsewhere.  The President's corner area is safer today due to that effort.  Yes they relocated and I'm certain that they are still out there, but those efforts have improved this neighborhood.  There are 45,000 multi family door knobs in Arlington.  Mr. Kembel talked about his relocation plans.  He is an earnest and sincere man with Arlington's best interest at heart.  He will soon move here and his family will become Arlington citizens.  He has skin in the game.  I referred to a study done by Dr. Bowman concerning calls to service verses apartment condition/economic level of residents.  I showed two different apartments complexes and the difference in calls to service and why.  We showed you how we plan to maintain the apartments over time.  I told you that I would take you to single family neighborhoods that are unsafe due totally to the above factors and not density.  The hypothesis that density produces crime is inaccurate and you will have to come to terms with that.  The world is a complicated place.  I don't plan on fixing it, just making it a better place to live.

4.What are the infrastructure costs?  Where is that money coming from?  A.  Demo is 2.5 and sewer and drainage is 750K.  These monies will come from our economic development department/capitol budget.  The 5.2 for the park renewal and linear median park will come from Parks and Recreation budgets.

I would like to go on record and thank my co-host Jimmy Bennett, and the panel of Trey Yelverton, Bob Kembel, Bruce Payne and Bowie Hogg.  Their knowledge and honesty was displayed for everyone to see.  Simply put, we are men that are trying to make Arlington a better place to live.  It was a great town hall and it couldn't have succeeded without the support of the citizens of Arlington.  Thank you!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Town Hall Meeting

Just a reminder that next Monday on the 26th there will be a Town Hall Meeting at the Convention Center, rooms 5-8.  The event will start at 7:00 pm and last till 9:00.  The subject will be the apartment project on Lamar from Lincoln to Rolling Hills Country Club.  Jimmy Bennett and I will be co-hosting the event.

Schedule of Events

Introductions--Charlie Parker

Efforts by the City of Arlington--Jimmy Bennett

Rehab vs. Redevelopment--Charlie Parker

History of the Project--Trey Yelverton

Project Overview--Bob Kembel

380 Agreement--Bruce Payne

Roquemore Elementary--Bowie Hogg


This is a very important meeting that will give answers to questions and dispel rumors surrounding this  project and it's importance to our community.  Please take the time out from your schedules at home and attend this meeting.   I think that you will be well informed for your efforts.


Yesterday morning I rode the Metropolitan Arlington Xpress or MAX to Centerport station's TRE stop.  The bus was clean, air conditioned and gave a smooth ride.  It was a very pleasant experience to leave the driving to someone else and talk to my neighbor Stephen Zimmer.  The ride took about 20 minutes.  A ticket to ride for the entire day is $5.00.  This will also give you transfer authority to be able to ride the "T" in Ft. Worth or DART in Dallas.  If you are a student the price is cut in half to $2.50.  For the first month you can also register with the city down at City Hall and ride for free.  This contract is for two years and will allow you to visit the Bush Library or State Fair without the hassle of parking and traffic while you read a book.

Essentially this service does a few things.  1.  Arlington is no longer the largest city in America without mass transit.  2.  It closes the hole in the donut concerning Arlington and mobility aspects that surround our city.  3.  It give us a good look at what the ridership might be for a light rail system from UTA through the entertainment district to Centerport and possibly beyond to DFW.  I think that this is a very important step in our City's evolution.  You can thank Kathryn Wilemon for her efforts in bringing the MAX to Arlington.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Arlington Tomorrow Fund

On Wednesday of this week the Council met to discuss what should be done with the Arlington Tomorrow Fund revenues.  As you may know, the fund is comprised of original signing bonus' and gas well royalties.  The fund has been in existence for the last 5 years and is currently valued at 98 million dollars. 

Now the state of Texas has a Rainy Day Fund.  That fund will be capped at 30% of the state general operating budget.  The state general budget is so big that it will never get to that point.  So you will see the Governor make suggestions to the legislature for one time appropriations, like he did this year for water and transportation.  Using that as a yardstick, our general operating budget is just north of 200 million a year.  Therefore we could cap the ATF at 60 million.  I believe that almost all of the members of the Council are in agreement that the fund should be capped at 100 million dollars, with an increase annually to account for inflation.  We want to make sure that we maintain the same buying power twenty years down the road as we have today.

So this creates a dilemma.  The deposits are averaging 15 million a year into the fund.  The interest on the corpus (body of the fund) is 5% or 5 million a year.  So this creates a 20 million dollar a year opportunity for the city to invest in city infra structure.  Using 2 million dollars to scrape the La Jolla apartments could be a possibility.  Building a senior recreation center, putting in more sidewalks, or supplementing funding for a new library.  But who will make these decisions?  I know that I wouldn't want that responsibility without consensus of the entire Council.

So there is a question before the Council of how do we want to shape this decision making process.  It is important to have citizen input in this process.  Therefore, the current composition is very desirable, with two citizens and three Council members.  The oversight of the expenditure of public funds requires a majority of elected officials to be present.  Individuals cannot spend tax monies without going through a Congressional approval process at the federal level.  Another option would be to use the current composition as an advisory board, with final approval resting with the entire council.  So these are the questions that we have to ask ourselves, and hopefully we will come out the other end with a solution that speaks to a better Arlington and not just a few.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

First Year

I was sworn into office on 3 August of last year.  I have had the pleasure to serve our community and there have been some huge mistakes and some victories along the way.  I might add that the meager amount of monies that I have earned has been donated to help our wounded veterans in appreciation for their tremendous sacrifice to uphold our freedoms.  So let's take a look and see if I'm worth my salt.  I will not take credit for many of these efforts.  I will simply say that I have made some great friendships and alliances along the way:

1.  First of all I wanted to have a central form of communication to disseminate information in and around North Arlington.  This website was put into existence about 10 months ago.  Since that time you have viewed its contents over 15,000 times, and I have posted 78 items.  I would call that a remarkable success.  I am always surprised that someone would want to actually read what I have written.  Thank you for staying informed.

2.  Two wonderful ladies have helped me establish a program called "Friends of Rocquemore".  Essentially it is a program that elevates education in the family structure to kids that live in and around the apartments in the Lamar/Collins Overlay.  Participating complexes would reduce the family rent a small amount if a good report card was presented to the management.  There were also corporate donations.  Best Buy, Walmart Neighborhood Stores, Lincoln Square, and Rodriguez & Associates all contributed to make the end of the year awards ceremony the best ever.

3.  I had the pleasure to partner with the Police and Code Compliance to address the biggest threat to our neighborhoods, the Forest Hills Apartments.  The material and living conditions were horrible.  Code did a great job of making sure that the owner of this complex maintained city standards.  This also transformed into a new code standard ordinance for all multi-family structures throughout the city.  I was fortunate to participate in this process since I was on the Municipal Policy Committee.  Police increased patrols in the area and established a bike patrol.  This increased exposure resulting in two gangs moving out of the Forest Hills complex.  NO MORE GUN SHOTS AT NIGHT.  The owner finally sold.

4.  I feel blessed that, when I ran for office my priorities were aligned with that of City Staff.  I wanted to improve our neighborhoods and Staff's efforts were also aimed in the Collins/Lamar Overlay area.  A cooperative alliance was already formed and I simply fell in step with their efforts.  Bob Kembel the visionary responsible for Viridian consented to come up the hill and help us with our ageing apartment problem.  He has consented to 160 million dollars of investment in the Overlay.  This is truly remarkable since there has been no interest for the last eight years!  Last night the Council consented to enter into a performance driven agreement to start the project.  The demo of the apartments will begin in December.

5.  I have spent the last week in meetings with the principals of Windsor Senior Living  facility, located on I635 in north Dallas.  They have five properties, four in Texas and one in Vail Colorado.  They want to construct a new facility with over 150 beds.  Their care ranges from independent living to constant care.  Their facility in Dallas is eleven stories and is a beautiful opportunity to downsize, or get care for immobility, dementia, Alzheimer's, or pre-hospice.  I hope to bring their talents and investment to our city.

6.  I have a PID (Public Improvement District) in progress also.  Essentially I have approached the citizens in the Park Place development (Monopoly Streets) to consolidate their efforts to surround their neighborhood with a masonry wall.  This effort is ongoing and will replace the wooden fence, and increase their property values.  It is an exercise in coming together as a community and consolidating your resources and efforts as a neighborhood.

7.  The control tower at Arlington Municipal Airport was put on the termination list due to sequestration.  I had the pleasure to lobby for its survival by visiting Senator Cornyn, Representative Barton, and I met with staff from Senator Cruz and Representatives Williams and Veasey.  After our visit Arlington Airport was the only airport to be fully funded for the next two years.  When you tell someone that you have 33,000 hrs. of flight time, it puts some validity into the conversation.

8.  We had a problem with a short term rental in one neighborhood.  That issue was exposed to the Council level where the neighbors could confront their problem first hand.  The Staff is currently monitoring other addresses that are advertised as "Short Term Rentals" and we will see if the problem necessitates an ordinance.

9.  Signs were installed on Center Street warning drivers to be cautious in and around the Summit school area.  Drop-off and pick-up times created congestion and became a problematic safety hazard.  The installation of these signs were the best option available in solving this problem.

10.  A crosswalk was requested and established at Lamar High School in an effort to safely allow students to get to their cars in the parking lot north of Lamar.

These are just some of the items that we have addressed in the north.  Some haven't been successful, like the Walgreens effort.  We addressed the issue with their corporate representative, but we received no cooperation on the matter.  Police have been tremendous in being available and vigilant concerning this issue, but a willingness to solve this problem by Walgreens is essential to be successful.  Out of this failed effort a success was created when the Arlington Police Department established the "REC".  The REC is a faith based effort to allow students a place to go on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.  Tutors, basketball and other activities are available to the students, until their parents can come and pick them up.  This program has received county wide media attention and is a feather in the APD cap.

I have had the pleasure to meet some truly incredible people this past year.  I have partnered with some to try to make our neighborhoods a better place to live.  I want to thank each and every one for their contribution to our community.  And I want to thank you, the voter, for allowing me to meet these remarkable individuals.  I have hosted two town hall meetings in the past year and I have another on the Lamar/Collins Overlay Apartment Project on 26 August at the Convention Center starting at 7:00.  This will start off year two.  Let's see where this takes us.     

Council Meeting August 6th

Yesterday had some interesting things to consider.  In the afternoon session we were confronted with a very large problem looming on the horizon.  Fire Chief Don Crowson is responsible for the communication aspect of our first responders, both Fire and Police.  Our radio system is thirty years old and it is not only hard to get parts but also our neighbors all around us are changing systems from analog to digital.  The Ft. Worth system is our backup system, and it will cease to exist in December of 2014, because they have gone digital.  So if our main system goes down after December of next year we are down to cell phones.  Therefore, we need to join the rest of the neighboring communities in purchasing a new digital communications system.  The price tag is 14.8 million dollars, however with the use of some grant monies the price tag due the city is 10.8 million.  There is no doubt that we need the new system but we need to find the money, because it is a huge expenditure that currently isn't in the budget.  The most popular solution for this problem is a lease to own program by Motorola.  We would pay 1.5 million for 10 years and at the end we would own the system.  I think that this is going to be the solution to the problem.  It will take 16 months to install the system and get it up and running.

Last night also had some drama.  A car wash has been proposed for the corner of Green Oaks and Ball Park Way.  It has been postponed at the P&Z level four times and was finally defeated by them about two months ago.  The developers petitioned for a hearing to present to the City Council and make a determination on their development plan.  They made a very strong case, and an impressive push to become successful.  I personally had reservations concerning the compatibility of the project, and the concerns of the majority of the citizens in and around this neighborhood.  I did not know how the vote was going to come out, but I knew that either way the city would either get a good car wash or something better in the future.  The vote was very close, 5-4 against.  I was proud of the Council in that we validated the concerns of P&Z and upheld the concerns of the majority of the citizens in the surrounding area.