Tuesday, September 23, 2014

IAFF National Memorial Service

I was very fortunate to be invited to the International Association of Firefighters National Memorial Service, this weekend in Colorado Springs.  Each year the Firefighters assemble there to intern and pay tribute to those who have given their lives in the service of others.  This year 169 Fire Fighters had their name placed on the granite wall.  Thousands of Firefighters from all over our country and Canada were in attendance to pay their respects.  Unfortunately Arlington has four names that were already on the wall, obviously we would like to keep it at then number for a long time.
Also in attendance were over 280 bagpipers and drummers that gave the ceremony a traditional Scottish flair.  Their artistic abilities were remarkable.  In the older days Police Officers were normally Irish, while Firefighters were Scottish.  So the musical groups were heavy on Kilts’, bagpipes and tradition.  The ceremony lasted two and a half hours, and I felt very privileged and honored to have been invited to this event.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend I strongly suggest it.  The Arlington Firefighters are consummate professionals, and represented our city well. 

Please watch this video, 19 of the 20 Hot Shots names were put on the wall because of the Prescott fire: http://gazette.com/multimedia/video/3797283812001

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.