This week’s city council agenda includes agreeing to pay $864,673 in TIRZ (Downtown Redevelopment Zone Taxes) money to special interest friend Dodson. The Dodson name has already received special treatment for deals on West Abram and East Border.
NOTE: The image used to illustrate this week’s Arlington Spectator is not the by comparison penny ante Dodson deal, but rather a very much bigger and much more costly-to-the-citizen deal where our Council was nice enough to tear down the City’s central library in order to make a developer’s dream come true. – Opinion Arlington
More details of the deal follow in this newsletter.
Local May 7 Elections
Four seats of the Arlington City Council are up for election this coming May. However, only two are contested. They are city-wide, at-large District 7 and single member district of north Arlington, District 1.
Only one of the two AISD board positions is contested. That is Place 4
Followed by the May 24, Primary Runoff
From The Arlington Spectator, Volume 9, Number 12, Monday, March 21, 2016
Richard Weber, Publisher of the Arlington Spectator
Arlington is a city where citizens are relegated to being spectators rather than players. The SPECTATOR helps citizens know what is happening on the field. Only the few on the in-house team are allowed to play ball in Arlington. The SPECTATOR helps citizens understand the game.
From the Locker Room
The next council meeting is this Tuesday, March 22. The first of two committee meetings is at 10:30am. The afternoon session starts at 1:15pm in executive session. The open portion is scheduled for 2:30pm. The evening meeting is at 6:30pm.
The first committee meeting (10:30am) is scheduled for 45 minutes and is an update from the city’s auditor, Grant Thornton. There appear to be no major problems. Their presentation to the committee, starts page 159
The second committee meeting (11:30am) is scheduled for 30 minutes. They plan to continue their discussion on maintenance improvements of properties. Prior discussions have included reestablishing the vacant structures ordinance and large fee and the limiting and registration of donation boxes.
The afternoon session opens in executive session at 1:15pm. The open portion is scheduled to be 2:30pm, or later. The agenda includes 12 executive session items, three work session items, and two informal staff reports.
The three work session items are the Communications Strategic Plan, the Fire Annual Report, and the US 287 Corridor Strategic Plan.
Several of the executive session items that the public is not allowed to listen include:
The Fire Annual Report, starts page 68 (http://www.arlington-tx.gov/citycouncil/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2014/06/Afternoon-03-22-16.pdf ).
The US 287 Corridor Study presentation, starts page 100 (http://www.arlington-tx.gov/citycouncil/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2014/06/Afternoon-03-22-16.pdf ).
The Landmark Preservation Commission Annual Report and informal staff report, starts page 136 (http://www.arlington-tx.gov/citycouncil/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2014/06/Afternoon-03-22-16.pdf ).
The informal staff report on enhanced regional mobility, starts page 149 (http://www.arlington-tx.gov/citycouncil/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2014/06/Afternoon-03-22-16.pdf ).
The evening meeting starts at 6:30pm. The agenda includes: seven executive session items, four sets of minutes, 19 consent agenda items, two zoning public hearings, a right-of-way ordinance modification, and three resolutions.
One executive session item is the sale of land that is, or very near the old Sapphire Project.
Three consent agenda items, totaling over $1.1 million are for Information Technology (IT) Department. These are for the annual maintenance on the court system, annual maintenance on building permit system, and temporary IT personnel services.
The first public hearing is for a tattoo parlor at 6407 S Cooper. P&Z approved it, 7-2. The council? You can expect several council members to throw a hissy-fit.
The second public hearing is for the Kroger at 945 W Lamar. It wishes to expand. P&Z approved 8-1.
There are three closing resolutions. The first resolution is the TCAP agreement for electricity that is currently tabled. The second resolution is for another $32 million in bonds to be issued. The third resolution is the Dodson Corporate Welfare Deal.
The third resolution agrees to pay $864,673 in TIRZ money for improvements of the downtown block area of Division, East, and Front Streets, for special interest friend Dodson. The requirement is the property maintains a property tax value of at least $2 million from January 2020 – January 1, 2025, though payments (and ownership change) is expected to be made long before those dates. The TIRZ payment and current property values already exceed the $2 million figure.
When staff told the council that the new library and city council chambers did not include underground utilities, to me the obvious way to pay for those expenses was this TIRZ, but it was suggested to me they may not have enough funds, evidently because they were saving funds for friend Dodson and this project.
Dodson will be paid for building parking lots and the required access. He will also be paid $6930 for seven ADA ramps, $6600 for four public benches, $7260 for four waste receptacles, $4070 for two bike racks, and $138,600 for right-of-way landscaping and irrigation.
The next AISD board meeting will be Thursday, April 7.
In The News
City May 7 Elections
There are two contested race in the upcoming May City Elections. District 7 is an at large seat, city-wide and will NOT have an incumbent. The candidates are Victoria Myers and Chris Dobson.
The other contest race is in North Arlington where incumbent Charlie Parker is being challenged by Kelly Canon.
The two uncontested races have the returning incumbents, District 2 (Sheri Capehart) and District 6 (Robert Shepard).
AISD May 7 Elections
The one position contested on the AISD Board is Place 4. The incumbent John Hibbs is being challenged by Luis Castillo.
Jamie Sullins, the incumbent in Place 5 is unopposed.
KNOW YOUR CANDIDATES – CONSULTANT STUDIES
All of the Arlington City Council Candidates were asked to answer this one question within a week:
When the taxpayers pay for consultant studies should they expect results where the consultant gives independent, expert opinions or results where the council has told the consultant what results they want? Why? (eg. Highway 287 Corridor study)
Kelly Canon, challenger District 1
Naturally, the tax payers would prefer that planning and consulting firms produce a non-biased study, and render results that reveal the truth about what they’ve been asked to study. Above and beyond the Highway 287 Corridor study, I also recall the multiple “studies” for other projects, such as the Lamar “Road Diet”, the Abram Street “Road Diet”, the “Hike & Bike” plan, and the ultimate study of them all, leading to the Transportation Development Plan, which initially called for roughly 200 miles of lane reductions (road diets), to make way for bike lanes. (the most unbelievable example of consultant “guessing” was the assumed 28,000 bicyclists in Arlington that needed to be accommodated on a daily basis!) The consultants’ fees that our city is happily paying, total in the tens of thousands in tax payer money, and for what? Most times, it would appear to be for a predetermined result. This is NOT a wise use of tax payer dollars. Most of these high-priced consultants are head-quartered in other parts of the country, which means they have no idea how our City really operates and thrives. We need to reign-in this practice of hiring over-priced out-of-state or out of the area consultants, and at least try to find a few more local firms. But most importantly, if our city must hire a consulting firm, let’s let them provide an accurate non-biased study, that’s reasonably priced. And please… no more ROAD DIETS!
Victoria Farrar-Myers, candidate District 7
The results of any consultant study should reflect the independent, expert opinions as derived from appropriate data collection and methodology. For example, in the Highway 287 Corridor study, the consultants’ methods included independent market analysis; a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis; review of historical uses and the city’s comprehensive land use plan; and, most importantly, public input. If the City Council decides to obtain the benefit of relevant subject-matter experts, then the consultant’s untainted conclusions are necessary in order for the Council to make more informed policy decisions. The Council does have two important roles, though, in terms of utilizing consultant studies. First, the Council is responsible for defining the scope of the study, or in other words deciding what questions the consultants should answer.
Second, the Council is also responsible for deciding if and how to use the conclusions presented by the consultants. The Council should then be held accountable or applauded, as appropriate, for the policy decisions made in these roles
Candidates refusing to respond: Charlie Parker, Chris Dobson, Sheri Capehart, and Robert Shepard.
Personally, I cannot stand the way the city wastes taxpayer funds to do these studies. They assign planning staff to work with the consultants. The staff they assign, with the Agenda-21 letters after their names, are capable of putting together reports with history and citizen input. Obviously, I would prefer that if we are going to hire consultants I would prefer they suggest what would work best, not reports of citizen input and history.
Since we do not have direct input from all of the candidates, I would suggest that Mr. Parker, Ms. Capehart, and Mr. Shepard, all of whom have a voting record, favor the current studies. My impression of Mr. Dobson, who has answered many candidate forum questions over the years, might oppose these studies.
Richard Weber, publisher of the Arlington Spectator, is that rare citizen who devotes time to civic duty and involvement. For doing so, he receives little thanks. Most citizens have more important things on their minds—TV, football, enjoying their retirement, etc. Not Richard. You’ll find him at City Council afternoon and evening sessions, at school board meetings, publishing Arlington Spectator, and helming AARG (Arlington Alliance for Responsible Government). Richard is not welcome at Mayor Cluck’s City Hall, where every effort is made to muzzle Richard and any other citizen who believes taxpayers should have a voice in government. Richard’s selfless effort is one of the things that inspired us to begin publishing Opinion Arlington.
email at ArlSpectator@yahoo.com
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