Last week’s newsletter went to edit and production before I was able to write about the tragic events that occurred late Thursday evening in Dallas. Even so, I am not at all sure what I could have written or said, it was so sad and so senseless.
We did have a wonderful ceremony first thing Friday morning to celebrate and officially swear in our new Fire Chief David Jones.
What looked like nearly 200 folks, including council colleagues Bruce Arfsten, Ivan Hughes, Dale Wilcox and Paul Walden, most of our First Responder team, Fire officials from all over North Texas, friends and family, came to celebrate this achievement and official event.
Before I officially swore in Chief Jones I did have a chance to acknowledge the tragedy as a very real reminder of the dangers of the service these men and women provide for our community and to thank them one and all for all that they do and are willing to do for us.
I hope all of us will always keep our First Responders in our prayers and thoughts and at every chance express appreciation for their dedicated service to our community. Whether it is “Thank a Cop”, a wave, smile or heartfelt thank you, letting our officers and firefighters/paramedics know we appreciate them goes a long way in easing the tension and continuing to build on our “Community Policing” model.
It just makes everyone feel much better about who we are and how we treat each other.
Our only Regular council meeting for the month took place on Tuesday, July 12, and Wednesday July 13! We began with an Executive session at 5:15 pm to receive an update on the dispute with Framers Branch concerning the ponds and lakes at Vitruvian Park and we worked right thru the evening until just past midnight, concluding with a discussion about our current housing and density policy. All council members were present except Al Angell.
During our work session that began about 6:45 pm we received some of the most disturbing and disappointing news I have heard as your mayor.
The staff gave us an update on the Midway Road Reconstruction project and revealed that in 2012 a project that was estimated to cost $16 million is now projected to cost $38,165,000, a $22,165,000, 139% underestimation!
Really very difficult to understand how our staff in 2012 could have missed this estimate by so much. This, coupled with a similar underestimation of the undergrounding of utilities on the Belt Line Road project, creates some very serious questions for us going forward.
The council listened attentively and, at least speaking for myself, in some shock for the remainder of the presentation. We then concluded we all wanted more time to think about and digest what we heard and most importantly, we wanted to have this information become public as soon as possible and proceed very cautiously.
We also agreed that further discussions on this topic needed to occur where we had the capability to preserve the presentations and our conversations on video. We will certainly have more on this disturbing development later.
As a result of the revelations in our works session our Regular council session was a few minutes late getting started. Immediately following our pledge we shared some heartfelt thanks and genuine concern for each of our Addison Police officers and let them know that we are very proud of them and we support them.
Chief Spencer accepted our thanks and assured us he would share it with his officers and that they are indeed hurting with the loss of so many of the law enforcement family. Our officers will be filling in for some of the Dallas officers from the northwest substation to give them time to attend their fellow officers’ funerals over the next several days.
All 4 of our Public Comment speakers spoke about the proposed stop signs at Beltway and Les Lacs. The minutes from our last meeting were revised and approved and a license agreement permitting Antonio Ristorante the use of a portion of the public right-of-way in front of their restaurant in Addison Circle was approved.
The council also approved the rezoning of and a special use permit for the former Snuffer’s restaurant site for a new owner that will totally remodel inside and out to accommodate a new restaurant to Addison, Zoli’s NY Pizza, to open before the end of this year.
The council approved in a 5-1 vote a rezoning and special use permit for the Astoria Caffe to allow their use of the public right-of-way in front of their restaurant. The request was to approve an increase from a previously permitted 4 tables and 10 chairs to an increase of 74 chairs and 26 tables.
I was the lone dissenting vote based on my concern that the walkway be maintained for safe passage as the public right-of-way, and that this deviation from previous council policy may create a precedent.
I thought the staff’s very reasonable recommendation of permitting 65 chairs seemed to strike a fair balance between all of the interests the Town needs to serve. I feel that if we have confidence in our staff, on a matter of 9 chairs, it seems like a good idea to follow their guidance or we may well be subjected to a legitimate criticism of micromanaging our staff.
The council began a process of evaluating another rezoning case concerning 18.2 acres of very important, high value land in Addison at 14345 Dallas Parkway. I recused myself from the process since the law firm for which I am “of counsel” represented the owners of the property some years ago in an unrelated legal matter.
While certainly not amounting to a legal or technical reason for recusal, I do feel it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid any appearance of impropriety. After a lengthy discussion the council led by mayor pro tempore Bruce Arfsten tabled the matter for a date in August.
Months of hard work and collaboration with past council members Blake Clemens, Janelle Moore, David Heape, staff, stakeholders and consultants, culminated in the council’s final approval of our new Addison Airport Master Plan.
Our consultant and true partner in this process, Frank McElwain with Garver, gave us an outstanding executive summary of the plan, highlighting the important role our airport plays in the national system and the tremendous opportunity our airport has to regenerate, as so many on-airport leases expire over the next 8 years.
The now approved plan will be available by link on our Town of Addison website for your review and the review of any prospective new developers!
Our agenda item #10, a presentation and discussion of council procedures and Town ethics, was placed on our agenda at the request of council members Paul Walden and Al Angell.
The council decided we would postpone most of this presentation until Al is back for a meeting, yet we did continue some discussion. Council member Walden inquired about the council ethics policy that permits council members or the mayor to use their official title when endorsing other political candidates.
His inquiry led to a very interesting discussion of the history and rationale for that policy, after which the council consensus was to continue the current policy.
This council procedures topic prompted me to suggest a couple of revisions in our procedures, the first being that for the infrequent events when we choose to abstain, it would be most transparent for us to disclose our reason.
Simply saying we do not want to vote falls short of our duty and our role as council members, since one of the principal responsibilities we have is voting on matters that come before council. Our role includes voting on the tough as well as the easy issues.
Most agreed that this was a good practice and going forward we will all follow this practice. My second suggestion was that we discontinue and prohibit the use of our electronic devices to communicate with others or each other during council meetings.
While these communications are likely not illegal and all of these communications are subject to open records requests, we all agreed it is rude and inappropriate to communicate with others when we are in council session. Our staff will be drafting specific revisions to our council procedures for our review and approval later this month.
During our agenda item to review the history of Transparency in Addison, we reviewed a couple of Powerpoint slides outlining our history of continuous improvement in this area as well as our concerted efforts since 2011.
We reviewed our current Strategic Planning and budget book that outlines the role of council on page 5: “The role of the council is to develop a long term vision for the Town, to develop policies necessary to achieve the vision, and to communicate with, and seek input from stakeholders. This includes, (among other items listed) Promoting transparency in communicating with residents, businesses, and regional partners.“ (My emphasis added.)
That brief review of our history and current status of our Transparency policy set the stage for our further conversations about how we might continue to improve in this important area.
Council member Walden attacked the previous council based on his perception that they withheld documents from the work that Larry Kanter did for our Town. When it was explained to council member Walden that he has access to review those documents and that any of those he feels have not been released should be released, he is welcome to bring that request forward to the council and our City Attorney.
As council member Walden continued to attack the previous council, it was explained to him that the attorney client privilege protection he was complaining about arose from a request and assertion from our previous City Manager and/or our previous City Attorney at the beginning of Mr. Kanter’s work with our Town. Mr. Walden said he would review the documents and bring his request forward to council soon.
I then suggested a few possible improvements in our transparency. I suggested we consider video for our work sessions so that folks at home or wherever can watch our meetings and we would also create an official archive of our discussions.
Given the recent revelations in our work session about the projected cost of the Midway Road construction project, it seems prudent to make sure all of our stakeholders have equal access to all of our conversations and work. Most council members seemed to agree with this suggestion and as a result our City Manager will bring us a recommended means of implementing that suggestion.
I also suggested we take a close look at our website with an eye to improving its “user friendliness”. If you have used our website I think you know exactly what I mean. Again, most seemed to agree that our website needed some serious attention.
I have heard concerns expressed from folks that for the first time in our history 4 members of our current council are members of a private club that meets weekly. Bruce Arfsten, Ivan Hughes, Jim Duffy and Al Angell are each members of the Addison Midday Rotary that currently meets each Tuesday at noon at the Blue Mesa restaurant on Montfort here in Addison.
In terms of transparency I understand why for some folks this causes some concern: While it takes 5 council members to make a quorum, it only takes 4 votes to pass or stop anything for the council. Thus those 4 council members could “make law” at their rotary club meeting.
Considering the club membership is a total of 25 members, including 10 current or past council members, former P&Z members, council candidates and a former city manager. I posed the question to our 4 council members and leave it to them how best to deal with any possible perception of impropriety.
I took the opportunity to champion the value of the twice-monthly mayor coffees and our First Monday of the month Economic Development luncheon as ways for us to fulfill our unique council role as mentioned above of “promoting transparency in communicating with residents, businesses and regional partners”.
I described these events as real “connection opportunities” that were often filled with questions from our stakeholders reflecting the value of this interaction. I also commended colleague Bruce Arfsten for his engagement in this process with the monthly Addison update he provides to the Addison Circle Community Association. I encouraged my colleagues to do the same; having their own coffees, updates or events would further help us in serving our important role of enhancing transparency.
We concluded this important discussion topic with direction to staff as well as our very simple and basic policy expression on Transparency: “More is Better”.
At this point in the evening it was very late so the council decided to pull a couple of items and reschedule them for our meetings in August. Before the meeting began, council members Walden and Duffy pulled their requested agenda item to review the use of the mayor’s newsletter email subscription list.
Council members Walden and Duffy plan to bring it up again at our first meeting in August on the 9th when council member Angell is back in Town.
Our final agenda item for the evening was to present, discuss and consider action regarding the housing policy and residential density for the Town of Addison. This agenda item was prompted by 4 pending requests from developers who want to build more apartments in Addison and staff’s desire to have clear policy guidance from the council.
The previous council held inclusive professionally facilitated meetings with our community, and numerous work sessions and council meetings to arrive at our current housing policy. However, staff uncertainty has apparently been created by apartment developer AMLI’s contacting council members Arfsten and Hughes about reasserting their proposal to build apartments on the currently commercially zoned vacant tract of land near the Intercontinental Hotel on Quorum.
I have learned over the last 5 years that regardless of my best intentions, sometimes what I write is not enough, too much or leaves the wrong or incorrect impression.
Last week I mentioned here that council member Bruce Arfsten missed only one meeting in a year’s worth of attending the RTC meetings in Arlington on behalf of Addison.
Given the distance and time commitment I meant it as a compliment to Bruce’s activities as a council member; however, others may have seen it as a criticism. I have since learned that Bruce’s one absence was excused because he was here in Addison with us working through the interviews in our City Manager search process last year.
When discussing the KaBoom Town event and the role council members play as ambassadors in our Special Events, I mentioned that Al Angell, Jim Duffy and Paul Walden did not participate.
Al Angell was out of Town and Jim Duffy was tending to his very ill mother who subsequently passed away and whose funeral was Saturday. My apologies and condolences go to Jim and apologies to Al and Bruce for not being more explanatory in my comments.
It has been our past custom, tradition and practice for council members to inform the presiding officer (mayor, mayor pro tempore or deputy mayor pro tempore) of their attendance plans for our meetings or events. I believe following this custom will reduce the likelihood of future confusion or misunderstanding.
On Monday evening council colleague Bruce Arfsten and I attended and shared a few comments with our neighbors at the monthly Addison Circle Community Association meeting chaired by Ilene Cohen. This month they held their meeting in the boardroom of the Water Tower Theatre.
On Tuesday afternoon before we started our council meeting, colleagues Jim Duffy and Bruce Arfsten attended their first monthly liaison meeting with our Addison Airport team and City Management staff.
Last Friday after newsletter deadline time, I joined our Director of Economic Development Orlando Campos and Manager of Economic Development Drew Dietrich for a welcome meeting with one of our newest international corporate citizens.
Cinepolis USA just moved their headquarters from Los Angeles to Addison in a beautiful new third floor space in The Addison Building at 14951 N. Dallas Parkway, a newly acquired property by Holt Lunsford and his team.
This move will bring additional positive publicity for Addison when D CEO Magazine comes out soon with their article about this prestigious relocation.
Cinepolis has a very large presence in the movie theater business in Latin America, India and Spain and has a growth oriented strategy for the USA. Cinepolis CEO Adrian Mijares shared with us their excitement with their move and just how perfect Addison is for their business location.
A few of their employees from Los Angeles moved with the company, they have added some north Texas talent, and are continuing to add great folks now. In fact, Vice President of Human Resources Jackie Rodriquez asked me to pass along the word: they are hiring! Her contact info is E.email@example.com or at www.CinepolisUSA.com.
On Tuesday afternoon Economic Development Director Orlando Campos, Economic Development Manager Drew Dietrich and I visited one of the fastest growing companies in North Texas.
CEO John Neitzel, senior VP Chris Devlin and several other senior level executives for BL Restaurant Operations, or as we know them, Bar Louie at 4550 Beltway Drive, met with us in their very cool office space patterned after their restaurants around the country.
As Dallas Business Journal reporter Korri Kezar said, “Since its founding in 1991, Bar Louie has grown from a single Chicago watering hole to a national brand.” Bar Louie relocated from Chicago to Addison in 2010 to be close to a great talent pool of employees, and since their relocation they have grown to more than 5,000 employees spread across the country in 110 locations, 24 of which are franchised.
Even though they have grown, they have every intention of staying true to their original concept of being unique, focused on a clientele of 51% women, youthful, with income over $75,000. The average age of their clientele during the day is about 55, then in the evening hours at about 10:30 drops to the mid-20s.
Orlando, Drew and I spent a significant amount of time discussing locations and ways we could have Bar Louie headquarters with us, as well as a new location for one of their restaurants. We will keep working on the complete Bar Louie package! In the meantime we are very proud to have this fast growing creative and innovative business call Addison home.
As mentioned above, last Friday morning, July 8, at 10:00 am the Addison Fire Department held an outstanding swearing in ceremony at our Addison Conference Centre.
With a near capacity room full of friends, family, surrounding area fire department professionals and Addison residents, Captain Scott Wigley and Battalion Chief Jeff Patterson welcomed our group and led us in a moment of silence in recognition of the tragic events in Dallas.
Battalion Chief Larry Swartz called all of the present uniformed personnel to attention and the Colors were presented by our Addison Fire Department Honor Guard and the Pipes and Drums, FEO Chad Gruver, Lt. Rick Johnson and Battalion Chief Will Hamilton.
Battalion Chief Will Hamilton led us in our Pledge of Allegiance and then in a very touching family-involved few moments, Chief Jones’ daughters Amanda and Cassidy presented and pinned on the Chief’s new collar brass, son Travis presented the new Helmet front and wife Kelly presented the Chief his new badge.
Captain Scott Ledet, who was responsible for organizing this wonderful event, then presented Chief Jones’ wife Kelly with a special gift and thanked her for her tireless support of David Jones in his 18 year career with our Addison Fire Department.
City Manager Wes Pierson shared his thoughts about his selection process and the confidence and trust he has in David Jones as his selection as our new Fire Chief. After a few brief comments, I was honored to provide the official swearing in of David Jones as Addison’s new Fire Chief.
Chief Jones followed with words of thanks for the many that helped him rise to this level, including his mom and dad, family and wife as well as past and present coworkers. David spoke of his motivation and his commitment to service and appreciation for the opportunity to lead.
The rousing lengthy applause at the conclusion of Chief Jones’ comments reflected the confidence and enthusiasm we all have in David Jones. It was an extremely well done ceremony that came at just the right time for our entire community!
On Monday evening Lt. Denise Keith and Detective Brandon Marshall of our Police department held an outstanding seminar on identity theft prevention for the Addison Circle Community Association.
As mentioned above council colleague Bruce Arfsten and I were in attendance, joining about 25 other folks for a very informative 45 minute presentation. Their presentation is part of Chief Spencer’s community policing policy that includes a significant commitment to crime prevention and deterrence.
Detective Marshall and Lt. Keith shared with us that Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime and cuts across every demographic and geographic boundary. Their long list of very basic recommendations includes never give out your social security number, shred your documents, never give money over the phone and be careful how you use Facebook–the bad guys follow Facebook, too.
Their other suggestions include how to monitor your personal information, credit card security, etc. … you get the idea. A great idea would be for you to attend one of their upcoming seminars so you can get all of the details and explanation from our officers. As they said, “Everyone can commit identity theft and everyone can be a victim.”
On Thursday afternoon our team comprised of Addison residents and business volunteers assembled at our Surveyor Water Tower learning center for the second in their series of meetings as our Master Transportation Plan Advisory Committee.
Director of Infrastructure Lisa Pyles and assistant director of Development Services Charles Goff are helping to facilitate this process and discussion along with our outside consultants Kimley-Horn.
On Thursday our group worked hard to review their materials from their first meeting as well as review Addison key corridors: Addison Road, Quorum Drive, Le Grande Drive, Montfort Road, and Belt Line Road.
The third portion of their work was to study connectivity maps and provide feedback related to pedestrian, bicycle and transit. The final topics were traffic calming and time for Q&A.
This group of bright, passionate and creative Addison volunteers will meet at least one more time before the fall when we hope they will be ready for our next steps in the process of developing our new Master Transportation Plan. A special Addison “Thank You” to Addison residents Elliot Moore, Ilene Cohen, Gary McIntire, Tom Sourers, Jay Ihrig, and John Morgan.
Saturday evening, July 16, join us in Beckert Park over in Addison Circle for our summer series featuring the Christmas comedy “Elf” … Christmas in July … should be fun. The movie will start about 8:15 pm.
Thursday evening, July 21, at 6:00 pm join us at the Sidewalk Café over in Addison Circle for our Third Thursday of the month coffee with the mayor that we are renaming “After Hours with the Mayor”! More fun and an opportunity for a cool adult beverage to accompany our conversation.
Thank you again for continuing to read and share our weekly Addison Mayor’s Newsletter. I really appreciate all of the positive feedback and encouragement I received this last week.
You may have noticed that we have changed our distribution to early Saturday mornings to be less likely to be confused with the staff newsletter distributed on Friday afternoons. I hope you will continue to receive and read both newsletters; as the council agreed this week: in terms of transparency, “More is Better”.
You will receive different information, news about different events and the advantage of different perspectives. Thank you for staying informed.
See you soon,