Saturday, March 18, 2017
What a beautiful early Spring week in our Addison, Texas!
The tulips are in full bloom and our trees are just beginning to bud, all thanks to the very hard work of our outstanding Parks staff! Thank you, Michael Kashuba and our entire Parks team.
Our Regular council meeting on Tuesday, March 14 had some real highlights and a few real low lights.
First, the low lights so we can end on a positive note:
We received an update from our staff on the environmental documents obtained by our staff relating to the property at 5015 Spectrum, now known as the AMLI site.
After we learned last week that “AMLI’s representatives said they preferred not to share a copy of the report” related to the request from council member Ivan Hughes for the Phase II environmental work (which Taylor Bowen said AMLI had done), our staff contacted the TCEQ in Austin and received copies of what TCEQ had on file.
We learned that, in fact, TCEQ did not have any record of any environmental work performed at the request of AMLI.
If you watch the video of this agenda item, you will see that our staff and I spent time reducing the numerous pages of the reports that were on file to just a few key points..
Since there was some uncertainty expressed about what AMLI representative, Taylor Bowen, said during the February 14 council meeting related to the environmental reports, I attempted to refresh everyone’s memory by showing a 3 to 4 minute video clip of what he actually said on February 14.
Surprisingly, council members Arfsten and Duffy interrupted and refused to let our staff play the video. They went so far as to force a motion to prohibit the playing of the video, which passed with council members Arfsten, Duffy, Angell and Walden voting in favor of prohibiting the video in chambers that evening. Council members Wilcox, Hughes and Meier voted in favor of letting the council and public see the video at that time.
Here is the video that council members Arfsten, Duffy, Angell and Walden refused to have shown: .
I still have no idea why Arfsten, Duffy, Angell and Walden wanted to keep this video out of your sight. When you watch the video you will notice three things:
- First, I refer to the site as the former Dow Chemical site; now we know it was actually an Ashland Chemical plant across the street from the now AMLI site at 5015 Spectrum. However, at the council meeting on February 14 none of the council members knew that, since we did not have the benefit of any environmental documents.
- Second, on two occasions AMLI’s representative Taylor Bowen says they did a phase II environmental study and on one occasion he says they did a Phase 1 study. Taylor Bowen says he gave those reports to our staff.
- Third, our staff person Charles Goff says he did not receive any reports from AMLI.
Watch the video again to see if I have been fair in my characterization of what was said.
So what is my point? Aside from the obvious concerns about the environmental status of the property that may soon be an excavation and construction site and future home to 500 Addison residents including children, why the hurry to approve it on February 14?
At this point in the February 14 meeting, there was clearly a major fact inconsistency on critical health and safety related issues.
The council did not have environmental documents to review—at all.
Yet this council voted 5-2 against a motion to pause and take time to fully explore this major fact inconsistency on a very important subject.
In fact, later in the same evening this council voted the same 5-2 to approve a 349 apartment complex on this site without the benefit of even one environmental document in hand.
The very next item on our agenda was a carryover from our 2/28 meeting that had been tabled by the council. I had placed an item on the agenda to discuss the current Addison Transparency policy and practice.
I attempted to explain why I feel it is important for us to have this discussion, which I hope will result in a written policy.
We currently only conceptually agree that “More transparency is Better”, with nothing in writing. My concern is that our staff may need more specific direction and guidance from council in certain areas.
Ironically, council members Duffy and Arfsten interrupted and claimed the item was not properly noticed on the agenda for that discussion.
Our City Attorney weighed in with her guidance that she felt it was properly noticed.
In spite of that, the council refused to proceed with a discussion on Transparency and tabled the item once again.
Again, hard for me to understand why some of my council colleagues do not want to talk about developing a written Transparency policy. Could it be they are not true supporters of that practice?
Our final lowlight of the evening was a vote by the council to approve the appointment of Linda Groce as a Commissioner to replace Tom Braun who had been appointed by Jim Duffy and who served for one meeting to vote on the AMLI project, and then resigned to run for council
Linda Groce previously served on the P&Z Commission from 2011- 2015. If you are interested in why I voted against this appointment you may watch the brief video here.
In short, there were 26 applicants but Ms. Groce was the only person offered by Mr. Duffy. She is a member of the same 22-person Rotary as Mr. Duffy, three other current council members, our former City Manager and a current candidate for Council.
Aside from the fact that I believe there were more qualified candidates in the applicant pool who have not yet had the opportunity to serve, the concentration of power and influence in one small organization, even if it is charitable, is not healthy for any governmental body charged with the responsibility of doing what is best for Addison with full transparency.
On to the highlights— there were several! Most importantly, our new Auditors with BKD gave their report and we received the best report possible.
With a review that took almost 650 hours of our Auditors’ staff time and at least that many from our own staff, including reviews of our internal controls, we received the best rating possible with a “Clean unmodified audit with no material weaknesses”.
Well done, and as our City Manager Wes Pierson said, “This is a big deal”. Yes, it is!
Given where we were and where we are now, it is a very big deal and a great tribute to Wes Pierson’s leadership embracing the recommendations of our consultant Larry Kanter and the very hard work of our Financial Staff led by CFO Olivia Riley.
Our Financial report for the first quarter of our current fiscal year was equally encouraging in that revenue and expenses are tracking along with our budget and our reserves are at or above our minimums. Here is the actual complete report for you to review the detail.
I call your special attention to page 15. Budget Suites continues to pay the lowest amount of Hotel Tax by far of any of our 23 hotels.
How can that be? With 344 rooms Budget Suites is the largest Extended Stay hotel in Town. That means either they are (a) not renting out very many of their rooms, (b) they are not collecting and remitting the correct hotel tax, or (c) most of the folks there are residents, not guests.
This is a prime example of why it is so important to do thorough due diligence on any long-term project brought before Council. We have been living with the financial loss and demands on our police for many years due to the approval of Budget Suites. What you don’t determine ahead of time can become quite evident when it’s too late.
The council voted unanimously to appoint Thaddeus A. Iwuji as Associate Judge for our Municipal Court Number 1. With his selection we now have a complete bench of judges for our Municipal Court. Judge Dwight continues as our presiding full time judge and Judge Iwuji joins Judge Callaway as one of our alternate Associate Judges.
We presented graduation certificates to our new 2017 Citizen Academy graduates and thanked them for their participation and commitment to help make Addison an even better place. Special thanks to Caitlan Smelley our Assistant to the City Manager, for all of her work developing and leading this year’s class.
Congratulations to each of these folks. We look forward to your help as we work together making Addison even better: Sheila Barkofske, Jerry Dougan, Sharron Dougan, Richard Fitzpatrick, Michelle Francis, Bob Gray, Leslie Gray, Pamela Hecht, Lola Hurt, David Kean, Toni Kilpatrick, Gary McIntyre, JT McPherson, Marsha Miller, Michael Moss, Tina Moss, Pam Prewitt, Arnette Resendez, Alan Then, Lori Ward, Dudley Watson, and Marlin Willesen.
The council approved very large signage for the next phase of the Vitruvian project. You may have noticed the Vitruvian West project is now under construction and will include 4 new buildings that will have 1,029 new apartments on that site when completed in the next couple of years.
The council approved new entertainment for our upcoming Taste Addison that will feature Vanilla Ice, Granger Smith and Gary Allan as our headliners for Friday and Saturday.
The council reviewed the staff’s report on the recently completed assessment of our water system and the risk analysis that will help shape our next capital improvement plans to ensure the safety and vitality of this important part of our infrastructure.
There were 26 separate projects identified that will require our attention over the next few years.
The council also approved the purchase of equipment and software for our traffic controllers throughout Town.
To conclude our evening the council by a 5-2 vote refused to hear or discuss the last two agenda items that had been carried over from our last council meeting.
As mentioned above Walden, Duffy, Arfsten, Angell and Hughes refused to discuss the development of a written transparency policy and finally the same group refused to discuss or consider a review of our council ethics guidelines and the possible review of our enforcement practices or process.
We adjourned before 10:00 pm.
Council member activities
All council members attended the Executive Session and Regular Council meeting on Tuesday March 14.
Q&A with the Mayor
Q: Mayor, why were some of the council members in such a hurry to approve the AMLI project?
A: I do not know. You will need to ask council members Walden, Hughes, Angell, Duffy and Arfsten why they were able to approve a project of this magnitude in just one meeting without ever having seen the environmental reports.
Exciting late breaking news! Bill Cawley and his team plan a ground breaking for April of their new office development on the Tollway just south of the Tollway Center that they completed in May of 2016 and had leased up by June 2016.
More later as details emerge. This news is consistent with the Addison buzz all over with new restaurant ideas and concepts percolating as well as more exciting new businesses headed our way.
As you may have noticed if you peeked at the First Quarter financials reported above, our retail sales tax revenue is a bit ahead of budget … all good news.
An excellent turnout of very well informed Addison neighbors for our third Thursday of the month After Hours with the Mayor at the Lion and Crown in Addison Circle on Thursday evening at 6:00 pm.
Council member Dale Wilcox was present also to answer questions and be available for his neighbors.
I covered the excellent results of our recent Audit and financial performance, a Cotton Belt update that continues to stay “on track“ for service in 2021, and environmental issues related to 5015 Spectrum Drive.
Most of the questions and conversation the rest of the evening centered on the environmental issues related to the recent rezoning approval by council of 5015 Spectrum for 349 apartments and the lack of information council had when they granted that approval.
At least half of the questions asked of me were about my council colleagues and why they did what they did. One asked: “Why is the public’s feedback about not wanting more apartments being ignored by Council?“
It is too bad that council members Walden, Duffy, Angell, Arfsten and Hughes were not present to answer the true concern of their neighbors.
Maybe that would influence their thinking and change their reluctance to have a more open and transparent conversation about our next steps in dealing with the unanswered questions related to the environmental issues at 5015 Spectrum Drive?
Monday, March 20, 4:00-6:00 pm at our Addison TreeHouse, a council Work Session that will include an update on the Belt Line Road project.
Thursday, March 23, 7:15 am, Metrocrest Services annual Key Holder Breakfast at our Crowne Plaza Hotel; a few tickets are still available.
Monday, April 3, our Spring Town Hall meeting at our Addison Conference Centre, 7:00 pm. There will be several interesting presentations and your opportunity to ask any of your council members questions.
Looks like a beautiful Addison Spring weekend! I am looking forward to seeing all of you at our Spring Town Hall meeting when you can ask each of your council members any question you like!!!
See you soon,
Headline photo: Street artist Banksy painted this maid keeping the streets of Hoxton Square nice and tidy. We thought he wouldn’t mind if we added one particularly timely word to his artwork.
Photo of magnifying glasses by Paul Haahr.