Posts belonging to Category Keller Politics

Election Thoughts

I just came back from voting, and had a few thoughts about the issues and process.

First, I got over there about 8:15 and while there were several cars in the lot at the Lion’s Club, it turned out they were all election judges.  I don’t know if I was the first voter of the day, but I was the only one at that time.  While I was there only one other person showed up, and it turned out he was at the wrong location. 

This year Tarrant County replaced the complete-the-line optical scan ballots with a new fill-in-the-box optical scan system and they also offered the Hart InterCivic (the one I call “The Etch-a-Sketch”) for anyone who wanted to use it.  Despite (or perhaps because of) working in IT, I want nothing to do with computer-based voting systems.  I prefer paper ballots, and I find that the optical scan system provides a good middle-ground between automation and creating a paper-based physical record.  My only gripe about the new system is that filling in the box (at least with the pen they provided) seems to take forever.

I noticed two R-n Pa-l (one dare not speak his name online, lest his groupies be summoned forth like lesser demons from the pits of hell) signs out in front of the Lion’s Club.  I was a bit perplexed by this, since there was nothing concerning him on the ballot.  But I suppose it was a chance to try to advance awareness of his existence.  [ Note: Should my obfuscation above fail to work, I want to make it known right now that any and all comments regarding the afore-unmentioned candidate will be summarily deleted.  My blog.  My rules. ]

Of the constitutional amendments, I voted against the $3-billion cancer research item.  Not that I don’t worry about cancer, nor is it not a worthy cause.  I just don’t see it as the business of the State of Texas to be funding this sort of research. 

Really, the only puzzler for me on the ballot was the library bond issue.  I’ve flip-flopped back and forth several times over the past month or so, but I finally decided to vote for the bond.  It will probably raise our taxes a bit (once we get to the point of considering the big infrastructure issues), but I think it’s time to get started on doing something with the library.  I’m still concerned that the whole thing was rushed and a bit too sparse on specifics, but I think that can be managed by watching the final proposal closely and making my thoughts known to the council.

For reference, my thoughts on the whole sordid library affair can be found in the Keller Library category.

Finally, I’m a bit annoyed at the City of Keller’s misuse of my email address(es).  I signed up for the Police Department’s E-SAFE mail program several years ago.  When the city created its own “enews” service, I signed up for it using a different address.  I also specified that I wanted email in TEXT format (I’m not a big fan of HTML emails).  Lately, someone at city hall has decided to appropriate Scott Bradburn’s E-SAFE list and subscribe everyone on it to the city’s newsletter.  It’s quite obvious and annoying, since I now get TWO copies of every city emailing, one in Text and another in HTML.  I should also note that their Text version looks like ASS.  It’s obvious that they aren’t paying any attention to their Text-based users.  This is related to the election in that they sent out a missive at about 6:45 this morning reminding us about the ballot issues.

For those who might be interested, if you’re on the city’s enews service and you get HTML-based emails, you are being tracked.  The city is using Constant Contact, and the email contains web-bugs (tracking images) as well as tracked links.  If your email client automatically loads images in HTML-based emails, Constant Contact will know that your email address is active, that you opened the email, when you opened the email, as well as logging your IP address.  If you click any of the links in the email (such as to get more information about the bond proposal), they will know that you did so.  There’s nothing really nefarious going on here, but I just thought I’d point it out because most people do not know it’s happening. 

Bribery In Poor Taste

So it appears that the City of Keller is going to be paying $290,000 in sales-tax kickbacks and impact fee giveaways to bring Stein Mart to town.  I suppose I should be used to this sort of thing by now.

But having seen the Stein Mart commercials and knowing the frou frou sensibilities of our mayor and some on our city council, I’m a bit surprised that they still approved it. 

Surely there’s some ordinance against having that much leopard-print clothing in one place in the City of Keller.

Flushing Out Problems

Eminent domain is one of those things that give me an itchy trigger finger (that’s called hyperbole for those who might be humor impaired).  And if any of the accusations floating around concerning the City of Keller’s recent use of that power to take property due to flooding on Whitley Road are true, then there are some people down at Town Hall who need to be shown the door. 

As I understand things, Jack Brock was attempting to develop a property near the corner of Whitley and Bear Creek and after trying to work with the city to deal with the drainage issues on his property he finally dammed the channel.  The problem appears to be that the city had directed runoff onto his property.  After damming the channel, Whitley Road began to flood with even minimal rain.  The city then took the property needed for an easement using the power of eminent domain. 

This has been the subject of several letters to the editor in recent editions of the Keller Citizen. 

The first letter that I really took notice of was from Lisa Harper Wood (the former library director).  I found the tone and spirit of her letter to be rather harsh and if it reflects the way she views the role of city government in relation to the rights of property “owners,” then I’m glad she’s no longer in public service.  In her view of things, it appears that the rights of a single property owner aren’t highly valued, especially if they interfere with her ability to drive on Whitley Road.  Further, she admonished councilman Jim Carson for having the temerity to speak with Mr. Brock about the issue.  I find that attitude not only perplexing, but completely unacceptable in a so-called public servant.

In the most recent edition of the Keller Citizen there were letters of response from Mr. Brock’s son and from Jim Carson.  Cass Brock made several allegations against the city I find especially disturbing, if true.

…water was deliberately channeled through manmade ditches and three 60-inch pipes under Whitley Road onto my dad’s land.

…my dad asked the TxDOT engineers why they didn’t provide underground storm drainage alongside the highway toward Bear Creek.  TxDOT said that Dresher’s staff had told them to direct it down Whitley toward my family’s land, and so TxDOT wasn’t responsible.

…City Attorney Stan Lowry informed him in a letter that the city didn’t need an easement, and if the time ever came that they did, they would just take the land from him.

Mayor Tandy and Councilmen Trine and Holmes didn’t attend, and arrogantly told Mr. Brock they wouldn’t even meet with him unless he agreed in advance to their demands.

Of course I understand that Cass Brock is the son of the landowner, so perhaps he is seeing things in a light that is unfavorable to the city.  Still,  I’d be most interested in any proof that could be provided to substantiate such charges.

Most troubling would be a city attorney who views property rights with such a cavalier attitude.  But that seems to mesh well with Mrs. Wood’s scorched earth, adversarial, approach.  Such may gratify the urges of petty tyrants, seeking to gain control over the lowly citizen, but it only engenders ill-will.  Eventually, someone will reap the whirlwind that those of Mrs. Wood’s ilk have sown.

The only person involved with the city who seems to have been willing to listen in this whole mess is Jim Carson.

In the March 20 pre-council session, Mayor Tandy insinuated that because the Council functions as a body, I was not to speak to certain people regarding matters before the Council. Balderdash.  I am certain that any remaining political problems in Keller stem from too few conversations between council members and constituents, not too many.

Mrs. Wood wrote, “Mr. Carson should never have been there,” referring to the condemnation proceeding I attended. Eminent domain is perhaps the most brutal thing a government can do to a citizen who has been accused of no crime. After I reluctantly voted to forcibly seize Jack Brock’s property,  I wanted to hear for myself how gracefully the city of Keller exercised its frightful power that I had helped unleash for the greater good. Let’s just say I was a bit embarrassed by my vote.

Indeed.  I think Mr. Carson is one of the few councilmen who get how people feel about eminent domain, and how it should be used only as a last resort.  I can’t help but think that if perhaps the mayor and some other council members were willing to discuss the issue that it wouldn’t have had to come down to putting a gun to Mr. Brock’s head to take his property (that’s what eminent domain comes down to, ultimately; if he hadn’t acceded to the wishes of the city, eventually someone with a gun would be dispatched to take Mr. Brock into custody and take the land, so let’s not pretend that eminent domain is a civilized affair that takes place only in council chambers and courtrooms).

Updated to fix the gender of Cass Brock.  You’d think that with a name like Aubrey I’d know better than to make gender assumptions based on someone’s first name.  red face

Contempt of Taxpayer?

I confess to only paying sporadic attention to KISD, but I’m starting to take more notice of things, given recent goings-on.

Today’s Star-Telegram article concerning the resignations of two high-level district administrators after violations of district purchasing policies is only the last straw in a series.  There seems to be a rather nasty feud between two factions on the school board and between one of those factions and the district administration (more on this at Keller City Limits). 

The primary problem, from my perspective, seems to be an administration that wants to “manage” the school board, rather than acknowledge the board’s oversight role.  Well before the current issue, and well before the ADA kerfuffle, I watched a school board meeting where a district administrator was presenting some portions of the proposed budget.  When asked specific questions about certain line items, he squirmed and generally had the “deer in the headlights” look.  It was obvious to me that he was uncomfortable addressing the specifics and wasn’t used to being asked these questions.

The ADA issue, though, seemed curious to me (and helped raise my suspicions further).  When the administration takes the view that it can spend $411,577 without being questioned on it by the board, it seems to me that the administration is out of control.

Now if a trustee really threatened a district employee’s job over something, then that’s beyond the pale and shouldn’t be accepted.  But I get the sneaking suspicion that it’s just smoke being blown by those who oppose trustee oversight of administration activities.

If getting to the bottom of what’s going on at KISD and exercising fiscal oversight is considered “meddling” and “micromanagement,” then I all I can say is “micromanage on!”  I can’t help but think that the administration’s contempt for the trustees transfers back onto taxpayers.  The trustees are our eyes and ears at KISD, and I expect them to poke, pry, prod, and generally discombobulate anyone who wants to obfuscate how our money is being used.

Followup To KISD Bond…

Things got kind of hectic on Friday and I didn’t get back to the issue concerning “Citizens for Great Schools.”  However, Friday’s Keller Citizen pretty much answered the question, which rendered my request to KISD moot.  KISD, however, responded this afternoon with a copy of the committee filing.

Anyhow…  I found it rather disconcerting to see that the largest contributors to this committee have the most to gain.  Not that it’s illegal.  I haven’t studied the Texas Election Ethics sections with regards to this sort of donation, but I’d guess that these companies have vetted their contributions with their legal staff members.  It seems to me that a commercial entity with financial ties to a project ought not to be able to fund a committee for the purpose of lobbying people to vote for that project.  It just smells bad.

Citizens For Great Schools?

It’s hard to fail to notice the synchronicity of the arrival of the postcard exhorting us to vote “YES” for the two KISD propositions and the arrival of a letter from KISD Superintendent James Veitenheimer on KISD letterhead. 

I noticed that the postcard (addressed to “CONCERNED KELLER CITIZEN”) says that it is a Political Advertisment Paid For By Citizens For Great Schools.  I tried to find out more information about this political committee, and all I could find was a passing mention in a Star Telegram article about the KISD stadium.

When the stadium opened, it met standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Veitenheimer said. But times have changed, and so have the standards. Once the five parking spaces for handicapped people are filled, people must park at least 200 feet away. Handicapped seating is another problem, Veitenheimer said. The stadium has about 40 handicapped-accessible seats on the concourse, which is basically the bottom floor of the bleachers. Watching the game, however, is difficult because fans constantly walk in front of the seats. “This is no longer acceptable,” said David Vasquez, a member of Citizens for Great Schools, a bond support group that is mailing information to voters.  (emphasis added)

A little bit more searching shows that Mr. Vasquez is a member of the KISD Citizens Bond Advisory Committee as well as a founding member and a director of the Keller ISD Foundation (please note use of “it’s” on main page…  cool grin  … sorry, can’t help myself…).

I’m not trying to be a muckracker here.  It’s just that when I saw this group’s name I wanted to know more about it as well as who was funding them.  The first thing I looked for was a website (hence the Google search).  I was a little surprised that they didn’t have one, since it’s an easy and inexpensive way to provide information about your position.

Since they appear to be a political committee I took a look at those rules to see how I could get more information.  If they spent or took in more than $500 they’re required to file an appointment of a campaign treasurer with the appropriate filing authority (in this case, the secretary of the school board). 

I have submitted an email to inquire about whether they’ve filed an appointment of campaign treasurer and how to examine the documents, if they have done so (no thanks to the KISD contact form, though, which ate my request and appears to have sent it to /dev/null).

Which reminds me about the “BondQuestions” address that Dr. Veitenheimer referenced once again in his most recent letter.  I’m a bit curious as to whether anyone is actually monitoring it since I sent a question there 7 days ago and have yet to receive any feedback (not even a “we read your message and will get back to you” message).  Or maybe it’s just us cantankerous CAVEs who get ignored.  blank stare

My question concerned getting a breakdown of what went into the cost estimate of the new high school.  I really, really want to know just what’s driving that huge cost estimate.  Was this addressed in one of the “community forum” sessions they held that I couldn’t make?  Or is it just something they don’t want to discuss?  I certainly didn’t see anything that addressed the issue in that nice, glossy, mailer (how much did that cost us?) they sent last week, nor did I see anything in the information provided on their website.

Smells Like Teen Spirit…

From the “tit-for-tat” department

Monty Snow at Keller City Limits has written about some interesting comments made by a council member and the mayor concerning the new fire station. 

In particular, consider the mayor’s comments (The Keller Citizen, Friday, October 6, 2006, Volume 27, No. 10, Page 7A—Not Available Online):

Mayor Julie Tandy agreed that more data should be presented on the need for the station.  “Citizens want to know what they’re getting for their money,” she said.  “It’s a longterm commitment.  At the end of the day, the building is a small part of it.”

She wondered if the project should be placed in the hands of the voters.  “As the community has evolved, they have a great interest in the buy-in,” she said.  “That’s another reason to get numbers.”

Smells a little like library payback to me.  Many of us who opposed the library thought it was a case of misplaced priorities and that items like the new fire station and frozen fire and police positions were more important at the time.  And I certainly still think that’s the case.  But where I find this particular cry of “send it to the voters” disingenuous is that it concerns a core city government function, rather than a peripheral item like the library.  Honestly, I find it odious that the mayor would attempt to hold an important public safety component hostage in an attempt to make a political point. 

But if it takes a vote to make her happy, then so be it.  Let’s get it going.  Put it on the ballot.  I don’t object to a vote.  In fact, I know that I’ve said that government in general shouldn’t be able to create large debts or obligations without public approval, so I’m willing to stand behind that.

Oh?  And even if this fire station causes a tax increase, I’m STILL likely to vote for it because, unlike art and libraries, it’s a CORE CITY FUNCTION. 

On a more serious note, though, I can’t help but think that the folks at Keller Fire-Rescue have done too good a job looking out for the citizens of Keller, to the point that certain factions find it convenient to forget their needs in doing that job.  Keller has negotiated mutual-aid compacts with surrounding cities so that response times have been maintained by calling on those cities when all Keller units are already working. 

Most people don’t think about Fire-Rescue’s resources because they just always seem to be there.  But consider that Keller, a city of approximately 36,328 residents, has only two fire stations.  There are two medic units (one at each station).  For fire apparatus, the city has a 100-ft ladder truck (T583, housed at station 3), a quint (at station 2), an engine (E582 at station 2), and one or two brush trucks (or so I recall, I’m working off of memory here).  All it takes is two major accidents, or a large fire to completely use up all of our resources, at which point we rely on Colleyville,  Southlake, or one of the other surrounding cities.  The same holds true for those cities—if they have a major incident Keller will respond, which means someone else (yet another city) has to backfill Keller if there’s an incident here.

I often listen to the Keller talkgroups on the Northeast Tarrant Public Service system on my scanner.  It’s interesting to hear the patterns that arise.  All it takes are the traditional Friday afternoon wrecks to tie up our Fire-Rescue folks (i.e. one major at 1709/Keller-Smithfield and another on 377 somewhere).  It’s interesting that they seem to come in around 4:00pm on Friday afternoon, usually within a few minutes of each other (although fortunately it hasn’t done so today… yet).

We’ve just been extraordinarily lucky that response times have been maintained so far.  If we reach the projected population of 40,127 by 2010 (one year after the new station is projected to be in service), we’ll just barely be keeping up with demand.

Keller Politics At Its Finest

It appears to me that the QT issue brought a lot of visitors to Keller City Limits who hadn’t seen it before.  Visitors who are absolutely seething over the SUP’s approval at the last council meeting.  A subset of whom are still so angry that they aren’t capable of coherent comments other than name calling.

Jim Carson wrote a short post explaining his rationale for voting for the proposal.  The commenter who stood out the most, however, was someone going by the name Jennifer, who left this in reponse to Jim’s post:


You had your biased mind made up before you ever stepped foot into City Hall that evening.

Ok…  whatever…

But what really had me scratching my head was this exchange, posted in response to a comment from Doug:

#  Jennifer Says:
August 22nd, 2006 at 2:14 pm CST

Gee Doug, nice job giving Jim his obligatory pat on the back. I’m surprised Monty and Aubrey haven’t chimed in yet. I would have expected all of Jim’s sidekicks to have responded by now.

# Doug Says:
August 22nd, 2006 at 3:09 pm CST

Jennifer, should I chastise him for a vote that I agree with?

# Jennifer Says:
August 22nd, 2006 at 4:43 pm CST

I haven’t known about this website for very long but my guess is that I would be hardpressed to find anything in the archives that you disagree on with Jim.

Just curious, is there anything? I’m hopeful to learn that maybe only Monty and Aubrey are the bigger asses.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I hardly ever comment at Keller City Limits, and I only wrote one post on the QT issue.  I was only being mildly sarcastic in tone, and completely serious in content, so I’m not quite sure what has earned me this enmity.  Perhaps it was something from earlier?  Maybe the library?

I suppose I’ll never know, because Jennifer’s anger over whatever sin she thinks I’ve committed makes it completely impossible to hold a conversation with her.

I’ve noticed several other commenters with similar problems.  QTDS (Quick Trip Derangement Syndrome), perhaps?  Or maybe it’s TCLDS (Town Center Library Derangement Syndrome).

Don’t worry Jennifer, I won’t bite you should we meet in real life.  I’ll be polite, shake your hand, and make quickly for the door like I do with most people who’ve gone off the deep end…  smirk

[That’s humor. Laugh, damn it!]

In all seriousness, should you wish to have a reasoned conversation on whatever issue it is that is bothering you, feel free to frequent the comments.  But my patience is wearing thin with the personal insults.

A Novel Solution…

I think I may have an idea for how the people who are up in arms about the proposed QuickTrip in front of Hidden Lakes can resolve the issue.

Hidden Lakes HOA should just go ahead and buy the land.  That way, instead of depriving the rightful owner of the land’s value, they can exercise the control over that parcel that they so desperately seem to want.

I bet they could get it for a good bargain, too, since I hear that the neighbors make a big fuss if you try to build anything there…

Something’s Rotten In Keller

There’s been a stink recently about the problems with garbage collection in Keller.  It seems that some areas weren’t getting their garbage picked up until the next day.  There were some angry people who complained about all the garbage that was collecting on the street.  It spawned an article in the paper and several letters to the editor.  Some of which were from enviro-nuts who berated the residents who complained for generating too much garbage and not recycling.  It must be nice to be omniscient enough to know the exact habits and activities of all the people in that neighborhood in order to determine that people were above their “garbage quota.”  I certainly know that there are a lot of people who recycle quite a bit of stuff, as some of it always manages to end up in my yard on Fridays¹. 

It’s happened in my neighborhood a couple of times now, with yesterday being just the latest example (they finally came at about 8:30 this morning).  I don’t get too bothered by it, since I usually put my garbage in a well-sealed rolling can.  The only thing about it that bothers me is that if I can manage to drag my zombie ass out there early in the morning to put out the garbage, then they should hold up their end of the bargain and come pick the crap up (it’s not like they have a contract or anything</sarcasm> ).  But that’s only a minor annoyance.  What really annoys me is that the garbage collectors have a habit of throwing my garbage can willy-nilly halfway across the street, where it becomes a hazard to vehicular navigation. 

¹  I’m just about fed up with the recycling program and I’m leaning towards just throwing it all in the regular trash collection.  The program costs extra each month and while they give you two bins for free, the lids are “optional” for a cost of $6.00 each.  I’m careful now to make sure my bins are well-packed to make sure nothing blows away.  But I think we’d all be better served if the lids were included. 

And on that note, I’d like to say something to last Friday’s good samaritan who left the “Zep” hair clog remover bottle on my mailbox post:  I’m sure you thought it a great way to point out my negligence in leaving trash out, but I’m sorry to have to tell you that it wasn’t mine.  Like many other things that I get the joy of throwing away for others, my yard seems to be the place where this crap lands.  Someone down the street has a problem with securing their garbage and recycling and I end up with their stuff about every other Friday.

One of these days I’m going to have to take the time to walk down the block to see where this crap is coming from.