Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3/30 Spring Valley redevelopment meeting

The majority of the ~50 attendees were homeowners. There was a renter and some biz owners and some non SVC interlopers like me. Apparently some folks from Dallas were there. Mitchell and Murphy were there. The audience skewed distinctly Anglo, shall we say.

Executive Summary
What Richardson Heights doesn't want: Mexicans. Things that are Mexicany. Admitting that it's about Mexicans.
What Richardson Heights wants: {mumbling} uhhhh...... distinctive... uhhhh... destination..... mid-to-upper income... Did we mention no Mexicans already?
How Richardson Heights proposes to pay for it: {crickets chirping}

About 1hr of the 3hrs was productive: the table discussions and the feedback sessions using the little remotes. In the example to the right, we are voting on how well this mixed-use streetscape fits our vision. I timed it so you could see the voting graph overlaid on the image. The left of the graph is SUCKS! and the right is GENIUS!, so you can see the crowd seemed to like this image.

State of play
It appears the locals are ready to rip-and-replace the Spring Valley Corridor (SVC hereafter). I don't know that this is really necessary and I have to believe the project will die on the (expensive) vine without 100% buy-in from Dallas.

I think another approach would be simpler, faster, and would result in fewer property tax hikes and bond proposals. The overall idea would be to embrace what's productive about SVC and set postive expectations to change what's counterproductive:

Embracing the productive
  • make use of the capitalist spirit and work ethic of the people who live and work in the SVC. Let's use a trivial example. Ever seen elderly heladeros pushing the ice cream cart when it's 105F outside? That's a work ethic. Buy a dingdang ice cream (they are generally $1, and quite good. I like vanilla; wifey likes fresa). Welcome the heladero; encourage him to follow the rules, and encourage residents to value him and his service: this is a churro. These are duros. This is how you buy them from the vendor. Learn to love the heladero. He could be as valuable as a Crime Watch Patrol member in watching your neighborhood.
  • Make our Hispanic brethren feel more welcome and wanted. Rework business buildings as needed, but retain a esthetic that says "we value what you bring to the table." Solicit Hispanic leadership in the SVC process. Sponsor a food fair where Mexican regional dishes are prepared and tasted. Simple cooking classes given by matriarchs would be delightful.
  • Sponsor "tours" of mercados and other businesses so that nearby residents will experience the astounding vegetable/fruit/cheese/meat counters our Hispanic residents already know about.
  • There are some lovely old apartments on the SVC; I lived in Spanish Trails (now Lakeside or something) and the physical area was really nice. Calming. Interior courtyards, ducks, a pond. It was cheap, quiet, and safe. Which brings up the next point...
  • retain a place in Richardson for hardworking blue collar people to live. Seriously, folks. We can't (and shouldn't) push out our working folks of modest means to Garland or whatever. We need all types. We are them.
  • etc

Changing the counterproductive
  • require (or strongly suggest) that all rentals require background checks. When I lived in the SVC the crime was largely youth from Dallas preying on Hispanic folks living in the SVC. Still, criminal background checks would weed out the few bad apples and would soothe the concerns of nearby residents.
  • Provide "this is how Richardsonians behave" information to all newcomers so they know how things are done in our city. They may not know. Follow this up with bilingual beat cops who are dedicated to the enduring success of the SVC.
  • Enforce traffic laws rigorously; the SVC is a deathtrap of terrible driving, DUI, and lack of insurance. I have affection for the SVC and still avoid it much of the time because the drivers are so predictably bad. It would be funny if it weren't so dangerous.
  • etc

Ok, that's enough Pollyanna for tonight. I certainly don't have the answers, but perhaps these disjointed thoughts will inspire someone smarter, better organized, and better connected than I am.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Strongest case

An anonymous writer laid out a compelling, rational argument to vote against the upcoming bond proposals.

It's worth reading, even if you are voting for the bond proposals.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tree fixation @ work session 3/23

[this was a draft I started and didn't finish. But it contains a dig at the datacenter millions, so I'll go ahead and turn it loose as-is.]

I may have made some errors while making this transcription. Better check it against the video yourself. :-)

I'm digging this "visually obscure 25% of the front door or porch" bullet. I mean, we're interested in making Richardson look good.

But there's this detail where the law only allows us to use this kind of tactic for "health & safety" issues. Still, we really like to be ahead of the curve.[0] Do you really think we are we going to be able (with a straight face) to claim in court this is about health and safety and not about looking good, despite what I just said 10 seconds earlier?

Don: Oh, hells yeah. We've been pulling this crap for years, since at least 2001; we were the first ones in North Texas to twist the law this way. We're way ahead of the curve. And now Mesquite is doing it, too! We haven't been sued yet by the residents or slapped down by the A.G. so we're golden. Masters of the universe and all that. It may be a dilrod thing to do, but our lawyers say it's totally defensible[1] and can be tied back[2] to health, safety and general welfare[3].

Mitchell: Man, you're good. Ok. Next question. My neighbor has this big old oak tree. I mean, this thing is annoying, what with all the birds, the acorns, the shade and all that crap. Is is this a stump, based on your new language?

Don: Believe it. If you don't like it (and you've got some pull) then it's a stump. They'll have to cut it down even to the level of the lawn.

Slagel, interrupting: Let me just ask. Is there any way we can pay some completely transient, unstable company five or ten million dollars to cut that tree down and then relocate some kind of datacenter or insurance company where the tree was? We could call it LumberTech or something. I like that branding, and I think it might yield the city thirteen or fourteen cents over the next six centuries.

Tex Keffler: I know some people who are perfect for that. I was playing golf with them Saturday morning. Or was it drinks in the hotel lounge? Regardless, it'd probably have to be closer to 10mil to "get their attention", if you know what I mean.

Macy: It seems traditional in many places to cut off the tree trunk at a couple of feet high and use it as a flower planter. Are we allowing that?

Don: The people who do that are trashy, and may not even be White. Deeply, profoundly "problematic". Denied!

[unfinished, unedited draft ends here]

[0] ie, do things that wiser people might say is "unwise", "inadvisable", or "illegal".
[1] ie, "we will bill you $500/hr to defend it"
[2] ie, fig leaf successfully attached
[3] ...of the city

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

bond props, 1-4

First off, COR webmaster, stop with the unnecessary Flash animation crap, ok? I think there's an important metaphor in there somewhere but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

I think in future bonds we need more granularity. Instead of
Street Improvments
Parts and Rec

Municipal Public Buildings

Neighborhood Vitality

we could have
Street Improvments - Critical
Street Improvments - Optional
Parts and Rec - Critical
Parts and Rec - Optional

Municipal Public Buildings - Critical

Municipal Public Buildings - Optional

Neighborhood Vitality - Critical
Neighborhood Vitality - Optional

This would help prevent critical expenditures from getting bundled with "sure would be nice" issues.

Or, even better: think of how different borrowing would be if we actually got to vote on each item. That would be something like 34 items instead of 4. Would I be willing to take the extra 10 minutes at the poll? Believe it. I don't think it will ever happen because it would KILL pork, and pork is the lifeblood of politics. Starve the beast, people.

Prop 1
, $24.7M
The question here is whether or not to spike this $24.7M prop because of the inclusion of:
Galatyn Overpass Extension $787,500
UTD Roadways $2,836,000

Am I willing to drive on worse roads for a couple of years in order to send a signal that the city shouldn't try to bloat up bond props? Yes, I am.

BTW, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the city building erosion features for what appear to be two private residences at 1709 Timberway Dr. and 1502 Braeburn Dr. Anyone know the dates of the work sessions or council meetings when those were discussed? I'd like to educate myself on that issue. My immediate reaction is that underwriting poor residential location choices increases moral hazard.

Prop 2, $22.6M
This one is easy. No.

We're likely required to do
City Wide - Park ADA Modifications $262,500
which we can do out of current funds.

As much as I'd like to see trails, I will take my own medicine here. This is not the time to borrow money for that.

Note: Hey COR, I understand your girlfriend Heights Park is hot and more than a little high maintenance. Promise her all the trinkets you want, just don't expect the rest of us to underwrite your adventures. We're trying to buy groceries and make the mortgage over here.

Prop 3, 10.5M

Would I like to increase doggie ventilation? Sure. Do it out of current funds. Or get a corporate partner. Who wouldn't want to go on the record as helping adoptable dogs stay cool?

The 724K RFID project will probably save money in the long term, and if so should be in a reasonable bond prop.

Prop 4, $8.15M

Seriously, this is how you're going to list it? How about a link of some kind.
HOA Requested NV Projects Screening walls, entry features, bridge aesthetics $2,100,000

I have no problems with sidewalk repair but 25% undifferentiated fluff in that prop seals it for me.

Man, I'm getting grouchier as I age.

Tree The Town == debt lever?

I'm getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I really, really hope this isn't the underlying rationale for Tree the Town:

Posted by Dollar Tree @ 2:04 PM Tue, Mar 16, 2010
The hidden story in this is how these sponsors are effectively bolstering the City's asset base by tens of thousands of dollars. Not long ago, the Texas Legislature enabled municipalities to place a dollar value on trees. This is intended to increase the net worth of the municipality, and thus make its financial solvency seem more plausible. Well, enter the Tree The Town project. For every tree that is planted, the City will gain additional credibility in the financial markets, thanks to the value of trees being added to the asset base. The only loser here are the citizens who have to repay the debt for which these assets will be applied as collateral.
I hope Amir addresses this in public somewhere.

Line in the sand: I will actively work against any council member/candidate who seeks creative ways to increase COR's ability to go deeper into debt. We need leadership that will help wean COR off debt.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Trash Bash 2010

COR Trash Bash
"All citizens, social organizations, and civic groups are invited to participate in this event to help clean up the community from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 3rd."

I did this in 2008 and had fun. 2009 I had to attend a teaching class. It's on my calendar for this year. See you there!

Census letter

I just opened the pre-Census letter from the Census Bureau. I am not someone they need to convince. I will fill out the form and return it; it's my duty, at least the way I read the Constitution.

But they go on to mention "without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share."

I will confine myself to remarking that the simplest method of ensuring folks get their fair share is to not take it from them in the first place.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Library Elf / Richardson Public Library

I was checking out some books and noticed a Library Elf flyer:

Who uses Elf?

  • Anyone who wants to reduce overdues
  • Families with children and lots of books
  • Individuals with several library cards
  • Anyone who requests a lot of holds

What's delivered?

  • Email and/or RSS alerts before items are due
  • Email and/or RSS alerts on overdues and holds
  • Consolidated list of yours or your family's library loans and holds
  • Cellphone text message alerts for holds (US and Canada)
  • Real-time checking by browser
The flyer said that RPL subscribes to www.LibraryElf.org so use is free for RPL members. It mentioned email alerts for due dates and holds.

Ok, I'll bite. You register and indicate your library affilliation, and put in your card number and PIN. This didn't freak me out as RPL account info is only used at RPL. Answered the required email test and, sure enough, it displays my checked out items and holds.

Since you can't turn off ready hold notifications at RPL, I think the main advantage is being able to see multiple accounts at once. Neat idea but I think there's not a lot of meat there yet.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

next Crime Watch Patrol class scheduled

... word has it that the RPD has booked rooms in the Civic Center for the next class, on April 12-13th. The same word further indicates that if a suitable applicant gets their application in now they will likely be scheduled for the April class.

Things to know:

  • You must be invited to the classes by RPD (ie, must already have application approved). You can't just show up. Since non-public information is shared with CWP as part of the crime watch effort, background checks and other due diligence is in effect.
  • Must attend both classes
  • After you attend and pass the test you will do one or more "check rides" with your area's CWP coordinator. Then you're active!
[none of this necessarily reflects the opinions of RPD; I'm just a citizen. Do your own fact checking before plunking down your time and effort.]

All funds do not *have* to be spent

Here ya go.

This is what financial conservatism and responsibility look like.

For Immediate Release
March 1, 2010

Congressman Paul Returns Over $100,000 to Treasury

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Ron Paul has continued to run his Congressional office in a frugal manner, and was able to return more than $100,000 from his allotted office budget to the Treasury this year, an increase over the $90,000 returned last year.

“Since my first year in Congress representing the 14th district I have managed my office in a frugal manner, instructing staff to provide the greatest possible service to the people of the 14th district at the least possible cost to taxpayers,” said Paul.