Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COR Best of... 2010

Just to prove I'm not (only) a grinch, here are some departments/people worthy of recognition in 2010.

Richardson Public Library
The RPL has been a lifeline for my family during this economic rough patch.

  • DVDs and CDs to rent for entertainment. I haven't been to a multiplex in years.
  • books (duh)
  • Wifi. IMO the wifi is a tremendous value for taxpayer money. No additional hardware required for users; they bring their own. I wouldn't mind paying for a buildout of that infrastructure. Nothing fancy, just enough bandwidth to check email and do light browsing. The kind of stuff students, job seekers, and the retired might need.
  • the new Six Flags-style waiting line seems to be an improvement
  • Interested and interesting reference librarians stashed away in the basement. If you haven't been down there take a few minutes to poke around.
  • RPL director Steve Benson is kicking butt, in every way I can think of.
  • It's time to consider a separate slot on future bond votes just for the RPL; I believe they are doing great work with our collective tax monies.

COR Solid Waste

  • Our guys are efficient, quiet, and don't make a mess. Thanks, guys!
  • BABIC is Johnny-on-the-spot. An excellent program.

Don Magner @ COR Neighborhood Services
I can't tell if this guy is a robot, never sleeps, or is just exceptionally organized/dedicated. But he and his team win the "getting stuff done" award for 2010. I don't know how he does it, but I am grateful.

Dave Carter @ COR Traffic/Transportation
He handles resident concerns professionally and respectfully in situations that might make lesser men lose their temper. I actually enjoyed watching his presentations at the work meetings; he obviously knows his stuff.

Every RPD patrolman I have talked to this year
...or read about, or heard on the scanner. [No disrespect to female patrol officers; just had no contact with any this year. Same for RFD.]

The street cops are representing us well, making good decisions, doing the best with the resources and directives they have. I won't comment on leadership since I have no direct interaction with them. I keep hearing decent things about Chief Spivey, though, even from grouchier folks than me.

Staff @ COR Utilities office
The folks there are always friendly and helpful. I usually snailmail my bill but when I stop by in person these ladies are great.

So that's my list for 2010.

feathers in our cap

In Catch-22 there is a character who is obsessed with appearances/reputation. He obsesses over small details and decides which ones are "feathers in my cap" and which ones are "black eyes."

This is what immediately popped into mind when I read the "City Receives Two Awards from GFOA" article in the December issue of Richardson Today.

Now, before we go any further: if you have not read about the Wine Spectator fake award scandal please do so now. I promise it's relevant (and funny).

Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting
How to get certificate:
  1. join GFOA ($840)
  2. send in at least another $290 with your application (pdf) for the certificate
  3. do your job reasonably well.*

*Note: even if you fail to meet the standards (but your check is still good at the bank) we might still give you the award and not tell anyone but you (pdf) that you really didn't deserve it. [Not making this stuff up, folks. Read it yourself.]

At most places I worked, doing one's job as expected resulted in a type of certificate called a paycheck, which could be used to buy food and such. Apparently city governments (like peewee football?) are teams where everyone who plays gets a trophy. Ok, maybe not everyone. Only 7,132 entities got the award in 2008.

Note to self -- membership fee + app fee times 7,132 = $8,059,160. Quite a going concern. Here's a an offer: for $1130 a year I will issue anyone, anywhere a certificate that says you are KING OF THE WORLD or any other wording you prefer. (certificate issued when your check clears)

BN: if you are excellent but just can't get your application (and check) in on time, the deadline has been extended.

Distinguished Budget Presentation Award

More good stuff, and this one at the low price of $185, assuming you've already ante'd up for membership. Richardson has already won this one for 12 yrs (12 x $185 = $2,220).

This award puts us in an elite group of Texas municipalities like Abilene, Addison, Allen, Alvin, Amarillo, Arlington, Austin, Azle,
Baytown, Bedford, Belton, Benbrook, Brenham, Bryan, Burleson, Cedar Hill,
Cedar Park, Cleburne, College Station, Colleyville, Conroe, Coppell,
Copperas Cove, Corinth, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, Edinburg, El Paso,
Euless, Farmers Branch, Flower Mound, Forney, Fort Worth, Friendswood,
Frisco, Gainesville, Garland , Georgetown, Glenn Heights, Granbury ,

Getting the idea?

Grapevine , Greenville, Haltom City, Harker Heights, Harlingen, Heath,
Hewitt, Highland Park, Highland Village, Houston, Huntsville, Hurst,
Hutto, Irving, Jacksboro, Kaufman, Keller, Kerrville, Kilgore, Killeen, La
Porte, Lake Jackson, Laredo, League City, Leander, Lewisville, Longview,
Lubbock, Lufkin, Mansfield, Marble Falls, McAllen, McKinney, Melissa,
Mesquite, Midlothian, Missouri City, Nacogdoches, New Braunfels, Odessa,

Ok, I have to admit at this point I almost stopped. But so close...

Pearland, Pflugerville, Pharr, Plano, Portland, [Richardson], Richland
Hills, Richmond, Rockport, Rosenberg, Round Rock, Rowlett, Saginaw,
San Angelo, San Antonio, San Marcos, Shavano Park, Southlake TX, Sugar
Land, Sweetwater, Taylor, Temple, The Colony, Tomball, Trophy Club,
Tyler, Uvalde, Victoria, Waco, Watauga, Webster, Weslaco, Westlake,
White Settlement, Woodway

Those were in 2009. 116 x $185 = $21,460, and that's just for Texas. A few states like that and you've got yourselves a real income. Get cities to do it year after year and it starts to look like an annuity.

I'm not saying GFOA awards are a strict quid pro quo. I am saying two things:

  1. If you want to impress the populace, publish the stats on what percentage of applicants were rejected (including the "tell no one" exception above)
  2. We, the taxpayers, are paying for memberships and app fees for some third party to give the city awards. Is this a wise use of your money? Who really benefits?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rob the Town

Lots of action around the Zone [d'Erotica], and apparently not the erotic kind.

Dunno about you guys, but I'm getting a little tired of all the armed robberies in the last 30 days two months?. I started writing a robbery-related post here a few days ago and shelved it as being a bit too obnoxious, even for me.

"Rob the town" to accompany our "apartment the town" initiative?

12/16 DART Station robbery (4x BM)
2700 12/14/2010 11:25:00 PM CST 2600 Block of CUSTER PKWY 120 ROBBERY 10-120162 (BM, UM)
12/13/2010 08:15:00 PM CST 500 Block of CENTENNIAL BLVD 120 ROBBERY 10-119768 (2x WM - atm bandit + accomplice?)
9100 12/12/2010 06:15:00 PM CST 500 Block of CENTENNIAL BLVD 120 ROBBERY 10-119453 (2x WM atm bandit + accomplice?)
6300 12/12/2010 08:00:00 PM CST 800 Block of E ARAPAHO RD 120 ROBBERY 10-119467 (BM, WM)
8200 12/07/2010 08:25:00 PM CST 2400 Block of BUTTERCUP DR 120 ROBBERY 10-117859 (BM, WM)
1700 12/07/2010 07:10:00 PM CST 700 Block of W SPRING VALLEY RD 120 ROBBERY 10-117844 (2x BM)
0610 12/02/2010 03:10:00 PM CST 100 Block of N COIT RD 120 ROBBERY 10-116200 (2x WM, WF)
6610 12/01/2010 06:14:00 AM CST 1000 Block of FRANCES WAY 120 ROBBERY 10-115667 (BM)

0800 11/30/2010 10:30:00 PM CST 900 Block of S COIT RD 120 ROBBERY 10-115606 (2x BM)
7610 11/29/2010 12:00:00 PM CST 1400 Block of E ARAPAHO RD 120 ROBBERY 10-115123 (2X BM)
2110 11/27/2010 07:20:00 PM CST 500 Block of W ARAPAHO RD 120 ROBBERY 10-114663 (UM)
0800 11/26/2010 04:30:00 PM CST 1300 Block of WESTON WAY 120 ROBBERY 10-114339 (WM)
1200 11/22/2010 11:27:00 AM CST 900 Block of REDWOOD DR 120 ROBBERY 10-113060 (2x BM)
11/12 Attempted Robbery 1700 Belt line (2x BF, BM)
11/5 Agg. Robbery 3500 Harlington (2x BM)
11/4 Bank Robbery 4200 Renner (BM)

34 suspects in 17 events.

(image from Oleg's site.)

First K2. Then RMD Gutkha?

Actually, I'm less concerned about whatever exotic betel nut / tobacco concoction people are chomping on, and more concerned about the fact they are leaving the wrappers in my front yard. "You hopped up kids! Get offa my lawn!"

Interesting sidenote: it appears that the fellow who did the "formulation" is some kind of shady character.

Maggie on 75@Renner

There's so much good in the recent Maggie May post that I wanted to chime in on a few points and simply repeat a few others.

The majority of people like, even love, excitement and prestige, not to mention convenience, and also wealth. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just not free. Neither is decay nor the dreaded "creeping blight."

The "not free" part is the crux of the matter. All decisions have opportunity costs, and many have direct costs. Our leadership would like us to believe we can have whatever they sell without actually having to pay for it (in taxes or otherwise).

I don't feel good about subsidizing other people's profit dreams to such a large extent these days.

Preach, sister, preach.

Business should mean competing and taking the risks (and reaping profits, if any). It should not be about crony deals, governmental PR blitzes, and fleecing the public tax cattle for all they can bear.

For the ones who do not want to use a vehicle or give up private transportation, I hope there is improved, viable travel options, like real bus service and rail and other things, that gets them where they need to go.

Bicycle-friendly would be cheap, and wouldn't hurt.

As you can tell, I am hopeful, but skeptical and I think I have very good reason to be.

I think this is the most productive stance. It would be nice if these ruby slippers worked as touted, but I'm not holding my breath.

If you haven't noticed, our taxes never go down...

Tex's position on this is: "the council can vote to reduce taxes at any time."
Wayne's position on that is: "Monkeys might fly out of my butt."

...the developers make the sale, set up to make the profit, spread it around to just the right person or people to convince and sell it to well-meaning and enlightened people to be completely for it and not to ask too many questions and not to give too many answers.

Well put. I worry that the HOA/NA leaders are pawns in the developer-COR complex (to paraphrase Eisenhower). The Complex shows a few people some slides and then crows about "support of the neighborhood." This is a real problem. I've got some ideas about it and may post some ideas on it later.

The crime doesn't go down when dense apartments move into an area. Traffic doesn't reduce in the area. Air pollution doesn't get better. Education levels do not go up and the dropout rate doesn't decrease. Local schools don't seem to get better because of dense apartments even though the schools get more money with increased head count (so far) ... Apartments are not any more dream-like than anything else.

Nothing to add. Just thought it was worth repeating.

Well managed apartments have a place in most communities ... Apartments are not evil. It is what comes with poorly thought out plans that could be called that.

True. There are even oases of tranquility and beauty in the much-maligned SV corridor barrio. I lived in one for a few years and ran into the manager at one of the SVC consultant-clicker fests; this manager was unamused by the broad painting of "blight" across the whole SVC. I agree, but that's a different topic altogether. Sorry. Back to Mags...

...the politicians even pretend to blame the developers who they say they have no control over to get them to do certain beneficial things, when that's just not true. But naive people believe it and repeat it, not holding them accountable and pointing fingers at only developers and commissions under the politicians. The anti's turn on each other and favor the smooth tongue politicians who won't level with them and the top politicians are free to move about the cabin.

Holy crap. If you are not reading MMUSA on a daily basis, this is the kind of writing you're missing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ATM robber caught (on TV, no less)

Robber shows up to rob people at the same ATM. TV crew is filming, catches robbery on tape.

You can see the video in the story here. Check out how the guy approaches the SUV. This is useful info.

Maggie and msteger on density

Maggie on density:

"I like my [suburban] life. If I wanted to live in a much more dense place I would have moved directly into the big city."

This is a straightforward, compelling argument. Makes me pine away for a comment function on Maggie's site. At least 1x/week I find myself wanting to chime in on MMUSA, but I respect MM's decision not to enable them.

msteger has a different view:

"Banning apartments is not the key to that success. Limiting density is not the key to success. The key to success is setting high quality building standards and strict and continuous inspections, not just during construction but for years and decades afterward.

Richardson residents should resist the urge to stop the project..."

I am sympathetic to the idea of mixed use, urban living. I've seen it work in France, Italy, Germany, and a few cities in the US that have a cosmopolitan, worldly feel. I am concerned that the model, as Bloom remarks about continental philosophy, "does not travel well" to areas that lack an existing sense of place.

You can build it, but you can't make it succeed. Eastside appears to be holding together for the meantime but Brick Row may be stillborn. Perhaps we make any new developments contingent on the success of the old? It'd keep us from ending up with a bunch of boarded-up, never-occupied property development projects.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Armed Robbery @ ATM

[update - he got caught]

Here's the DMN story. I suspect this was at the Bank of America but haven't listened to the scanner audio yet. If so, this is the place that was hit (in Nov?) by an armed robber who fled on foot and, apparently, was not apprehended.

Here's a link to the release; I didn't see it on COR.net yet.

And here's how to get an application for a CHL (concealed handgun license).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gas line rupture: Belt Line / Jupiter

RFD is working it as HazMat.