Friday, July 20, 2018

Is Garland applying a double-standard about when it's cool to be a citizen here?

Appealing puppy and kitty faces, calling attention to the need for adoptive homes, have appeared more frequently on city media outlets since concerns about the animal shelter have been raised.
So, let's get one thing straight. Exactly how cool is it to be a Garland citizen?

On Tuesday night (July 17) Garland city council amended the open-mic guidelines for council meetings, stipulating that Garland residents get priority when addressing council during the citizen-comments section.

Speakers who live in other cities now must wait until all Garland residents are finished at the microphone; then they would have their turn. That might mean they might not get the floor until the next council meeting, usually 2 weeks later.

OK, understandable. As Councilmember Jim Bookhout stated, "Our citizens pay the bills, and we need to give them the opportunity to speak way before anyone else." During my campaign for mayor I contended that Garland citizens' opinions don't seem to count for much. I raised the question about whether city council really takes Garlandites into account. I was glad to hear this councilmember and others chime in about holding citizens in high regard.

I'm happy to see city council put it in writing that Garland citizens deserve special consideration and need to be treated with dignity and given first priority in the city where they live, pay taxes, rear their families, and vote. That's a good first step, albeit a tiny one.

Of course, we all know why the new policy was passed. During discussions about concerns over the animal shelter, some people who did not live in Garland became quite vocal. One Dallas resident whose Facebook posts including videos gathered quite a bit of attention in trying to expose wrongs; as a spinoff, she rankled some city council members—though on the positive side the overall controversy itself did cause the city to dramatically amp up its advertising and promotion of adoptable animals in our shelter (a good thing!).


As we all know, the new speaker-policy amendment arose after some out-of-town citizens became involved in efforts to improve the Garland Animal Services facility on Tower Drive. Many people also became more interested in volunteering there to help out. This photo of volunteers is found on the animal services' Facebook page.
Some others that testified or wanted to on this issue were out-of-towners who had become watchdogs for the Garland animal shelter. Under the new policy, in future meetings these citizens will have to wait until others have addressed council to get their turn. Ironically, as soon as the policy was adopted, only one citizen showed up for the citizen-comments portion of council; her issue had nothing to do with the animal shelter but instead focused on deterioration of her Garland neighborhood.

But wait. Explain this. A Garland resident who had a concern about the animal shelter was virtually shut out during the June 28 public hearing to let citizens express themselves about how they'd like to see Garland's new dog park designed. No city representative present spoke up to defend that Garlandite's right to speak an opinion. The Garlandite's contention was, in effect, that the city needed to take animal shelter needs as seriously as officials were working to create a new dog park. When this participant spoke, the sentiments of those present were vocal and negative: it seemed clear they didn't want this subject broached at this hearing. Garlandites count at public-hearing time too, right? Didn't seem much like it at that moment.

Double-standard policy, or what?

Garland citizens, who vote, pay taxes, and take an interest in our community should be allowed to speak their minds about community issues freely—regardless whether they are of the majority or minority opinion. Freedom of speech is a foundation stone of this country! It was a "hill on which to die" for many of our nation's founding individuals and is one which many of us today hold dearly.
Garland--a place where its residents count? A much-needed look at a possible double-standard is necessary.
Then, of course, comes the real conundrum—our city's tolerance of a variety of high-profile individuals that play a major role in our city's day-to-day affairs yet who live outside Garland city limits.

Don't expect city council to address this matter directly any time soon. It's a sleeper issue that's a hot potato—way too heated for our council to handle.

One of my recent blogs reported that less than 5 percent of those with the job classification of Garland firefighter are Garland residents. Yet through their association, PAC, political activism, and financial muscle this group dramatically helps shape our city's destiny by its over-involvement in Garland municipal elections.

I could recite a whole laundry list of other people too that you, dear reader, may think are Garlandites but who actually are not. At night and on weekends, these business, church, and civic leaders slip off to Plano, Dallas, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Rowlett, rural East Texas, and other cities some consider more "exciting" than ours. Pinned down each one can cite an excuse for why they actually live elsewhere ("our horses","my children's schools", "my spouse's employment", "my friends", "my elderly mother", etc.).

Many of these people have a loud voice in the direction of our city while our average citizens don't. 

"What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander", as the old saying goes. If we're going to tell non-Garland residents that they must wait their turn at the podium, then let's be kind to the Garland residents that do desire to speak up. And if it's important enough to pass a council amendment about, isn't it high time we insist that those who lead us and speak for us be those that live within the confines of our city's boundaries?

Some might argue that it is illegal for an employer to insist that employees live in a particular place. I'm not sure that rebuttal has ever been tested in court. And I also doubt that it could truly hold water in this era of "America First" politics flowing out of Washington these days.
"A Most Desirable Place to Live . . . Garland" stated this promotional item of bygone days, touting Garland's one-time handle, "City of Beautiful Homes". Lovely homes still exist here. Why is Garland not chosen more often by many who influence major decisions for our city?
Three decades ago when I was editor of the Plano Star-Courier and editorial coordinator for the other Harte-Hanks newspapers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the publisher made it quite plain to me—and expected me to make it equally plain to my employees—that the management certainly preferred its employees to live in Plano. Some chose not to, and they were not punished. But the ideal was definitely held out for all to understand. Plano city officials who knew the policy saluted it and actually worked together to implement their own version of it.

At that time Kay and I had wanted to live in Garland near my wife's aging parents but knew our jobs would be on the line if we dared defy the prevailing sentiment.

Garland is in the process of interviewing for someone to coordinate activities in the downtown area. I certainly hope that those who hire this individual look for a hire who already lives in Garland or commits to moving here immediately! How can someone truly understand the needs of our city unless they are part of the ebb and flow of our residential life on a daily basis?

Garland, let's stop sending this mixed message. If the voices of Garland citizens count above all others in our community, let's start making this clear across the board—not just selectively when the decibel level is rising and our leaders are feeling uncomfortable. If we don't want "outsiders" crowding the podium at the end of our city council meetings, let's also do something about those who shape our public perspective yet do not live here, do not vote here, do not pay taxes here, and clearly don't want to move here.

It's still a free country. People have the freedom whether to live in Garland or elsewhere. Let's find out why others who have loud voices in our community don't want to be Garland residents, then make the improvements that would entice them to move to Garland—and give them the choice of putting their money (families and lives) where their mouths are! 

This charming redo in an older part of town is an example of an outstanding home for consumers. What can be done to help more high-profile leaders of our city to find Garland residentially appealing?


 

Monday, July 2, 2018

WAS IT REALLY WORTH IT, GARLAND? Listening to and respect for our citizens always should be the mantra of our city leaders, not the option of last resort

Instead of paying more money to take up the old foundation and parking lots at Garland's former Armory, some wonder, why not figure out a creative way to use it in the city's plan for a dog park where the armory used to be?
The citizen-input meeting on the dog park proposed for Garland's Central Park on Thursday night, June 28, proved one thing if nothing else: how difficult would it have been for our city leaders to listen to citizens in the first place?

Two very valid and workable solutions were proposed at the Thursday meeting—either of which would be miles and miles better than the previous proposals that created such political havoc in our city and gave non-Garlandites a very bad impression of our community.

One of the key choices in the concept drawings presented by Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers on Thursday night was how wide a buffer should exist between homes in the surrounding Embree neighborhood and the park itself—the question that should have been part of the original proposal to start with. And the solution about whether the choice should be A or B? Simple. Ask the neighbors whose homes are most affected. Is a small row of trees on a parking lot enough, or should the rows of trees be thicker? Who knows this answer better than the neighbors? Borrowing an expression today's youngsters have mastered, Duh.
The proposed 3-acre dog park at Central Park will go where the old Armory used to be. This is one (Plan A) of two concepts presented by Pacheco Koch at a citizens input meeting last week. The main difference in the two plans is at the top of the drawings, where  Plan A leaves a small parking lot with landscaping to protect the neighborhood to the north. Plan B eliminates the parking lot and adds more landscaping as a visual and sound barrier.

The dog-park proposal Thursday night also was separated from the more controversial idea of building a skate park in Central Park, too. Last year the two were lumped together, along with an unacceptable proposal to take out a baseball field that had been there for years and was valued by neighbors and the Little League leaders and parents.

In the midst of the tumultuous political dogfight that ensued on city council, Garland lost its sizable armory building to a bulldozer without a thorough evaluation of whether the building truly could be and should be saved.

Plan B, like Plan A, for  Garland's first dog park will incorporate land where the foundation still exists for the old National Guard Armory that was torn down amid fussing and squabbling on Garland City Council last year. Plan B removes the small parking lot (at top) and adds more landscaping.
What it took to get to that point Thursday night—a district in crisis, a recall petition against a city council member, a mayor's resignation, a city council race in which the armory issue was the springboard, and then one sitting city council member stepping in and redrawing a more citizen-friendly and citizen-endorsed plan, with some other councilmembers quietly saying they wish there had been a way out earlier before it got so contentious—was totally irrational and destructive to the goodwill so desperately needed in our city.

Was it really a hill on which to die, Garland? Was it really worth all the heartache that ensued?
The current discussion provides a choice about how much to landscape this area north of the proposed dog park to protect the nearby Embree neighborhood from the noise and visitors the city expects to draw to the proposed new dog park at Central Park.
If they had it to do over again, I'd bet that deep in their hearts almost every member of council at that time wishes he or she had acted differently. Unfounded rumors, impacted friendships, destructive statements—just some of the fallout. Respect for our leaders was severely harmed. The destruction was devastating to our city's reputation. So much of it was totally unnecessary. Listening to our citizens should be the mantra of our city leaders, not the option of last resort.

What seemed like a vendetta against the mayor that the majority of council didn't like or support turned into a nasty divisive and highly publicized feud that brought embarrassment to an entire town. We heard this loud and clear as we went door to door to campaign during the recent mayor's race. The topic of Garland's loss of respectability surfaced repeatedly as citizens voiced concerns. Let us hope that never happens again. Reasonable people ought to be able to hold rational, candid, open conversations without it exploding so unnecessarily.

The question now is, will it be difficult for our current city leaders to continue to listen to citizens? 

Interestingly, some of the key players in the fight last year were not present Thursday night as they had been last December when the dog park was last publicly discussed and political civil war was raging.

Some citizens who spoke on Thursday night still had concerns about pets' behavior toward each other once inside the park, about proper monitoring of the park, about hours of operation, about what happens if a party at a possible rental space gets out of hand, etc. Will these concerns be taken seriously and weighed as the final decision is reached? At the Thursday meeting citizens were asked to put colorful dots on posters containing examples of styles of shelters, water features, seating, etc., that they prefer. Will these remarks be taken seriously and will citizens have a chance to review the final product and continue to provide input? I certainly hope so.

And of course the ongoing concern about the Garland animal shelter predictably raised its head briefly during the meeting. While a majority of those present clearly didn't want to make this a part of Thursday night's discussion—and indicated they didn't want to hear from the one Garland citizen who tried to raise the issue—will citizens continue to have a voice in this matter also? Will discussions be allowed to continue and elected officials be responsive to our citizens? The contention expressed Thursday night was that if the city cares enough to spend possibly $900,000 on a dog park, will it care enough to continue to address ongoing issues at the animal shelter as they arise?

As I've said repeatedly for years, Garland desperately needs a new animal shelter. Questions such as how it should be paid for and funded, where it should be situated, and how it should be operated, are all matters that require public input. Nothing about those discussions should be threatening or frightening to our leaders. Will council simply push forward with its "tax-and-borrow" practice, of the past or will it rationally sit down with concerned citizens, listen seriously to all proposals, and hammer out workable, creative solutions for all concerned? Many of us who want a better Garland will be watching the style of this discussion very closely!

And to knock costs down for the proposed dog park, will our leaders and employees seriously study whether the existing concrete (the foundation and part of the parking lots of the old controversial armory) can be used in some creative fashion—thus keeping the simple three-acre dog park from possibly costing $300,000 an acre? Again, I hope beyond hope a serious study of this will occur.

Most folks attending Thursday night's meeting may have missed one rather interesting tidbit: Richardson, our next-door neighbor to the west, is winning major accolades for its new dog park opened in 2015 because of the creative way it was designed using what some would call unusable land underneath highway bridges. Congratulations to Richardson for displaying such leadership and creativity.

The renewed, revised discussion about the dog park in Central Park gives us a chance to start over and do it right in every way.

The 3-acre proposed site is currently surrounded with fencing as a result of City Council's haste to eradicate the former armory once located at the site where the City's new dog park may go. 


Friday, June 29, 2018

It has a familiar ring: warning signs for Garland park's July 4 overcrowding needed creative solutions long before now

Garland City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday night to close Windsurf Bay Park on this July 4 because the park was beyond successful on Independence Day 2017. The park abuts Lake Ray Hubbard and draws thousands from far and near.
Ignoring the signals regarding one of Garland's hidden jewels on July 4 is yet another example of a looming and potentially embarrassing crisis of poor planning that our city now faces.

If I could change only two things about our City of Garland municipal government, it would be to get it to spot problems faster and then react to them quicker and more creatively.

I was reminded of this Monday night as city council in work session discussed what to do about Garland's popular Windsurf Bay Park on the upcoming July 4 holiday. It was underscored even more so during the Tuesday-night regular council session on the same subject.

For nearly a year, city council has been warned that the Fourth of July last year at Windsurf Bay Park in Garland's southeast area abutting Lake Ray Hubbard was a mess and that the city needed to take proactive steps this year to avoid a potentially explosive situation.

Rather than study a whole range of possible positive options, the solution was a quick and easy negative decision to close the park on July 4 from midnight until 6 a.m. on July 5. Never mind that this "solution" carries with it another whole range of possible repercussions—many of which could end up tarnishing the city's image once again.
Windsurf Bay Park is one of the best-kept secrets and is a real jewel for our community. On the right is a bronze plaque noting the cooperating of the City of Garland and the State of Texas parks departments in establishing the park.
If something about this has a familiar ring to it, it should. Baylor Scott & White-Garland's closing went down the same path. Handwriting on the wall, handwriting on the wall, then bam! Garland has a potential crisis of mega proportions. Once again!

The controversy over Garland's 50-plus-year old animal shelter that has raged far and wide in recent weeks is another example of the city dragging its feet when positive action is needed.

According to Garland Police and city officials, the celebration of The Fourth at Windsurf Bay Park has grown in popularity in recent years so that people travel here from surrounding cities—and a few from out of state—to celebrate July 4 at our city park, which is almost totally lacking in good roads (they desperately need to be graded), adequate restrooms (nothing but a few portacans), and organized parking—all the things that are "supposed" to make a park more appealing.
A handful of portapotties can barely handle the daily visits from swimmers, fishermen, and picnic-ers to the park. No wonder it was such a mess last July 4 when thousands descended on our lovely park by the lake.
The crowd at the park last year was described as "in the thousands", with people doing all sorts of unacceptable things such as swimming in the lake without a lifeguard present, barbecuing along the shore line and dumping their used charcoal and ashes wherever they pleased, smoking marijuana and drinking beer and throwing their drink cans on the grass, illegally shooting off fireworks within city limits, and celebrating in overcrowded conditions so bad that emergency crews couldn't get through to them if, for instance, someone fainted from the heat or a firecracker burned someone else's hands.

Mercy me, it sounded a little like Woodstock back in 1969. Fortunately at least no one has described someone ripping off their clothes and running up and down the beach in their birthday suits!

The movie, Field of Dreams, made famous the expression, "If you build it, he will come." Our Garland parks department and the State of Texas parks department worked together to create this little gem. We built it. Now they come. And we want them to stay away this year because success outran lack of preparedness? That makes little sense to many of us.
The inscription on this bronze plaque says, "Windsurf Bay Park, a Texas Local Parks, Recreation and Open-Space Fund Project sponsored by the City of Garland (and) Texas Wildlife and Parks Department".
People from as far away as Louisiana and Oklahoma have discovered Windsurf Bay Park—something we've for years been begging Garlandites and non-Garlandites to do about our downtown area, our Firewheel Center, and other city hot spots. Discover us! Please pay attention to Garland; we really do have great things here!, has been the cry.

The "discovery" of Windsurf Bay Park wasn't supposed to happen. But after one trip through there in preparation for this blog, I can see why it did. It is truly one of Garland's hidden jewels. It's quite beautiful, appealing, and restful—all elements that a park should be.

The park did not appear to be on any city leader's radar screen or list of top priorities until last year after the last July 4 festivities. How the word spread far and wide about our little ole Windsurf Bay Park being so ripe for celebration on July 4, no one on city council or from city staff seems able to fully explain—or let alone comprehend. Apparently the grapevine mixed with the Internet is highly powerful. And maybe the intrigue of a little ruggedness and beach-like feel at the park added to its charm and appeal.

The situation is also akin to someone planning and building sidewalks, only later to observe that people were making their own walking trails in the grass. Sidewalk planners might have benefited from first observing the natural patterns.

Complicating matters further, no one on council or in our city government had ever conducted a "catalyst study"—our city's ideal of how local government should revive an area—specifically on the park itself or even thought about it being something that potentially could draw people into our city—and at the same time make this a more lively place to live.
This road is the only entrance into the lakeside park.
Until, of course, after Garland Police Chief Mitch Bates did what he had been told to do: arrive at Council Monday night with plans for shutting down Windsurf Bay Park on July 4 (with the potential of returning to ask the same thing on Labor Day, another high-use occasion) and telling those awful non-Garlandites to leave our fair city and take their money (that they might spend nearby) elsewhere.

That's right. The message the city is sending is, "Leave our park empty on July 4. And take your money with you as you go! (Never mind that you might use it to boost Garland's economy.) And don't come back unless we tell you that you can."

Not exactly the kind of welcome mat the city needs to be putting out anywhere!

Wednesday morning after the council vote, the city's parks department was posting signs throughout the park and at the entrance telling people, in English and Spanish, that the park would be closed on July 4. 

Apparently we'd rather have an empty park, a temporary city-funded $5,200 fence (with a potential $700 per month additional rental fee if the city decides it needs to continue), and police apparently on overtime guarding the fortress than to figure out what the "vibe" is that has these visitors find so enchanting in a tiny, relatively unknown but quaint spot in our city.

We certainly don't want the likes of these people from outside our borders using a facility in our fair City of Garland. Right? Certainly we don't want to "make lemonade out of lemons", now do we?

Fortunately, sanity began to take hold of the city council meeting Monday night. At first two city council members expressed dismay that the city would be closing the park on July 4 and had no alternative plan for the situation. Eventually some who at first seemed to be encouraging the closing started backtracking and started stating their desire to make the park better—after this July 4. By Tuesday night only one council member—Rich Aubin of District 5—stood firm against the closing of the "highly successful" park while the others voted for closure.

Some among the eight who voted "yes" to closure argued that the city really has no options, with the July 4 holiday bearing down us like a fast-moving freight train. Time is definitely NOT on the city's side now, they said. After seeing the park Wednesday morning, June 20, I'm not so sure. Setting it up properly now would be a tremendous challenge but not impossible. Where is Garland's old "can-do spirit"?

Meanwhile, I am still left with that gnawing question, "What will it take for our leaders to wake up and smell the coffee BEFORE bad things happen again in this city?"

When Baylor Scott & White abruptly closed our city's only full-service hospital on February 28, city leaders had been warned more than a year earlier (and the handwriting had been on the wall for nearly a decade—see my blog on 12/19/2017) this might happen, but our leaders lived in denial, believing that something or someone was going to rescue them.

Unfortunately, the story is not new for Garland. Wait! Hesitate! Look to old solutions and past formulas. And let's console ourselves with a pat on the hand that says "everything is going to be OK".

It will, won't it?

"Just be quiet and don't say anything and maybe, just maybe, our problems will go away" often seems to be our motto here.

Meanwhile, our sister cities to the east, north, and west, blossom and sizzle. And some of our council members get irked at anyone who dares to suggest we are NOT in that fast-moving group.

Instead of renting a fence to seal off the park and positioning Garland police officers and squad cars to ward off any problems at Windsurf Bay Park—once again risking negative publicity about our city—why wasn't a citizens committee formed earlier this year and filled with blue-ribbon creative types empowered to look for win-win inventive solutions? The good idea of possibly requiring advance reservations and capping the number of entrants, turning others away once a safe cap was reached, was proposed Monday night by a brand-new city councilperson, but it didn't get enough traction to keep the park open this year. (Chief Bates said from 7-8,000 guests used the park last year.) A citizens group created to study the Windsurf Bay dilemma could have hatched up ideas such as this much earlier so some solutions could have been in place well before this July 4 loomed upon everyone.
Next to the lake, with storm clouds rolling in, Windsurf Bay Park is a truly beautiful place. Its dirt/sand roads, however, could use a visit from a tractor with a sharp grader!
Parking problems? Did anyone ever consider utilizing the parking lots at several nearby churches or apartment complexes (apparently destroyed by the tornado) and providing shuttle service for park patrons, then charging them an entrance fee to the park to pay for the shuttle and extra security?

Maybe our annual visitors really don't know that they are not supposed to dump their used charcoal and ashes on the ground in our parks. That's not posted in the park-rules signs already in place at Windsurf Bay Park. (However, littering, shooting fireworks, drinking alcoholic beverages, etc. are already posted!)

On Tuesday night Aubin suggested signs stating that no lifeguard is on duty. On Wednesday people were swimming and fishing along the shoreline. If these signs are needed on July 4, they also are needed on other days of the year as well. Did anyone ever think of that before Tuesday night?

And the issue of people parking in the nearby neighborhood? Doesn't the city own hundreds (maybe thousands) of barricades—far more than enough to block off access to all those streets? (As a rough estimate, I would say less than 50 would be needed.) And couldn't we have asked our Citizens on Patrol to staff those barricades voluntarily?

Our leaders seem to function with the idea that there are no solutions, except the most narrow and limited ones from the past. I doubt most have ever heard the entrepreneur's heart-cry, "Seize the moment!"

Take, for instance, another hot-button topic in our city right now: our antiquated animal shelter. Ever since I drove to Plano's animal shelter years ago and rescued a castaway Bichon/Poodle for our daughter after earlier visiting Garland's animal shelter and finding no suitable pet for a person with severe cat-and-dog dander allergies, I've been concerned that Garland's animal shelter needs to be replaced with something much better, more adequate, and more modern. Even then I knew that Plano dazzles while Garland plods and falls further and further behind.

Now, of course, the city is once again put in a bad light because of all the unresolved issues at the animal shelter that were brought to the surface by the controversy generated by a persistent CITIZEN group—including, heaven forbid, an "outsider" from Dallas—not willing to settle for our status quo. A citizens task force immediately after the last mayoral election starting to work on planning a new animal shelter with an eye to upgrading services could have been well on the road to having a solution.

City council members can no longer hide behind some members' disdain for our former mayor as their excuse for not leading properly. They wasted far too much time voting against things just because they presumed the former mayor supported those issues. So now there's no one else to blame for their blunders or lack of leadership except themselves.

It's time for council to start becoming proactive instead of bureaucratic. Foot-dragging and being reactive need to become council practices of the past—not carried forth into the future.
Garland City Council was at a fork in the road regarding Windsurf Bay Park Monday night. These signs tell much about that dilemma.












Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Do we live in a democracy? In Garland city elections the democratic process is all but eliminated because of the powerful Garland Fire Fighters Association


My membership in the Citizens Fire Academy taught me the rigors Garland firefighters endure to perform their jobs well. Because I care about our firefighters, I believe the Garland Firefighters Association needs a mid-course correction in the way it involves itself during local elections.
Garland citizens need to have an important and necessary conversation about the role, power and influence of the Garland Fire Fighters Association and its political action committee in our city's elections.

Our city's fire department is NOT involved directly in our city's elections. Like all city departments, it is by law supposed to be nonpolitical. However, the independent union-like association that includes many of our firefighters is intricately involved in city politics—and in ways and to the extent that may surprise average voters and citizens of our community. The law requires this to be done out of uniform and totally off hours and away from their places of work.

At the same time, an Open Records request to the city proved what many have long suspected and rumored but, in typical Garland fashion, is not readily in public view: Less than 5% (a total of 6) of our 119 firefighters (people in our fire department who bear that job title) actually live and vote in Garland. The other 95% live as far away as southern Oklahoma, East Texas, the western outskirts of Fort Worth and other places. The firefighters earn between $61,084 and $76,760 a year in Garland and from Garland citizens' pockets yet spend the vast majority of that money in other places, building the economic base of other locations. 

While 95% of our actual firefighters live outside the City of Garland, do not pay taxes here, and do not vote in our city, the firefighters association, which touts loudly and proudly "Garland Firefighters support . . .", exercises perhaps the most powerful influence of any individual or group over our city's municipal government. 

Before I go further in this blog, let me be clear: I love and respect our city's and our nation's first-responders, including the brave men and women who keep us safe when fire turns destructive. I am a proud graduate of the City of Garland's Citizens Fire Academy; I am a member of the Citizens Firefighters Club of Garland. Two of my four nephews are firefighters in Oklahoma. One of Kay's cousins is a firefighter in Dallas; another is retired from the volunteer fire department in a small town in East Texas. We have friends who are parents of firefighters. At our house we love firefighters as individuals and as a department of our city!

I also love Garland and our city's firefighters enough to ask the difficult questions about their political action committee, their union leaders, and their excessive over-involvement in our city's political elections. I want better for them and don't want to see them continuing to go down a troublesome path many in our city are beginning to seriously question and which could majorly damage our fire department's reputation overall.
I cherish my experience as a member of the Garland Citizens Fire Academy, where I and my fellow class members learned a bit of what goes into a firefighter's workday. Regretfully only 6 of Garland's firefighters (less than 5 percent) live in Garland, yet the union of which many are members makes far-reaching decisions that will impact our city's citizens for decades.
I would ask the same questions if another group—for instance, employees of the Garland Environmental Waste Services or the city's Streets Department—has a PAC and conducted themselves in this manner. Regular city employees also are by law under the same restrictions about campaigning and being involved in municipal elections as are the fire and police employees. They may not use their positions to directly influence a campaign or election.

This is also not meant to reflect personally on the candidates that the political action committee endorsed in the most recent city election. Because of the way this firefighters' PAC operates, however, the election was not a fair fight—and local elections down the road can never be a fair fight as long as this organization's practices are not seriously studied or countered.

To counterbalance the excessive power the Garland Fire Fighters Association wields in our city elections, other groups of city employees, disenfranchised residents, or others may be forced to rise up to challenge the GFFA-dominated power structure here. I heard grumblings of this during the recent Mayor of Garland campaign.

The way the Garland Fire Fighters Association's PAC operates creates the type of municipal election here that essentially eliminates the democratic process. Only a candidate endorsed by the PAC has any chance of winning at all, given the deep pockets the firefighters' union has. In this blog I repeatedly have encouraged Garland citizens to run for public office and to throw their hats in the ring in local elections and to exercise their rights as citizens to do so. However, very few people can stand against this kind of onslaught. The average citizen can't expect to take on this challenge unless the person is independently wealthy and can outspend the deep-pocketed Garland Fire Fighters Association union. Even at that, there's no guarantee, because who is going to oppose the "motherhood-and-apple-pie" questionable approach of "Hi, I'm a Garland firefighter" or "Hi, I'm a firefighter" that occurs when GFFA representatives electioneer at polling places and approach voters with their endorsements and materials as they enter to cast their ballots? It represents an extremely unfair advantage. It has earmarks of what one might experience if he or she lived in a country where there is really no choice in an election or where successors are pre-selected.

Let's first define three terms that are crucial to this conversation. The terms sound alike but legally apply to three different entities.

1. The Garland Fire Department. This is the unit of our city assigned to save lives and property by fighting fires and transporting and sick and injured to area medical facilities. It is top quality with an annual operating budget of $32,635,109 for fiscal year 2017-2018. The city employs 119 firefighters and 141 others in that department. Mark Lee is the city's fire chief.

2. The Garland Fire Fighters Association. This AFL-CIO affiliated organization is known as the International Organization of Fire Fighters Local 1293. While a separate entity from the Garland Fire Department, its membership is overlapping and is composed of most of the men and women in the Garland Fire Department, not just "firefighters" per se.

3. The Garland Fire Fighters Community Interest Committee is a political action committee, aka a PAC. It is somewhat similar to those PAC's you read about in national elections, which are funded by extremely rich U.S. citizens who often have right-wing, left-wing, and other political agendas. The local Garland PAC pools money given by firefighters (often deducted directly from their city paychecks) to be used in political activities, such as elections for Garland city council and mayoral races. Many Garland politicos believe it is almost next to impossible for an ordinary citizen in a competitive race against a council or mayoral candidate endorsed by Local 1293 to win. Because the group is so well organized, skilled, monetarily endowed, and powerful, the Firefighter PAC is able to throw as much money and influence as necessary to win an election here.

The Fire Fighters Association even has its own private offices in the basement of the Chase Bank Building near the intersection of Garland Avenue at Main Street.

Garland firefighter David Riggs, president for many years of the association, and Garland firefighter Brandon Day, secretary-treasurer, are key leaders in the organization and the organization's political campaigns. Riggs is a skilled, seasoned politician who is scheduled to retire from the Garland Fire Department in 2019. I will be very surprised if he doesn't opt to run for public office in coming years or create his own consulting business for political candidates. Riggs lists on State of Texas paperwork his address as Sulphur Springs, TX. He is among Garland's most astute political powerhouses right now and one of the most influential people in Garland city elections, even though his address is in Sulphur Springs.
A familiar face in matters pertaining to Garland politics is David Riggs, president of the Garland Fire Fighters Association, and one of the most powerful political figures in Garland.
During the most recent election, Riggs worked tirelessly for his candidates, not only ordering, paying for with PAC funds, and putting up their campaign signs and orchestrating multiple targeted mailings and robo phone calls but even bringing meals to them and delivering and taking other actions at their beck and call.

The Garland Fire Fighters Association's Community Interest Committee is the strongest and most financially able of any PAC in Garland today. It makes the other Garland PAC's associated with such entities as the Republicans and Democrats in our community look weak and anemic.

The only comparable Garland entity to the firefighters is the UA Plumbers and Pipefitter Union Local PAC Fund, which gives mostly to non-local races. It does not seem to want or have an influence in our city's politics. Its focus seems to be on state and national politics.

So the firefighters' PAC stands alone in financial strength and political power in our city. Nothing else in Garland compares to it. No wonder our local politicians appear to live in awe—and at the same time fear—of it!

One has to follow the rabbit-trail through state government maze at the Texas Ethics Commission's website to discern the true wealth and influence of the Garland Fire Fighters Association and its powerful PAC, aka the association's Community Interest Committee.

Fortunately, the State of Texas requires the PAC to file paperwork for its fundraising and expenditures on political campaigns. This is yet another classic example of how the state appropriately has to supervise what goes on in a city.

The role of the Garland Fire Fighters Association's Community Interest Committee is especially significant in a city where voter apathy is extreme and financial means for elections is desperately small. Those unfortunate elements combine to magnify the influence of the firefighters' PAC. (In the last election only about 3% of Garland voters exercised their right to vote.)

The Garland Fire Fighters Community Interest Committee has the financial resources and political clout in the city to elect just about whoever it wants in a city election. And when it deems necessary, the PAC uses those resources to whatever extent necessary, leading to what could make a significant portion of our current Garland City Council beholden to it, living in fear of it, or going begging after its support.

The city has little it can do to cure the union's influence, especially since the majority of the members of the Garland City Council were elected with its help—and three of the others have never stood for election and received even one citizen's actual vote and easily could live wondering what would happen to them if they ever became involved in a REAL contested election and needed the firefighter PAC's assistance to stay in office.

It represents an extremely unfair advantage, especially when those approaching the voter with the appealing introduction, "Hi, I'm a firefighter”, fail to reveal their actual place of residency elsewhere. Members of the Garland Fire Fighters Association say they perform these election-related tasks in their off-duty hours. One told a member of our campaign staff that he was paid by PAC money to be present at the polls. (Initial reports filed in Austin indicate the firefighters who work the poll are paid by the PAC. More on this in another blog later.)

And why not live in Garland? If firefighters and other city employees work here and earn their salaries here, why would they not want to support the hand that feeds them and help bolster the economic base that in turn could help their lot economically? Garland has nice homes, wonderful people, good schools, and a city with an economic base that needs all the help it can muster! If our city council had courage, it would ask important questions like that when the union leaders come calling asking for their pet projects such as setting up a special "retirement stability benefit" for them.

In late 2017, the Garland Fire Fighters Association's Community Interest Committee reported to the State of Texas that it had available assets of more than $120,000 and was still collecting funds to disperse during elections in 2018 and beyond. (In Garland, a contested City Council race can cost upward of $10,000 and a mayoral election more than $50,000.) I personally ran a frugal mayoral campaign that spent more in the realm of what candidates for council normally spend (when a contested race actually occurs!) In its May 3 filing, the Garland firefighters PAC reported that for the year its receipts reached $33,228.00 and its expenditures $34,494.29. Those funds seem to have been disbursed mostly for Texas legislative races. Most of the expenses for its involvement in the Mayor of Garland special election on May 5 are not included in that May 3 report. I will report to my readers on them later when all those reports are filed and publicly available.

A major issue that Garland faces, as one reader pointed out recently in a response to one of my blogs, is that Garland does not have its own independent newspaper or other media such as TV or radio stations to help ferret out the truth for us. That means we have no independent voice in the community to determine and assess the information about city elections, including information about the oversized role of the firefighters association and its PAC.

During the most recent city election, one couldn't readily tell the difference between the city's fire department and the firefighters association and the activities of its PAC. Many citizens were quite confused by the distinction. Representatives of the Association hustled voters at the polling stations and identified themselves as "Hi, I'm a Garland firefighter" or  "Hi, I'm a firefighter", further muddying the waters between politically active city employees under the guise of the firefighters PAC and city practice restricting political activity of its employees.

I have asked the Texas Ethics Commission in Austin, the state's watchdog on elections, for a reading on just how close the association came to stepping over the fine legal line of what is ethically right for it and at the same time harmful to our citizens who want to do right in elections.
Texas law is very specific about what political signs can say and how wording is presented. Our campaign noted several areas needing clarification in the Garland Fire Fighters Association's signs.

Some of the PAC's larger campaign signs during the Mayor of Garland race need clarification about whether they could have violated the law. In my document filed with the Texas Ethics Commission in Austin I cite several potential areas of question with their signs. My campaign workers and I deliberately acted cautiously and opted to wait until after the election was over rather than sending the mayoral campaign into chaos by deliberately and legally raising the issue and demanding during the waning days of the campaign that the Garland Fire Fighters Association's possibly illegal signs be removed.

Now that the campaign is over, I believe the city must face up to and address the matter publicly, so that citizens understand fully how their votes are being influenced by the firefighters' PAC, its money, and what citizens' options are going forward for dealing with it.

Many Garland citizens approached, emailed, and or called me to complain about "the firefighters'" aggressive behavior, including numerous robo phone calls, excessive direct mailings, signs, and electioneering voters at the polls. All this went well beyond the mere act of issuing an endorsement for a candidate. Most citizens didn't seem to know the fine points that distinguish the city fire department, the independent association, and the powerful PAC. They just referred to what was happening in the election and at the polls as "the firefighters".

Our firefighters rightfully bemoan the higher cancer risk firefighters face today due to chemicals used in all sorts of manufacturing. And they have asked City Council for a special "retirement stability benefit" to help offset that danger—a perk that even our police who daily face untold dangers said was not a priority for them. Yet the firefighters association spends on city political campaigns vast sums of money that could be used for a more worthwhile cause such as care of firefighters battling cancer or maybe even special cancer insurance for them. An individual fire department employee could funnel his or her funds now going to the PAC and reallocate them into a savings account for his or her retirement, if that is a matter of concern. The association's and PAC's stewardship of these funds seems puzzling at best. For the past decade, they've been growing in their involvement with our city politics. In fact, many sitting city council members (those that were actually elected by citizens in a competitive race, not by council because no one filed against them) are in their debt for the money the organization has fed into their campaigns to get elected.

During the most recent mayoral election, the firefighters association seemed almost in a state of panic to make sure their candidate won. It reminded me of my classes in the Fire Academy in which we were taught to go into a fire using everything we had to put it out and not let it spread. The Garland Fire Fighters Association already had an outstanding track record for steering elections in their preferred direction, so their response in this election was more than noteworthy. 

The issue is NOT our valued firefighters individually nor as a department of the city. It is the element within the firefighters community that tries to exercise unfair political influence far beyond that which most people truly understand or believe is right in our nation.

Whether the group's actions are ethical, moral, or right—and should be allowed to continue unchallenged—is the question that Garland's citizens need to answer for themselves—after getting all the facts out in front of them, something that hasn't been done until now.

Like the proverbial "elephant in the living room", Garland politicos and wannabe politicos have much they need to tell our citizens and the public in general about the influence this group of city employees has over City Council and the city itself. What exactly is the firefighters association and its PAC being promised in exchange for its money and support at the polls? I suggest that every local candidate who has accepted firefighter PAC money publicly disclose the exact amount and how it was used, since the public seldom if ever reads the candidates' city-required campaign financial statements.

One antidote for the issue is to encourage other groups of employees and citizens to do the same as the firefighters association. If the firefighters association is allowed to continue to be so active in city politics, why not encourage every city department (engineering, animal control, library, waste management, et al) to form its own political action committee (PAC), to raise funds through withdrawals from their city paychecks and lobby for whatever monies or issues they desire?

For the sake of future candidates in all Garland elections—and certainly for the well-being of Garland firefighters themselves—this matter needs to be out in the open, freely discussed, and solutions sought. It's not fair to others in the city that one group gets to exercise power so much greater than other groups, especially since members of that power-wielding group are city employees, mostly do not live in our city, do not pay taxes as the rest of us are required to do, and do not vote in our city elections. They take Garland taxpayers' money and spend it in other locales, while wielding major influence that impacts our city for years and years to come.

Free access to our city's political system is part of building a better community for ALL Garland citizens. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

The gift to Garland of an engaged mayor's race was a key takeaway from election just past

Election morning 2018—the key takeaway of the recent city election is the fact that there was a real election with real candidates and real issues discussed.
The recent mayor's race was a gift to Garland citizens: a competitive contest that brought serious issues to the foreground.

While I finished second, I truly emerged a winner because my hometown finally got to have the kind of election I've been advocating.

My campaign pulled together in Team Louis some of the best citizens Garland has to offer—thinking people who love this city, want to see its problems addressed openly in a constructive manner, and are issues-oriented, intelligent, discerning, and focused. I marvel at the key members that formed Team Louis and the volunteers that fanned out from the inner circle.

I have been highly frustrated in recent years as time after time Garland endured sham elections in which:

1. Opponents never materialized, so incumbents or their chosen successors were "elected" by default by a City Council that more and more resembles a self-perpetuating bank board rather than a democracy or republic in action.

2. Real meaty issues that matter most to this community were sidestepped and not discussed publicly. Instead, the council and mayor sometimes asserted that all was well, when it really wasn't.

3. Elections were steered off-course by irrelevant topics or rabbit-chasing after minor distractions.

I threw my hat in the ring for the major purpose of trying to model for the citizens of Garland what an honest-to-goodness, issues-oriented, honorable, transparent campaign looks like. I knew we were fighting an uphill battle against great odds because the city's political landscape is heading in a direction I do not support and can't change without a major miracle. I am totally opposed to secrecy, racial exclusion, self-centered political gatekeepers, vested interests, and behind-the-scenes manipulation—all hallmarks of our city's current political system.

I saw evidence first-hand and often during the campaign of the result of the lack of real elections in Garland. A private corporate board doesn't want and doesn't need input from the citizens it services. Civil government at all levels does!
Addressing the campaign faithful at the close of Election Day. (Photo by AnaMaria de Young)
Without regular, genuine, authentic elections, our City Council has no reason to listen to the citizens. Without real elections in which candidates are forced to spell out their vision for the city, our city government is free to operate more and more where candidates are not held accountable by citizen-voters for their actions and motivations.

Uncontested races and extreme apathy among our citizens and voters are unhealthy signs in our community—and signs of serious disconnect between citizens and community leaders.

In case there is any doubt whatsoever, I support an engaged citizenry. As I said over and over during the campaign, Garland's citizens are its greatest assets—not our city government, not GP&L, not our political leaders; our citizens are at the center of what is important and best about this city.

The contrast at the candidate forums held during the election illustrated the heart of the political problem in our city: Candidates with no one opposing them on the ballot (incumbents) were allowed to get up in public and present an unchallenged, one-sided positive pep talk/spin on issues, while the mayoral candidates engaged in presentations that at least tried to put the issues and their individual perspectives before the public.

I appreciate my two opponents very much for their willingness to engage in fair, honest, and open debate.  
Political signs that cropped up all over town signified the fact that Garland had itself a real election under way in the mayor's race. (Photo by John Combs.)
Nevertheless, throughout the spirited campaign I saw evidence of the rustiness of the political apparatus in our city.

1. It showed up at a so-called candidate forum in which, to the best of my awareness, candidates never received any advance notice, email, or directions about how the event would be organized—how much time I and my opponents would be given to speak, and with no prior information on whether we would be asked to answer specific questions from the audience. Poor readiness at campaign events bespeaks of the city NOT regularly practicing the fine art of holding elections.

2. It lifted its ugly head at another candidate forum at which the organizer/moderator raced over to hug one of my opponents, and in the audience's full view, greeted the candidate with great fanfare while a few minutes later unprofessionally introduced me to the audience by the wrong name. Unprofessional decorum at such an event that should be the epitome of fairness bespeaks of the city's NOT regularly practicing and promoting the fine art of holding elections.

3. The rustiness was obvious when one candidate and I saw that a third candidate stated an endorsement by an important local group of professionals. I contacted the group's leader to inquire if the candidates had somehow missed an email inviting us to an interview. I was told that no interview was ever held in which all candidates for mayor were given the opportunity to speak about themselves and vie for the endorsement. The candidate was endorsed, I was told, out of long-standing relationship with the organization. Endorsements of this nature bespeak of the city NOT regularly practicing the fine art of holding elections.

One of my candidate platforms was to overhaul our current political system. More than anything else, the election convinced me that this is absolutely necessary for the health of our community.
Voters exercising their rights as Americans, showing up at the polls and voting, with a choice of three candidates for mayor

The campaign also convinced me this is a long-term, systemic issue that will take time to address, perhaps from a variety of angles.

Garland's system desperately needs a revision, an overhaul, and a rebirth. This issue can be dealt with from both the inside and outside of the mayor's office. It needs to be dealt with one way or the other.
At the campaign's kickoff I stated that part of my goal was to be part of a real mayor's race. I was glad to have two opponents and that we had ample opportunities to present issues to the citizens.


We need contested races in every aspect of our political life here. We must not fear them. We must encourage them. We must look on them as a sign of a healthy community where real issues are discussed, debated, and eventually resolved—and not swept under the rug.

Daily I understand more fully that old cliche, "Iron sharpens iron".  Sharpened citizen iron is one way to build a better community for ALL.

Our city faces serious issues that absolutely must be addressed sooner than later. Our citizens need a sharper focus on what these are and what the options are for resolving them. Our elected officials must be held accountable for how they address these matters. Competitive political races will enable that better than all the PR pizzaz the city can muster.

I love Garland and I continue to want to see it become a better city for ALL citizens.

This spring voters had a chance to wear their "I Voted" stickers because they had filled in the ballot in a live-wire mayor's race with three candidates.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Throughout Garland we need vision and elbow-grease to mobilize our citizens into a force that will transform our beloved city

The experiment worked and can be transported throughout Garland to put the city on the best path forward.

THE SAME KIND OF SOLUTIONS-MINDED EFFORT THAT MADE OUR FEATURED NEIGHBORHOOD A SHOWCASE CAN HAPPEN ALL OVER GARLAND WHEN CITIZENS PULL TOGETHER WITH THE RIGHT LEADERSHIP.

"If Louis Moore can accomplish all this for his neighborhood, just think what he could do for the City of Garland!"

This remark, heard from a home-tour guest as he departed one of the vintage dwellings at last Saturday's historic home tour in Garland's Travis College Hill, put into words a thought that I've hoped to advance during this mayoral campaign.

Although my campaign was officially suspended last Friday afternoon through last Saturday evening with all our campaign signs and materials taken down temporarily as we concentrated fully on this annual event that brings several hundred people to our neighborhood, it would have been tough to miss this keen observation made by a friend as he walked out our front door. He meant that in the past, I had taken charge of a next-to-impossible situation that our neighborhood was encountering, I worked with neighbors, city departments, the police, and the school district to bring about an effective solution. 

With a decaying, blighted, crime-and-drug-infested street once nicknamed "Marijuana Avenue" closed and gone forever, we then began working "to seal the deal forever"—to bring proper recognition to this overlooked part of town. First a state historical marker, then a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Creative thinking and effort led to special bonuses for our neighborhood, once it was cleaned up.

This year, an added recognition was the dedication of an official monarch butterfly waystation on a major entry into the addition. A large, beautiful interpretive artistic sign at the corner of Avenue D and 11th Street is one more touch of class to the neighborhood.

In 5 short years Travis College Hill has gone from "slum", as one former council member called it, to being a bright jewel in Garland's treasure chest. Great acclaim is brought to Garland each time a home tour is conducted. Massive amounts of positive attention, boosting Garland's image considerably, is generated as a result of these annual events. This year's tour brought people from throughout the Metroplex, as well as from other parts of the country—people who left saying things like, "I didn't know Garland had something like this." 

Everything about the home tour is a class act—from the pre-tour concert on Friday evening featuring internationally acclaimed guitarist Trace Bundy, to the masterful, locally created metalwork stand created to hold the new interpretive sign at Avenue D ad 11th, to the espirit de corps of neighbors both in Travis College Hill and Embree who furthered our sense of community and neighborliness here. 
The sign turned into a local art piece, thanks for a locally created metalwork stand made by Garland artisans.

Looking back, it would have been so easy—and less costly to us—five years ago for us to have done exactly what our adult children then wanted: to have sold our home and everything else we own in Garland's downtown area and moved either to Firewheel or Rockwall. In their perspective our neighborhood in downtown Garland at that time was too dangerous and going downhill too rapidly for us to remain.
 
Instead, Kay and I dug in our heels, stuck to our guns, and set to work to give it one last "college try" to try and save our drowning neighborhood.

We are glad we did! We forever will appreciate all who joined in the effort and movement and supported us.

That doesn't mean the transition in our neighborhood was easy. Change is difficult on many people. It brings out the best as well as the worst in people. It certainly wasn't easy for us either. But it was indeed something borne of necessity—and blessed by God with success.

It was also born of our love for Garland and ALL things Garland.
Even though privately owned once again, Garland citizens enjoy touring this classic symbol of our city.

It is reflective of something that needs to occur throughout much of Garland, particularly central and south Garland: a radical vision for what can occur here—and an even more radical determination for implementing that vision.

Almost every section of Garland has something that needs radical transformation:
1. the site of the former Baylor Scott & White Hospital;
2. the site of the former Eastern Hills Country Club;
3. the rerouting of Texas 78 through central and downtown Garland;
4. Texas 66 from First Street to the Rowlett/Garland boundary;
5. much of South Garland especially along LBJ (I-635);
6. the old Hypermart site;
7. downtown Garland, particularly east of the railroad tracks to First Street, from Avenues B and D;
8. the antiquated and embarrassing animal shelter in the city's work area off Commerce Street (as well as many of the city's rundown looking work sites in that area, too);
9. and the many other places within the city limits that need both a solid vision and serious elbow grease.

I don't pretend to have all the answers for all of these challenging areas,  but I know who does: the citizens of this great city, if only they were empowered with the right tools and leadership. 

May the leaders of Garland never forget that the city exists not for our politicians, nor for our city government, nor for our sacred institutions, but for the citizens themselves who call this place HOME and are our city's most valuable assets.

I will keep my campaign promises to exert the same kind of solutions-minded effort that I employed for our Travis College Hill neighborhood and pull together victories all over Garland so these areas can be crown-jewels of our city as well.

With the right leadership and vision, the path forward for our city can be beautiful!


Monday, April 23, 2018

YOUR VOTE WILL SHAPE GARLAND'S FUTURE: If Garland truly matters to you, you'll go to the ballot box.


During his announcement on Feb. 16, Louis Moore said he would be a mayor for all citizens. (Photo by Deborah Downes of Take to Heart Images)
This special election for the new Mayor of Garland is not about me nor about my two opponents.

This election is about YOU, the citizens of Garland—empowering you to help make the city all it can be.

Your vote will shape Garland's future.

If you don't like the direction Garland is going now (and many of you have told me you don't), this is your chance to start making a difference.

I want to make Garland a better city for ALL of its citizens. I intend to be a Mayor actively involved and engaged with the citizens of the community. I won't be a mayor who hangs out only with members of the city council and other Garland political elite. 

I'm happy when you say you support me. I thank you for installing one of our signs—and for attending some of of meetings where I have spoken. I'm pleased when you hit "Like" on one of my Facebook posts. All those gestures mean much; I appreciate each one, but if you stay home and don't go to the polls and cast your vote for Louis Moore, these gestures go nowhere. The power is in your hands. 

If you truly want to make Garland a better city for ALL, this is the time to change your habits. If you have been apathetic in the past and thought, why bother?, I urge you to now step out and make your way to the ballot box.

I need your help. I can't win this election without YOU.

For too long Garland has been run by a small handful of politicos and gatekeepers who work steadily to make sure that YOU are denied your constitutional right to voice your opinion at the polls. They work steadily behind the scenes to discourage people from running in elections, thus perpetuating scenarios whereby incumbents or their chosen successors face no opponents—and thus are automatically elected or reelected, often without ever receiving one single citizens' vote.
   
Without actual elections, is it any wonder our political leaders move further and further away from believing they are responsible to—and need to listen to—the citizens of Garland? 

I have stepped forward, and I am ready to serve the citizens of the great city of Garland! I want to mobilize our citizens into a force that will help build a better Garland. I can do that only if I am elected.

Voter turnout in Garland elections is abominable and has been for many years. It is what has led to this deplorable situation now where politicos and gatekeepers run our city. Less than 4% (or 4,400 living in 3,150 households) of our city's registered voters turned out a year ago to vote in that mayoral election. Our current mayor was elected with about two-thirds of that tiny vote. He then resigned less than a year later after an embarrassing public conflict involving several city council members. That situation shook the city and tarnished its reputation.

Voting for City Council seats produces far worse turnout than voting for mayor. Depending on the district and whether there is even an election, the turnout can be as low as 2% to 3% of registered voters in a district, with the victor in a contested race usually elected only by a handful of voters. 

The problem is systemic, not an isolated situation. Low voter turnout grants those who want to manipulate our political system and our city the cover they need to continue their un-American ways.

This needs to change.

The U.S. constitution and the Texas constitution guarantees YOU—every one of YOU over the age of 18—the right to vote.

The success of this election depends on YOU, the good citizens of Garland, exercising that right.

Early election begins today, Monday, April 23, and continues through Tuesday, May 1. The special election for a new mayor to finish the final year in resigned Mayor Douglas Athas' two-year term is officially Saturday, May 5.

The success of this election depends on YOU, the good citizens of Garland, exercising your voting rights.(Photo by Deborah Downes of Take to Heart Images)

We are expecting a tight race, because change is difficult for many people. As I've said many times, I want to take the city in a new and different direction—one in which ALL citizens count—and with a new style of leadership to make Garland a better city for ALL.

I've pledged that as soon as elected, I will appoint at least eight mayoral citizen task forces to work with me to find workable solutions and strategies for such issues as:
1. The loss of our city's only hospital,
2. Speeding up the repair and replacement of our city's miserable streets, sidewalks, and alleys,
3. Improving the deteriorating city parks, especially in central and southern Garland.
4. Our long-delayed new animal shelter and a faster route to a "no-kill" policy.
5. The slow economic redevelopment particularly in central and southern portions of the city,
6. Political reform in our city,
7. How to bring ALL of our citizens, particularly our Hispanic, black, and Asian populations, into the mainstream of life in Garland.
8. Lack of a comprehensive plan for our growing homeless population.

Please join me in this effort to MAKE GARLAND A BETTER CITY FOR ALL. Exercise your right and VOTE!