Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A tale of two sections of Highway 66 through Rowlett and Garland: one flourishes, the other lags

Visitors entering Garland from Highway 66 as they exit Rowlett are greeted with this massive storage facility under construction on the left side of the road, in contrast to the thriving retail district they find in entering Rowlett from the west.
For a long time I've wanted to have this conversation with the former mayor of Rowlett, Todd Gottel, about the dramatic contrast between Highway 66 on the Rowlett side versus on the Garland side of the two cities' boundary.

Recently while out campaigning for Mayor of Garland I had the opportunity on several occasions to talk with Rowlett's gregarious, effective, and talented former Mayor Gottel, now a Republican candidate for Dallas County Judge, about the matter. I also talked with Gottel's successor, Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian, about it, too.

My question was very simple: What has Rowlett done right—or Garland done wrong—so that the Rowlett stretch of Highway 66 running through that city is bustling with new energy, new businesses and a vast array of eateries and exciting places to go, while the Garland portion of Highway 66 from the city limits to First Street is a vastly underutilized area. 

It contains one large, beautiful church, several small churches, a small Buddhist temple, two hat manufacturing companies, some city buildings, and the like—certainly real contributors to our city.

But where, in addition to these, is the retail? Other than several gas stations and a drive-in restaurant, why does a buzzing retail district elude Garland there yet crop up immediately on the other side of the city limits in Rowlett? 
A combination Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins eatery and other thriving small businesses are part of Rowlett's entry point as one approaches the neighboring city from Garland on Highway 66.
To me and other Garland citizens the contrast is like daylight and darkness. Clearly the two cities have approached Highway 66 differently.

Mayor Dana-Bashian tried to be kind to Garland when she explained that Highway 66 is "a major thoroughfare" through Rowlett, which may be another reason that strip has done so incredibly well.

But Highway 66 also is a major thoroughfare through Garland!

Adding insult to injury, Rowlett is in the midst of a major $2-million spruce-up of the medians of the six-lane divided highway. When that project is soon complete, the contrast between the two cities along Highway 66 will be even more dramatic.
Landscaped medians are planned for Highway 66 as one departs Rowlett for Garland.
I want our city to be the showcase for the Metroplex. It can't be when we face situations like this one. And we have similar contrasts like this at our borders all over town.

Why is this happening?

Gottel's answers were both shocking and vexing:

1. The $2-million landscaping project in its medians is being paid for with a $2-million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, often called only TxDOT.

So, why didn't Garland get a grant like this? Same highway. Same state. Same state agency. Just a city-limits sign dividing the two towns. The answer surprised me. It will surprise many Garlandites, too. A citizen organization engaged in a conversation with TxDOT that eventually led to the $2-million grant. Rowlett City Council did not initiate the grant but quickly embraced it once it smelled the money.

Given Garland's penchant for minimizing genuine citizen involvement, I wonder what city leaders would have done if such a grant had been proposed from some organization or individual outside the initiative of our power elite. As I have said many times in many places in many ways, Garland needs to empower our citizens—not discourage them—to go after citizen-initiated possible resources any time they are available. Garland citizens leading the effort to build a new quality animal shelter here tell stories about being rebuffed when trying to inform our city leaders that outside money was available to help build the shelter. That story truly puzzles me!

One of the wealthiest persons Garland ever produced drops $2 million to $4 million checks all over worthy philanthropic causes in another region of this country, where this immensely wealthy family lives. Has someone ever suggested to this locally-grown, prosperous philanthropist that the hometown where the person's roots run deep ought to be on that list of worthy causes? I can quickly think of a half-dozen causes here that could use a check for $3 million or $4 million—starting with our downtown area. Our city needs all the help it can get from elsewhere because our city's needs are great and our citizens are already heavily burdened with high property and sales taxes now—and facing stiff competition from other nearby DFW cities. Despite our rugged sense of independence, we simply can't do it alone. We need help anywhere we can find it!
This RaceTrac station along Highway 66 near the entrance to Garland is a well-run business with friendly clerks. But other retail benefiting Garland could certainly be added in this vicinity.
 2. Gottel described the attraction of new and exciting businesses and eateries to Highway 66 through Rowlett as the result of a fairly easy, simple, and inexpensive plan.

He said Rowlett focused its resources on making the strip look attractive—kind of like a homeowner does when wanting to put his or her house up for sale. That's all. By insisting that businesses landscape, keep their landscaping looking nice including consistently laying mulch over bare earth, and everybody just working together to make their little places on Highway 66 look good, other businesses and restaurants from elsewhere want to join the parade. And joining the parade they have done—and are doing!

Even Garland's homegrown and locally owned bank, Texas Brand Bank at Miller and Shiloh, has gotten into the act in booming Rowlett, with a large sign on the southwest corner of the intersection of Highway 66 and the George Bush Freeway announcing that it is financing the new project there.

The former Rowlett mayor described something like a neighborhood that cleans up its litter, removes all blight, installs beautiful landscaping, and puts out the red carpet for all guests.

Gottel's words are still ringing in my ears: Easy. Simple. Inexpensive.

And to top it all off, a wheelbarrow full of free money from the State of Texas.

A city with a heart for its citizens couldn't ask for a better formula.

Not to mention the extra bump in sales tax revenues and property taxes the City of Rowlett is enjoying (and Garland is missing) with this neat little package of ideas on State Highway 66.

Just one more reason why I believe Garland needs new leadership with experienced creativity and know-how Moore, Hope for Garland promises!

Though the building looks substantial, it is one of two new storage facilities in the area that needs more retail that draws citizens to Highway 66 in Garland before the Rowlett city limits.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My reluctant Plan Commission resignation: incumbents win again, citizens lose. Another reform needed!

"Don't be afraid to give up the good and go for the great." —Steve Prefontaine
I have occupied this seat on the Plan Commission for 10 of the last 12 years, learning from this role much about our city, our people, and our city government. The citizens of Garland deserve a city government that is as good, as trustworthy, and as honest as they are—and that represents ALL citizens and not just the powerful few.
I have resigned twice from the City of Garland Plan Commission. Once, six years ago, was out of courtesy to the winning District 2 City Councilperson, Anita Goebel. In the election I had supported her opponent and thought she ought to be able to choose her own candidate for my seat on the Plan Commission. I served six years before Goebel was elected.

Two years later Goebel called me to ask me if I would return to the Plan Commission as her nominee. This time I have served for four years—a 10-year stint in all.

However, the second time—this time—I resigned unwillingly after I filed to run for Mayor of the City of Garland.

A Garland tradition says board and commission members must resign if they file to run for mayor or city council.

The same rule does not apply to city councilmembers or mayors who file for re-election or councilmembers who file to run for mayor. They are allowed to keep their seats and get as much free TV air time as they can muster on the City's TV channel and exposure in the city press.

As I have said previously in other blogs, it's all a part of an anti-citizen, anti-free election attitude in the city that vaults city-paid incumbent city officeholders above ordinary citizens, who give voluntarily of their time to serve on city boards and commissions.

The tradition, which is actually written into the city's charter but is unclear in Texas law which supersedes our charter, gives incumbents an advantage that ordinary citizens don't have.

As soon as the filing deadline passed for council seats, I texted a Garland politico to dialog about why he thought no one had filed against the two incumbents.

"Hard to beat an incumbent who seems to be serving their district," he replied.

No wonder so few citizens ever want to run for election in our city! The deck is stacked against them.

In our current council elections, two incumbents are running unopposed.

A third citizen entered the race for his district seat, but no second candidate filed, so the unopposed candidate wins by default.

In the fourth race, the incumbent, who was ineligible to run for re-election, is listed as one candidate's campaign treasurer and is reported to be managing his campaign. The other candidate in the race led the successful recall petition against the incumbent, who is now fielding her candidate against the person who led the recall petition against her.

To add to the confusion, as Mayor Douglas Athas has pointed out, the majority of city councilmembers were not actually elected to their seats by the voters but by the council itself because the councilmembers were running unopposed.

At one point before he and a group of six city councilmembers got crossways with each other, resigning Mayor Douglas Athas tried to say that not having elections in Garland was a sign that the council was doing a great job and the public recognized that.

I wonder whether he is making that statement now.

This is why I continue to assert, "Incumbents rule in Garland."

So back to my reluctant decision to submit my letter of resignation from the Plan Commission instead of fighting the unfair "tradition" in the courts.

I will miss Plan office personnel Will Guerin, left, and Isaac Williams, but I look forward to working again with them when I am mayor.
This is what I said in my letter of resignation:

"I submit this resignation reluctantly. The Garland City Attorney's office tells me the issue of the city forcing a board or commission member to resign and lose his or her seat immediately on filing for a city office (while not requiring the same of a sitting city councilmember or mayor seeking re-election) is a "gray area" that is not clearly defined by a careful reading of both the City of Garland's Charter in combination with existing Texas law on this matter.

"The city Attorney's Office tells me that such a required resignation has been a 'tradition' in Garland for a number of years but has not been tested in court.

"As you know, Mayor Douglas Athas resigned in February and because of state law is allowed to remain in office until his successor is sworn in. Also, District 2 City Councilmember Anita Goebel, after a recall petition, also resigned in February but remains in office until her successor is sworn into office in May.

"I want to go on record as stating that I believe such a tradition is unconstitutional and biases city elections in favor of sitting (incumbent) councilmembers and mayors who seek re-election. I also believe it violates my civil rights as a citizen of this city.

"I believe the only fair legal remedy is for the requirement for resignation of commission and board members while filing for public office to be removed from the City Charter."

"Because of my deep concern for the needs of the City of Garland and its people, I feel I must devote all of my time to the campaign for Mayor and not at this time fight this needless, senseless and questionable tradition that is biased against citizens."
When I first was seated on Garland's Plan Commission 12 years ago, now-chairman Scott Roberts sat next to me and helped tutor me in the work of the commission. Sad to say goodbye to him on Monday.

A voice crying in the wilderness? Maybe. One of my favorite sayings is, "You can lose the battle but win the war." I hope in this case that's true.

As mayor, I'll have a greater opportunity to move the city along toward a more fair and open society where all citizens—not just the tiny group of predominantly Anglo citizens who control it now—have a place at the city's table.

As I have said many times, in many places, in many ways my vision includes ALL citizens having an equal voice in the business of our city.

Idealistic? Yes.

Possible? Yes. But with a lot of work necessary to reach the goal.

I look forward to the day when Garland once again has elections that are free and open to everyone equally and in which citizens by the droves instead of the handfuls actually vote!
I have enjoyed serving on the Plan Commission with Commissioner Chris Ott, right.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


I had to be Jewish, right? After I wrote a Pulitzer-nominated series on the plight of Soviet Jews whose visas to leave the then-Soviet Union were denied, the rumor went around—I had converted to Judaisim.
Just after the vivacious and youthful Pope John Paul II was installed at the Vatican, I started covering his overseas trips as a member of his traveling press corps.

At that time I worked for the Houston Chronicle. Because of my extensive stints on the road with John Paul, including a month in Rome at the Vatican, rumors spread around Houston that I had to be a Roman Catholic priest.

That followed other speculation about my being an Episcopalian, a Lutheran, a member of the Hare Krishnas, and other such amazing chatter—depending on which group I had just written about in my column.

Then in 1985 I went to the former Soviet Union to write about Soviet Jews who had tried to exit that communist state but had been denied exit visas; these folks were called Refuseniks. My newspaper series on the Soviet Jews was even nominated for a Pulitzer. I received the Texas B'nai B'rith award of honor for my work.

Naturally, the word was out: Louis Moore surely had converted to Judaism.

I was actually flattered that Chronicle readers were so confused about the guy who wrote a popular weekly column about religion events all over the world as well as Houston. Despite the current negative stereotype of reporters, I craved what a journalist likes most—to be thought of as so even-handed that readers can't pin down from which direction he or she writes. And all along, I actually was an ecumenical Southern Baptist (an oxymoron, right?). But that was a private matter. Where I worshiped on Sunday mornings had nothing to do with my unbiased coverage of all things religion.
Conducting a public tour of Houston's religious sites once stirred up the contention that the reporter must be Hindu.
I was reminded of that era this week when several people started remarking on my blog posts, "Is he a Republican or a Democrat?" Another queried, "Is he conservative or liberal?" I just HAD to be one or the other.

As a candidate for Mayor of Garland, it makes no difference whether I personally am Republican or Democrat. The mayor and city council are supposed to focus on local issues, not state and national political matters. In Garland we don't elect a mayor or a city councilmember because they are affiliated with one national political party or the other. We have enough issues here without dragging in the political messes in Austin and Washington!

I'm well-acquainted with Garland's current mayor and all eight city councilmembers. I've never one time asked any of them their political party affiliation. The question would be as out of place as sneakers at a formal ball. During the past 4.5 years as Kay and I have watched every meeting of city council either in person or on the TV, we've studied each of the nine personalities very carefully. We might privately speculate which of the nine is Democrat or Republican, but we've never discussed this with each other or with them. In 4.5 years of watching them close up, we've never seen any Garland City Council vote that related to national political party lines whatsoever.

Are they Republicans or Democrats? Who cares? How they manage local issues is uppermost in our minds. Being a Republican or Democrat won't make a dime's worth of difference when it comes to the most important matters in our city—the loss of our only hospital, the miserable streets in some residential parts of town, the ridiculous delay in building a new animal shelter, etc. (For a full list of my campaign concerns, see my February 19, 2018, blog post.)

The question, of course, reflects the polarization in our country today. Votes can hardly get through Congress these days with any bipartisan support at all. Unlike decades past, votes are either all Republican or all Democrat. And nary the twain seem to meet! And with all the changes, bickering, and confusion in the national parties today, the questions "What is a Democrat?" and "What is a Republican?" are often foremost in the public's mind. 
My family and I met then-Vice-President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara when Bush filled the pulpit at his home Episcopal church in Houston. That surely meant I was a Republican, some said.
Local issues are what's important here. And where the mayor and each councilmember stands on those local issues matters most. To help the voters, I have stated clearly my position on all the major issues swirling in Garland right now and intend to continue to do so. On some, such as financial accountability and disdain for government wastage, I probably sound more like a conservative Republican. On others, such as the need for improved racial relations in our city, some would likely stereotype me as a liberal Democrat.

So, which am I? Neither. Both.

Wishy-washy? Can't make up my mind? Hardly. Most people who know me know I'm very firm in my opinions. But the bumper sticker has it right: God is neither a Republican nor Democrat. More than a decade ago major newspapers all across the country picked up my editorial-page column, "Jesus was neither a Democrat nor a Republican".

Personally, I am an Independent who votes NOT along partisan lines but on the candidates as individuals and on their character and their stands on issues. Over the decades since I registered to vote at age 21 (back in the dark ages when one wasn't allowed to vote at 18), I have voted for Democrats, Republicans, and a handful of Third Party candidates. I weigh carefully the character of the candidates and where the candidates stand in relationship to issues most important to me at the time. I'm in no one's hip pocket in any way. Anyone who knows me well is fully aware that I am an independent thinker. I am not tied to any political party's apron-strings.

Back in the days before language rightfully became more gender-neutral, my mother-in-law used to proudly assert, "I vote for the MAN." (She said this despite having been Ruth Nicholson's right-hand-lieutenant in her Garland mayoral races.) What she meant was, in the privacy of the voting booth, she voted her conscience, according to how a candidate lined up with her principles—not his or her party affiliation.
At his request, we made Garland's Historic Pace House front porch available for Brett Shipp's December announcement that he was a Democratic candidate for Congress. Did that one act permanently align me with the Democratic Party? Some seemed to think so.
I don't like lying Republicans, and I don't like philandering Democrats. I also don't like philandering Republicans nor lying Democrats. (Leaves me with only a few choices, doesn't it?) I like those who practice wise stewardship with taxpayer money. I like those who treat all citizens with respect and honor. Having been personally pro-life long before it became a fashionable cause (because my wife was an adopted individual and abortion would have deprived me of her, our children, and our grandchildren), I prefer pro-life candidates—but I disdain fake pro-lifers—and can easily smell the difference between the pretenders and the real thing. Their actions must match up with their words! But what does pro-life have to do with local issues, especially since the city is losing its only hospital over which it had no control or influence? Nothing!

Garland has a long tradition of keeping state and national political parties out of its elections. While I advocate reform of our current political system and have pledged once in office to overhaul it to make the system more accessible to ALL Garland residents, I support that long-time practice of keeping the political parties out of the mix. The last thing this troubled city needs is to drag in unnecessary national issues, over which the mayor and city council have no control whatsoever and which would only deprive us of time and resources needed to resolve our numerous local concerns.

Monday, February 19, 2018

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, THE FIRST DAYS: Garland citizens are clearly eager for a change in our city government

I am enjoying talking with members of the public about their concerns and hopes for our city.
(Photo by Deborah Downes of Take to Heart Images)

The huge positive response I've received to my announcement that I am running for Mayor of Garland on a progressive-reform platform tells me the citizens of Garland are eager for a change at the top that stops the unproductive divisiveness on city council, lifts our citizens up as the true owners of the 87th-largest city in America, and moves our community forward on so many issues important in the lives of our people.

These issues include:
1. the horrendous loss of our city's only hospital,
2. our miserable residential streets in older parts of town,
3. the absurd stalemate over the future of the former Eastern Hills County Club,
4. the ridiculously long-delayed new animal shelter,
5. the embarrassing lack of political transparency here,
6. the unacceptable "benign neglect" practiced toward our burgeoning Hispanic population and other minority groups,
7. the exhausting slow-grind in finding a permanent solution to the underfunded firefighters and police retirement accounts,
8. the unfair slow economic development emphasis in some parts of the city particularly the central and southern sectors,
9. the failure of our city leaders to develop a workable solution for our growing population of people including children and students without homes (a.k.a. "the homeless"),
10. the crime rate as personified by the scary number of murders in our city this year,
11. the hesitancy to look at Central Park improvements globally instead of piecemeal, and
12. a myriad of other issues.

Is there any wonder that I chose to style my campaign with the theme, "Moore, Hope for Garland"? Citizens I run into often feel they have no hope for our city.

My first few days on the campaign trail have put me in contact with so many wonderful Garland residents. I am deeply touched and moved by their words of affirmation, actions, and show of support.

Our citizens know this is a defining moment for Garland. Either we go forward to a future that is bright because we have resolved the matters dragging us down—or we go backward to the 1960s, when Garland chose to isolate itself and turned inward, allowing placebos to rock it to sleep and fall behind our neighboring cities.

I'm all about moving forward. I'm encouraged that such a tremendous number of our citizens want to go in that direction, too!

Friends and supporters who began arriving in front of The Pace House for my campaign announcement inspired me with their enthusiasm and desire to see a better Garland soon. (Photo by Deborah Downes of Take to Heart Images)
I am especially encouraged by the people who have talked to me about their interest in running for public office here. Many reflect the racial, gender, and economic diversity within our community. They want the opportunity to serve their community but either are reluctant because of the image of our city government as a closed society or simply don't know how. I'm encouraging them and promising to open the pathways for ALL our citizens, if they so choose, to share in the governance and leadership of our city.

I am amazed at how many people have told me they are tired of the paralysis in our city government, exemplified by city employees who privately—and sometimes publicly—are telling people nothing is going to get done of any substance in the city until after the May election. Why? Because our council is so divided on personality and political issues. Nobody wants to put forth anything truly creative and forward-looking until we can get past the current impasse.

The heart-touching, amazing response to our campaign also reminds me that my support comes from average Garland citizens who are paying the high taxes and wondering where their city is heading. I welcome any and all endorsements or signs of support from ALL Garland citizens who want to get on board this fast-moving train.

Our citizens want the serious issues fully and openly discussed in a fair and professional manner—and resolved. If we are to move forward to a brighter future, then we've got to clear the pathway of the litter left from these lingering matters and diversionary political fights.

A friend of mine in Houston, who is a noted marriage-and-family therapist, loves to use the expression, "Let's make the covert overt." By that he means, issues bubbling just below the surface can destroy unless they are brought to the top and dealt with appropriately. That's my hope for Garland—that we will face our real issues head on, deal with them appropriately, enact the best possible solutions, and move on to a brighter day for all of us.

Finding Solutions is my passion and has been for years, because of my determination to find answers to whatever issues our city confronts. During my 10 years on the city's Plan Commission, I have consistently advocated citizens working together with the city and developers to find "win-win" solutions for all involved. That's what I am promising to do in this election. The solutions are all around us, if we will only OPEN our eyes, THINK creatively, and FIND them!

I will lead Garland forward—with eyes wide open—to a brighter, more hopeful, better future!
I welcome any and all who want to get on board this fast-moving train.
(Photo by Deborah Downes of Take to Heart Images)

Friday, February 16, 2018

MOORE FOR MAYOR: Time to turn Garland around with hope and a fresh direction.

"If not us, then who?
If not me and you,
Right now,
It's time for us to do something."

This chorus to a popular contemporary song played in the background just minutes ago as I made an important announcement.

While fretting over our city's woes and bemoaning why no one with all the right qualifications would step up to the plate to fix them, I became convicted that the "do-something" responsibility fell to me. Instead of just writing blogs and wringing my hands about Garland's vast concerns and needs, I felt compelled to throw my hat in and take on the challenge myself.

Therefore, this afternoon I stood on the front porch of Garland's Historic Pace House, situated in the very center of Garland, and announced my candidacy for Mayor of the City of Garland in the May 5 election.

My theme will be "Moore, Hope for Garland."

I will bring just that—Moore Hope—a spirit of optimism and hope to ALL citizens of Garland through new policies, directions, and style of leadership. This is surely not the time in our city's history for a "caretaker" or "interim" mayor but for a leader immediately willing to take on the heavy lifting our city currently needs. I intend to be that kind of activist mayor.
Helping our citizens plan for a better tomorrow is a primary goal of mine.
"I wanna be the one who stands up and says
'I’m gonna do something'”, 
the lyrics by Matthew West continue.

The citizens of Garland deserve a city government that is as good, as honest, and as trustworthy as the people themselves—and I intend to do my best to provide it for them.
A true leader will not shy away from work to inspire others by his or her actions.
I will run a low-budget, citizen-focused, open, and transparent Moore Hope campaign where issues of concern to our citizens are my top priority. Local politicos have warned me about the vast expense of running for mayor in Garland and advised me to be prepared to spend $50,000 to $80,000 of my own money to win the race. I do not believe Garland's Office of Mayor should ever be limited to only people with such sums to spend. I intend to work diligently and frugally to earn every citizen's respect and vote.

I will listen attentively to our citizens and respect the varying opinions that I hear, then seek solutions to our problems. I believe truly listening to the citizens—and not just the loudest voices—is the highest tribute political officeholders anywhere can pay to their people.

I will lead Garland to become a progressive city open to political transparency, racial reconciliation, new and innovative ideas, greater economic development and redevelopment using new resources, and increased targeted competitiveness with our sister cities in the DFW area as well as statewide.

With my wife, Kay, encouraging, I will lead Garland to become a progressive city open to new ideas and ways.
With the help of our citizens, I will overhaul the city's political system and widen the political tent—taking the business of running the city out of the hands of the few and returning it to the hands of ALL citizens regardless of race, creed, color, gender, religion, or economic ability. EVERY citizen of this community deserves the opportunity to be heard, to have his or her vote count, and to have a place of respect and honor in our city.

As a Dallas County volunteer deputy registrar, I will continue to work to encourage all citizens to vote and become a vital part of the political process of the city.
Some of the same Garland politicos who told me how expensive a mayor's race is also have advised me to stay away from campaigning in our city's burgeoning Hispanic community because "everybody knows they don't vote". Instead I have studied past election results and believe our Hispanic citizens do vote but have been denied through "benign neglect" access to the pathways to service and political power in our community. My first act as mayor will be to appoint a citizens task force to work alongside me steadfastly and creatively to change that—for Hispanics as well as all other minority groups!

Once elected, I will move swiftly to appoint and empower other citizen task forces to help us find SOLUTIONS to the nagging issues that drag our city down—our miserable residential streets in older neighborhoods, the long-forgotten need for a new animal shelter, the slow-grinding unfair firefighters-and-police retirement compensation matter, the closing of our city's only hospital and what the city can do about the loss, the rising tide of homelessness in our city, the future of the once-fabulous-but-now-closed-and-burned Eastern Hills Country Club, the stalemate over Central Park between the city and citizens living nearby, and other urgent issues. And when those citizen groups make their reports with thoughtful recommendations, I will listen carefully and urge council to do likewise and act accordingly. I will also report fully in this blog on each task force's recommendation. We must tackle all of these problems with a sense of urgency—and with neither foot-dragging nor denial.

I will use my corporate training in executive and staff management and my graduate studies in counseling to strategically work with all 8 members of our city council to lead them to function together as a team with mutual respect for one another and for the council as the deliberative body of this city—always remembering for whom all 9 of us work: the citizens of Garland. Consensus-building has always been my strength. I work to bring together, not to divide. 
I bring to the table a long history of leadership in Garland, the state, nation, and internationally—in fields of journalism, marketing, public service, and professional staff management. I have managed staff ranging in numbers from 1 to 96. I have traveled in 49 of the 50 U.S. states, most provinces of Canada, the majority of states in Mexico, and 43 other international countries on five continents.

Besides serving on Garland's Plan Commission for 10 years, I have been elected to dozens of other boards ranging from the Houston Chronicle Credit Union (and its credit committee), to the John Templeton Foundation (British/International) Board of Advisers, to the continent-wide Schachern Board for awards for the best religion reporting on secular daily newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Canada, to the nationwide Southern Baptist International Mission Board, to the Garland Salvation Army Advisory Board, and to the founding board of Garland's Hope Clinic.

On many of these boards I have held the offices as chair, president, vice-chair, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and committee chair. I am president of the non-profit 501(c)3 Friends of Garland's Historic Magic 11th Street and am a board member (and former vice president) of the Garland Downtown Business Association. To run in this campaign, I recently resigned as a trustee and executive board member of Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park in downtown Dallas. (For additional biographical information, see my Facebook page, Louis Moore for Garland Mayor.)

I intend to take you, my readers, along with me on the campaign trail. I intend to blog daily—or at least as often as possible—so you will know what candidates do, what they experience, what they feel, what pressures they endure, how they react when they discover "fair-weather friends" and encounter failed promises, how they respond to bullies and political dirty tricks, and why they do what they do. My hope is that my words will inspire others to become more active in our city and to want to seek public office. In my worldview, a true leader encourages others to follow after him or her. I want each of you to take your citizenship seriously, to strive to make Garland a better place for all of us, and to someday launch your own hope-filled campaigns for city council, school board, or mayor.

"We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
We're never gonna change the world
By standing still," the chorus continues.

Kay and I are a team, just as we want Garland City Council and Garland citizens to be.
In closing, I thank my wife, Kay Wheeler Moore, for introducing me to her wonderful growing-up city as we were courting more than 50 years ago and for helping me to be able to claim it as my own. Because of her and her parents' love for all things Garland and because of their high-profile community activism that rubbed off, I truly now consider Garland "my hometown". When I first began visiting Garland in 1968, her exemplary dad took me on long, instructive walks with him and explained to me about Garland's history, its politics, and its leaders. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kay will be an industrious and elegant "First Lady of Garland" who will walk beside me with deep and caring insight into and appreciation for this community and ALL the people who live here. We are a team—just as I want Garland City Council and our citizens to be.

May God bless Garland, Texas, with hope, peace, and prosperity for ALL!

For our efforts to help bring rebirth to our Travis College Hill neighborhood and other areas in Garland Kay and I were honored with the "Who's Who in Garland Neighborhoods" award for 2017.
Friends like John Combs have encouraged me with their support and enthusiasm for wanting to make Garland a better place for ALL of our citizens. To each of them I offer a heartfelt "thank you" for your support in words and deeds.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

CAN YOU SAY "IN-FRA-STRUC-TURE"?: Garland must not turn its back on the chance to rebuild our city's needy areas with "outside" funds

Water standing in this inner-city Garland neighborhood is a result of poor drainage that needs to be fixed.
Infrastructure is the new buzzword all over the country these days.

It needs to be discussed even more mightily in Garland right now, too!

In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump called for an investment of more than $1 trillion in infrastructure at all levels of government all across the country. The proposal was vague and pockmarked with numerous political questions.

However, regardless of whether you like or dislike Trump, the essence of that proposal at least has people talking about the need for rebuilding America's streets, highways, bridges, alleys, sidewalks, water lines, sewer lines, and so much more. It now is on the current national agenda.

Everything on that shopping list is something we need somewhere in Garland right now!

As the conversation on our country's infrastructure continues, I hope Garland won't hold back on this national trend and will take full advantage of whatever outside programs emerge to tackle the nation's deteriorating infrastructure. Too often we in Garland have dragged our collective feet when it comes to federal, state, and private monies available to us—to the city's detriment.

Our leaders love to cite the fact that spending on Garland streets has increased three-fold over the past four years, yet citizens continue to complain loudly about street conditions because the city fell so dreadfully behind on repairs during the aftermath of the Great Recession. Listening to Garland Streets Director Steve Oliver during Monday night's City Council Work Session, it was clear it will be years before ALL of Garland's streets, not just the main arteries, will be repaired to citizens' expectations.
Garland residents of this neighborhood wonder how long until their streets and drainage will be fixed.
Our leaders also love to cite certain examples of improved Garland infrastructure, such as the two DART rail stations, without pointing out how far we have to go with making both of them, especially the Forest Lane Station, actual "hot spots" on the DFW map.

Garland has long prided itself on being able to "take care of ourselves with our own resources". While this is a commendable ideal, to continue to take this stance, while other cities in the Metroplex and across Texas eagerly encourage the investment of "outside" money in their communities, will only push us further and further behind.

Our city's central and south side especially need massive help and intervention. The outcry about pitiful streets, miserable alleys, and lumpy sidewalks, as well as bridges needing repair or replacement, poor drainage, and parks needing overhaul—among other issues—focus on these older parts of town. During last night's Work Session District 5 Councilmember Rich Aubin's description of the condition of some alleys in New World Addition was heartbreaking. And New World is by far not the worst in the city. Also, the closing of our city's only hospital due to so many unpaid medical bills (and 25% of our population without health insurance or other means to pay for health care) has exposed the city's soft underbelly of desperate need.

It's going to take a massive dose of well-managed funds to help these geographic sectors in our city catch up quickly with the rest of the thriving and booming DFW Metroplex, including Garland around the George Bush Freeway and northward.

Holding back and failing to plan and get in line for any new monies set to roll out of Washington or Austin or anywhere else would be a colossal mistake of monumental proportions.

I've mentioned before that Kay and I own some investment properties in a city in Phoenix's West Valley. Every time we visit, we play a game of "Who can find a pothole first?" Neither one of us ever wins. Why? Far into the heart of the Great Recession, which hit the Phoenix area particularly deeply, that city continued—much to our amazement—to fix its roads and build new government buildings, parks, and programs. When I asked how that could be, with home values dropping so dramatically, I was told that despite the city's anti-Obama leanings, the people were more than eager to take advantage of the "Obama Stimulus Package" and any other federal or state money they could capture. Regardless whether they liked or disliked Obama, to them available money was money they were willing to accept.

Garland, of course, mostly joined the Texas attitude of turning up its nose at the Obama stimulus. A decade later, Garland's potholed streets are still years away from all being fixed, while that Arizona city's streets and new facilities are a shining draw for residents, visitors, and new businesses. So in retrospect, which city was smarter and provided better for its citizens?
Flooding issues are part of infrastructure needs in Garland.
Yes, the Trump infrastructure proposal is off-putting to many because of a fear that some national infrastructure may be turned over to profit-making free enterprise. It is likely to set off a new round of inflation, too. Those of us who were around in the 1970s remember when the prices of homes, automobiles, and just about everything else doubled within a few years so unexpectedly. Instead of being underneath that cascade this time, we need to be on top of it—ready to jump ahead of price increases with plans for getting our infrastructure revitalized quickly before the prices for it go up even higher.

Besides federal and state money, the city desperately needs to attract large-scale investors willing to help us lift ALL of Garland to the next level of prosperity and energy. We can do that only by proving we are a progressive city ready to take on the challenges we face!

We literally need to take down the invisible signs at our city limits that tell investors "we prefer only our homegrown developers and investors, so go somewhere else with your money". Instead we need to put out the message that ALL of Garland is a great place to invest and international and national investors and developers are welcome ALL over our city.

One of our homegrown banks—Texas Brand Bank at Shiloh and Miller—is opening its newest branch in The Cedars in downtown Dallas only blocks from the announced location for the new Houston-Dallas bullet high-speed train station. Its first branch was in Dallas' Uptown. Why? Because those two areas are among the hottest spots in Dallas right now for new investment. The bank's Garland-based board and leaders are certainly not afraid to go where the return on investment will be high.

Garland needs to figure out how to garner that kind of reputation—and draw in the money from nearby cities, too.

While The Cedars is one of the hottest markets in Dallas, its infrastructure needs may be as great as Garland's central and south side, so keep your eyes on that looming magical fast transformation and see if we can't learn some important lessons from it.

Studies have shown that when an area's infrastructure improves, citizens rally to do their share to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods, too.

New streets, sidewalks, street lights, and so forth encourage citizens to paint their houses, upgrade their kitchens and baths, and generally overall make their homes and neighborhoods a better place to live.

As a citizen and elder of The Chickasaw Nation, I've seen firsthand how the tribe during the past 40 years has literally pulled itself up out of the depths of poverty into the front ranks of the more than 500 recognized U.S. tribes in prosperity and leadership.

The pattern that has worked so well for the tribe is one that Garland can use. The Chickasaws have looked under every rock, under every river, anywhere, everywhere they can to acquire the resources necessary to rebuild their infrastructure and fuel the new prosperity. When Oklahoma doesn't have the money to rebuild a road within its historic boundaries, the Nation finds it and does it itself. When Oklahoma can't take proper care of a state park within its traditional boundaries, the Nation takes it over—and does a great job of managing it. And the tribe hasn't stopped and settled back celebrating its many phenomenal successes. It continues to march on from one successful enterprise to the next—always making sure to bring along "the least of these" with the rolling upward innovative tide of prosperity.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," says a popular saying. And we need a rising tide to lift our Garland boats so we don't miss out—and continue to be thought of as the "poor cousins"— on what is happening all across the DFW Metroplex and throughout Texas' booming economy.

The Chickasaw tribe has succeeded so marvelously because of its outstanding, bold leadership that faces reality and encourages the kind of widespread self-development, redevelopment, and investment that leads to longer-lasting prosperity.

It is no secret that Garland is not a wealthy community. Our poverty level is high. Our average income and wealth—compared to our neighbors to the north, west, and east—is low. Our number of millionaires is small. We certainly don't have, like such cities as Frisco do, any billionaires who spill cash all over our city. We are a decent, working-class community that needs an infusion of cash and aid to get our city's infrastructure rolling again like it should be.

We've come out of the Great Recession with lots of needs—a massive number of streets, especially those in residential areas (last on Oliver's list to receive the full treatment!) and roads still in major disrepair, with drainage so bad some people in Orchard Hills are literally losing their backyards, and with a bushel full of other burgeoning needs, such as a new animal shelter. 

Let's stay vigilant about what is happening in Washington and all around us in the DFW Metroplex and make sure we get our fair share of the bigger pie that is cooking in the oven right now! 

The standing water in this Garland neighborhood was a breeding ground for mosquitoes until neighbors called and complained numerous times over a period of nearly a year; then it was finally fixed.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Come home, and make it soon! Some problems that led to Garland's hospital closing could be avoided with a strategic demographic shift in our city

Come home! Older parts of town need refueling. The extensive renovations and restorations in Travis College Hill Historic District on Garland's 11th Street are an example of what can be done throughout the entire older parts of Garland. (Photo by Deb Downs of Take to Heart Images)

By now, Garlandites are becoming highly verbal on the frightening details: closing Baylor Scott & White at Garland could add at least 10 to 15 additional minutes to an ambulance ride from central Garland to the nearest hospitals in Richardson, Plano, Dallas, or Rowlett.

Also, another gruesome statistic is making the rounds: for every six-tenths of a mile further to a hospital, the death rate goes up 2 percent. Translated that means because of the hospital's closing, 20 to 30 percent or more Garlandites could die on the way to the hospital in an ambulance. That does not count those who attempt to use a private automobile to go to an emergency room.

The security for the elderly, for the sick, for the injured that Baylor Garland once provided will simply disappear along with the hospital. All of us must face the reality squarely and recognize fully what the closing of Garland's third-largest employer and our hedge of protection truly means.

If you happened to listen to Saturday's budget hearings before Garland City Council, you heard Fire Chief Mark Lee state that the department already is making contingency plans for emergency services after the Garland hospital closes. Lee told council that the department has personnel for the longer response times, but what about "ambulance overload"—responding to a second call while the first one is delayed making an emergency run? Adequate equipment will be a challenge, he stated.

I know from personally talking with Garland EMS ambulance drivers that extra minutes spell death for some patients. These heroes in our community are also worried that our hospital's closing will overload nearby hospital emergency rooms and slow the medical process further.

Not only is time crucial in medical emergencies, one of my nonwhite, working-poor friends living in Central Garland without health insurance or Medicaid approached me and asked whether it was true that the hospital was closing. "What are people going to do?" he asked. "Where will we go? When you're really sick, you can't ride a bus to downtown Dallas to get help."

All good questions. Every answer depends on where the person in need lives or is injured or needs immediate assistance. Garland has a wonderful fire department; the men and women who drive our ambulances will do everything humanly possible to get us help. But there are limits to what even they can do. They can provide artificial respiration for just so long before brain damage sets in!

The optimists among us are voicing hope we can yet attract another hospital some day. City leaders knew since at least last February that the hospital closing was a possibility. Some naturally ask, Could more have been done to halt momentum toward closing?

Without a dramatic shift in our demographics in central and south Garland, the chances of reviving or attracting another hospital are slim.

I've asked many sources, "Will Garland be the largest city in the United States without its own hospital?" Nobody seems to know the answer. When I look at all the statistics, that seems like a real possibility.

The blame game has already begun, while the emergency situation remains real!

Finger-pointing is not necessary. The government's census statistics have been telling us the truth for several decades. Garland's impoverished people, who will suffer the most from this unfortunate closing, live mostly in central and south Garland, nearest the dying hospital. The numbers have been stacked against us for years. No hospital enterprise in this economic environment wants to touch a poor community without health insurance or funds to pay the outrageously expanding bills. (Keep in mind—25 percent of our population has no health insurance; 47 percent of our citizens live at or below the federally established poverty level; uncollected bills at the hospital escalated from 5 percent a few years back to 16.5 percent, or some $20 million, now) .

The solutions will take years to implement. Forget Washington. Forget Austin. Those leaders there could care less whether Garland has a hospital. And instead of relying on those quicksand pits, we had best figure out what we ourselves can do. This is going to be a case of having to "pull ourselves up by the bootstraps".

And time is of the essence, too! Some of our citizens will literally die because of this travesty.

Veritex Bank of Garland is moving to Main Street to help revitalize the inner-city core. Three historic houses (the last of which remains here) have been preserved and moved to other lots in the downtown area to clear the way for bank construction.
 Here's what you, the citizens and former citizens of Garland, can do, starting right now:

1. If your income level is above the poverty line, please squelch that planned move north of Belt Line, especially to the George Bush Freeway area. We need your income level here in the central and south to help us balance the poverty engulfing us.

2. Stop the White Flight now! Most of our impoverished citizens are nonwhites. Even nonwhites who prosper often move north of Belt Line. If you are white or affluent nonwhite, don't even think about leaving us here in the central combat zone. We need you here.

3. For those of you who've escaped your responsibility to Garland as a community, come back home. Come home from Frisco, Plano, Sachse, Murphy, Rowlett, Richardson, and other wealthier Dallas 'burbs. If you earn your salary or income in the poorer parts of Garland and then go home to the more affluent parts of the DFW Metroplex to live and spend your money, look yourself in the mirror and ask, "Am I really a part of the problem and not a part of the solution?"

Too many of our community and business leaders slip away to those more affluent cities—or Firewheel—at night, when we need their presence and incomes in the poorer parts of Garland 24-hours a day. Our leaders in the inner city and southern part of Garland need to live among us here. Stay and build up Garland's schools, which are commendable. Your kids might even improve the graduation rate in some of our high schools in this area. Set aside the yen to live on the golf course or among "your kind of people" only.

One fabulous new development at the Wyrick farm, located along Shiloh near Buckingham, will feature new homes that will be in the league with many additions in other northern-rim DFW suburbs. When it opens, make sure to check out those homes, buy one, and join us in rebuiding central and south Garland.
Come home to central and south Garland and buy or build new homes to help us rebuild our basis for getting back a hospital.

4. Consider joining us as "urban pioneers". We live in central, older Garland. Even though it has its burdens, we love living, working, and being a part of downtown Garland. We can afford to live elsewhere. We have multiple options. We are not stuck here. Because we love Garland, we CHOOSE to be a part of this community—to spend our money in Garland (particularly stores in the central core area) as often as we can, to support our local businesses whenever possible, to attend community events, to be a REAL part of community life here and not just part-timers or exiles.

5. And here's a message to our Garland church leaders, especially those in our larger downtown churches which seem to dominate the downtown area. Come back to the inner-city. Don't pretend to do "ministry" by living in any of those other wealthier 'burbs while handing out meals to the homeless or providing food and clothing to those that live in the poorer parts of Garland.

Ask yourself if you are enabling the problem or helping us find solutions to the issues we face. If you answer correctly, it will shock you.

Tell your flocks to come back, too. Tell them to sell their fancy new homes in those 'burbs and buy houses in the inner city and fix them up. Add your income to the leavening that needs to occur here. If you want to have a REAL ministry here, come back and live among us. Find out what is really going on—how the community is changing and what you REALLY can do to minister to this community instead of what you imagine from afar that you can do! Don't enable the slippery slope. Help us work to reverse it!

Prayerfully consider whether being a "commuter" church is God's will for your congregations. Or for you church leaders either. Period! You've missed your calling by running and hiding. Parking lots owned by churches don't pay taxes. They don't show up on the census reports and help raise the income levels that are scaring off these gigantic hospital operations that worship the god of profit. Stop tearing down homes in the inner city and southern part of Garland. Instead, build yourself a new home on an empty lot somewhere in the so-called "decaying" central and southern Garland areas. Consider turning one of your mostly empty parking lots into housing for the most affluent in your churches! Yes, the MOST AFFLUENT!
If all the exiles who moved away to more affluent parts of the DFW Metroplex would come back and fix up their homes, this could propel Garland back into the league with the other prospering 'burbs.

The same is true for our city leaders! We need a moratorium on mayors who live in Firewheel or other wealthier parts of Garland. After he was elected mayor in 2013, Mayor Douglas Athas got our hopes up by expressing fondness for rehabbing a vacant house on our street. Unfortunately no move was in the offing. Firewheel definitely does have its allure!

Friends of ours have built beautiful new homes in this inner-core area. Be courageous as they are! Or be like us and our neighbors and purchase older homes, then restore those houses until they shine like new—and make the neighborhoods in the inner city bright spots on the map once again, too.

Yes, the solution is all around us. Don't wait on the folks in Austin and Washington to "do something"; we are just another sad statistic on their charts.

Garland doesn't have to be a "Tale of Two Cities", the wealthier one to the north and the poorer one to the south. Each of our citizens holds in his or her own hands the keys to the solutions that we need so desperately.

Please join us in changing this community for the good—one family or one household or one person at a time! 

Come home! And make it soon. We need you! Please.