Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"WHAT ARE YOU, REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT?"

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.





Thursday, January 18, 2018

City reverses course: ALL candidate election materials, including petitions, now are available online to be examined privately

City Secretary Rene Dowl has added local election petitions to the online Garland "elections packet". Thank you, Rene!
Garland citizens now can privately download to their personal computers and review ALL of the city's "elections packet" materials, including the necessary petitions to have signed, without concern that their exploratory efforts are becoming fodder for the rumor mill.

Garland's City Secretary and City Attorney's offices this week opted to jettison a manufactured "requirement" forcing all citizens to sign an easily-obtainable document in order to see and retrieve the total election package—which they need to decide whether to run for public office or are just curious about what all is involved in being a candidate.

City Secretary Rene Dowl said Tuesday the petitions that candidates are required to circulate to acquire sufficient signatures of support—25 for city council spots and 100 for the mayor's seat—to be placed on the ballot have been added to the online packet, which potential candidates or just citizens merely exploring the process can download.

Earlier Dowl's office put all but the petitions online for citizens to download privately at will. Dowl's office continued to follow previous policies for the petitions until research showed no justification for it.

Dowl promises that no one will be monitoring who actually downloads the documents from the computer.

She also said further research shows that the city's procedure of requiring citizens contemplating a possible run for public office to sign a form in order to release the "elections packet" to them was never the law nor an ordinance in the City of Garland. It was written into the City Secretary's list of duties, but no one knows why or how that entry occurred, she said.

The Dallas County Elections Department in Dallas and the Texas Ethics Commission in Austin last week affirmed to me that no county or state laws require ordinary citizens to have to sign to receive the election packets, including the citizen petitions.

Those officials suggested to me that the city needed to look into where and how the practice originated. I am very appreciative of our City Secretary and City Attorney for doing just that and acting swiftly to correct the matter. Kudos to all involved!

Only when the elections materials have been completed, the petitions signed, and the materials filed with the City Secretary should signatures and identifying information be collected and released to interested parties via the Texas Public Information Act.
 
In the Garland election process, many deadlines exist for candidates for public office.

The election materials help potential candidates, especially novices that may feel inspired to become more involved in the community and pursue political office but wonder about the cost, the requirements, the deadlines, etc., determine what is involved in appearing on a ballot for office.

Previously, political insiders could misuse the list of inquirers to subtly or overtly lobby potential candidates not to run—a clear violation of the freedoms we Americans enjoy to choose our elected officials without interference or inappropriate pressure.

Dowl and I agreed that that so-called "requirement" was actually like the story many have heard about "Grandma's ham recipe",  requiring the end of the ham to be cut off—family members just "knew" that was how one was supposed to cook a ham. As that story goes, no one knew the origin of the requirement to cut off the end of the ham until one older family member remembered that Grandma didn't have a pan large enough in which to cook the ham, so she removed that part of the ham to make it fit her pan.

How this procedure of requiring ordinary citizens to have to sign for the public documents, giving not only their names but addresses and phone numbers, got started, Dowl says she does not know.

Both the City Secretary and City Attorney's offices were very much aware of the fallout that occurred two years ago (2016) when I innocently picked up an election packet—at which time I was required to sign a list in the City Secretary's office that I had obtained the documents. As I reported in my last blog on January 11, immediately thereafter I encountered puzzling behavior and sudden overt actions by some Garland political insiders who seized on the information, started a false rumor that I was preparing to challenge Councilwoman Anita Goebel, and argued forcefully that an incumbent should not be opposed in an election.

Just the mere act of picking up an election packet seemed to indicate that I was "coloring outside the lines" and violating the unwritten rule that a councilmember is elected, in effect, for six years, not just for the official two-year term for which the person initially runs.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with a worthy incumbent who has performed well being returned to office. But citizens in America have every right to file for office to oppose that incumbent when his or her current two-year term is up, and let the voters decide who fills the job for the next two years.

What happened to me in 2016 is history. Goebel ran unopposed in 2016 and completes her third and final term in May. I did not challenge her in 2016 and never had any intention of doing so, as I repeatedly stated at the time. The practice of requiring citizens to sign to receive the election packet is no more. Rules are in place to make sure insiders cannot arbitrarily obtain information that is not theirs.
These are important dates as Garland moves toward the May 5 election.
With five key council races (mayor and council districts 1, 2, 4, and 5) on the ballot for May 5, the citizens of Garland should look at the requirements online and freely decide if they or one of their friends, neighbors, or co-workers in the city might be qualified—and have the desire—to run for one of these positions of public office. We need additional skilled and qualified people to run in all of these races.

The election this May promises to be quite controversial, pitting soon-to-be former Mayor Douglas Athas and his allies against what some have termed the "Gang of Six" (two of which face re-election in May and two of which complete their final terms in office in May) and their allies in a continuing saga and battle over the demolition of the old armory—that has already occurred—and proposals for a dog and skate park at Central Park.

While the Central Park issues are highly important, the City of Garland has many other matters that also need to be addressed thoughtfully, carefully, and accurately in the approaching political season. Those include what the city is going to do about the loss of our only hospital, why our city's collective dream of having our own full-service community college has faltered badly, and what direction the city is going to take to truly involve all citizens, white and nonwhite, in the political life of our community.

Dowl said no one will try to track the computers onto which the election packets are downloaded. She said, however, that when people go in person to her office at city hall, a log is kept for statistical purposes of those who request printouts of the petitions or other election materials. That list now is available only to people who request the information in writing following the procedures outlined in the Texas Public Information Act, Dowl said. The law provides that the city must honor open-records requests within 10 days of receiving them in writing. Previously, phone-call requests from interested parties were sufficient to obtain the information. As of Wednesday, Dowl said no written open-records requests have been received for the list of those who come to her office for the petitions.

Still, the safest and most confidential way to secure your election packet to ponder what you want to do is by going to the link below and printing out your own copy on your own printer. One word of warning: the packet is huge. You may just want to read much of it online and selectively choose what to print.

Please follow this link and go to "2018 city election candidate packet" and prayerfully consider your future:

https://www.garlandtx.gov/gov/cd/secretary/default.asp

All Garland citizens need to be abreast of current political activities in our city and be prepared to make the best voting decisions possible for the future of our community.

No legal reason ever existed in Garland for election materials such as the candidate petitions to be held so tightly by the city. Citizens are now able to freely examine and download ALL candidate packet materials.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

So you think you want to run for public office in Garland? Never forget—it's a very, very, very small town.


Would-be Garland candidates take note: your goldfish-bowl lives are about to begin. Even though forms are now available online, the petitions are not and require a personal visit and signature at the City Secretary's office. 
"Don't want you to think I didn't speak to you on purpose," barked a top supporter of District 2 City Councilmember Anita Goebel, a wannabe Garland politico and one of the many Anita supporters that does not live and does not vote in District 2.

The setting was the funeral of a former Garland officeholder who passed away in early 2016. The individual making the statement earlier had edged past me in the forward pew, seeming to ignore my wave while the individual broadly and overtly greeted everyone else within eyesight.

After the service the individual circled back around with that curious statement—as though underscoring to me the intended slight. Strange, I thought but kept mum.

At a funeral came the first not-so-subtle message I had done something terribly off-track. At a second one few days later, that packet I picked up randomly had definitely lit up the grapevine. Would-be candidates can be prepared for lots of inquisitions.
Just days later another high-profile, local funeral occurred. Certain key civic leaders, usually always cordial in public, averted their eyes or quickly found others to corner or visit with when Kay and I approached them during the after-service reception.

Why were these people acting so weird? What had suddenly gone wrong?

Plenty, I was to learn over the next few days.

I had violated the unwritten rules of The Club, the small, exclusive group of Garland kingmakers that gets to say who runs for spots in local election—Garland's political elite, some of whom don't actually live or vote in the city or a district in which they like to meddle.

This curious and tight Garland fraternity is composed of some current and former city councilmembers, current and former mayors, businessowners, real-estate investors, and other political operatives in this "small" town, which I might mention also is the 87th-largest city in the U.S. and the 12th-largest in Texas.

A few days beforehand, I had innocently, without gaining The Club's advance permission, stopped by the City Secretary's office to pick up the packet for filing for the upcoming 2016 city council election. I had heard much about these mysterious packets, so with an election coming up soon, I knew they would be available. On a lark, I decided to stop by the City Secretary's office and request a packet to see what was in it. I was immediately struck by how thick it was.

How dare I do something so outside the proscribed way of doing things?

I had already expressed my support for our incumbent city councilmember, Anita Goebel, so I never dreamed that the action would be picked up and twisted by The Club's rumor mill and would paint a target on me.

I was merely curious, with no intention of running unless Goebel for some reason decided she'd had it with politics and wanted to bail, as some current talk had suggested. What forms did one have to file? I wondered. What did filing cost? What personal financial data was one required to release? Could anyone obtain it? Dozens of questions filled my mind—questions that could be answered only with a packet in hand.

I thought it was a bit unusual that I was required to sign a form stating that I had obtained one of those election packets. I attributed that to regulation city procedures but still pondered, Who needed to know who picked up one of these?

The next day I dropped by Mayor Douglas Athas' office to visit with him about a totally unrelated matter. "Now what's this about running for office?" he immediately hopped off-subject from my conversation. He had jumped to the false conclusion, as did a number of other members of The Club, that I was planning to run for the District 2 council seat against incumbent Anita Goebel, who at that time was a political ally of his.

Athas quickly advised me—un-soliticed by me—that I would lose if I ran against Goebel. Very difficult to unseat her, an incumbent, he counseled.

Who said anything about running against Anita? I wondered. I told him I had no intention of running against Anita, that I was only curious about the "election packet" that was always spoken of in such hushed and reverential tones by all the political insiders in town.

I had a difficult time getting Doug back on track to talk about the matter for which I had gone to see him. He seemed almost preoccupied with my having obtained the packet.

I emphasized to him the word "NOT" when I answered him. "I am NOT planning to run unless the office is vacated, which I don't expect it to be."

However, I wasn't certain he heard my emphatic "NOT".

That night I began to receive the first of five phone calls, in rapid-fire order, from members of The Club inquiring about my intention of using the election packet.

Only one District 2 voter contacted me. The others who made calls lived in other districts or not in Garland at all.

Former District 2 City Councilwoman Perky Cox called to encourage me in my presumed race against Goebel. (As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Perky had wanted me to succeed her in 2012, but I declined at the end of Perky's final term to make the commitment. Goebel won after Perky and Perky's candidate, Eric Redish, had a parting of ways on the night of the general election in which Redish narrowly lost; without Perky's support Redish fell to Goebel in the runoff election.)

"What race against Goebel?" I inquired, still puzzled. "I have said I am not going to run against her."

But the election packet? Perky queried.

Just curious, I stated again. Picked it up on the spur of the moment. How had she known?

City-hall grapevine, she reported.

Exactly opposite of Athas (as one would expect from two earlier enemies), Perky argued that I should, indeed, square off against Goebel in 2016.

Not gonna do it, I asserted. End of conversation.

Later the person who didn't not "speak to me on purpose" at the funeral wrote on a Facebook page resounding praises for Anita and a barb aimed at every citizen of District 2—no one in District 2 was capable of succeeding Anita in office, the person vowed.

No one? That was a really odd thing to say, I thought. Such a bold statement coming from someone who didn't even live in our district seemed weird at best. 

The next morning the phone rang and I heard the voice of an influential local operative, who again lives outside of District 2. "So what IS the deal with the packet?" I was asked. "She hasn't been a bad council member."

"Wasn't planning to run against her," I said. (What is that supposed to mean? I pondered. Had someone stated in 2016 she was a bad councilmember? Certainly not I.)

I repeated to him my by-now broken-record answer I gave to Perky and the mayor as well as many others who called or stopped me wherever I went. Should I just make a placard and wear it upon my body any time I went out in public? 

And so it went for several days until filing for open council seats in 2016 ended. The cold shoulders, the averted eyes, the blank stares—all from people I had once presumed were friends. The strategically placed phone calls. Now I know better. As Mayor Athas had told me the first time we met shortly after he was elected, we are associates—never friends.

That experience was truly my first tipoff about Garland's rigged election system.

In 2016 (just as she had in 2014) Goebel ran unopposed and was re-elected to her third and final term by herself and other sitting councilmembers. Kay and I congratulated her on her win.

With this system in place, is it any wonder so many other elections here are canceled because there are no opponents running against the incumbents? The gig was clear: people not in The Club or blessed by The Club have little chance of winning city elections. The Club will make sure of that!

Is it any wonder councilmembers such as Goebel get elected with about 2 percent of the vote of eligible voters in their districts. No wonder the majority of current city councilmembers were never actually elected by the public—only by the city council itself, after only one candidate filed and others were discouraged—I would even use the term bullied—from filing to run. No wonder everything in this town seems so rigged by that tiny group of well-to-do Anglos with a sprinkling of non-whites thrown in for cover.

No wonder members of The Club frown at the thought of our rising percentage of Hispanic potential voters actually registering and voting. My political tutor once told me to forget my pledge that if I ever ran for public office, I would do everything within my power to bring in the disenfranchised voters such as the Latinos.
Candidate forms, minus the necessary petition forms, are available confidentially at the city's website. Click on City government, then on City Secretary button. Those forms are number 4 on the list. The petitions still must be picked up at City Hall. At that point the would-be candidate's intentions are public record.

As I have emphasized in this blog, councilmembers are PRESUMED to be elected for three full two-year terms. It is presumed that they will be re-elected automatically unless they have performed badly in office. If you ever doubt the power of the incumbent, listen to Monday night's city council work session (January 8) at which proposed changes in the city charter were discussed. How many times were the words uttered (or the concept espoused) of "three two-year"s? The incumbent WILL be there for six years, the underlying theme is heard over and over.

In case you missed it (it wasn't exactly widely trumpeted), January 17, 2018 is the first day a potential candidate for the upcoming May municipal elections can pick up and turn in a packet, including the marked petitions for their supporters to sign and which must be certified by the City Secretary. The last day for filing is February 16. These dates were first posted on the city's website on January 3, 2018.

Thanks to District 5 Councilman Rich Aubin, who in his early days in office at my suggestion requested that the packet be made available to the public on the city's website. City Secretary Rene Dowl says she does not know—and does not try to find out—who downloads the online forms.

These petitions to be signed by candidates' supporters are not available online and can only be picked up in person in the City Secretary's office. Naturally, one has to sign for them, giving all pertinent personal information—everything The Club needs to launch its campaign.

That list of those picking up petitions or filing for office is available to anyone by request made to the City Secretary's office, according to the Texas Open Records Law, states City Secretary Dowl. Dowl says by law she must make the information available to anyone requesting the list.

Based on my experience two years ago, my hunch is The Club will know within seconds after you pick up your packet and will be sharing that information with one another—cherrypicking along the way who to support, who to harass, and who to bully.

Such is political life in this very, very, very small Texas city—second largest in Dallas County—and yet a veritable tiny burg where political life is concerned.