Friday, February 26, 2010

Close your eyes and bend over, you ain't gonna feel a thing. Well, except this giant boot.

Often while sitting taking fairly accurate notes at council, I wonder to myself, "Who do these councilmen represent?"

Not as an accusation, but merely a point of wonder.

Sometimes an issue is brought forward, and council asks copious questions I can't imagine any rational human asking. Concerns so focused that I can only imagine only one person or a small handful would even worry about. Yet phrased in such a way, that it seems thoughtfully out of the blue.

The are issues brought forward that would only affect 99.9% of Rockwall, yet receive great attention for just a few from council, staff, or a combination of both.

I have often wondered, "Why would anyone even care about that?" or "Whose life is so boring and petty that they could spend so much time fretting over such a ridiculous matter in which the resulting action will do nothing but impeded or inconvenience a larger group?" Are our lives not complicated enough without devising ways ways to complicate them more, or worse, those of our neighbors?

So, as a person made up mostly of Mexican food with small amount of paranoia mixed in, it makes me think, "Who's behind all this and where are the fajitas?"

On occasion, council asks good questions, probing for details leading to a reasonable decision.

But maybe more often, passion arises that is seemingly inexplicable.

I have posted before some of those actions, which I will not go into, but it returns me to the question, "Who is being represented?"

The city council does not represent city staff. The council should not take action just because staff wants it.

The city council does not represent one person. The council should not take action just because one person wants it.

The city council does not represent special groups. The council should not take action just because a special group wants it.

(I exclude the granting of SUP's and the like as those are needed sometimes just to counter the negative actions that caused the need for the request!)

The council should act because something is good for Rockwall, not just to benefit one person or to make one old, cranky jerk happy. (He'll never be happy anyway.) I can't imagine one group or person whose interests trump those of the city at large.

A good starting place could be for the council to take great concern at any usage of "I believe X" or "I think X". When the needs of the one or few out weigh the needs of the many, the resulting actions never to lead to more freedom, prosperity, or efficiency. Also, the Enterprise would have been destroyed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Signs, signs, everywhere it's asinine

On more than more occasion the staff has bragged to council when presenting codes that they are following other cities and/or copying the wording of code enforcement and ordinance.

Let's be like other cities!

The city is on a mission to keep Rockwall from becoming "something bad and mysterious" that is apparently caused by businesses advertising. I have yet to hear from council or staff exactly what it is they are protecting Rockwall from by creating very restrictive sign ordinances.

Increased revenue for the city coffers?

Should Rockwall really be emulating other cities? Is this a sign that other cities are doing things better than Rockwall? I live in Rockwall, and have done so for the last 23 years, because I like Rockwall. If I wanted to live in some crap fest like Plano or Dallas, I would. If you like what other cities are doing, go there if you think it's better. Don't bring it to Rockwall.

Prosperous business is good for the city. That is not a complicated concept.

Signs increasethe chance for a business to prosper. How can this be so??? Because people can find things.

The city may be the worst offender regarding signs. What's the biggest "sign" in the city? The water tower?

How many of those awful pole signs has the city installed over the last 150+ years? How many intersections are there?

Why hasn't the city mandated "monument" signs instead of pole signs for street signs? Answer: because it makes it easier to find things. What a concept.

The city puts up banner signs at several major roadway intersections. No problem. If you have a business that does that in front of your business? Problem.

The city doesn't like your company vehicle with advertising on it where it can be seen, yet the city does so with all of the city's own vehicles!

If those on council are so against "sign clutter", why do they put up their own campaign signs for 2 months? Should they not lead by example? If our most "anti-sign because internet is the best way to market" councilman runs for re-election next year, will he put up signs if he gets an opponent or rely on internet marketing?

Rockwall is the best place to live and work.

Dallas is corrupt and broke and falling apart. Let's not "copy" Dallas (or any other place).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rockwall City Council 15 February

Actions from Executive Session: Acquisition of Parcel 9.

III. Proclamations.

3. Graduates of Rockwall University recognized. They learned about other departments and how those departments work together Then they got a certificate.

2. This week was declared Severe Weather Awareness week after the worse snowstorm in Rockwall's history. The mayor asked if anyone had their own home emergency plan. No one did. Guess we are all doomed.

1. Hazelina Johnson Day. Lady lost 70 pounds and has run a bunch of marathons. Next stop: London. Will be representing Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

IV. Consent Agenda.

27 items!!! And not one councilman felt the need to grandstand or pull any item!

V. Appointments.

1. P&Z Chairman Michael Hunter (who may or may not be planning a run for council this year) noted that the two upcoming public hearing items passed P&Z 7-0.

2. Chief Moeller presented the Racial Profiling Report. There were 3 complaints of racial profiling, and all 3 were dismissed.

The complaints against the police were unfounded. I wonder what a similar report on council or staff would find.

VI. Public Hearings.

1. Fella wants to build a giant shed and requires a zoning change. He gets up to address council and says nothing. The council votes to table any zoning change hearing until full council present (Glen Farris suspiciously absent). Passes 7-0. THEN the petitioner had something to say: he is trying to get a giant shed built before his daughter's wedding in June, and is upset that he now has to wait 2 more weeks before the vote so that he can move along with his plan.

Wait till he finds out in two weeks that will only be the first hearing and vote! Will actually be at least four weeks before he will know what he will be able to do (or not be allowed to do). He may want to get on the phone with the Hilton quick!

2. SUP needed so a guy can build a shed without meeting the city's exterior requirements of imported Italian marble. It will also have shutters, not sure if that is a result of Councilman Russo's influence. Passes 7-0.

1. Sign Ordinance discussion again. Without Mr Farris I would have expected this discussion to move quickly, but 45 minutes later my expectations were killed.

Changes proposed by staff:
-more prohibitions on pole signs.
-more prohibitions on vehicle signs
-prohibitions on signs with non-commercial vulgar or obscene messages
-prohibitions on Holiday signs used for advertising

Pole sign options: No pole signs except on I-30. No pole signs on divided or to be divided roads. No pole signs on undeveloped tracts.

No inflatable type advertising of any kind. So that guy who rents inflatable bounce houses on 276 and uses one to let passers-by aware of that fact will no longer be allowed as that is advertising that the city staff doesn't like. However, if you have a party and rent one and it has the name of the company and phone number on it for adverstising, that will be allowed because that is not advertising according to the city staff. Got that?

City staff also hates cars owned by companies that have advertising signs parked in front of the office of that business where people might drive by and see that vehicle sign being used for advertisement. But if that vehicle is not in front of the business it is advertising, the city does not consider that advertising and will allow that.

For example: Consider you own a construction company and you have an office at a strip mall. If you park in front of your office, you could be in violation. But if you were doing work at the office next door, you could park in front of that office without getting harassed. Make sense?

Margo Nielsen and Mark Russo seemed to be the only voices of reason on this issue. Both agree that vehicles with signs should be able to park on land owned or leased by the company owner without city harassment. Margo

David Sweet asked about church vans.

City Manager Julie couch stated that if you have your vehicle that you paid for and pay taxes on is parked in front of your business that you own and pay taxes on the city will ask you to move it where it cannot be seen even if you cannot move it where it cannot be seen easily buy busy-body city staff.

The city will selectively enforce this as it cannot be reasonably enforced.

Staff also noted that the drafted ordinance was modeled after other cities which are so great the same staff doesn't want to live or work there.

Mussolini would have been so proud.

Motion to CONTINUE. Time spent so far: 1:45.

"The most business friendly council I have ever seen", I was once told.

2. Annexation of four little pockets of freedom not yet devoured by the monster of supreme control. Om nom nom.

3. Require an SUP for any business wanting to sell alcohol within 200 feet of a city park, This was mainly targeted stemming from the proposed 7-11 at Tubbs and Horizon (which would have been AWESOME! *sigh*). Sounded like some cranky lady who was horrified at the thought some precious little snowflake would see alcohol sold near the Park at Fox Chase. I wonder where this cranky old bat buys groceries? Or maybe she was worried people would buy alcohol at the store and then drink it at the park which is already forbidden by the city.

City Attorney Pete Eckert noted that the city cannot create a stricter standard than the State of Texas has created. (300 ft from a school, church, or hospital.)

Mark Russo asked why the city allows consumption of alcohol at the Harbor which is a park.

City Manager Julies Couch's response: "The Harbor is not a park. It's and 'Outdoor Entertainment Area.'"

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we can award this year's first prize of "Best Usage of Politispeak"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Anniversary!!! (The Zoo one year later)

Today celebrates Lake Rockwall's forced entry in to Rockwall (a city I love)!


-Water is still triple city's rate.
-Drainage in the culverts is still virtually non-existent. Which is great if you are immune to malaria.
-The law enforcement who respond are in different uniforms.
-Dogs are no longer dropping dead from being tethered.
-Lots of Selective Code Enforcement. (By selective I mean codes enforced in the Zoo, yet ignored in other parts of the city.)
-Trash service is 5 dollars cheaper than previous service.
-80% reduction in Safari Sight Seeing Tours by city officials. (Been months since I heard someone say, "Driving through Lake Rockwall Estates....")
-We are now eligible to vote in city elections!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shores Golf Forum and Witch Burning 04 February

11 Days late, so gonna be short and to the point.

City had a forum to give residents the chance to voice complaints about the golf course conditions at the Shores.

It's bad. Everyone agrees.

Why does this matter to the city? A part of the course was built on the take line (City of Dallas). The City of Rockwall leases that portion form Dallas, and in turn sub-leases to the Shores. The city receives "rent" in the amount of $50,000 per year (the minimum) or a percentage of the takings from the golf course. As part of that sub-lease agreement, the management has to maintain the course in good repair.

They have not, and as consequence the city has taken action and got restitution. But the course continues its decline.

Here's what the people had to say:

-Other course managed by IRI, Oak Ridge, also is in bad shape
-Trees have been removed
-Bunkers have been removed (That mean filled in? How do you remove a hole?)
-PGA used to do qualifying there
-Why did it take so long for the city to start auditing the course? (My guess is there were more imporatant things to do like enforce dog tethering)
-City has the power to "slap wrists" and should
-HOA should stop paying the golf course (they have and duh, shoulda started that years ago)
-The city wouldn't let the Harbor (which the city owns and has financial interest) get to the poor condition that the Shores is (which the city doesn't own and has no financial interest - see what I did there?)
-It's not the management of the course's fault, it's the city's for not making sure a private company is taking care of private matters (yes, someone said that. I guess I can complain to the city if Wal-Mart stops stocking my favorite brand of tortillas.)
-Promises made, nothing improved
-More promises broken
-One guy's entire goal (after speaking for like 45 minutes) was because he wanted the chance to quote the Wolf Brand Chili slogan in response to his question of how long it has taken the city to get strenuously involved.
-Too may vermin and snakes (Near a lake on a giant field! How'd that happen???)
-Non-members have been threatened with trespass if they trespassed on the course
-The Shores is a "highlight" of Rockwall" (...................)
-One old guy started rambling before yelling at a cloud
-There are drainage problems (Worse than those on actual city streets like Perch or Bass or Trout or Wayne or Yvonne, etc?)
-City should buy the golf course
-City should audit the finances of a private company
-City has allowed IRI to abuse the Shores
-One guy not normally in favor of government getting involved with private business, would like the government to get involved with private business.
-City could make so much money that the city could retire! (or something. Because a failing private business will always succeed when the government takes over!!)
-One guy kept complaining about people not driving on the cart paths and was told to stop calling. Then he put a sign demanding compliance and someone stole it.
-One guy threatened to get everyone thrown out of office cuz he doesn't work 180 days out of the year and will make it his mission in life to make the council's life a living Hell. From a guy who has never once attended ANYthing (he said so) is going to suddenly get involved? Rest easy, Council.
-He also wanted to know if anyone "knew who he was" or "who his mother was". Not sure if that was part of the threat or if he genuinely did not know the answers.
-Council "knows what needs to be done and that's the right thing".
-Someone wants a monthly update on what the city is doing front and center of the city's newsletter. (I guess that's easier than emailing or calling.)
-"The time for gathering information is over." (Lot's of not-quite-in-the-right-context quotes as this meeting.)
-Local workers of the course do all they can even when they don't get paid (Now that's just dumb.)

None of the above (except that in parenthesis) is my words. All quotes or paraphrased from actual speakers.

Now a "what the? moment"-Many who spoke moved in after the poor conditions were known.

Some complained they would never be able to sell their "dream home" - why would you sell your "dream home"?

The council then spoke. They agreed. No one on council offered the notion that the city could buy an enterprise that loses money even on its best day. But citizens could petition for a bond election and then convince 99% of the city why we should buy something that .00001% of the city uses.

The best statement from council came from Councilman Sweet (our next County Clerk GO, DAVID!!!!) who declared the Shores Golf Course the biggest eyesore in Rockwall!!!!!! That makes the ZOO NUMBER 2, we must be improving!!!

All the city needs to do to make real progress is declare the Golf Course a "blight" and start passing or talk about passing ordinances that are specific to the Golf Course and hire a dedicated code enforcement officer to make sure they comply!!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rockwall City Council 02 February

This meeting took over as the number one spot for "Most Tedious Council Meeting" ever.

Number two is all the rest.

III. Proclamations.

1. Black History Month celebrating contributions and achievements of African-Americans. Why hasn't the name "Black History Month" succumbed to the compulsion of political correctness?

IV. Public Forum.

1. Pastor Joe Robbins talked about the Rockwall Cemetery. He noted that in several meetings with the city, that if the city took ownership, it would always remain a cemetery.

I wonder if 4 or more council members was at that meeting? Surely not, as that seems like it could be seen as a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Maybe not, but isn't it better to be safe than sorry? Of course, I may have just missed the public notice. Or maybe, there was no dealing made that didn't give the rest of the public the opportunity to hear and give input.

2. Ross Ramsay had a meeting with multiple staff members from several departments and had a good experience dealing with them all.

3. The Mayor presented an award from the Chamber of Commerce recognizing the city as a great business partner from businesses that have been allowed to operate in the city.

V. Consent Agenda.

#2 Pulled by Cliff, #5 pulled by Margo.

Rest approved 7-0. 2 new ordinances, the one from last time about "Special Events" and the other granting P&Z commissioners 3 year terms instead of 2. Item 3 authorizes the city to spend $41,084 for some hazardous waste storage tanks, money comes fromt he Recycle Fund.

2. Margo requested a larger zoning map. Approved 7-0.

5. Cliff asked about a $300 per month fee the city will be paying to Union Pacific Railroad for a crossing on John King Blvd for "maintenance". Is this forever? Does it really cost $3600 a year for the railroad to maintain 40-50ft of a railroad crossing? It appears this is the case with every RR crossing, surely we are negotiating this fee?

April 20th, construction at the crossing will be complete.

VIII. Action Items.

1. Rockwall Cemetery. Matt placed it on the agenda after seeing a channel 8 news report with former councilman Sam Buffington expressing concerns the city would develop the land after the city takes ownership. According to Mr Buffington the city did this years ago after Lake Ray Hubbard was built. (Is that the one at Spring Creek and Woodpark?).

One lady with a little help has been maintaining the cemetery for the last 20 years, and is getting beyond her ability to maintain the cemetery.

Sam Buffington then proceeded to make an outburst.

The Mayor proclaimed order!

Mr. Buffington outburst again, and was threatened with removal by the mayor if he made another outburst.

And then he was removed.

Mr. Scott talked to the lady who has been maintaining the cemetery after he had the item placed on the agenda, and decided instead to continue supporting the city's effort to take over the cemetery.

Motion was made to remove the item from the agenda, passes 7-0.

Likely, the state will offer some program to help transfer ownership to the city. Public Hearings will be held during this process.

Motion was made to initiate this process, passes 7-0.

Another motion made to look at more state options, passes 7-0.

(This was a brief moment of excitement in an otherwise tedious meeting.)

VI. Appointments.

1. C3 code enforcement customer satisfaction project. I will only briefly note some points:

- 93% of Rockwall say the code enforcement is great!
- 79% say code enforcement is reasonable! (Shouldn't that equal the first number?)
- 89% please way city is maintained.
- 50% happy the way service is done (but they don't know why)
- Customers want code enforcement to be educational, timely, effective, consistent, and effetive
- City should obey it's own codes
- Nobody wants less enforcement
- People move out because they love code enforcement
- Want to talk to code enforcement officers
- Citizens do not want different levels of enforcement for different neighborhoods
- Treat all neighborhoods the same

(Does this mean the city sill start enforcing the codes in the rest of the city that they so diligently enforce in the Zoo, or does this mean even more heavy handed code enforcement in the Zoo?)

- Customers want code enforcement to drive regular routes (like is done in the Zoo...)

Code enforcement is not the issue, it is those with the influence or power creating codes and ordinances to address pet peeves targeting small groups or individuals.

Several recommendations came out of this. Strangely, putting THE ENTIRE CODE ONLINE AND EASY TO ACCESS AND REVIEW was not one of them.

- Top 7 violations:
1. High Grass (like on the city's property on both sides of Tubbs from Market Center to 3097).
2. Trash
3. Property Maintenance (Neighbor's house needs painting? Just report em!)
4. Zoning (no details given I think)
5. Junk Vehicles (That means anything not running or registered, even if it's your project '55 Chevy)
6. Hanging Limbs - Yikes!
7. House Numbers (too many or not enough?)
- 52% of Rockwall in an HOA
- Only 25% of violations in HOA neighborhoods (That cannot be right, the Zoo has an HOA and I know we get a lot of violations)

The Mayor asked about the city violating it's own rules. These were city watering when no one else can, high grass on city property, not screening it's lighting, lack of stone on a fire station. (Just an FYI for the focus groups, rules do not apply to those in charge of creating or enforcing rules)

Glen asked about the 1500 "open cases". Those may or may not be resolved, but probably may or not be closed.

VII. Public Hearings.

2. Guy wants to put a big shed on his land (Continued from last meeting). Didn't show up again, SUP deined without prejudice (that way he can come back).

3. City wants a requirement from a business wanting to sell alcohol within 200 ft of a city park.
Passed 6-0 with no discussion?

4. The great "Antennas on the Water Tower and Electronic Sign" controversy. TxDOT visited the city and put forth a few acceptable place the city can place an electronic sign on TxDOT right-of-way. I think an agreement was reached.

5. Sign ordinance discussion. Painfully long, so once again jsut some points:
- City will allow "free speech" on commercial signs.
- Glen hates signs.
- Glen may be giving up his fight to make I-30 corridor as flat as Kansas.
- Margo says if you own the land and the property, you should be allowed to park your vehicle (which has been painted with company logos and such) so that passersby can see it.
- Glen thinks parking a vehicle painted with a company's logo where people passing by on the street is a loophole a business uses to get around the sign ordinance.
- Glen claims the purpose of a commercial vehicle with a company logo is to deliver things, not to advertise.
- Mark noted the city has vehicles with city logos.

(It took you .001% of the time to read the above discussion on signs as they spent talking about it.)

5. New million dollar docks at the harbor. The city wasn't presented with 2 layouts and 2 options (one for 50mph wind, and the other for 70mph wind which would cost over $80, 000 and would have to come out of reserves)

Power point!

The budgeted cost is $955,000.
It should last much longer than the paper mache dock the city put in first.
Floating concrete and big dang piers will make it super strong!
David and Matt liked a different layout than the rest of the council.

After what I think was a 9 hour discussion, Glen (a real hero for doing this - no joke) made a motion to approve "layout 1" to withstand 50mph winds. Passes 5-2. Another motion was made to hire a consulting engineer to oversee and make sure everything done correctly. Passes 7-0