Keller City Limits

Discussion of Keller, TX politics

Browsing Posts published by Jim Carson

Please join us for an open house/envelope-stuffing party!

From my supporters, to my adversaries, to the just-plain-curious: I’d like to meet you Saturday, April 26th, sometime between 11am and 7pm. Volunteers will be stuffing my (as yet unwritten) campaign letter into envelopes.

You can join in the envelope sealing, or just stop by to say Hi—stay for five minutes or five hours.

In the last two years I’ve been your councilman, one of the few disappointments is how few of you I’ve met or received feedback from. So even if you have a bone to pick, please stop by.

1541 Lost Lake Dr., Keller TX 76248

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There are several new websites for candidates, and one of a political action group. The pac (which I don’t capitalize because I don’t know their election law status,) is called Positively Keller, and the address is

It seems to be spearheaded by Doug Newton, and includes lots of Keller luminaries, past and present (mostly past.) The Supporters page lists them by name and claim to fame. Be sure to click on the highlighted names to see what they’ve written about their beloved Keller and the supposed sad state of its city council.

I’m not going to bother refuting anything specific they’ve said, mostly because they’ve said almost nothing specific. Instead I’m going to borrow a literary device from former councilman Jim Badalamenti, and ask of these luminaries, “Where WERE you?”

Where were you when Keller’s taxpayers were being fleeced out of $20,000 for a nonsense award bestowed by a fraudulent (and now bankrupt) marketing firm?

Where were you for eleven consecutive years that the city manager enjoyed unearned job security through an employment contract that was flatly prohibited by the City Charter?

Where were you when our former mayor was playing small town power politics at its ugliest with a plan to bypass the voters to build the library that they had already voted down? Where are your names on the petition that stopped that travesty?

Where were you when the scheme was hatched whereby public art was funded by a contractually-mandated kickback from our garbage vendor?

Where were you when another high-rise apartment complex was proposed in the heart of Keller’s commercial corridor? Where were you when we were researching Keller’s Unified Development Code (written by several of you) and discovering that not just Keller Station, but Arthouse as well, is not even close to complying with our ordinances?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is that these folks were either silent on or actively part of these problems.

Monty asks the following rhetorical question in a prior post:

But to prevent this situation in the future, the “predominantly non-residential” language needs to be replaced by “no additional residential” or something equally unequivocal. Given the ubiquitous opposition to apartments in this town, I don’t understand why that hasn’t been done already. Can someone explain that to me?

First, the legal case for denying Keller Station goes well beyond the “predominantly non-residential” clause. All we need to do is to properly understand and uphold the definitions of single-family attached (which is a permitted use) and multi-family (which is NOT a permitted use.) We also have several limitations on the use of this land in the 1990 Town Center Guidelines. The 1998 update to the Town Center Guidelines only dealt with the properties in the heart of Town Center, and said nothing about parcels north of 1709.

But the primary reason this language hasn’t been made unequivocal is the Community Development Department doesn’t want to. They know—know—that apartments/condos/mixed use are the way Keller needs to go. It says so right there on page something-something of the City Planner’s Handbook. To them, you people who are so upset about high-density housing are just wrong, and they’ve got to explain to you why you’re wrong. And Mitch Holmes is right there with them. He said in a meeting tonight that Live/Work/Play* is something we have to do, or he might have said it’s the only way.

Monty also said “Harness and Kirk are not going to publicly discuss how they would vote…” I’m not sure if that’s true of Bob Kirk, but it’s definitely true of Mark Harness. Mark Harness is convinced that council members must not express opinions on matters that may come before council. He is so convinced of this that he voted that I had violated the City Charter by my actions on this blog as they related to Keller Station. I later asked him to provide supporting documentation for his view. He acknowledged my request, but never cited any rule that backed up his vote.

Keller Station was stopped cold by Doug Miller, yours truly, and the grass-roots legwork of citizens of Saddlebrook and Hidden Lakes. My role was 1) researching city codes and pointing out the ones that the city staff had failed to enforce in their initial assessment of the project, and 2) fostering debate on this website. For this, Mark Harness branded me a scofflaw. Curiously, he said just before his vote, “I can honestly say I haven’t read the blog in over a year.” What the heck does THAT mean? Is he somehow proud that he has ignored the reasoned debate of two Keller councilmen and many of his own constituents?

You can stop future Keller Stations by remaining ever-vigilant and then working your tails off on petition-and-email campaigns, or you can elect some more councilmen who will do it of their own volition through the courage of their convictions.

*Another euphemism for high-density residential/mixed use development

If I had any super powers, Pat Holding would surely be my Lex Luthor. She has consistently exploited every weakness of mine, real or imagined, since before I was elected in 2006. Her latest work was a letter to the editor of the Keller Citizen back in November:

…Jim Carson not only violated the city charter, but he has managed to run off some of our best city employees. Morale among city staff is at an all-time low because of his interference. Candidates for a new city manager are quickly dropping out of the running and who can blame them? No one wants to work in the environment that Jim Carson has created at city hall.

The bolded piece was repeated in a letter to the editor last week.

But in this week’s memo to the city council, our new city manager tells us he has been inundated with over 220 applications for the two open leadership positions. How is it possible to have that many applications when no one wants to work in the environment that I have created?

Foiled again, Pat.

A recent article appeared in the Star-Telegram regarding KISD’s legal fees:

Penny Benz, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district’s law firm has been excellent, but school officials want to explore hiring a full-time employee who is a lawyer.

It would cost an estimated $150,000 for salary, benefits and an initial department budget, Benz said.

The district budgets more than $200,000 a year for legal services.

This article reminded me of an unanswered question of mine. Last Summer, I requested that the city manager put a new exhibit in the annual budget, detailing prior years’ legal costs and current-year expectations. Not only did my request go unfulfilled, but nowhere in our 350-page budget document can I deduce, infer, or even guess how much we pay in attorney’s fees.

So anyway, one day after asking our new city manager about these costs, I have the answer: The City of Keller paid $410,000 in legal fees last year.

The first question that comes to mind might be: “Why does the school district, with ten times as many employees and a budget three times as large, have legal costs that are less than half of the City of Keller’s?” Good question.

Part of the answer is that Keller has to pay for a prosecutor in its municipal court. This amounts to about $62,000. Another reason might be that Keller wrapped up two lawsuits in fiscal year 2007.

But I think another part of the answer has been an attitude of “us vs. them.” In several past instances when the city was accused of mis-, mal- or non-feasance, the city staff immediately adopted an adversarial stance, often without even consulting the city council. For instance, some of our older sewer pipes have failed, causing raw sewage to back up into people’s homes. I think the moral response to such an event is for the city to pay for the damage it caused, not “lawyering up.”*

Here’s a link to an Excel spreadsheet with the detailed costs: Attorney Fees.xls

* I fully understand that I’m asking innocent taxpayers to pay for the mistakes of the government, and I also fully understand sovereign immunity and its benefits and shortcomings. What most troubles me is that the people’s representatives were often not even consulted before sovereign immunity was applied.

It’s time for another update on the merry antics of former mayor Julie Tandy.

Last May, longtime Keller resident Jack Brock published an ad in the Keller Citizen which bore Mayor Julie Tandy’s signature, but was dated in the year 1999–four years before she became mayor. Julie Tandy is now suing Mr. Brock for defamation regarding this ad. (Note: In my opinion the best explanation for the date discrepancy is that it’s a simple mistake.)

Ms. Tandy secured the legal services of Shauna Wright, who at the time was a member of Keller’s Planning & Zoning Commission. (She did not reapply for 2008.) One of the first actions taken by Ms. Wright was to file an Open Records Request at City Hall for all documents relating to communication between Jack Brock and me, and all documents relating to communication between my personal attorney and me. Here’s a link to my post on that episode: Gone Fishin’

I replied to the Open Records Request with a simple message that I do not have any documents under the Public Information Act that would satisfy her request. This apparently angered Ms. Tandy, since she had personal knowledge that invoices from my attorney had been sent to my attention at Town Hall. These bills were routinely left for me, unopened, in my mailbox in the administration wing.

Undeterred by my refusal to release my private documents, Ms. Wright tried to subpeona these documents as discovery in the defamation suit against Mr. Brock. My attorney and I responded to the subpeona with copies of the invoices with descriptions of services rendered redacted. In other words, all she got was dates and amounts billed (and I thought that was more than she had a right to, but I didn’t fight it.)

Dissatisfied with redacted invoices, Ms. Tandy proceeded to file a formal complaint with the Attorney General of Texas, stating that I and/or the City of Keller failed to disclose public information as required by law. The AG’s office sent her a reply stating that complaints of noncompliance must be filed within 90 days of the original request.

Like a dog with a bone, Julie Tandy refiled her Open Records Request with the City Secretary. I replied in the same way, and she went right back to the Attorney General with a new complaint. In her complaint, she said:

The reason for my request was to verify that Councilman Carson had a direct conflict of interest, when he retained Mr. Foster, due to the fact that Mr. Foster was representing an individual who was involved in a lawsuit against the City of Keller. I believe Mr. Carson not only had a conflict of interest, which he failed to declare, but I believe he may have given privileged information to Mr. Foster, regarding the lawsuit which was discussed during executive sessions.

Mr. Carson never made known to the city council, city attorney, or city staff any relationship with attorney Ross Foster, except through a blog which he authors and maintains.

Here Julie Tandy has taken a single known fact—Ross Foster sent me a bill—and combined it with an active imagination, and deduced that I probably committed a crime. Talk about defamation! The fact is, I DID mention in executive session that I had a relationship with Mr. Foster, though I don’t remember how I described it. No privileged information was shared because 1) I’m pretty sure I didn’t even have any, and 2) Ross and I never discussed the case.

In late January, Ms. Wright deposed me, as is her right in the matter of Tandy v. Brock. In addition to the usual accusatory “what did you know and when did you know it” kind of questions, she managed to ask plenty of nosy questions that had absolutely nothing to do with Tandy v. Brock.

So anyway, in the meantime, the Attorney General’s office replied as they always do to Open Records complaints, “Send us the documents and we’ll decide if they meet the definitions in the Public Information Act.” My response to the AG was the politest ‘No’ I could manage.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Hopefully many of you recognize that passage as the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Public Information Act of the State of Texas says that cities must send to the AG for review documents which the city possesses, controls, or has right of access to. But these documents are NOT the City of Keller’s documents—these are MY documents, and the government does not have the right to “review” them.

In the end, the AG’s representative agreed with me, and suggested that the City of Keller should reply to Ms. Tandy that it neither possesses, controls or has right of access to any documents meeting her request.

So we’ll see what happens on the legal front—Tandy’s ‘torney may have another avenue of attack. I don’t know and I don’t care.

The political front is another matter entirely. She has now laid the predicate that Councilman Carson has something to hide. Never mind the fact that she never even had the right to ask—in the sound-byte world of politics, all that matters is “Carson refused to release documents.”

But the truth is I have nothing to hide, and there’s an election coming up. So now I’ve released these documents—not to Julie Tandy, but to the press. I’ve copied every last scrap of communication between me and my lawyer—whether email, fax, printed, whatever—and delivered them to the editors of the Star-Telegram and Keller Citizen. I have encouraged them to print anything they find newsworthy. Mike Norman and Bill Lewis are men of integrity who have criticized me in the past. I believe that if there’s anything of public interest, they’ll let you know.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing newsworthy in those documents is the fact that a city councilman has spent over $2,000 just trying to be a more effective councilman (a job that pays nothing, by the way.) And these communications with my attorney demonstrate that nearly every time I questioned the “professionals” that I’m so thoroughly accused of disrespecting, I was right and they were wrong.

So anyway, I’m tired of this whole thing. The next time you bemoan the fact that there are hardly any good men and women serving in politics, thank Julie Tandy. She—and others like her—ran them off.

Click the picture to watch the video from Channel 8.

Hat tip: Sue at HotAir

Word on the street is that John Baker will take on Mark Harness for Place 2, Tom Cawthra will challenge Bob Kirk for Place 3, and Jim Thompson will boot Jim Carson from Place 4.

Word in the City Secretary’s office is that only Baker, Thompson and Carson have actually filed.

And awayay we go…

UPDATE: Tom Cawthra filed for Place 3 today.

Next Tuesday, February 5, the council will consider a resolution to spend $55,000 of taxpayer funds toward the purchase of a statue. The statue would be placed at Keller Veteran’s Park at the intersection of 1709 and 377. The remaining $25,000 is to be raised through voluntary donations via the Rotary Club.

I will argue with some fervor that Keller should never purchase art with tax monies.

But I’m happy to offer a compromise. Let’s just put the issue of whether to purchase a statue to the voters. We have an election coming up in May anyway, and adding this question to the ballot would be no trouble at all.

Besides, the people of Keller have had little chance to make themselves heard regarding art purchases. To my knowledge, the only survey question they’ve been asked was part of a Parks & Rec survey around 2002. When asked to comment on the priority levels of various parks features and amenities, ‘Statuary on the trails’ ranked 27th in a list of 27 items.

To no one’s surprise, some changes are happening at Town Hall since our new city manager, Dan O’Leary took over.

One of the most visible is a new feature on the city’s website, Information from the Mayor:

Information from the Mayor

Within this section you’ll find a letter updating you on some of the goings-on in Keller. You’ll also find answers to some questions you’ve been raising on this blog (to which I had no good answers.) Hint: Joy in the streets of Bloomfield!

Also, coming soon will be a website redesign, which will help relieve the nausea some of you have complained about. But as anyone in the website business will tell you, pretty palettes are pleasing, but Content is King. If you want people to use your website, keep it fresh and interesting.

So Kudo’s to the mayor and city staff. Now if we could just get a better picture of Pat—he’s a handsome guy when he’s wearing his trademark grin!

P.S. I responded to a survey on some of the “look and feel” options we’re considering for the website. Little do they know that my artistic talent ends at the ability to match socks.

Keller Citizen publisher Bill Lewis weighs in with a rare editorial tomorrow:

Councilman Carson wondered if air quality was really a serious problem since air quality has improved in the last 30 years. He must not be able to hear the hacking and coughing of those around him.

I’ve lunched with Bill Lewis—he’s a swell guy. But it seems he can’t fathom anyone voting against something labeled Clean, as in Clean Fleet Vehicle Policy. Whether said policy accomplishes anything or not, I guess is irrevelant.

If Bill is so convinced our air is abysmal, I doubt there’s anything I can say to persuade him otherwise. I would just ask him, “when did you become convinced? How many years ago?” I think that Bill, like all of us, has been lied to with the truth for many years.

Essayist Bill Whittle* explains this better than I ever could:


Now to show you how this works in the real world, I need to tell you a story about a real man named Robert Wayne Jernigan. I guarantee you this story will make you very angry, but this is the kind of world we live in today.

Robert Wayne Jernigan is now 28 years old. People who knew him said he was quiet, somewhat stand-offish. He was not widely liked in high school.

Four years ago, a witness reported seeing Jernigan enter a building in a remote suburb of Dallas with an axe. Four people were found dead at the scene, including a nine year old girl. No charges were filed. Less than two days later, Jernigan turned up again, this time at the scene of a suspicious fire in a day care center. Miraculously, no one was injured. But it was just a matter of time.

During the next several weeks, it is possible to place Jernigan at the scene of no less than thirteen suspicious fires. Eleven people died. Eyewitnesses were unshakable in their determination that Jernigan had been on the scene. And yet the police did nothing.

Jernigan had long been fascinated with fire. A search of his apartment revealed fireman-related magazines, posters and memorabilia. Despite the deaths of fifteen people, despite repeated eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence placing Jernigan at these fires, no criminal charges were ever filed against Robert Wayne Jernigan. He remains a free man to this day.

And rightfully so. Because Robert Wayne Jernigan is an ordinary fireman for the Dallas Fire Department.* He is not a serial arsonist at all.

Now re-read the previous paragraphs and tell me where I lied.

Everything I told you was factually true. But the spin, the context, the misdirection… The press always reports serial killers with all three names – Robert Wayne Jernigan sounds a hell of a lot more ominous than Bobby Jernigan. Quiet, stand-offish, not widely liked – instant psychopath, if you read the papers. Entered the building with an axe – oooh! That ought to get the blood boiling. That the people had died from smoke inhalation I decided was irrelevant to the story…

And so on. And so on.

This is how you lie by telling the truth. You tell the big lie by carefully selecting only the small, isolated truths, linking them in such a way that they advance the bigger lie by painting a picture inside the viewer’s head.

The Brokaws, Rathers and Courics have been lying to us for years by telling us selected truths. They continually report the bad environmental news without ever stopping to tell us how dramatically cleaner our world is today than it was in the 70’s, when we first started really paying attention to it.

*Bill Whittle was a moderate-to-liberal living in L.A., when 9-11 suddenly rocked his world, and with it his worldview. He is a writer and a pilot. His website is Eject! Eject! Eject!, and his tagline is a Latin phrase meaning “Let us fly to the stars on a thunderous chair”

His essays are to be savored.

Our server was down all morning. I did all I could, furrowing my brow and everything. Sorry for the delay.

–The Management