[Admin Note: This is being transcribed by the slowest transcriber in Keller. Keep checking back for updates. kthx]
Introductory Remarks by Joe Petersen:
Good Evening! Welcome to the 2008 Keller City Council Candidates’ Forum. My name is Joe Petersen and I’m chairman of the Greater Keller Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is producing this event this evening along with the League of Women Voters.
First of all I’d like to thank the candidates and the incumbents for their participation this evening, as well as the live audience, for your time and interest in this important election. We truly have a wonderful, wonderful city. Our current population is hitting almost 38,000 strong, and the city is one of the most beautiful in the metroplex. We’re blessed with an outstanding school system, as well as a city staff that’s committed to absolute professionalism and excellence.
We’ve got 51 police officers and 44 fire fighters I’d put next to anyone in their professionalism, their training, and their readiness to help us in a time of need.
In fact this past year Money magazine, as most of you are aware, named Keller one of the best places to live in the country. We’re in the top 100 places to live in the country, simply because of the quality of life here in our great city.
I think Keller can best be defined by its diversity. As an example, our many churches, our many recreational offerings, even our housing offerings are so diverse in nature.
[pause for microphone feedback problem]
There we go. Other than our speaker system, what a great city we have.
Our city offers homes in older neighborhoods, absolutely full of character. In new, master-planned communities with well-manicured lawns and common spaces. And even large parcels that have room—ten acres and even twenty acres—for horses and cattle in the larger, northern part of the city. We have small, more affordable homes, all the way up to multi-million dollar estates, and everything in between. Our city is quite diverse.
Often, during our annual election cycle, candidates as well as incumbents sometimes look at our diversity and our differences, and find negative things in that. Statements are made in a negative way, that really do affect the other candidates, or affect our city in a negative way, or embarrass us. Over the years the political process in Keller has gotten quite ugly. As statements are made for the sole purpose of embarrassing one to show that I’m better.
I hope in this forum this evening, we can celebrate our diversity, and respect our differences. Because it’s our differences that make us strong. It’s not our differences that make us wrong. I hope tonight will be a very informative evening, a very factual evening, and again I hope we’re all going to be respectful of the differences that make this great city that we call home.
With that I’d like to introduce Georgia Kidwell with the League of Women Voters, who will be moderating.
Good evening. On behalf of the mid-cities unit of the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County, I’d like to welcome you to the candidate forum for Keller City Council. I am Georgia Kidwell, and I’m chairman of the mid-cities unit.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization which works to promote political responsibility to inform an active participation of all citizens and their government. The League of Women Voters does not support or oppose any political party or candidate. The League puts on public forums such as this. Now I’d like to introduce our candidates.
For Place 2 Kevin Jerome, John Baker, Mark Harness and Scott Zang. For Place 3 Bob Welch, Bob Kirk and Tom Cawthra. For Place 4 Jim Carson and Jim Thompson. Our format for this evening will be as follows: Each candidate will be given three minutes to make an opening statement. After the candidates’ opening statements the program will be open for written questions from the audience. These questions must be written and addressed not to an individual, but to a Place or to all the candidates. The candidates will be given one minute to answer each question. Following the question and answer period, the candidates will be given one minute to make a closing statement. Pencils and paper are available if you will raise your hand. Our timekeeper tonight in the front row is Fran Fuller. She will signal with a yellow card thirty seconds before the alloted time is up, and with a red card when your time is up.
Kevin Jerome: My name is Kevin Jerome. I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight to hear all the candidates speak. I’ve lived in Keller for almost six years and I’ve seen the change in that short period of time.
How did I get here? Well, I was part of the group of petition-signers and organizers over the Keller Station issue. It became quite apparent to us that the build-out in our Town Center is going to determine a lot on how we develop the city, and how we’re going to be viewed as a city. The proposal of course, if you’ll remember, was a five-story apartment complex with an adjoining five-story parking garage.
The signers of the petition though this was unacceptable on our eastern corridor, and it’s also unacceptable in the place of our Town Center, which is governed by the UDC. Which means the council has ultimate control on what goes in there.
If you look at our Town Center, from Bear Creek starting at Keller-Smithfield we have the Villas at Town Center. We have the Dominion Apartments. We have the Conservatory, which is a senior citizen living area–five stories. We have Arthouse, which is an apartment complex, five stories with the lower floor being retail. Now we have the recently approved Uptown behind Tom Thumb, on Rufe Snow and Bear Creek, which is another residential condominium unit. That’s enough in our Town Center.
Councils present and past have taken the choice property of our Town Center and turned it into high density housing. We need quality development. We need to have quality commercial and retail in Keller. This is part of our platform—to say “no more” apartments or residential in Town Center. Promote only quality development, not only in our Town Center, but everywhere—residential, commercial, retail. We need to do this by changing our approval process. To make sure people know what is going in to their city. It’s your city. You’re the citizens; you dictate what goes here. Not a small group of people. Not a group of people that develop relationships with developers, and that includes staff and anybody else that goes in direct conflict with the wishes of a majority of the people.
How are we going to do this? We’ve got to create an open and honest government with the people. They need to come to you. They need to be able to express their views and those views need to be heard. If I’m elected, I will vote on this council exactly like you would vote as a majority.
Now, we have a lot of issues on here. The development, I think, of Keller’s Town Center and quality development is the most paramount. Thank you.
Thank you. I’d like to thank the League of Women Voters for hosting this event. We appreciate it very much.
I’ve lived in Keller for twenty years. I’ve raised a family—four children, two grand-children presently living here. It’s a great place to live. It’s full of good people, good neighborhoods—open, inclusive, respectful, optimistic and positive. But these values are threatened by the council that we have in place now. Let’s just look at the last six months and what has happened.
In November we had a council member—the council considered charges by an ex-assistant city manager against one of our councilmen for interfering with his staff. And after torturous debate they came to the conclusion that there would be no conclusion. We had the council in December consider at the eleventh hour a vote on the Protector of Freedom sculpture. This project had been in process for eighteen months to twenty-four months, had twice been on our city budget. But then we called for a vote at this late date in the process.
In January, our council turns down our Clean Fleet policy, forgoing grant money—immediately $800,000 toward a million-dollar improvement to traffic congestion from 1709 turning south onto 377. And future dollars at stake in the millions. And it was only after embarrassing publicity for the city of Keller that the council reconsidered and eventually passed the Clean Fleet policy.
It is truly time for a breath of fresh air. If elected, I would support a city code of ethics. I would support our city staff. Give them clear direction—hold them accountable, but support the staff.
I support quality economic development. And basically we need to increase our tax base and by doing so we can pay for the $4 million fire station, the $4 million library, the million dollars worth of drainage infrastructure that’s on the north side of Keller, and not increase our property taxes. Otherwise we’ll have no choice. We need to make street repair a priority. we have over 400 miles of streets and roads in Keller that need constant attention.
And let’s update this Town Center planning document. It was written in 1989. It is approximately half filled. We need to take what is there presently, in the context of what’s there, and redevelop a new planning document so that we can encourage this quality development. And apartments? We have enough.
I would ask you to join with me, if you would like to raise your children, your grand-children, in a safe, healthy, affordable, respectful community, then I would ask for your vote on May 10 for Place 2, city council. Thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you League of Women Voters, the Chamber, and the citizens of Keller. I’ve been humbled and honored to serve the citizens the past two years. I ran for office in 2006 because I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of Keller citizens. I’m running for reelection to continue those positive steps. In 2006 I committed to a set of goals, focusing on what Keller citizens value most. In 2007 and 2008, those are coming to reality.
The fire station #4 groundbreaking has begun. The citizens approved a library renovation/expansion after two failed attempts. We doubled the street maintenance budget to $2.3 million since 2005. The citizens approved a referendum to move more tax dollars to street maintenance. We reduced the property tax rate in 2006, and kept it at that rate in 2007, despite many needs. We reduced the overall indebtedness of the city by almost $12 million in the last two years.
My vision is based on what Keller citizens have told me they want. They want enhanced economic development to broaden the tax base, not just in Town Center, but everywhere. They want to continue the infrastructure improvements, and the quality of life improvements. We’re going to bring bond proposals to the citizens for parks and recreation, for storm water drainage, and for street maintenance. And improve council-citizen communication. We’ve done some good things there. Most of you may not get the mayor’s weekly update, but that’s something you might want to sign up for. It’s good information.
I believe I’m the best candidate for Place 2 because I listen and react accordingly to citizens’ input. I work well with the staff, I’m a proven leader, and I’m passionate about serving you. We need to continue the things that we started and see them to the end. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Petersen. Thank you Ms. Kidwell. League of Women Voters, and to the over sixty engaged citizens of our fair community. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this event. I’d like to start off my statement by quoting from the city of Keller mission statement: “The mission of the city of Keller is to ensure a safe, comfortable environment for all citizens by realizing a vision that is well-planned and sensitive to the community. We are dedicated to the provision of quality services and facilities for today and tomorrow through responsive, efficient and effective utilization of resources.” Now I think that is a very fair, accurate mission statement for Keller. That is one of the reasons I’m running—to uphold this mission statement and the commitment that councils before have made to the citizens of Keller.
Why am I running? I believe I am very representational of the base. I’m a homeowner; I moved here because of the schools. I’m attracted to the small-town atmosphere, and I like Keller’s small-town identity. I’m also very passionate about the city, and in the five years I’ve lived here I’ve seen decisions, and I’ve seen directions that, quite frankly I’m probably like a lot of you—I’ve sat on the back bench and in the bleachers and didn’t really agree with them. Well leaders step forward, and I have been in leadership positions most of my adult working life. And I believe I can bring a higher level of accountability and responsibility in fiscal matters, that matters to us most in getting return on our tax dollars.
I really want to keep Keller’s identity unique by picking best practices and gleaning best practices from our neighboring communities, but not mimic them. And I think that there’s been some short-sightedness in the decisions made by councils past, that I really want to look long-term, for our future growth and development.
Some of the issues that I believe we need to work with are a common sense approach to our growing traffic concerns. As our city grows—by 2030 we are projected to be a city of over 50,000 people—in order to be able to keep up with this population growth, we need to make sure the infrastructure is sound and has a solid plan moving forward. I believe that the [Unified] Development Code for Town Center is a document of a lot of controversy right now. I believe that it needs to be flexible to change as our city changes.
I believe in tax incentives for entrepreneurial startups for economic development, and perhaps negotiated tax breaks for franchises that want to move here. We need to open doors and not create barriers.
I’m looking forward to an open dialog and discussion this evening, and whenever you vote, I hope you vote for someone who’s representational of you. Vote Citizen Zang for city council. Thank you.
Hello, my name is Bob Welch. I’m running for Keller city council, Place 3. I’ve met some of you who are here tonight, but for those who I haven’t met, I’d like to introduce myself and give a little bit of my background so you can get to know me.
As with the other candidates that I have met, I’m a church-going family man that cares deeply, not only about my family but also about my church and my community. I was born and raised in Tarrant County, although while growing up I spent time in several other states. Most of my 49 years have been spent here in the area. I’ve been blessed with, and have been married to my wife for 21 years, and we have three wonderful daughters. We’re members of Northwood Church in Keller that we’ve attended for about seven years now, and our daughters have been in the Keller school district for nine years. It’s an excellent school district, and an excellent city.
I’m a Keller business owner, and I’m also a former firefighter and police officer. I’m the only candidate with prior experience as a city employee as a firefighter and police officer, and I’m a developer/builder as well. These experiences will be very beneficial when dealing with Keller city council decisions and my ability to correspond back and forth with the citizens in a knowledgeable way regarding these issues.
I think that all the candidates who are running are good people with a deep caring for their families, their churches and the city of Keller. There are, however, differences in the philosophies of the candidates. Issues facing our wonderful city will determine the future of our city, and the first priority of the city should always be basic city services—including, but not necessarily limited to—water service, sewer service, roads and related infrastructure. And of course fire and police protection. There have been many issues in the past several years which have been controversial—the library, QT, public funding for art, and Keller Station apartments, just to name a few. On all, I have a specific opinion, but more importantly the majority of citizens of Keller have an opinion. And their opinion is what really should count.
There is great concern with most of us that the city has failed to properly notify the citizens of major issues in an effective way, and worse yet, have from time to time acted in a manner which is inconsistent with the wishes of a majority of citizens in Keller. A major issue now facing our city is our build-out, and Keller does not have an infinite amount of undeveloped land. Too many multi-family projects have already been approved. The Town Center UDC should be followed and no more residential allowed. And the city council should not approve any additional zoning of land for multi-family use. Thank you.
Good evening, my name is Bob Kirk. I’m running for reelection to Place 3. I’d like to thank the League of Women Voters and the Keller Chamber for inviting me here tonight.
Since you elected me two years ago, I have worked hard to address the priorities that I promised I would. We have doubled money spent on street maintenance. We will soon break ground on long-neglected fire station #4. We have partnered with Southlake on a joint jail/dispatch agreement which has paid dividends to both cities. And we did this without raising your tax rate. In fact, in 2006 we lowered the tax rate the Tandy administration had raised shortly after they took office.
During my first term, I learned of a little-known drainage study that should have been funded by the previous administration, but instead was shelved—unfortunately contributing to severe flood damage last year. How could this happen, we asked? Once we learned of the study, we immediately implemented short-term fixes. I’ve had the privilege of serving on the mayor’s Drainage Task Force, charged with completing this study and bringing back solid proposals for long-term solutions. We face a number of challenges. Our city streets and state highways are congested beyond their capacity. It falls on our shoulders, as the state has sharply curtailed funding for roads. Gas companies are drilling at an historic pace. And we must prepare for the inevitable negative effects, such as noisy gas lift equipment. We must protect the investment in our roadways against the relentless onslaught of heavy water trucks hauling poisonous brine–a byproduct of the gas extraction process. We must hold developers accountable when their proposals or actions contribute to flooding or otherwise harm the quality of life in Keller. The rubber stamp days are gone, and you can already hear the developers crying “give me a predictable process.” You will decide at the polls whether we will continue to demand accountability, or whether we return to what the Star-Telegram called “small town [power] politics at its ugliest.”
My opponent supported Mayor Tandy’s reelection bid last year. I can only conclude he supports her kind of government. But the truth is like a vapor–an illusion–it disappears the moment you look away. And the government pursues its own agenda without regard to what you, the “unenlightened” electorate, as they put it, need them to do. The people of Keller deserve leaders who do what they promise in the full light of day—leaders who confront issues face-to-face, and work “hands on” with communities for consensus solutions to problems, which is exactly how we addressed the gas lift system in Harmonson Farms and the serious flooding problem on Daryll Lane.
We are at a crossroad where only you can choose the path we take. We can go back to the days of stonewalling and excuses, or we can stay the course and finish the job. You decide.
Hello neighbors. I’m Tom Cawthra, and my message tonight is very simple. Keller can be better. I’m running a very positive campaign, one that fits Keller’s family-friendly economy. So that means recognizing those who make life better or easier. It’s a big deal for me. In other words, I’m thankful for the invitation tonight to be here, and I’m grateful. Thank you to the League of Women Voters. Thank you to the Keller Chamber of Commerce. And thank you to my fellow candidates. It takes a lot to be here tonight. Mostly, though, I get the privilege to recognize and honor my fantastic wife Amanda, and I get a chance to publicly tell my kids—my three kids Aidan, Cooper and MollieRuth—that I am so glad to be their dad in this city.
Finally, I offer a most humble salute to you, the citizens of Keller. You are my neighbors, and I thank you for your shared commitment to keeping property values respectable. As a local businessman, you all are my customer. You hold me accountable for meeting, and usually exceeding, your expectations. It’s my job to meet those high standards. It’s just good business to do it that way. And it’s those high standards that make this town one of the best places to live in the USA. Now, being in the top 50 is a great thing. It’s great for homeowners; it’s great for business. Add that to the high ranking of the Keller schools, and this town should be skyrocketing to the number one position.
But lately you’ve said that that’s not what people think about Keller. You’ve said—and I have listened—that you won’t stand for the embarrassing headlines. Or the backlash from our neighboring cities. And the shameful need for written apologies from our leaders who used public humiliation right here in this auditorium that you built. You may agree that that is absolutely no way to say that you are welcome here in this city. And I believe we can fix it. I believe there is a way to put a new welcome mat in front of our doors that says “please come in.”
I’m so pleased that so many of you have been to www.vote-tom.com — a very positive website. There you’ve said “bring back respect and dignity” and I will. You’ve said “we need creative economic development” and I agree—let’s start today. You’ve said “we can make progress if there’s a positive, unified council” and I say invite everybody to the table with an open mind. You said “support youth sports—give us more parks, more trails, and keep Keller safe.” You are my neighbors. Vote Tom.
I too would like to thank the League of Women Voters and Ms. Kidwell. But seeing all the questions go forward, and all the candidates that we have here, I’m just going to waive my opening statement in the interest of time. Thank you.
Community. Integrity. Commitment. I’m Jim Thompson and I’m running for Keller City Council, Place 4. I want to echo my thanks to Georgia, Suzanne and Joe for bringing this together. It’s a big effort and we appreciate it.
Let me tell you about a few things that are important to me.
Community begins with your own family in your own house. It goes to your neighbor down the street, into our city and beyond. Community includes our schools, our churches, and our other houses of worship. And it includes our Scouts, our students, our youth athletics. Our businesses and business leaders. It includes our veterans, who have left their friends, families and neighborhoods to defend freedom. It includes the air we breathe. It includes the roads we drive on. I am committed to our community.
Integrity has always been a cornerstone of my life. As a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy, integrity was always much more than a word to us. The Academy instills in all of its graduates a strong sense of integrity and honor. To be a good leader, you have to have integrity. I lived integrity for seven years, in the Air Force as a pilot and officer. I still live integrity.
As an active member and past president of the Keller Rotary Club, we closed every weekly meeting with a verbal reminder to us of values that are important—the Rotary four-way test. First, is it the truth? Second, is it fair to all concerned? Third, will it build goodwill and better friendships? And fourth, is it beneficial to all concerned? I am committed to integrity, and commitment.
My wife Karen and I, with our oldest daughter Kristell, moved to Keller in 1990. A few years later we were blessed with our second daughter and youngest, Jackie Lee. And we soon looked for something newer, something bigger, something better to go live. We looked the metroplex all over again and finally we did move—two streets over from where we were already living. With our daughters, we have been through the Keller school district from kindergarten to graduation. We have been members of the First Methodist Church of Keller for fifteen years.
As your councilman, I will represent not only the folks who vote for me, the folks who vote against me, and the majority of folks who won’t vote at all. Do something positive for Keller. The job of councilman requires commitment. I am committed to the community. Vote Jim Thompson, Keller City Council, Place 4.
Concerning infrastructure funding, what is your opinion on developer fees for new development to help pay for streets, lights and so on?
I’d be open to development fees. I think it is a mistake to depend on that, because new development fees and impact fees are a limited resource. The next decade in Keller, we have a limited amount of build-out to be done. What we have to do is get the build-out right—the right mix of retail, residential, commercial to give us a tax base that will give us the general budget revenue to make sure all our infrastructure stays in place. Thank you.
The city of Keller already charges impact fees to developers and they’re quite substantial—they’re among the highest in the metroplex. I’m not in favor of high impact fees, but what I would like to do—from the position we are in—is to offer these developers who continuously come to us wanting to build on ever-smaller lots—because they say their project is not economically viable at 8.4 [8400 sq ft. lots], so they need it at 5.5 or 6.5, because otherwise they can’t do their project. Well instead of granting them smaller lot sizes, I would like to offer them reduced impact fees instead. So that we get the quality development we need. And we can pave our own streets; we do that anyway. So that would be my preference.
Given the overwhelming, broad-based opposition to Keller Station and apartments in general, are there any conditions you would vote for more apartments in Keller? Jim Carson:
There is only one condition in which I would vote in favor of apartments in Keller, and I don’t think it would even come to council—I think the staff would just approve it and it would go in. That’s where we have current zoning for apartments, essentially at the intersection of Bourland and Johnson Roads. That is an acceptable place for apartments—that’s why it’s zoned that way.
And when we’re talking about apartments that are currently zoned, we’re talking about 12-16 units per acre, much like the Dominion and much like the other apartment complexes we already have. Nothing at all like Keller Station. Keller Station was 324 apartments on about 8 acres. Nothing like that should ever happen in Keller, under any circumstances. Not in Town Center because it’s prohibited by our code.
Where it is currently zoned, we can allow some more apartments. But there’s not much room left. And that’s how we should approach it. Thank you.
That’s an interesting question, but it’s a hypothetical question. The project never came to fruition, and it was never fully presented to council, so we don’t know what kind of concessions the developer would have made, could have made.
Do we need more apartments? We’ve been in town a long time. There have been apartment complexes—every time they come up there’s zoning changes, lawsuits, protests that come up—the only thing I can tell you is that, when you hire a councilman you are hiring them to use their best judgment. To execute what is best for the community.
Do we need more apartments in Keller? Right now, we don’t. Can we give an unqualified ‘no’ to any developer who shows up to our city? No, we can’t. Just like we didn’t mandate one-acre parcels that would have kept out a lot of the developments we have now.
If you’re elected to the city council, what recommendations would you make to address the lack of drainage for the north part of Keller, specifically around Knox Road, Garden Lane, Daryll and other areas being impacted by development over the past three years, and the proposed developments in that area?
This is one of those bad news/good news stories. The bad news, of course, is there are some real drainage/flooding problems in town. The thing is, where that is a major concern, a lot of areas that were not controlled by the city of Keller when they were first developed. To go in and repair some of those drainage issues is a difficult and expensive thing to do because the streets, houses, driveways are already there.
You can hear there’s a good effort going on. There’s things going on; the city’s investing some money to make some repairs the best we can. And that’s good news. Even better news: the developments that we are bringing in are up to standards that the city is mandating. So we are proactive at making the problem better as we go forward.
Many of you know that I have some disagreements with my fellow council members from time to time. This is not one of them.
The drainage problem fell in our lap in a very ugly way last Spring. And the problem was the failure to do anything about drainage for years after years after years. Mr. Kirk, and especially Mr. Harness, have done a terrific job on this, responding to this problem. I understand it’s not fast enough for some people. But it’s as fast as we can go, and it’s faster than government usually goes. Mr. Brown has done well also, and Mr. Holmes has saved us some money in the process. This is a win for my fellow council members.
Major businesses—not just small businesses—are required to develop the tax base we need to sustain Keller over time. If you are elected, what will be your marketing strategy, and what actions will you take to acquire the type of major retail, restaurant, and professional business we need in the Keller community?
Another title for what we’re talking about is economic development. In the course of walking around and talking with people, and people who’ve called and talked to me, one of the biggest problems that developers see right now is just a lack of consistency in how we’re doing business. Often times I’ve had it expressed to me that we can set the bar high. It’s OK to set the bar high. But we need to be consistent on how we enforce it.
Keller has a great quality of life. Those are the things that attract people. We have a great police department, a safe community, good schools. And what we need to do is keep consistent–to attract the big developers.
We will not have this chance but once. Whatever we decide now is going to impact us for decades to come. Because the big developers will just leapfrog right over us.
My opponent is right. We do need to be fair and consistent. And we haven’t always been. In terms of economic development, that’s one of the things I’m very much in favor of fixing. We need to get out there in the development community, and let them know what our expectations are, and that we’re going to live up to them, and allow them to develop within that.
But beyond that, I begin to get very uncomfortable with active economic development measures. Because we end up on a slippery slope. My philosophy is the government is supposed to grade the economic playing field nice and level, paint the stripes, hire the referees, and then get out of the way. And let the game begin.
When we do active economic development—we go seeking out particular businesses to come to Keller—we get on a slippery slope, and we end up getting out our checkbook of your money, and handing it to a developer. Like we did for the Tabani Group, to bring in [Stein Mart].
What role should art play in city business? Would you favor a question on the November ballot asking Keller citizens whether they favor spending public funds to purchase art, and if so why?
Art has become a hot-button issue in this election. And it should not be. Anybody who would run for this office, or vote for somebody over a single issue is setting up themselves and the people around them for disappointment. This job is much bigger than any one issue.
Individually, do I support art? Of course, I do. Do I think that how we finance it needs to be revisited? Yes, it does. And there have been a half-dozen good alternatives already suggested.
What this is really about is how we do business. The whole issue with the Protector of Freedom and the statue in the Veteran’s Memorial Park was not about spending the money or how it was spent. It was about how the city did business. That was a two-year commitment to the veterans, to the artist, and to the community.
I do not support—ever—spending your money on art. But I would support a referendum in November.
But I need to take major exception to what two people, Mr. Baker and Mr. Zang, have said about cell tower leases and I guess what Mr. Zang said about gas well revenue. That’s creative ways of taxing you. Those are hidden ways of taxing you. Don’t ever let somebody tell you that he’s spending cell tower lease money, and it’s not your money—”we’re not taxing you.” It is your money.
If I take a gallon of water out of the shallow end of the pool, and tell you “I got a gallon of water out of the shallow end, and I didn’t touch the deep end like you told me to,” it is nonsense. It is all your money. So it’s taxpayer money they’re talking about spending.
What is your position on placing city employees under the protection of a civil service commission?
I would hope that we would not have to take up the yoke of excess bureaucracy. That’s what, I believe, civil service would be. I actually agree with Mr. Kirk—a good union will not make good management. It will just make an uncomfortable situation for a long time, I’m afraid. And if Southlake has a management problem, they should fix their management problem. If that ever happened here in Keller, I would think the same thing.
I do have a particular concern in Keller about the review of fired officers going to the same people who fired them. We need to do better than that—we can work on that one rule and accomplish a great deal. I would prefer that approach.
This is a good example of what I mentioned earlier how diverse this job is. A moment ago we were talking about art. Now we’re talking about civil service and unions and labor and management. The one thing I will agree on—two things—one, it’s my responsibility as your councilman to get smart on these issues, and make good decisions for you. And the second point is, the best way to get good employees and keep them is just the best way we get the citizens and keep them—quality of life and quality of work.
I do know that there has been a lot of concern by the employees that I’ve heard about the environment being a little bit combative in the town right now. So what we need is some stability from the leadership, to give a good working atmosphere, to make this a good place that our good people want to stay.
How will you improve relations with KISD, or do they not need improvement?
I think our relationship with KISD is reasonably good. It could always be better. But you don’t want it to be too great; you don’t want your city council to be cozy with your KISD board. You’re representing different interests. Even though they’re the same people, they’re different interests and they shouldn’t be too very close.
As a point of interest, we recently approved a parking lot for KISD, and we took some heat from our own P&Z for what we did. The think we gave away too much, and maybe we did. But we’re somewhere in the middle, and I think we’re doing an OK job there. It should be noted that as a result of that long and tedious process—we heard the case about three times—we got dramatically better cooperation for parking at the stadium. From our own police department and making it clear with signs that you’re not supposed to park in certain places. I think that friction is working about right.
The Keller school district is one of the anchors to the quality of life that we share here. Recently I sat through a presentation of the demographer for the district, and I can tell you that as the city of Keller is approaching build-out, the horizon is in front of us for the build-out of the Keller school district.
How important is it that we work together? It’s hugely important. How difficult is the school district’s job? It’s very difficult. Much more difficult than just working with Keller, they have other people to work with. Fundamentally, we need to look at ourselves as partners, not opponents.
Do you think Keller should cooperate with its neighbors on regional issues, or attempt to stand independent?
We should always cooperate in our own interest. When it’s in our interest to cooperate, we cooperate. When it’s not in our interest to cooperate, we don’t cooperate. There’s really nothing more to it. This attitude that Keller stands alone is not even true. Keller is the only one whose staff brought forward the Clean Fleet Vehicle Policy and the Keller council denied it, the first time around. Eighteen cities, at least, still haven’t even brought it to their council. For their own reasons, and I don’t know what that is.
Assuming that we are talking about the Clean Fleet Vehicle Policy, you need to know that as it applies to the city of Keller, our current standards are the same as the standards that they would implement. So the only thing you would get—not clean air—is just some more bureaucracy. And it won’t help. So when we’re cooperating with our region, we need to do so intelligently, and not sycophantically. We need to act in our own best interest, and if their plan is not in our interest, we need to say so. As politely as we can, but we need to say so.
When we came to Keller, the sewer treatment plant was where the Keller Pointe is now. There was no McDonald’s; there was one light. 1709 was a two-lane highway. This weekend we rode the train down to downtown Fort Worth.
When we first got to town the water was mostly well water. Now we have a lot of water from Fort Worth. The reality and the fact that we need to cooperate with the region around us is blatant. The power we get as a region is much stronger.
Examples: 170 was not even on the charts yet when we moved here. 114 is now built up. 1709 runs all the way to the airport. 377 is now a major thoroughfare. This type of cooperation is critical to how Keller builds out. We have to cooperate with the region.
As I look when driving around Keller, I notice many vacant, for lease retail centers. What will you do to ensure new business actually comes to Keller to fill these vacancies, and provide revenue?
It is my opinion that it’s not the government’s job to fill up unleased space. With that said, it is very much our job to find out if we’re doing something to cause that problem. And it’s my understanding that in the past, yeah, we kind of did—we made it difficult. We were unyielding in some of the things that we did, and I would encourage—and I will encourage and I have encouraged—our new city manager to, as a part of the job of this economic development guy or possibly one of his other new hires, to look into going and talking—knocking on doors—and saying “how is the city of Keller government in your way?” “And how can we make it better?” That will help more than anything else.
I’d agree with Jim that the city is not in the business of being landlords. What are we in the business of? We’re in the business of creating an economic environment that makes it attractive for businesses to come in here.
Quality of life? I know you’ve heard me say that several times, but that’s fundamental to a business wanting to come to Keller and bring their employees and their ownership. I can tell you, from the voices that I’ve heard, there are a lot of people watching with huge interest this election. This is important to our community, and I’m glad everybody is here because more than you know, the decisions you make at a local level impact your life. What we need are consistency in leadership, set the bar high, and make this a place that businesses want to come.
What do you feel is the right of the citizens who live here to have a say, to express an opinion about what is being developed in the city, without the drastic action as associated with the library and Keller Station?
Not sure about… The citizens absolutely have a right to say their opinion on everything. All the time. Yes.
I’m not sure what the questioner meant by “drastic action.” In regard to the two projects that the question asked, Mr. Harness maybe, said something about early notification. I was the early notification in those two projects. The Town Center library, when they tried to sneak it past you, I was the one who stood up, and with my allies we hit the streets and petitioned and made them stop. That’s democracy in action. That was wonderful; it was beautiful. So if it’s drastic, OK, but I think it’s fantastic.
Same thing with Keller Station. I raised the red flag. And then two people on this bench were instrumental in helping stop that. If that’s drastic, I’m sorry but, that’s democracy in action and it’s good and it’s wholesome. It’s an American thing and it’s wonderful.
I agree with most of the comments up here. Is citizen input a right and is it critical to our system? Of course it is. I would challenge everybody out here: the most important right that you have is the right to vote. That’s where this starts. The decision that you’re going to make in the next couple of weeks is going to drive how we run this city.
Let me give you a flavor for how I think this city gets run. The job of the city council is analogous to the board of directors of a major company–a public company. Our stockholders are the citizens. We have a $67 million annual budget, and our charge is to run that as best we can for the benefit of most of our constituents. That doesn’t always make every constituent happy. But our charge is to do what’s best for most of us.
First, thanks to everybody for being here. It’s an important night for all of us. I’ve been asked over the years to get involved in city politics and city leadership. And one of the reasons I have used is the people who are best able to do these jobs have enough common sense to not want to do these jobs.
And I still consider myself in that camp. The problem, of course, with that logic is that you wind up with the wrong people in very important positions. Recently I had someone talk to me about voting ‘no.’ No, they said, is the easiest thing to do. To be able to approve something requires effort, problem-solving, working together and leadership.
Since elected, my opponent has been the sole dissenting vote 27 times. That’s six more times than the rest of the council combined. Keller deserves better. Keller needs better. I am better. Do something positive for Keller. Jim Thompson, Place 4.
I rather like my opponent. And in a different time and a different place, I would probably vote for this guy.
But I need to address something, as quickly as I can. Most of you got a letter Saturday from some of his supporters. And I need to tell you that when they say ‘negativity’ and they say ‘dysfunctional,’ what they’re really trying to do is silence dissent. They do not like criticism of the government.
And that’s what I do. That’s how you limit government, you criticize it and you point out its mistakes as gently as you can. But if they refuse to acknowledge them, you have to be a little more aggressive with it. And that’s what I do. I am the one who is going to tell you when your government is about to do something to you that you don’t like. Like Keller Station, or like trying to build a library that you expressly rejected at the polls.
So, be careful listening to this notion that we can be ‘unified’ and ‘functional’ as it were.