Good Government LISTENS

Good Government LISTENS
That’s The Addison Way
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

It’s not easy being a negative and a naysayer these days in Addison.  Efforts to stir people up by creating false issues and attacking the current Council continue to fall flat.  No matter how hard the negatives try to convince people otherwise, Addison residents recognize this TRUTH: They have elected seven councilmembers who LISTEN.  Seven people who are earnestly committed to a positive deliberative process, with no hidden agendas and no thirst for attention or power.  A Council working hard to do the right thing.  As a result, Addison is restoring its reputation and aims to again become the gold standard for cities in North Texas.  Claims of the negatives and naysayers that the sky is falling are simply not supported by the facts. Indeed, the negatives’ model of in-your-face government is a quickly fading sight in Addison’s rear-view mirror.  As it should be.  We’re moving on.

But the negatives and naysayers persist, most recently launching a two-pronged attack with unfounded claims that the current Council doesn’t listen to its citizens.  First up was the Village on the Parkway’s request for rezoning to a multi-use development, which would include hundreds of new luxury apartments.  Oaks North residents bristled at the suggestion that their neighborhood needed “connectivity” with the Village on the Parkway, and they resoundingly opposed new apartments in their back yard.  They worried about likely increases in traffic, particularly if their neighborhood was connected to the proposed development.  On this point, the developer brought a traffic engineer who predictably opined about the negligible impact hundreds of new apartments would have on traffic, a conclusion that defied credulity. 

The protests were very familiar to those of us who opposed the Addison Grove development.  We, too, worried about traffic.  And, we noticed that the traffic engineer hired by Village on the Parkway was the very same guy who reached the very same ridiculous conclusion regarding Addison Grove.  Imagine that.  We, too, did not want “connectivity” with Belt Line Road, a noisy, crowded east-west thoroughfare.  Nor did we want apartments at the end of our block.  And, of course, Addison Grove was also pitched as a “mixed use” development, but the reality is that retail will comprise about 3% of the total square footage.  Sound “mixed” to you?  All of which is before you get to the staggering $6.5 million of our tax money that the toxic ex-mayor’s council gave away to this development, and the inexplicable decision to pay that out of current budgets instead of floating bonds or certificates of obligation that would more appropriately share the burden with future residents.

Addison Grove taught us lots about a government that refused to listen to its citizens.  The toxic ex-mayor and his cadre certainly didn’t listen to us.  After weeks of protests, emails, and countless speakers voicing opposition at multiple meetings, the chosen captive councilmember literally turned the page on a notepad and read a pre-prepared motion to approve the project.  Our input didn’t matter for one moment.  The decision was preordained.

But as the negatives are fond of saying, that was then and this is now.  On August 20, 2019, Addison’s Planning and Zoning Commission denied Village on the Parkway’s rezoning request.  UNANIMOUSLY.  7-0.  That means that the developer must have 6-1 support from a Council that listens, and that appointed P&Z Commissioners who listened.  And that seems unlikely.

That brings me to the second prong of the negatives’ latest missive, this one regarding Addison’s budget.  Here, they observe that at the Council’s August 16, 2019 work session, Mayor Joe Chow sought consensus from the Council regarding the tax rate.  The negatives’ designated bloggers claim that this was an “unusual demand” and that Mayor Chow “forced commitment” from the other councilmembers, neither of which is true.  Nonetheless, the bloggers concluded – sort of – that this appeared to be improper, “if not illegal.” Except that it wasn’t a conclusion and it wasn’t theirs. It was innuendo, and it was based on what they “heard” from “some who watched the session.”  It’s hard to unpack all that, but it appears that the bloggers were told what to say.  By someone unnamed.  It’s the “people have been saying” nonsense again.  You just can’t make it up. And you sure can’t rely on it.

This effort to misinform and inflame is absurd, ridiculous and irresponsible.  But let’s briefly tackle the substance, because brief is all we need to debunk such baloney.

First, I watched the Council’s August 16th budget work session.  It was an ordinary part of Addison’s annual budget process.  During budget work sessions, the Council provides guidance regarding expectations and priorities for the upcoming year.  That allows the City Manager to shape and propose a budget, which the Council then reviews and discusses.  The process is fluid, and continues as necessary until the Council becomes satisfied that the proposed budget responsibly meets Addison’s needs and challenges.

Second, part of the budget process is analyzing Addison’s tax base (property value) and the tax rate.  The combination of these two figures allows the Council to consider available revenue.

Third, before adopting the budget, Addison must hold two public hearings on the tax rate proposed for the upcoming budget year.  This is simple logic and common sense: To hold public hearings on a proposed tax rate, a tax rate must be proposed.  And it should reflect the consensus of the Council.  That’s how the process works and moves along.

All of which confirms that Mayor Joe Chow did what he was supposed to do at the August 16th work session.  Addison was required to publicly propose a tax rate, and the tax rate proposed was based on an informal consensus of the Council.  There was no “demand” or “forced commitment” on anyone’s part, nor did anything inappropriate or illegal occur. 

The first public hearing on the tax rate was August 27, 2019, and the second is scheduled after the Labor Day holiday.  Once those hearings are concluded, the Council will deliberate further as necessary regarding the budget and the tax rate, neither of which will be final until the budget is adopted by vote of the Council.  And, this Council has demonstrated that it LISTENS, so if you have input, please pass it along or attend the next meeting. 

For me, I think Addison is a beautiful place with extraordinary amenities and wonderful neighbors.  I want Addison to move forward and strive for excellence.  I want it to again be the gold standard it was when I was on the Council.  And I’m willing to pay my share of taxes to support these goals. 

We have come a long way.  The Addison Way is back, and I look forward to seeing where it carries Addison next.