9.6.13 Weekly Message from Mayor Todd Meier

September 10, 2013 by 0 Comments (add yours)

Dear Neighbor,

Event Reminder for TONIGHT: Just a quick reminder about the free art reception celebrating our newest exhibit, “Square One,” at the Visit Addison Gallery—the reception runs from 5:30pm to 9:30pm. We hope you can join us as the exhibit and reception are free and open to the public. We’ll have delicious hors d’oeuvres, special beverage tastings, and fun music. Of course, there also will be great conversations with artist Chris Miller of CJ Miller Art. We hope you can make time tonight to experience Chris’ unique work while enjoying great conversation with your neighbors and friends.

The rain on Monday was a very pleasant break from the end of summer heat and much needed refreshment for all of our Addison landscapes. The “heat” was still very much present for our last evening of summer in Beckert Park entertainment as over 1,000 were welcomed by Deputy Mayor Pro Tempore Bruce Arfsten for one last, hot Salsa dance party and concert. Thanks Bruce for the great photo!

In active Addison fashion, with only two weekends for us to recover, Addison Oktoberfest is soon upon us! Come join us September 19-22 at Addison Circle Park to celebrate our fun fall tradition. Addison Oktoberfest was established in 1987. Since then, it has been named by USA Today and others as one of the most authentic Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Munich! Also, don’t forget to register today for the Wipe Out Kids Cancer Oktoberfest 5K Run For the Children!

Council News

The much anticipated, Special Meeting on Tuesday did not disappoint for passion, energy or drama as the largest crowd all year came to watch and even cheer the Council’s actions. In a building packed with mostly current Addison employees and a smattering of residents and business owners, we tackled the most challenging issues of the year.

We began our evening at 6:00pm with an open work session in the conference room upstairs at Town Hall with an agreement that we would proceed through the balance of the evening and our budget process using our collaborative process to build a consensus and find ways to agree. With our intended and expressed purpose to discuss each issue fully, collaborate and compromise and work until we could make motions that we could all agree upon. After that agreement we then spent time looking at the possible effects on future tax rates in the event our Addison economy was disrupted or did not go as we forecast. We learned that if the Council adopts the City Manager’s proposed budget and to support those same levels of expenditures our tax rate would go up from 57.3995 to 68.2600 if our ad valorem values and sales tax levels fell again to the 2012 levels. Obviously, if for some reason our economy continued to deteriorate the tax rate would need to continue to increase above and beyond the 68.2600 level if we were to support those same levels of expenditure.

All of the discussion of scenarios seemed appropriate given the boom bust cycle of our Addison economy and resultant impact on our tax rate as well as the current looming international crisis. With a desire for all of us to be fully informed and understand exactly what we are doing, we also discussed our rate of increased spending and rising expenditure levels. Based on the materials I shared with the Council last week that gave context to the concept, we discussed a process for agreeing to a level of spending or a spend rate increase as a way to base our budget decision on reasonable revenue projections. In other words, set a level of spending that is correlated to our projected income levels.

As I mentioned above we began our Special Session with a full house. It was great to see so many folks interested in our work and recognize the consequences of agenda items and the potential impact our decisions may have on their pay and on our community. While only a couple of folks shared their thoughts or asked questions during the Public Hearings, the president of our Police Association, Justin Pierce, did share his well articulated request that the Council consider ways to increase funding of salaries for our First Responders.

The Council had a lengthy discussion about our value proposition and how that has evolved and potentially changed and concluded by asking staff to create a synthesis of “Total Solution” and “Best Product” for us to review at our next meeting. We also set next Tuesday September 10 at 7:30pm as the date and time for the final vote on our tax rate and budget for next year.

Our next agenda item and the one most in the room came to hear was our action to be taken on employee compensation. After some excellent discussion and information, the entire Council decided to form their recommendation and motion around a pool of money number that we would then authorize the City Manager to distribute in a way he deems necessary and appropriate.

Council member Janelle Moore then made a motion to provide a $450,000 pool of money to our City Manger to distribute in a way he deems appropriate which amounts to an approximate total increase of 3.2% on top of the 8.2% or $900,000 pool council approved last year. Mayor Pro Tempore Blake Clemens seconded her motion and before we could begin discussion on her motion, Council Member Neil Resnik made his own motion to increase employee compensation by 6%. We discussed Ms. Moore’s motion first and in an effort to see if we could reach a consensus and in keeping with our agreement in our work session, I called for a vote to see if all could agree. The vote was three votes “For”, being Janelle Moore, Blake Clemens and Todd Meier; voting against, Neil Resnik, Bruce Arfsten, Margie Gunther and Chris DeFrancisco. Mayor Pro Tempore Blake Clemens then made another motion that complied with our agreement to recommend a pool of money for the City Manager to distribute that represented an increase of $50,000 from Janelle Moore’s motion that had also complied with the Council requirements of form. Ms. Moore second that motion and then again before the discussion was complete, Council Member Resnik conformed his motion to the proper form of a pool of $891,670 and that motion was second by Bruce Arfsten. After extensive discussion that really related to both motions on the floor I called for a vote on the motion made by Blake as the motion that in my judgment was the first one that complied with the form as required by Council. Blake indicated that he was trying to maintain our commitment to collaborate, reach a consensus, reach a compromise and find a compensation level that we could all agree on. However, in a rarely used procedural move that cut off debate and terminated any opportunity to reach a consensus and in a severe blow to our collaborative process, Council Member Resnik forced his motion of a 6% salary increase or a pool of $891,670 to a vote by “calling the question.” Council Members Bruce Arfsten, Margie Gunther, Chris DeFrancisco and Neil Resnik then voted to approve the 6% increase or $891,670 increase. Mayor Pro Tempore Blake Clemens, Council Member Janelle Moore and Mayor Todd Meier voted against the motion. 4 votes to 3 votes, the motion passed; precisely the outcome we had agreed to try to avoid in our Work Session. If my memory of the facts is different from what actually happened I apologize, my effort here is to report what happened with no editorial comment. The following paragraph does contain my own personal editorial comment of disappointment. You are certainly welcome to check my memory of the events for yourself by watching the archived video of the meeting on our website and if I have misstated or mischaracterized the events I apologize. I have no doubt that my memory and recall may well be tainted by my disappointment in the breakdown of our process. As the mayor and meeting chair, I am responsible for helping to guide our process and I obviously failed to keep us on the collaborative build a consensus track.

I was personally very disappointed with the vote, not so much the outcome because I totally respect my colleague’s right to vote as they choose using their own best judgment. I was disappointed that our process of building consensus and working to find a solution that we were all able to agree upon was cut short with a procedural technique that curtailed any additional debate or working together for a best solution that would have been embraced by our entire Council; especially on such an important high profile decision. We have two more chances during this budget season to get back on the collaborative building a consensus track; I am confident the entire Council will continue to work to that end and hopefully find a way to all agree on the best path forward for our Town.

The rest of our evening was far less dramatic as the Council approved a motion to repay a portion of the funds borrowed from the General Fund by the Hotel fund. Our final agenda item regarding a new idea for a Town of Addison funded incubator was resolved by asking staff to find a way to leverage our already committed investment in the Baylor Accelerated Ventures program in some way to facilitate the development of this excellent incubator idea without expending anymore Addison taxpayer funds.

Our final agenda item was tabled for discussion and action next Tuesday evening when we will complete our budget process. We will actually have an open work session on Monday, September 9 at 6:00pm at Town Hall, and then on Tuesday, September 10 we will finalize our budget work with a discussion and vote of record beginning at 7:30pm, also at Town Hall. Based on the attendance this last week and all the drama, maybe we should charge for seats? Just kidding of course. This is an open and free meeting and I really encourage you to come. You will see exactly what folks mean when they say, “democracy is a messy business sometimes”.

In the meantime if you have any thoughts about our tax rate, our budget, our government spending rate or anything else you feel would help us make a well informed decision on your behalf, I strongly encourage you to let us know before Tuesday evening’s vote.

Around Town

Wednesday morning’s 10:00am Mayor’s Coffee was a packed house at Dunn Bros. Many questions and concerns expressed about our budget and tax rate, with the always dependable list of very well informed questions. Questions that included the basis for a 6% raise for our employees in this current economy, Questions about increasing our taxes when we are in such a competitive economic development market trying to attract new businesses and keep the ones we have, and the always dependable question about the status of our Water Tower project. Mayor Pro Tempore Blake Clemens was also with us and he shared his thoughts on the challenges of making important long range decisions with the best interests of Addison always at the top of his list.

Later on Wednesday Blake and I were joined by Council colleagues Blake Clemens, Bruce Arfsten, Margie Gunther, Chris DeFrancisco and Janelle Moore at our monthly Addison Business Association luncheon. Our speaker was our favorite Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell who represents Addison exceptionally well on the county’s Commissioners Court. Mike shared his philosophical commitment to being a fiscal conservative and the results it has produced for our County which include a very low tax rate and virtually no debt.

Long-time Addison resident and historian Buddy Frazer gave his monthly Addison History moment as part of the ABA’s program of celebrating Addison’s 60th Anniversary. We really appreciate Buddy’s work on this project! Below are Buddy’s remarks from the ABA luncheon this week:

“In 1975 Addison was a small town in the middle of other towns in North Dallas that were beginning to grow. They accomplished the growth partly by annexing other towns they adjoined. A number of the business people in Addison felt like the city council was anti-growth, and Addison would get swallowed up in the area growth. So, they decided to do something about it. Since many of them did not live in Addison, and therefore couldn’t vote, they looked for “pro-growth” candidates to support. Their candidate for mayor was Jerry Redding. He wanted to improve the infrastructure, instigate new zoning ordanances, and require better landscaping. And one other thing that the surrounding area did not have — Liquor sales.

At that time, there was no place to buy a drink in a restaurant or bottle of liquor in a package store between Walnut Hill Lane and Oklahoma. Redding was elected and the Charter was amended to allow liquor sales. To control the growth, package stores were only allowed on the west side of Inwood, and restaurants wanting a sell liquor-by-the-drink were required to get 60% of their revenue from food sales, and only 40% from alcohol to prevent an infestation of bars. The first special-use-permit for liquor-by-the-drink was given to Chu’s Restaurant. Alcohol sales, and all of the other pro-growth changes, led to a commercial and retail building boom.The sales tax revenue in 1975 of $200,000 grew in 1982 to $2.4 million dollars.” -Buddy Frazer

While I certainly enjoyed Buddy’s presentation and Commissioner Cantrell’s remarks, much of my time was spent responding to concerns from ABA members about the looming tax increase and potential impact on their respective businesses. I assured them that the vote had not yet taken place and that I would pass along their concerns to my colleagues.

Our newsletter is already too long for this week so I will leave out all of the other fun and worthwhile things all of us are working on to make Addison even better. More next week.

Calendar

I hope to see you Monday at Lazaranda at 5000 Belt Line Road for “Lunch with the Mayor” from 11:30am-1:00pm where we can enjoy a great meal prepared by Mario and his team, and discuss whatever you like.

Be sure to add the Addison Arbor Foundation’s upcoming fun, informative, and educational event, “Pollination in the Garden,” to your calendar. The seminar will be on Saturday, September 14 from 9:30am-11:30am at our Addison Athletic Club.

See you soon,

Todd

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