Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Take on the Terrace Debate Tonight

The debate tonight was much better than the debates two years ago. The first thing that made it better was that the debate featured only two candidates, Laura Maczka and Amir Omar.

Both candidates appeared very well prepared and appeared very professional in their handling of the questions. There was some evasion of direct answers. Since I favor Amir in this election, it was easiest for me to spot Laura's evasiveness, even more so because the question where she appeared to be evasive about was my question. The question was on fund sweeps. I thought Amir handled that question direct and provided a good answer. If a fund is gathering too much money from fees, more money than it can spend, the fees should be reduced to match expenses.

I mentioned it was easiest for me to spot Laura's faults in the paragraph above. I didn't spot an faults with Amir. But such was not the case with a friend I talked to after the debate who happens to be a strong supporter of Laura. That person had quite a different take of Amir's answers and Laura's answers. They said it was Amir not being quite so honest and being evasive. They have a point.

The truth of the matter probably lies in between the way I see it and the way they see it. This friend honestly thinks he is right in his views, about as right as I think I am in my views. People see the same things differently. No surprise there.

So I guess it can be said both won the debate and I'll say Amir won the debate tonight. Bottom line for me is that the debates are very much worth going to this year. It is worth hearing both candidates. So if you get a chance I would recommend going to as many gatherings as possible to listen to them both. In a previous post I listed the dates and times I know about. Thursday they will be at Dover Elementary at the Cottonwood Heights NA meeting to say a few words.
Here are some photos from the HTNA forum. Click on any of the images to enlarge.



  1. I have to say that most of the people I spoke to were undecided until after the debate. After it was over those people told me they would be voting for Omar. Yes, Maczka has lived here for 35 years, and it showed. She toes the old line platform. A man who told me he would NEVER vote for Omar totally changed his mind, and a woman who described herself as non-political is now going to vote for him. I only hope he lives up to his promises. One thing that hit home hard was his admission that are city streets and sidewalks are in great need of repair. Did not like either of their comments regarding the ubiquitos Consultants. Generally the city hires them at an exorbitant fee, and the disregards what ever they recommend. As a man, I could not help but notice Maczka's dress rode up her thighs every time she sat down. I see enough of that on Fox news!!!

  2. I would be interested to know what the person you were speaking to about the sweeps translates to them because I do not see any justification for moving money under the guise of a non quantifiable expenditure. Specifically PILOT and the lease of right of way from one fund to the other. Right now those decisions are made by a software program the City has paid for and does not really relate to actual expenditures. Hence, you cannot get any documents relative to the sweep.

    I think Amir gave the right answer and that is to account for the expenses like G&A directly to the fund itself instead of moving around funds to create more confusion. That has been my wish for long time.

    With reference to a narcotics division in the City, Amir is correct that there was always one until Zacharias came along. Laura did not understand the issues of not having one and relying on a surrounding city for support. First and foremost there are boundaries that cannot be crossed in specific instances. Second, a street officer cannot warrant a search. Third, was the issue of confiscation that Amir talked about.

    When Laura spoke of all these meetings that she has to ask her questions that are not in the public. She opened up a whole keg of worms on that one. That is the problem and has been for a long time. There is no discussion on the "why" in the public meeting. Same goes for when the Council goes into executive session. They cannot just come out of a closed session and just vote on something without some dialog. It is a violation of the TOMA. But they do it anyway.

    And as Amir pointed out, they cannot discuss what they talk about in a closed session because of the Ethics Ordinance. I question whether that ordinance violates the TOMA in many ways. That is another topic. The Texas Constitution, Article 11, Section 5 says an ordinance cannot trump the Constitution or statute. Period.
    That was one of the major points of the direct election.

    Last thing that did not sit too well with me is Laura's point on revitalization of the neighborhoods. She is all for the rental inspections. Will she want all homes inspected before it is said and done? Let's hope not. I must say I took issue when she said this and I will have to go back to the video and watch that section again. Personally I do not want to demo or remodel for a bigger home and more debt just to make Laura happy to have a revitalized neighborhood. I actually like our home and don't feel the need to change everything about it because the Council doesn't like they way it looks. I just have a problem with a Council telling me I do not live the way they think is best. I think their time would be much better served taking care of what is their responsibility and let me take care of mine. Otherwise why own a home here? I have questioned that for a few years now.

    I will say Amir's response on the Landlord thing was a little dramatic for what has transpired with the inspections. There are some good landlords who will pass Richardson by, just like so many businesses, retail and young professionals. ALL communities have rental homes. All of them.
    And when you are on the side having a tenant destroy a property, you really do something different with the next tenant.

    This live, work, play that they are copying is being done everywhere. It is silly to think it will work everywhere because it doesn't. It has already been said more of these developments fail than thrive. We have a couple that are not doing so well. Taxpayers will end up paying for that.

    Laura has said twice now that Businesses pay 52% of the taxes. That is only about 17-18% of the entire budget. Real question is how much is given away year over year?

    All in all it was a well done display of public issues and dialogue that is a rarity. I liked it. Congratulations to Highland Terrace for a great job. Too bad the one last week at the Country Club wasn't as gracious as tonight.


  3. Was amused that another blogger in Richardson continues to insist that the mayor is just a ceremonial position, whose authority is little more than any Councilman's, while the COALITION is acting as though Richardson will implode if their candidate doesn't become mayor. Fficeyo

  4. I thought it was revealing to hear that even the Council didn't have a clue as to whether the city staff was double, triple, or quadruple-dipping because of the way their compensation is apportioned across a wide variety of accounts. What honest organization keeps books like that? I bet it would be easy to see the fraud, waste and abuse if payroll and benefits were disbursed from single accounts. This must be how Keffler got the Police Department to pay for his "uniform" dry cleaning.

  5. Anyone else hear the comment from Maczka about needing 4 council votes for items to pass and that she has the endorsement of all other council members? I can't remember the exact wording but it was very telling to me. It was a fear tactic for sure.

    Another thing, did she really suggest a fee for BABIC?

  6. I was so glad "real" questions were asked at the forum this time. Those are the things citizens are truly concerned about, not personal finances.

    I'm the one who asked about the debt per capita.

    I wasn't talking about the Eisemann Center regarding the certificate of obligations. I wasn't mixing up long-term debt with short-term debt.

    Cities are issuing certificates of obligations for all kinds of things.

    I wasn't even talking about the stuff the city might be hiding, as some people claim. The data I'm talking about are in the annual report of Richardson and other cities.

    I also said, "comparing Richardson with other cities of similar age." Laura kept saying "Richardson is an aging city." So are other comparative cities! You can't compare Richardson with a new city like Frisco that needs to build infrastructure from the ground up.

    The truth is most council members don't know how to read financial reports. They probably don't even bother to read them.

    I don't think Amir reads financial reports, either. But at least, he's willing to ask questions about the money.

    All Laura does is ask the staff and the staff says everything is fine. She accepts that. That's good enough for her, but not for us, taxpayers!

  7. I agree with your assessment on debt and glad you asked the question. It is one topic that is rarely understood by the public and often by the Council.

    Just like in the article of Ft Worth, Richardson funded the Eisemann Center purely on Certificates of Obligation. No one is really sure how much was spent on it but the debt payments indicate approximately $50-55m.

    Laura can go on and on that CO's are used for fire trucks and such, but the truth is CO's have been used to cover operating shortfalls and to reimburse the general fund for expenditures made in prior years. That is a money shell game no Council member will ever talk about. Never mind that it is a violation of the Certificate of Obligation Act.

    We could also talk about the 2010 budget shortfall that had to be covered with CO's. The Council and staff were so aggressive to get the $66m bond passed, that the following Monday they approved a $18.3m Certificate of Obligation bond. So that is no big deal, you say? In the budget the Council had only approved $10.7mm. A good portion of those funds went to reimburse the general fund for monies already expended. In essence the citizens paid for the same item twice.


  8. See, I didn't know that the Eisemann Center was built entirely with COs.
    Who is mixing up short-term debt with long-term debt?

    The COs as of 2012 amounted to $39MM.
    How many fire trucks and equipment has the city bought?!

  9. >a street officer cannot warrant a search.

    I hope citizens of Richardson realize that while a police officer can't search drug dealers without a warrant, the city's UNLICENSED rental inspector can search renters' homes without a warrant (often by COERCING tenants and landlords) under the city's rental registration program!

    And at the HTNA forum, Laura publicly announced that she continues to support the program!!!

  10. Anon 10:18

    Are you REALLY asking about how many fire trucks the city bought in the past few years, like that is the downfall of COR budget issues?! Or is this just a jab at the first responders who didn't endorse Laura? Yes, there are expenditures that need to be watched over in this city, but I seriously doubt the problem stems from emergency services. It's probably more from the items like over 1 million dollars of sick time paid out to three people a few years ago, including the current city manager. I'd venture to say THAT was not a budgeted expense!

  11. >April 4, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    It was a jab at Laura (and the city council and staff) and a response to CDH's comment "Laura can go on and on that CO's are used for fire trucks and such."

    When I asked a question about debt at the HTNA forum, Laura said COs are for equipment!

    You really should read entire comments before you write a comment so you won't make a fool out of yourself.

  12. The Certificate of Obligation Act was amended by the legislature almost 20 yrs ago to extend these bonds from a rather short term period of 8-10+ year product (depending on what they are financing) to a maximum of 40 years!! Lots of things can happen to and with 40 year financing.

    On top of that there is a bill in process to create Century bonds! Who would invest in a 100 year bond? The pitch is they are for transportation projects. With the declaration to make all major roadways in TX tollways. I suspect the century bonds will fund the Cotton Belt they want so badly.


  13. Anon 11:42

    With reference to sick pay of 2007-2009, Bill Keffler took another 325 hours in 2011 and 60 hours in 2012.
    I will have to go back and look at the actual number, but that rounded out to approximately $37,000. Add that to the $313,000 he got previously, it appears the Council promised him $350,000 bonus in an undisclosed written agreement.

    Was it budgeted? I tend to agree with you that it was not.


  14. CDH, thanks for the true "historical perspective." ;) I value those "historical perspectives," as opposed you-know- whose.

    I see that change in '87.

    And "They can apparently be issued for any reason by the city and if not totally used as initially issued for, apparently the "excess" money can go into the general revenue funds."!!! http://www.nrhonline.com/Certificates.htm