The Lewisville City Council met Monday night for its final meeting of 2009.
In the workshop session, there was discussion and a presentation regarding naming rights for Railroad Park, the performing arts center, and Western Days. We posted on that seperately, including downloadable presentation.
TJ Gilmore blogged the rest of the meeting here, and his notes are pretty good, so below, I'll just add a few notes and thoughts of my own.
Lathan Watts Demagogy
The City applied for and received a federal block grant in the amount of $913,000 for energy efficiency improvements from funds appropriated via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - a.k.a. "the stimulus". The Council voted to accept the money, but Lathan Watts decided to put party loyalty before city loyalty and use it as an opportunity to demagogue over it. Watts voted against receiving the free money, stating that he'd rather have local taxpayers pay for it than to receive the "monopoly money" from the federal government. Back when we were applying for the grant, he had the same argument, and it was just as dumb then.
This kind of dogmatic foolishness is exactly why local government in Texas is supposed to be non-partisan. You can think what you want about what the federal government does, and you can call on your representatives there to vote in ways that reflect your values. But at the local level, we have to play with the hand we are dealt. Lewisville taxpayers will end up paying our share of the federal debt eventually, whether or not we accept the money, so it's silly not to accept the benefits. This is such a no-brainer that it was on the consent agenda, which is reserved for items expected to pass with no comment.
But with Watts, I think we can safely assume that his tenure with the City of Lewisville has never been about the City, but rather about advancing the professional lobbyist's political career. That much was abundently evident based on his attempt at an English Only ordinance and hisTea Party speech on the steps of City Hall, and elsewhere.
Tax Abatement Amendment
Quoting TJ's post:
Item 9: Ms. Rita Williams also asked for clarification on the reduction in abatement for an existing business that had received a tax abatement in 2007 that they've not complied with 'due to the economy'. I didn't have time to ask more detail but basically the City met the business halfway and only increased the business tax (or removed some of the abatement depending on which side of the ledger you look at this from) partially. There is a stipulation that if the company shrinks below 29,700 square feet that the entire abatement will be removed. I spoke with Councilman Tierney before the meeting and he felt that this was a good compromise to realize some penalty for not living up to their end of the bargain without also penalizing the City by potentially losing an employer. Moved and Approved.
I'd like to offer some constructive criticism here of Mayor Ueckert's answers to Ms. Williams. Ueckert was technically correct when he stated that we were reducing the amount of the abatement, but what was not made clear was that the alternative to passing the amendment was to cancel the abatement altogether, based on TIAA's breech of their contract. That being the case, I think what staff and Council should have shown was their rationale for continuing the abatement at all.
I must admit that it is frustrating to me that we are so willing to be held hostage by companies threatening to go elsewhere if someone makes them pay their fair share. Unfortunately this is the way the game is played right now, and we cannot unilaterally withdraw from it. Instead, we need to look at each deal on its own merits, and determine the net expected benefits. I think if it had been me on the Council, I would have required a representative from TIAA to at least make their case, for the record and in front of the other tax-paying citizens.
Oil and Gas Comment Period
The Council did authorize a 30 day public comment period for a proposed change to the Oil and Gas Ordinance, which would increase the requirements for the Oil and Gas Inspector or the City's oil and gas advisor.
More on the proposed change...
City of Lewisville's Public Comment Page