Addressing Real Issues with Real Facts

Time to Question Why and Set the Record Straight—Again

in Addison Texas Council/Economics by

Between recent flip-flops and downright deception, it’s time to set the record straight. We begin with item #18 on last week’s council agenda.

Do you realize what they really did? Item #18 on the September 13 agenda states: “Present, discuss and consider action regarding a resolution amending and restating an incentive agreement with Beltline Beltway Investment, Ltd. and Urban Intownhomes, LLC for the Addison Grove Redevelopment project at 4140 Belt Line Road commonly known as the former Sam’s Wholesale Club property and authorizing the City Manager to execute the amended contract.”

After the Addison Grove Incentive Agreement was discussed in a closed Executive Session, it took the council only 45-seconds, with NO public discussion, to vote 6-1 in favor of an amendment that removes from the agreement the developer’s offer to “deed restrict the usage of low income housing tax credits and low income housing subsidies.” (Better known as Section 8 housing.)

During their campaigning, the three new council members were against any low-income housing that could negatively impact property values of the residents near the Addison Grove project.   Walden, in particular, went door-to-door in nearby Midway Meadows, vowing to voters to never support any project that included low-income housing. Although he knew at the time the agreement restricted low-income housing, Walden used this as part of his scare tactics. Now, he’s flip-flopped and intentionally voted to allow low-income housing.

WHY?

Why did every council member except the Mayor vote in favor of this amendment? Why was there no discussion to explain why suddenly what was considered so controversial before the election has now become such an easy decision to reverse?

And, why did council have absolutely no public discussion before voting?

Not only do inquiring minds want to know—they deserve to know!   Where was the transparency regarding this decision?

More Walden Deceptions

Just to be clear—if it appears that FM is singling out Paul Walden in this issue it is only because Walden, and only Walden, has taken to Facebook to convey distorted, mostly unsubstantiated information that must be addressed. Unfortunately, in his

post he, or whoever helped him write it, chose not only to misconstrue the facts, but to revise history and provide inaccurate information bordering on lies. Therefore, following are excerpts from Walden’s four-page post followed by factual information:

Walden: “On the very day of the budget vote, the mayor proposed lowering the tax rate by a penny, funding that reduction by revisiting decisions we had already made about employee compensation. We had discussed these issues at length all during the summer budget meetings, reached a consensus and provided direction to the staff.  Revisiting the already-decided issue of employee compensation on the very day of the budget vote was nothing more than playing politics, plain and simple.” 

FACT: One full week before Walden’s motion to approve the proposed tax rate of .560472, the Mayor proposed to approve a tax rate one cent less than Walden’s proposed tax rate. FM attended all of the budget work sessions, thus we can factually attest to this. Plus, you can see for yourself by viewing the video since all of these work sessions were videotaped. Also, we sat through those sessions, as did several other residents and there was no way near the amount of discussion implied by Walden. There were also very few questions from anyone other than the mayor, Hughes and Wilcox.

Walden: Our employee compensation package has not been competitive for a number of years.  During that time, this mayor has all but declared war on the staff, and they have responded by voting with their feet.  We have lost almost every department head, in addition to many staff and safety personnel.  These losses come with a price! We have been training police and fire personnel at a significant cost, only to lose them after two or three years to more lucrative compensation packages offered by our neighbors in the Metroplex.” 

Fact: Distortion of compensation facts is nothing new from Walden and his advisors. A Facts Matter published following the March 22 council meeting, entitled “The Truth About Employee Compensation,” dealt with these very distortions and quoted the actual reality, based on information from the town’s Director of Human Resources, Passion Hayes.

Contrary to Walden’s claims of huge attrition rates because of salaries, Ms. Hayes told council members that a number of departures were due to retirement and “very few, about 5 or less, left for larger salaries.” For someone who is “there for the employees,” one would think he’d also, therefore, believe the employees.

Fact: When Walden says we “lost nearly every department head” he fails to put this claim within any time context and ignores that people do retire, do leave for personal issues and do sometimes strive for larger markets or larger responsibilities–all which are natural and reasonable reasons. Following are the department heads that left since 2014:

  • Greg Layman, Assistant Chief of Police who retired after serving Addison for 33 years. He was a Texas State Trooper for 4 years prior to coming to Addison.
  • Ron Davis, Police Chief, retired after serving Addison for 25 years after previously spending 12 years in the Dallas police department.
  • Slade Strickland, long-time Parks and Recreation Director, retired after serving Addison for 30 years.
  • Eric Cannon left Addison as Chief Financial Officer after three years to become CFO in the larger market of Allen, Texas.
  • John O’Neal, Fire Chief for six years, left for personal reasons to return to be near his teenage daughter and family in Fairfax, Va.
  • Young Matt McCombs, while not a department head, started as a financial analyst and over an eight-year period of time served Addison as Assistant City Secretary, City Secretary and finally Assistant to the City Managers Ron Whitehead and Lea Dunn. He was recruited by Whitehead to be City Administrator of Aubrey and replace Whitehead who at the time was Acting City Administrator in Aubrey.
  • Barbara Kovacevich left Addison after 24 years to become Director of Special Events for the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • Carmen Moran, Director of Development Services, retired after 30 years because of ill health and passed away in September 2014.
  • John Hill, while not an employee, served as Addison’s longtime legal counsel for more than 20 years and retired saying it was time for a “life change.”

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2014 the median tenure of local government employees is 7.9 years making most of Addison’s employee tenure well beyond the norm.

Fact: As for police and fire personnel, at the April 12 council meeting, Chief Paul Spencer, during his annual report, stated, “Pay is NOT a deterrent for retaining or hiring police.” He added that many experienced, well qualified Dallas police “would love to come to Addison but can’t because of our current mandatory requirement of a college degree—not money.” The degree issue has now been resolved.

 Walden: “The fact is that ADDISON’S COMPENSATION PACKAGE HAS NOT BEEN COMPETITIVE FOR A LONG TIME.”

Fact: While Walden accuses the Mayor (not the entire council) for any lack of competitive compensation of the past, he is the same person who crucified the past council when it increased the tax rate to bring all salaries up to a market competitive range. He also neglects to point out that in 2013, Ron Whitehead (one of Walden’s go-to advisors), while City Manager, requested $750,000 for employee compensation. This Mayor and council increased that amount, approving $879,486.38.

Walden also neglects to point out that instead of distributing these funds according to individual needs, Whitehead made an across-the-board 3% distribution for all employees. Thus it was Whitehead, not the Mayor or the council that “did nothing” to create good employee morale. As any employee knows, it’s not very motivating when you get the same raise as everyone else rather than being compensated for individual performance.

Fact: Just for the record, it is the City Manager who requests the compensation amount in a proposed budget. In Fiscal year 2014 the council once again approved $815,162.92 as requested by the City Manager and in Fiscal year 2015 the council approved $1,054,675.51. Again, the distribution was determined by the city manager, thus if there was any disappointment of how monies were distributed it is not appropriate to blame the Mayor or the council.

In Fiscal year 2016 the council increased the $518,130 compensation requested by the City Manager to $581,377.

The facts show that every request made by the City Manager was approved–even increased in several instances. In Fiscal year 2016, by approving more than was requested the tax rate needed to be slightly increased which caused the tax rate to go above the rollback. So for the council being willing to take the risk and make the commitment to the employees by doing the right thing, Walden, who touts he’s all about the employees, instead joined the bevy of critics and condemned the council for doing the very thing he now says should be done. Walden seems to want it both ways.

Fact: The approved aggregate increases for Fiscal years 2013-2016 reflected an average compensation rate of:

Police Officers                        26.1%

Firefighters/Paramedics      26.64%

All other employees             18.1%

Fact: Walden was also part of the crew that accused the council of overspending the budget three years in a row. Again, this was deceitful and dishonest. First of all, the council doesn’t do the spending—the City Manager manages spending. More importantly, by law, the Town cannot spend more than budgeted without council approval.

What the previous council did was to make a decision to fund operations with reserve funds when sales tax revenues fell short of projections after one of the town’s largest sales tax contributors left Addison.   Just like individuals set up savings accounts to take care of unexpected events, municipalities set up reserves.

What Walden either does not comprehend, or chooses to misrepresent in his post, is that the current council will have to do the very thing Walden criticized because the budget he and four of his colleagues approved calls for more spending than is projected to be collected from taxes, fees, etc.

Facts do matter and Walden might want to understand the facts before he writes deceptive rants. He might also decide which way he wants it because you can’t have it both ways. They call that flip-flop.

An All-Forgotten Fact

As it relates to caring about employees—it should also be remembered that during the downturn in the economy, particularly years 2009 and 2010, employees were not given raises. But, that was done so that no employees would be laid off. While most of the cities around Addison laid off employees, Addison cared enough to retain everyone’s job. So while employees of other nearby cities lost their jobs, Addison employees kept their jobs and benefits and you, the taxpayers, kept all of your services. That’s not caring about your employees?

Former council members say they recall getting hand-written notes from employees expressing their great appreciation and saying how relieved they were to not be losing their jobs. So, lest some individuals prefer to forget, let’s look at the real facts.

Walden: “Another of the ill-conceived ideas of the mayor was to give $100,000 of taxpayer money to the Addison Legacy Foundation to explore a deck park.”

Fact: The “idea” came from the Legacy Foundation, not from the Mayor. Since Walden sat through a major presentation, made by Deborah Morgan at the previous council meeting, he should have been well aware of whose idea it was. The topic was an agenda item of the last council meeting and, in fact, because the mayor and Bruce Arfsten serve on the foundation’s advisory board, both had to recuse themselves from any discussion or vote. In truth, it was Ivan Hughes who led the discussion and vote.

Walden: “Given the lack of transparency in Addison Legacy Foundation’s financial reporting, the obvious conflicts of interest of council members serving on its advisory board, and their limited successful fundraising and project management to date, I could not support either of these proposals.”

Fact: Walden has now insulted one of the most highly respected non-profits in the state of Texas with his accusation. The Communities Foundation of Texas, whose total assets for fiscal year 2015 were $1.067 Billion, manages all Legacy Foundation funds.

Walden ends his four-page, unsubstantiated dissertation by writing: “Sorry, I couldn’t keep these budget decisions to my usual brief format. But, I’m anticipating the usual flood of misinformation from the mayor and his supporters, so I wanted to provide a bit of background on the process.”

FM believes that you are discerning, intelligent Addison residents and we urge you to judge for yourself who’s providing the real “flood of misinformation.”

Photo via 401(K) 2012 – Flickr

The Facts Matter Website is made possible through the generous donations from Angels of Addison.

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