Status Quo – Not Acceptable

My Response to Mayor Richard Green

I read the commentary of Mayor Richard Green recently on a news item by Bill Hannah “Turn Tarrant County, local cities, blue? What exactly would that look like?”. I was interviewed in that column from my work on the “Coalition for a Better Arlington”. Mayor Green’s expressed an opinion on my efforts and desire in bringing changes in Arlington leadership. I see a much-needed change in vision of Arlington as a city which should work for its residents.

I am not a candidate in election but a voter who seeks residents’ representation and leadership. Mayor Green’s write up was confusing as half of his article was focused on making a point that city elections are nonpartisan, the other half his focus was why should the city stay in Republican hands.

I am fully aware that city elections are non-partisan; however, a non-partisan leadership is not precluded to present a progressive and alternative vision than prevailing ones. Mayor Green presents a typical status quo response: clearly, he is oblivious to the fact that Arlington is a different city than it was under Mayor Green’s leadership in the 80’s and early 90’s. The city has been a majority-minority city for the last few years; almost sixty percent of the population are non-white. In contrast Arlington’s city council has only one person of color out of eight, which is not a reflection of city diversity.

Arlington decisively support Democrats, as the Democratic Party won the city by twelve points margins (56 to 44) in the 2018 elections. Republicans lost three major seats including Senate District 10, County Commissioner and a Justice of Peace right in the middle of Arlington. In the Justice of Peace District 7 seat, which includes all of South and some Central and North Arlington, Democrat Kenneth Sanders defeated the Republican incumbent by more than 7,000 votes: he won every Arlington precinct except one. The same seat was lost by Democrats in 2014 by 4,000 votes. An 11,000 votes swing in four years is not only reflective of the quality of candidate and campaign but also the shift in political direction.

Arlington is ready for a change in direction and leadership. The term limits proposition for city council in Arlington passed with an overwhelming 63% of votes, despite an expensive $400K campaign by incumbent city council members and related PACs. People are tired of the same old crony capitalism and neglect of public needs. Contrary to Mayor Green’s expressed opinion, taking money from city residents and giving out corporate charity is not a desired policy goal the city residents seek.

You cannot call it “economic development” when city residents are providing massive sums to corporations, supporting them through tax abatements, on top of building roads and bridges for them, without seeing much in return. Seasonal minimum wage jobs in return for massive public funding is not a deal that works for the city.

In the case of Arlington, private business entities are effectively playing a role of taxing authorities. Not many people know that money collected as sales tax at few of large sports arenas are given back to owners of these arenas. Yes, in the city of Arlington when we are paying sales taxes in some sports arenas it goes to the state before ultimately coming back to corporations owning these arenas. So, state tax collection agencies are merely a medium through which sports teams are taxing our residents: collecting taxes which are refunded to them, not to the citizens, to keep as profit rather than invest in our community.

Public transportation proposition was last voted on in 2002, and was defeated. Since then the city has seen major changes in demographics as well as political directions. Mayor Green talked about innovative transportation system by the city. Are you kidding me? That is my
response. These VIA rideshares and autonomous cars (Milo) constitutes an innovative public transportation system?

This is sad to see the non-seriousness of city government on another very important public policy issue. Not only that they are not serious on presenting a solution, but they are also wasting taxpayer’s money on these non-starters. We have already seen the waste of money on ill-planned and ill-conceived MAX buses.

Another example of city leadership ignoring people call is its environmental record. This has become an ideological linchpin in city leadership versus residents. Exposing children, the elderly, and in fact the entire general population to hazardous materials, risk of gas well explosions, water pollution, and other environmental hazards for gas companies to make extra money is not just ideological stubbornness but is outright irresponsible leadership. Environmental degradation and air pollution are not ideological Republican or Democratic issues. This is our neighborhood protection, our health and our children’s future that is at stake. We already have several unanswered questions in public health, how can we allow additional health hazards in our neighborhoods?

The current city setback limits of 600 feet is already a very dangerous proposition, but any exemption from this rule is nothing short of endangering peoples lives and livelihood. We expect city leadership to be at the table on our behalf when negotiating with those who profit from us. They must act as the citizens’ representatives and not as advocates of big corporations when making deals.

It appears that Mayor Green and other Republicans on the city council are worried. I agree with Mayor Green that city ballots will not have a D or R in the next city council election. However, with changing demographics and political trend, a progressive platform is much more attractive than before. It is a failure of all incumbent city leadership to respond to the majority which calls for change. Lack of transparency, and pure disregard of city residents’ concerns are creating alliances between Republicans and Democrats. The term limits campaign was a nonpartisan alliance where citizens on all political sides teamed up to make changes.

Economic development must result in improvement in quality of lives of people. Crony capitalism, ignoring the voters, and putting businesses before residents in corporate negotiations are not economic development. Public policies and its execution must be transparent, and leadership must stay above any conflict of interest. People’s trust on public institutions not only enhance the governance but also improves democracy.

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