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epic-fail-career-fair-fail

My previous post – Illegal Swine Flu – illustrates how wrong it is for someone: especially someone  in a leadership position; to write inflammatory statements or innuendos without first performing a serious fact check. In the business and legal worlds that would be known as Due Diligence. For those who are unsure of the definition, here’s one from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.

1 : the care that a reasonable person exercises under the circumstances to avoid harm to other persons or their property
 

Most legal definitions of due diligence say something like “due diligence is a measure of prudence, activity, or assiduity, as is properly to be expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a reasonable and prudent person under the particular circumstances; not measured by any absolute standard but depends on the relative facts of the special case.”

Okay okay – I saw the term “reasonable person”, and I don’t have a response for you. I’m going to take a giant leap with my eyes and ears firmly shut and say that we should expect our elected leaders to be reasonable and prudent persons. I know – please – just humor me on this one. And I did say “we should”, so there. I have been reading The Code so much that I too have learned how to double-talk.

To begin this post, read the first 3 paragraphs of my companion post: Illegal Swine Flu, copied below in italics. If you’ve already read that part in the former post and don’t want to hear it again just skip the following 3 paragraphs.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they say something so incredibly asinine that you are literally stunned? You know – at first your brain goes through a system check to be sure your ears are working correctly.  You are hesitant to ask the person to repeat the statement, because you are afraid that you will hear the same thing again, and your entire nervous system is still trying to recover from the original shock. Then your eyes and brain go into overdrive: searching all the visual clues to see if the person was being facetious and you missed it. Then, a feeling of “Oh My God” washes over you as you realize that THEY ARE SERIOUS – and too dumb (and/or arrogant and self-righteous) to know how ignorant they sound.

Your poor brain searches for a response. You stand there in slack-jawed amazement as your mind creates, then discards, potential replies. You can’t believe you actually heard that. Your emotional fight-or-flight defense kicks in: should you respond or just let it go (and run away!). Well, normally, if it doesn’t matter to anyone, you can just say something like “Uh” and get the heck away. But when the statement is so incredibly idiotic, hurtful, and indefensible you just can’t keep quiet. At least that’s the way I am.

Lately I have read some statements made in a social networking site that fit this description. Thank God I didn’t hear this stuff coming out of this person’s mouth, as I’m afraid my ears would have caught my hair on fire. These were some statements I read weeks ago that were so appalling  that I closed the site, waited several days, then reread the entries. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Then, I thought that maybe I was seeing this out of context, so I read a few prior statements. But NOooo, there they were, in black  and white, in all their glorious stupidity.

So here’s the next statement that got my attention:

WhiteHeard that terrorist suspect who apparently wanted to blow up downtown Dallas was illegally in the country.10:27 AM Sep 25th from web”

 

OKaaaay: now, if you have not been following Farmers Branch politics you may not recognize this as yet another poorly disguised  juvenile slam at illegal immigrants. So, let’s investigate a few facts so that we can put this in the proper perspective.

  1. Okay, okay, stop shouting: I KNOW: technically, Hosam Maher Hussein Smadi was in the country illegally. To be precise, he entered the United States with a student visa which he overstayed. The same thing is true about the 9-11 terrorists. Do you understand the difference: they came here legally, but the government didn’t bother to say anything when they overstayed. Okay? So, technically, he was here past his legal deadline, but he was welcomed into the country with open arms.
  2. At around the same time Mr. Smadi was arrested there was a similar conspiracy in North Carolina, with 8 men involved who were all UNITED STATES CITIZENS. Born and raised in the good ole’ USA. That’s their nicely maintained home in my previous post.
  3. Meanwhile, yet another UNITED STATES CITIZEN was arrested in Illinois, same charge. He was trying to emulate American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh.
  4. Not one of these people was from Mexico. Not one.
  5. 40% of all illegals are kids who came here on student or work visas and forgot to return home.
  6. Kids who come here on student visas are not poor. They have to demonstrate fiduciary responsibility before they are even allowed a Student Visa. Their families are pretty well-off and they are required to prove it. Those kids did not come here to find a better life for their families, to work, or to escape poverty and oppression. And yes, by kids I mean anyone under 35. I’m old enough to have earned that right.
  7. The one thing these kids do have in common is that they are religious fanatics. That’s right: Religious Fanatics. They embrace a very strict religion that promotes itself as a comprehensive solution to every public and private question of importance. And their goal is to force everyone else to abide by their rules. Or else. You could say that they believe their god wants them to do this for our own Health, Safety, and Welfare.
  8. Here’s a bit more about this type of religious fervor. I’ve replaced the specific word with a more general to prevent bias, and to demonstrate how this statement can be applied to many religions:

Contrary to popular perception, <religious terrorism> is not about forced conversions. It certainly may have filled that role very early on, when <that religion> was first expanding, but that hasn’t been the case for a very long time. It is instead a political goal: bringing as much of the world under the control of <that religion> as is possible. This then allows for the fulfillment of two other goals: promoting <that religion> among non-<believers> and establishing a just political and social order (only possible under <that religion>).

Hmmmm – with these FACTS in mind, it seems to me that if you wanted to make a broad accusatory statement concerning undesirable activity in our country it would be something to the effect that we should  keep church and state matters separate, and assiduously avoid overloading our leadership with followers of only one religion. Zealots who believe that they know how you and I should live, so force their own narrow-minded opinions on everyone else while self-righteously maintaining they are doing it to protect our own Health, Safety and Welfare are our own brand of domestic misery.

Tactics of oppression, selective code enforcement and retribution are forms of urban terrorism. And if we stand by and let it happen “the terrorists will win”. Is that how we want to live?

I want you to look at this picture:

federal_hollysprings_420x315

What a  pretty, neat little house. Look at the nice driveway: no cracks there – grassy or otherwise. And the grass is mowed and edged to perfection. Look at the fence: nice and neat and square and painted. In the yard: no dead bushes, no empty pots, fewer than 5  front yard decorations. There’s a chair in the yard, but only one, and I’ll bet it’s permitted. No tree limbs hanging over the street. There’s a fireplace, and I’ll bet their firewood is neatly stacked 18″ above the ground.  There are only two cars parked well within the concrete on the driveway.

Wow. If the house were  larger this would be the perfect Farmers Branch residence. But this owner is obviously a very fine desirable upscale person, so the taxpayers  can give him a low-interest loan and a nice tax break for home expansion.

The neighbors must be so proud, and property values must be skyrocketing.

Wait; are those cops standing there? Do they own the home? Oh no, silly – cops can’t afford a nice house like that. Well, then …. what?

Oh – this is the house that the ringleader of a North Carolina terrorist group lived in. His sons were raised under his strict religious guidelines and they were arrested with him and 5 others on charges of plotting terrorist acts.

Well, but still, they’re white, and American citizens, and keep a neat lawn, and are very religious. And that’s all that matters, right?

cartoon - scary tree

Someone told me that a City Council member drove down Pebble Beach last week and became distraught over all the tree limbs that were hanging over the street in clear violation of The Code, which states that there must be vertical clearance of 12′ (if you are doing your civic, albeit uncharitable, duty and complaining about a tree owner from the Report a Code Violation site) or 14′ (if you are a Code Enforcer or a ProActive citizen who actually searches for that entry in The Code, is lucky or persistent enough to find it, bothers to read and try to understand it and small-minded enough to report your neighbor for it.)

I don’t know why the Report a Code Violation site clearance distance is different from the actual code: I guess the City Council has written so many silly rules in so many places that they can’t even keep track of what they’ve said. A similar instance is with the grass and weed height: is it 12″ or 8″?

That’s a manifestation of what those of us in the documentation profession call “Band-Aiding” and violates the first rule of documentation, which is to never repeat the same information in different places. That practice often results in misinformation and error and it is not good practice in legal documents. But, we are lucky enough to have the Code Enforcement professionals who will be happy to interpret the rules for you so you don’t have to worry about all those silly details like what is actually written.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. There was a rumor that the poor City Councilperson, concerned about the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the citizens, was so apoplectic that he had to be sedated. Oh my. The same informant told me that the Community Surveillance Team got right to work to track down these inconsiderate tree owners and issued 40-some Notices. Whew! I feel Safer and Healthier already.

Well, that made me curious, and being a ProActive citizen I took a drive down Pebble Beach to see if there could possibly be 40 residents that were so selfish as to allow their trees to threaten this poor Councilperson. I didn’t have a tape measure with me, so I just guesstimated, but even being really picky I could only find 21 homes, and then I threw in the 3 places where the Golf Course crosses Pebble Beach: all of those trees “Branch Out” (!!!) over the curb. But that still didn’t add up to 40-something. I retraced my route, added the streets that intersected Pebble Beach, and snagged another 10.

On my little fact-finding mission I had time to wonder what the Councilperson was driving that he should be so upset about the tree limbs, but who am I to question? I also noticed that Pebble Beach is a very wide street, and a lane on each side is separated from the “normally traveled” area by a solid white line, and I wondered about that. Oh – now I remember: when I first moved to Farmers Branch those were the new bike lanes, and Farmers Branch was very proud of them. I searched for the signs that used to be posted showing that those were bicycle lanes, but couldn’t find any. Maybe they’re out getting the new logo added. Or maybe nobody rides bicycles anymore – that’s probably not Upscale, and anyway we have The Club to do our  exercising – why would we need to ride bicycles? How low-class. Besides that, you would have to have a place to store your bicycle that didn’t violate The Code.

If The City wanted you to ride bikes they would create a nice Bicycle Park for you to go ride in, but then they would have to create rules on size, color, and make of bike, allowed days and times, tire air pressure, etc. etc. Whew, that’s a lot of work for a City Council who has, at most, 4 years’ experience. No – that’s not combined experience, but close. I think combined experience is more like, let’s see, 13 years – for 5 members.

Hmm, most, if not all, of those nasty tree limbs were well within the (old) bike lane white lines. The thought did cross my mind that maybe the Councilperson was actually driving a very very tall vehicle in the bicycle lane, but there were cars parked in that lane every so often, so that may be what really made the CP mad and triggered his apoplexy. There will probably be a new ordinance soon to prohibit parking in the bicycle lanes.

Oh – this just in –  an artist’s rendering of the Councilperson going down Pebble Beach. Now I see why he was infuriated about the the low limbs.

unicycle clown

Incidentally; while I was driving slowly down the streets looking up at the trees I saw a few people standing in their yards. It used to be that when you drove down a street in Farmers Branch the people standing in their yards would smile and wave. Now they stand perfectly still  and glare.

I wonder what’s bothering them.

cartoon - unfriendly neighbors

cartoon - swine flu remedy

Swine Flu Remedy

 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they say something so incredibly asinine that you are literally stunned? You know – at first your brain goes through a system check to be sure your ears are working correctly.  You are hesitant to ask the person to repeat the statement, because you are afraid that you will hear the same thing again, and your entire nervous system is still trying to recover from the original shock. Then your eyes and brain go into overdrive: searching all the visual clues to see if the person was being facetious and you missed it. Then, a feeling of “Oh My God” washes over you as you realize that THEY ARE SERIOUS – and too dumb (and/or arrogant and self-rightous) to know how ignorant they sound.

Your poor brain searches for a response. You stand there in slack-jawed amazement as your mind creates, then discards, potential replies. You can’t believe you actually heard that. Your emotional fight-or-flight defense kicks in: should you respond or just let it go (and run away!). Well, normally, if it doesn’t matter to anyone, you can just say something like “Uh” and get the heck away. But when the statement is incredibly idiotic, hurtful, and indefensible you just can’t keep quiet. At least that’s the way I am.

Lately I have read some statements made in a social networking site that fit this description. Thank God I didn’t hear this stuff coming out of this person’s mouth, as I’m afraid my ears would have caught my hair on fire. These were some statements I read weeks ago that were so appalling  that I closed the site, waited several days, then reread the entries. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Then, I thought that maybe I was seeing this out of context, so I read a few prior statements. But NOooo, there they were, in black  and white, in all their glorious stupidity.

Me being me, I can no longer let these statements go unchallenged. Here – I’ll give you an example:

  • WhiteI’m at my law office working away. The Swine Flu disaster – yet another reason to control illegal immigration. How about those Mavs!10:27 AM Apr 28th

See what I mean? Is this a joke or what? Does this person actually believe that <the place that the illegal immigrants he’s talking about> CREATED Swine Flu? Or that the United States would somehow be spared if only we could keep those nasty illegals out? WHAT??? Excuse me for a minute, my brain still can’t handle this. I’m going to take a break, have a nice cup of tea, and try to think happy thoughts. While I’m gone you can look at this funny picture.

I don't know what the deal is with this horse. I'll bet he's a fun pet though.

I don't know what the deal is with this horse. I'll bet he's a fun pet though.

Okay – I’m back, still a little shaken, but I’ll try to carry on. I just hate it when my intelligence is insulted. Okay, deep breath, continue:

Now, I’m not an Infectious Disease Specialist, but here’s a quote from Dr. Jay Steinberg, who is one, at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta:

 History indicates that flu pandemics tend to occur once every 20 years or so, so we’re due for one, Steinberg said.

“I can say with 100 percent confidence that a pandemic of a new flu strain will spread in humans,” he said. “What I can’t say is when it will occur.”

Well, It’s Here. The following are some FACTS about Swine Flu:

What other examples of swine flu outbreaks are there?

Probably the most well-known is an outbreak of swine flu among soldiers in Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1976.

<Note: Fort Dix is NOT located in Mexico. It is in New Jersey, which is a state in the Eastern United States and far from Mexico. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the soldiers in Fort Dix were all citizens of the United States.>

The virus caused disease with x-ray evidence of pneumonia in at least 4 soldiers and 1 death; all of these patients had previously been healthy. The virus was transmitted to close contacts in a basic training environment, with limited transmission outside the basic training group. The virus is thought to have circulated for a month and disappeared. The source of the virus, the exact time of its introduction into Fort Dix, and factors limiting its spread and duration are unknown. The Fort Dix outbreak may have been caused by introduction of an animal virus into a stressed human population in close contact in crowded facilities during the winter.

How common is swine flu among pigs?

H1N1 and H3N2 swine flu viruses are endemic among pig populations in the United States and something that the industry deals with routinely. Outbreaks among pigs normally occur in colder weather months (late fall and winter) and sometimes with the introduction of new pigs into susceptible herds. Studies have shown that the swine flu H1N1 is common throughout pig populations worldwide, with 25 percent of animals showing antibody evidence of infection. In the U.S. studies have shown that 30 percent of the pig population has antibody evidence of having had H1N1 infection. More specifically, 51 percent of pigs in the north-central U.S. have been shown to have antibody evidence of infection with swine H1N1. Human infections with swine flu H1N1 viruses are rare. H1N1 swine viruses have been known to circulate among pig populations since at least 1930. 

Swine flu, also known as 2009 H1N1 influenza, is a human disease. People get the disease from other people, not from pigs.

The disease originally was nicknamed swine flu because the virus that causes the disease came to humans from pigs. The virus contains genes from swine, bird, and human flu viruses. Scientists are still arguing about what the virus should be called, but most people know it as the H1N1 swine flu virus.

The swine flu viruses that spread among pigs aren’t the same as human flu viruses. Swine flu doesn’t often infect people, and the rare human cases that have occurred in the past have mainly affected people who had direct contact with pigs. But the current “swine flu” outbreak is different. It’s caused by a new swine flu virus that has changed in ways that allow it to spread from person to person — and it’s happening among people who haven’t had any contact with pigs.

I also don’t work for the Center for Disease Control, but after searching the net for FACTS, I’m going to take a stab at trying to explain this to people who don’t have a firm grasp of science:

  • The Influenza virus mutates constantly. That is one reason that vaccines are not available immediately. The drug companies have to study the latest iteration of that particular strain and concoct a specific formula to deal with the new genetic mix.
  • A very few mammals: pigs are one; and most birds can carry influenza viruses that affect humans. All the science is somewhat complicated, but in layman’s terms my understanding is that a few mammals and many birds act as carriers for different influenza viruses. When the right combination of the little virus genes get together they create a new strain which may or may not infect humans. This particular one does.  The mechanism is akin to evolution, if you are a believer in that science. If you do not believe in evolution I don’t know what to tell you.
  • Swine flu is not called swine flu as some “science geek humor” to insult the people who become infected with it, or the country where it was first described and documented. It is because several viruses which usually infect pigs got together to create this new strain, which is actually a mixture of genes from swine, avian (bird) and human viruses.
  • The influenza virus does not care if you are in the country legally or illegally. In fact, in the first weeks of this particular flu most of the  United States citizens who caught it had been to Mexico. I am pretty sure they were there legally, and that they were not trying to immigrate illegally – they were just visiting, and brought the flu back with them when they returned to the United States.  And, in case you are wondering, no: they were NOT Mexicans “sneaking back across the border”. They were American citizens. Probably white, some may have been black, or yellow, or red, or even brown, but the vast majority were citizens of the United States.
  • The new influenza virus shows up wherever it shows up. Remember the Bird Flu? That was first documented in Asian countries. How about the Spanish Flu? It has nothing to do with the people of the country; they just got the short straw this time.

If you  still insist on placing the blame on a specific country for the this latest outbreak, you may want to consider this: The pig farm that this particular strain was traced to is owned by an American company. Now, I can only guess as to how much money that company spent to vaccinate against swine flu viruses, as in the United States farms “routinely deal with swine flu viruses” and that’s probably a regulatory requirement in the United States. I’m not going to tell you what I think, but it did cross my mind that maybe the Mexicans should be mad at us. After all, most American companies that set up operations in Mexico are doing it for  reasons that I’m not even going to go into. I’ll let Michael Moore do the documentary. 

 Now that I got that off my chest, I have a suggestion. Before this person writes another inflammatory statement he should think about what he’s saying, and consider his motives. If he’s a public figure: say, like an elected official; he needs to be cognizant of his image, as he is a representative of some constituents, for instance: the citizens of Farmers Branch. Farmers Branch is already being called an intolerant backwater, and quite frankly, mindless utterances like this only serve to reinforce that reputation. The citizens of Farmers Branch deserve better.

But maybe there’s help: I suggest this person join the Rotary Club.  Here’s some information from their web site. If they are what they say they are maybe they can help him. The least he can do is take the “Four-Way Test” before he utters any more embarrassingly ignorant statements.

Mission

The mission of Rotary International, a worldwide association of Rotary clubs, is to provide service to others, to promote high ethical standards, and to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.

The Object of Rotary

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

The Four-Way Test

The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

I read that the City Council justifies the $ 10,000,000 debt they incurred for the citizens of Farmers Branch by (quote from the Web Site):

“… the Farmer’s Branch City Council voted unanimously to issue $10 million in short term certificates of obligation for the purpose of buying and eliminating dangerous buildings in the City.”

As a veteran of The City in the Park’s favorite game: Code Enforcement, I wonder how come the owners of these dangerous buildings are never invited to play. If they have Rats, Rodents and Other Vermin, leaky roofs, trash, grassy cracks, non-permitted storage, high grass and weeds, and/or inoperable vehicles why don’t they get citations like the rest of us? That would be so easy to do – the Code Enforcement folks wouldn’t even have to hide behind bushes in order to spy on these properties. They wouldn’t have to get out of their trucks and slosh through muddy easements in order to take pictures of your lone 9″ piece of grass next to your back fence.

Now, since the City is spending so much money on pretty signs, special pocket parks, roses, a new logo, and other very important projects to protect our Health, Safety, and Welfare, they claim they have to get the money to purchase these dangerous buildings from you and me – in the form of higher property taxes. I wonder if the City is aware that the Ordinances they so painstakingly created apply to commercial as well as residential properties. So far it seems that the residents are the majority of ones being cited for violations, and many of those violations are for things that by no stretch of the imagination could harm anyone’s health, safety, or welfare.

As I pride myself on my Innovative, Proactive citizenship, I would like to point out the following section of the City Ordinance that our Council members wrote, but must have forgotten. I guess they are too busy with important matters like buying nice signs and stuff:

Sec. 22-606.  Abatement; recovery of costs; lien.

All costs for the taking down and removal and/or restoring of such dangerous building or structures, including costs for mailing of a notice and/or publication, filing of a statement with the county clerk, bid procedures costs and/or interest shall be levied, assessed and collected against such property upon which such building or structure is located. If there are any obstructions or other difficulties encountered in the taking down and removal and/or restoring, if required by this article, of such building or structure, such additional costs shall be levied, assessed and collected against such property and/or shall also become a personal obligation to the owner of such property upon which such building or structure is located. The costs provided in this section shall be levied, assessed and collected by the city. If any owner of such property shall fail to pay the costs so assessed within 30 days after being notified of such costs, the city shall file, with the county clerk, a statement signed by the mayor of such costs. The city shall have a privileged lien on the premises and/or the personal obligation of the owner of such property, second only to tax liens and liens for street improvements to receive the costs so made and ten percent interest on the amount from the date the payment is due. For any such costs and interest, suit may be instituted and foreclosure had in the name of the city. The statement so made by the mayor, or a certified copy of the statement, shall be prima facie proof of the costs expended in such work or improvements.

 

I’ve read the interviews in which various City Council members claim that it would just be too hard (I can hear the whiny voices now), and too expensive, to track down some 33 individual commercial property owners and hassle them. Huh? That is an insult to our fine Community Surveillance team, who has demonstrated superhuman efforts in writing violation notices by the hundreds per week. As I’ve stated before: these guys (and gal) are dedicated professionals – let them at the violators. They will do whatever it takes to find every blade of tall grass, every empty pot, every missing fence picket, and they will even count decorative items for you. Hey – I just had two of them stand in the mud behind my house so they could inventory my “outside storage” items. They spent nearly an hour performing that personalized service just for me, so surely they can spend a few minutes checking out the commercial buildings. I feel so selfish taking up all of their time. If for some reason they can’t do it, I will – especially for 10 million dollars. That pay is almost as good as the PT Park Assistant job that I missed out on earlier. (See my 02 September post “Farmer’s Branch Jobs”).

I’m thinking that the Rats, Rodents and Other Vermin that the City is most afraid of are also known by another name: Corporate Attorneys. And Lord knows the City doesn’t need any more lawsuits.

But Hey – Good news: I just got a picture of the new Farmer’s Branch Fire Station. Someone forwarded it to me, and I haven’t had time to verify that it is the final plan or even that it is the plan. Won’t that new logo look great here. And I hope they have budgeted for street signs to point to the building.

Thanks, Farmers Branch Tax Payers!

 

New Farmers Branch Fire Station

Proposed New Farmers Branch Fire Station

cartoon - council

Oookkkkkaaaayyyyyy – I promised to relay the new strategies for the fun Code Enforcement Game that the city is fond of playing with selected citizens. So here we go.

If you have been following my posts so far, you know that my husband was railroaded into pleading No Contest to a charge of non-permitted outside storage. We had decided beforehand to demand a jury trial, and I had asked for that, but Mr. Metcalf decided that Mr. Holmes, against his doctor’s orders, was capable of making a legal decision hours after going through invasive surgery. So, as we all know, No Contest really means Guilty, but the city, in their generosity,  will let you go if you promise to get no more citations for 180 days. Well, as I told you at the time if the city wants to give you citations they will find a reason, so you really have little control over that. And I was right. Duh

On Friday, the mail brought me a new invitation to play Code Enforcement. Oh Boy.

Now, let me point out something right away. In The Code the statement is made that we dirty nasty violators have 7 days to clean up our act. Well, they mean 7 days after the CE has noticed it, NOT seven days after you are notified. Who do you think you are, anyway? It takes 2 days for my invitation to show up in my mailbox, so if I am away from home or the mail is misdirected (it happens a lot more than you think) it doesn’t matter – the clock is ticking away whether you know about it or not.

Back to my invitation. The notices (there were actually 2 of them) were obviously from things that Gabe had spied back on September 1st when I caught him walking down the easement, and in my neighbor’s back yard, with his camera. By the way – I had told you all in an earlier post that when I saw Gabe I immediately emailed Jim Olk and requested copies of the pictures. I never got a response to that. How surprising.

But anyway – this morning Gabe called me and asked when I expect to have my violations corrected. I told him that I needed more information and reminded him about the earlier photo request. Now Gabe tells me that if I want pictures or descriptions of what they deem code violations I will have to file an Open Records Request. Hmmmmm – so I have to file an Open Records Request in order to find out exactly what Code Enforcement is accusing me of? How weird.

He said that he is going to come re-inspect my property this afternoon. I told him to stay out of my backyard and easement, whereupon he informed me that although I pay the taxes, the easement is public property and he was allowed to walk in it. I argued that no, it is my private property and the only folks with a special use permit to access my easement were the utility companies. He responded that he had my neighbor’s permission to enter his yard and easement; so there. He didn’t say “Nyah nyah” but I could tell he was thinking it. In my mind’s eye I could even see his boss in the background  jumping up and down with glee – like the little trolls you see in the Fairy Tales.

Hmmmmm – so I went over and talked to my neighbor. He said he was discussing a tree trimming and some other violation notice earlier that morning, and Gabe said that he would come over and might have to enter his yard and/or easement, and asked if that was okay. My neighbor thought this was a little strange for a tree in his front yard, but answered “Well, yeah, I guess”. Ah.  When I explained the situation he said that he would call and tell Gabe that he had changed his mind, and to stay off his property. He also told me he might not be successful because the Code Enforcement guys aren’t real good about returning phone calls. I already knew that.

Side to the Community Surveillance Department  – you sly devils – you didn’t need to see my neighbor’s back yard, did you – you wanted to see mine! I hope my neighbor didn’t get his violation notice just because you needed to go into his yard to spy on me, because that would be deceitful and underhanded. Oh – excuse me: I guess the new term for that is ProActive and Innovative. Is that what the city got the Innovation Award for? No one at City Hall will give details. Seems a shame to be so proud of getting an award, but so secretive about how you “earned” it.

Sure enough, before my neighbor could try to call here comes not one but two Code Enforcement trucks! WOW! The neighbor wasn’t home, so Gabe and the other guy got right to work, walking down the easement and straight to the site of my dreadful non-permitted storage. They spent a lot of time there, and I took a lot of pictures. I hope I get a list of things, they spent so much time taking inventory. If it wasn’t so doggoned muddy back there I could have pulled everything out and let them see and record it. But it is really, really muddy. So muddy that when I had been cleaning that area over a month ago I couldn’t get a wheelbarrow there to haul off stuff. So there it is, waiting for Code Enforcement to itemize it. Our tax dollars at work.

What is really silly is that had they bothered to turn their heads even a fraction of an inch to either side, or look behind them, they would have found things far worse than my neatly stacked building materials; but in other people’s yards. But no, they were on a mission. And, as I told you before, they are professionals.

Seriously: I’m telling you all this so that you can get a really good idea of what our City will stoop to in the name of our Health, Safety, and Welfare. If you dare to object, or even question, you too will be targeted. If you want to be a good sheepizen and roll over at their every whim that’s your business. But I’m not that kind of person.

Here’s something for each and every person in the “Land of the Free” to think about: if the Farmer’s Branch Code Enforcement guys want to target you, what stops them from tricking your neighbors into getting access to their back yards, borrow their ladder and peer into your private property so they can write you up for Code Violations?    Not a damned thing.     And the codes are written so that it really doesn’t matter if anyone but you can see the non-permitted items. Actually, the codes are written so that they can interpret anything they want as a violation. I know from experience.

Be Afraid – Be Very Afraid.

cartoon - cutting the grass in FB

What a day I’ve had today. I did run across a very funny news article last week. I posted it on my Facebook page so I could share it with my friends. It was published in the Dallas Morning News back in August of 2008, but after a year of living with these clowns we Farmers Branch citizens can appreciate their humor. In essence, the article talks about the new ordinance which demands that Farmers Branch residents edge and trim their yards. I’ve linked it to this blog, in the Farmers Branch Mayor and City Council category. It’s called “New Farmers Branch law requires lawns to be edged, trimmed”. You can read it if you want, but  sound bites explaining the new law are this:

It’s for safety, as well as aesthetics, Farmers Branch City Council member Harold Froehlich said. When he proposed the change this month, he presented pictures of areas where grass had grown over the sidewalks or curbs.

“The extremes are pretty hideous. The grass grows from both sides of the sidewalk,” he said, leaving just a narrow strip of concrete visible. “That’s kind of an encumbrance to an old-timer that has a walker or one of those three- or four-legged canes.”

Mr. Froelich said residents brought the issue to his attention during the campaign leading up to his May election.

The ordinance that the City Council adopted Tuesday requires that grass, weeds, ivy and other decorative groundcovers be mowed, edged or trimmed to keep them from encroaching onto sidewalks, driveways, curbs or street pavement.

Oh – isn’t that sweet – there is the City Council worried about our Health, Safety, and Well Being again. Although I do wonder about those old-timers with canes and walkers who are walking in your driveway, or the street – right up next to the curb even! – and I can understand keeping public sidewalks clear, I still wondered about the logic behind this new ordinance. But the really funny part comes with Jim Olk’s statement:

“If there’s a blade of grass lying over, we won’t say anything,” Chief Building Official Jim Olk said. “But if it’s matted over the sidewalk, he said, that’s a problem.”

What’s that you say – that is definitely NOT FUNNY? Yes – I agree, since I know several people who have gotten Code Violation notices for one weed in a sidewalk, or a little bit of grass in a driveway crack, or for one pretty little plant that is cascading over the curb,so I know that Jim Olk either doesn’t know what his guys are doing, or he’s: ummmm, how can I say this tactfully; speaking with a forked tongue.

Just for comparison, here’s what other cities say about the same subject:

Carrollton Environmental Services Director Scott Hudson said edging requirements are on a list of possible code revisions that could go to the council in his city for approval later this year.

“We think it contributes to the appearance of the city,” he said.

Lewisville has a similar ordinance restricting vegetative growth over sidewalks.

“It’s more of a judgment call on code officers,” said Jackie Davis, the city’s chief code enforcement officer. “If it’s a trip hazard or anything like that, it will need to be trimmed.”

Garland doesn’t specifically require trimming and edging, but the city does prohibit any object – manmade or natural – from encroaching into or over an alley, street, sidewalk or other public right of way.

“If we get a complaint from a citizen about the sidewalk, where grass has pretty much covered a third of the sidewalk, then we’ll go out and address it that way,” Neighborhood Services Manager Rick Barker said. “But we’re not really looking for those type situations.” 

Makes you wish you lived in Carrollton, or Lewisville, or Garland, or Oak Cliff. Anywhere but Farmers Branch.

But – stay tuned – I have news on the Code Enforcement Game. There are new rules and strategies, and you are going to love them.

I am so confused. I keep thinking about the $10,000,000 Certificates of Obligation that the Farmers Branch City Council has saddled the citizens of Farmers Branch with.

The City intends to buy the majority of the southeast corner of the “Four Corners” commercial district at Josey and Valley View Lane to demolish those buildings and to follow the redevelopment plan for the area put into place by citizens in a series of workshops and meetings. The property in question includes the old Albertson’s building as well as the strip center immediately to the southeast. Demolition is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2010.” 

Okay then. I have so many questions. Like, for instance, what was this “series of workshops and meetings” where “the citizens” formed a development plan? What citizens? Where? When? Was I invited? Was anybody?

cartoon - bad city planning

What was the redevelopment plan? Who has seen it? Is it like the one Mayor Tim talks about in the Texas Monthly Magazine:

“On a much larger scale, the city commissioned a Los Angeles design firm to work with Farmers Branch residents, business leaders, and city officials on the Four Corners Vision Plan, in which the current shopping centers … would be replaced by a mix of comelier retail stores and residences. One drawing that accompanies the plan shows a sidewalk cafe and a Gap store on a street reminiscent of downtown Santa Barbara.”

The Texas Monthly Reporter goes on to say:

“As we toured around in his sizable black SUV, he kept gesturing in one direction or another to indicate hypothetical passers-by—people coming in from DFW Airport or driving along Interstate 35 or traveling by light-rail—who he hoped would take notice of the improvements, which would be “neat” and “nice” and “incredible” and “unique.” Of Liberty Plaza he said, “Eventually we’re going to get a giant sculpture. We haven’t picked what yet, but when I say ‘giant sculpture,’ I’m talking about an Iwo Jima-type memorial. It will be the kind of thing that when you’re watching the Dallas Cowboys play on Sunday, they’ll show it during the commercials. You know how they show the landmarks of their city? It will be that.”

Wow. Sounds expensive. But that’s okay – we’ll have plenty of money once the new taxes kick in, and all the moolah from the Code Violation Fines is counted, and when people start fixing up their homes (only on the outside, please – what we can’t see doesn’t count), and we can raise the water rates. Oh wait – the home fixer-uppers get a tax break, so scratch that. Uh, we’ll have to bring up the slack somehow. Oh – I know, let’s cut out after school activities for kids – only poor kids use those anyway, and we can stop spraying for mosquitoes, and we can stop giving those pesky citizens “free” trash bags. They probably use them for other things anyway. Oh – and we can move our entire dump to another city. Wow!

The Code Violation scheme is a real cash cow. As soon as the Code Enforcement folks run out of things to serve citations for we can just write up a whole bunch of new rules that are impossible to follow and keep this momentum going. Why haven’t other cities thought of this? We could win a neat award for that kind of creative, innovative, proactive thinking.

Whew! Back to the TM interview:

“People have labeled us as trying to get rid of all the poor people,” O’Hare said. “That’s nonsensical. But we do need to increase our spending per capita.” To that end the council has dedicated itself to sprucing up the city; hence the new street signs and the city’s recent purchase of a ramshackle house across the street from Farmers Branch Church of Christ (which O’Hare attends), so as to raze it and build something else, like a fountain or a gazebo. Before the Vision Plan can be implemented, developers will have to negotiate with as many as 33 property owners in the targeted area. Yet to judge by a flap in March 2007 over a potential tenant for the Super Saver building, a vocal faction has already invested itself in a particular vision for the Four Corners. After a rumor spread that a Carnival grocery store, designed to appeal to Hispanic shoppers, might open there, a city council candidate named Tim Scott sent out an e-mail recommending that residents call Carnival’s parent company to protest. Scott, who now sits on the council, told the Dallas Morning News that his objection had nothing to do with race; he just didn’t want another “ultra-discount” store to open in the city. In the same article, O’Hare said that he also opposed a Carnival store: “If a fast-food joint was coming into the Super Saver parking lot, and I said, ‘Hey, can’t we get a Chili’s?’ who am I discriminating against?”

That reminds me: what is it about Chili’s anyway? I always thought of Chili’s as the place the High School kids gathered, but O’Hare talks about Chili’s constantly. Wouldn’t it be cheaper for the citizens if we just bought a darned Chili’s and put it on the corner of Valley View and Marsh? There’s one corner that just has a small church on it, and we all know that there is really only one true church in Farmers Branch. We could claim that the church is rundown or something: there is a dumpster on their parking lot – in FULL VIEW of anyone who wants to look and be insulted. Then we could buy the church, raze it, and make it “shovel ready” for a neat building – a franchise restaurant! A spanking new generic run-of-the-mill franchise eatery like everybody else. All shiny and bright. And New. And Upscale (well, not really upscale, but the high school kids, and our Mayor, like it).

Crushed_Sign

Farmers Branch: Keeping it Classy

As for the Chili’s – we could have a special City Council room with a big screen television and the advanced Sim City game. Then the whole City Council could just sit there and play away. They would have to let Mayor Tim be in charge of the controls, but that’s being done figuratively already.  Then Tim could get his Chili’s fix, create his Utopia, and leave the rest of us, and our checkbooks, alone.

cartoon - immigrants

October is Hispanic History Month. As the City of Farmers Branch is especially interested in Hispanics, I thought I would do a little research on immigration and share my findings: especially after reading the following in “Timmy Twitters”:

I’m at my law office working away. The Swine Flu disaster – yet another reason to control illegal immigration. How about those Mavs!10:27 AM Apr 28th from web

 WhiteHeard that terrorist suspect who apparently wanted to blow up downtown Dallas was illegally in the country.10:27 AM Sep 25th from web

I also recall reading how illegal immigrants don’t make much money, cause crime, overcrowding, destroy our schools, etc. etc. etc. This is all recorded in various links, and I am too lazy right now to find, copy, and paste them here. But I know you all have heard all of this time and time again, so you will believe me. 

O'Hare

These statements are so silly – and come from a Lawyer!!, and a Rotarian!!, and a good Christian!! We need to address them, but not right now – I have something else on my mind today.

Now – I’m going to come right out and say that I am worried about illegal immigration. It scares me that people are in our country who are undocumented and we don’t know how many, and what they are doing. I’m sure it worries them too because they have to hide all the time and live “under the radar”. But I wasn’t sure how many Americans felt the same way, so I did some research.

Oh My – I came up with some very interesting facts. Read the following, and tell me if any of this sounds familiar. I replaced the actual ethnic word with (Immigrants) so as not to bias your reading:

Ill will toward (Immigrants) because of their poor living conditions, and their willingness to work for low wages was often exacerbated by religious conflict.
Anti-immigrant sentiments produced groups which fought foreign influences and promoted “traditional American ideals.”
(Immigrants) were not wanted in America. Ads for employment often were followed by “NO (Immigrants) NEED APPLY.” They were forced to live in cellars and shacks, partly because of poverty but also because they were considered bad for the neighborhood…they were unfamiliar with plumbing and running water. These living conditions bred sickness and early death. It was estimated that 80% of all infants born to (Immigrants) died. Their talk and dress provoked ridicule; their poverty and illiteracy provoked scorn.
The major political venue claimed “The (Immigrants) fill our prisons, our welfare roles …Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an (Immigrant). Putting them on a boat and sending them home would end crime in this country.”
Actually the (Immigrants) arrived at a time of need for America. The country was growing and it needed men to do the heavy work. It was hard, dangerous work. (Immigrants) often entered the workforce at the bottom of the occupational ladder and took on the menial and dangerous jobs that were often avoided by other workers. Many (Immigrant) women became servants or domestic workers, while many (Immigrant) men labored in coal mines and built railroads and canals. Railroad construction was so dangerous that it was said, “[there was] an (Immigrant) buried under every tie.” Desperation drove them to these jobs.
The (Immigrants) often suffered blatant or subtle job discrimination. Furthermore, some businesses took advantage of (Immigrants’) willingness to work at unskilled jobs for low pay. Employers were known to replace (or threaten to replace) uncooperative workers and those demanding higher wages with (Immigrants) laborers.
A prominent restaurant owner was asked why all the workers in his establishment were (Immigrants). He replied, “The thing is very simple: the (Immigrants) are industrious, willing, cheerful, and honest–they work hard, and they are very strictly moral. I should say that is quite reason enough.”
The (Immigrants) left a rural lifestyle in a nation lacking modern industry. Many (Immigrants) found themselves unprepared for the industrialized, urban centers in the United States. Though many (Immigrants) were not the poorest people in their native country, by American standards they were destitute.
 
The (Immigrants) established patterns that newcomers to the United States continue to follow today. Housing choices, occupations entered, financial support to families remaining in the homeland, and chain immigrations which brought additional relatives to America, are some of these patterns
(Immigrants) often crowded into subdivided homes that were intended for single families, living in tiny, cramped spaces. Cellars, attics and make-do spaces in alleys became home. Not only were many (Immigrants)  unable to afford better housing, but the huts in which many had lived in their native country  had lowered their expectations.
A lack of adequate sewage and running water in these places made cleanliness next to impossible. Disease of all kinds (including cholera, typhus, tuberculosis, and mental illness) resulted from these miserable living conditions. Thus, when the (Immigrant) families moved into neighborhoods, other families often moved out fearing the real or imagined dangers of disease, fire hazards, unsanitary conditions and the social problems of violence, alcoholism and crime.

 

 

Oh – we need to get rid of those nasty people.  All that vitriole against these people, and they are – legal – immigrants. They DO cause crime, unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, stupidity, and besides that they are all drunks and wife-beaters. Oh dear – Tim is right – look what happened to America when we let those people in. We need to make darned sure we don’t repeat the same mistake again.

 

Wait – all these statements were made about  

IRISH  immigrants

irish mafiairish elvis

Check it out in sites such as http. library.thinkquest.org and www.kinsella,org/history or just Google “Irish Immigrants”.

Irish folks

Now what do we do?

NOT the Farmers Branch Pocket Park

NOT the Farmers Branch Pocket Park

On the way to one of my favorite stores in the whole world: Turner Hardware (I swear that no one paid me for this advertising – I am providing this service  free of charge); I often drive past the new little pocket park on the corner of Webb’s Chapel and Valley View. You know where it is – on the corner right across from the big Farmer’s Branch Church of Christ on one street and the small Valley View Baptist Church on the other.

I often look at that little park on the corner and wonder how it came about. There’s a nice big fountain, a bench, lots of walkways, and pretty landscaping. It seemed to appear as if by magic one day while I was not paying attention. But there it is, and it looks very nice.

I heard that there used to be a decrepit run down horrible house there, probably harboring Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin, and that The City: in its never-ending quest to protect the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the Citizens; purchased the home for $175,000, demolished it, and installed the fountain, bench, pathways, and landscaping as well as a little storage shed. I’ve heard all kinds of numbers bandied about: anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000 total cost to do all this. Then there is the additional cost to maintain it, so who knows how much The Citizens of Farmer’s Branch are spending on this little piece of heaven.

 I decided that if the Citizens of the City of Farmer’s Branch created this pretty little park the least I could do was go sit on the bench, or smell the roses, or put my feet in the water,  or something to demonstrate my appreciation of all our hard work and money.

Hmmm – I was driving, so I had this car problem – where do I ditch my car so I can enjoy The Park in the City in the Park? I suppose I could park my car at either of the churches on Valley View or Webb’s Chapel, but those are both busy streets and I didn’t want to cross either one on foot. So …. yes; I parked in The Alley Behind The Park in the City in the Park. It’s okay – there’s a nice well-maintained fence so that no one would be offended by seeing my car parked in the alley, and the alley is paved, so I would be parking on an improved surface. I did wonder, though; what if two carloads of people wanted to enjoy the park? Could we both park in The Alley Behind The Park in the City in the Park? Oh well, today it was only me, and, come to think of it, I was the first person I have ever seen here so maybe parking is not going to be a problem after all – as long as no one wants to drive down The Alley Behind The Park in the City in the Park while I am enjoying The Park in the City in the Park.

Actually, I heard that Code Enforcement (aka Community Service, or Community Surveillance – one of those CS words) likes to drive down alleys so they can see if the citizens are harboring Rats, Rodents, other Vermin; trash that cannot be put out before 6 pm on the day before scheduled trash pickup; cars that are not on improved parking surfaces; non permitted storage; grassy cracks; bad driveways; high grass and weeds; leaning fences; missing pickets; empty pots; firewood stored less than 18 inches above the ground; cars with flat tires and/or missing parts; building materials; stacks of bricks and/or stones; and the list goes on and on. I did keep an eye out for the CS vehicles: actually they have visited my neighborhood so often that I can now recognize the sound of those little white trucks, so it would be more truthful to say I kept an ear out for CS. But I digress.

Back to The Park in the City in the Park: I strolled around and noticed that The Fountain is dedicated to Bro. Eddy Ketchersid “For Dedicated Service to the Citizens of Farmer’s Branch”. Oh; forgive my ignorance, but I did not know who that is. Fortunately, I know my way around Google, so I “Googled” him. Oh my -Very Impressive. He has even written a book, which you can order from Ketch Publishing. Ketchy name, huh! (Sorry – I couldn’t resist the word play. Someone was going to say it so it may as well be me.) Here’s the info on the book :

 

Networking Nuggets
Leadership Presentations

Eddy Ketchersid

 $10.00

 

http://www.ketchpublishing.com/Nuggets%20large%20front%20cover.htm

 

I’m not going to tell you all about Brother Eddy here – you can go to this site and read about him, or, better yet, buy the book. (Bro. Eddy – I swear that no one paid me for this advertising – I am providing this service  free of charge.)

I ordered a copy. I’ll let you know what I learned as soon as it arrives and I have a chance to read it. Judging by the Table of Contents, it sounds really good, full of information I hope our City Council members heed. Since the great majority (if not all) of them belong to the Church of Christ they all should have signed copies, right?

cartoon - jesus

Back to The Park in the City in the Park: Although the fountain is dedicated to Bro. Ketchersid, he doesn’t get the entire park to himself. The rest of The Park in the City in the Park is dedicated “In Honor of the Family of Leonard and Oriealice Strait: Long Time Caring Citizens of the Farmer’s Branch Community”.

I’m sorry; I do not know who the Straits are. Google failed me this time. Please, can someone help us out here? At first I thought they might be connected to the little Valley View Baptist Church across Webb’s Chapel – roughly equidistant to The Park in the City in the Park as the larger Farmer’s Branch Church of Christ, but my web search could neither confirm nor deny.

Well, there wasn’t much to do in The Park in the City in the Park except read what little I could about the dedications and admire the vegetation and the water feature. But I was nervous about my car and all the drivers who were staring at me from the very busy intersection, so I didn’t stay very long. I wish I had brought a book to read. Maybe I’ll sit there while I read Networking Nuggets – that would be kind of cool.

Incidentally, I notice the The Park in the City in the Park and the median and surrounding areas have been “adopted” by Mayor Tim and his lovely wife Christen. I feel it is my citizen’s duty to tell you that there is grass growing in the alley and the liriope and those pretty little yellow flowers are spilling over the sidewalk. Also, the plaque to Bro. Ketchersid is not made of a material that is water and weather-resistant, because it is already starting to pit, corrode, and deteriorate. Although I personally like flowers spilling over sidewalks and curbs, and am a great fan of “weathered” ornaments, I know you would not want that because it is in violation of The Code.

Let me know if I can help.

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