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).


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.