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I just had the most amazing idea for revitalizing the Four Corners area of Farmer’s Branch. This is a sure winner for the next proactive innovation award that the City Council wants to apply for.  

As you know, the big ugly beast in the Four Corners area is the old Skaggs-Albertson’s grocery store: a big behemoth of a building that has been empty for some time. You also know, from perusing the Code Violation reports, that there are citizens who have too many decorative items in their yards, non-permitted window coverings, and furniture that is not meant for outside. There are probably more things, but let’s just start with those.  

Okay – are you ready for my Innovative Idea? Here goes:  

How about if we took the Skaggs store and made it into a Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store? The Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store would be stocked with items that are approved for Farmer’s Branch Residents. We could even have varying price ranges for our diverse population so that every single resident will have to “Shop the Branch”.

 Here – picture this:  

A new Farmer’s Branch resident visits the Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store for the first time. He stops by the Community Service desk and registers his new address, whereupon he will be assigned his very own Community Service Advisor. The Community Service Advisor will pull up all the specifics on his home, display the paint colors that are allowed on the exterior of his home, calculate the amount of paint needed and assign a date by which his home must be painted.  

  

Then, taking that color scheme, the lucky New Resident will be directed to the Outdoor section where his Community Service Advisor will help him select his new approved outdoor furniture and decorative items.  

The store will keep a record of the New Resident’s purchases, and thus will know if he goes over his allotted 5 decorative items. In fact, if New Resident tries to buy a sixth item the store will refuse to sell it to him. (If he breaks something he had purchased earlier he has to bring the broken pieces in to prove that he is buying a replacement decorative item and will not exceed his 5 items.)  

Oh – there’s more! I noticed that there are quite a few notices issued for nonconforming window coverings, so the Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store can sell those too; in approved colors. Hey – they could even put the logo on the backside of vinyl blinds, so that when a resident has his blinds closed all you see from the outside is that neat awesome new logo.  

I was also thinking that we shouldn’t just stop with the window coverings. Everyone knows that if the window coverings aren’t drawn, especially at night, you can see inside and tell what color the walls are. So The City should pass an ordinance that regulates the color of walls in rooms with windows. Of course, the Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store will sell the paint and tell the resident when he has to paint his room.

The Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store will also have a landscaping department. Approved trees and bushes will include anything that does not lose its leaves during the fall. The citizens are allowed some leeway in the selection of flowering material, but roses are highly recommended – white or red only, please. We can’t have diverse colors spoiling our view.  

After the City has fixed up all the homes in Farmer’s Branch they can tax the residents and fund an expansion so that the Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store can sell automobiles. Although the resident is allowed some choice, it will have to be from a list of approved makes, models, colors, etc. And no unapproved accessories – unless, of course, they are purchased at the Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store.  

Wow – is this great or what? Next on the list – clothing. I’m sure the City Council will come up with some spiffy uniforms we can all wear so that we can demonstrate our loyalty and love for The City in the Park. Don’t worry – they’ll have your size at the Farmer’s Branch Citizen’s Store.  If not they can always pass an ordinance to make you lose weight so that you will fit in the uniforms they do have. You’ll be able to lose that weight by eating only Farmer’s Branch Citizen Store produce.

Our Mayor really likes Michael Jackson and I heard that he expressed an interest in finding a new name for The City. Something that reflects what we are. Well, we can do that, and honor Michael, by naming our city:

new suggested name for Farmers Branch

  

Oh boy – I was all ready to write about something else entirely but an observant reader alerted me to the following:

As a special treat (or dire warning) for the citizens, you can see all the Code Violation Notices that were written – by month starting in December of 2009, and those written for the entire year of 2009. Yes, you can: in the form of Reports that are posted on the city website. There’s even a special one for the dreaded “Driveways with Grass and/or Weeds in the Cracks”.  I’m warning you right now, though – the lists are very long, and when you open one your computer will labor for a little while. But don’t give up – if you are patient you will be able to view all our “dirty underwear” – hanging out for everyone to see.

You can view the report here:

https://mygov.us/ce/citizen/report_center.php?citiesID=261&modulesID=1&view=reports

If the link doesn’t work you can access the report by going to the city
website  http://www.ci.farmers-branch.tx.us/     and selecting “report a code violation”, then “Visit the complaint center”.

You’ll get to a City of Farmers Branch information page. Under the “Code
Enforcement” heading select “Report & Subscription Center”.

WOW! Judging by the numbering system, our 4 Code Enforcement Officers have discovered almost 8,000 occasions to write correction notices in our little city of, what, 8,000 homes? If I recall, an earlier article in the Texas Monthly stated that 8,000 notices were also written in the year 2008 or 2007, or both. So it looks like our dear Community Surveillance Team is in the groove. December must have been a really slow month. I guess because there wasn’t enough grass and weed growing they only managed to eke out 379 violations. But don’t worry, during the summer they can make up for lost numbers.

If you want to see where your tax dollars are going read one of the reports. For extra fun pick a favorite violation. My personal favorite so far (and I haven’t been able to read them all yet) is the one where someone was cited for having a newspaper in the street.

This made me so curious:  

  • Did Community Surveillance discover this horrible violation all by themselves, or did someone enter a complaint?
  • How did Code Enforcement know who that particular newspaper belonged to?
  • Did the notice go to the correct party: i.e., did the news carrier throw it into the street or did the homeowner pick it up from his front porch or yard and throw it into the street?
  • Why would he do that?

So many questions. I think I’ll go talk to the law-breaker and find out what happened.

In the meantime, I started thinking: the City in the Park has a lot of churches, therefore a lot of churchgoers. I remember at one time that there was a bracelet that was popular among Christians: it had the letters WWJD? That stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” and was the modern equivalent of the Golden Rule I learned as a child. So, I got to wondering: what would Jesus do if His neighbor’s newspaper was in the street? Somehow I don’t think He would call Code Enforcement. No, I think He would tell His disciples something like this:

“If thy neighbor’s newspaper offends thee, pick it up and throw it onto his front porch.”

And you know what – He’s right: You’ll all feel better; you won’t have your feathers ruffled by that offending paper in the street, your neighbor will stop thinking that you are a whiny jerk, and Code Enforcement can spend more time sneaking into people’s back yards to document their serious code violations – like empty flower pots and such.

Just Remember:

 Thank you to the many folks who asked if I was okay since I haven’t posted in so long.  Ohhhhh – my only excuse is a severe case of writer’s block due to the untimely demise of MY computer. I have been using my son’s desktop computer and it’s just not MINE – if you know what I mean. I just hope there’s a special place in Hell for those jerks who think that creating and unleashing computer viruses is funny.

So much has happened lately in The City in the Park. So much I want to talk about. But let’s start slow.

The flap about firewood storage has really fired my curiosity, and imagination. I have so much to write about that, as well as related issues that came about during my research on firewood and Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin. But at the moment I think you all should know about a disturbing experience I had.

 As I said before, during the cold evenings I love having a big crackling fire in my fireplace. Now, when we first started talking about fireplaces the issue was that The City, who is deathly afraid of Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin, dictated that our firewood be stacked no less than 18″ above the ground. For some reason still unclear to me, but which we will examine in-depth in future posts, The City firmly believes that Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin can not reach anything that is a foot and a half from the ground. That is so silly that it will not go unchallenged, but later. I want to stay on track and tell you about my personal firewood experience. This will shock the more sensitive, so be forwarned.

I store my wood on a standard metal rack which suspends firewood  about 8″ from the concrete pad it sits on (illegal – I know – just be patient and I’ll explain). Now, this firewood is clearly in view of the public street, so I knew that it was only a matter of time before City Surveillance would get around to giving me a citation. But, I also knew that I would be using all that wood up soon, so it was a race – who would get to me first: Code Enforcement or Jack Frost? 

Now, as I explained before, I try not to buy firewood, for two reasons:

1 – it’s expensive, and with the constant tree trimming in The City I can pick up lots of great wood for free. But, more importantly:

2 – since The City does not embrace Going Green like other cities I know that wonderful expensive wood is going to go to the landfill. I do embrace Going Green and know that if I pick this wood up, burn it, and put the ashes in my compost pile I am doing a good thing for Mother Earth. I also get some really good exercise.

So, to make a short story long, I had a bunch of rather large chunks of tree stumps and stuff that needed to be split so I could burn it. I told you before that The City decreed that I store those huge stumps on the firewood rack. Hee hee – I know – at the time they didn’t say anything about the height of my firewood rack, they were just mad because I was trying to dry the stumps on end on a concrete pad. I swear, though – my cats and I check the wood often (it’s very close to my back door) and never found evidence of Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin on a tree stump, so we were secure in the knowledge that we were not harming the citizens of Farmer’s Branch.

Ah – until I rolled those stumps from the rack onto the ground so I could split them.  I found:

  • A Quarter
  • Two Pennies
  • A writable CD

Yes – I am not exaggerating – that is what I found in my firewood stack. Oh No. It was obvious what was going on. At first I was frightened, then insulted: Did those Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin really think I would sell out MY CITY for $0.27?

I’ll admit, I kept the 27 cents, but I threw the CD away without listening to it.  I did: really, I swear. Because you and I both know what was on that CD: a clever message from the Rats, Rodents, and Other Vermin, trying to get me to store my firewood within reach of their nasty little paws. But I was too smart to fall for that. And I’m telling you this story so that you too will be vigilant. I have always heard that Rats are very clever creatures, but I did not know that they were that clever. But look – here’s proof of the lengths they will go to for their diabolical schemes :

Be on guard. They could try to influence you next.

Okay – Yes, I know it’s not Tuesday, but I got carried away with all the holiday cheer and lost track of the days.  So Twitterpated Tuesday comes on a Wednesday this week. I’ll get back in the groove now. I have sooo much to talk about in the coming weeks and months.

If you’ve followed this blog you may recall an earlier post about “The Park in the City in the Park“. The posting discussed the pocket park on the corner of Valley View and Webb’s Chapel roads – right across VV from the Farmer’s Branch Church of Christ.

At the time I was curious about the little park, but wondered aloud about the lack of a safe place to leave my vehicle while I checked it out. Well, I stumbled upon the following, which does quite a lot to explain our City Council’s priorities.

This post is almost two years old, but still interesting.

“Monday, February 25, 2008

High Profile Intersection: Valley View and Webb Chapel

Hope everyone had a great weekend.
I receive almost daily questions about the soon-to-be-removed house at the Southwest corner of Webb Chapel and Valley View, and what will happen to that lot. The city owns that property, as well as the property at the corner of Nestle and Valley View, and sold the houses to a company that is relocating them. One of this council’s goals is to build upon the great foundation we have in our wonderful parks, and continue to accentuate and improve the aesthetic beauty of our city. We are going to use these lots as landscaped “parks” that further beautify our city, and continue to build our brand as a “city in a park.” These lots won’t be parks in the sense that they are designed to be visited, but instead will showcase landscape features that will be visibile to the tens of thousands of people who drive down our major east-west roadway on a daily basis. It’s exciting, and the type of thing you will see more and more of going forward.
Have a great week!
Tim Scott

by Tim Scott, City Council, Place 1 at 7:09 AM | 0 comments (create)

Ahhhhh – so that’s it: this park, as well as others that may be created, are not intended for human interaction.  As with so many of the recent city “improvements”, they are “Look But Don’t Touch” areas – strictly for appearance.  Apparently the city is doing very well during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression because we have lots of money for a new logo, new street signs, painting all the big utility boxes with the new logo, adding nice little signs to point us to city buildings, expanding the Christmas light show and building pocket parks. Every single one of these projects looks quite nice, but does nothing at all to help us survive in these tough times. I guess that’s what happens when you live in an upscale community like Farmer’s Branch wants to be. Not quite how I want to spend my money, but …….

Well, back to the matter at hand. The inaccessibility of this park made me wonder if the area should even be called a “Park”, because the definition of Park is:

  • An area of land set aside for public use, as:    
    1.  
      1. A piece of land with few or no buildings within or adjoining a town, maintained for recreational and ornamental purposes.
      2. A landscaped city square.
      3. A large tract of rural land kept in its natural state and usually reserved for the enjoyment and recreation of visitors.

    Okay, okay – I know what you’re thinking: “My my: aren’t you the picky one. This is a POCKET Park, Miss Smarty-Pants.”

    Alright – so I looked up Pocket Park, and found that:

    A pocket park or mini-park is a small park accessible to the general public. In some areas they are called miniparks or vest-pocket parks.

    Whoa – this park does not meet the accessibility standard for “Park” status – no matter what you call it.

    But don’t fret now: I have a great idea.

    The city is not rolling in the dough for nothing, you know: In 2008 – I believe it was in August of 2008; the City Manager was instructed to lay off many city employees. I’m not positive of the number, but somewhere I heard that 28 people got the axe. If someone knows the real number I would appreciate hearing it. Anyway, I was thinking about how lucky the city is to have leadership that was so concerned about how we looked that they were willing to sacrifice  their own people so that “we” could afford to spruce up the streets. And I think we owe these “martyrs” a big Thank You.

    So – here’s my suggestion:

    We should name the new pocket parks after the laid-off city employees! I know – it won’t do anything to make the parks accessible, but at least the city will realize the sacrifices that were made for the good of the community.  If we run out of pocket parks we could rename some of the streets. We’re putting up new signs anyway so it would be easy to assign  new names to the streets. YES!

    What do you think ……. Great Idea isn’t it? If you’ll send me the names of former employees who lost their jobs so we could have pretty streets I’ll see what I can do. Maybe we can even let each one pick the street or park that he or she wants to carry their name.  That’s the least we can do.

    Oh – by the way – Tens of Thousands of people drive down Valley View EVERY DAY??????????? Really?

    If it were only 10,000 that’s like 7 people each and every minute for every minute of the day: 20,000 would be 14 people a minute, and so on and so on.

    • Every minute
    • Around the clock
    • Every day

    Wow – that’s a lot of traffic.

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