Thursday, May 2, 2013

More About That "Inner City" Remark

Laura Maczka's comments at the Richardson Tea Party forum afford me an opportunity to discuss something that Richardson needs to discuss. Unfortunately, campaign dynamics prevent the candidates from discussing it. In the campaign, Amir Omar's negative attack ads rule the day, aiming for distortion more than serious discussion.

Politicking rules the day online, too, but assuming local blogger David Chenoweth is serious when he says he's confused about what people really mean, let me try to help. He doesn't name whom he means by "one of her supporters," but for argument's sake, let's say he means me:
It is interesting to see how a campaign plays out.

No doubt by now, you have probably heard all about the comments Laura Maczka made at a Tea Party meeting. Laura stated that we are now an inner city and reinforced that statement with saying "We are no longer the suburb to the north."

She went on and then said "The demographics are going to demand that we make the changes. I think one of the biggest areas we are going to see the change is definitely going to be in housing. You know that word multi-family is something that is hard to swallow. And so I think more and more as we have lower economics folks moving in we are going to be able to have more affordable housing".

Her supporters are claiming she didn't really mean what she said. Interesting things seem to have developed from that. One of those supporters seems to now be at odds with what he wants Richardson to be. He wants Richardson to be urban big time, with stack 'em and pack 'em ruling the town. But in defense of his chosen candidate, he is saying she really doesn't want more apartments, which is in fact what he wants, high density. He is using her campaign literature to show Laura really didn't mean what she actually said. His endorsement seems to conflict with what he claims he wants.

So it can be confusing what people really mean.

Always obliging, I'll try to clear up the confusion, at least regarding my own meaning. After the jump.

Full disclosure: I endorsed Laura Maczka. But that does not mean I agree with everything she's said and done. I certainly don't agree with some of what her supporters, specifically the Richardson Coalition PAC, have said and done. So, when I attempt to understand what Maczka meant at that tea party forum, that's all I'm doing, trying to understand. I am not saying I necessarily agree with her.

OK, on to the substance. It's simply false to say Richardson is an "inner city." It's false to say Richardson is "no longer the suburb to the north." Yet Laura Maczka did say those things. Why? Well, she hasn't explained. Maybe clues can be found in the question she was asked or in the rest of her answer. But I haven't heard those. The full tape hasn't been released. It's sometimes difficult to understand what another person means in the best of times. Having only a 30 second sound bite to go on makes it almost impossible.

What I don't believe is that Maczka said what she did because she believes the statements are literally true. More likely it was some kind of gaffe. It happens. I thought from the first that she was probably trying to emphasize that Richardson is not the commuter suburb it was 50 years ago and she simply went too far in making this obvious point. She did correct herself, saying in a campaign email, "When it comes to apartments, you know that Laura has always said we do not need more apartments near our neighborhoods. Period."

Even though I still wish she would have explained her odd wording during the forum, I understand why she might not. Omar is busy making stuff up about what she meant, stuff that contradicts what she has said elsewhere. His supporters are locked onto a couple of sentences she said at a forum, ignoring everything else she says on the subject. It's unfortunate Omar has gone down this path, as he himself was the victim of people taking seemingly damning passages from court documents and misrepresenting them to put him in a bad light.

What about Maczka's statement that Richardson's demographics are changing? Well, she's facing facts there. As the city has grown and aged, it's become more urban and more diverse -- in age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic makeup. In the Richardson school district, "there are a lot of students struggling in poverty." 58% qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. That's the RISD, but many of those live in the city of Richardson. Wanting to keep poor people out of Richardson isn't dealing with the world as it is. Poor people are already among us. They need affordable housing, and that often means apartments.

The question is what are the policy implications of our situation? Here's where I differ from both of our candidates for mayor. Omar sees a campaign opportunity in abandoning Richardson's poorer residents, or at least their need for "affordable housing." Maczka counters this by walking back her words at the tea party forum and reiterating her own opposition to apartments. I am left disappointed by both candidates. I support serving *all* of Richardson's citizens. I support ensuring that housing in Richardson is safe, maintained and, yes, some of it affordable for all of our citizens. And I'm willing to talk about it. But then I'm not running for mayor.

Now, as for me wanting "Richardson to be urban big time, with stack 'em and pack 'em ruling the town." Well, I guess, kinda. Not all of Richardson, though. And not apartments. More like mixed-use development concentrated around DART stations and along highways. I'd leave Dumont alone. :-) Like I explained before, growth is going to happen whether we want it or not. Simple economics are driving the changes to a more urban form for Richardson. I want to see Richardson get it right. So, what's the right way to do it? That question deserves serious discussion. Arguing over who is more anti-apartment isn't serious discussion. Placing door hangers promoting oneself as "Protecting Richardson from more apartments" isn't serious discussion. Maybe Omar doesn't mean it. But he seems too busy scoring political points to tell us what he really means. And Maczka seems too busy avoiding Omar's attack ads to tell us what she really means.

In the end, I can't say for sure what other people mean. But I hope I've explained a little better what I mean. And I'm not in agreement with what either candidate is saying as their campaigns go ever deeper into the muck. One of these candidates will end up winning, but Richardson is the loser already.


Adam said...

Here's an interesting tidbit: I met Mr. Omar at a neighborhood association meeting (Northrich) soon after he moved to town and started his campaign. Someone asked him where he lived and he replied "I live in [such and such] apartments right now until I decide what part of town I want to buy a house in." Besides the HORROR of someone actually livingin a grody apartment, there's the undertone of "let's see if I get elected before I put down roots."

I'm not so much a Maczka supporter as I am someone distrustful of Omar who seems to be a highly-ideologized career politician(and it has nothing to do with his race or religion, people).

Adam said...

Here's an interesting tidbit: I met Mr. Omar at a neighborhood association meeting (Northrich) soon after he moved to town and started his campaign. Someone asked him where he lived and he replied "I live in [such and such] apartments right now until I decide what part of town I want to buy a house in." Besides the HORROR of someone actually livingin a grody apartment, there's the undertone of "let's see if I get elected before I put down roots."

I'm not so much a Maczka supporter as I am someone distrustful of Omar who seems to be a highly-ideologized career politician(and it has nothing to do with his race or religion, people).

Mark Steger said...

Reminder: Comments not identified by the poster's full name are subject to deletion.

Mark Steger said...

16: Pursue communities suitable for a diversity of incomes, housing types, ethnicities, and old/new residents. That’s the future of America; surely it should also be the future of smart growth.
-- 16 Rules for 'Smarter' Smart Growth.

Sassy Texan said...

Mark, it really confuses me when that topic of high density comes up and then the idea is to have the exact same developments (generally speaking) across the country with the same stack of retailers. We are over booked with restaurants and not enough practical. And it also confuses me that you do not think she meant what she said. You wrote that simple economics are driving this. I am not sure I agree with you. Because the city has PUSHED for this more than there being a natural progression of growth. And by pushed I mean PD's and TIF areas. When the same small group of engineers and designers come to the table, you have to wonder.

Let's take the project at Bush/Renner. The TIF was placed after the fact. The land had been in process for over 15 years and despite all the discussions and promises, there will be 4,000 apartments and 4.5m sf of office plus. So how much will be gifted? We won't know til the Legislature actually approves the Cotton Belt project. Laura actually commented it was almost lost a second time but they were there for Collin County Day and saved it!! Second part of that is needing the Century Bonds approved to finance it. And of the whole Scheme, Ft Worth has backed out because of the expense down the road. Smart people there.

So let's look what Richardson did. Nov 2012 the Council, by resolution on the consent agenda, blessed the project with the promise of future revenues. $138mm in future revenues as well as an approx 12% commitment to the continued maintenance of the rail. All of this before the project exists. Corona has tried for what, 6 years now to get this approved?? That is far from simple economics. It is forcing some inflation into this area by gifting an undisclosed amount of money (the actual developer agreement has not been executed)to make the development happen. And we are still only phase one of this area and 4,000 apartments. What will TIF 3 bring? Probably another 3,000 apartments.

I go back to Brick Row, over $350k was spent to "study" that area to replace apartments and some houses with apartments and townhouses. Taxpayers have an even larger debt to repay with the change. And the comment from a former Councilman was they did not go dense enough.

Now lets go to the RE investor that has virtually every house on one block in Richardson. The are rentals and per Laura are an eyesore. The are small and will only get the rent they will get. The Council are upset on the kind of rental they are. So what is the difference with rental homes or rental stories and stories high? It is still affordable housing.

This density has gone beyond just the DART line and is definitely a dense question to be discussed more

Sassy Texan said...

Forgot to sign my name

Mark Steger said...

Reminder: Comments not identified by the poster's full name are subject to deletion.

Last warning "Sassy Texan."

Adam said...

Regarding Brick Row and other types of medium- to high-density development, those pay significantly more property tax per acre than single-family.

Paving the way for higher-density, mixed-use development is the most fiscally conservative (and best return for taxpayers) way to build:

Single-family residential and conventional auto-oriented commercial development is subsized, no question. More than that, it is a giant Ponzi scheme:

However, we have a giant industry built around unsustainable growth that is bad for the taxpayer bottom line. Allowing and encouraging smart development that pays for itself often requires some front-end heavy lifting on the part of the city to change the status quo.

Mark Steger said...

Reminder: Comments not identified by the poster's full name are subject to deletion.

Last warning "Adam."

Sassy Texan said...


I think you need to do some serious research on how all this 'sustainable' mularchy worked in California. Those that were on the initial bandwagon have conceded that there might be a few financial flaws to the model. Imagine that!

Second, infrastructure will always have to be maintained no matter if it is rail or roadway; water lines or sewer lines; single family home or mega towers. Nor does this sustainable make it invinceable. The only sustainable development I know of is the pyramids built with exquisite mathmatical perfection.

Third, no one needs to tell the taxpayer what is best for them. Last I heard Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness mattered. Not debt and apartments. It is the job of the taxpayer to tell governance how they want to live by their vote. The fact that much of this is done outside of a public vote is another topic.

Fourth, it takes an extrordinarily large amount of debt to build these mega structures and the US government has now topped debt to GDP by 105%. Somewhere down the road the problem will be bigger with another generation scratching their heads on how to repair the infrastructure and pay the debt that created it at the same time with 20 stories to bomb in demolition.

Fifth, you speak, as does the article, as if the government and land are inanimate objects that has greater decision making that the PEOPLE who inhabit the area. I recognize that government is dependent on 2.5% growth year over year over year, but that is in actuality theft by inflation. It destroys the buying power and makes saving for retirement or anything else impossible. It makes the ponzi scheme you referenced in one article a true reality. And we are living it today and so is the world because they accept our currency world wide. But they are not anymore. The rest of the world is fighting back by send our phony dollars back by buying land and gold and silver and businesses.

We all know Social Security is a ponzi scheme, but it is demanded we participate and when the day comes to draw on that forced financial product, seniors are forced once again to fight the effects because inflation for them is calculated without the rising cost of food and energy. So if you do not eat, or drive a car or have electricity in your home (or to hear you talk, we all give up homes for apartments) then yes, there is no inflation.

So you can think adding thousands more folks vertically will save water, and infrastructure is cured, and transportation made only public and that will save the government.

You are living a pipe dream of unimaginable logic and poverty. I want better for my kids and grandkids and great grandkids.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert

Adam Smith said...

First, you’re confusing state government with local economics. The two function somewhat differently and California’s problem is that in 1978 they artificially capped property taxes based not on rationality, but on ideology. If it has ANYTHING to do with development patterns, it’s that the cost of serving utilities and building freeways to access all the single-family homes isn’t covered by the property taxes paid by said homes. (One might call them “government free-loaders” for getting more than they contribute to society).

Second, yes infrastructure has to be maintained. And the more units (residences or businesses) served by each piece of infrastructure, the less cost per unit it takes to maintain). Simple economics.

Third, I agree that citizens should drive decision-making. But not everyone believes exactly what you believe. Nor does everyone believe exactly what I believe. It’s the job of the government to facilitate discussion amongst the community and employ experts to come up with solutions that make the most sense. If we as a community decide to go against the advice of experts, even though that may mean it costs us all more in the long run, that’s fine. We all just need to be aware of the implications of our decisions, which I believe the vast majority of Richardson residents are not. You and I live in the same community. And on an individual basis, your opinion is not any more valid than mine, and mine not any more valid than yours.

Fourth, regarding extraordinary debt for mega structures…what are you talking about? Freeways? Yes, they take debt and are necessary for all the sprawling single-family we’ve built. If you’re talking about dense development, that’s all private sector so why don’t they have the right to assume debt? Can I tell you not to sign a mortgage?

Fifth, do you not take your car to a mechanic when it breaks down? Or go to a doctor when you’re sick? Or call 911 when someone’s lurking in your alley? In all of these cases, you make the decision to call an expert to resolve the problem. City planners, economists, and engineers are the same. They shouldn’t have greater decision-making power, but they should be allowed to do their job and demonstrate the ramifications of decisions (and need to be listened to). I’m not saying the City of Richardson has done a perfect job of this, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And remember again, not everyone agrees with your vision for the city.

Finally, I’m not talking about “saving the government” and I’m not talking about importing a bunch of public or section 8 housing. I’m talking about sustainable development patterns that make the most of our tax dollars. Adding people vertically WILL save water compared to single-family. Lawn irrigation is by FAR the greatest use of water in North Texas. By the way, do you know what all those filthy-rich places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai are now doing with the money we’re giving them for oil? Building public transportation.

I bet you would say you value your property rights. What about the property rights of someone that wants to build high-value townhouses, apartments, lofts, etc. away from your neighborhood when they have the zoning to do so? If they don’t get property rights, neither should you.

I too want better for my kids and grandkids and great grandkids. I want a vibrant city with a stable economy. I want them to have a choice in the type of place they live, whether they are able to walk down the block to a great restaurant, and whether they can take a train, walk, or bike and not be bound at the hip to an automobile.

Sassy Texan said...


With reference to CA I too am talking about local governments. This is where the whole Agenda 21,density is a better use of the land-conservation-talking away land ownership of the masses and giving it to the few-and the majority of those land owners do not live in those areas to vote-delphi technique was born in these meetings and used right here in good ol' Richardson. In the local communities all across the state.

Second, the closest example of infrastructure maintained is what is going on right now Beltline and 75. It may cost less by unit, but it does not cost lest by land area.

Third, you are talking these meetings directed using the delphi technique. Sat in on a few of them. Please who think for themselves will and those who can be led in conversations will, also.
It is the Council's to provide oversight and set policy based on the will of the voters. Since a vote has not transpired on this topic, neither you or I have an answer to that resolve.

Fourth, I am referring to economic incentives given. Let's take the Renner/Plano Road development. Currently what is on the table is $118M in infrastructure plus $18M to build the Cottonbelt. And then there is about 11% of negotiated future ad valorem to fund the maintenance in the future. Or Brick Row, there is still a grant on the books that has not been paid accruing at 7% compounded. That makes that development worth less in tax revenues brought into the city in the first place. There is also another $5M for the data center at 7% compounded. Maybe you are not well versed in TIF zones, I do not know, but the application Richardson has taken on has not worked out so well. It did not work well in CA either.

I don't care much about Abu Dhabi because it is the largest Americanized city in that country. They have the demand of people we do not have here. What I do care about is how much of the US dollar they are manipulating, but that is a different topic.

And we are talking about saving the government and inflated salaries and pensions, second only to services that have been held hostage for a long time.

What I am talking about is not so much economics, I am talking simple math in the City of Richardson.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert

Mark Steger said...

OK, I'm defining what I'll call the Steger Corollary to Godwin's Law: As a comment thread on this blog grows longer, the probability of someone raising Agenda 21 or the Delphi Method or some other tinfoil hat-wearing, conspiracy-minded allegation approaches 1. Further, whoever does so automatically loses the argument and closes the discussion.

Adam Smith said...

I am very aware of the innerworkings of Tax Incremment Financing. You have just demonstrated that you really aren't (same applies for economics in general, apparently).

I've just realized I'm talking to a brick wall of delusion. Have a nice day.

Sassy Texan said...

Mr Smith,

Here is what is interesting about you and so many others. You think that there is only one side and there is not.

You do not know me anymore than I know you. Nor do you know what knowledge I hold on any topic. You take one form of communication, the least impactive, and closed the dialogue. How nice of you. Actually more arrogant.

And as far as the labels given on "sustainable" development, I used them because the details behind them have some merit. I agree that meaning gets misconstrued as it is repeated. But the documents are timeless.

And as far as TIF zones go, one of the most successful one is Grapevine Mills. It has success not only in a private asset on the ground, it is more because of the sales tax revenues generated month over month. Many more have failed because of misunderstanding of the the money flows.

Have a GREAT DAY, Mr. Smith.

dc-tm said...

Hmm, I thought Agenda 21 was a real thing, not a tin-foil hat conspiracy theory. Are you saying there really is not something called Agenda 21 Mark?
David Chenoweth

Mark Steger said...

Sorry, but the conditions of the corollary to Godwin's Law have already been met on this comment thread. The corollary does not allow for two losers.