If you walk around downtown on a regular basis, you have no doubt realized the irregularities of the crosswalk signals. Some are by design and some are simply accidental problems to address. I set out to categorize these issues today as part of work a group of citizens have been doing to address pedestrian safety issues in the core of Denton. I am putting this in front of the relevant city staff and will be asking for a follow-up report for the council Mobility Committee.
This intersection generally works the way you would expect: no matter which way you are walking, pedestrians are given a green “walking man” once the traffic light goes green and a red hand once the traffic light goes yellow.
There are problems, however, with the two signals located on the NE corner of this intersection (the corner of the courthouse):
– the signal meant to signal pedestrians crossing North across Hickory is angled too much to the East making it impossible to see what is on the signal when you are standing on the SE corner of Hickory and Elm. This is a simple fix – just change the angle.
– the signal meant to signal pedestrians crossing East across Elm doesn’t work at all until the countdown begins (no red hand and no green walking man at any point). Again, another simple fix.
This intersection is confusing for pedestrians and car drivers alike and the pedestrian signals exasperate the situation. This is where one-way Hickory meets two-way Hickory head-on. Cars coming from both the East and West on Hickory seemingly have no idea who has the right-of-way when wanting to turn North on Locust during a red light.
Here are the pedestrian signal issues at this intersection:
– when the traffic light turns green for cars on Hickory Street, the pedestrian signal for pedestrians crossing Locust stays red for approximately 13 seconds. I’m assuming this is by design, meant for cars to move freely without having to yield to those pesky pedestrians. The problem with this is obvious: if the situation is meant to give preference to the movement of cars, what signals to the cars that it is now time to yield to the pedestrian? Is a car driver supposed to pay attention to both the traffic light (which is green) AND the pedestrian light (which may be green or red) when approaching this intersection? Furthermore, given that this scenario is only present in 2 out of the 9 possible car traffic patterns on the square, it is as confusing for the driver as it is for the pedestrian. The square should be a place where pedestrians are given preference. This is an easy fix, though I suspect it is a problem that is there by design.
– if you are crossing Hickory on the West side of Locust, the rules are different depending on whether you are walking North or walking South. If you are walking South, the crosswalk signal is green as soon as the traffic light is green. However, if you are walking North on this same side of the street, the crosswalk signal is red and it doesn’t signal for you to cross until the countdown begins. This is an easy fix.
If you are crossing Oak from any of the four corners of this intersection, you face the precise opposite situation that we described at the Hickory and Locust intersection. Here the pedestrian is signaled to cross Oak at the same time the traffic signal turns green. The problem is that you are given a solid red hand a full 15 seconds before the traffic signal turns yellow. Again, social engineering dictates that pedestrians need consistency in how these signals work. If they have ample time to clear an intersection here well after the red hand comes on, they may think they can do so at other intersections. This, also, seems to be a simple timing fix.
The same timing issue plaguing those crossing Locust at Hickory impacts those crossing Elm at Oak Street. The traffic signal gives cars coming West on Oak a full 13 seconds prior to giving a green signal for pedestrians crossing in all directions.
EXAMINE THE POLICY OF ALLOWING TURNING ON RED DOWNTOWN
Another general issue that is present at each of these intersections is the law allowing drivers to turn both left and right on red. In order to do so safely, a driver must pull up into the crosswalk in order to have the sufficient line of sight to turn in either direction. This is counterproductive to a pedestrian-friendly environment. The City Council should consider passing an ordinance making it illegal to turn either right or left on red on the immediate square, despite the allowance by state law.
The Denton City Council will meet today at 2pm for a Work Session followed by a 6:30pm Regular Session, both at City Hall at 215 East McKinney Street. Go here to see the full agenda with backup material.
EUREKA 2 UPDATE
We will receive an update from the Denton Parks Foundation on the current status, fundraising efforts, and timeline of the effort to replace Eureka Park with a brand new playground. If you haven’t yet checked out the plans, go here to their website, find out more, get involved, and consider donating to the cause. This Thursday between 3pm and 6pm you can go to either Beth Marie’s location and see 10% of your purchases donated to the park project.
CONSIDER POSSIBLE REPEAL OF FRACK BAN ORDINANCE
I’ve discussed this at length here and have since talked and heard from many of you. What began as a purely Denton issue quickly evolved into an issue impacting every city in the state of Texas – all thanks to the overreaction of the Texas Legislature and their industry-purchased legislation we all know as HB40. As a result, the legal and political landscape surrounding this issue has changed dramatically. No longer is the discussion simply a question of “how do we defend a frack ban.” Now the questions every city with oil and gas activity is grappling with seem more basic: “How can we defend a setback greater than 100 feet?” I look forward to what it sure to be a lively discussion on this issue and I hope we can all come to some sort of common goal from which to guide our efforts. If our goal is to dismantle HB40 and restore robust local control on oil and gas development in cities, then all paths should be on the table and analyzed.
THE OLD ALBERTSON’S BECOMES A TRAMPOLINE PARK and OTHER ZONING ISSUES
There are four zoning issues requiring public hearings that the council will take up tonight. Remember the old Albertson’s over near the corner of I35 and Lillian Miller that has been sitting vacant for a while? There’s a proposal to split that building into two areas, one hosting a membership gym and the other featuring an indoor trampoline park. Because the current zoning doesn’t allow for recreation centers, we will be considering a zoning case to change that.
Other zoning issues involve a special sign district for businesses at or near Golden Triangle Mall, a Special Use Permit request for a substation off East McKinney, and a rezoning of commercial property just to the West of I35 and North of 380.
As always, if you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or 940-206-5239.
I voted to adopt the frack ban back on July 15 when the citizens first brought it to the council. I voted for the ban in the voting booth in November. I continue to think that major petrochemical extraction operations are incompatible with neighborhoods and urban environments. I maintain that the successful, sustainable city of the future will be one that rids itself of such things. I believe that Denton is a more desirable, livable, and economically sound city as a result of the citizens voting in the fracking ban.
And I want to continue to fight against an arrogant, destructive industry and their paid-for Texas Legislators who have displayed their disdain for democracy and demonstrated their continued inability to solve the problems that put Denton in this situation in the first place.
Many of us want to continue the fight. The question for Denton at this moment is this: what is the smartest way to fight?
It is for this reason that the council has placed an item on this coming Tuesday’s agenda to discuss whether or not to repeal the frack ban ordinance.
Back in July, the Mayor predicted that this issue was going to be resolved one way or another by the Statehouse or the Courthouse. Immediately after the successful vote to ban fracking in Denton, we were hit on both fronts. Though two lawsuits were filed immediately against the frack ban ordinance, the Texas Legislature was the first to act and did so with the passing of HB40. The existence of that legislation is now a major assist for our opponents in the still-pending litigation against Denton on the issue of the legality of our frack ban.
No one seems to be taking the stand that our frack ban is legally enforceable in light of HB 40. Likewise, no one seems to think that we have any chance of winning the pending legal action against the city, especially in light of HB40. While there might be legitimate legal grounds to challenge HB40, the current lawsuit we are in is not the best place to do it. It could very well happen elsewhere and there are growing rumors that it might.
Our current lawsuits will end in one of a few ways:
1) we agree to some sort of consent agreement – unlikely given what they might want to tack on to this or ask us to agree to as part of it
2) we let this play out and the judge issues a summary judgment – this now becomes legal precedent and will likely include a judge officially declaring HB40 constitutional with such and such legal precedence being set
3) we move to moot the lawsuits by repealing the ban – no judicial judgment on HB40 one way or another
We must think about all this in light of our long-term goals. HB40 took away much more than our frack ban. It seems to take away our ability to enforce things like our 2013 ordinance, our 2010 ordinance, or anything that some operator finds “commercially unreasonable” on any point.
The long-term fight against HB40, it seems to me, will be strengthened to the extent that we don’t allow a judge to issue a favorable ruling now on HB40. Such a ruling would have consequences not only for us, but for many other cities who have an interest in getting in a legal tangle to defend their particular ordinances in light of HB40. Such a ruling would have consequences for any city wanting to challenge HB40 head on.
Right now all we have is a very over-reactive legislature and their bad legislation. It seems clear that the industry also wants to use the two lawsuits against us as a way to put a early judicial stamp of approval on HB 40 to use in any future lawsuit that might seek to challenge it.
Repealing the ban ordinance pulls the carpet out from under the industry and doesn’t give them the pleasure of getting an early legal assist on this issue. They want us to fight this all the way in court. It gives them what they want. I don’t want to keep giving the industry what they want. I want to continue to fight, but do so in a way that best prepares us for the strategic battles ahead.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this, both now and on Tuesday night. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-206-5239.
Denton is deserving of big ideas. And we have an innovative, creative, and ambitious citizenry full of them. You might recall last year’s Ideas for the City forum we held at Rubber Gloves, where anyone could pitch their big idea for Denton. Out of that came the idea to change Denton’s liquor laws, create a Music Mentoring program, and many other ideas that have already been accomplished or are currently being brought into reality.
Last night we saw the culmination of two weeks of citizen input and idea generation in response to the recent Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities grant announcement. ListenDenton.com was created by citizens to gather input on city problems that could be addressed by bringing open data and tech to the table. We went to schools and many place in the community and heard 111 ideas of how to make our city better.
Below you can see the 7 ideas that were pitched to a panel made up of the Mayor, the City Manager, one of the Assistant City Managers, the Director of Economic Development, the head of Keep Denton Beautiful, and other senior level city staff members.
WTH? CITY PROJECT TRACKER
How can citizens better understand how their tax dollars or bond money is being spent along with a moving timeline of key projects in the city?
LOCAL CHARITIES GIVING APP
How can we make it easier for citizens to know about and donate money or services to local charities?
TREE GIVE-AWAY TRACKING PLATFORM
As the city embarks on an ambitious tree give-away initiative, what sort of tech tools and data tracking would help the city and citizens understand where the trees are going, how they are doing, and better assess long-term impact on our city’s tree canopy?
WHERE’S MY SPOT, BRO? – INNOVATIVE PARKING SOLUTIONS
How can we bring smart data and tech to the table to help with this very practical issue, particularly in our downtown area?
A BETTER WAY TO MAP AND NOTIFY FOR PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
How can we create a better, more user-friendly way to notify and inform citizens of pending rezoning and development projects in their neighborhood or around town?
VIRTUAL ADOPT-A-SPOT/VIRTUAL BETTER BLOCK
Everyone has an idea of how a place in their neighborhood or around town that could look better – this team will ask how we can use technology to help citizens bring these areas to light and display their ideas to the entire city.
SOCIAL ROI – EVALUATING AND ASSESSING SOCIAL SERVICES
How can we bring data to the table to help make smarter and more strategic decisions on funding and collaborative projects addressing Denton’s biggest social needs?
Today’s Denton City Council meeting begins with a 1pm Work Session followed by a 6:30pm Regular Session. Go here to find the entire agenda with backup information. Here are some items of interest…
TREE GIVE-AWAY – PUTTING TREES IN THE HANDS OF THE CITIZENS
You might recall an idea I floated a couple months back to take a significant portion of the $2 million (and growing) tree fund and use it to scale our tree give-away efforts. This came after a presentation in which we learned that funding a tree on city property (something that is good as well) costs around $1000 a tree. Compare that with a tree give-away tree at $10 with all the costs of irrigation, maintenance, and care passed off to the adoptive citizen. If our goal is to get more trees in our city and increase our canopy, let’s get ambitious.
The head of Keep Denton Beautiful has since been developing a plan to do just that. We’ll be hearing more about the options to give more trees to our citizens during our work session, but you can check out the presentation right here.
BUDGET PRIORITIES FOR 2015-2016
Although we won’t be formally approving the 2015-2016 budget until October, with a general fund budget of nearly $100 million and a total city budget nearing $1 billion, it is best to get started early. The Council Committee on Citizen Engagement, a committee I Chair, has worked over the last couple of years to encourage a more user-friendly budget process in order to make sure those who wanted to learn more about it and get involved could do so.
As such, there is now a dedicated website where you can track the process and also submit your own budget recommendations. Here’s this year’s budget intro video. Let me know what are your budget priorities for next year? Where would you like to see budget dollars prioritized?
HISTORIC LANDMARK APPLICATIONS
Another wave of applications for Denton Historic Landmark houses has made its way through the process and we will be considering three great properties for this prestigious designation.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or contact me at email@example.com or 940-206-5239.
Today is the start of early voting for this year’s Denton City Council elections. Go here to find out where and when you can vote.
The Denton you love doesn’t just happen by accident. It’s the result of a beautiful mix of hardworking businesses, ambitious citizens, the constant stream of smart, fresh ideas coming from our two universities, and long-range planning and policy-making. The Denton you love is fragile and needs to be continually cultivated and fought for.
My opponent, Robert Doyle Cain, receives support from those who think fracking in neighborhoods is the right thing to do. Now that group of people and others in our community have teamed up to create a new entity whose purpose is to endorse specific candidates for this year’s city council race – Keep Denton Gritty.
As is often the case when you lack a positive vision for the city, you cobble together an assorted list of random criticisms and present it to the voters as your platform. This Gritty team has now published their manifesto in which they lay out their “vision” for Denton and endorse their picks for this council election. You can see that letter here. And not only has my opponent not distanced himself from these views, he has actually proudly posted it on his facebook wall:
So in addition to their support of fracking in neighborhoods, what do they mean by “keeping Denton gritty”? According to their manifesto, it is as follows:
- ANTI - HISTORIC PRESERVATION
- ANTI - ARTS and MUSIC FESTIVALS IN DOWNTOWN DENTON
- ANTI - STREET IMPROVEMENTS ON HICKORY STREET IN DOWNTOWN DENTON
- ANTI – WORKING TO KEEP YOUR DME RATES LOW
- ANTI – SAFETY AND BUILDING CODES (something EVERY city has)
My opponent has already endorsed this vision. And he has for a long time. In 2006, when many of us were activated to get involved in local politics because of the threat to historic Fry Street, Doyle Cain penned this letter to the Denton Record Chronicle offering “to drive the first bulldozer.”
And on several occasions during candidates forums these last few weeks he has compared the Fry Street of old with the Downtown of today.
Let me repeat: The Denton you love is fragile and it needs to be continually cultivated and fought for. You love Denton? Then vote for her.
It’s been quite the exciting week on the campaign trail for reelection. One day I was accused of creating a downtown “skid row” by bringing in all the bars, saloons, and honkey tonks. The very next day, in the wake of the city council’s decision to expand our smoking ordinance to cover stand-alone bars, I was accused of trying to shut down all those bars, saloons, and honkey tonks. I’ve been depicted as a rat by those who hate bars and, just tonight, likened to Hitler by those who love smoking bars.
The beauty and messiness of local democracy.
I’ve long made the case it is precisely in a city where democracy is birthed, learned, and practiced. It is in the context of a city where my self-interest is immediately met with my neighbor’s self-interest. Democracy, when working, tempers my passions and moderates my views to the extent that I have a higher goal: living peacefully with my neighbor. Democracy, when working, is quite humanizing and civilizing.
But today, we have a generation of people whose only rearing in democracy came with an eye to national politics and on a steady diet of cable news, radio talk shows, outrageous websites, and the increasing reality of only listening and befriending those with whom we already agree. We are beginning to understand Plato’s concern that democracy could quickly devolve into tyranny. Instead of the democratic spirit of “how can we work this out together,” the political honors of the day go to the one who stands on his ideological principal without wavering and without compromise. “It’s my way or else!”
One of my goals for my time in office has been to be a part of a national renaissance in democracy by helping turn the hearts of this generation back to the city. I continue to believe that we can begin to restore the broken democracy of our nation to the extent that we can restore it right here in Denton.
To that end, it has been a mark of my brief council career to make local democracy sexy again. To show our citizens that our city is a platform upon which they create. That they can have meaningful impact on the future of Denton. That they can move from becoming culture consumers to cultural creators.
And there are times as a city that we must confront big issues and significant questions. This week’s council discussion and vote on the smoking ordinance is a great example – it is polarizing, it involves fundamental political philosophical questions, and both sides feel passionately that they are on the side of justice. This week was a culmination of a community discussion that began over two years ago when the council first took up the issue. In keeping with my values of the power and possibility of democracy, when the dialogue started to turn south, I reached out to my biggest critics on this issue and invited them into my home for beers and open dialogue.
Anyone following the council discussion during the last two meetings knows that I worked hard to forge a compromise – hoping to both move us closer to a comprehensive smoking ordinance and find some opening for consensus on a very polarizing issue. At the end of the day, I work together with 6 other intelligent, hard working, lovers of Denton on the City Council. Through changes and suggestions and hours of discussion, we found a way to get 5 of us to agree.
And though some of us disagreed – and at times, quite passionately – I’d go out for beers with any of them and talk about their kids, their career, their ideas, and find ways to work with them on making Denton a better city. That is democracy at its best.
I get it that people can get exceedingly frustrated with a view of mine or a vote I make. I totally respect that such things make them want to find someone else to fill my council seat. I get it that there a bar owners that want to throw concerts to “Rock Against Roden” and genuinely appreciate that there’s a local government issue sexy enough to bring more people into the process (even if it is to vote me out). I even get it that those frustrations and passions tempt you to devolve into the very sort of rhetoric that we despise coming out of DC and that you start throwing around references to Hitler.
But before you do, think about how we can make our city better if we refrain.
And for my friends who may be tempted to boycott certain bars or the like – don’t. That doesn’t help either. We need more interactions with people with whom we disagree, not less.
Think about how Denton can actually be on the cutting edge of democratic discourse if we tried to subvert the status quo and disrupt the devolution of democracy we are experiencing. My friends, we could change the world. That’s what Denton does.
We’ve failed as a community when one of our wayward youth grows up to find pleasure in attacking people like this. Let’s make sure none of our babies grow up to be the guy who put this together or the guys in town who helped finance it.
Therefore, for every post of this article to Facebook or Twitter, I will donate $1 to the innovative Denton GOAL program and $1 to Communities in Schools North Texas, both Mentor Denton partners, in order to move us closer to our goal of having a mentor for every Denton ISD student who needs one.
Post away and encourage others to do the same. Let’s take what this guy meant for destruction and turn it into a blessing for our city’s kids.
I’m proud of my record of investing in Denton’s neighborhoods. I initiated the Neighborhood Empowerment Grant Program which earmarks $50,000 a year in grants to neighborhoods with great ideas. I helped bring Better Block to Denton to get us thinking of innovative ways to create our neighborhoods. I’m working to update our historic preservation policies in order to protect our city’s historic assets. I’ve gathered citizens to help make pedestrian safety a priority so that we can more safely walk in and between our neighborhoods. I’m pushing for a plan that puts 20,000 trees into our neighborhoods by giving them directly to homeowners in order to better our streetscape, improve home values, and increase our city’s tree canopy.
But there’s more to be done. Here are some ideas to keep Denton’s neighborhoods moving forward:
REVITALIZE THE CORE
The days of thinking of Denton’s core neighborhoods merely as investment opportunities for landlords is over. There is now a house on Austin Street that is listed for $395,000. As in any city with a vibrant urban core, the first couple rings of single family home neighborhoods become the hottest real estate in town. The Downtown Implementation Plan failed to consider a role for these neighborhoods in the revitalization of downtown. We should move quickly to develop a plan to stabilize, promote, connect, and foster a renaissance in our core neighborhoods.
NEIGHBORHOOD/DISTRICT IDENTITY INITIATIVE
Naming, branding, and identity is a crucial step toward creating a sense of pride, place, and belonging in a neighborhood. We should develop a year-long initiative to encourage and incentivize neighbors to come together to define, name, and brand their neighborhoods, utilizing grant money to develop signage.
THINK BEYOND THE SQUARE
As we work on revitalizing our core, let’s begin the process of identifying and fostering the next generation of potential centers of culture in Denton. I’ve already written about this at length here.
Want to create a mini library for the neighborhood kids on your front lawn? Want to turn that vacant lot into a startup pocket park? Want to turn the dumpsters in your neighborhood into a public art project? Our citizens want to create and are too often coming to the city to ask for permission with such ideas. Let’s develop a plan that actually encourages, empowers, and resources such whimsical placemaking in our city’s neighborhoods.
EQUIP OUR NEIGHBORHOODS WITH THE FASTEST INTERNET IN THE NATION
High speed internet is to the 21st century what electricity was to the 20th century. In order to make sure their is no digital divide in Denton and to position our city for educational and economic leadership in the coming decades, we should immediately commission a study to assess the state of fiber connectivity among our neighborhoods. That should be followed with an aggressive plan to connect our neighborhoods with the fastest internet in the nation.
ONE REGULATION PRESERVATION
While we work to update our Historic Preservation Plan and corresponding ordinances, let’s discover an easy path toward historic preservation of threatened homes and neighborhoods. I like to call this “one regulation preservation” – or, “just don’t tear your house down.” The current paradigm assumes a significant amount of regulations, including things like paint colors and window materials, in order to enter into the historic designation realm. That paradigm works for willing neighbors, but when we are trying to convince landlords and others who have reservations, let’s create a program that makes it easy for them to preserve our city’s historic assets.
A significant part of our downtown parking problems could be solved if we just made it easier for people living within a mile of downtown to walk there. But there remain huge obstacles in the form of Carroll Blvd, University Drive, McKinney St., and Bell Ave. Let’s prioritize a plan to make crossing these streets safe and comfortable for 8 and 80 year olds alike.
RETHINK DENSITY AND MIXED USE
As interest in our core neighborhoods continues to grow and generational housing preferences shift, we must begin to rethink our traditional assumptions about the value and place for increased density and mixed use within our neighborhoods. We should begin to have serious conversations about the true costs of sprawl and tread cautiously when large housing development projects are proposed far away from our city center and our corresponding essential infrastructure and services.
WHAT ARE YOU IDEAS FOR BETTERING DENTON’S NEIGHBORHOODS? Let me know in the comments below.
Remember the deluge of ridiculous mailers that came out in the lead-up to the November 2014 election and when this now famous “Hopes and Dreams Killer” one made its round? The same folks who were behind this and who spent a million dollars arguing that drilling within 300 feet of your backyard is the right thing to do are now funding the campaign of my opponent for the District 1 seat.
In an email widely circulated among the establishment business community in Denton, I’m accused of “Californiaizing Denton.” The “Call to Action” is clear: “he needs to be replaced.” And just like how last Fall’s campaign was financed, the same is true for this crowd – “you don’t need to live in Denton to contribute.”
It’s time we put an end to the big business goals of outside forces telling Denton what to do or how to vote. I need you help to keep Denton moving forward.
Help me raise the necessary funds to confront this challenge. $10, $20, $50, $100 or whatever you can give will help. For a donation of at least $50, you can get this shirt to tell the world how you really feel about this situation.
Thanks for all you do for Denton! Please help spread the word.