Campaign Finance Reports, January-March 2014

District 2

Glenn Farris:
20140411081554

John Ryan:
20140411081740

Place 5

Dalton Gregory:
20140411081617 (1)

Hatice Salih:
20140411081801

Place 6

Greg Johnson:
20140411081718

Mayor

Jean Schaake:
20140411081526

Chris Watts:

Donna Woodfork:
20140411143203 (1)

More details for city’s proposed bond election in November

I put together last Sunday’s piece on the bond election proposed for November to offer a window into the kinds of things residents are asking for, since they don’t always align with the list that the staff puts together.

As such, the story is meant to be a 30,000-foot view. But, at times, such views lack precision. And I got two emails from the city this week asking for more precision and I’m happy to pass this information along.

In December, Lindsey Baker tells me, the bond committee received a presentation which showed how much could be funded before the city would have to increase taxes:

Staff estimated in December 2013, in addition to planned capital spending for facilities maintenance, vehicle replacements and street reconstruction, an additional $31.8 million in capital projects could be funded without raising the debt service tax rate.  Staff estimates that a one-cent tax increase would facilitate a $50.8 million package, and a two-cent tax increase would be necessary for a $63.8 million package.

And city engineer Frank Payne offered this for parents who are requesting sidewalk routes along McKinney Street to Ryan High School and along Hickory Creek Road to McNair Elementary:

1.     You discussed the sidewalks on McKinney and the fact that the TxDOT project will provide them.  That’s true.  However, you stated that “if the city added sidewalks now, they could be lost in a few years when reconstruction begins.”  Also true.  What I specifically conveyed was that there was no way to put in sidewalks or trails of any sort in the space available without also improving drainage and grades, changes which would be very expensive, and that the walks would be subject to replacement when the roadway project begins.  It isn’t just about sacrificial sidewalks, which is reason enough in my opinion for the City to not put them in on a TxDOT roadway, but it is about doing advance work on the roadway (if it is even possible to do so) at great expense to possibly put in a pedestrian way that would be removed within a couple of years after its installation.

2.     You mentioned sidewalks along Hickory Creek Road to McNair Elementary and that they “are on staff’s list of recommendations with the bond committee, Payne said.”  What I said was that the widening and improvements to Hickory Creek Road was one of the proposed bond projects and that, if it is selected and approved by the voters, it will provide the needed sidewalks.  Specific sidewalks are not on a recommendations list to the subcommittee.  The subcommittee is being asked to propose Miscellaneous Sidewalks as they were approved in the last bond initiative so that staff can work on various projects which may or may not be proposed by the subcommittee.

 

DFW air quality as a study topic for students

Friday afternoon I sat in on poster presentations by three graduate students at the University of North Texas organized by the engineering school — good practice for building their science bona fides and good practice for me in listening to scientists.

I was a little lost for the presentation on improving truck radiators with microchannels and frequently lost on the presentation about shape memory alloys, although we got to watch this very cool YouTube video of a bent spring coiling back into its original shape when heated:

I was able, however, to follow the third presentation on a study of DFW air quality, in part, because I’ve been listening to a number of these technical discussions for the past several years.

Graduate student Mahdi Ahmadi, working with his advisor, Dr. Kuruvilla John, downloaded the ozone air monitoring data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality back to 1997, a total of more than 6.5 million data points, he said, and has been studying it for the past four months. (He is in the second draft of a paper that will be submitted for publication, so his talk was the beginning of a discussion that surely will include more feedback from his professors — I saw some of that Friday — and from the editors/reviewers of the journal that accepts the paper for publication.)

Ahmadi wanted to explore a basic question underlying a graphic frequently distributed by the TCEQ that shows gas wells going up in DFW as ozone goes down, which suggests in a not-very-scientific-at-all way, that the increasing number of gas wells is having no effect on the ozone.

Ahmadi adjusted for meteorological conditions to determine how much ozone DFW people are making and where. Such adjustments have been explored by others to understand better the parts of ozone-making we can control, because we can’t control the weather. He used an advanced statistical method on the data, called the Kolmogorov-Zurbenko filter, to separate the effects of atmospheric parameters from human activities.
According to the results, the air monitoring sites surrounded by oil and gas production activities, generally on the west side of DFW, show worse long-term trends in ozone reduction than those located farther from wells on the east side of DFW.
His spatial analysis of the data showed that ozone distribution has been disproportionally changed and appears linked to production activities, perhaps an explanation why residents on the western side of DFW are seeing more locally produced ozone, particularly since 2008.
In other words, Denton residents have long suffered the drift of polluted air from the south, but as our neighbors to the south drive cleaner cars and get clean ups from the cement plants and other big polluters, regulators should probably look again at the 5,000 gas wells and their associated equipment in Denton County to help clean up local air quality.
Most interesting to me is that Ahmadi also looked at ozone levels produced in the “off season” and noticed that those numbers, too, are climbing up. DFW ozone season is generally considered April-October, but if the EPA again lowers the standard to 65 ppb, that could bring more months, February-November, into our “ozone season,” John said.
Ahmadi and John said this study, for the first time, is demonstrating the long-term negative effects of oil and gas production activities activities on local and regional ozone pollution. We’ll be watching for the final peer review and publication of their paper and expect that others charged with cleaning up North Texas air will do the same.

Nightly closures at McCormick St

Crews will close the southbound lane of I35E at 9 p.m. tonight and again tomorrow (Wednesday) at McCormick St. to make repairs to the guardrail. They will re-open the lanes at 6 a.m. for morning traffic.

Extension in Stobaugh appeal filings

In today’s story, we reported that Charles Stobaugh’s appellate attorney, Wm. Reagan Wynn, had until today to reply to the Denton County District Attorney’s petition for discretionary review.

That is, unless he asked for an extension.

The DA’s office let us know a few moments ago that Wynn indeed has requested a 10-day extension to reply and they are not opposing the request, which would likely push the deadline to March 21.

We’ll keep an eye on the proceedings and continue to file our reports as new information becomes available.

Concept for convention center

The city’s partner in developing a new convention center and hotel on the University of North Texas campus was in town Feb. 18, primarily to meet with a group at UNT on designing the project.

If you recall from our earlier stories, it is the city’s intent, along with the developer, O’Reilly Hospitality Management, to design the project to 35 percent and then go out for bids to see whether both can afford it. (The city has been estimating $25 million for the 100,000-square-foot convention center and OHM has been estimating $60 million for the 300-room, full-service hotel.)

Tim O’Reilly and the architect made a brief presentation to the city council when they were in town that included flashing these conceptual drawings up on the screen for a few minutes during the council’s work session.

Conceptual drawing of city convention center and hotel

The council’s reaction was muted, to say the least. Both council members and the mayor said they understood that university officials were reviewing the design, and that it had to fit into the university campus (in 75 years, the building becomes university property), but they were looking for something bold.

They wondered aloud how it would fit, at 11 stories tall, between two other distinctive pieces of architecture: Apogee Stadium and the Murchison Performing Arts Center.

“This is the gateway to our city,” Mayor Mark Burroughs said.

It wouldn’t be the first tall structure in the city, of course. The towers at Texas Woman’s University and Kerr Hall, at UNT, are functional, as is the bank building downtown. Nothing there to win architectural awards or to catalog them among the great buildings of Texas, or even North Texas.

It doesn’t appear that the developer and his architect have teed up the convention center and hotel to be anything different than the other tall buildings in town.

When I was in Colorado last week, I traveled by a similar project in Loveland, shot a photo and shared it on Twitter:

Embassy Suites Loveland Hotel, Spa and Conference Center

Fellow staff writer Jenna Duncan, who covers the universities and business community, reached out to UNT officials to find out whether there was more to know about the design decisions and got this answer from Buddy Price:

It is very early in the design process and the exterior materials and appearance will be developed through the design process.  The renderings of the hotel/convention center presented to the city council on Feb. 18 are early studies; they generally indicate the scale and scope of the development. 

UNT, the city and O’Reilly all are working together on the project and we will build a facility we all can be proud of and that is a significant and appropriate addition to the overall campus and community. UNT will be a very active partner in this project and the development of its design.

Jenna tells me she is still hopeful that she will be able to connect with those at UNT who are involved in the process. We’ll report more when we’ve got it.

Stobaugh still in custody

We reported this morning that a bond hearing has been set for Charles Stobaugh. The Second Court of Appeals, when it overturned his murder conviction, agreed he could be released on $25,000 bond. But the conditions of that bond are to be set by the district court.

You can read more about that here: 3151_001

It remains unclear when he will be released from custody. Prisoners are often transferred to the Huntsville Unit, where Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates its release center for male prisoners and is able to put into motion certain supervisory measures, such as electronic monitoring, if they are ordered by the court. But it’s also possible he will be transferred to the Denton County jail, where he would remain in custody until the bond hearing, which is more than two weeks away.

We’re hoping to confirm soon with Stobaugh’s appellate attorney, Regan Wynn, what the next few weeks will bring.

Documents related to the case are available on the website of the Second Court of Appeals. (Search on “Released Orders/Opinions”). The 176-page opinion releasing him is too large to attach to this blog post, but we’ll see whether we can get it attached to the final write-through of today’s story.

Candidate forum hosted by Denia neighborhood set for March 31

The first candidate forum for the May 10 municipal election has been set by the Denia neighborhood for the last Monday in March. The start time is yet to be announced, as one of the event’s organizers, Pati Haworth, says the number of candidates will determine that.

Official candidate filing for a place on the ballot opens January 29, but this much we know — Jean Schaake and Chris Watts are running for mayor and District 2 Council member Dalton Gregory has resigned his seat (effective as of the canvassing of the election) in order to run at-large for Place 5.

The Denia group plans to change the forum’s format, Haworth said, to avoid answers that come in two-minute bites.

A number of community groups host candidate forums, but most are held in April, so I don’t expect any more dates to be announced any time soon.

Dalton Gregory to run at-large

Denton City Council member Dalton Gregory, who is in the middle of his third and final term in District 2, has announced he will resign that spot in order to run at large in District 5 this spring.

The resignation is effective of the May election canvass date, which means Gregory will continue to serve through the spring.

Mayor pro tem Pete Kamp is not eligible to run again, having served three terms in District 5. Kamp made a similar move six years ago, resigning her council seat to run at large.

If he wins, he can continue to serve in District 5 for up to three terms. But if he loses, his resignation will create a vacancy on the council in May.

Keeping the door open for #Sriracha2Denton

In late October, Council member Kevin Roden seized an opportunity to get the city some national attention when Huy Fong Foods, the maker of Sriracha hot chili sauce, got in legal trouble in California with its emissions.

At first he penned an open letter on his blog, rodenfordenton.com, and got a bit of a campaign going on Twitter. The story became regional curiosity and was picked up by a number of outlets, including bloggers at the Dallas Observer and our sister paper, The Dallas Morning News, which triggered interest by national media. A story in the Los Angeles Times recounted some of the company’s legal troubles as well as the re-location pitch coming from Texas.

Before the holidays, Roden sent a letter  to the company repeating much of the same information about Denton and what it had to offer, but in a formal way. The company responded about a week later with a courteous, but noncommittal reply.

Recent interest by a few state legislators has kept the odd courtship in the news. Roden said this afternoon that he’s keeping the door open. There has been talk at the state level about sending a delegation to make a formal pitch, Roden said, and he’s willing to be a part of that, if it happens.

“The state has more resources to pursue that,” Roden said, adding, “I’ll keeping playing this for as long as it goes.”