Jan Joplin, Kennedale Mayor

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1. Past Decisions – please respond by February 29, 2024

Although the city council cannot dwell on past councils' decisions and it must move forward, we would like to know if current council members have learned from past decisions, including those made by previous councils. From history, were each of the following zoning case items a good decision or a poor decision, and why?

a) “UV” zoning on Kennedale Sublett Road just east of Kennedale Parkway?

b) “MF” zoning on Joplin Road just south of Kennedale Sublett Road?

You are asking these questions because of the obvious major issues with both developments. Yes, changes have been made due to the negative impact and actions of the past city manager and staff. The Council changed ordinances and codes to make sure this does not happen again. For example, the Community Development Director can no longer make zoning or code decisions without going through Council, and several codes were changed to ensure planning changes go through Council along with lowering the density of these types of zoning.

a) “UV” zoning on Kennedale Sublett Road just east of Kennedale Parkway?

I think most everyone would agree this was a poor decision. I was on Council during the resolution for support vote and disagreed with the proposed plan due to the developer having never developed anything like what they were proposing. I was not on Council when later the zoning change for the apartments to UV was approved. First, I do not think of Kennedale as "urban". Second, the street infrastructure was not in place for apartments (the road is horrible and without moving the road somewhere else, it cannot be widened due to how the development built to the road), the traffic at the intersection of Sublett and Kennedale Pkwy is a big problem. Third they never should have been three stories; Council has changed the code back to two story maximum.

The apartments are close to my house but not within 200 feet, (Council must recuse/abstain from voting within 200 feet.) I was threatened to be sued if I opposed the resolution of support for this development. I abstained making the vote 2-2 with the mayor breaking the tie to approve.

b) “MF” zoning on Joplin Road just south of Kennedale Sublett Road?

For apartments this is in the right area BUT again, I think most everyone would agree this development was built too close to the neighboring homes and built up too high creating big drop offs with no safety measures put in place. (MF zoning did not require the safety measures and code can only enforce what the zoning requires.)

Both of these developments should have been PD's giving the city more input on what could be built.

 

2. Property Taxes – please respond by March 7, 2024

Kennedale is the third highest taxing city of the 41 cities in Tarrant County. What are some viable potential solutions to alleviate the tax burden on the citizens? Or is this just something that the citizens of Kennedale must learn to accept? Why?

Before answering, I’d like to say something about the question from last week that leads to Kennedale’s current situation on multiple levels; past decisions do not go away, at some point the proverbial “can” cannot be kicked again. Council has to make the best decisions possible where we are with what we have. If the past had been different, we wouldn’t be in the situation with question # 1 or the question for this week with the 3rd highest tax rate. Kennedale is digging out of years of overall neglected infrastructure, equipment and software systems. Most everyone would agree everything cannot be “fixed” at one time with limited funds and we cannot ignore the basics of city government, first responders, water, sewer, streets and parks.

For the most part, the city budget operates on taxes from two areas: property tax and sales tax. Decreasing the budget or increasing sales tax are two ways to decrease the tax rate. The viable potential solutions to reduce the tax rate are currently being implemented, these include new developments, new businesses, changing the culture and reputation of the city to entice businesses and developers, and increasing community thus events bringing people to Kennedale increasing revenues.

With these actions I believe we will reduce the tax rate.

As a reminder, the Mayor does not have a vote on Council agenda items. As the Mayor my relationships and networking are important for possible additional funding, solutions and ideas.

 

3. Moratorium – please respond by March 14, 2024

In January 2023 the council approved a temporary moratorium of applications for MF or TH zoning. Do you agree with the temporary moratorium? Why or why not?

The moratorium was put in place due to two factors:

1- council was made aware of a neglected sewer line in an emergency situation needing to be replaced in three phases with the first phase considered “emergency”. The sewer line runs from New Hope (drag strip area) to I-20. The bottle neck in phase 1 goes from a 10 inch line to a 6 inch line.

2- around that same time frame the city was receiving permits for multi-family developments creating concerns until a plan was in place for the sewer replacement.

The engineers said the sewer line is extremely fragile, stressed and no additional development should be added until replaced. (phase 1 specifically).

At that point a moratorium was put in place to temporarily stop developers from submitting permits. A bond was approved for the sewer replacement and the moratorium expired.

There may have been other alternatives to reach the same goal; however this was the route agreed on. The moratorium gave the needed time without multiple developments coming through before a plan was in place to replace the sewer line.

These are the ongoing types of issues the council and city face. It requires teamwork making these difficult decisions. Anyone that understands maintenance understands without maintenance the neglect will be costly and that is where we find ourselves. Balancing the years of neglected infrastructure, maintenance, software, systems, cost of living increases, updating equipment, salaries, etc. and lowering the tax rate will take all of us working together.

I’m off topic but all of these questions boil down to working together.

 

4. Extension of Little Road – please respond by March 21, 2024

In August 2023 the city council decided it would issue debt (certificates of obligation) for the extension of Little Road without any voter approval after the discussion all along prior to that meeting was to issue general obligation bonds approved by voters if the project was to be completed. Do you agree with the council's action? Why or why not?

For clarification purposes, a CO bond can be issued without voter approval and a GO bond has to be voted on at the ballot like the recent school or park bonds.

The reason for the change from GO to CO was Council members changed and a new direction voted on. Anytime Council members change, direction changes, that's how it works. There are five voting council members and the Mayor with no vote (except a tie). It takes three council members for a motion to carry (be approved). One council member cannot approve an item and the Mayor certainly can't because the Mayor does not vote (except a tie).

I hope everyone reading understands the Mayor has no vote (except a tie).

Here are some factors in this decision. Tarrant County already approved Kennedale to receive half of the funding (approx $6.5 million) for Little School Rd. from Kennedale Pkwy. to New Hope. This funding from Tarrant County only comes around every 5-10 years. If the voters vote no, the bond fails, the city receives no funding and can't vote on this project again for five years (I think it's five years).

The new road will provide much needed first responder access to the New Hope Rd residents and businesses. Providing fire and police is a basic city responsibility.

There is a possibility we can work with Union Pacific for additional funding but that is an unknown when making these types of decisions. It's just a factor to consider.

As you can see there a lot of factors when making these decisions. That is why your vote needs to be well thought out on who you want making these decisions.

With all that said, the question asked, is if I agree with the council's action and why or why not.

I can see both sides of this but if I had a vote, remember the Mayor has no vote (except a tie) I would have wanted to give the residents the vote at the ballot.

It is a large amount for a new road that all tax paying residents will carry and I feel the residents based on the above factors would have voted for it.

Council will make decisions people don't like and some they do, that's how it goes. Most importantly, we need to continue working together even if we don't like the vote. That's the only way we make a difference.

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 28, 2024

If you receive an e-mail from a constituent on a Kennedale issue logically laid out and well documented, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not? What actions will you take?

This one is short and sweet. Yes, I return emails, calls or text messages to provide the information requested or connect with someone that can.

 

6. Issue – please respond by April 4, 2024

What is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

The most important issue the council is facing is funding the years of neglected infrastructure & systems needs while simultaneously keeping the tax rate down. Having good relationships with Tarrant County, State officials, North Central Texas Council of Governments, Mayors Council puts us in a position for outside funding and using synergies.

We can’t do everything but we are making progress as you can see (streets being paved, new park equipment, new sewer lines and water tanks) and heard from the State of the City. If you missed it, check it out. 2023.11.30 Town Hall - State of the City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Spending – please respond by February 25, 2021

At the zoning case public hearing, the developer's CEO states, “First of all, if there are any improvements on the road, we pay for it. We are not asking for the city to pay for anything."

Then the mayor and city manager prioritize over $500,000 of work on the road. As a council person, what do you do? How do you handle this?

This is typical of inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information given to the citizens and city council. The council cannot make good decisions affecting citizens lives based on bad and misleading information! 

The developer should be held accountable and responsible for the road improvements driven by their development, as they publicly promised. It is my opinion this is the responsibility of the city manager to hold staff and developers accountable to their promises.  Unfortunately, we have a planning and zoning director that is more concerned about her own agenda and not the best interests of the people who live in Kennedale. 

This issue is a perfect example of using zoning promoted by the planning and zoning director that allows developers to say one thing and do another, costing the citizens of Kennedale.  

The only reason for the  support of this development was the “mixed use” presentation of retail, apartments and full market townhomes.  To my knowledge, the only piece Kennedale will get is the tax payer subsidized apartments.  Present one thing to get the vote and build something else, at the cost of the citizens.

I would ask the city manager, mayor, and council to hold the developer accountable to their commitment and would vote no to passing this cost on to the citizens.

 

2, Branding – please respond by March 4, 2021

A decade ago, many would have said Kennedale's “branding” was the racetracks? Does Kennedale have a “brand” now? Does Kennedale need a “brand”? Is just being a suburb of Fort Worth and Arlington enough? What do you think? Why?

We are a small suburban city in a great location sandwiched between Fort Worth, Arlington and Mansfield. Kennedale has been renowned for having a small-town feel, but that is rapidly changing with all of the recent “urban zoning”, which results in a dramatic increase in apartments and dense housing.

In terms of “branding”, I believe that if we concentrate on taking care of the business at hand (i.e., current infrastructure needs), control spending, rein in taxes and work with all stakeholders to have an excellent school district, we can ensure that Kennedale will be a place where people and businesses want to be. That’s a great “brand” for Kennedale to have!

Kennedale was legendary for the racetracks; many people’s faces light up when they talk about their experiences as a spectator or racer at the tracks. I am personally not a racer or fan but from what I hear and see, racing is still a huge sport that can potentially draw a big fan base. Many are opposed to the racetracks because of the noise. However, if a way could be found to control the noise, we could have the best of both worlds.

We don’t need to spend time or other resources on commercially branding Kennedale; we need to be what we are with an eye towards continual improvement. Why should we change the uniqueness we have in our city by trying to convert it into a poor imitation of an overcrowded urban city with all of the associated problems ?

 

3. Property Taxes – please respond by March 11, 2021

Kennedale is the fourth highest taxing city of the 41 cities in Tarrant County [and heading in the wrong direction]. What are some viable potential solutions to alleviate the tax burden on the citizens? Or is this just something that the citizens of Kennedale must learn to accept? Why?

Here it is from the City’s Budget Document Page 1!

http://cityofkennedale.com/DocumentCenter/View/5633/Fiscal-Year-2020-2021-Adopted-Budget-PDF#page=9

This budget will raise more revenue from property taxes than last year's budget by an amount of $418,886, which is a 9.9% (percent) increase from last year's budget. The property tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll this year is $235,250.”

Did you know that according to the City’s budgets that since the Fiscal Year 2013 property taxes have increased 59%?

Did you know that the population growth in the same period is approximately 40 %?

Controlling the ever-increasing and rapidly-increasing city property taxes requires a change in direction by the city administration. Until lowering taxes is a goal, the current pattern of rapidly increasing city property taxes will continue. The City Council must set direct the City Manager to reduce property taxes.

To accomplish this goal, the City Council must have accurate information in order to make wise decisions on spending and taxes. They must demand this from the City Manager. This past tax increase is a perfect example of what not to do.

During a national pandemic with most everyone suffering financially and otherwise, the City Council increased property taxes almost 10%! Okay, 9.9% to be exact.

The City Manager made it seem the city would crumble without the tax increase, and the City Council fell for it, again.

Councilman Pugh advocated for an even larger tax increase than the 9.9% Tax Increase.

Then, surprise! The same old bait-and-switch occurs. Less than 30 days later, the City Council receives financial reports that show an increase of $1,000,000 in both the general fund and water fund from what was projected just a few days before

The reasons given for the tax increase were counterfeit and very misleading. We must have a City Council that is a watchdog for the taxpayers and not a rubber stamp for every spending and tax increase put in front of them.

The City Council’s purpose is to direct the City Manager, and not what we have today, which is the City Manager directing the Council.

During my first year on City Council, we adopted a tax rate increase that was half of what the City Manager proposed and the following year we adopted the No New Tax Rate. In each of those fiscal years considerable amounts were added to both the General Fund and the Water and Sewer Fund, in spite of the misinformation spread.

Under the current City Administration, the growth that they promote is not paying for itself; it has been costing us! This must change!

 

4. Growth – please respond by March 18, 2021

Over the past several months, the council has approved tiny housing units on tiny lots. What do you think of these and why?

Smaller homes on small lots seems to be the current housing trend. While there are places in Kennedale where such a housing option might be appropriate, we have to be careful and make sure there is a balance of the types of homes being built in our city.

It seems there are two goals: (1) to increase the population in order to attract businesses and (2) to increase tax revenue. If that’s the case, then we also need larger homes on larger lots because tiny lots drain city resources.

In certain areas tiny housing might be a good fit, but it seems to be the polar opposite of what most people I talk to want for Kennedale. Most people live in Kennedale for the small-town feel; they want to preserve the suburb of Kennedale, not create an “urban village” Kennedale.

The tiny houses at Bowman and Kennedale Parkway, for instance, I would have voted against. We gave away the land value and now will have 16 tiny home lots rather than possible commercial with restaurants that could have attracted revenue rather than draining city resources.

Most citizens prefer less density, not higher density, for Kennedale. With that in mind, we need to adjust the city’s comprehensive plan to reflect the preference of the majority of Kennedale citizens. Therefore, we really don’t need any more tiny homes on tiny lots in the near future.

 

5. Economic Development Corporation (EDC)– please respond by March 25, 2021

Over the past several months, the council has approved EDC deals to sell lots at a very small fraction of the property’s value [one such example was $10] for the purchaser to build rental units. What do you think of this practice? Do you have any strong opinions regarding the EDC, its existence, its purpose, and its practices? Why?

The purpose of an Economic Development Corporation is to support Kennedale’s economic growth. My opinion is that the Kennedale EDC is not contributing to the economic growth of Kennedale and in fact is inhibiting and in some cases is eliminating growth possibilities for the city.

First, understand that basically the EDC receives financing from a portion of Kennedale sales tax, bonds including a $2,000,000 bond issued by the city (which` the EDC repays) and rent from some of the Town Center buildings (such as the building that houses Dollar General) and from Red’s Roadhouse.

Here are a few of my findings:

  • The EDC used water/sewer funds amounting to $535,578 and $51,931 in stormwater funds to pay for water and sewer improvements for Bloxom Industrial.

  • The EDC used $171,149 from the water fund to purchase property on Dick Price Road; the property is being considered for commercial use.

  • The EDC used street funds amounting to $367,941 to pay for the construction of Link Street.

  • The EDC spent $400,000 on the Chamber of Commerce building in the middle of Town Center.

  • The Chamber only pays $120 annually for rent to the EDC.

  • The EDC will give all Town Center land to the developer for $1 after building completion by May 3, 2030, according to the contract negotiated with the developer.

  • EDC is considering allowing the building of multi-family housing in Town Center.

  • EDC allowed Town Center land to be used as collateral in order for the developer to build the buildings in Town Center.

  • For all EDC-owned land, the city receives no taxes, including Reds Roadhouse, Town Center, etc. You can see all EDC-owned land at: https://www.tad.org (type Kennedale economic in search box)

  • $12,000,000 from city sales taxes and bond money was spent on the Town Center development. That money would have gone a long way toward improving and/or replacing basic city services.

  • EDC rented Red’s Roadhouse for $1217/month. This amount increased to $1750 in 2016 and is currently $2500/month. (The land is valued at $3,525,081)

  • EDC sold land valued at $1,107,910 to the hotel developer for only $350,000. (That is 216% LESS than the value of the property and the hotel hasn’t started building yet.) There is a clause in the contract that provides that if the hotel hasn’t started construction by Jan 1,2020, the EDC could buy the land back.

  • EDC hired a Director to promote the EDC for $66,000/year plus web maintenance totaling $500,536.

  • EDC paid $90,000 to have the old Chicken Express building torn down and now receives no rent from Chicken Express which is currently located in one of the developer-owned buildings.

  • In May 2017, the EDC had a negative cash balance of -$169,607.

  • EDC paid $25,000 toward a new Nancy’s Liquor sign.

What can be done going forward?

  • Shift sales tax back for use to deliver basic city services where they are desperately needed, such as on streets and erosion issues.

  • The EDC can and should repay the city for all EDC projects and land paid for from city funds.

  • Require the EDC to provide a monthly report to the City Council; this report should include detailed information about revenue, expenses, and goals.

Sell EDC land at maximum rather than minimum values and start receiving tax revenues off those properties effectively immediately.

 

6. Accountability – please respond by April 1, 2021

Should the city council hold the city manager accountable? What should happen if staff fails on directives and/or knowingly violates codes? What if the material they present to the city council is not truthful? How should the city council address such issues? Why?

In a City Manager form of government the city manager is directly responsible for these deficiencies.

To put it simply, the city manager is the CEO of the city who reports to the city council, which is essentially the Board of Directors. The city manager, and through him his staff, are to execute the directives set forth by the city council.

Another important function of the city manager is providing information to the council with assistance from his staff. Such basic duties include directing day to day city operations and keeping council and citizens updated on all aspects of public utilities, emergencies, zoning, new businesses, future developments, etc.

By the City Charter of Kennedale, the city manager reports to the city council, but this is not currently the situation in Kennedale. This must change. The current city manager was given a contract with no performance measures and no provision for holding him accountable. In fact, under his current contract if fired, the city manager receives a full year salary. Who would not love a contract like that? In my opinion this perversion of the city council/city manager relationship is the root cause of so many failed and unpopular directions taken in recent years that has changed our city in a direction most of the citizens don’t want and which has cost us tax dollars spent towards goals and projects that rarely succeed, and which most of us do not want!

The city manager has been asked to update council on a weekly basis and refuses to do so. The city manager was asked to update citizens on the long-drawn-out water billing issues and refused to do so. The city manager does not keep council or citizens updated. Those are just a few of the issues and even with that, the Mayor and former council member Pugh led the council to give him two more years of the same contract with no provisions or performance measures. Additionally, my opponent voted for the city manager to receive a contract for two more years.

The second part of the question regarding holding staff accountable is not currently possible because a majority of the current city council is unwilling to do so or are satisfied with the current direction of the city , which is apparently operating against the will of the majority of citizens in Kennedale. I will work to change this.

It is the city council’s duty to provide oversight and direction to the city manager and hold him accountable for the results. Until we have a new city council and a new city manager, nothing will or can change.

The city manager should be given directives that include specific performance items measuring each objective, benchmarks, and provisions for poor performance towards the objectives. This is the same model by which most of us function in our jobs. It is fair and efficient and ensures that the work is completed to a high standard.

 

7. Communications – please respond by April 8, 2021

If a constituent emails you a question or comment on an issue about which you disagree and asks you for a response, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not?

 

As an elected official for all citizens, whether I agree with them or not, I have a responsibility to respond to them in a transparent and timely fashion.

All citizens deserve a response if requested. Many of the emails and phone calls I received while serving on council from 2017 through 2019 were related to problems with city issues that needed my intercession to achieve escalation or additional directives. That is one of the many ways we can help our citizens and is our duty as their representative. I believe it would be a good practice if all council, including the mayor, responded to all constituents’ inquiries.

 

8. Issue – please respond by April 15, 2021

What is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why?

 

Kennedale’s most important issue is that our form of government is upside down. How it is supposed to work is the citizens elect council members as their representatives. The elected council members then direct the city manager, and through him his staff, to accomplish the goals and serve the needs of the citizens. Kennedale, however, does not currently function this way.

Currently, the city manager runs the city with the purpose to satisfy his goals, not the goals of the people who live and work in Kennedale. With notable exceptions, the city council is subservient to him and rubber stamps what is put in front of them. Until this changes, property taxes will continue to rapidly increase in order to fund projects that most of the citizens do not want.

Updating the Comprehensive Plan is a part of correcting the upside-down government in Kennedale. The Comprehensive Plan is a long-range blueprint of the direction for land use, businesses and parks proposed for the city that outlines planning, zoning and budgeting. The current Comprehensive Plan was developed in 2009 by UTA students and modified somewhat in 2012, and it is way overdue for modifications to ensure that it is an up-to-date plan that reflects the direction that Kennedale’s citizens want for the city’s growth. It is my opinion that this is the reason many businesses have left Kennedale and why some businesses can’t get in Kennedale.

The current Comprehensive Plan pushes urbanization and high-density housing that is destroying what is unique about Kennedale-- the “small-town” atmosphere that draws people to Kennedale in the first place. Most Kennedale residents to whom I have spoken state that they want to preserve the small-town atmosphere of Kennedale with suburban developments, not urbanization.

Despite what we are told by the city administration, urbanization is costing you; it is not reducing the cost for the average Kennedale resident to continue to live in Kennedale. Look at the increase in your property tax bills over the last 10 years. Kennedale has experienced approximately a 40% rate of growth in the last decade. During that same time period, the taxes that Kennedale residents are paying have increased a whopping 60%! With that much growth, Kennedale residents should have seen their taxes decrease, not increase. This is powerful evidence that the urbanization model pushed so aggressively by city staff DOES NOT WORK.

I think we have seen more than enough high-density development in Kennedale. Moving forward, we need to concentrate on preserving what most of us love about Kennedale and work to ensure that Kennedale property taxes do not unnecessarily increase more and, hopefully, are reduced in the near future. To accomplish this, we need to correct the “upside-down” model of government that currently exists in Kennedale, ensure that the city council represents the needs and wishes of Kennedale residents and make the city manager and staff answerable to the council and through them, the residents.

 

 

 

 

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