Thelma Kobeck, Candidate for Kennedale Place 2

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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?

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

This was a very poor decision. To begin, Hammock Creek was first brought to the then-Council for approval of a government grant to assist with building the development. The developer touted the development as a mixed-use development that would include retail, restaurants, etc., and even verbally promised to pay for the widening/improving of Kennedale Sublett Road and any related infrastructure needs (I was present at the meeting). When it became obvious that many Kennedale residents opposed the development, the developer threatened to sue Council members and the City of Kennedale if his request was not approved. One Council member was even directly threatened with a lawsuit if she did not recuse herself. Ultimately, the development was approved, but what was actually constructed was nothing like what was promised. The developer, to my knowledge did not pay for any improvements to the infrastructure, the retail portion of the development NEVER materialized, the apartment buildings themselves were stories higher than originally reported (I’m sure the residents of the adjacent properties really appreciate how this impacts their privacy in their own homes and yards), and the valuation of the property is millions of dollars LESS than we were told it would be (just under $7 million instead of the promised $40 to $50 million). The fact that a developer was able to use threats and coercion to force a Council to approve a development set a dangerous precedent for any future developments that may be unpopular in the city. The fact that this particular developer has a documented bad history in the DFW area and had NEVER built a mixed-use development before makes this situation worse. Next, consider how the Hammock Creek development has affected the traffic issues in this area. Kennedale Sublett Road is a very narrow road that now winds between Emerald Hills Cemetery and the Hammock Creek Apartments. It was already becoming congested before the construction of this development. There are about 112 units in the development. Assuming for a moment that each of those units is inhabited and that each units’ inhabitants has just one vehicle, that automatically adds 112 vehicles entering and exiting Kennedale Sublett Road just before it connects to Kennedale Parkway. The construction of this development has exacerbated an already problematic traffic issue that is only likely to get worse. Then there is the issue of tax revenue being generated by this property. If the property had, in fact, been a $40 to $50 million then the drain on the infrastructure costs might not have been so much of a problem. However, the revenue for this development for the City of Kennedale is just under $47,000 per year. That hardly makes it a good value for the City of Kennedale considering the headaches it has caused.

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

This was another poor decision, albeit in some ways not as financially costly for the city. Again, just like with the previously discussed development, the developer promised one thing and built another thing. The buildings in the Alta development were supposed to be only two stories high. I am sure that the residents in the previously quiet residential area adjacent to this development have not been thrilled with the invasion to their privacy in their own homes and properties by the taller buildings. In addition, there have been problems with traffic in the area and more notably, a marked increase in crime in the area. While much of the infrastructure drain in terms of water and sewer from Alta has been absorbed by the City of Arlington, Kennedale has borne the brunt of the drain on infrastructure in terms of police and other emergency services.

In short, I would hope that after these two poor decisions, Kennedale will be more deliberate when considering developments of this sort.


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?

Being the third highest taxing city of the 41 cities in Tarrant County is absolutely NOT something that the citizens of Kennedale “must learn to accept” because it is simply unacceptable. However, there are some viable potential solutions that would alleviate the tax burden on the citizens of Kennedale.

Most importantly, the council must remember that it has a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Kennedale. That means that EVERY budget-related decision needs to be carefully considered. A budget needs to be set and the city must work within that budget. Tax monies need to be spent wisely. Projects must be identified and prioritized, budgeted for, and then the council needs to engage in careful oversight. Staff should regularly report back about the progress of budgeted projects—including the status of monies spent—on a specific schedule. City departments should be reporting about budget status at least every six months and quarterly if necessary. Further, when the annual budget is set, there should also be a goal set for the budget to actually be a specific percentage LESS than the anticipated tax monies that will be received from the taxpayers. That unbudgeted money should be placed in a reserve fund. When the city has a reserve fund, it becomes possible to lower the tax burden on the citizens.

Also, the city needs to actively recruit businesses to move to Kennedale. The city needs to work with businesses to assist with getting those businesses “up and running.” If Kennedale gains a reputation for being a city that welcomes business growth, more business owners will want to move to Kennedale. When more businesses move to Kennedale, people will have more opportunities to “buy local” and more people who live outside of Kennedale are likely to come to Kennedale to spend money, thus generating sales tax revenue.

Bear in mind that this is a process; it doesn’t happen overnight. However, by exercising fiduciary responsibility, spending wisely, engaging in careful and thorough oversight, and recruiting businesses to move to Kennedale, the tax burden on Kennedale citizens could be alleviated.


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 a good, albeit limited idea. The intention of adopting the moratorium was to give the council time to devise a plan for addressing the issues of the outdated, insufficient and crumbling infrastructure.

Unfortunately, any efforts that were made by the sitting council at that time did not continue to be addressed after the composition of the council changed; new council members did not support infrastructure improvements over adding rooftops. Further, while the moratorium could have been extended, the council did not opt to do so.

In conclusion, the moratorium was a good idea, but was not utilized as effectively as it could have been. The council should have used the opportunity provided by the moratorium to prioritize and follow through with critical infrastructure improvements and should have extended the moratorium as necessary.


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?

To begin, the extension to Little Road is a good idea because it will ultimately help alleviate traffic issues by providing an additional access point to New Hope Road and should address issues caused by trains blocking crossings. What is NOT a good idea about this decision is that the council prevented the citizens from having any say on this by issuing certificates of obligation rather than issuing general obligation bonds approved by voters.

As I understand it, a CO (certificate of obligation) allows local governments to fund projects that require quick financing, (e.g., in the event of needed reconstruction after a disaster or in response to a legal decision that mandates capital spending, etc.) That does not apply to this project.

Now, Kennedale taxpayers will pay $800,000 to $900,000 PER YEAR for the next 20 years or so to cover this debt.

However, there may be bigger issues with this council decision. While the Little Road extension project was apparently important enough to warrant it being changed from a general obligation bond funded project to a certificate of obligation funded project, it is NOT important enough for the council to complete the process for getting to work on it. There are several steps in the process when a project is funded by certificates of obligation. The council has completed the first step of this process (announcing the intent to issue the debt) but has not completed any of the other steps. If this project was so important that the council decided, by a 3-2 vote, that the taxpayers did not need to have a say, then why has the council NOT finished the process? Why the delay? And could this money been put to better use by improving existing roads in the city?


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?

If a constituent sent an email, or telephoned or texted me regarding a Kennedale issue I will definitely respond. If the issue was important enough for a resident to contact me, then it is important enough for me to respond. I will first contact the constituent to clarify my understanding of the issue. Once I am sure that my understanding about the issue is clear, I will contact the mayor, the city manager, and other council members and anyone else as the situation necessitates, unless I am able to handle the issue myself. It is important that this proceed past the “we are discussing this” phase. I will make every effort to determine what can be done to address the issue and ensure that the issue is addressed, and I will also follow up to ensure that no one “drops the ball”. If the issue calls for it, then I will work to get it on the city council agenda. I would also communicate with the constituent to let that person know what is being done to address the issue and a timeline for completion. Since it is always advisable to have documentation of any communication, I would prefer to communicate by email, even if the constituent initially contacted me by some other method.

Council members are the representative voices of the residents of Kennedale. In order to represent the residents, we must listen to and communicate with them and take action on their behalf when called upon to do so.


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 Kennedale City Council is facing many important issues—infrastructure problems, an out-of-control budget that has resulted in residents being outrageously taxed, etc. However, perhaps the most important issue that the city council is currently facing is that they have disconnected from the residents and have resorted to making decisions “in the best interests of the city” rather than listening to the people who should really be holding the reins of power: the residents of Kennedale. Compounding that issue is a pervasive viewpoint by some people in decision-making and leadership positions within the city that “there are just some things that the residents don’t need to know.” These are dangerous positions for city leaders to hold as it indicates that they have moved away from being responsible representatives of the residents and have moved toward a self-image of being in power.

As for my suggestions for addressing this issue, I have two things to present.

First, if you agree with my perspective, then vote to change things. The right and responsibility to vote is the best way to effect change in your community. If you as a resident are seeing these and other troubling issues, then exercise your vote to make a difference.

Second, I cannot change other people, but if elected, I can make sure that I remind myself every day that I represent the residents and that I have a responsibility to make decisions that the residents want made. The city, the city council, and the city government would not exist if it wasn’t for the residents. If elected, I will ensure that I maintain that sacred trust that the residents place in me and that I make decisions based on what the residents want, even if I personally hold a different view.