Saturday, October 27, 2012

Class on Classes



I am highly concerned about the article I read in last Wednesday’s Wylie News, School district receives donations.  In the article it states that out of 13,000 students, there are 4,000 that qualify for reduced lunches.  That number represents roughly 30.7%, or let’s use our rounding skills and call it an even 31%.  Now count in those students that qualify for reduced fee lunches but don’t sign up because they don’t want their children to feel the stigma of poverty, and please let’s not make any pretentions about this because we all know this sigma exists, then I believe we can state that roughly 1/3 of Wylie’s students are living at or barely above poverty and are most certainly not as well off as the other 2/3 of us.

This 31% number is truly disconcerting. Throughout my blog posts, I’ve pointed out all sorts of options that the City of Wylie could take to help ease the burden of Wylie’s citizens, but for the longest time that either fell on deaf ears, or worse yet was laughed at by some of the more ridiculous and insensitive members of the 2/3 of Wylie’s financially better off citizens.  I’m sure those that are struggling in Wylie must have appreciated that the ‘haves’ could laugh at the notion that cutting taxes by 1% would be enough for them to buy 1 pizza a month.  For someone who needs that 1 pizza a month, it is no laughing matter.   

Ultimately one of my notions that Wylie truly has a problem and the high taxes might be a contributing force has finally been accepted, well sort of.  Let’s face it, the people that have been sitting on the Wylie City Council are considerably more elite than those taking the reduced fee meal plans.  We equate intelligence and sound decision-making skills with higher incomes, well high enough to afford what it takes to run a successful campaign anyway, but income doesn’t really parallel any sign of cogent thought or sound decision-making skills. 

This laundry list of Council men and women of past and present have routinely thought only one-dimensionally.  The nearly annual continuation that higher taxes meant they can spend more was the height of insanity.  The perpetuation of allowing their buddy developers to ram in a sea of mediocre homes was just plain dumb.  All of these identical rooftops will never net the city the roughly $235-250K home tax assessment needed to break even.  This home value is critical because it is the minimum needed just to break even and stop costing the City of Wylie money to service those homes.  Most people have no idea that it actually costs the City money to provide every home in Wylie with basic services, such as tidy and smooth sidewalks and streets, clean and safe parks, safety and protection by our fire and police, and communications, just to name a few.  Sadly, most of Wylie’s homes are and will be incapable of breaking even for the City’s outlay of cash just to maintain their very existence for a very long time in the future.  

Many citizens complained about the high taxes in Wylie for years finally to the point that the City Council relented.  In 2013 your taxes will go down by 1 cent per $100 valuation of your home.  For those self-centered people who laughed at that idea, I hope they never know what it is like to be one of those students swiping their free or reduced meal card in the food line.  To be honest, I hope they take that extra pizza and shove it. 

Throughout the years, our Mayor Eric Hogue has lamented on the high taxes.  Yet he still perpetuated the problem and refused to address the citizen’s pleas to lower taxes, that is until this year when I heard he lost his job and discovered that, gee there might be something to this lower tax thing after all.  I certainly don’t wish Mayor Hogue ill will because the struggle of losing a job and having to seek a new one in this economy truly sucks, however I suspect he has already found something else or will soon because he has some incredible assets to bring to the table.  Yet I cannot somehow help but feel this was probably a good thing to knock one predisposed or perhaps nudged into elitist thinking down a notch. 

Since we were successful in getting the City of Wylie to respond to our pleas to begin the process of reducing taxes over the next several years, we now continue on the task to get them to understand what previous councils have done to this City.  Up until the last year or so, council still approved developer after developer traipsing in front of them and proposing smaller lot sizes so they can increase their profits.  For some reason this group of councilmembers, thought to possess some sort of choice intellectual standard, were sitting on their brains and routinely passing whatever it was the developers wanted, nary any compunction whatsoever. 

Councilmembers like David Goss and Bennie Jones abhorred the idea but were outvoted by the masses.  Oh and the citizens lapped it all up because after all, these oh so brilliant people we voted in had our collective backs or so we thought.  It wasn’t until a year ago when Councilwoman Diane Culver stepped in and stopped one developer dead in their tracks.  She had the audacity to tell the developer they could have the increased lots they were coveting, however she stipulated the percent of homes that had to be specific sizes.  I think I heard an audible gasp from some of the Councilmembers as they stared at her with gaping mouths.  Could she really do that?  Absolutely.  Finally, someone who gets it.  We tell them how it’s going to be; they don’t get to tell us.

By showing that it is OK to push back, Wylie’s current leaders are making strong demands as to what they expect out of the little bit of land that is left in Wylie to build on.  Good on them.  By drawing in higher income families, we can draw in additional spending power, and draw in better quality retailers than that icky Ross store and a plethora of fast food chains.  Increasing spending within our own city, rather than perpetuating the necessity to run to Firewheel or elsewhere for our shopping needs, increases tax dollars in our own city which equates in increased revenue to the City of Wylie. 

Take the idea that we have the potential of bringing in better quality of homeowners who own homes that don’t cost the City of Wylie money because they are appraised at more than the $250K magic number, and couple that with increased spending power of wealthier people which nets the City an increase in tax revenue, and attach that to the fact that we learned in the previous week that the Woodbridge center did not live up to their end of the bargain when the WEDC negotiated getting them here, which has now created a windfall of $6M less the City of Wylie has to abate out of our tax revenue over the next 6 years, and we have a potential recipe for success.  Let’s hope our City leaders don’t fall back into their previous habits and spend it all willy nilly. 

Lowering the taxes certainly will not help those lower income families in Wylie who are renting, but not all of them are renters. Lowering the taxes enough to pay for a pizza for a family of 4 each month and multiplying that times 4 as we continue to ask the City of Wylie to lower our taxes by 1 cent every year for the next 4 years, will go a long way in assisting Wylie’s low income families.

Helping to stop the influx of low income families to Wylie is key in assisting WISD’s plight.  We certainly cannot push these lower income types out of Wylie.  Such a practice would be akin to sending every illegal back to their country, which is not possible, nor prudent, and hardly humane.  Drawing in higher income types to help offset what has already been done is the key.  As a community, we assist them by lowering their taxes, taking steps to improve their home values, and as long as they are not of the mindset that they deserve a free ride, they should grow and prosper.  We must remember that their responsibility does not fall on all citizens directly, but indirectly by the policies of our leaders.

There are some basic economic principles which are important for our leaders to consider.  We know that home values increase when taxes are decreased.  We know that the more people spend within Wylie, the more tax revenue the City will have.  We know that reducing taxes means more money to spend in citizen’s pockets.  We know that in order to draw a better quality of retailer, we need to prove our home values and income levels can sustain them. 

Now if the WEDC is touting a median income in Wylie of $86K for a household of 4 in order to woo new businesses here, then something doesn’t jive with that 31% of students on the free or reduced fee meal plan.  That would mean there are some very high incomes offsetting all these very low incomes.  Or that would mean that almost every household in Wylie with two incomes make roughly $43K each per year, or in a one income household make $80K per year.  I don’t see that as a viable likelihood, especially with the increasing numbers of students qualifying for the reduced fee meal plan. Again, something doesn’t make sense with the quality of retail.  Either our demographics cannot support anything better than discount stores, or the WEDC isn’t doing their job.  This is a situation that has to be considered in order for Wylie to get any looksees from better quality retailers, hence the probable reason we have a glut of retail focused on serving lower income households in Wylie. 

I know there is always a facet of naysayers who claim this problem in WISD is in someone else’s backyard.  We cannot blame the low income students on all those communities whose children attend Wylie but don’t actually live in Wylie.  If you think that the students in Sachse, Murphy, and Parker are bringing down the median income levels of the students in Wylie, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  Though the good schools in Wylie are certainly a draw, it is incumbent on the City of Wylie to uphold some basic standards in order to help build the basis of what feeds into WISD and not the other way around.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate 101



Debate 101: Behaving like a playground bully does not win a debate. Defendable records do. If Obama thought his record was defendable, he would not have needed his snarky one line zingers. In my opinion, at tonight’s debate Obama was left rolling in the mud...all alone.

Is it me or did the split screen do absolutely nothing to help Obama out tonight?  I mean if darts could come out of your eyes, Obama would have had bayonets, and he would have had flames coming out of his butt too.  He wiggled about at times and I had to wonder if he was puckering or if he merely forgot to apply some Preparation H before the debate.

Several things were clear to me tonight.  When Romney brought up the concept of a weak economy being a great threat to our national security, Obama pulled a Zepelin and seemed dazed and confused.  Obama talked about teachers. When Romney set him straight on his auto industry bankruptcy comments, Obama lied.  Teachers came up again. When Romney discussed Iran and Israel, you guessed it, Obama talked about teachers again. When Obama announced sequestration wouldn’t happen, he lied and the Whitehouse has been backpedaling since.  The buffoon.   I suppose if all else fails, change the subject or come out snarling like a rabid dog.  When all has been said and done, Romney’s statements have been fact-checked as accurate and Obama’s, well, Bellvue checked them as straight jacket psychotic as usual. 

Obama found he was about to lose a battle and it manifested in him tossing mud.  I wonder why he thought he needed to behave like a juvenile because he looked petty and unprofessional and unpresidential. I have been wondering if you can tell when Obama is lying through his castanet type blinking.  It would have made some good music if his eyelids clacked.  In fact, I wonder if someone will do a study and attempt to correlate eye blinks to lies.  Blink once for truth and twice for lie.  At night it’s called rapid eye movement or REM during deep sleep; during an Obama debate it’s called Morse Code or SOS. 

After assessing the debate it is clear that Obama jumped into the mud pit even though it was unnecessary, hoping Romney would follow.  Romney rose above to the leadership role  and Obama was left to wrangle that old hallucinated mud monster all by his lonesome. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Can We Turn Around?



I am finding that I have a love hate relationship with the City of Wylie lately.  I have been poised tonight to write a scathing blog about the state of Ross and Rack Room Shoes in Wylie but I also wanted to say some nice things about some other shops in Wylie.

I waited until the hoopla of the grand opening was fairly over before I ventured into Ross and Rack Room Shoes.  To be honest, I wish I hadn’t.  On my way into Ross my first reaction was to sidestep a guard bedazzled with a Loss Prevention badge who stood right in the doorway entrance.  I wondered why as I looked at rows of cheap crap from China hanging on the racks.  We were there 30 seconds and my husband wanted to leave immediately.  I told him to be patient as I wanted to survey what they had.  I found many racks in the home department that were empty and what was there was uninspiring.  As I walked past the clothes, making a loop around the store, I saw nothing but garbage and they were shopping for nothing but garbage.  I was never so unimpressed with a store and its clientele before.  In fact, unimpressive was an understatement.

After we left Ross, the hubs got the bright idea of heading over to Rack Room Shoes and I told him I had heard he shouldn’t get his expectations up much over Ross. One of my friends told me it was also unimpressive.   As soon as I entered, I began scratching my head while looking at men’s Madden shoes  listed for $39.  Um, I don’t think so.  Every time I’ve bought Maddens, they have been well over $100.  I decided to investigate and as I picked up shoe after shoe and lifted the tongue and read the label, the shoes appeared to be of inferior quality to my taste, stating they were “part leather, part man made upper” or “all man made upper”.  It appeared to me that Rack Room Shoes was full of nothing but imposters parading as expensive.  In my opinion, the shoes and boots amounted to nothing more than more cheap crap from China that is made to inferior levels so they can sell it for dirt cheap at the discount stores as compared to the higher quality styles sold in the more upscale stores.  Personally, I think Rack Room Shoes was barely a step up from Payless Shoes and frankly, I was annoyed at our WEDC for pushing to get this crap in Wylie. 

We left the stores as quickly as we came in and on the way out my husband said, “If this is the demographics of Wylie that these stores are targeting, then we need to get the hell out of here.”  I guess you could all us snobs because I found the atmosphere with an ‘in your face’ security guard  making sure nobody steals the cheap as dirt stuff to be a real put off and to be honest, I won’t be back.

After Wylie’s newest discount stores left me completely untittilated, I made my way to the high school to pick up my son from Tech Theatre.  I forgot we were to help put up posters for the show, Dearly Beloved, which they have been working on for hours every day after school and on Saturdays.  As luck would have it, we were assigned the very same area of stores that we had gladly left behind in the rear view mirror. 

I lamented the state of Ross to my son on the way back down 544.  Yet wouldn’t you know that once we made our way back to the area, store after store agreed to allow my son to put the poster in their windows?  I was amazed at the outpouring of support for our students from these shops in Woodbridge.  Mooya, Waikiki Nail Spa, Grand China Buffet, Yogurt Cup, Interstate All Battery Center, Great Clips, Visionworks and on the way home, Payless Cleaners on Country Club.  I'm sure many other stores also allowed the posters from the other theater students.  These stores didn’t say no to a teenager walking in with an armload of posters and a chest full of enthusiasm.  For their support of theatre arts, we are terribly grateful. 

Conversely, I’m angry as hell at some of Wylie’s past and present leaders for allowing the cash for cheap trash stores we have all over the place.  I’m angry as well at all the ugly metal buildings and boring boxy homes.  I wish our previous leaders and the current WEDC would have thought about the big picture and legacy they would be leaving behind.   

Yet in spite of the current lackluster housing and discount shopping in Wylie, I feel as though I finally have something to be hopeful about.  I am happy that those currently seated on our Wylie City Council are amenable to pushing for better quality homes, better quality shopping, and better quality citizens. I hope they mean what they have recently said at their council meetings.  I hope they live up to the expectations they placed in the hearts of many. 

Wylie has a long way to go if we would like to be known as a high class, high quality city, but if our City leaders play their cards right, they might just be able to overcome the cheap cookie cutter home and big box discount headquarters we have become in recent years. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that our City leaders rethink their previous stance and are able to turn Wylie around for the better.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wylie is Home



I’ll admit it, I have been very hard on Wylie’s leaders.  I have not always seen eye to eye with their policies and decisions.  I also dislike the vanilla quality of homes built here and the vanilla same ole’ people that migrated here to fill those homes.  I don’t like the massive bunching of lower and middle class families in one area which our inexpensive housing brought. I don’t like that Wylie doesn’t have much in the way of a socio-economic spread like many of the surrounding cities do.  It makes for a lack of diversity in that realm.  I don’t like that the traffic is terrible now and the lights not being timed are a real cluster.  I don’t like the school zones on 1378 that start, stop, start, stop, stop and start again as nobody knows what the hell is going on and when they are supposed to go slow or not.  I don’t like the doofuses that make U-turns in areas that should really be marked No U-Turn.  I don’t like the violent crime that has crept in lately.  I don’t like that there are no homes for me to ‘move up’ into.  Most important, I don’t like how far away Wylie is from jobs.    For all the things I don’t like Wylie for, I have been seriously contemplating a move. 

Recently, I’ve been forced to look at Wylie in a different perspective and I have been reminded of all the reasons why I fell in love with Wylie and why I chose to live here so many years ago.  My husband and his mother and step-father moved to Texas in 1984 from Brooklyn, NY.  They set up house in Plano.  I came along from Detroit in 1991 and we married in 1993.  In 2000 we decided we had enough of Plano and wanted out.  We spent many a Saturday driving around the countryside.  Wylie topped our list of cute little communities with a commute that was manageable.     We got here as quickly as we could in 2001.

In 2002, the in-laws couldn’t stand the drive to Wylie to see their grandkids, so they decided to buy a house 1 block away.  Then we started in on my sister-in-law who was living in Ithaca, NY at the time.  She and her daughter moved to Wylie in 2006 and are several blocks away.  With my husband’s family nearly complete, we began working on my brother-in-law who lives in Queens, NY. 

He and his family came to Wylie to visit last summer and it was then that we were told he was working on transferring his job to Texas.  His wife asked where they should live and my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, husband, and I all said not in Wylie because the taxes are too high.  As a group we were fairly resolute.

Yesterday we celebrated my youngest son’s 17th birthday and it took my step-father-in-law to point out that the best thing we could do is to sell Wylie to them.  It made us pause for a few minutes as we wondered if he had lost his cotton-picking mind.  Then we got to discussing this and as it turns out, all the things I don’t like Wylie for really work in my brother-in-law’s favor. 

He needs inexpensive housing and they are dying to buy their very first house after having to raise 8 year old twins in a 4 story walk-up.  Wylie has that in abundance.  They need family close to help them out as they start this new and scary endeavor.  Well, Wylie owns all of us so far.  They need good schools for their kids to attend as they don’t want to put them in private school and Wylie definitely has great schools.  With every school my sons attended in Wylie, I loved the teachers more and more. Wylie has some of the most amazing teachers.  After we discussed everything Wylie has to offer my in-laws, it was decided that Wylie would indeed be the best option for them and we needed to talk Wylie up. 

I cannot guarantee they will move here, but we will certainly try.  In light of all of this, how can I move out of Wylie now that we have coerced my husband’s whole family into moving here?  I’m not sure if Wylieites are ready for the New Yorkers and I’m not sure the New Yorkers  are ready for Wylie, but either way I have been reminded of all the reasons why I call Wylie home.