The Signal is Always Greener on the Other Side

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Ever wonder why the people of Wylie often have hostile resting faces? I've got the answer - traffic lights.

What is with the traffic lights in Wylie along 544? I feel like I am in traffic hell every time I have the displeasure of driving down that road. There are so many lights that during rush-hour traffic, you had better be in your designated lane because heaven help you if you need to change lanes before the next traffic light stops the mass. Hells, you barely get moving before you get stopped again. Every intersection brings a new Dr. Seuss chorus of, "Big F, little f what begins with F?"
Dr. Seuss

At any given time of the day, cars are stopped at every light along the route, even during rush hour when drivers are forced to close their eyes, hold their breath and change lanes, hoping they make it before the flood is stopped yet again. And with every new business that goes in with expansion, we add a new light of terror - yippee.

It's not like this is new or anything and we are waiting for them to fix the lights after recent construction; this has gone on for years.

I'm not alone in my irritation either, because I often see people at the front of the line making jackrabbit starts and speeding in an attempt to make it past the next light. Gee, and I thought traffic lights were supposed to help manage traffic and keep people safe? Silly me.

The lights have become the butt of many a social media joke over the years as well. Seriously, do our city administrators not travel the same roads we do? Kind of seems like they don't.

Still, even if the city was not responsible for the lights, it is well within their power to do something about it. Even in the countrified town of Lavon, they called TxDOT to manage their lights during construction and accidents on 78 to help their people out. And hey, TxDOT can be very responsive too. Honestly, it's not rocket science.

The lights are beyond ridiculous. I swear, it's like running the gauntlet and Wylie's working citizens are the one's being flogged.

Just in case you have not heard, lights are often set to force traffic to stop and perhaps entice drivers to shop at the array of stores flanking each stoplight. Yup, it's a thing.

Newsflash: Wylie is not a boutique destination, it's a, "I have a list and I need to get in and out of the Target big box store before I pick up the kids after school," kind of destination and the lights are not helping the people out. The lights are just pissing them off and adding to those scowl lines.

Whatever the trick, it's annoying, unproductive and wasting gas, and it's not parting people with their money when they would potentially have to negotiate six lanes of heavy traffic to make it into one of those stores.

Adding to the conundrum, Wylie is welcoming the new Collin College campus on Country Club along with additional traffic from 4000+ students, but they can't even get something as simple as a traffic light right, let alone two or three traffic lights.

Oh man, and don't even get me started about Country Club where, you guessed it, the few lights are also timed to stop you at every one of them. For progress in Wylie we certainly aren't very advanced when it comes to traffic management.

If you want to see how lights are done right, just take a drive down California's streets. With the butt-load of cars, their lights are not on timers. When a car approaches a light and there is nobody around, it changes just as the car approaches and then quickly changes back to green for the main road. Imagine that?

If there is nobody in the left turn lane, that light doesn't signal and make others wait for it to cycle through either. Oh, and in some areas after rush hour in the evening many of the lights turn to flashing yellow for the main artery, since a light is really useless when traffic is low.

And this was all back in the '80s when I lived there. So if loony Californians could figure that out thirty years ago wouldn't you think Wylie could figure that out now, bless our little hearts.

These simple traffic management strategies are the antithesis of lights in Texas where a completely deserted Country Club road could still promise a long wait at 10:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, despite Wylie's example of un-timed lights which can still stop you for irritatingly long lengths of time around town.

For goodness sake, even if someone approaches to turn right at one of our lights, it changes for them even after they are long gone. And let's not even get started on the left turn lights that allow two to three cars through during the lunch hour at 544 and Country Club, when an entire traffic line exists that would rival rush hour traffic. How stupid is that?

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Still, if you want to promote Wylie, and you know it's so flipping far off the beaten path, why would you want to make the commute out of town to jobs and then back in again a virtual nightmare? Wouldn't you want to hasten people in and welcome them to your bosom? Even Preston Road from Plano to Richardson to Dallas gets it right, and if any road in Dallas had more shopping available to entice drivers, it's that road.

Wylie has taken a play right out of the playbook of those liberal areas like New York and Washington DC  where the dingle-berries believe access for bicyclists, pedestrians and a leisurely downtown shopping trip are in order rather than ease of getting home to your family so maybe, just maybe you can, uh, eat together before the kiddos run to soccer practice. Oh no, they want to part you from your dollars, your family and evidently your greenhouse gas emissions, while complaining about gas guzzling vehicles and our ozone disappearing. Um, hello?

Any way you look at it, the light situation is completely asinine when there is nothing worth stopping and looking at. We look silly and unless the lights are changed to something reasonable, our stony demeanor isn't going away anytime soon.

We may be one of the best places to live according to a couple of magazines, but we certainly aren't one of the most logical.

Donald Trump's New Clothes

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I knew nothing good could come from supporting Donald Trump in the primaries, which is why I went full force for Ted Cruz. But people whined that they didn't like Cruz's staunch supporters, they thought he was polarizing, they didn't like that he changed his mind on a couple of things such as TPA. Um ya, after his constituents blasted him for trusting the DC cartel after which he realized the error of his ways. At least he didn't change his mind on critical aspects, gee, like his entire platform.

Cruz would have been infinitely better than the current twat we have running as a Republican.

I wrote previously that there was no way to round up millions of illegals and caravan them out of the country. Turns out, he must have realized that too because Trump is now backing off his harsh anti-illegal talk

Remember when Trump first made his rounds? Last September, in grandiose sweeps and pounding fists, he exclaimed to the world that he would build the wall and remove all of those pesky illegals. In fact, there was a run on the primary election booth last March as record numbers of people turned out to the polls to vote for that fairy tale. They turned out because they were sick of the illegal alien problem in this country and how much it is costing taxpayers

There was so much talk at that time, from people like Jeff Sessions, and even Pete Sessions who barnacled himself to Jeff in one of his primary fliers on illegal immigration. Where did all that strong talk go? Yup, I thought so. Crickets.

Where Trump strong-armed the public into voting for him because of his stance on illegal aliens, now, not so much. Believe him.

Now, all those people who ran to the polls, relaxed their tea party principles and even bad-mouthed conservatives who refused to buy into the bullditty, are now finding out why the rest of us did not want Trump. He's a moderate. The emperor has changed his clothes on national television, and it's embarrassing. 

The illegal alien problem did not suddenly go away. But Trump's tough talk sure did.

For those Trumpheads who turned away from Cruz, I told you so. Oh, and thanks for putting us in this pickle as polls across the country show the Hilldabeast ahead of Trump by double digits. 

One would think after eight years and running losers against the Democrats that Republicans would have learned. 

Republicans, you had one job. 

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Going to Pot - Legalizing Marijuana in Texas

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I have a lot of friends, even conservatives ones, who are all about legalized marijuana. Some are even on the fence about it. After all, it's not much unlike alcohol or cigarettes so why not tax the crap out of it and bring in some additional revenue? As an added benefit, why not put the drug lords out of business? There is a flip side to all of this bud goodness, and it isn't pretty.

To be honest, I never really had much of an opinion about legalized marijuana, that is until I went to Colorado Springs last week for our summer vacation. It certainly wasn't the first time I had been there, but I do recall people being a whole lot more fit and health conscious in the past. Now? Not so much.

I was taken aback during this visit by the number of smokers, fat people, panhandlers and those just passed out in the park. If that isn't enough to tell you legalizing the wacky tobacky will cost taxpayers dearly, I don't know what is.

These loosers were everywhere. Nearly every corner had someone with a sign. Up and down the streets brought dozens of glass-eyed panhandlers sitting on benches, lying on the street corner or sitting on brick half-walls.

There was even an entire group of completely able-bodied people holding signs and lying down on the center median just outside the Old Downtown area. Next to them lay a guitar.

There were people passed out in the park, lying on the grass while on grass. They would even come up to people and ask them for money.

One guy we passed on Tejon Street held a sign that said, "I'm not gonna lie, I want $ for weed." Well at least he's honest about it.

It's disgraceful and it is well beyond what a reasonable person might expect, considering what we already know about the homeless and alcoholics.

Most of these people did not appear to be homeless, nor unfit for work; they just don't want to do the work necessary to make their own money. They would rather lie down doped up on a street corner and hold a sign and a cup. Less effort while they come down from the last high.

Oh sure, the people there are super friendly, like they used to be in Dallas back in the day. What's not to be happy about when you are sitting on the street corner, all mellow yellow, and living on the dole?

Meanwhile, your liberal policy-makers are happy to rake in the additional revenue and turn a blind eye to the increasing scourge that is taking over a once beautiful and healthy city.  This year in June alone, they took in nearly $17 million in taxes, licenses and fees. They are up 63.8% over this month last year.

Another byproduct of a lazy, doped up population is lower wages and prices. Frankly, we found the prices of everything in the city to be extremely low, compared to Dallas. I suspect that is because they are desperate to make a sale, what with so many people not working and all. When a city has a highly paid workforce, they can command more money for products and services. Just take a gander at the price tags in downtown McKinney's boutiques and you'll see what I mean.

Yet boutique after boutique, we found nothing but bargains from Colorado Springs, to Manitou Springs, to Denver.

What little in ordinances against panhandling exist, at least they are happy panhandlers. Clearly, liberal policies completely deincentivize people to work and if I were to dig deeper, I would bet most of these panhandlers are on welfare as well.

From their own handout on panhandlers, the City of Colorado Springs admits most are not homeless and cost taxpayers in emergency services for drug and alcohol use.
"Guidelines for dealing with panhandlers:
  • DO answer requests for money with a firm NO 
  • DO treat people with respect, realizing that only a small portion of panhandlers are actually homeless 
  • DO offer information on where they can get help, including the Springs Rescue Mission, Marian House, Urban Peak and ESM 
  • DO make donations to organizations that have a proven track record of helping the homeless 
  • DO contact your City Council representative with your concerns 
  • DON’T give money or food
  • DON’T allow anyone to camp on your property 
  • DON’T allow anyone to store shopping carts, bedding or other personal belongings on your property 
  • DON’T assume you’re making a difference when you give to panhandlers
In El Paso County, a $5 handout can cost more than $2900 in emergency services from police, fire,and medical response when that handout is used for drugs or alcohol." 
Is this something to aspire to in Texas?  No thank you.

For those of you thinking that legalizing marijuana might not be such a bad thing, you need to think again.

Caprock Canyon's Rock Star

Photo credit: D. Beard
I have a new favorite rock star. Meet Donald Beard, the park superintendent of Caprock Canyon State Park. Actually, he is my Caprock star. Ok, ok, so that was a bit corny. But seriously, this man is a Dude with a capital "D".

Donald Beard
I hooked up with Beard several years ago on Facebook. I've admired his work from afar, and I finally got to admire it up close this past week. He took the hubster and myself on a tour of the park and gave us a close and personal view of some of the American bison heard that dwell in the park. Well, as close as you dare get, because you never want to step out of your vehicle unless you like agitating 1400 lbs of furry beast.

Beard is responsible for not only all manner of activities involved with running a state park, but also the park's bison heard. During our visit he gave us some history and talked about how the heard increased since he came to the park in 2009.

The bison originally came from the Goodnight family who had rounded up descendants of the original southern heards that roamed the prairies. Once standing at 30-60 million strong across the plains, they were decimated after Europeans settled the region, leaving roughly 1,000. The amazing thing about the bison in Caprock is that they are genetically identical to those that once roamed the land, which is truly exciting.

Once donated to the park, the heard had been kept in a smaller pen, unable to roam the park freely. This was one of the tasks Beard took by the horns, so to speak. The majestic animals now roam freely in the park and he often shares photos of them, even pics of them congregating just outside his office window. How would you like that view from your desk every day?

The heard has grown from a couple handfuls too, and for every calf that is born, they pull some fur from the tail and draw blood, tracking the parentage. A few of them have tracking collars on, and aside from being used to vehicles, the bison just do what bison normally do.

Beard is also tasked with maintaining the park's ecosystem. That means brush that grows where it isn't supposed to is in the process of being removed in order to restore what would have been natural grasslands.

Every year they celebrate the bison at BisonFest, bringing in some amazing country music groups. This year bringing in Robert Earl Keen among others.

This park is truly amazing and if you like camping, you may find yourself within the thick of the bison heard, who are allowed to roam where they might. If camping is not really your style, you can stay an hour down the road in Childress, which offers a variety of hotel and dining options.

If you make the trip to Caprock, be sure to bring your hiking shoes, because this is some truly beautiful land you will want to hike. And keep an eye out for my favorite rock star because you never know what he might be up to next.

Wylie is Increasing Property Taxes Despite Faux Two Cent Decrease

I can only imagine the nerve it took for Wylie Mayor Eric Hogue to walk back his half cent tax decrease discussion and change it to a two cent decrease this tax season. Kudos to him for making my happy camper list again. At least he is moving in the right direction, but it's not enough.

While everyone is heaving a sigh of relief, it still means the City of Wylie has increased our taxes.

Whaaaa? How's that?

There's this little thing called the effective tax rate. When the effective tax rate is announced by Collin County Central Appraisal District (CAD) on August 7th, the city of Wylie should replace our current tax rate by adopting the recommended effective tax rate, instead of gouging existing homeowners.

You see, there is money that existing homeowners pay into the pot. That is what the taxing entity's, Wylie's in this case, budget is based upon. It doesn't take into consideration taxes to be earned on new builds. When the city keeps the rate the same, they are double-dipping by collecting money from the existing tax base while also collecting new revenue from new properties added. It's partly the reason we had a nearly 3 million dollar excess from last year's budget. That, and the continued increase in sales tax revenue.

By adopting the effective tax rate, it will not result in budget cuts, layoffs, reductions in services or lower our bond rating or our ability to repay debt, as they always threaten. Instead, it means growth would pay for itself as the tax revenue needed to cover services these new properties demand are covered by themselves rather than double dipped from current taxpayers as their property values increase.

Let's break this down into simpler terms.

You have 100 sheep. You pay 50 sheep to Wylie.
The new neighbor who just built their home this year has 100 sheep and needs to pay their own 50 sheep to Wylie.
Wylie gets 100 sheep total from you and your neighbor.

Appraisal values increase which means you would now have to pay 80 sheep to Wylie.
Your new neighbor has to pay his 80 sheep too.
Wylie is excited because they are now going to be getting 160 sheep! Holy sheep shit!

But people start to grumble, and Wylie's blogger begins to point out what is really taking place.

Now lets say that Wylie wants to give you back some of your sheep as a little break because they realize how bad it looks for them to have 160 sheep in such a dramatic increase.
So instead if 80 sheep, you pay Wylie 60 sheep.
Your new neighbor pays 60 sheep too.
Now Wylie claims they have helped you out by lowering your sheep rate but instead of paying the original 50 sheep, you are now paying 60 sheep.  It's still an increase, folks.

Oh sure, paying 60 sheep is better than the 80 you might have had to pay, but Wylie has just increased their sheep count from you and your new neighbor from the original 100 last year to 120.

Wylie should lower your sheep required back to 50 because they are already getting the 50 additional sheep from your new neighbor, which should cover their share of necessities like road use, fire and police protection along with reasonable expenses. But Wylie likes to tell you that adding new properties means everyone must pay more sheep to cover the cost of these new properties. NO, NO, NO! The new property owners are covering their own costs when they start paying into the system!

According to the Texas Comptroller's office, when property values increase, and cities keep the tax rate the same, by definition it is considered a tax increase. When Wylie's tax rate increased 7.47% based upon property values, the two cents Mayor Hogue suggests we are given back only correlates to a 2.3% reduction. This means Wylie is moving forward with increasing your taxes by 5.17%.

It's a game, folks. Though it is certainly admirable that our mayor agrees our taxes are too high and he wants to lower them from the ridiculous 86.89 cents to 84.89 cents, it still means our city administrators are toying with the increase in property values bestowed upon us by Collin County CAD as well as the excess retail sales revenue and taxes on new property builds taken in above last year's budget. Plus, they'll rake in even more in the coming year.

For taxpayers, it is a lose-lose situation that council members don't seem to understand as part of their fiduciary responsibility to not only the city, but also the taxpayers; and administrators hope they never figure it out.

Where do you think this excess money is going, anyway? They're spending it on salary increases, improved benefits, and larger expense accounts. They are having a field day while they screw you and your 100 sheep.