July 2012

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City Recycling Program to Begin in Sedona Lakes

Mayor Hears Support

Mayor's office change and PD&Z

Commentary

Officer recognized

 

City Recycling Program to Begin in Sedona Lakes

July 11, 2012

Manvel city council received a report from Bryce Gray regarding recycling efforts in the city.  He told council that Sedona Lakes will serve as a pilot community program and that they will be given a 95-gallon cart that would allow all recycling material to be put into one container without the need for sorting.  Residents’ first pick-up each week would be for garbage and the second pick-up for recycling.  The idea is to get some feedback from the residents that could be brought back to council on whether or not they like the program.  Gray says the city needs to get “on the bandwagon” and see how recycling can be brought into Manvel.

Similar programs have begun in Friendswood and Alvin where the traditional smaller bins are being replaced with the larger carts.  Gray sees this as an opportunity to provide the service within the city to see how the citizens respond.

He also told council that his company is now providing recycling dumpsters to four businesses and the High School in the city.  “Recycling is coming,” he said and “it is just a matter of it being in place.”  The key he says is to have the facilities that can process recycling together in what is called “single stream”.  That does not require the items to be sorted by glass, plastic, paper, etc…  The processor will do the sorting which makes it easier for citizens as they can just place all recycling materials together.  If the process is made easier, citizens will more likely participate.  Gray explained tests that show a typical household will dispose 60% of its waste as recyclable and 40% as actual garbage to be taken to the landfill. 

Subdivisions such as Sedona Lakes are fairly easy to introduce recycling programs, Gray explained, but more rural areas present a greater challenge.  He says people with acreage are less inclined to participate in recycling programs and it may prove that the city just focusing on certain areas will be the better approach.

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Mayor Hears Support

July 11, 2012

Mayor Delores Martin received words of encouragement and gratitude from several citizens at this week’s city council meeting.  In response to council’s unanimous approval of an initiative introduced by council member Adrian Gaspar to force the mayor and city manager to exchange offices, the chairman of the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z), Windy Arnold, was the first to speak.

Arnold did not agree with council’s action on moving the mayor from her office.  While admitting it is an administrative task and that there may have been valid reasons, she went on to say “I believe the way and the manner it was held was inappropriate, that it was not respectful.  Mayor Martin has been part of this city and engaged for over 11 years, she has dedicated her time to the city and to disrespect her was horrible.”  She expressed great disappointment in the leadership of the city.

Adding embattled planning consultant Kent Marsh and city inspector Jim Sullivan to her diatribe in support of the mayor, Arnold praised all three as doing a phenomenal job with PD&Z.  She expressed her feeling that they were “disrespected in multiple ways at the last meeting” and apologized to them.  She added that “you are respected by many of us who appreciate your feedback and support for the committee and you are important to us as a city.”

Claudia Arnold added her comments that she “is saddened and appalled that city council could so easily disregard someone who has worked 11 years and given blood, sweat, and tears for the good of the community.  There was no dignity or respect in the decision to remove the mayor from her office and move in the new city manager.  In addition, I am disappointed and in disbelief that he was willing to make this change.  Mayor Martin is just as important to his community as the city manager is.”  She concluded her remarks by saying the mayor should not have been forced to vacate her office. 

Debbie Harrison also chimed in, agreeing “100%” with the previous speakers.  She explained her feeling that the manner that was taken to move Delores out of her office was akin to the “Tom Landry scenario; Maybe it was time for him to move but the way it was done was completely inappropriate.”  She also apologized to the mayor, Kent Marsh, and Jim Sullivan, saying “you have worked tirelessly for the city.”  She singled out the mayor thanking her for how far she has brought he city.  She said “there is not a city you can go into that the mayor does not have the largest office.”  “Why Manvel has to be so backward is beyond my knowledge.”

In an unrelated citizen comment, Frank Hagdorn raised his concern of the Lakeland Development.  Saying it will be here for five to seven years, he said the relationship is “not starting out very well.”  They should not have the right to “start work at 4 o’clock in the morning with 10, 12, 14 pieces of equipment, all the lights, all the noise, all the machinery.” 

Hagdorn explained that the police have been unable to do anything so he is “pleading with the council to set a precedent” with a new policy or ordinance.  He said his neighbors are humble people, many of them elderly, and they do not want to say anything.  “Rolling around numerous pieces of equipment in the backyard at 4 o’clock in the morning has got to be unacceptable in most of our eyes and does not seem reasonable.” 

He suggested somebody from council go over and ask them to shut down the pre-dawn work for a couple of weeks until we can resolve the problem.  He urged council to “step it up” and expressed disappointment that it was not on the night’s council agenda.

Lakeland is a residential community currently undergoing site work and infrastructure construction.  It is located on McCoy Road behind the Manvel High School campus.

In other council news, approval was given to the relocation of the proposed thoroughfare realignment for the primary road serving the Bluewater Lakes development.  The change will allow the developer to better utilize the property by allowing a loop around an existing lake and a lake-front community center to be built.  It also will give the developer greater control of both sides of the entry into the development and will increase traffic safety.

BlueWater Lakes is currently in the design phase and is expected to contain 112 acres of single family homes and 27 acres of commercial development.  It is located off of state highway 6 in the area behind the Burger Barn and Manvel Seafood restaurants.

Council also approved the addition of land to Brazoria County MUD 61, which serves the Lakeland development.

City staff was asked to further investigate the cost of pursuing a paperless council packet through the use of tablet type computers.  The preliminary cost of the change would be between $4,000 and $6,000.  Most on council expressed support of the change if the budget would accommodate the expense.  As Mayor Martin explained, there are the must have items and the want to have items.  All the must have items must be met before the want to have items can be considered.

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Mayor's office change and PD&Z

July 25, 2012

Manvel City Council member Adrian Gaspar explained his reasons for placing on council’s agenda the action that ultimately required Mayor Martin to change offices with City Manager Kyle Jung a few weeks ago.

He feels the city manager should be given the tools to perform his duties, which should include an office large enough for a big table to conduct meetings and spread out blueprints and documents.  He claims to have observed the city manager conducting business in the common area of city hall on several occasions and further claims he even had to work on the floor of his old office.  “It is our city manager that now runs the town,” he says.  The mayor has the same powers as a council member under the city charter and “the tax payers interests should be the priority, not the comfort of the mayor,” he asserts.

Gaspar affirms to “have nothing but respect for the mayor and believes that she is a true asset” for the city.  He goes on to say that he does not hate the mayor as some claim and “hopes she will continue to be a member of our team for many years to come.”

Gaspar accepts full responsibility for his actions explaining that “sometimes a leader must say what is right even if the message is unpopular.”  He went on to say that “when voters get tired of me they will vote me out and I will thank them for the opportunity that they gave me to be involved in the development of this great town.”  He acknowledges what many have told him that his message may have been good but the way it was presented was too direct and insensitive.

Mayor Martin expressed disappointment in council’s vote saying she has “served this city to the best of my ability for the past eleven years.  I realize the city charter had changed my role and now I serve as  the ambassador for this city.  I do love my role as Mayor.  I am very proud of my city.  I am proud of what we have accomplished and will always promote it everywhere I go.  Respect is earned, not given.  I thought I had earned it, but I guess I was wrong.”  She went on to say that she realized a long time ago that an “office does not make a person, character makes a person”.

City Manager Kyle Jung considers “Mayor Martin a vital asset to the City with a vast knowledge of city-related issues.  She has a long list of personal and professional relationships, both in the city and the region, whose value to the city cannot be understated.  Her extensive experience on council and her previous work on PD&Z make her a valuable resource I hope to learn from as we work together to help the city meet the challenges ahead.  I am fully committed to continuously improving my working relationship with the mayor and council members so that I can learn from each of them and provide the best service I can to the city council and to the citizens of Manvel.”

Gaspar’s fellow council member Lew Shuffler described the meeting as the most difficult he has experienced in his two years on PD&Z and more than one year on council.  He concedes that Gaspar had a valid point but takes issue with the way it was expressed calling it “unnecessarily confrontational and accusatory.”  He says to have “never been so angry at a council meeting” but made his decision based on what he “believed would bring the best result,” agreeing that the city manager would benefit from having more space. 

Shuffler admits to being sorry for his vote after the meeting and felt council was “totally disrespectful to Mayor Martin.”  He confronted Gaspar with his belief that the “Mayor works tirelessly for our city and deserves our respect.”  He also told him that “such tactics only hamper our ability to work together.”  Shuffler feels their discussion was productive and expects future council meetings to have better results.

Member John Cox explained his vote, emphasizing that he has no disregard for the mayor and has great respect for her, but that it was simply a belief that the city manager needs the bigger office to properly conduct the city’s business. 

Member Melody Hanson wished to make clear that her decision to have the mayor and city manager switch offices was not based on the mayor's performance.  “I voted for the office switch because it reflects the way city is now structured since the implementation of the charter.  The voters of Manvel chose a city manager driven government, rather than a mayor-lead city.  I felt that the office spaces needed to reflect that change,” she stated. 

She explained further that “Mr. Gaspar insinuated that the mayor had been guilty of some impropriety - - that she had overstepped her bounds.  I do not agree with that criticism and felt that the evidence Adrian offered to council was weak.  Mr. Gaspar's accusations in no way influenced my vote.”

Another controversial issue raised by Gaspar concerns actions of the PD&Z.  Gaspar explains his opinion that PD&Z, with the mayor’s guidance, wants to become the homeowner association of rural areas that are not currently governed by an association.  “The last thing we need is for all of us blue-collar workers to move out because of expensive permits we cannot afford.  This town was established by hard working families and small businesses that live in it now and city government must never forget that,” he says.

Gaspar feels decisions reached by PD&Z are often not accurately communicated to council and pushed to require either a member of council or the city manager to serve as a liaison between city council and the group.  Council ultimately accepted City Manager Kyle Jung’s explanation on the matter that PD&Z has already decided that when they have a recommended action or policy for the city council to consider, at least one member of the commission would attend the council meeting to ensure the recommendation is presented as PD&Z approved it and to answer any questions the council may have regarding the recommendation.”

Council member Melody Hanson considers PD&Z an essential committee that performs an invaluable service.  “We, as a council rely heavily on the data they collect and present to us.  I have no complaints with their performance,” she says.  She feels it is important that PD&Z be a citizen-lead committee, distinct from the city, believing that a separation of powers is important at a local level too.

Members Lew Shuffler and John Cox both expressed complete satisfaction with PD&Z’s leader Windy Arnold.  Shuffler says “after spending two years on PD&Z myself, I know how hard they work for the improvement of Manvel.”  Cox expressed support for the decision to have a representative form PD&Z available at council meeting to explain firsthand the background of decisions that are submitted to council for action.

Mayor Martin expressed high praise for PD&Z saying “Windy Arnold and her group are the finest group of people who serve as a recommending body to the city council.  They are volunteers who give their time freely twice a month.  We are blessed with people who research, discuss and make valid recommendations to the city council.  We should support, not criticize.  Citizen involvement is important.  This is their city as well as it is ours.”

City Manager Kyle Jung embraces PD&Z members saying “they perform an extremely valuable service to the city.  It takes dedication and a real sense of citizenship for members of the community to dedicate their time and talents to learn about PD&Z issues and for them to take an active role in the development of proposed policies and recommendations for the city council to consider.  Encouraging volunteers to serve on city boards and commissions is one of the hardest things to do in any city.  PD&Z members should be commended for their efforts and thanked for their service.”

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Commentary

July 25, 2012

Manvel City Hall has endured heightened anxiety and testy spirits in recent weeks after city council unanimously impelled Mayor Martin to change offices with City Manager Kyle Jung. 

It can be good to unsettle things now and then and to introduce diverse thinking to governance that can sometimes become stale and predictable.  For eleven years Mayor Martin has unmistakably set the tone for the city’s direction and its governance.  While council members come and go, the dynamic constant has been the mayor.  Whether one agrees with her politics or not, there is no doubt that she has a vision for the city and has devoted countless hours at no pay to move that vision forward. 

Adrian Gaspar, even while motivating the office change, credited the mayor with having an “aura” that influences people and changes minds.  In her years of service the mayor has proven to be a woman of conviction.  When most everyone in the city was ready to have her head during the library relocation she remained steadfast.  Most who care to be objective will today admit that the move has been good.  She was equally dogged in acquiring funds and moving forward the purchase of the new city hall building even though many considered her wrong and irresponsible.  Few today maintain that it was a bad move.  In eleven years as mayor there have been many accomplishments Mayor Martin, and Manvel’s citizens, can be proud of. 

Adrian Gaspar has changed the dynamics of the council, to be sure.   While earning criticism from some, like the mayor he demonstrates conviction.  Manvel citizens now have a dissimilar vision to think about.  And that should be welcomed.  It is what makes our government inimitable in all the world. 

Perhaps Gaspar can be criticized for not approaching the mayor privately.  Offering her the chance to make the move without it being made public would have been a respectful thing to do.  Regardless, Gaspar’s action was validated by the unanimous support of council. 

The mayor was upset not so much by the office move but by the perception that she was accused of exceeding her authority as granted in the city charter and that all of council apparently agreed.  The facts do  not bear that out, though.  Council members explained their vote solely as better allowing City Manager Kyle Jung to more properly assert his role as the city’s chief executive.  Only Gaspar has publicly claimed the mayor has exceeded her authority.  Each member, including Gaspar, have expressed respect and gratitude for the mayor’s service.

As an elected representative Gaspar has every right to present his views to council for consideration.  Mixing things up a bit at city hall can and should be considered a good thing; not only for those leading the city, but ultimately for all its citizens.

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Officer recognized

July 25, 2012

Manvel Police Officer Allen King was recognized by city council this week for completing specialized training courses to become a certified crime prevention specialist.  Chief Ralph Garcia explained that King has been attending classes since 2009 and his completion goes along with what the department is trying to do with crime prevention such as citizens police academy and citizens on patrol that he hopes to get in place in the near future.

Immediately, Garcia says King can inspect a property for security concerns and make recommendations on what needs to be done to earn a certification that will offer the property owner eligibility for up to a 20% discount on their insurance.  The chief also told council that King is one of only a few hundred officers statewide that has earned the certification.

Allen King is pictured with Chief Ralph Garcia and Mayor Delores Martin.