Friday, December 13, 2013

I always feel like somebody's watching me...

Do you ever get the feeling someone is watching everything you do? 

On December 4th, I blogged (http://codeviolationoftheday.blogspot.com/) about needing to register your pets. Look what showed up on my water bill Wednesday. Coincidence? 


Monday, November 25, 2013

S.O.U. in Commerce Texas

Strange, odd and unusual in Commerce, Texas...

I have tried to pay attention to the things that go on in our City government for the past 15 years. One thing I've never seen:
A City Council Workshop held at a private residence.

It was held on November 15, 2013 (a Friday evening at 5:30) and was to discuss tourism and city events. Click Here for the Notice.

How many people knew of the workshop? Never in paper; never to my knowledge promoted by the Commerce Tourism Director even though when hired by the City of Commerce she said: “I’m here to bring new excitement and new events for Commerce. I want to have more involvement from citizens and seniors to help make the city a place where people want to live and play.”

If the majority of Commerce doesn't know of the meeting, how can you have “more involvement?”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Pot Can't Call the Kettle Black

The answer to the Question in the last blog,  the Median Household Income in Commerce: $30,870

Two cities out of the 12 on the list were lower. At the end of this blog is a list of those cities with there median household incomes from 2011 and where they were in 2000.

Sorry this blog rambles...

Why is median household income important? One of my beliefs is it reflects on the standard of living that has become acceptable to most who live in Commerce.

With a median household income of $30,870 it has attributed to:
32% Poverty Level in Commerce
Almost 70% of Students in School District are "Economically Disadvantaged"
"Socioeconomic Flight"
Home Ownership Rate: 42.3%
Lack of new residential construction
Attracting the "overflow" of government housing from other communities


I don't know if it's an official term, but to me one could equate "socioeconomic flight" to what became known as "White Flight". People leaving the cities to move into the suburbs. 

People tend to want to live around other people of similar socioeconomic status.  

Why do the majority of professors/administrators at the University not live in Commerce? They want to live and socialize (attend churches, shop, dine, have their children go to public schools, etc) with other people who are in a similar income bracket. They don't want to "lower" their standard. Harsh, yes. True, yes.  We typically all do this.

Let's face it, Commerce needs to attract families who are well educated, well paid, "white collar" workers. Until we attract those type of people to live in Commerce, we will not raise the standard of living.  By "those type of people," I am really referring to jobs. Jobs that pay $50K+ per year. You know, the jobs of most professors or administrators at the University. Did you know that there are over 300 employees at the University that make over $50K per year? All public record, so take a look.

For 20+ years, manufacturing, manufacturing, manufacturing has been the cry of many in the city. Why? Does an $8-$10 an hour job raise the standard of living in our city? No.

Now if you are looking for a job or don't have one and you were willing to work for that wage, then that would be great. But lets be truthful and look in the mirror: how many of our citizens want to work on the manufacturing floor? Not a high percentage. If they did, a high percentage of current employees at our local plants would be Commerce citizens.  

Unfortunately, I would bet a nickel that the majority of employees at local plants don't live in Commerce. Prove me wrong and I'll gladly pay the nickel. 

Come out on a Friday between 4-5 o'clock to Tex's T and see how many manufacturing job employees stop there on their way out of town. I doubt you'll recognize many as Commerce citizens.

So why do we give tax abatements to companies that create jobs that our citizens don't want to work? 

In the past we have created jobs in our Community, but when will it be jobs that raise the standard of living for our Community

But then again do you honestly think our city leader really care where employees live? Remember look at what they do, not what they say.  Two of five EDC Board Members do not live in Commerce. The City Manager lives in Bonham. How many city department heads don't live in town? I believe at least 4. Or simply ask how many city employees live in Commerce. I believe you'll find the percentage to not be much better then the University. Yet many in leadership in our community complain that not enough University employees live in Commerce. Sing with me: "The pot can't call the kettle black..." 

We need to raise the standard of living in Commerce by creating and promoting "white collar" jobs. "Blue collar" jobs, although important, when they became the focus of our growth efforts did not push our community forward. Unfortunately in many ways it pulled our community back. Step outside and look around your neighborhood, drive around town and look where we are today:

As I already mentioned:
32% Poverty Level in Commerce
Home Ownership Rate: 42.3%

And where else in a city of 8000, would you have 2 Dollar General Stores,  a Dollar Tree, a highly successful Goodwill, The Bargain Box and My Sister's Closet? On top of that add 2 Payday/Title loan businesses within 50 feet of one another.

We attract who we are. 
The question: Is that who we want to be?

A popular term circulating in the media today is unintended circumstances.  Over 20+ years, the unintended circumstance of going after "blue collar" jobs has come to light in Commerce over the past several years we have seen:

  • Decrease in Public Schools Enrollment
  • Increase in Poverty Level from 22.9% in 2000 to over 32% today
  • Decrease in home values
  • Increases in section 8 housing and Government (subsidized) Housing
  • I challenge you to drive the neighborhoods north of Culver (vacant houses and unkempt houses abound)
  • High Property Taxes

 Does what goes on in our town hamper our University's ability to grow? You bet it does.

 It was the stated goal of the University to grow by 1000 students per year through 2013.  Headcount in 2010; over 10,000. Headcount in 2011; over 11,000. Headcount in 2012; 11,187. Headcount in 2013; Only the U knows. As of yet, I have found no official number that has been released.  On August 21, 2013, the University did say that the headcount stood at 1.08% less than the headcount of 2012. So on 8/21, the head count was basically at 11,067 students. Goal 13,000; 2013 Fall numbers appear to be closer to 11,000.

The population of the town is stagnant. The enrollment at the public schools is decreasing. The enrollment at the University is stagnant.

My belief: You will have long term sustainable economic growth when you have population growth.

Population Growth = Economic Growth. 

You cannot have economic growth without population growth, otherwise your businesses are chasing after the same dollar. Of course, I got poor grades in economics in college, so what do I know.?.


Yes, I have made yet another complaint about the state of Commerce. Well, I have tried to point out possible solutions in many of my blogs and most have been focused on the use of 4B sales tax revenue; which I still support. My next several blogs on this site will hit on possible solutions to get some of my perceived problems in Commerce addressed, so this town can move forward and grow. Or at least get some ideas flowing.

The breakdown of Median Housing Income:

City
Median Household Income 2011
Median Household Income 2010



Caddo Mills
56379
36071
Celeste
42255
34853
Commerce
30870
24065
Cooper
26705
21400
Farmersville
48987
38094
Greenville
43002
34606
Lone Oak
41085
31875
Quinlan
47610
28472
Rockwall
77557
65411
Royse City
72531
42266
Sulphur Springs
37325
30403
Wolfe City
30257
26786

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Match Game...

I have the Median Household Incomes out of order.

Can you match the correct Median Household Income with its respective city? Or since most who read the blog either live or work in Commerce, do you know the Median Household Income in Commerce?




City
Median Household Income 2011


Caddo Mills
42255
Celeste
30257
Commerce
48987
Cooper
43002
Farmersville
26705
Greenville
56379
Lone Oak
37325
Quinlan
72531
Rockwall
47610
Royse City
30870
Sulphur Springs
77557
Wolfe City
41085


More on why this is important in a future blog post. 


Friday, October 4, 2013

A Time for Change - ONE YEAR LATER

The blog below was posted on my real estate website in October 2012. Hard to believe it has already been a year? Yes and a Blessed year indeed.

In October, I left the Century 21 real estate brand and started Hunt County Real Estate to serve the needs of buyers and sellers of real estate in Northeast Texas.  After having spent the past 3+ years with a franchised company, it became time to broker my own company once again and as many of you know, I was previously the Broker/Owner of HRC Realty in Commerce. 

I took great pride in being one of the most progressive companies in Hunt County and look forward to once again leading the way through innovation and technology.  At HRC Realty, we were the first company in Commerce to offer many of the services that are now common place: Multiple Listing Service, Centralized Showing Service, Supra Key boxes, virtual tours, etc.

The days of the brick and mortar, high commission, cookie cutter real estate offices are a thing of the past.  We are in the 21st century and it is time our real estate transactions are as well.

During the next few weeks, I will be making improvements to the website and letting more and more people know about the real estate services I will be providing to the area. 

I thank you for your support throughout the years and am here to assist you, your family and friends with their real estate needs in Hunt County.



Quay Throgmorton is a licensed Texas Real Estate Broker and owner of Hunt County Real Estate. Serving the buyers and sellers of real estate in Commerce, Greenville, Campbell, Wolfe City, Lone Oak, Quinlan, Caddo Mills, Celeste, Royse City and all points in between. 

Please visit my website: www.HuntCountyRealEstate.com 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Show Me The Money


 It has been said that our EDC needs to build up reserves  to offer cash as a way of attracting industry to town. That companies will point blank ask how much cash our EDC is willing to offer. If we don't have enough, we are out of serious consideration. 

Is that even a good way to conduct business? Do we really want a business that is just looking for a hand out?

A reason some do not want to go 4B is that all the money could be siphoned off for a quality of life project(s) and we would have no money to attract manufacturing or industrial business(es).  Sounds to me like some companies are asking our board to give them everything we have, which would in turn affect future projects. 

But wouldn't the same thinking that keeps our 4A board from draining all the money, be the same rational thinking that would keep a 4B board from doing the same thing?

We are trusting 5 people (the number of members required for a 4A EDC board) but won't trust a 7 member 4B Board (the number of members required for a 4B EDC board)? 

That line of thinking just doesn't add up to me. 

I believe having 7 people being good stewards over money is better than 5. Fourteen eyes looking over money, better than 10.  I guess I'm crazy.

Anyway back to building up reserves...

I'll play along with that thinking.  We need to have money in the bank to give a company a blank check apparently.  But answer me this, what towns are you generally competing against when you try to attract industry? I have looked at some nearby towns with 4A EDCs to see how we stack up.

Fiscal year 2012 budgets:
Sulphur Springs - Cash Reserves: $2.5 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $1.5 Million
Greenville - Cash Reserves: $1.5 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $500,000
Mt. Pleasant - Cash Reserves: $2.4 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $1.1 Million
Paris - Cash Reserves: $1.5 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $1.2 Million
Wylie - Cash Reserves: $1.3 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $1.6 Million
Rockwall - Cash Reserves: $18 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $4 Million
McKinney - Cash Reserves: $12 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $8.8Million

Commerce - Cash Reserves: $1.6 Million; Annual Sales Tax Revenue: $400,000

According to statements and posts, our EDC has been showing businesses the money and they have been choosing to go elsewhere.

Greenville, with similar reserves and revenues, announced in August that it was able to attract 2 businesses that will create over 300 jobs. (Fritz Industries and International Grains and Cereal LLC).

What no one can answer is how much money is needed.  Some say we must have more and yet we  see our neighbor to the west was able to attract 300 jobs with less.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mene, Mene Commerce

Here's Your Sign(s)

Sorry I feel this way, but in looking around, the question needs to be asked...

Is Commerce slowly dying?

According to the newsletter on the School District's website:
Enrollment down 68 students or roughly 4%

Last year the enrollment was down 3% 

Other Signs:

Half of the downtown buildings are vacant


Census population in 1970: 9534
Census population in 2010: 8078

City property tax rate increased almost 40% in 10 years 

Multiple churches have closed

Individuals below Poverty Level in 2000: 22.9%
Individuals below Poverty Level in 2010: 32.1%

Home Ownership Rate: 37.3%; State Average 64.5%

Zurn Closed (200+ jobs lost)
Covidien Closing (losing 300+ jobs)


And possibly the #1 reason Commerce: APATHY. 

SO...
Is the writing on the wall? 
OR...
Is the better question: What can be done?


But then again, why should I care!?!



Friday, September 6, 2013

The Double Entendre

It has been said that there needs to be a plan for Commerce to guide us to get to where we want to be.  That we also need to do a survey to see the desires of the community.

The City did a plan in 2009 and a survey (I think in 2010) performed by the University in conjunction with the "Big 6" that unfortunately I no longer have a copy of.  Why doesn't someone dust it off, post the survey results on line and lets accomplish those objectives.

An article in the CommerceJournal from June 1, 2009 laid out that plan.

I'm working on the third set of goals in the plan.


So... Is the future so bright that I've got to wear shades or are they rose colored glasses?

For those enquiring minds, the picture is the double entendre.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What happened to Norman?

I get the feeling that somewhere along the line average became okay.

Is it okay to be average? Sure, if that is what you want.

For me, I want and expect more. I guess, I'm still wanting to live a Norman Rockwell life or at least want that for Evan.

Maybe that's too simple.

Or is the simple thing to do: sit back, turn a blind eye, blend in.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You've Got Mail

I have said it before and we all know it to be true: Watch peoples actions, not what they say.

I unfortunately was reminded of this again recently about a number of different "leaders" in Commerce.

Well, for those "leaders" who don't know the law, if you haven't already you are about to get a phone call ...
 
Your emails (yes, even those from your personal and work email accounts) are subject to open records requests.

If you discuss any form of city business and someone requests access to them, you are required by law to provide them.

Think you are safe if you delete them? Tampering with government documents is a crime!

That email that mentions any form of city business is an official document and deleting it is against the law.  Plus we all know that skilled computer people can recover deleted messages.

Why did I make an open records request of documents from the City of Commerce and Economic Development Board this morning? To keep them honest and accountable. 

More stories to come...


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Confession Is Good For The Soul

I hate to admit it, but I was wrong.

Actually, I was in error about TWO things! I think it only fair and fitting that I own up to those mistakes. 

In a previous blog, I said the application for the Certified Retirement Community designation for Commerce was unfinished and still sitting at City Hall.  Today, I came to find out that on the 21st of August, Commerce has been designated as a Certified Retirement Community. Hooray! Let the church bells ring.

Second error, also about the Certified Retirement Community designation. I stated it had been a 7 year long process. In actuality, it only took 6 years, 2 months and 2 days; 2222 total, but who's counting.

You'd think I would've known better since I was originally appointed to the committee (City Council Meeting Minutes from June 19, 2007).  Math was never my strong suit. I plugged the dates into Google to get the answer.  Man, if only Google were around when I was growing up.


Well, it's off to do 3 hail Mary's, 2 our fathers, oh but wait, I'm not Catholic. 



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Commerce and the Combo Meal

Should Commerce consider going a combination 4A & 4B EDC?  I need to do more research on this but I believe in essence the voters could dedicated part of the Sales Tax Revenues to be set aside for 4A projects and part for 4B. 108 Cities are 4A; 361 Cities are 4B; 114 Cities are a combination. 

The older I get, the less I believe in coincidence.  Recently, I posted on the Cowboys and their move to Frisco. Yesterday morning, here in Commerce, I met the man the street is named after where their facility will be built.   In research yesterday afternoon for my next blog (as well as answering a FB question) come to find out that Frisco has both 4A & 4B. 

So is 4A/4B something Commerce should consider?  Would it accomplish the goals of both sides? Ensure money is there when the next industry comes along but guarantees some of the sales tax will be spent on quality of life improvements?  

Combo meals are the way to go at a fast food joint; Is a combo the way to go for Commerce?

Thoughts?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How do you CONTROL 8000...

I was told last week that my posts on Facebook about going 4B are dividing Commerce. I think the town is united about wanting to make quality of life improvements. The problem is no one wants to pay for them. A possible solution go 4B. What's your solution?  

We all want quality of life improvements, but it seems some don't want to spend the money from their organizations budget to do it. IT'S THE CITIZENS OF COMMERCE MONEY, NOT YOURS! Let the citizens decide if they want to have the OPTION to spend money on BOTH quality of life improvements and attracting jobs. 

Still waiting on an answer as to why you don't want to let the voters decide.  Are we no longer a democracy?

According to poll results published by the Commerce Journal, 77% of respondents want to have the OPTION to spend sales tax revenue on quality of life improvements. So why won't City Hall let the voters decide? Are 5 to control 8000?

So how do you control 8000? You lie to them. (OK, lie may be a bit strong, but if the shoe fits...) 

You tell people you will make or will work towards making improvements and then when the spot light is off them, it gets cast off to the side and everyone forgets or gives up.  That is what folks at City Hall hope about the 4B discussion, that everyone will give up. 

So what have the 8000 been mislead to believe?  

Told to the Citizens: We need to become a certified retirement community. Over 7 years later and countless hours and dollars spent, the UNCOMPLETED APPLICATION still sits at City Hall.  7 YEARS!!!

Told to the Citizens: We don't have the ability to fund the library and have cut their budget by $14,000. In that same budget (2012-13), the City Council gave the City Manager a $10,000 bonus and roughly 40% raise over the next 2 years.

Told to Citizens: When Covidien closes we will lose 20% of the city revenues. In fact, part of the impact of Covidien's loss will be negated by Hydro Aluminum coming on the city's tax rolls at 100 percent and being annexed in the city. Annexation is on the Council agenda this week. 

Told to Citizens: We will help improve the appearance of rental properties by the enforcement of the Residential Rental Housing Ordinance that was passed in 2001. How do those rental properties look around you? 

Should I go on?

Our elected and appointed officials in local government are supposed to represent our voices. To listen to the will of the majority, not the minority. Seems the majority want to at least put it to a vote to go 4B or stay 4A. Yet those in the minority do not want to give the citizens the option. Say what!?!  Do our council members have their heads buried in the sand or stuck somewhere else?  Are those 5 not listening to the discussions around town about 4A/4B?

Isn't it time for 8000 to control 5? To let your voices be heard. To have our representatives take action the majority wants!

Or do you want John Ballotti, Sue Davis, Richard Hill, Jean Klaus and Emma Martin telling you what is best for you? 

Taking control is a click away... Click on their names; Send them an email; Tell them what you want in this town.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Budget and Tax Rate

I know you didn't know this because basically no one does.

Saturday morning the City Council had a general budget workshop.  

Of course nowhere online can you see the proposed budget; I mean why let the citizen know where you are spending money? You are welcome to go down to the City Secretary's office to view the proposed budget but why in the information age can't they put it online? Aren't our elected officials to represent and seek input from us lowly citizens?

Commerce City Code says: The city manager shall submit a proposed budget to the city secretary by August 1 for the ensuing fiscal year. Said budget shall set forth, in detail, for the city and its several agencies, all proposed expenditures and all anticipated income for the current fiscal year, and the fiscal year immediately preceding; the debt of the city in detail; and the condition of reserve and sinking funds and operating funds in detail. 

Well what you can find on the City's website is the notice of the 2013 Property Tax Rates for the City of Commerce.  This shows what could possibly be the tax rate in Commerce. According to the document, in order to generate similar property tax revenue as last year and pay the debt service, the City would have to enact a tax rate of $0.8573.  Last year's rate was $0.82 so this is potentially a $.03 increase. 

When City Hall cut the library funding and did not open the pool they "saved" over $70K, which represent about $.03 of the budget.

Questions:
What is the plan for that 70K this year?
Lower the tax rate?
What level will you fund the library?
Work towards a solution for the pool?
Or business as usual?

2012 Property Tax Rates
CITY OF CADDO MILLS         0.64
CITY OF ROYSE CITY         0.68
CITY OF GREENVILLE         0.69
CITY OF SULPHUR SPRINGS 0.44
CITY OF ROCKWALL         0.50

CITY OF COMMERCE 0.82