2015 News Archive
WMNA Closes 2015 With Election of
New Officers, Changes to Bylaws
On Nov. 16, WMNA celebrated the holidays and voted in a new advisory council for 2015. About 60 members and guests shared a Thanksgiving feast and approved two changes to the association's bylaws and elected a leadership team. Dace Sultanov, a concert cellist, played for the membership throughout the evening. WMNA's next meeting is Jan.11.
Blue Zones Project Uses Silver Buckshot, not
Silver Bullets, to Increase Longevity
At the October meeting of the WMNA, Ricky Cotto, Healthways coordinator, explained Fort Worth’s initiative to improve the wellbeing of its citizens by becoming a Blue Zones community.
“There is no silver bullet for achieving the goal, but there may be silver buckshot,” he said, referring to a coordinated strategy that reaches across age groups, interests, income levels, and industry sectors. An environmental approach seeks to create permanent and semi-permanent policy changes that make healthy choices easier.
Cotto explained that the Blue Zones concept is based on 2004 research by Dan Buettner and National Geographic and the world’s leading longevity researchers to find places in the world where people live measurably better, longer and happier. After identifying the areas where people live better lives, researchers studied why this phenomenon occurred, honing in on nine lifestyle characteristics shared by all of the locations. The Blue Zones areas were the island of Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. The research conducted in these longevity hot spots became a best-selling book and a top-selling edition for National Geographic. Could the lessons learned in these areas be applied to life in the United States?
“Nine lifestyle principles, called the Power 9, were shared by these diverse locations, “ Coto said. “Even if you adopt two or three of the principles, you will extend your life.”
The Power 9 principles are:
Have a purpose
80 percent rule for eating
Moderate wine consumption
Belong to a group
Connect with the right tribe
In 2009, Buettner partnered with AARP and the United Health Foundation to apply the Power 9 principles to Albert Lea, Minn. After just one year, participants added 2.9 years to their lifespan while healthcare claims dropped 49 percent. Now, Blue Zones' communities are expanding across the country, including to Fort Worth. In 2014, The Blue Zones Project was brought to Fort Worth through a cooperative agreement with Texas Health Resources and Healthways. The project’s goal is to improve the wellbeing of the regional population, thereby lowering healthcare costs, increasing productivity and improving the quality of life for all residents.
Fort Worth is a large city, the first metropolitan area to attempt a Blue Zones project. The project is rolling out neighborhood by neighborhood. To get involved, each person is asked to sign a pledge to learn more about the Blue Zones project, measure success through a survey available on the Blue Zones web site, adopt at least five of the nine principles that increase longevity, and finally participate through volunteering, attending workshops or changing lifestyles.
Educators School WMNA On Progress
At the September meeting, representatives from FWISD schools in Meadowbrook area, educators on the east side talked loud and proud about their progress.
Tobi Jackson, who has served 6 years as a board ustee for the east side, reported on Meadowbrook Elementary's progress. Ms. Jackson reported that the school is coordinating curriculum across science, math and English to improve student learning, and staff and students are actively participating in a nature curriculum “Kids on the Prairie” conducted by the Friends of Tandy Hills. She noted that Principal Terry McGraw’s goal is that children will hear one million words before they start school to ensure they are ready for kindergarten. McGraw couldn't attend the meeting.
Jackson also announced that Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner will start as the new FWISD Superintendent October 15. More schools on the east side have met state standards in the past year: Poly and Eastern Hills High Schools, Meadowbrook Middle, Sagamore Hills, William James Middle, and D McRae Elementary have been added to the list of successful schools. She also noted that the staff at Meadowbrook Elementary is trying to stay on top of the trash situation at the school and they look forward to continue working closely with the neighborhood association.
“We have the right principals at the right schools, and we’ve always had the right kids," Jackson said.
Principal Katrina Smith enthusiastically reported on progress at Meadowbrook Middle School. She mentioned the strong group of teachers and tutoring five days a week as contributing to the school’s meeting state standards three years in a row. Smith distributed the TEA 2015 Accountability Summary for the school, showing all four standards met and targets exceeded in all areas of student achievement and progress, closing performance gaps, and postsecondary readiness. She said that visitors will find teachers at the school year-round, voluntarily working to ensure children’s success.
She described a curriculum that allows students to take high school courses in algebra, art, biology, English, and Spanish in the eighth grade, allowing them to enter high school as sophomores. Meadowbrook Middle will become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy in the next academic year. Ms. Smith credits a partnership between school and home, and encourages the community to come into the school to “see what we’re doing.”
Chad McCarty, Eastern Hills High School principal, reported giant strides at as well. He said that with all four state standards met with significantly higher scores, discipline referrals down by 70 percent, and attendance at 95 percent, the FWISD administrators wanted to know what new systems McCarty had put in place. He said there is no new system; he has established an environment of saying thank you and rewarding success.
McCarty listens to students and takes their suggestions seriously, such as one student who said the school was not inviting, particularly the cafeteria. The cafeteria has now been redone with newly designed furnishings. That student is now his best ambassador, carrying the message that this school really takes its students seriously. Both students and teachers are making a commitment to the school, he said.
Darin Hoppe, WMNA chair, called for volunteers to fill vacant positions on Advisory Council and announced that Mike Phipps, Tonya Ferguson and Sandra Everett have been appointed to serve as the nominating committee. A slate will be presented at the October meeting, and election of new advisory council members will be at the November meeting. The October meeting will be a potluck meal, and the November meeting is a Thanksgiving social. The Cowtown Cleanup is coming soon – watch for a chance to sign up soon. Darin also mentioned that the Care Closet at Eastern Hills High School can use donations of good clothing.
Mayor Betsy Price Outlines 2016 Budget and Upcoming Improvements in West Meadowbrook
Mayor Betsy Price updated the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association in August about Fort Worth’s progress during her tenure, noting the city’s rise from a community that lost most of its young people to larger communities in Texas to the fastest growing city in the nation in 2015.
“About 18 months ago, we updated our study about how Fort Worth is regarded nationally. We found that our city is among the top 2 destinations in the U.S. for places to live,” she said. “We are growing quickly. Fort Worth is the #1 destination for U-Haul drop-offs.”
Expansion puts pressure on infrastructure and Fort Worth hasn’t kept up in the last six to eight years. “In the next budget we have dedicated 1 cent of our levy to street improvements. It’s been a source of frustration that we haven’t kept up,” she indicated.
“We will dedicate $26 million in funds generated by additional sales and property taxes to a new class of police and fire trainees, staff and facility operations at the new law enforcement training center, and creating a new police and fire division in north Fort Worth. Fort Worth will also give raises to city staff this year with no layoffs and no tax increases,” she said.
Fort Worth will also begin work on a capital plan, “something that hasn’t been done for years,” she added, with a goal to publish the plan by mid-year. Also, Fort Worth is reviewing its thoroughfare plan for the first time since 2009 to ensure all streets in our plan are needed. The public will have several opportunities to review the plan before it’s adopted.
With the $292 million in bonds approved by the voters last year, Price anticipates all of these monies will be allocated and spent within five years. “We have improved software that will allow us to track progress on bond funds and ensure they are being put to use,” she said.
The city’s web site is being redesigned so that citizens can track the progress of bond fund projects in their neighborhoods. Also, she promised increased transparency about project scheduling and implementation through the city’s communication department. In the West Meadowbrook area, sidewalks are being installed along Wilbarger and 287 and improvements to Oakland and I30 will begin in September 2015. Within one year, new street lights will be installed along Lancaster Avenue.
“All in all, 14 transportation projects including Lancaster Avenue and 18 park projects including Oakland Lake Park will be underway. Also, development work will continue on the East Side Library to be located on 1.6 acres recently purchased from the Meadowbrook Methodist Church,” Price added.
Local business owner Don Boren will lead a new 15-member Homelessness Commission that begins work in October. “I know homelessness is an issue for your community,” she said. “We are moving forward with permanent supported housing to be placed throughout the city. The truth is the homeless should be living in situations where they see people who work and contribute. ”
The .5 cent CCPD sales tax approved for another five years in 2014 will underwrite additional public needs, including equipment and personnel for the police and fire departments. “We are the envy of other cities that lack this source of funding,” she said.
Price expects finalists for the Fort Worth Police Department chief’s position to be announced in September with an appointment anticipated in October.
President Darin Hoppe closed the meeting with an announcement that the September meeting will be the association’s annual school supply drive. Principals at West Meadowbrook schools requested paper and pencils. Hoppe also encouraged WMNA members to review the new WMNA dues increase proposal, a $6 increase to $18 in 2016, before a January vote. He noted that WMNA has not had a dues increase in more than 10 years and the association’s dues are lower than most other neighboring groups.
East Fort Worth Poised for Revitalization
Fernando Costa, assistant city manager, city of Fort Worth, told West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association members and guests on June 15 that east Fort Worth has as much unrealized potential as any neighborhood in Fort Worth. The question, he asked, is when will east Fort Worth get its share of development?
“Neighborhoods grow because they have important components, all of which east Fort Worth possesses: great leadership, strong neighborhood association, and solid sense of identity,” he said. One of the 16 designated urban villages targeted for development is at Oakland and Lancaster.
Urban villages, which combine housing, retail and walkability, have been successful in other parts of Fort Worth. He cited Magnolia Street, Seventh Street and upcoming development along South Main and along Race streets, as examples.
“Downtown Fort Worth is the most successful example of what I’m talking about,” he said. “There is no reason that type of development can’t succeed in east Fort Worth.”
Three issues of interest that will encourage development in east Fort Worth were addressed:
The city is following a complete street model in its upgrades, he said. Complete streets are designed to accommodate all users –cyclists, pedestrians, cars and public transit. “Rosedale is an excellent example of what can be done to encourage development.”
“The public housing development model has failed,” Costa said. Two existing public housing projects, Butler and Cavile, are being targeted for mixed use development. Fort Worth Housing Authority is seeking to create units where middle and low income residents can live together.
*Permanent supported housing
“The shelter model is sustaining homelessness, not ending it,’ he said. Directions Home set a target of ending homelessness in a decade. Permanent supported housing where services are available to those who need help is being created throughout the city. “Let’s be honest. East Fort Worth has shouldered too much of the unwanted development in the city. The city recognizes that this is unfair and future housing will be scattered throughout the city.”
Infrastructure development is a challenge, he said. “Only one-third of the budget is dedicated to streets, libraries and parks,” he said. Debt service has been used to help support improved infrastructure without touching the two-thirds of the budget dedicated to police and fire.
Other options include impact fees from developers, which has been implemented, and a transportation service charge on the water bill, which has not. “If we could add this additional funding, many of the issues we need to address could be paid for.”
On the issue of code compliance and stubborn problems with Lancaster Avenue, Costa said that he is working to change the culture of city government to think more critically about solving problems. “No isn’t an acceptable answer. We need to find a way to get to yes,” he said.
There are three keys to successful revitalization of a neighborhood:
*Making capital improvements
*Providing economic incentives
“All of these boxes were checked on Rosedale to create the Rosedale Renaissance development,” he said. “I encourage you to look at what Texas Wesleyan University is doing to revitalize the area around the university.”
Prior to the meeting, State Sen. Nicole Collier updated the group on legislation passed in the last session:
SB1 – Provides property tax relief by increasing the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000 per year. This is a reduction in the property taxes assessed by a school district. It also adds protections to those school districts losing revenue as a result of the relief.
SB 11 – Authorizes concealed carry of handguns in public and private institutions of higher education. Private institutions may opt out upon consultation with students, staff and faculty.
HB 4 – Provides $130 million in additional funding for full-day pre-K and creates a standard for the pre-K curriculum.
HB 40 – Pre-empts local law, only allowing municipalities to regulate certain activities of oil and gas operations. If it does not override state and federal law, a municipality may regulate aboveground activity and create ordinances that are commercially
reasonable. The municipality cannot prohibit operations conducting prudent practices.
HB 910 – Authorizes individuals to obtain a license to openly carry a handgun in all places that allow licensed carrying of a concealed handgun effective Jan. 1, 2016.
Collier provided a comprehensive list of key legislation at the meeting that is available from her office on request.
Sandra Lamm, member and former board member, spoke on the variety of services available free from the Fort Worth Public Library this summer, including the Third Thursday Jazz Series featuring well-known jazz artists and the summer reading program and year-round reading programs for youth.
WMNA is in the process of replacing three board members whose terms have expired. President Darin Hoppe asked anyone interested in serving to contact him or a member of the nominating committee, Tonya Ferguson or Mike Phipps.
WMNA May 2015 Picnic
Prairie Fest Celebrates 10th Anniversary on April 25
West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association helps sponsor the annual Prairie Fest event at Tandy Hill Nature Area, a natural prairie located within the Fort Worth city limits within minutes of downtown. This year was the 10th anniversary of this free event celebrating an east side treasure.
Gray, Mason-Ford Debate District 8 Issues
West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association hosted a District 8 City Council debate on April 20 as part of the monthly membership meeting at Meadowbrook Methodist Church. District 8 City Council Representative Kelly Allen Gray, who was first elected in 2012, debated Sharon Mason-Ford, a political newcomer.
Questions were posed by moderator and WMNA President Darin Hoppe after polling the audience. Each candidate had five minutes to make opening and closing statements after responding to questions.
Subjects explored by the candidates included:
Gray stated that she was born in District 8 and her family also lives in the district. She also worships at a church within the district. Mason-Ford, who resides in southwest Fort Worth, owns property in east Fort Worth and is a pastor at a church within the district boundaries. She is also a licensed nurse and a former Fort Worth Independent School District employee.
Responding to a question regarding game room ordinance enforcement, Mason-Ford said she would follow the issue of game rooms and would be persistent in ensuring the gambling problem was dealt with by the city. She would listen to the community and respond. Gray said the recently passed city ordinance is now in litigation which restricted what she could say about game rooms, but she said she listened and responded to residents who felt so strongly about the need for an ordinance. Prior to the existence of the current ordinance, the city relied on the police, health and code enforcement departments to eliminate nuisance businesses. She feels strongly that the ordinance will be upheld in court.
Differences and Important Issues
Gray said she has been a resident of District 8 her entire life and considers the people she serves her family. Before being elected, she ran a nonprofit that was created to help revitalize the community and increase home ownership. Mason-Ford alluded to controversy surrounding the nonprofit and indicated she would be a representative who is highly responsive and persistent in pursuing problems. Gray challenged the reference to the nonprofit and indicated it was still viable and helping the community.
Gray indicated she has worked to re-establish nuisance abatement teams that comprise code enforcement, police officers and attorneys. The economic downturn forced the city to eliminate these teams, but with an economic recovery in full swing, the city is beginning to reinstate these missing “pieces” of the enforcement puzzle. She indicated the city must follow the law regarding private property and cannot demolish homes without completing all legal steps. She noted that a property on Sargent Street that had been a frequent target of code enforcement was recently demolished after months of work. Mason-Ford said she understood the importance of cleaning up neighborhoods and would be responsive to residents’ requests regarding problem properties.
Mason-Ford supported economic development initiatives and said she would devote her time and energy to bringing more desirable businesses to East Fort Worth. She felt more could be done to encourage businesses to relocate or expand in the Lancaster corridor and elsewhere in the city. Gray cited her participation in Vision East Lancaster, a group established after a 2013 summit on economic development in East Fort Worth. She pointed to the new library that will be built with bond money as an accomplishment, indicating the library was not on the list of bond projects when discussions began. Property has now been purchased for the library and construction should begin soon. She also noted the relocation of Fort Worth Can Academy to Lancaster Avenue and the expansion of the Gotcha Covered uniform company into the Parker-Brown historic building. Cheyenne Construction will move into the third floor of the Parker-Brown and the fourth floor will be an event space. Great things are happening along the Lancaster corridor, but development takes time, often decades, to reach critical mass, Gray said.
Year-round water restrictions are now in place in Fort Worth. Gray and Mason-Ford both supported enforcement of water restrictions and encouraged residents to vote May 9 for new Water District representation. Recent plentiful rains have helped replenish lakes, which will be taken into consideration by the city’s water department.
Visual appeal of East Lancaster Avenue
Mason Ford said she totally agreed that code enforcement and signage monitoring needs to be consistent and persistent. Beautification is important to residents of East Fort Worth. She noted that the beauty of downtown and near south Fort Worth is something east Fort Worth residents want as well. She promised to focus on code enforcement in the Lancaster area if elected. Gray complimented the city employees who work on the city’s behalf, but she admitted that clearing up problems often feels like the city is “chasing its tail.” Citizens must be diligent about letting code enforcement know about problems and turn in complaints. Code enforcement and city council toured the city via bus recently and followed a sign violations list created by two area residents. An additional signage code enforcement person has been hired, bringing the total to two for the entire city. The city continues to build up its ranks to deal with code violations and signage issues, but city employees need residents’ help.
Interstate versus City Boulevard
Mason-Ford said the Interstate 80/Lancaster Avenue stalemate can be corrected, but not in her first days in office. She will listen to complaints and try to solve the problem. She is willing to fight to make sure the finger-pointing between the state and the city over the Lancaster corridor is resolved. Gray said the six-mile Lancaster Avenue is owned by the state. The state of Texas attempted to return the corridor to the city with a $25 million improvements price tag attached. The city cannot afford to accept the street in its current condition, she said. No other city except San Antonio has agreed to the turn back option. Gray said the city is going to improve lighting and ensure the street is drivable for now.
In January City Manager David Cooke spoke to the neighborhood association and was unable to answer questions regarding several hot-button issues. He was new on the job, but he still hasn’t responded to the WMNA’s requests, according to Hoppe.
Gray pointed out that Cooke had only been on the job a few months then, but not responding at all is unacceptable. She said she believed the police department and code enforcement have been responsive regarding persistent problems, such as the Eco-Hotel, which was a source of crime. Mason-Ford said that she would not have allowed the questions posed to Cooke to go unanswered and would have followed up with him to ensure they were.
Both candidates encouraged residents to vote early beginning April 27 or go to the polls on May 9.
Following the candidates’ forum, graffiti abatement representatives reminded the audience that volunteers will be needed to paint a mural on the Harwood/Purington underpass near Meadowood Park on May 16. The project has been delayed twice due to bad weather. The city will provide the paint and materials. Artist Eddie Diaz designed the mural based on the Tandy Hills Nature Preserve.
Prairie Fest supporters encouraged residents to attend the April 25 Prairie Fest at Tandy Hills. John Tandy, whose family originally owned the property, said he often hiked there as a child with his grandfather and the untouched prairie is a source of pride for the east side. Hoppe encouraged members to volunteer to work at the Prairie Fest HQ booth this weekend. Jennifer Greathouse is coordinating volunteer hours.
Hoppe also announced that West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association yard signs be for sale at the May 18 annual picnic in Oakland Lake Park.
Second Annual Classic Car Show
Revs Up Neighborhood
Cowtown Cleanup Team Scours Oakland
Lake Park as part of Citywide Campaign
West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association sponsored a volunteer team for the annual Cowtown Cleanup on March 28. For three hours on Saturday morning, nineteen volunteers removed trash and debris from Oakland Lake Park. Social Chairman Tom Cook organized the cleanup and distributed trash bags, gloves and t-shirts on site. Fort Worth's annual Cowtown Cleanup encourages neighborhoods to pickup trash and spruce up their areas.
Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke Sees Managing Growth as Priority
David Cooke, featured speaker at the February meeting of the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association, is taking a cautious approach to change in his first year as city manager.
One action he plans is to separate housing and economic development and convert housing to neighborhood services.
“Strong neighborhoods make strong cities,” he said. “We need to be closer to neighborhoods so that we understand their needs.”
Cooke, who was named Fort Worth’s city manager in June of 2014, has extensive experience working with high growth, urban environments. “Growth is positive, but it must be managed,” he said. “It’s challenging to balance expansion on the fringes while filling in internally.” Fort Worth, he said, has been growing by 20,000 people per year for the last 15 years.
“We have to make good use of vacant lots in neighborhoods. They don’t make sense unless they are parks,” Cooke said. Cooke has toured every city council district with elected representatives to determine priorities.
In the question-and-answer session, Cooke responded on key issues:
“My experience with homelessness in other jobs is that cities have the best chance at success by centralizing services. It is a very difficult population to serve. Dispersing services is more expensive and less effective.”
“We must take care of blighted areas to be successful. Resources are an ongoing problem. Fort Worth, like other cities, is still recovering from 2008 crash.”
“We decided to go way out on our ordinance to test the limits. Currently there is a restraining order in place for a specific number of gaming machines. We knew there would be challenges. The courts will tell us how far we can go. Enforcement is still underway on areas not affected by the restraining order.”
New East Division Captain Steven Carpenter responded to a question regarding criminal activity in homeless camps located throughout the city. He indicated that during his time on the south side of Fort Worth he led a team that regularly monitored camp sites and effectively dispersed potential campers. He plans to establish the same type of team in east Fort Worth when he has his leadership team in place.
In closing, District 8 Rep. Kelly Allan Gray confirmed that a new centralized health resource center on the near east side will combine existing services by John Peter Smith and the Day Resource Center into a new facility off Lancaster Avenue. “The center isn’t housing, it’s a consolidation of social services already in place,” she said.
Gray also indicated that the Union Gospel Mission has stopped its clients from sleeping on the sidewalks, “which means something we are doing is having an impact.” She also reminded members and guests that a known drug house on Sargent Street has been demolished and that the city manager is putting together a nuisance abatement team to combine code, legal and police efforts in addressing housing that is poorly maintained or a public nuisance. Finally, she said neighborhood resistance stopped a zoning application for a small hotel on Eastchase that was not a good fit for the neighborhood. A final vote by council on the application is due March 28.
D8 Rep. Kelly Allen Gray Recaps 2014
West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association opened 2015 with a state of the district address by District 8 City Council Member Kelly Allen Gray. She told about 50 members and guests that 2014 was the year that city hall began listening to the East Side.
“The City Council and the Mayor are paying attention to what we are doing,” she said. “Keep it up.”
Vision East Lancaster chaired by Wanda Conlin has been working with business owners along Lancaster Avenue to bring economic development and beautification to the neighborhood. Gray is a member of the board.
With passage of the 2014 citywide bond package, Lancaster Avenue will undergo a makeover including improved lighting, sidewalks, intersections and traffic signals. Some work will begin now with completion expected in 2016. Gray says the lighting in particular will increase security and visibility.
Additionally, a pilot project with the Arts Council of Fort Worth to wrap three sign marquees on Lancaster Avenue will begin soon. The project is part of the 2015 art plan with $186,000 allocated to art installations along Lancaster Avenue.
Gray is especially proud of 20 new Habitat for Humanity homes with first-time home owners who are new to the neighborhood. The project was completed this summer with the help of former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosslyn. She encouraged everyone in the audience to visit the area and greet the new residents.
Gray said there is continual progress cleaning up the neighborhood. She complimented Code Compliance for its work removing derelict properties through the Chapter 125 nuisance abatement ordinance.
Homelessness, she said, has become a huge, citywide conversation. “We had to learn what exactly was happening and how to deal with it,” she said. “I personally didn’t know that much about homelessness, but I learned quickly.”
Every year 5,200 people will be homeless while 2,400 live in homelessness. “Twenty-nine per cent of the homeless are children. Children are living in shelters. It’s not acceptable, “ she said.
In the next five years, Fort Worth wants to add 600 units of permanent supported housing. “Every City Council member understands the need,” she said. Recently Lake Worth added 30 housing units with 10 units planned for downtown.
Gray also encouraged residents to visit the Near East Side to see the improvements already accomplished. Businesses in the area have joined forces to clean up the area and prevent homeless residents from sleeping on sidewalks. New businesses have moved into the area, a lawn-mowing service and a construction company, as well as the Fort Worth Can Academy.
“We have developers continuously looking at opportunities along Lancaster. Our newest business in District 8 is Top Golf, an indoor golf arena, which will open at I35 and Fourth Street,” she said. “Great things are happening.”