The Latest 2017

Journey Home Clean Slate Offers Homeless Chance to Hold Jobs

Kirsten Ham, coordinator of the Clean Slate program at Presbyterian Night Shelter, said she is offering homeless clients an opportunity to earn money and ultimately work their way off the street. Ham spoke to the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association in January.

Ham said the PNS asks case managers to screen shelter residents who would be eligible to work jobs with the city removing litter, serving as janitors, or working in a community kitchen. “We have six employees and are looking now for more permanent jobs for these individuals,” she said.

The PNS has freed one of two kitchens on site for rent and is looking for more opportunities to expand.

“We are picking up 15 tons of litter working alongside city employees on a gondola,” Ham said. Clients are paid $8 per hour. “The city saves $40,000 annually and it’s a new opportunity to partner with us to end homelessness.”

Twenty clients work at the Cutting Edge haunted house facility as parking attendants.

Screening includes tests for drug use, background checks and interviews for jobs. Many have faced obstacles in their lives and have criminal records. “If they show us they want to change and get off the street, we give them an opportunity to work,” Ham said.

Councilwoman Gyna Givens, District 5, stood in for District 8 Kelley Allen Gray in January. She said she had requested an estimate from the city staff of what it would take to end homelessness, panhandling and street crime. She expected to hear from them before the next board meeting.

FWPD Answers Neighborhood Call for Assistance with New Enforcement Program

At the February meeting, Capt. Michael Shedd, Eastern Division, said the Fort Worth Police Department was initiating a program to manage homelessness, illegal camping, and vagrancy along the Lancaster Avenue and in the area.

“We will employ a blend of empathy and enforcement,” he said. “It’s not illegal to be homeless, but some behaviors associated with homelessness are illegal.”

A new Neighborhood Patrol Officer Travis Ward will be dedicated to Lancaster Avenue businesses and a bike patrol will be circulating through the business district to help encourage homeless residents to use services available to them and to enforce criminal trespass laws.

On Wednesday, Feb.22, the FWPD visited 19 homeless camps and gave warnings to residents that they were criminal trespassing and would be expected to move in 48 hours. All campers were offered information about social services and shelters. FWPD is also working with code enforcement to clean up debris and biohazards left behind in camps.

West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association board member Tom Hamilton was instrumental in bringing the illegal camping and litter problem to the attention of the city and police department. He documented the extent of illegal camping, the existence of criminals in the camps, the dangerous biohazards left behind and the trash that resulted. His presentation at the city council in February caught the attention of the media and the city.

“You as a neighborhood have to consider what you will tolerate from campers,” Shedd said. “This initiatve isn’t a long-term solution.”

The City Council and the Task Force for Ending Homelessness will hold a meeting on March 30 at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fort Worth to discuss their conclusions about ending homelessness. Don Boren, Kwik Kopy owner and local activist, chairs the task force.

League of Women Voters Provides Non-Partisan Help to Citizens

Jeane Grisham, a West Meadowbrook resident and League of Women Voters member, spoke at the March meeting of the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association on the importance of casting educated ballots.

The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 after the 19th amendment awarding women the right to vote was passed. “My grandmother was 32 before she was allowed to vote,” Grisham said. “She always insisted that we register to vote as soon as possible and to vote in every election.”

Grisham, who joined the League of Women Voters as a young woman, encouraged the audience to visit the League of Women Voters web site, vote11.org, to get candidate information on a personalized ballot. With city, school board, water board and county elections coming up in May, she said it was critical for voters to get to know the candidates.

“Local elections will affect your life more than state and national elections,” she warned. “Constituents can call local elected officials to get help with an issue.”

A government instructor at Tarrant County Community College, Grisham encourages her students to research what committees elected officials are serving on and how that service correlates with the campaign donations they receive. “Generally, there is a direct link,” she added.

She educates students about the suffragists who endured arrests, workhouses, and force feeding during their campaign for the right to vote. “Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott organized a women’s movement that resulted in protests in front of the White House every day until the 19th amendment was passed,“ Grisham said.

She concluded by saying that criticism of voters being registered in more than one state is exaggerated because of the difficulty in transferring registration from one state to another. States require multiple sets of identification, including divorce decrees, to prove who you are who you say you are and that you are simply changing your address.

Capt. Michael Shedd also updated the community on the effort to eliminate illegal camps and vagrants from the area. He deemed a new bike patrol a great success and said it would soon expand from four to six officers. The patrol has made 41 arrests in five weeks. He also said that local police were inquiring at the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office about securing approval to carry affidavits that allow them to invoke criminal trespassing on vagrants and loiterers, a procedure that is now handled in many cases by Mike Phipps as a proxy for absentee landowners. In addition, prostitution complaints have also been addressed with three arrests. Travis Ward, East Lancaster business corridor NPO, will be the link between businesses and law enforcement.

Shedd said once the homeless camps identified by citizens have been removed and relocated, he plans to meet with business owners on economic development to see what law enforcement can do to improve the profitability of East Lancaster businesses. Crime is down considerably from last year, except in the area of robberies, which has experienced a slight uptick. Compared to last year, robberies have been cut in half.

Kelly Allen Gray, District 8 City Council, also congratulated residents for making enough noise to get the city’s attention and create the momentum now in full swing on the Eastside. She encouraged members to attend two meetings – Tarrant County Homeless Coalitions’ Report on Homelessness at 4:30 p.m. on March 23 in the City Council chambers and the joint City Council/Task Force on Ending Homelessness meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 27 at the First Presbyterian Church, 1000 Penn Street. Both will unveil new initiatives for handling homelessness and develop housing for those in need.

City Council Candidates Forum Precedes May 6 Elections

Incumbent Kelly Allen Gray and challenger Kevin Johnson responded to questions in three key areas and answer member questions at an April meeting of the West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association.

After introductory statements, the candidates responded to questions in three areas identified by the WMNA advisory board as important to the West Meadowbrook community – crime and housing, economic development and homelessness. Both Gray and Johnson verified that they were both residents of the district.

Crime

With the recent uptick in violent crimes in the District 8 area, do you agree more needs to be done about crime?

Gray 

 

Violence is on the increase everywhere in our city. No one is immune. Gang-related activity and domestic violence are both concerns. We are giving the police department the resources they need to do their job. Everyone should be aware of their surroundings and report what is happening to the police.

Johnson

My advice is if you see it, stop it and call police. Don’t be embarrassed or worried about what your neighbors think. Build a relationship with the police so that we can stop some of these crimes before they happen.

What plans do you have for economic development in the Meadowbrook area?

Johnson

We have economic development plans, but they haven’t been pushed. Were you aware there is TIF money available from 2003 for Lancaster that hasn’t been spent? East Berry also has money available. We have to start with a cornerstone, build it up, and expand from there. The educational system must be strong. Poor ratings for schools contribute to low-level jobs which results in low pay for residents. Many residents have been displaced by development along Rosedale and Evans. We have to be careful about long-term development.

Gray

I have to correct the record. TIF money for Lancaster is not available to East Fort Worth. That money is dedicated to West Lancaster. When I was little, my mother and I rode the bus and shopped up and down East Lancaster. It has always been a home for small businesses as it is today. Vision East Lancaster has been working closely with businesses to try to work on improvements. Since 2012 when I was first elected, I have been working hard to shine a light on East Lancaster.

 

What can we do to eliminate the businesses that prey on the lower-income residents? Tote the note, pawn shops, title loans, etc.

 

Gray

We can’t really get rid of them if they fit the zoning. Arlington has an ordinance forbidding payday loan operations. Regulations can confine them to certain practices. A big component is credit counseling. I’ve worked on a plan to require anyone who takes out a payday loan to teach them how to do a budget so that they don’t come back. A cap on interest rates has been drafted in the Legislature. My suggestion is to talk to your state representative and senator to request they do something about it.

Johnson

My suggestion is don’t support them. I’ve advocated for regulation against them. If you don’t want a service, don’t support it.

How can the city do a better job of promoting West Meadowbrook?

Johnson

I’m running to represent all of District 8, not just Meadowbrook. My question is why doesn’t District 8 look like District 6? My house is okay, but the rest of the neighborhood is burning down. Entire district should be beautiful.

Gray

My job as City Council member is to show everyone the Eastside. We are seeing families from Fairmount moving here because of taxes. What happens in Meadowbrook is important to you, but Meadowbrook is part of a larger picture. Show your friends who live outside the area what the area is like. Most people are surprised.

Housing/homelessness

Gray

I oppose any expansion of the shelter area further into our community. I opposed the Union Gospel Mission expansion, but women and children do need to be together. With men living on one side of a shelter and women on the other, 13-year-old boys were being sent to live with grown men. We don’t always know the whole story. These shelters serve a need. Things are happening that should happen these days. The Union Gospel Mission has begun to cooperate with the other shelters about security and cleanliness. We continue to work on transitional housing to help homeless residents find a permanent shelter.

 

Johnson

He left the forum before it was completed and did not respond to this question.

 

In closing, Gray encouraged all residents to vote. Early vote began April 24 and continues through May 2. The general election is May 6. Seats are open and competitive on City Council, the Fort Worth Board of Trustees and the Tarrant Regional Water Board.

 

Capt. Michael Shedd updated the members on the investigation into the death of a 15-year-old boy at the intersection of Oakland and Lancaster following a gathering. He said they have a suspect in the case, but they have not completed their investigation. The altercation was a gang-related fight between two groups who are not located in East Fort Worth. Teens from two rival gangs were attending a party at a location on Oakland. The police are checking the permit for the building where a party was reportedly happening. Officers are also doing increased traffic stops and searches to turn up evidence

Shedd reported that the department had mapped the location of all known game rooms in the area and found correlating crime hot spots to each location. The division will focus on the areas around game rooms for alcohol and tobacco stings to try to combat crime. “We’re going to make it uncomfortable for them. We'll  try to push them out of the city,” he said.

Annual WMNA Picnic Honors FWPD Actions

West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association hosted its annual picnic on May 15 at Oakland Lake Park. At the potluck dinner for members and guests, Tonya Ferguson, president, presented Fort Worth Police Department's Captain Michael Shedd with a letter of appreciation for his efforts to spearhead the removal of illegal encampments and to focus the department's energies on improving Lancaster Avenue.

Concrete Crushing Plant Resistance, Crime Upswing Topics of June Meeting

Linda Fullmer, White Lake Hills, headlined the June meeting of West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association meeting. Fullmer is one of the key players in the resistance to the state application for an air quality permit for a concrete crushing plant on First Street.

 

Wallace Hall, owner of property near Gateway Park, is attempting for the second time in a year to site a concrete crushing plant on his property which is zoned for other purposes. He was turned down with prejudice by the Fort Worth City Council exactly one year ago today. His path blocked by the city, Hall is seeking statewide approval from the Texas Environmental Quality Commission prior to seeking rezoning.

 

Fullmer told the audience that a 30-day comment period on the proposed project began June 2 when Hall published an ad announcing his intentions. She warned that the TCEQ permit is a technical process and does not evaluate zoning or land use. “Keep your comments pertinent to the air quality issue,” she said while encouraging members to file their thoughts with the TCEQ. Go to http://www14.tceq.texas.gov/epic/eCommen... Type in permit application number 146263 and
add your comments.

 

Fullmer said: “This is an important issue for East Fort Worth and the viability of future recreational and economic development along East 1st Street and Randol Mill. We must not allow an undesirable concrete crusher to contaminate public perception of our beautiful new East 1st Street, the expanded amenities coming to Gateway Park East, enhancements to Trinity Trails, or the viability of our Eastside Blossoms programs.”

 

Zoning at the site is multi-family, residential or commercial and has been designated as such since the 1985. A 2013 case in Houston sited a concrete crushing plant over the objections of the city because the zoning set a required distance from other properties after a project was approved. Fort Worth’s zoning is a different form known as Euclidean which places restrictions on how land is used.  

State Rep. Nicole Collier has requested an informational meeting by the TCEQ in the coming week at Nolan High School. The City of Fort Worth has passed a resolution against the plant.

 

Fullmer said “we can take some comfort from the knowledge that the TCEQ permit does not override city zoning.”

 

Capt. Michael Shedd discussed progress on game rooms despite recent court decisions. The city is now seizing machines rather than mother boards and selling them to an outside vendor. “Machines are expensive and this is a deterrent,” he said. The city has also been cleared to enforce certain areas of the original ordinance under appeal. Tarrant County will also be allowed to regulate game rooms as part of recent legislative action. In game rooms covered by the court case, code compliance is enforcing rules on smaller game rooms.

 

Shedd has also been working with Haydn Cutler to establish a Public Improvement District that would cover all business in Lancaster Avenue. A tax on businesses would pay for security, landscaping and would give police a single point of contact for vagrancy problems. Security cameras have also been purchased by the city with 35 designated for Stop Six and 25 left unassigned for Shedd to place at his discretion. Capt. Allen Speed said he has informed the owner of TL Food Mart on Lancaster Avenue that the clientele frequenting his store and a vacant lot nearby will not be tolerated. Speed has an upcoming meeting to explain that the neighborhood has had enough of the illegal activity going on at that location. Speed is also heading up a new flag football program on the Eastside to engage youth.

 

In other news, an architect has been chosen for the new children’s library to be built on Lancaster Avenue. Also, a $5 million charter school development is planned for the former Sagamore Hill Baptist Church site.

Code Compliance Procedures, Beat

Changes Announced

Mariana Olivera, commercial code compliance officer, described the make-up of her department and how the public can coordinate with the group to report violations. Olivera spoke to the August membership meeting of the WMNA at Meadowbrook United Methodist Church.

Five commercial health officers and two code officers respond to complaints about zoning, property maintenance, health inspections, and game room violations. Commercial code works closely with other departments in the city to respond to complaints.

“Contact us about any violations you observe, even if you are not sure whether the business is in violation,” Olivera said. “It’s imperative that complainants have the date, time, location and details of the violation before we are contacted.”

She encouraged all members to become Code Rangers to improve understanding of rules. Her contact information is a direct  phone line: 817-995-0818.

Capt. Michael Shedd introduced the new East Division Lieutenant Steve Benjamin. Shedd also explained a realignment of new north division. East Division also has been adjusted with new boundaries: Beach to Rosedale, Rosedale to Vaughn, Vaughn to 287, 287 to Arlington.

Shedd said that officers often crisscross the division responding to calls. In order to make more efficient use of officers’ time,  Fort Worth Police Department created 16 beats with officers assigned to each area. “Each officer has a distinct geographic area for which he or she is responsible,” Shedd said.

Game room enforcement continues to ramp up. Warnings to 70 game room operators about compliance were completed by Aug.4. On Aug.24, a team of fire department, code compliance,  and police began enforcing rules regarding tax stamps and comptroller permits. The vice department is working with the courts to confiscate machines.

Twenty-five surveillance cameras have been assigned to the East Division. They will be deployed on Lancaster and other locations.

The Fort Worth Library has assigned an architect to the new library on Lancaster Avenue that was approved in the last bond election. Construction will be complete by 2019.

Principals Look Forward to 2018 and New Roles

The September meeting of the

West Meadowbrook Neighborhood Association

is always a chance for members to hear from

leaders of schools in our area. Meadowbrook

Elementary, Meadowbrook Middle School, and

Eastern Hills High School principals updated

the membership on students’ progress.

Meadowbrook Elementary Principal Terry McGuire

explained the diverse nature of her population –

91 percent free lunch, 24 percent in and out of school, three classes of international students from Vietnam, Venezuela, Somalia, among other nations, and a high percentage of special needs students. McGuire established] a book buddy’s initiative in second and third grade to help with fluency. She encourages neighbors to visit the school where she conducts history courses regularly and welcomes volunteer readers.

Meadowbrook Middle School Principal Marron McWilliams is new to the school this year. His goal is to re-create the school’s mission, vision and values statements and to cultivate in each student the acknowledgement that they can accomplish goals. He also hopes to empower students to take part in the community. Pride, Honor, Scholarship, Respect and Dedication will be prominently displayed throughout the school campus. He seeks involvement from parents to ensure success. MMS will be a feeder school for the new STEM VA school under construction near downtown Fort Worth.

Katrina Smith, principal, Eastern Hills High School, returned to the high school environment after leading Meadowbrook Middle School. Smith says she will treat every student as her own, but she won’t be a “friend.” “Excellence is easy if you work at it,” she said. She plans to hold teachers accountable for results and to build bridges with parents. “I’m telling them to be nosy,” she said.  EHHS narrowly missed meeting state standards last year. She replaced 20 teachers this year, hiring up to the day school started. She seeks more stability and consistency in staffing and instruction.

Katrina Smith, EHHS principal, Marron McWilliams, MMS, and Terry McQuire, Me

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