Engage D2: Tuesday, June 20th City Council Work Session and Regular Meeting

Tuesday, June 20th City Council Work Session and Regular Meeting – Agenda Linked Here

Work Session Items of Note:

  1. CLIMATE MAYORS Receive a report, hold a discussion, and give staff direction regarding the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda and current Sustainability activities.  In the last regular city council meeting I requested a council discussion on the possibility of Denton joining the growing list of well over 300 cities across the U.S. who have pledged to adopt, honor, and uphold the goals in the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda .  I believe that cities lead.  I believe that cities work. We may have strong differences of opinion as to how we get there, but so many in this community want to see Denton help lead the world in sustainability and positive climate action. This is not political. This is about thinking four generations ahead. This is about joining like minded cities and leading the world to a brighter future.
  2. MEETING COUNCIL’S GOAL OF 100% RENEWABLE BY 2035 – Receive a report from staff regarding various scenarios for moving the City of Denton toward 100% renewable energy.  One year ago (June 21, 2016) the city council passed resolution R2016-014 which set the goal for the City of Denton Municipal Electric to be 100% renewable by 2035 (then 19 years out). This will be our first look at staff assessments and planning scenarios toward reaching that goal.  DME anticipates being approximately 88% renewable in 2019, and is currently pursuing various means for increasing renewable energy, including community solar, energy storage, and demand response. Of note, an additional renewable RFP will be issued this month, and staff will return with a presentation to council before the end of the year to discuss the responses.

Regular Session Items of Note:

  1. PARKING, PARKING METERS, AND BIKE LANES NEAR UNT – I anticipate a lot of discussion and citizen input on Tuesday evening regarding two items on the agenda related to PARKING METERS and PROPOSED BIKE LANES on Hickory near UNT.  I look forward to the discussion and getting input on these matters.  Bike lanes are very important, but so is parking for the existing businesses in this area.
  2. EMPLOY 2 EMPOWERConsider adoption of an ordinance of the City of Denton authorizing a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Denton, Texas (“City”) and Denton Assistance Center, Inc., d/b/a Serve Denton (“Serve Denton”) to implement Employ-2-Empower, Denton’s Employment Empowerment Program for person’s experiencing homelessness; providing for the expenditure of funds; and providing for an effective date. This is a project I support fully and which aligns with one of our city’s key focus area of creating a safe, livable, and family friendly community which supports citizens in need through social service agencies.  Employment empowers people experiencing homelessness. Meaningful and sustainable employment is a key component to creating and maintaining housing stability. However, individuals experiencing homelessness face obstacles to finding and maintaining employment. Connecting them with job training and placement programs is critical to ensure they have the tools needed to exit homelessness for long-term stability. Denton City Council members expressed interest in pursuing a similar program to Albuquerque’s program called “There’s a Better Way”. City staff were asked for ideas regarding how to implement a program that creates employment opportunities for the homeless in Denton. In November, 2016 a planning group of city staff and local nonprofits was assigned the task of drafting a project proposal and identifying the level of interest for implementation from other community partners. The planning group met regularly through February 2017. The group reviewed similar projects offered in Albuquerque, Amarillo and Denver. As a result of the group has drafted a proposal for a pilot project called Employ-2-Empower (E2E). This program will help the literally homeless gain the skills, experience and confidence needed to find living-wage jobs through assistance such as the following: 1. Help people develop a job history. 2. Provide training and experience to develop soft skills. 3. Connect people to long-term employment opportunities. On February 21, 2017, the group presented the E2E pilot project to the City Council and requested $42,000 in funding to be leveraged with cost sharing options provided by multiple community partner agencies through in-kind service delivery. In addition, the project will require city departments to identify work projects that are suitable for workers enrolled in the program. City Council authorized staff to proceed with an agreement granting $21,000 funded from FY 2016-17 and $21,000 from FY 2018 to support the program.
  3. POTENTIAL TERMINATION OF DOWNTOWN TAX INCREMENT FINANCE ZONE (TIF) – Hold a public hearing regarding the potential termination of Tax Increment Financing Reinvestment Zone Number One (Downtown TIF), City of Denton, Texas.  There will be lots of discussion on this item as council considers the future of the Downtown Tax Increment Finance zone. There is a lot of community discussion on the purpose, impact, and need for this TIF at this point in time from both sides of the fence.  In very basic terms, a TIF is a tool that sets up a zone for focused public financing of structural improvements and infrastructure to promote the viability of existing businesses and to attract new commercial enterprises to the zone.  Whether the TIF remains in place or not, it is inaccurate to say that our city, and specifically the city council, are against our downtown (see table of expenditures below).  We have significantly invested as a city into our downtown over recent years to the benefit of our entire community.  The businesses that are operating now, the improvements to roads (example the Hickory Street project), the historic preservation, and facade improvements that we enjoy downtown are all investments into downtown which were not financial beneficiaries of the TIF.  A TIF, which is funded by increased property taxes each year from over the baseline value established at the beginning of the TIF, can be a powerful economic development tool.  In my opinion a tool, especially a powerful tool using public tax dollars, should have a clearly stated purpose, transparency, and accountability.  What is unclear to me at this moment is what specific purpose we aim to achieve with this TIF.  Having that specific purpose defined would be extremely helpful for all concerned.   Is the TIF and TIF board aiming for a parking garage?  That is what I have heard, but it has not been specifically stated or presented to the council to the best of my knowledge.  If the aim of the TIF and the TIF board is a downtown parking garage, then we need to have a community and council discussion about the pros and cons of a parking garage and whether or not sequestering property taxes at a time when our city is faced with the economic realities of a senior tax freeze and a state government which is poised to put restrictions on the ability of municipalities to collect property taxes is the right project achieved the right way.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  But we need to be talking about the specific ideas for how this TIF can and will be leveraged.  It is easy to look at our downtown and determine where businesses and the city have made investments.  Our TIF is still very young and has yet to make such impacts.  The important questions I have are as follows: 1) What is crucially needed in the downtown area that market forces and/or the city will be unable or unwilling to provide? 2) What “nice to haves” are missing in our downtown that market forces and/or the city will be unable or unwilling to provide?  3)  What strategic objectives for our downtown development are at risk of not being met if not for the TIF?  4) If the downtown area were seeking to establish a TIF today, would it be considered an area that needed economic stimulus?  These are honest questions I am seeking answers to. I am confident that there will be a lot of valuable input from our citizens on Tuesday night.  This is not an issue that was on my radar to tackle, but it is the issue on the agenda Tuesday night and I look forward to, what is hopefully, a productive and ongoing discussion before we make any decisions.
  4. LEGALLY DESIGNATING THE O’NEIL FORD CIVIC COMPLEX AS AN HISTORIC LANDMARK Hold a public hearing and consider adoption of an ordinance designating the property known as the O’Neil Ford Civic Complex, bounded by Withers Street on the north, Bell Avenue on the east, McKinney Street on the south and Austin and Oakland Streets on the west, a historic landmark, under Section 35.7.6. of the Denton Development Code; providing for a penalty in the maximum amount of $2,000.00 for violations thereof; providing a severability clause and an effective date. This is an issue I previously brought forward in new business and I am very much in favor of officially and legally designating this complex as a historic landmark for preservation and protection.  This ordinance aligns with our city’s goal of providing and supporting educational and cultural opportunities.

That’s all for now. Check the links below.  Please let me know what questions, concerns, or ideas you have.

Your humble representative,

Keely G. Briggs
City Council – District 2
(940) 453-8377
Keely.Briggs@cityofdenton.com

Please take the City of Denton Sustainability Survey
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Be Aire Aware – EVENT LINKED HERE
Join City of Denton Sustainability and North Central Texas Council of Governments to learn more about what you can be doing on Air Quality Action Day (June 23rd) to make Denton a healthier place to live and play. Giveaways and prizes for everyone who signs up for the Clean Air Action Day Pledge!
Sprayground Groundbreaking
The ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Carl Gene Young Sr. Park.  More info LINKED HERE.
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