Written by Phil Cerroni
Support is needed to help bring a cutting-edge YA (young adult) book tour to Irving. The city with the most votes in the YA2U contest will win the opportunity to host a panel discussion and book-signing event featuring five best-selling, award-winning authors. Booklovers, community members and library patrons have until Feb. 15 to cast a vote for Irving in the online contest.
Authors featured on the book tour include Beth Revis (“Across the Universe”), Marissa Meyers (“Cinder”), Marie Lu (“Legend”), Victoria Schwab (“The Near Witch”) and debut author Megan Shepherd (“The Madman’s Daughter”). If Irving wins the contest, these authors also may visit local schools.
“Two of the writers participated in an author panel during the Summer Reading Club in 2012 and received rave reviews,” said Irving Public Library Teen Programming Coordinator Kristin Trevino. “There is certainly a huge demand for more teen author appearances in Irving and we are excited to have this opportunity.”
To vote, visit ya2u.blogspot.com and select “Contest Entry” from the menu at left. For more information, call (972) 721-2606, or visit cityofirving.org/library and select “TeenScene.”
Source: City of Irving
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 15:50
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
The Irving Family YMCA hosted its 2013 Partners Campaign Kick-Off Dinner at the Irving Convention Center on Jan. 27.
“The main focal point of our evening was to celebrate the victories we had and all the community development work we did in 2012, and to help launch a campaign to help us expand that work in 2013,” said Doug Fox, executive director for the Irving YMCA.
“I think most folks know of the YMCA. I think fewer folks know what the YMCA is today, here in Irving in 2013.
“Programs like Play and Learn, Fit for Health and Salsa, Sabor y Salud are designed to engage and impact families and empower parents to be their own change agents. While these programs are free, they are not handouts. You will not get anything out of Play and Learn if you do not read to and engage your child. You will not get anything out of Salsa, Sabor y Salud if you do not take the healthy living strategies you’ve been given. So the fact we are seeing true change happen is powerful. Last year, more than 3,000 individuals were impacted by those three programs alone.
“Most folks don’t look at the YMCA and see childhood obesity prevention programs and school readiness programs. They may think of at-risk teen programs, but probably not at the level and type that we offer. They probably don’t see us as a cancer survivorship, wellness resource provider. All of those programs are unique, and we wanted folks to hear that message. In the general community, most folks think of the YMCA as just a gym and a swim. We have broken that mold, not just in Irving, but across Dallas.”
Lukana Hege discovered the YMCA’s Play and Learn program while searching for resources to help her son who was late with his speech development.
“Every time we would go to the program my kids were so excited,” Hege said. “My daughter was about eight months old, and she took her first steps there in the gym. My son made his first friend there. He calls the magnets the ‘magic.’ Just seeing all the stuff and their creativity made me feel good.
“The staff was kind and their hospitality was so welcoming. I started attending their literacy nights and the fall festival. Eventually when my son turned three, I started him in sports. I also joined Salsa, Sabor y Salud, which has taught me a lot about nutrition. Joining Salsa, Sabor y Salud convinced us to join the gym, so we became members. Now we go to the YMCA every day.
“My kids are always so excited to go, and for me going to the gym is my ‘me time.’ I just love this place. It is a great place for my kids.”
After growing up in Irving, Howard Hamilton retired to Florida where he learned to play golf, had five bypass surgeries and lost his lovely wife. When he returned to Irving, he joined the YMCA’s Silver Sneakers.
“I had been told if I was going to live, I would have to exercise,” Hamilton said. “The cardiologist doesn’t consider golf exercising.
“Every morning I get up, and I want to go see my second family. We all love each other. If one of us goes to the hospital to be operated on, another one or two of us will sit there with the spouse or family friends. We love these people. We hug each other. We don’t care about color or denominations; that doesn’t mean a thing. Love has extended our lives, and I’ve found the place where it grows the most and it is the Irving YMCA.
“I was here when Irving was a town of about 10,000 to 25,000 people back in the early 50s. Today, it is 300,000. If that doesn’t tell you we need a new YMCA, I don’t know what will.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 15:50
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
With help from a $7,000 grant from Coppell ISD Education Foundation, Valley Ranch Elementary School (VRE) broke ground Jan. 25 on their new school garden and outdoor learning center. The VRE grant committee partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvement in Lewisville and Real School Gardens to design the garden and to create the grant proposal. A buy-a-brick program will be a continuing fundraiser for the garden.
VRE students are known as the Stars, and they voted to name the outdoor learning areaThe Garden of the Stars. Students and teachers will use the area to facilitate hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities and experiences which support the school-wide Project Based Learning initiatives in science, math, social students and language arts. With the help of school staff, parents, students, neighbors and friends of VRE, construction on the school garden began Jan. 26. Spring planting will start in March.
“We’re building eight raised vegetable gardens, one for each grade level (or group) so they can come out and populate their own vegetables,” said Peter Macrae, a teachers’ aide who teaches technology to kindergartners and first graders. “We also have a native plant section that’s going to be a Monarch (butterfly) station. We will count Monarchs as part of the national program for the Monarch Society. A star flower garden will represent the school since they are the Valley Ranch Stars.
“It will be a classroom outside where kids can learn about growing vegetables rather than buying them in plastic containers,” Macrae said. “That’s our goal. Everything grown will be completely organic.”
Macrae and Kris Rindels, a fifth grade science teacher, were in charge of the building operations.
“Through fifth grade science classes, the kids did a project and researched what kinds of plants are drought tolerant and what would survive in the heat during different times of the year,” Rindels said. “They also researched what kinds of plants would attract butterflies.
“Over the summer, some of us met and wrote a grant for the Education Foundation for Coppell, and that is how we got the money to fund a lot of this. It has blossomed from there. Eventually down the road, we’re going to have a pergola and a learning center out here. It can be an ongoing project for years to come.”
“(Students can) leave a little ownership of the garden when they move to middle school, with a brick in the garden,” Macrae said. “We are going to populate the walkway with bricks and then around the star.”
Art teacher Laci Garza was on the grant committee. The garden is next to her classroom, and she talked about how the garden will benefit her students.
“I’m really excited because I’ll be able to bring kids out here to draw flowers that usually I have to have in my classroom,”Garza said.
Nancy Payne with Real School Gardens lives in the neighborhood but does not have children at the school. She was there helping build the Monarch butterfly station.
“We help schools build learning gardens and then we teach teachers how to teach outdoors,” Payne said. “We are a nonprofit (group). We have 91 schools in five North Texas districts. I’m a friend of Peter who is a group leader, and I’ve only helped when he had questions. I helped them pick the plants, so they’re all native plants.”
Other project members include Amy Cheatham, April Owen, Cindy Amyx, Cindy Coggins, Diane Greckel, Jodi Schleter, Kati Castellanos, Lorie Squalls, and Tammee Henderson, Carol Snowden and Principal Cynthia Arterbery.
Story includes press release information by Amy Cheatham.
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 February 2013 15:49
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham and Jess Paniszczyn
The intellectual arguments, statements of personal preference, political posturing, hype, name calling, squabbles, fights, even the voting has gone on for years. It has become a uniquely Irving tradition that has been a part of Irving longer than most of her residents. The great debate over alcohol: should it be sold within city limits, if so, where, what type, how much, in which establishments, under what circumstances?
The City Council is holding a special session on Jan. 24 to perhaps determine the fate of the City’s 60/40 ratio. Simply put a restaurant in the city of Irving is required to serve no less than 60 percent food and no more than 40 percent alcohol. The state standard for restaurants is 50/50. The Council is considering allowing a 30/70 ratio.
Additionally, the Council is considering overlay districts, a series of boundaries which treat businesses within different boundaries or districts differently.
This article is being written prior to the City Council’s special session. In order to provide some background on what is happening on the alcohol issue now and why, we have interviewed two titians of Irving politics who have not always seen eye to eye Councilman Joe Putnam and Herb Gears. Both gentlemen have served as Irving Councilmen and as Mayors in the past.
“Our community has evolved from a basic understanding that there is no redeeming value in alcohol,” Gears said. “You can see it in the way, over the years, we have accommodated regulating alcohol, and balancing that with the type of development we wanted for our community.
“Is it time for an adjustment? Maybe it is. When you make the argument that food prices are stable, but alcohol prices are soaring… you can’t have two glasses of wine with dinner without violating the 60/40 ordinance. From a logical, business perspective, we’re being asked to attend to the needs of today’s industry, and I think we should do that.
“On the other hand, the flaw in the argument is that you have to do this to get new development. Well, we’re looking for that in the Urban District. The people that live there and work there are looking for an urban-style environment… and that includes bars. So you have to take this question on more than one front.
“(Changing this for the Las Colinas area) does not solve the problem for every other restaurant in Irving.
“It’s a real problem – one you can solve without creating bars.
“They need to go ahead and change the ordinance to 50/50 in the remainder of the city; that would solve every restaurant in town’s problem.”
If the 50/50 benefits restaurants, then who benefits from a 30/70 ratio?
“There are people who want bars in Irving, so the 30/70 is a benefit to the people who want bars,” Putnam said. “The 30/70 offers no benefit to the citizens of Irving, Irving neighborhoods, Irving homeowners or anyone else, other than people who want to operate bars. That is what this fight is all about.
In 1981 when the local option election was approved, the promise was made to Irving voters that the sale of alcohol for on premises consumption would be limited to restaurants. The 60/40 formula was adopted to ensure that only restaurants would sell alcohol.
“We were sued over this formula by West End Pink, Ltd. in 97 or 98, and that is when our ordinance was validated. Because of a unique character of our ordinance, unlike every other city in the state of Texas, we had the authority to regulate the ratio of alcohol to food. Under state law, cities have no ability to regulate the sale of alcohol. So we have a very narrow, protective exception to state law, which we have maintained for 30 years.
“The way this whole mess got started was my big fight with the entertainment center and Billy Bob was over the alcohol issue. About a year ago, Billy Bob and I started talking about how to resolve my issue. We came up with a solution that is sensible for everyone: reduce the 60/40 to 50/50, which is what the state standard is. Any legitimate restaurant in the world can operate with a 50/50 ratio of food to alcohol.
“One of the issues is whether the City Council ought to break the promise to the promise that was made in 1981 without having citizens vote on it. I think citizens should vote on it. There is a provision in the proposed charter election that would allow a citizen vote.”
“In Texas, a facility that sells more than 50 percent alcohol is not classified as a restaurant,” Gears said. “That has to do with their licensing, and how much bonding they require; it’s much more expensive to be a bar and get a bar license than it is for a restaurant license.
“What’s always been sensitive – because these ordinances are protected, you have to be careful when you begin to alter them. If you alter them substantially, for example, you create a situation where a challenge could, in fact, invalidate your grand-fathering.
“To what degree could you amend the 60/40 ordinance, and not place your city in jeopardy of losing a challenge? You have to think about limiting your alterations.”
How would a 30/70 affect existing restaurants?
“The 30/70 will jeopardize every legitimate restaurant in Irving today,” Putnam said. “Champps, The Ranch and similar restaurants will have to compete with someone just down the street operating as a bar who doesn’t have to spend money on a kitchen and can sell unlimited amounts of alcohol. All the patrons in those legitimate restaurants who are there because they want something to drink, will migrate down to the real bar. It will create a significant financial disadvantage to those restaurants.”
“The restaurant owner doesn’t want me opening up next to him and not having to invest in my kitchen the way he did,” Gears said. “A bar has a much more competitive advantage.
“And the 30/70 only applies to whatever might be newly-built. You’re not going to see an existing restaurant go to 30/70; it wouldn’t make sense. Anything that’s currently in business was built with a profit model that meets the 60/40. So you have to separate the two issues.
“The restaurants originally asked for the 50/50. They say it will work for them.
“The Council is confusing the two issues and looking for a solution that doesn’t even speak to one of the issues. They think the answer is to go to 30/70, and then somehow limit it in some way, so they’ve morphed into these variations to justify it politically.
“For restaurants that are not in the Urban Center, even if they are in the Las Colinas Association [like iFratelli’s], solve their problem by changing it to 50/50 for them.
“The backdrop is, you want to be able to protect your abilities to regulate alcohol. If you’ve solved the problem for every restaurant in Irving by going to 50/50, which I believe you have, then you don’t confront that.
“And you’re treating people fairly.”
Would creating various districts in different areas of the city solve some of the problems, because people do not want ‘bars’ in or around their neighborhoods, but the Urban Center does not have the same types of concerns?
“Overlay districts are totally illegal. It is idiotic,” Putnam said. “You cannot have different standards for alcohol consumption without violating not only the 14th Amendment, but the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code plainly says that all holders of mixed beverage permits must be treated alike. You cannot have one standard in south Irving and another standard in north Irving. Everyone is entitled to the same rules. So if overlay districts are put in place, anyone who is discriminated against will sue the City and win. So if there are bars in north Irving or Las Colinas, you will have bars in south Irving and anywhere else in the city.”
“If you’re talking about politics, then you’ll see what you’ve seen so far from this Council,” Gears said. “But it’s not about politics. It’s not about Las Colinas wanting it and South Irving not wanting it. The decision should be made by considering what the problem is, and (asking if you are) providing the solution that solves the problem.
“You’re not making a change because you want your local businesses to be able to sell more alcohol… We’re talking about removing an obstacle to new development in the Urban Center. They’re saying 60/40 is an obstacle. Fine, we’ll remove that obstacle in the Urban Center. That’s why we call it “urban”; that’s what we need there. That makes sense in the Urban Center Overlay.”
“This is a very complicated, delicate, difficult issue that needs to be dealt with by the City Council in a very thoughtful way, instead of through this rush of judgment that we see at City Hall,” Putnam said. “People are stampeding into a decision without really understanding what they are doing. The risk to the city is extreme, the consequences are significant, and Council members need to be thoughtful about it.”
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:38
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
In 2007, the City of Irving developed a Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Program to stimulate the growth of small M/WBE and hired Deborah McVean, who had worked with small business programs for over 15 years, as program administrator. McVean spoke about how women in business can engage with the City of Irving at the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber’s Women’s Alliance luncheon at La Cima Club Jan. 16.
Last year, the City of Irving accepted and approved bids worth about $40 million, according to McVane.
“Of that amount, about $20 million was spent with MWBE firms,” McVean said. “About $10 million of that amount went to women owned firms.
“We spend about $62 million a year on contracts, but some of those are in agreement with other local cities, and some are renewals,” she said. “Right now, 70 percent of our contracts are construction contracts, because we’re redoing the water/wastewater lines in the city, particularly on the south side, but that’s going to shift as we meet the end of that bond program.”
McVean said more vendors bidding means better prices for the City of Irving and that the City gets to keep taxes down if they are not spending as much on the contracts they award.
“Part of my job is to find, encourage and educate minority women in business,” McVean said. “I partner with over 27 community leaders in Irving and ethnic chambers of commerce across the Metroplex. I work with those ethnic chambers and the Irving Chamber, sending out email notices about our solicitations, so they can forward those to their members. I also go through two certification data bases: NCTRCA, the local certification firm, and the State of Texas HUB Certification.”
“It’s not necessary to be certified as a MWBE firm in order to do business with the city, but it helps,” McVean said. “Certification works two ways. One: it allows us to show the community that we are working with legitimate, qualified firms and that we’re giving equal opportunity to everyone. Two: it gives you the opportunity to work with a company on the subcontracting level.”
“Registration in our data base will give you the opportunity to be notified as soon as we put the solicitation up,” McVean said. “You will be notified by email. We don’t mail, we don’t do the post office, and we don’t give you a telephone call.”
The City purchases a wide variety of goods and services.
“It’s up to you to figure out if we purchase what you can provide,” McVean said. “Go to our website (www.ci.irving.tx.us/). Go to the business tab of the City’s webpage, click on Purchasing Solicitations, and you’ll see all of our previous and current contracts. We keep about six months of previous contracts up on our website. If you click on the name of the contract, you have the bid. You get to see all of the pertinent information about the scope of work and what it entails.
“If the bid number is underlined, it is an annual contract, and you get to see who bid the previous time and what they bid. So you have your competition’s information so that when you bid, you can bid more within line of what was previously bid and might have a good chance of winning that contract. We also put when it’s due, what day it is going to come in.”
Solicitations are on the City’s website for about three weeks.
“When we open the bid, they are always public, so you can come to our bid openings and see who bid on the contract,” McVean said. “We put that bid tabulation up on the website, and in the bottom column we tell who won the bid. We are very transparent when it comes to the purchasing department.”
The City chooses the apparent responsible low bidder.
“Just because you bid the lowest doesn’t mean you’re going to get the bid,” McVean said.
“If you’re going to bid on government contracts, there are resources like the SCORE Association (Counselors to America’s entrepreneurs and business owners) and SBDC (The North Texas Small Business Development Center) has a Center for Government Contracting, and they will teach you how to put a government bid together free of charge. There are resources to help you grow your business that are provided by the federal government – taxpayer dollars at work.
“When we open a formal bid, we usually do it in our conference room,” McVean said. “We will open it and read the names out. It it’s an architect or engineering contract, those are negotiated, so we will just read the name of the contractor. Otherwise, we give you the name of the contractor and what they bid.
“Bidding on a government contract is a numbers game. There will be some days, you get the contract, and some days you’ll wonder how the other company can do the job for what they bid. You want to look at the history, so you can bid successfully on future contracts.
“If there is a pre-bid, attend it. It’s a great networking opportunity. Being in business is about networking and about developing connections and relationships that will help your business grow and hopefully get your foot in the door for greater opportunities.”
Last Updated on Monday, 28 January 2013 20:39
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