Written by Phil Cerroni
The City Council will discuss adopting an ethics code for the City at an upcoming meeting. The ethics code, which applies to the Council, City staff, board and commission members, and city contractors and consultants, has not been amended since it was adopted in 1994.
The council deferred action on adopting the code and policy at the Aug. 9 Council Meeting.
An ethics committee started work on updating the code in December 2011 and worked on the policy until May. The committee has recommended approval of the policy.
The 29-page policy, up from the city’s current five-page policy, includes specific dos and don’ts, an enforcement section and addresses topics such as gifts, political campaigns and the registration of lobbyists.
The draft adds in language that those under the policy may “not engage in or facilitate any discriminatory or harassing behavior” and also specifies that they may not “persuade or attempt to persuade any employee of the City to leave the employ of the City or to become employed by any person or entity other than the City.”
Other specific additions include prohibiting employees or officials from accepting gifts valued at more than $50. An employee or official cannot accept more than $500 in gifts in a single year, according to the draft.
Also, the draft defines a “prohibited financial interest” in a contract with the City if the employee or official or a member of their immediate family directly or indirectly owns 10 percent or more of the voting stock of the business or 10 percent of the fair market value of the business.
The draft also spells out the process for filing an ethics complaint with the City.
If the Council allows the complaint, a three member Ethics Review Panel will review the case. The panel can dismiss the complaint, send a letter of notification, a letter of admonition, a letter of reprimand or make a referral to ethics training.
An appeal cannot be filed.
The Council will consider approving the policy at their September meeting.
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:25
Written by Phil Cerroni
Coppell City officials have authorized Dallas County to use aerial spraying to combat West Nile Virus
The City of Coppell recognizes the Department of State Health Services declaration of a public health emergency regarding West Nile Virus and in doing so supports Dallas County and the region’s cities through aerial spraying. A consistent response from the entire region is necessary to ensure efficient results.
In contrast to Coppell’s decision, the Irving City Council voted against aerial spraying. However, Irving will continue with truck-mounted ground spraying and trapping.
Only certain isolated areas of Irving have met spraying guidelines. When the City contacted Dallas’ chosen contractor to discuss aerial spraying, it was told those areas did not meet the contractor’s minimum threshold for spraying.
“Our data indicate the issues in Irving are not as widespread as they are in other cities,” said Walter Richie, Irving’s vector control administrator. “We firmly believe we can handle these geographically isolated areas ourselves. We have taken a vigorous approach, are continuously monitoring the status of our city and will aggressively work all areas that meet spraying guidelines.”
To date, the Irving has sprayed 24 times in the areas that have met spraying guidelines.
Source: City of Coppell, City of Irving
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:24
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Members of Communication Workers of America(CWA) Local 6171 gathered for a candle light vigil outside Verizon’s headquarters in Irving on Aug. 10. Inside their union representatives were holding a last minute meeting with corporate representatives to negotiate a new contract before their previous contract expired at midnight.
The union expected about 200 people to attend the vigil, which substituted glow sticks for candles to prevent the possibility of starting a fire.
“We are holding a candle light vigil, because the company is really taking a lot of our benefits: pension, healthcare and a lot of the things we bargained for in years past,” said Karen Rodriquez Secretary/Treasurer of CWA Local 6171. “We are out here mourning the passing of our contract, and hoping that we do better at negotiations. Our bargaining team is in there right now working.
“We are hoping to get a fair contract, and we are not asking for a lot of money. We are just regular family people who want a good job and healthcare.”
“Verizon has made over $16 billion in profit over the last four years,” said Russell Lytle Unit Director for the union. “The second quarter profits were just released at $1.8 billion. They just started increasing set top box rental fees for all of our customers by $2 more per month. We have 4.5 million video subscribers nationwide, according to the second quarter results. That equates to a minimum of $9 million extra in incoming revenue per month, assuming that each customer only has one cable box in their home. However, most of our customers have more than that.
“This is an example of typical corporate greed. We went on strike back in the early ‘80s with GTE to get these healthcare benefits, and the company has paid for them ever since. Verizon says it costs $8.3 billion a year for these benefits for the unionized workers nationwide. Verizon doesn’t need to be making $14 billion a year in profits. It is already gauging its customers, and it is definitely gauging us.”
Both unionized workers and non-union workers have a stake in union negotiations, according to Lytle.
“Government employees and union employees set a regulatory wage for everyone else in the working industry,” he said. “Union workers may not be over paid, maybe everyone else is under paid for what they do.
“Taking inflation since the ‘70s into consideration, the average income has fallen from $32,000 per worker to $29,000 per worker. Meanwhile, the average pay for executives has continued to rise. This country has the largest gap between upper class and lower class. It is time for that to be balanced out a little bit more.
“If employers treated their employees the way they should be treated, there wouldn’t be a need for a union to begin with. Unfortunately, we have to fight every day to get a fair piece of the pie. We are the backbone of every company that is unionized. We put in the hard work and we deal with the customers to provide the utmost in customer service. Our workers are highly trained and skilled at what they do.
“We want Verizon to be here for the next 50 to 100 years, and we want our union to have a strong partnership in that success. We have worked hard for it for decades, and we want to continue on.”
Shop Steward Mike Wildman said the union and workers may have different approaches to profit, but the workers want the Verizon to remain profitable.
“We are far sighted. We want this company to last for another 50 years,” Wildman said. “They (the management) just want to show a profit for the next quarter. There is a difference in viewpoint. We are trying to build careers and families, and they are trying to build a good stock price for the shareholders.
“We are shareholders too. We have a vested interest in making sure Verizon is profitable, but we also need it to be profitable for our families and future generations, not just for the next quarter.”
Clay Pede, a Fiber Network Technician, brought his family to the vigil.
“Basically, the company’s proposals would put me at about a 23 percent pay cut,” Pede said. “A lot of benefits would be going away. We would like to see something come back to us for all the hard work we have put in. I’d like to see a fair contract for everyone involved. I’d like to see people keep their jobs and be able to make a decent living and be able to provide for their families.”
A Central Office Technician in Carrollton, Flo Burandt described herself as a loyal 34 year employee.
“Verizon has forgotten who got them to where they are now. The core people made the money that was used to put the copper in the ground and create the wireless system. Now they want to throw us aside,” Burandt said.
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:23
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Beginning this year, Responsive Education Solutions (Responsive Ed) will provide Irving students with an alternative to traditional high school. The company is bringing two of their charter schools, Premier High Schools, to North Lake College campuses. The high school housed at the college’s South campus will allow students to complete their course work in a structured environment that is individualized to each student’s need. The high school housed at the college’s West campus will concentrate on helping students learn about construction trades while they earn their high school degrees.
“We provide students an option to help them accelerate the process towards graduation, or if they have fallen behind, we can help them catch up and get what they need in order to graduate,” said Thomas Terry, Responsive Ed’s Communications Director. “Premier High Schools provide individualized education. A lot of schools follow the traditional model with the teacher at the front teaching an entire class. Those lessons move at the pace of the class. If you miss part of a lesson, all future lessons build on that information. It is difficult to help one kid who missed something really important.
“Premier High Schools asses the students and understands where their depth and knowledge are and what they need. Then we are able to provide them an education that is uniquely tailored towards filling in the gaps and helping them move forward.
“We also offer flexibility. If someone is great at reading and math, but they are not good at science, we are able to help that kid with very specific attention in the subject they are not as good in and help then earn a high school diploma.
“Nowadays it is so important to have a high school diploma as a springboard to everything else whether college, military or a career. If a kid has had trouble, just getting a GED won’t open the same doors as a high school diploma.”
Premier High Schools have an impressive history in the state.
“Responsive Ed is the largest charter school system in the state of Texas,” Terry said. “As of last year, we had more than 50 schools. We serve between 7,000 and 10,000 students depending on whether or not you include our virtual schools.
“We have been very encouraged by the response from parents and students in Irving. It proves that families in Irving are really looking for another option. It overwhelming shows that there is a need.
“We are really excited for the opportunity to come into Irving and provide a new educational option that parents and students are hungry for.”
Lathan Watts will be the Campus Director for Premier High School’s West campus.
“We are 100 percent focused on the success of each individual student. This is not an incitement of Irving ISD. This is a problem that is systemic across Texas and the country. The one size fits all model of education is not working for a lot of people,” Watts said. “One third of public school students, 1.2 million will fail to graduate with their class. That averages one every 29 seconds. In Texas, almost 61 percent of high school students graduate in four years, so just over half. Texas is ranked 43 in the nation for high school graduation.
“Charter schools are public schools. We are funded directly from the state of Texas by TEA just the same way as Irving ISD is. We are funded by an average daily attendance model, so we are funded by having kids in school. We are a tuition free, open enrollment school. Parents and students should be able to select a school that best meets their educational needs rather than what zip code they live in.
“We break each course down into 10 to 12 units, which are typically anywhere from 40 to 60 pages. When you finish a book, you are 10 percent finished with the course. When you get through the fifth packet, you are half way through the course. When you finish the 10th one, you are finished with the course. It is not entirely self-paced. There are certain benchmarks you have to hit to complete the course on time. We have an accountability system to make sure students complete their courses. If students are completing five pages a day in the packet, they are on track to finish that course as they should.
“The West campus is the brain child of the commercial construction industry, because the industry is in dire need of a skilled workforce. The average of a skilled craftsman is 49 years old. There are not enough people entering those trades to fill the gap when those guys start retiring.
“The West campus will offer some special electives focused towards careers in architecture and construction. By 2020, 60 percent of the jobs will require either a college degree or a skilled certificate. Certificates are becoming stepping stones to college degrees. A lot of people get certified in a skill and continue working in field and use the money they earn to pay for college, so they don’t borrow money to go to college. The average student loan debt is $29,000 - with interest, it’s over $40,000.”
Premier High Schools are all about helping students be successful, according to Dave Sammons, Campus Director for Premier’s South campus.
“Our classes are geared towards the standard 26 credits the state of Texas requires to complete high school. We offer the recommended diploma that 90 percent of high schools will issue to students in Texas,” Sammons said. “It will work with military, Harvard, and the local community college. It will work everywhere.
“Our goal is to keep students in the seat, engaged, successful, and to get them a quality education as efficiently as we can, so they can go on about their life goals. If a child wants to be successful, we will craft a plan to make sure they are successful. If the need is material, attendance, scheduling, whatever it is, we are small enough and focused enough that we will tailor an educational plan to meet that need. Our goal is to get each child an education, not to get a child kicked out of school.”
Premier High School was a natural fit for North Lake College, according to Arthur James Executive Dean of North Lake’s North and South campuses.
“Premier High School will bring quality education which will go alongside the quality education students are already receiving through our partnership with Irving ISD,” James said. “They will give those parents and students who would like a different option a place that is established in the community to educate students. This partnership will also give students in Premier High School the opportunity to be exposed to the college environment.
“North Lake College is leasing space to Premier High School. We are not in a duel credit situation at this point, although we are looking at exploring that as a potential in the future. I think this is a win-win situation for the city of Irving, North Lake College and Responsive Ed.
“We are excited about them coming in. Responsive Ed has held a couple of interest meetings already, and the response has been very favorable.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:22
Written by Phil Cerroni
The City of Irving, in partnership with Key Life Homes, is set to begin construction on new single-family residences on Tudor Lane.
The launch of construction starts a new chapter for the Lamar/Brown neighborhood. Federal grant fund assistance is available for qualified first-time homebuyers. Fourteen single-family attached and 13 single-family detached homes will be available for purchase.
The new homes will feature three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each energy-efficient home will be approximately 1,300 square feet with a rear-entry two-car garage, Energy Star appliances, vaulted ceilings and tall kitchen cabinets. Buyers will have the opportunity to customize some of the housing features, such as carpeting and paint colors.
“The redevelopment of Irving’s Tudor Lane area presents a great opportunity for families looking for a safe, reinvigorated place to live,” said Community Resources Director Chris Hooper. “This is a unique chance for residents to take advantage of a federally funded program that helps provide a brighter future for Irving.”
Seminars are planned to educate prospective buyers about the program, qualification requirements and eligibility for assistance. The seminars are set for 2 to 3 p.m. at 125 N. MacArthur Blvd., on Sep. 8, 15, 22 and 29.
Reservations are required and space is limited. To sign up, visit www.irealty.us.com or call (214) 396-4071.
Source: City of Irving
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:21
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