Tag Archives: Princeton City Hall

Where is transparency?

Princeton’s city council had a marvelous opportunity to demonstrate the transparency it promised when the city moved into its new municipal complex a couple of years ago.

I believe, though, the city has work to do to achieve what the mayor and the former city manager pledged.

Council is going to meet Friday to select a city manager to succeed Derek Borg, who resigned suddenly at the end of this past year. He was forced out by a council unhappy with the way he was guiding the municipal apparatus.

I had hoped the council would announce the process it would use to find the new manager. I urged the council to go big, to hire a national search firm to spread a wide net. It didn’t heed my advice … but I don’t care about that.

I do care, though, that the city kept its search process a secret. It advertised quietly through the Texas Municipal League. The decision on who to hire was made — also quietly — by the mayor and the interim city manager. The rest of the council reportedly will meet the individual they chose on Friday.

Borg and Mayor Brianna Chacon had said the new city complex, which features plenty of glass as a metaphor for openness and transparency, said the City Hall design would provide an example of how the city planned to govern.

Where, though, was the transparency in the search for the city manager?

It is my own belief that the city fell short in keeping that pledge as it hunted for a city manager. Let us hope this isn’t a harbinger of what lies ahead at Princeton City Hall.

City needs visionary

A Princeton City Hall staffer who has become a source for this blogger has informed me that the City Council has yet to decide how it intends to look for a new city manager.

I am about to offer some unsolicited advice on how to find a successor to Derek Borg, who resigned suddenly the other evening after the council called an emergency meeting to discuss the city manager’s status.

My advice is simple: Go big, members of the council and hire a top-flight executive search firm to find a candidate who is able to lead the city along its explosive growth path. 

Princeton’s growth continues to astonish many of us who have moved here in recent years. My wife and I planted our roots in Princeton in early 2019. The city’s census figures released the following year showed it nearly tripled in growth from the 2010 population.

The very last thing Princeton needs to run its municipal government machinery is a placeholder, an individual who is just there to await his or her retirement. The city’s next manager should have a clear vision on what the city needs and a plan that can enable the city to find its way into the future.

Borg did an adequate job during his era as city manager. However, he wasn’t educated in municipal management. He is a firefighter, serving as the city fire marshal and then fire chief before ascending to the manager’s job.

The next Princeton city manager, as far as I am concerned, should be educated in the field of municipal growth management. He or she should have high energy and a relentless desire to seek fresh ideas, new approaches. The next manager also, in my view, ought to deliver a stated commitment to helping this city develop an identity.

Allow me this bit of candor: Princeton is a work in progress. It has no municipal identity. A new city manager shouldn’t have to concoct an identity, but he or she should be able to question those who have been here a long time about what makes Princeton such a desirable community to live.

It is quite obvious that many thousands of people are coming here to raise families, earn their living and presumably call this place “home.”

The next city manager ought to be able to provide a reason for them to stay and for the city to progress into the future with confidence.

When to close an ‘open meeting’

I tend to view the provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act through a fairly strict prism, meaning that exemptions granted should be interpreted strictly.

What do I mean? The act allows governments to close their meetings to the public when discussing pending litigation, real estate transactions or personnel matters. It’s the last of those provisions that has caught my attention.

The Princeton City Council plans to go into closed session soon to discuss who it wants to select as its Place 4 council member, replacing Keven Underwood, who resigned from the council after serving nearly three years; Underwood is battling some health issues … and I certainly wish him well as he continues that fight.

But is a city council member the same as, say, the police chief, the fire chief, the city manager or any other full-time paid staffer who draws a paycheck from City Hall? I submit that, no — he or she is not the same.

Which brings me to my point about the Open Meetings Law. Its exemptions are understandable and are more or less clearcut.

I long have interpreted the law to exempt discussions involving the disciplining of city employees, or their hiring and firing. I never have considered a member of the governing body to fall under the “personnel” provision used to talk about a pending appointment to that very governing body.

I am going to presume the Princeton City Council consulted with its legal counsel on this matter before deciding to go into executive session to talk about Underwood’s successor. And that the city attorney gave his blessing to the decision to keep it secret.

I also get that the council members are entitled to speak candidly about potential applicants and perhaps don’t want their true feelings about an individual to be known by everyone in town.

It’s just that the city council is not a “paid position” the way someone who answers to a municipal administrator is paid. The city councilman or woman is the “boss” at City Hall … and doesn’t belong in the same category of employee as the people who report to the council.

Thus, these laws designed to keep matters crystal clear at times get a bit murky.

Signs of life at project …

I am happy to report that I see signs of life stirring at the site of a massive apartment complex construction project here in little ol’ Princeton, Texas.

The project got stalled when the general contractor and the developer got into some kind of snit. The contractor either walked off the job or was fired. I don’t know which thing occurred. Work has been shut down since April.

However, if you drive by the site on U.S. Highway 380 just east of Wal-Mart you see (a) an open gate, (b) stacks of newly placed building materials and (c) pickup trucks with hard-hatted men walking around.

That tells me they have a new general contractor.  At least that’s what my City Hall snitch has told me.

I am glad the work will continue. Perhaps they’ll get it done soon, get the site cleaned up and made presentable.

They had me worried … but just a little.

Changes sprout in my absence

Holy smokes, man! I take off for a month, return to my Princeton home and see with my own eyes that the city has changed.

Maybe I need to get out more … you know?

For starters, the city street department has completed work on a Beauchamp Boulevard lane, giving motorists more direct access to Myrick Lane just south of my house.

Then I noticed that the city installed stop signs at the corner of Lowe Elementary School. It’s an “all-way” stop directive for motorists. To be blunt, this is something that likely should have been done four years ago when the school opened its doors to welcome the children, many of whom walk to school and then back home at the end of the day.

Whatever. It’s done and I’m glad about that.

More commercial development is occurring next to the major market near my house. I have put out a request from my go-to guy at City Hall — City Manager Derek Borg — asking what’s being built.

When I drove to my house Saturday afternoon, I noticed even more residences have sprouted like spring flowers south of my abode. Yikes! The growth continues.

What I discovered upon my return home is that it’s pretty cool to live in a city that is undergoing massive and rapid change and then to see the ongoing results of that change when one is away for some time.

Yes, you can count me as one American who is not at all averse to change. I welcome change to a community. A city that doesn’t change is a city that stagnates.

Princeton is not stagnating.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Streets torn to shreds

Derek Borg is a man of his word. When he says the city plans to do something big, he means it … and then some!

The Princeton (Texas) city manager told me a couple of years ago about plans afoot to reconfigure streets in the middle of the city. It took some time to assemble the strategy, I reckon.

But … oh, brother the city has embarked on a reconstruction project that will be a thing of beauty when it’s done.

The city is tearing part of Yorkshire Drive at the Veterans Park near the old police station. Second Street is being torn up and will be rebuilt from scratch. The city has detour signs posted everywhere.

However, there’s good news to report even as construction proceeds: the signs make sense! Occasionally, you encounter detour signs that seek to guide motorists around the construction, but they aren’t delineated clearly. The Princeton project guides motorists around the work sites easily.

I know because I had to wind my way through all the street work today en route to running an errand.

The work needs to be done. The quality of many city streets, to say the very least, is um, unacceptable.

Borg promised me two years ago that the finished project would make us all happy. Given that he’s been good on his word on the construction that has commenced, I’ll accept his pledge that a better day for Princeton residents lies ahead.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Municipal complex promotes transparency

Princeton’s new municipal complex has lost its “new building” smell after being occupied by the Texas city’s administrative staff for a year.

However, it remains something of an architectural marvel … at least to my eyes.

I have had occasion to visit with senior city staff in recent weeks. I have met with City Manager Derek Borg and some of his administrative officials in rooms designed — in the words of Borg and Mayor Brianna Chacon — to promote governmental transparency.

How does it do that? They have installed lots of glass that otherwise could be walled off from public view.

I recently met with Borg in a conference room next to the city’s development office. As he and I visited, I could see people walking back and forth; most of them were staffers, but I noticed those I presumed to be just plain folks … like me. Therein was the reason, as Borg and Chacon explained it, for installing all that glass in this building.

It certainly provides a spacious working environment for Princeton’s staff. The structure brings the police and fire departments under the same roof as the city administrative staff.

It also does — in its subtle way — give the impression of a transparent operation. Anyone walking into the building can peer through the windows and watch those who work for the public at work on their behalf. I realize it’s mainly symbolic, but the transparent symbolism is important, too.

I find it refreshing, even as I am doing my job as a reporter trying to get information from the various officials who work for my neighbors and me.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Say ‘no’ to this gasoline ban

I am not generally inclined to protest local government’s desire to make our lives more tolerable, but Dallas City Council is pondering an issue that goes too far in ensuring such comfort.

The city is considering a ban on all gasoline-powered lawn equipment. Yep, you can’t fire up the lawnmower or the leaf blower after 2030 if the council proceeds with this effort.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board has spoken already on this nutty notion and the paper makes a lot of sense in saying the council might be reaching way beyond its grasp.

The Morning News said in an editorial published the other day: Promoters of the ban will point to climate change and air quality as harmful, but the council presentation last month included no evidence that is true.

One element of this idea does make sense. The city, according to the DMN, ought to ban contract landscapers from using this equipment if it sees fit. No problem with that. However, if Mr. or Ms. Homeowner wants to use a gas-powered lawnmower and leaf blower to gussy up their yard, they should be allowed to do so.

Granted, I don’t live in Dallas. I live a bit north of Big D in Princeton. I kind of fear that that the city fathers and mothers here might get an idea to follow Dallas’s lead.

Don’t go there, Princeton City Hall.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This ‘gift’ will benefit us

In case you’ve missed, they’ve been turning over some dirt along Beauchamp Blvd. We noticed the back side of the sign on the side of the street, so I looked at the other side to see the message.

It will be an 8.5-acre park, complete with a splash pad, playground equipment, walking paths and plenty of parking for those visiting the park.

The way I see it, this development — which is slated to be done by the spring of 2023 — only boosts our homes’ value. Not that it matters to my wife and me, as our home will be ours, um, forever.

Land for the park came as a gift to Princeton from the family of JJ (Book) Wilson, for whom the park will be named. Think of how cool that is, with the city receiving land as a gift, allowing the city to spend its money (our money, truth be told) on a tangible benefit for the city it serves.

Park space and green space is a marvelous use of that land.

We are thrilled in our house to see this park on its way, as it is within easy walking distance from our home.

It’s just another reason to make us glad we settled in Princeton.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hoping for a quiet Fourth

We live in a North Texas city that prohibits fireworks from being detonated within the city limits.

Indeed, Princeton City Hall has made an extra effort this year to get the word out that the Fourth of July celebration must not include fireworks within the city’s corporate boundary.

So, here comes the question: How does the Princeton Police Department enforce that rule? 

Independence Day is coming. Am I expecting a sleepless night listening to fireworks exploding all over the damn place? Yes, I fear that will happen. It will occur because the Princeton PD is unable to arrest or cite every single violator out there.

Which I guess brings me to the point of wondering why have an ordinance that cities cannot enforce effectively?

I know that Princeton isn’t the only city in America that has such a rule on the books. Indeed, I suspect most cities have them, which means that fireworks celebrations are limited to unincorporated areas way out in the country.

In our part of the world, the country isn’t so far away. Still, I am going to lament what I expect will happen in our neighborhood that sits in the middle of a growing city in Collin County, Texas. We’re going to hear bombs bursting in air and watching the rockets’ red glare.

The last time I posted something complaining about the noise associated with these celebrations, I got called out for being a sorehead. Well, I guess I’ll have to expect it once again by wishing there was a way for our PD to enforce a citywide rule.

Still, I want to wish the United States of America a happy Fourth of July birthday. I’m going to do so quietly.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com