Tag Archives: Princeton TX

In search of a community identity

My wife and I live in a growing North Texas community that, as near as I can tell, is searching to create an identity for itself.

Princeton doesn’t seem to have a community ID. I don’t hear much talk about finding one. Having lived there for more than two years — and we intend for it to be our “forever home” — it’s just a feeling I get when I venture around the city to run errands or to do whatever it is semi-retired guys do.

The city will have an election in November to take a baby step toward establishing an identity. Princeton will ask voters to approve the establishment of a citizens committee to draft a home-rule charter. The aim is to reel in the reins of power to City Hall and to set the governing rules right here at home. Princeton, which now is home to more than 18,000 residents (and counting!) is governed under “general law,” meaning that the Legislature sets the rules for how this exploding community governs itself.

City Makes Another Run At Home-Rule Charter (ketr.org)

Princeton has tried four times to establish a home rule charter ever since it crossed the 5,000-resident threshold established by the Texas Constitution. Residents who don’t even live in the city have spearheaded efforts to defeat the measure all four times; the anti-charter cabal lives in what is called the city’s “extraterritorial jurisdiction.”

Princeton needs to establish the identity I sense is missing. There is no bustling downtown district. City Hall is going to move from its paltry location along U.S. 380 just west of Second Avenue to a shiny new complex just east of Princeton High School. The municipal complex is going to be a thing of beauty.

Princeton To Welcome New Government Complex (ketr.org)

I don’t have the precise answer as to how Princeton establishes its community ID or how it defines it. I do believe, though, that a thriving community must be more than a sea of rooftops under which families live after working all day. Bedroom communities are fine. I just want more for the city where my wife and I plan to live for the proverbial duration.

Is the home rule charter election set for November a small step toward that end? I do hope so. I want to see take the next step in the spring when it asks voters to decide on the future of a home rule charter for Princeton.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

 

Happy Trails, Part 193: We timed it well

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

When we moved into our “retirement home” in February 2019, we were struck at first glance by all the construction that was occurring on our street, not to mention in the Collin County, Texas, community we now call home.

Two-plus years later our timing seems even more profound than it did when we signed the papers on our home in Princeton.

They haven’t yet released the 2020 census figures for Princeton, but our trick knees are telling us that the 2010 figure of 6,807 residents is going to grow by several thousand.

City Manager Derek Borg has said he believes we have nearly 20,000 residents living in our city. He ought to know, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Our subdivision remains a work in progress. They’re continuing to pour slabs and are erecting house frames to our west. The elementary school that opened in 2019 already has exceeded its capacity for students; I am wondering how Princeton Independent School District is going to deal with the steady in-flow of new students.

I’ll be candid about one point, which is that Princeton remains quite underserved in many areas despite the intense and rapid growth. We have no hotel space inside our city limits. Grocery shopping remains limited to one massive supermarket. Fine dining does not exist in the city, at least not yet. We do have an abundance of Mexican food joints, but given my continuing squeamishness about the pandemic, we aren’t eating out much these days.

Princeton City Hall is going to move at the end of the year from its location at U.S. Highway 380 and Second Avenue to a new municipal complex just east of Princeton High School farther east on U.S. 380. That’s going to be a huge accomplishment for the city and I look forward to its opening.

All of this is my way of suggesting that my wife and I have exhibited our impeccable timing. Yep, we’re here for the duration.

Princeton set to make another run at home rule

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Will the fifth time be the charm for Princeton, Texas, to establish a home rule charter?

The City Council has decided to call an election for this coming November that will be the first of a two-step process that officials hope will produce a home rule charter for the rapidly growing Collin County community.

The November election would allow the city to proceed with forming a charter committee. Then the panel would draft a charter and present it to voters who then would decide up or down on the charter in May 2022.

This has been an arduous process for the city that is likely to see its population double when they post the 2020 official census figures. The 2010 census put Princeton’s population at 6,807 residents. The next census figures to exceed 13,000 residents. Indeed, City Manager Derek Borg believes the city’s population might triple. 

I happen to live in a subdivision that is still under construction and from my front porch, I see no end in sight to it all.

Still, the city has gone to the voters four times on a home rule charter. It has lost all four times. The city is believed to be the largest in Texas that is governed under what is called “general law,” or laws established by the Legislature.

It’s time for Princeton to assume full control of issues affecting its own population.

Previous efforts at forming a home-rule charter have gone down largely because of fears of involuntary annexation. Well, the 2017 Legislature took care of that by enacting a law that banned cities from annexing property without the property owners’ permission.

According to the Princeton Herald, the first election in November would ask: “Shall a commission be chosen to draft a new charter?” City Attorney David Overcash said the city isn’t constrained by the election to begin work on forming a charter commission. However,  according to the Herald, “If the voters reject the commission proposal in the November election … the commission would dissolve.”

I am one Princeton resident who wants the city to adopt a home-rule charter. It is past time for the city to take command of its affairs and not dance to the dictates of politicians from afar.

Seeking a slowdown

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton City Councilman Mike Robertson wants to slow ‘em down along U.S. Highway 380. He professes patience as he works with his City Council colleagues and the Texas Department of Transportation.

However, given his own experience as the victim of a serious auto accident while he was living in Irving, it appears that his patience might have its limits.

Robertson is proposing to TxDOT to slow traffic to 40 mph along the entire highway thoroughfare as it bisects the city. The speed limits now vary, from 55 to 45 mph. Robertson says that’s too fast, given the incredible growth and the associated increase in traffic volume.

“When the speed limit is 60,” he said, “you have little chance of getting through a wreck without injury.”

TxDOT must perform traffic studies before it decides whether to adjust the speed limits along any major thoroughfare. The city already has installed a new traffic signal at the intersection of 380 and Princeton Meadows near the city’s western boundary. Another signal is planned for the site next to the new municipal complex under construction closer to the eastern boundary along 380.

Once that project is complete, Robertson said, TxDOT will be able to conduct the requisite traffic studies to help the agency make its speed determination.

Robertson said he doesn’t drive much these days, as he works from home running a continuing education program for chiropractors; he no longer is a practicing chiropractor.

“The frequency and the number of speed-related accidents along the highway” are a great concern for the councilman. He said the Princeton Police Department responds daily to wrecks along the highway and expresses great concern about what the anticipated future growth of the city will do to the traffic volume.

Help is on the way, though, in the form of new thoroughfare construction planned for Princeton and for communities along the Highway 380 corridor. Robertson noted that TxDOT wants to build a 380 bypass that will divert through traffic to a thoroughfare north of the current highway. “The bypass eventually will relieve a lot of the traffic congestion,” Robertson said.

Moreover, the city plans to turn Myrick Avenue south of the highway into a second major east-west right-of-way.

All of that will take time. Perhaps lots of time. It’s the period between now and then that concerns Robertson, which is why he wants TxDOT to make a decision sooner rather than later on the speed limit along Highway 380. “We might get to drop the speed,” he said, “but maybe not as much as I would like.”

Traffic remains a concern along U.S. 380 through many North and Northeast Texas communities. Farmersville, for example, recently received a request for a zone change to build an apartment complex near the U.S. 380 corridor. The Farmersville City Council denied the zone change request sought by the apartment developer, citing the “density” of the housing and the potential traffic congestion that it could produce along the rapidly developing thoroughfare.

Indeed, Collin College recently opened its Farmersville campus, which was one of the possible hazards cited by the council in denying the zone change request.

Princeton, meanwhile, continues to grow at a rapid pace. Its main thoroughfare, U.S. 380, continues to have varying speed limits along its route through the city. City Councilman Robertson intends to keep up the push to slow that traffic down to what he believes is a more reasonable and consistent speed.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR.org.

Home rule charter anyone?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My wife and I love the city where we chose to settle in Collin County.

Princeton, Texas, is a rapidly growing community that appears to have great things in store for it. However, it needs to accomplish something that most cities its size have done: It needs a home-rule charter to govern its affairs.

It appears the City Council might be on its way toward making its fifth — yes, its fifth — try to persuade voters that home rule is better than being governed by the dictates of the state.

Now if I were to advise the city, I would make sure that it tells voters one key point above all others, given that this point apparently sunk previous attempts at approving a home rule charter. It would be that the Texas Legislature made sure that the city cannot annex property without the property owners’ consent.

Annexation appears to have been the deal breaker in previous attempts at approving a home rule charter. Some residents — led by a gentleman who doesn’t live within the city limits — got scared away from approving the charter over fear that the city could just grab their land and pull it inside its corporate limits. The 2017 Legislature wrote a law that prohibits such ham-handed annexation. It said cities need to ask permission. If they don’t get it, cities cannot annex the land.

Princeton’s population, which was recorded at 6,807 after the 2010 Census, will at least double when they count heads effective with the 2020 Census. That would make Princeton the largest city in Texas without a home rule charter, according to a story in the Princeton Herald.

We hear it said that “local control is best.” I believe that to be true. So, when someone espouses “local control” of municipal affairs, the city needs to govern itself, not allow it to be governed by “general law” set by the state.

The Princeton Herald reported this week that the council has decided to appoint a charter commission that will draft a proposed home rule charter, discuss it openly and publicly, then ask the City Council to refer it to voters. State law prohibits the city from campaigning actively in favor of any political issue. However, a citizens committee can carry that water for the city.

It’s time, folks. Great things await if Princeton’s residents are willing to take command of their city’s future.

Law needs enforcement

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Princeton, Texas, is like many communities all over the land in that it has enacted an ordinance that prohibits motor vehicle operators from using cell phones while passing through a school zone.

I see the sign daily in my neighborhood, warning motorists of that fact and threatening them with stiff fines if they get caught.

One problem is evident. The cops aren’t enforcing it with any sort of regularity.

I saw it again today: While walking across the street from the elementary school in our neighborhood, I spotted a parent — with a child in the back seat — chatting on a cell phone while driving away from the school.

Long ago I lost count of the parents I have witnessed breaking the law. They ignore the warnings. Surely they know of the prohibition, yes? Of course they do! It’s been all over the papers, on TV, in social media.

The Princeton Police Department cannot dispatch its officers everywhere at once. I get the PD comprises human beings who have to answer emergency calls constantly. They do their best to take care of accident victims or to cite drivers who speed along major highway that runs east-west through the city. They answer domestic disturbances, loud-animal complaints and assorted “suspicious activity” calls that come in.

I am left to wonder whether they believe enforcement of this particular municipal code is high enough on its priority list for the police department to dispatch officers at the schools scattered throughout the city at the time when parents arrive with the kids in the morning and then leave with them in the afternoon.

Hey, I know Princeton isn’t alone. I also am aware of enforcement issues that rest with communities everywhere. The Texas Legislature two years ago made cell phone use while driving anywhere in the state illegal. They put signs along border-entry rights-of-way advising motorists of that fact.

Has the threat of heavy fines stopped this kind of dangerous behavior anywhere in Texas? Hah!

Indeed, this is a national phenomenon that needs states from coast to coast to coast to double down on enforcing laws that they, too, have enacted.

As for what’s happening in my little ol’ neighborhood, I am getting closer to shouting at the next motorist I see violating a city ordinance banning cell phone use to: Shut the hell up … and drive!

Mayor Chacon asked: What do you want me to do?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The picture you see attached to this blog well might contain the face of change in the town my wife and I call home.

She is Princeton, Texas, Mayor Brianna Chacon. She is brand new on the job, having just been elected on Nov. 3 in a special election to fill out the remainder of a former mayor’s term.

I am preparing a lengthy profile of Chacon for KETR-FM public radio, but I want to share something that occurred today at the end of a conversation she and I had sitting under a shelter in front of the neighborhood Starbucks coffee shop. It’s worth mentioning because I cannot recall a political leader ever asking me this question.

It was this: As a  resident and taxpayer of Princeton, what do you want me to do as mayor?

I told her two things that came to my mind. One was that I want to see tangible progress in the development of what passes for Princeton’s downtown business district. Take my word for it: There ain’t much there. I mentioned that in my many years on this good Earth, I have discovered that successful cities have at least one thing in common: a thriving, vibrant downtown district. The second thing dealt with the amount of money my wife and I spend for water; it’s too great a price. I told the mayor we pay too much each month during the summer to water our lawn.

OK, none of this is a terribly huge deal. Except that the young mayor, who has yet to preside over her first city council meeting, seemed quite sincere in asking me what I expect of her.

I want this blog post to reflect how much I appreciate her asking that question of someone to whom she now answers. This community is full of thousands of diverse opinions of those who live here. We all want different things from our city government.

I hope she’s taking copious notes.

Good luck to you, Mme. Mayor.

City future likely in good hands

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I made a most interesting acquaintance today on the front porch of my home in Princeton, Texas.

A young man was walking the neighborhood when he rang our doorbell. We answered the ring and he introduced himself as John Kusterbeck. He is 41 years of age and is married to Brandy, who’s 36 years of age.

They appear to be the leaders — although John Kusterbeck gives his wife all the credit for being the “driving force” behind it — of a movement that seeks to improve the quality of life in the rapidly growing Collin County community.

He presented me with a card titled “Princeton TX United.” The group’s aim is to promote “racial equality, unity, diversity and change” in the city.

Here is what fascinates me about this fellow and the group he leads with his wife: The group appears to have a substantial following of literally hundreds of members who live in and around Princeton.

The group sprouted legs in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the hands — or under the knee — of a former cop who’s been charged with murder. They’re registered as a non-profit organization. Princeton TX United is dedicated to promoting candidate for public office who represent the diversity of the community. John Kusterbeck said some of that diversity is hidden because of the perception that Princeton comprises mostly older, Anglo residents who remain hide-bound to the Old Way of Doing Things. Kusterbeck doesn’t buy into that notion.

I could not help but think as we spoke of a one-woman “movement” that appeared in Amarillo some years ago when the city was debating whether to build a ballpark in the city’s downtown district. The Amarillo Millennial Movement turned out to be a serious flash in the pan.

AMM was composed of precisely one member, a young woman who campaigned vigorously for passage of a referendum endorsing construction of the ballpark. The measure passed and then the young woman moved to Fort Worth. The “movement” was no more.

I don’t sense that Princeton TX United fits that description of “movement.” This one looks like the real thing.

This group makes ample use of social media sites. It spreads its message throughout cyberspace. It seeks to bring in folks of all races, ethnic backgrounds, creeds, sexual orientation … you name it.

I wish them well. I also believe that if this organization has staying power that it could become a political force in a community that — based on its exploding population — is destined for some serious change at virtually every level imaginable.

Cities in our county are going to take action

I asked in an earlier blog post for Collin County Judge Chris Hill to issue a shelter in place order for the county where I now reside.

It looks as though he won’t do that. However, it appears we’re going to get the next best thing, which is more or less like the real thing. The cities within Collin County are going to issue shelter in place guidelines for their residents.

My wife and I live in Princeton; our younger son and his family live in Allen. Our daughter-in-law’s parents live in Plano. I am going to presume for a moment that our respective cities are going to act on a conference call that mayors participated in today.

That means individual cities will be initiating policies aimed at reducing person-to-person contact as a way to stem the coronavirus outbreak that has been termed a worldwide pandemic.

I’m good with what appears to be coming.

Governments have a responsibility to act. It has been argued — and I agree with the complaint — that the federal government hasn’t been doing enough to coordinate a national response. The states are stepping up; Texas has stepped up. Counties within our state have answered the call.

In this particular county that we now call home, cities are going to invoke a shelter in place policy.

I want to stipulate once again that shelter in place does not resemble a form of house arrest. As it has been invoked so far, residents are able to travel to the store to purchase essential items. Residents are able to step outside, to walk around the neighborhood … something my wife and I do daily with Toby the Puppy.

We merely are being asked to adhere to “social distancing” guidelines. We need to do our part to stem this pandemic.

Collin County’s communities appear set to answer the call.

The ‘new normal’ might become just plain ‘normal’

I now want to share a bit of good news, given that we’ve been bombarded with a torrent of bad news of late.

The good news as I see it is that the “new normal” we are likely experiencing could become simply “normal” once the crisis subsides and ultimately drifts into history.

And it will. I am confident that the coronavirus pandemic will dissipate. It will take some time, which brings me to my point.

Which is that we are going to spend a lot of time and energy changing the way we do things.

There might be so much hand-washing, using sanitized wipes, extra precaution taken with “social distancing” that it will become second-nature even after we no longer need to do all these things.

My wife and I are wiping down fuel pumps, shopping carts, door handles … you name it, we’re wiping it down. “You never know who touches these things,” my wife says with her considerable wisdom. Indeed, we’re taking precautions we didn’t use to take.

We were walking through the ‘hood the other morning when we met a gentleman who works as a construction foreman on the houses being built in our Princeton, Texas, subdivision. He has an Oregon Ducks decal on the rear window of his pickup. I asked him, “Are you a Ducks fan?” He said he is. He then told us he grew up in Portland, attended Sunset High School, Portland State University — and attended the Pac-12 football championship game in the Bay Area this past season when the Ducks “destroyed Utah.” We told him we moved to Texas from Oregon in 1984. He’s a home boy!

I started to shake his hand, then pulled my hand back. “Hey, no sweat,” he said. “I get it.”

Handshakes with strangers well might become a thing of the past, too.

Yep, the new normal is upon us. It’ll take time to get used to this new way of living. I suspect if the crisis lasts long enough, what’s new will become, well, just plain “normal.”