Several weeks ago a note was posted on the Editorial Page of the Dallas Morning News. That note (from Ed Kominski of Weatherford, TX) rings true today here in Rockwall. It was titled, “What Divides Us?” It reads, “So what’s the most interesting confrontation in America today? Republicans vs. Democrats? Cowboys vs. Redskins? Bulls vs. Bears? Big Oil/Gas vs. tree huggers? Secularists vs. religious warriors? Red Sox vs. Yankees? One percenters vs. 99 percenters? Right to work vs. union membership? Cats vs. dogs? Nah. It is between those who embrace the future and those who do not wish to lose the past.”
Ed Kominski really hit the nail on the head, especially when it comes to political matters here at home. And, the upcoming bond election is a prime example. Do we embrace the future or do we try to hang on to the past? Yes, Rockwall residents will have the opportunity to vote YEA or NAY to the five proposed bond propositions on May 12th. Over the past few weeks there has been considerable discussion about this topic in the various media (Newspapers, BLOG, Facebook Pages, etc.) and some real misunderstandings about the bond issues in general. I hope that the following information clarifies these misunderstandings and misconceptions.As a matter of background, 1) the City of Rockwall has no alternative to provide capital improvements to its infrastructure other than through the passage of Municipal Bond Packages. There are no federal, state, or county funds on the revenue side of the budget to cover these; 2) these five bond propositions were brought forward to the City Council by a group of Rockwall Residents last Fall. These Rockwall residents (all registered voters in Rockwall) determined that these five propositions (Athletic Facility, Downtown Improvements, Downtown Fire Protection, Heritage Park, and Major Road Repairs and Construction) are needed here in Rockwall and, 3) service as a Mayor or City Councilmember in the State of Texas is Non-Partisan. Although the individuals are typically members of a political party, those affiliations are checked (or at least they are supposed to be checked) at the door on entry to the council chambers.With that foundation let’s try to clarify some of those misconceptions.
- One individual recently wrote that “They (the City of Rockwall) would have the funds if they hadn’t built a capitol building (referring to the County Court House). We have poor management in Rockwall County.” And therein lies the misconception. The County … not the City … of Rockwall built and now occupies the County Court House. The City was not involved in any way with that project.
- One individual stated that “… these proposals will result in an estimated tax increase of 39 percent.” If ALL of the bonds were issued at the same time in their total value that statement is correct. However, the City does not and would not ever do that. Each of the projects are developed in phases such that increases on a year-to-year basis would be minimal and, in many cases could be flat because other debt would be paid down. That same individual expressed concern about “artificial turf” on ball fields, about sprinkler systems on private property, and a park for a rock formation. While the use of artificial turf may be a bit more costly than seeding the fields with grass, in the long run the costs would be close to the same with an added benefit that we can CONSERVE WATER by using artificial turf. As to sprinkler systems in private structures, our downtown district is quite old (parts of t over 100 years). If a structural fire were to begin in one of the buildings it would rapidly spread to engulf the rest of the area around the square. This particular proposition is divided into two parts … one is the City side to get the necessary water pressures to the structure, the other to sprinkler the interiors of the structure to complete the fire protection needs of our historic downtown. And, speaking of history, the park for the “rock formation” is an effort to ensure that those who live in Rockwall today and those who will come into Rockwall in the future, will be able to see up close the very “rock wall” for which this great City was named at its birth 158 years ago.
- Some individuals expressed concern about the financial woes in Washington and down in Austin … and the ramifications those have on us here in Rockwall. While I understand that there are those who are concerned about these things, there are some other important factors to consider. One key factor that must be brought out is that the City of Rockwall has operated for at least the past 15 years with a balanced budget. The Mayor, City Council, and the Members of City Staff work tirelessly to ensure that good sound financial practices are in place and are working to the benefit of all Rockwall citizens. The City is audited each year and we have maintained our very high Bond Rating of AA- for many years. Further, when issuing bonds the City always obtains insurance to elevate our rating to AAA. So, at the bottom line, the City of Rockwall is in outstanding financial condition and will ensure that the tax rate increases that will stem from these bonds are set at the lowest possible level.The Citizens of Rockwall are intelligent and do not need someone to tell them to vote YEA or NAY. What we seek is information that will allow us to be well versed enough to form our own opinions and make an informed decisions. I sincerely hope that the information provided above will correct any misunderstandings and allay any fears or concerns over passage of these five bond propositions. And, please remember that these propositions were brought forth by a group of Rockwall residents who believe that all five propositions are in the best interest to Rockwall. Finally, and most important, whether you choose to vote YEA or NAY, please come out and vote. Your opinion matters and your vote counts. For detailed information about the content and implications of the five propositions, please visit www.Rockwall.com.
Bob Cotti, Former Councilmember, City of Rockwall