District 2 residents have never had such access to real-time information! Twice-monthly agenda notes, regular Facebook & NextDoor updates, neighborhood meetings, Town Halls, and a Councilwoman who answers her phone and email all combine to provide a high level of transparency and easy accessibility.
Deborah has strongly advocated for increased street repairs in District 2, bringing a record number of repairs and replacements to the oldest parts of Garland. Many more street reconstructions (which also include new sidewalks) are queued up for the next 12-18 months, including Curtis, Monica, Arcady, Celeste, and Glenfield. In addition, concrete rehabs & asphalt overlays will improve many other streets.
Advocating for a new Animal Shelter while bringing significant improvements to the existing facility were two of Deborah's earliest commitments. In both cases she delivered. The new 23,000 sq ft shelter (70% larger than the existing one) was approved in the 2019 Bond Program and is scheduled to begin construction in April 2021. It will house twice as many dogs and three times as many cats as the current shelter. Anticipated opening? March 2022.
Garland's first Dog Park opened to widespread cheers in July 2020! The Dog Park, originally planned to require the demolition of a Little League field in Central Park, was instead built on the old National Guard Armory site. The armory site had been previously selected over the nearby neighborhoods' objections for a proposed skatepark, but Deborah negotiated to have that project moved to Rick Oden Park in District 5. Central Park's ball fields all remained intact.
Overcrowded neighborhood parking was one of the loudest complaints in District 2, and one the City Council had been unsuccessful in resolving in the past. Deborah refused to accept "no" for an answer, and in partnership with CM Vera in D6 insisted on action. The City Marshal responded by crafting an innovative new Parking Marshal Program which, although interrupted by the pandemic, has been very well-received.
Deborah led an initiative to tackle the longstanding problem of "celebratory gunfire" on holidays, including suggesting a dedicated holiday task force (first used on New Year’s Eve 2019), then suggesting the use of warning signs before holidays to announce the penalties. The new sign program was piloted in District 2 over the 4th of July 2019, and was so successful that the program was expanded citywide this year.
Deborah led an initiative to address the growing homeless population in Garland by coordinating City services with the many nonprofits which provide emergency resources, while at the same time supporting GPD’s enforcement of laws to protect residents and businesses. That balanced approach has led neighboring cities to initiate similar programs. Deborah created and funded a new homeless resource website: GarlandHomeless.com
Within hours of the tornado strike the night of October 20, 2019, Deborah had arranged for hot meals to be served in the hardest-hit neighborhood starting early the next morning. Lavon Drive Baptist Church served meals there the first 3 days, then various Garland restaurants stepped in to take it from there. Numerous nonprofits, city officials and private citizens also showed up for weeks afterward to clear downed trees and debris and to help serve meals.
Downtown Garland has come to life over the last two years, with new businesses opening, new programming on the Square, and a long list of colorful improvements--not to mention the final approval of the long-awaited Downtown Square Redesign! Deborah has been an outspoken advocate for the downtown businesses and improvements, and has worked tirelessly to promote the businesses and increase the "feet on the street" needed to support them.
The previous wooden playground in Central Park was removed in 2012 but never replaced as promised. There'd been a loud outcry for years to get a new Central Park Playground in place. Deborah advocated for it to be prioritized, then voiced area residents' requests for specific details, such as adding a full perimeter fence which was not included in the original plans. The new playground opened in July 2020.
One of Garland's best-kept secrets is the Police Youth Boxing Gym at 9th & Main Street downtown. This award-winning program has helped and inspired Garland youth for years while working on a shoestring budget. Deborah toured the aged facility and determined to find a way to better fund their amazing program. In 2019-2020 Council budget sessions she and CM Smith partnered to successfully have new funds allocated for the Boxing Gym.
The 50+ year old Garland Animal Shelter had been the subject of complaints in recent years. Deborah promised to advocate for significant improvements to the old shelter while waiting for a new shelter. She partnered with CM Smith in D8 to bring numerous physical and operational improvements, including new portable coolers for every building, additional staff and training, enhanced adoption programs, a standardized feeding program, and much more.
Looking for additional ways to spread the word at holidays that celebratory gunfire and illegal fireworks carried real-life consequences in Garland, Deborah successfully advocated for funding to be included in the 2019-2020 budget to purchase digital signs for that purpose, as well as other uses year-round. The first deployment was at First St. & Miller prior to the July 4th holiday in 2020.
Deborah's conversation earlier this year with several Garland Police Officers led to brainstorming ways to find additional 9-1-1 dispatchers--a constant need in Garland. Deborah reached out to GISD afterward to discuss the possibility of adding Dispatcher training to their existing Criminal Justice program, so we could start "growing our own" qualified 9-1-1 dispatchers. GISD responded positively and is currently pursuing ways to add such training.
It had been 20 years since the last increase in the Senior Property Tax Exemption in Garland. Deborah joined CM Bookhout in 2019 in advocating for an increase, but the measure failed. During tax rate discussions in 2020, Deborah once again argued for the exemption increase, and this time the Council majority agreed. The $5000 increase was passed.
After receiving repeated complaints from Garland residents about dark streets and difficult-to-see curbs and medians at night, Deborah advocated for the 2019-2020 budget to include funding for median reflectors. Council agreed, and some of the first new reflectors were installed in District 2.
The Parks Department presented the long-awaited Master Aquatics Plan for the city in July 2020, with the location of three splash pads funded by the 2019 Bond Program to be determined by Council. Deborah strongly advocated for Embree Park, which had very few amenities, rather than siting a splash pad at a park already rich in amenities. She prevailed.
For many years, Garland's Deaf and HOH (Hard of Hearing) community has had obstacles to freely participating in City meetings. To have an ASL interpreter present required several days' advance notice. Deborah asked that the City of Garland start providing real-time closed captioning--and as of this month (Sep 2020) it is now a reality.
New amenities and other enhancements are coming to District 2 parks! Some sports fields will be getting new lights, shade structures, new restrooms or concession stands; Lou Huff and Douglas will both get new playgrounds; Fields Rec Center and the Granger Annex will both be renovated, and more. Deborah has been a strong proponent of D2 park improvements.
Deborah's "Fire a Gun, Go to Jail" sign campaign was extremely successful in reducing celebratory gunfire (up to a year in jail, $4000 fine), but from public comments after July 4th this year, it appeared that many Garland residents felt the $500 illegal fireworks fine was too low. In July 2020, Deborah proposed increasing it to $2000, and Council agreed.
After an extended power outage in South Garland (3-1/2 days) resulted in great frustration among residents, Deborah requested that GP&L implement a new text-update system to better communicate with citizens during outages. Changes come slowly, but she has continued to press for that change. The new GP&L service is due to finally come online in Sep 2020.
After years of ever-increasing numbers of stray pets in the city, which contributed to overcrowding at the Animal Shelter, Deborah proposed a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance similar to what many other cities nationwide had passed. Council approved the new requirements in Jan 2019.
Deborah attended a neighborhood event in early 2020 sponsored by the Summerfield HOA in the eastern part of the district. One widespread complaint among residents was related to the ugly City-owned construction field located nearby, off Centerville Rd. They asked for a visual screen to help hide the piles of dirt and construction materials. Deborah negotiated for an (unbudgeted) addition of screening there.
In 2018, an unnoticed (by Council) but punitive water rate increase for apartment residents was included in the annual budget. When it came to Deborah's attention afterward, she advocated for a delay/reduction in the increase until a Cost of Service study could determine a fair division of costs between houses and apartments. The formal study confirmed her independent research: the planned increase was unjustified. It was dramatically reduced.
The 2004 Bond Program included funding for the beautification of the First Street corridor in Central Garland, near downtown. Unfortunately, that was one of the 2004 projects which was never executed. The 2019 Bond Study Committee didn't include this project in their priority recommendations, but Deborah advocated successfully for it to receive supplemental funding and a priority in implementation.
In 2018, a local company started a new venture: V-Bike Bike Sharing. It was a popular idea at the time; you could use your credit card to unlock a bike, use it, and leave it in a public place where the company could retrieve it. The problem was, the company wasn't picking them up as planned, and the bikes were discarded all over the city, some dismantled. After receiving a flood of complaints, Deborah met with the owners and they agreed to solve the problems, which they did.
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