Garland 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. In addition, at Deborah's request all councilmembers are now equipped with VOIANCE phone interpretation services enabling phone conversations in all 100+ languages spoken in Garland homes.
Deborah has strongly advocated for increased street repairs in Garland, bringing a record number of repairs and replacements to the oldest areas and neighborhoods. Many more street reconstructions (which also include new sidewalks) are queued up to take place over the next 12 - 18 months, while concrete rehabs & asphalt overlays will improve many other streets. A number of unpaved alleys are also being paved for the first time.
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) which opened in February 2022, now houses twice as many dogs and three times as many cats as the old shelter, while providing numerous other amenities. More Info: https://deborahmorristx.com/news/f/at-last-new-garland-animal-shelter-opens
Downtown Garland has come to life over the last five years, with new businesses opening, new downtown programming -- and now the long-awaited Downtown Makeover in progress! Deborah has been an outspoken advocate for the Downtown and has worked tirelessly to promote the businesses and increase the "feet on the street" needed to support them. The transformation of the Square and the 14 surrounding blocks will bring even more excitement to our Historic Downtown.
Garland's first Dog Park opened to widespread cheers in July 2020! Originally planned to require the demolition of a Little League field in Central Park, the Dog Park was instead built on the old armory site--previously selected over the adjacent neighborhood's objections for a skatepark. Deborah negotiated to have the skatepark moved to Rick Oden Park where the council member there said the adjacent neighborhoods welcomed it--a win-win! The Dog Park is now one of our most popular amenities.
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 not included in the original plans. The new playground opened in July 2020 as Garland's first fully inclusive playground.
Overcrowded neighborhood parking was one of the loudest complaints in older parts of Garland, 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 Council Member Vera in District 6 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.
It had been 20 years since the last increase in the Senior Property Tax Exemption in Garland. Deborah joined Council Member Bookhout in 2019 in advocating for an increase, but the measure failed to gain the support of the Council majority. 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, along with a 2% increase in all homestead exemptions.
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 Council Member Smith partnered to successfully have new funds allocated for the Boxing Gym.
After receiving repeated complaints from Garland residents about dark streets and difficult-to-see curbs and medians at night, Deborah asked that the 2019-2020 budget include funding for median reflectors. Council agreed, and some of the first new reflectors were installed in District 2! Now they are brightening nighttime driving for Garland residents citywide.
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. GPD has put them to constant use ever since.
New amenities and other enhancements have come (and more are coming!) to our parks. Some sports fields are getting new lights, shade structures, new restrooms or concession stands; Lou Huff and Douglas have both gotten new playgrounds; Fields Rec Center and the Granger Annex are both being renovated, and more. Central Park will also gain a paved walking trail loop. Deborah has been a strong proponent of park improvements citywide.
For many years, Garland's Deaf and HOH (Hard of Hearing) community has had obstacles to freely participating in City meetings & viewing City videos. 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 Sep 2020 it became a reality.
A number of Blind or visually impaired Garland residents live near Downtown Garland and regularly walk in the area. Despite their use of white canes to navigate their environment, several pedestrian incidents led Deborah to request audible signals to be installed at Downtown intersections
Lou Huff Park, located off Hwy 66 & Ave B, has been in need of a magic touch for over 20 years. Now, thanks to the approval of $4.4M funding for a major renovation, it's scheduled for a wide array of improvements including replacing the old (closed) rec center with a large covered pavilion with a new grilling patio overlooking the creek, adding an 8' wide concrete walking trail loop around the park, adding new restrooms, renovating the fields and courts, and more.
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 another park already rich in amenities. She prevailed. Funding for additional restrooms has also now been approved for Embree Park.
In participating in numerous community Juneteenth observations across her district, Deborah wondered why the City of Garland had never held an official City-sponsored event to commemorate this significant historical date. After consulting with the Garland NAACP and many Garland residents, she proposed the idea to Council. The City's inaugural observation of Juneteenth occurred in June 2022.
Public comments after July 4th 2020 made it clear that many Garland residents felt the $500 illegal fireworks fine was far too low. In July 2020, Deborah proposed increasing the fine to $2000, the maximum allowed, and Council agreed.
She also requested that permanent signs be posted at all major entrances to the city warning that fireworks were prohibited within Garland city limits.
The 2004 Bond Program included funding for the beautification of the First Street corridor in Central Garland, near downtown. Unfortunately, that project 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. Plans are now underway for this important gateway to our Downtown.
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.
In preparation for discussions in July 2021 about allocating ARPA funds, Deborah asked GFD what steps could be taken to better protect Garland firefighters in future pandemics. GFD responded that providing individual bedrooms with separate air-handling (rather than having up to 6 firefighters share dorm-style rooms) could potentially reduce disease spread. Deborah asked for funding to add those features not only to the new-build fire stations, but to renovate all the other remaining stations as well. Her recommendation was approved by Council.
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.
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, 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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