"Real Leadership Begins With Listening"

COVID-19, Emergency Meeting & YOU

District Email 3/13/2020

Dear District 2,

I'm going to provide a short overview of the City Council's emergency meeting last night,  along with an update about new information received after the meeting. Here goes:
The 3-12-20 Emergency Council Meeting resulted in the temporary closure of our two senior centers in District 2, initially through April 15th. Although I voted against closure, for reasons I'll explain below, I understand and respect the rationale behind dispersing the gathering of seniors--a vulnerable class. I preferred to act on the CDC's less-drastic recommendations at this stage since we currently have zero COVID-19 cases in Garland. At the time of last night's meeting there were only 3 cases in all of Dallas County, two of which were family members. 

The Council, by a large majority, declined to order immediate closure of all rec centers, libraries, our municipal courts, and downtown facilities like the Plaza, the Atrium, and Granville Center.  The predominant thought was that it was not warranted at this time, but that Council would be prepared to act quickly if the situation escalated.

I will point you to Councilman Hedrick's well-done summary of last night's meeting here: "Council Emergency Meeting for COVID-19"
I chose to advocate for a reasoned rather than fear-driven approach. I researched COVID-19, read a lot of statistics, and finally settled on the CDC's very specific recommendations:  "Implementation  of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission",  which I presented to Council. It categorizes levels of recommended responses according to the level of community transmission. Across the board, staff responses last night indicated that Garland was currently on the border between "None to Minimal" and "Minimal to Moderate".  The highest-risk category, "Substantial", is where things like mass closures and cancellations are recommended.
The only facility closures approved last night by Council were our two senior centers. I was torn in this decision  since it is absolutely true that seniors are at the highest risk from COVID-19, and if we were going to close ANY facilities those should be the first. My ultimate decision to oppose those closures was simply by adherence to the CDC recommendations for "Assisted living facilities, senior living facilities, and adult         day programs" (included in the linked Mitigation Strategies). It was suggested that city staff could deliver the Meals on Wheels to the homes of the displaced seniors, "leave it on the front step, and ring their doorbell" in order to minimize contact.
Friends, that appalled me. It still does. Many (not all) of our seniors who use the centers daily have no one else at home, are on walkers, etc. Stooping to lift a tray from their front step?? Losing their social circle for weeks (or months, depending)? I wasn't ready to blow past the CDC's recommendations to that extreme, but the Council majority felt it was best. Again, I respect their decision, but will be advocating for some more reasonable support for our seniors during the closures. I need your help and wisdom here. Please send me your ideas about how we can do this well.
That's how the  Emergency Meeting concluded last night. I left City Hall, drove home, walked into my house, and my phone dinged. It was an announcement of an Emergency Declaration by Dallas County due to 5 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the county:   "More Coronavirus Cases Confirmed In Dallas County"  Still none in Garland yet, but the most significant factor is that at least one of these cases seems to have been community-acquired rather than due to travel or contact with a recent traveler.

For me, that changed the game and pushed us higher in the CDC mitigation categories, i.e. closer to the "Substantial" responses that can include widespread facility closures.
Last night's  Emergency Meeting was not a "one-and-done" decision; it was a measured response to then-current conditions. The new conditions do, in my opinion, call for a more aggressive response. This item is on our Work Session agenda for Monday night, and my assumption at this point is that we will approve more closures, cancellations, and possibly place limits on large events at that time. 
I tried to keep this short, but if you have questions please do contact me. I can't predict the future, or  exactly what Council will do, but I will be happy to keep you current with my own thought process and approach.

At your service,
Deborah Morris 
City Councilwoman, District 2
200 N Fifth St Garland, TX 75040 

 (214) 273-4387

Councilwoman Deborah Morris at City Hall

Important Announcement for District 2

Dear Friends,

It has been my joy these last two years to serve as your City Council Representative here in District 2. Today I am announcing that I will be running for re-election on May 2nd.

We’ve seen many positive changes in District 2 over the last two years, including significantly more road repairs and replacements, Downtown improvements, and the new Neighborhood Parking Enforcement Program which Garland residents have requested for a long time.

We’ve also seen significant improvements in the daily operations of the Animal Shelter, which despite its outdated condition now outperforms many so-called “no-kill” shelters, boasting an average live release rate of 90%+. The large new shelter funded in the 2019 Bond Election is currently in design and scheduled to break ground later this year.

In 2018 I led the initiative to aggressively tackle the longstanding problem of celebratory gunfire and illegal fireworks in our neighborhoods, including suggesting a dedicated holiday task force and the use of warning signs in advance of holidays. The new sign program piloted in District 2 was so successful over July 4th that it was expanded citywide this New Year’s Eve. Although we’re still a long way from “Mission Accomplished”, numerous neighborhoods throughout District 2 have reported great improvement.

I also led the initiative to take a more proactive approach in addressing 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 our laws to protect our residents and businesses. Our balanced approach has attracted the attention of neighboring cities who have followed our lead in initiating similar programs.

There’s a lot more work to be done. There are also a lot more improvements heading our way: the Central Park Playground, a generous new sidewalk program, Garland’s first Dog Park, new walking trails and other enhancements to District 2 parks, the $6M beautification of First Street, new median reflectors to brighten our streets at night, the Downtown Square redesign, and much, much more.

As always, I value the collective wisdom of this District. Please keep reaching out to me with your concerns and ideas about how we can work together to make Garland’s future even brighter.

Deborah Morris  
City Councilwoman, District 2
(214) 273-4387

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On 1/15/2020, Deborah formally filed to run for re-election to represent District 2 on the City Council, presenting nearly 4 times the number of signatures required for her ballot petition thanks to the support and generosity of District 2 residents.  

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