Friday, August 31, 2012

Long an eyesore, dilapidated Arlington hotel finally goes down after years of complaints

Long an eyesore, dilapidated Arlington hotel finally goes down after years of complaints
When demolition began at the vacant American Inn & Suites and eventually turned the North Arlington hotel into piles of rubble, few were as ecstatic as Yolanda Garza.
As property manager for Silverwood Apartments, a 196-unit complex sitting right behind American Inn & Suites, Garza was unnerved to hear how children from the complex would scale the wood fence that separates the properties and treat the dilapidated building as a kind of playhouse.
“Thing is, kids will be kids – they don’t quite understand the dangers,” said Garza, a property manager at Silverwood. “You just don’t know what would be lurking in an abandoned building.”
Brian Daugherty knows. As Community Services Supervisor for the City of Arlington, Daugherty saw firsthand vagrants using the property as a living shelter – sleeping, eating, and even setting fires.
Kids saw it as a source of entertainment: running, jumping, exploring the empty units. As city officials approached the structure to investigate its multitude of code complaints, young kids would often be seen scampering away.
“You have homeless there all the time and kids there all the time, it wasn’t a matter of if something would happen it was when,” Daugherty said. “From our standpoint, it was certainly a blight on the neighborhood but even more than that it was a safety issue.”
The three-story extended stay hotel, located at 1181 N. Watson Rd., near Avenue J, had been vacant since 2008. It was declared a dangerous structure by the court after being cited with a laundry list of violations, from holes in its roof to hazardous mold and electrical issues. The hotel had lost its certificate of occupancy for crime and code violations.
“It’s hard for any of the surrounding properties if they are dealing with something like that the entire time,” Daugherty said.
The manager of the Roadway Inn and Suites hotel, which was just south of the American Inn & Suites, said they’d lost business due to the dilapidated state of American Inn & Suites,.
“People aren’t going to rent a hotel room if they look across the way and see a boarded up building,” said Rina Ker, the manager. “Just having it gone makes the area look a lot better.”
Garza of Silverwood said they had a difficult time signing renters to apartments that looked out into the area where the hotel stood.
“I’d always say before a showing people just aren’t comfortable living in that particular unit,” Garza said. “When showing a certain unit I would always say, ‘this is going to be hard to rent.”
Right now the area where the hotel once stood is an open space filled with dirt, one the businesses around it hope will be redeveloped.
Few are missing what was once there.
“It took quite awhile,” Daugherty said. “But it was a huge victory to get it taken down.”
(By: Ken Perkins, city release)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

That mosh-pit polka bunch, Brave Combo, opens Levitt series, Pentatonix on Sunday

Count it down starting Thursday night, Aug. 30: Its five more weeks of free music concerts at the Levitt Pavilion.

It's the hokey-pokey, the chicken dance and conga lines for opening night of the Texas Power 2012 Fall Concert Series on Aug. 30, when Brave Combo (left) continues the  tradition of opening the fall concerts with their particular brand of mosh-pit polka. Lone Star Comics returns as the opening night concert sponsor, so you can  bet there will be super heroes and free comic books on hand as well.

Opening weekend continues with fiddle prodigy 17-year-old Ruby Jane, who brings  her mind-blowing fiddle playing to the Levitt on Aug. 31 thanks to a grant from  the Arlington Cultural Tourism Council.

She is followed on Saturday, Sept. 1, by Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, real-life married couple and one of alternative country's most talented singer/songwriter duos. Their concert is sponsored by Worthington National Bank.

The biggest news for opening weekend is Pentatonix on Sunday, Sept. 2. These five
a cappella sensations walked away with first prize and a Sony recording contract
 from NBC's The Sing-Off last fall. Three of the five are Martin High School graduates.
Their debut recording is out, and they're coming to the Levitt for a hometown concert
sponsored by Edward Jones.

The fall concert series runs Aug. 30 through Sept. 29 with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday
through Sunday. A complete fall concert calendar is available on the Levitt's website,

All of the Levitt's concerts are free and family friendly. J. Gilligan's returns
with burgers, veggie burgers, quesadillas, grilled chicken and their world-famous
Irish nachos to purchase. Mountaintop Snow will have their to-die-for snow cones
 as well as kettle corn, homemade lemonade, ice cream, nachos and soft drinks.

Levitt audiences are seated on open lawn seating on blankets and chairs. They are
welcome to bring picnics, snacks and coolers with beverages, just no glass containers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shameful Bush bashing accompanies arrival of Hurricane Isaac. . .true story rarely told
By: Richard Greene, columnist

While our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast are bracing themselves for a hurricane and while most of the rest of us support them with our thoughts and prayers, others see it as a political opportunity not to be missed.
Almost every newscast, especially those produced by the liberal mainstream media, can’t stop from using the coming onslaught of Hurricane Isaac to bash former President Bush while Republicans prepare for their convention in Florida.
I’veheard constant references of how the approaching storm is an “eerie” reminder of the Katrina devastation seven years ago, that the Republicans are meeting under the “shadow of Bush and Katrina” and how Bush “failed” in his response to the Katrina tragedy.
Well, I’m real tired of hearing those perversions of the truth as the media continues to build a fictitious history of what President Bush did and didn’t do in dealing with the country’s largest natural disaster of our lifetime.
How, you may ask, can I say such things? Well, I was working for the president at the time - personally engaged in the Katrina response effort from day one and continued to be during the aftermath for many months following the onslaught of the big storm.
Almost all of what happened within the first week after Katrina slammed into New Orleans occurred while the Louisiana governor refused to ask for federal assistance. The problem was confounded by an ongoing argument between the governor and the mayor of New Orleans as to which of them was responsible for public safety in the city.
 Richard Greene
With little attention having been paid to it at the time or since, President Bush urged the governor and the mayor to order the evacuation of the city, which they delayed doing until about 21 hours before Katrina came ashore.
Had they acted sooner, even a couple of days earlier, most of those stranded in the flooded city would have been out of harm’s way. The city’s fleet of school buses that remained grounded in their parking lots and later photographed underwater could have accommodated those without transportation.
A bipartisan congressional report issued after an investigation of what took place in those first days concluded, “This extraordinary storm required extraordinary measures, which the governor and the mayor did not take.”
I will always remember the discussions that were taking place throughout the federal government about “federalizing” the response. That term means that the president, either with a request from the governor or by declaring the region in a “state of insurrection,” could take over the management of the rescue, response, and recovery efforts.
From my own witness of what was taking place in Louisiana, I thought the president had every justification for issuing such an order. Recognizing how unprecedented that kind of act would be, his delay in doing so was to show deference to a dysfunctional governor.
The governor and mayor were overwhelmed, lacked the resources or the legal authority to manage the catastrophe that was mounting by the hour. They had repeatedly declined the requests from the president and other senior members of his administration, to take over. The first of those requests was made on the day after Katrina hit.
Bush also gets the blame for FEMA’s “failures.” Even without an emergency declaration, FEMA has a role in assisting states and communities in disaster response. Holding a press conference with the president on his first visit to the devastated Gulf Coast, the governors of Mississippi and Alabama declared that the FEMA response “has absolutely been great.” Both governors praised FEMA director Mike Brown personally.
When the president approached the microphone, the first thing he did was to express appreciation to Brown for his leadership that the two governors had just praised. That produced the now infamous, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!” quote that has vexed the president ever since.
Almost no one has ever heard that explanation of why the president complimented the beleaguered FEMA director, who was soon to be replaced in the wake of the growing crisis in New Orleans.
Later that same day, Bush found himself serving as referee in a meeting aboard Air Force One parked at the New Orleans airport. Trying to work out a combined effort of dealing with conditions that were then completely out of control, the president wound up in the midst of a shout fight among the governor, the mayor and one of Louisiana’s U. S. senators.
Others in attendance would later describe the meeting as bizarre and astonishing.
With the passage of a few more days of trying, without the governor’s authorization, to get the national resources mobilized, including the entirety of the U. S. military establishment, the governor finally relented and the federal government was able to seize control of the situation.
The events were constantly sensationalized by cable news reports that had their sights focused on the president just as surely as the sniper they said was perched on the Superdome holding back rescue bus drivers and medical workers.
Very little, if any, of the factual account of what happened in those first days gets mentioned. Instead, it’s always only about how Bush failed. The twisted media reports became the reality in the public consciousness.
And, we are seeing it again today in a shameful display of trying to get some political gain from the approach of what could be another tragedy in the lives of people in the path of an approaching storm.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of Pres. George W. Bush as Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and currently is an adjunct professor in UT Arlington’s Graduate School of Urban and Public Affairs.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New giant Sam Moon store creates traffic backup, Arlington sales tax bonanza
 The new Sam Moon store, located on Arbrook Drive east of The Parks Mall, created something of a mini-traffic jam on more than one occasion over the opening weekend. The city, of course, is delighted about the new retail facility and its ringing cash registers, which should add considerably to Arlington’s share of state sales tax revenues.
By: Ken Perkins, city release
Heather Battle came to the Sam Moon store near Parks Mall Friday on a simple enough quest: find a purse.
The good news: there were hundreds.
The bad news: there were hundreds.
By the time she left, she’d scooped up two. A rather large black one “that can probably fit my house in it,” she joked, and a smaller, trendier brown one “which I’ll take with me when I go out tonight.”

If a Sam Moon store is known for anything, it’s selection, which is why its Grand Opening at 1112 West Arbrook Boulevard last weekend was well anticipated by those with an affinity for purses, wallets, costume jewelry and a bevy of assorted fashion accessories.
By merely walking into a Sam Moon store can be something of a dizzying experience – there’s just so much.
More than usual, in fact, in this particular store. It is the fourth and largest location in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (Dallas, Fort Worth and Frisco are the others). Texas has seven of these stores that began as a wholesaler and gained enormous popularity by selling to the public while retaining its wholesaler prices.
“An Arlington location makes logical sense for us,” said owner Sam Moon. “This is the perfect location to help us reach out to new customers in southern Tarrant County.”
The new store offers shoppers more than 17,000 square feet of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, scarves, belts, hats, hair accessories, and so many handbags and purses they seem to take up every possible wall space.
About 40 workers were hired in positions that include sales and management, said Moon, and it gives Arlington yet another go-to store, eliminating a trip down I-30 for some to visit the Dallas or Fort Worth locations.
Johanna Wall of Grand Prairie has shopped at the Houston store and wanted to check out the new location Friday.
“I’m always blown away by the variety they have – some of my friends actually think it’s a little intimidating. But the prices are quite affordable, I think,” she said. “I like the idea that if you want funky you can get funky and if you want conservative, you can get conservative.’’
A Sam Moon store is for shoppers who enjoy the hunt.
“You can’t necessarily be in a hurry,” said Melanie Greene of Arlington, who wasn’t shopping for anything in particular. “Just looking,” she said.
“That’s what I like about it. You’re bound to find what you want here – or find something else you didn’t think you wanted but bought it anyway, like this bracelet. Really, do I need it? Nope. Will I buy it? Yep.”
Sam Moon Trading Co., Vice President Daniel Moon calls this the Sam Moon Shopping Experience.
“Our customers come here for the unbeatable deals, but once they walk through our doors, they encounter a unique shopping experience,” Moon said. “It’s that combination of remarkable values and shopping environment that brings them back.”