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Show Notes & Links:
- Election is May 6th, 2017
- Early Voting is April 24th – May 2nd, 2017 (excluding Sunday, April 30th)
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Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis, and in this episode we’re going to chat with Bob Allen, who’s going to tell you why you should vote for him in the upcoming Frisco mayoral election.
All right, today we are chatting with mayoral candidate, Bob Allen. Bob, welcome to the show.
Bob Allen: Thank you.
Scott Ellis: We are looking forward to the upcoming election on May 6th. You are running for Mayor of Frisco. That has to be a big challenge all by itself. What made you want to step up and run for mayor?
Bob Allen: Well, I’ve been involved ever since the day we moved here 25 years ago, and having been involved with so many things for so long, it felt like the natural next thing to do with Maher Maso coming to term limit. And I certainly want to continue to do my part in the community.
Scott Ellis: As you’re looking forward to where Frisco’s been, you’ve been here a long time if you’ve been here for 25 years, you’ve really seen all of the big growth that’s happened. I’ve been here since 2004 and it’s mind blowing what’s happened, so I can’t imagine how that looks through your eyes. But moving forward, what are, sorry, go ahead.
Bob Allen: I was going to say, when I moved here, actually, it’ll be 25 years tomorrow on April 15th. When I moved here there were 6,500 people here, we had one traffic light, it flashed four-way red, so things have changed.
Scott Ellis: Where was that light?
Bob Allen: It was at Main and Preston, which was really pretty much the center of the universe, but it had some businesses on the west side and everything else was just ranch land as far as you could see.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, that’s almost hard to imagine now with all the building and all the construction that we’ve had in the city. But looking forward and where Frisco is headed, in your eyes, what are some of the challenges you see facing Frisco in the next maybe 10 or 15 years?
Bob Allen: Well, it’s not just my opinion, we’ve been knocking on doors since January. It was a lot colder then than it is now. We’re still knocking on doors, we’re on our way to about 5,000 doors before early voting starts, and people have been pretty clear. We’ve asked everyone the same questions, and while there’s a host of things people are interested in, invariably, everything’s bubbling up to three issues for folks and it’s taxes, density, and congestion. And so I think those are where our challenges are, and I think we have some good ideas and plans on how to deal with all those. I think it’s nice that we’ve built a good, solid foundation to grow on, and now we take advantage of that and look to see to grow into the future.
Scott Ellis: So that sounds like a good jumping-off point to go a little bit deeper. We’re hearing kind of the same things as we speak to our audience and people leave comments on posts and Facebook and whatnot, those do seem to be three of the big issues that come up over and over and over, or really kind of push people’s buttons when we write about them and things like that.
In terms of the growth, there’s a lot of different potential directions that this can go. I remember several years ago, the estimate was that Frisco would top out around 275,000 to 280,000. Now we’re seeing estimates that it’s closer to 375,000. One, what do you think about that, and where do you think, or where would you try to drive things as the mayor?
Bob Allen: First of all, I’ve heard estimates significantly higher than that.
Scott Ellis: Oh, wow.
Bob Allen: Based on the future land use plans. The good news is I don’t believe there’s any way in the world we could get to that point. It isn’t the number that concerns me so much, it’s the quality of the growth. And if we can continue to move forward with quality projects, and let’s say that number inches up into the over 300,000 mark, then we have to make sure that our growth is quality, that our plan is in place, we’re following our plan, and we’re building the necessary infrastructure. And I don’t know that the numbers they’re throwing out for the future land use plan … I consider those to be absolute worst-case if everything develops the way it is, but that’s just not going to be the case. Future land use plan does not give someone the right for zoning. And I think it’s up to the council and the mayor and the city staff to make sure we’re on the path that makes that number something we’re all comfortable with.
Scott Ellis: What about the congestion issue? That one’s close to my heart. I avoid the toll road at all costs now. At almost any time of day it seems like it’s crowded. Any thoughts on how we get our arms around that a little bit and start to alleviate some of that even as we’re growing more and more?
Bob Allen: We’re one city in two counties. Both counties are going to grow, double in size, and we’re going to become a very large metroplex area. I think that when I look at the technology of transportation, for years I have been, because I am a technology person by profession, I’ve been looking at the trends and what’s going to be happening in technology, and I have been for years promoting the fact that vehicle-vehicle communications is going to occur. Vehicle to infrastructure communications is going to occur. We’re going to have autonomous, self-driving vehicles. All of those things are tools that we can put in place to try to improve our congestion.
I’m not a fan of Dart. I think that’s going to be an antiquated technology by the time you get anything built, but I do believe there are things we can do with technology. Vehicles talking to the traffic light up ahead so that it can position itself correctly. And also just common sense things. How many times have you been sitting at a light, you’re the second car at the light, and all you want to do is turn right, and the guy in front of you is going straight? We can get smarter at how we design roads and try to do all the little things to deal with the congestion.
Unfortunately we’re part of a much bigger issue. If we stopped building homes and moving people in today, our traffic would still get worse. The only difference would be they’d be coming all the way through our city from cities north and east, south, and west, and we wouldn’t have the benefit of them living here. And actually it’s going to make it worse because they’re driving farther through the city.
Scott Ellis: Yep, yep. Makes a lot of sense. So let’s go into a little bit of your experience with city council. How long have you been on the Frisco City Council?
Bob Allen: I was first elected in 2002, and I served for five years. I came to term limit, and thought I had made my contribution. Was actually encouraged to come back and run again in 2009, so I served through 2007. Maher met with me, asked me to come back and run again. When I came back on the council in 2009, I had five years experience, the rest of the council combined had six. He felt it important, and I felt it important to come back and be on council again, so 13 of the last 15 years I’ve served.
Scott Ellis: Okay, very good. In that time, and really across both of the times that you’ve served, what are some of the accomplishments that you’ve been a part of that you’ve been most proud of?
Bob Allen: Somebody asked me that question the other day, and I point to everything. And none of those accomplishments are mine, I was a part of a team. And if you look back at, I was first on the Economic Development Board, and I chaired that board most of the time for nine years, from 2000 to 2009. The people that were on that board in 2000, we had gone from a city that, as an economic development incentive, put in a fire hydrant to get La Hacienda Ranch. And we became a city that could then go sit down and talk to large corporations, and that was a stark change. The mall changed everything.
The RoughRiders ballpark set the foundation for all the other deals we would do in the future, and when I say set the foundation, it really is a public-private partnership where we own the facility, someone else manages it, someone else pays for the lights and puts paint on the wall. That model has been used over and over and over again with the RoughRiders, The Star Center, The Ford Center at The Star, Toyota Stadium. During that period of time we build more municipal buildings and complexes than you can imagine. I think hundreds, and maybe a thousand, hours we spent designing city hall. What would it look like? What should it look like? What should it be to really be a place that our citizens can appreciate and be proud of?
And so all of those things have been incredibly rewarding to me. I can’t pick one, I really can’t. There’s just so many, and I look at them all collectively, and am proud to have been a part of all that.
Scott Ellis: Very good. Yeah, and there’s been a lot of that happening, and I know there’s more to come. We’ve done sports a lot in this city, and you mentioned RoughRiders Stadium and the kinds of deals that have helped bring facilities like that here. How do you think that plays forward with the movements that are going on with respect to the arts right now? I know there was a project a while back where a few cities tried to come together and do a performing arts center. That didn’t really work out. Now there’s some folks trying to get something going here in Frisco, something similar, do you think we can work? Are you a fan of that?
Bob Allen: I think you’re very astute because I think that’s exactly what we need. And let’s take The Star, The Ford Center at The Star and use that as a quick example. The city, the school district, the EDC, and CDC, paid $90 million, I say paid $90 million, took out $90 million in debt, to go toward a building we own. The Jones family just took $252 million and put that into a building that we own. Now going forward, the Joneses pay for the electricity, they pay for the paint on the wall, they manage the building, they do all those things, in a building that we own.
When we start talking about the arts again, I think two things need to happen. We have a very nice little Black Box Theater. It’s inadequate. It doesn’t have storage for sets, it doesn’t have storage for wardrobe, it doesn’t have a place for them to rehearse. We need a bigger facility. And my vision is we find the land area, we find a partner who’s willing to partner with us, we go build a bigger facility there, not the big, ultimate facility, but say 300-500 seat facility that has all the things I just described, storage and practice facilities and all those things. And we do it on a plot of land that is big enough for the ultimate footprint of someday having the larger performance hall. And that becomes our arts center, and we do that in a way with a public-private partnership that, again, allows the city to make an investment, but then allows that partner to run it and manage it.
Because that was the big thing with the arts in Collin County. The challenge became what would that run model look like, and how much of a burden would that be on tax payers? I think we need to do things for the arts, I think we’ve under-funded the arts. I have a plan and a vision to partner with some folks to make things happen, and I think we owe it to our citizens to do it in a way that ultimately is not a drain on our tax payer.
Scott Ellis: Okay, sounds good. Kind of moving a little further down that line, one of the things when you talk about taxes and building new things makes me think about the financial health of Frisco. And I think that’s something that a lot of our citizens don’t maybe get as much insights into or don’t hear as much about. So how would you describe, insofar as you can at this point, the overall financial health of our city? And how does that look with all the things that are happening in the future, and particularly with respect to tax rates?
Bob Allen: Let’s go back to The Ford Center at The Star. I said we took out $90 million in debt. So what we did was we went and got $90 million in debt, and we put it into that project. That debt’ll be paid back over the years. That debt is being paid for by tax revenue out of our tax increment refinance district, so it’s not really coming from tax payers. It’s coming from the growth in tax value of the property from the mall all the way up around … it runs literally all the way up to the Toyota Stadium. Plus the people who are leasing that building, in the case of The Star it’s the Cowboys, and they’re paying a lease fee. So we’re paying that debt down through revenue that really doesn’t come from property tax payers. Our property tax burden, tied to debt, is tied to about $423 million in debt. That’s how much our tax payers pay for. In the city, growing as fast as we are, and with all the exciting things going on, I think it makes sense that … That makes sense.
So I think we’re strong financially, that we’ve got a plan in place. From an overall tax perspective, I think there’s other opportunities that exist, and if you look at the budget, 50% of the budget goes to police and fire. Public safety. And I think that is untouchable. We move that to the side and say all right, we’re not going to touch that, but let’s go look at the other departments that have been growing over the years. Now it makes sense that departments grow in size as the population grows, but we can’t continue that linear path of growth. We have to have a way that we can start to look at, by department, what we can do to make those departments more efficient so that we can reduce any headcount increases in those departments as we grow.
So I’m not talking about going in and cutting departments and getting rid of people, I’m just talking about we can’t continue to grow those departments at the same pace that we have in the past. We’re at a point now where that linear growth has to slow down. And I think the way you do that is through, actually through what I do for a living. I am a business process re-engineer, I am a technology enablement integration expert, and I think we can go into those departments, and we can look for ways to make them more efficient so that as we continue to grow we don’t have to continue to grow in size in those individual departments.
Then over on the police and fire side, we’re still going to need to be adding policemen and firemen as we grow. Public safety is job one for us. But we also need to be looking at what we can do for those people to give them all the training, all the resources, and all the tools they need to come home safe every night.
Scott Ellis: Now let’s have a little fun. I’m going to shift gears on you here a little bit. With all the time you’ve been here you’ve seen a lot of things come and go in Frisco. What are some of the things that you like best about Frisco and about living here?
Bob Allen: I recently viewed a video from 12, 15 years ago, which was interesting, it was our 100 birthday and so we were all contributing to what we thought Frisco had been and what we thought it was becoming. And the message that still resonates with me is Frisco has always been a can-do city. It has been amazing to me. People move here, and they love this city so much, and they want to get involved. And because they get involved, the city’s a better place. And the next person who comes here, they want to get involved. And so I don’t know what happened 100 years ago, but cities like Frisco are special. And the people move here, they want to be a part of the community, and they want to make the community better. And we have so many volunteers in the city that make Frisco a special place, I can’t imagine having had more fun watching it grow and change. And those videos I referred to described where we would be today, and it is eerie how accurate they were.
Scott Ellis: You know, that’s a good point, and that’s something we’ve seen and observed as well on our coverage of Frisco, that there tends to be a strong community involvement here that you don’t see in a lot of other cities in even the areas around us. Not as much as what we have here, so that is definitely something we enjoy about Frisco, too.
My last question is, I’m just going to hit you right between the eyes with this one, people are coming out to the … the elections are coming up, the election day is May 6th. Why should people vote for Bob Allen?
Bob Allen: Well, I’ve been part of this for a long time. I’m at a point in my life where I can do anything I want. My kids are grown. I’ve been the sports coach, I’ve been taking kids to PTA, I’ve been involved in all the things that you have to do when you’re raising a family. My daughter and son are grown, my two granddaughters are here, Teresa and I are invested in this community. She and I have been married for 40 years, and we are absolutely focused on making Frisco, continuing for Frisco to be a special place.
I have a full-time job that I love because I’m making a difference in school districts in ways, I’m touching teachers, and parents, and tax payers, and students, and administrators. I love that job, but I will give whatever time is necessary to the city of Frisco, and if it means after 42 years of full-time employment it’s time for me to think about moving off of that, I want to do that. I love the city. I think if you look around you’ll see I’ve been blessed to have my fingerprints on everything here. If you like Frisco the way it is … You need to continue being an innovative city, and we need to continue our planning. We need to continue on these signature projects. We need to focus on an area along the toll road, to put any density where it needs to be, there, not off into the outside quarters of that area. Keep that density as close to there as we can. Make that high-valuable density.
If you look at Stonebriar Mall, for example, it generates about $7,000 per acre per year in tax revenue. If you look at Wade Park, Wade Park will generate $55,000 per year in tax revenue. I have a vision that’s going to help drive that, and it’s going to have a positive impact on the community. I have a solution for what I think are the three major things, density, traffic, and congestion. And that vision is what I want to bring forward, and I hope, Lord willing, that the citizens of Frisco will agree with me and know that I’ve been here, I’ve been a part of it for a long time, and all I’m asking for is to finish the job for them.
Scott Ellis: All right, well, Bob, thank you for your service over the years, and we very much appreciate your time today. Look forward to everybody tuning in, and I know that over the coming week, this will actually be out and some of this will already be happening, but go ahead and fill us in because there’s a couple of events happening I think next week where you’re, candidate forums and things like that. Do you have the rundown of what those are and when those are happening?
Bob Allen: The Chamber has one on Monday night, I think that’s at the Grace Church there behind city hall, I believe. There is one Wednesday afternoon for young professionals, and I think that one’s also at Grace Church. There’s one on Thursday night which is a new group trying to get some traction in the community, they’re called the Frisco CAB, the Community Action Board. And I’m not really familiar with them, but they’re going to have their event at Collin College. And then I think there’s another HOA event late next week for one of our large HOAs out to the west, Frisco Lakes, I believe.
Scott Ellis: All right, so plenty of opportunities.
Bob Allen: So a lot of stuff going on. I’ve been in a lot of homes, like I said we’ve talked to a lot of people, we’ve knocked on a lot of doors. It’s exciting that we’re finally getting here. We made our announcement October 27th and have been literally running ever since, so I’m excited to be here. I look forward to seeing everybody out at the polls.
Scott Ellis: Well, I’m sure it feels like you’re in the home stretch, so a couple more weeks to go. And for all of you out there listening, early voting starts on April 24th, and it runs through May 2nd with the exception of Sunday, the 30th. There’s no voting on Sunday. Then we get a break for a couple of days, and the election itself is on May 6th. So no matter what, no matter who you want to vote for, please get out there and vote. That is the single-most important thing you can do. And we’ll have links in the show notes of where you can figure out where you should go vote, and it’s going to run from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Bob Allen: Yeah, if you live in Denton County, you have to vote in Denton County. If you live in Collin County, you have to vote in Collin County. On election day, you can vote anywhere in Collin County if you live in Collin County, but on election day in Denton County, you have to vote at your specific precinct.
Scott Ellis: And that’s a good point. I’m glad you brought that up because in the last run-off election, the one where John Keating won, I actually was going out to vote and I went to the, there were two voting locations, two firehouses that I could vote at, I live in Denton County. And I went to the one that is very close to my home, but that was not the right one for me to be at, so don’t assume that proximity means that’s where you’re supposed to vote. Precinct may put your somewhere else.
Again, we’ll have show notes and links and all that good stuff. Bob, thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, and best wishes.
Bob Allen: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.