Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 8

Get Informed Before You Cast Your Vote • Term Limits Idea Gains No Traction • Hoops Coach Whistled for Traveling • City Manager Gets Raise, Extension

Greetings from Philadelphia, the birthplace of our nation, the cheesesteak sandwich, and yours truly. I'm here for the weekend to see my father, who says “Yo!” to all of you. Philly seems like a great place to be when publishing a newsletter that begins with one of our Constitutional rights.


Get Informed Before You Cast Your Votes

In an attempt to help you make informed voting decisions, I sent questionnaires a couple of weeks ago to the candidates for the Coppell City Council, the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees (many Coppell residents live in that district), and the Irving City Council (many Coppell ISD residents live in that city).

Because you can never underestimate most people’s attention spans, I asked each candidate to answer just five questions. For the same reason, I asked them to limit their answers to 500 words per question.

Thankfully, all of the respondents adhered to that limitation, but not everyone responded. Although the candidates for the Place 8 seat on the Irving City Council confirmed receiving my questions, they did not send back any answers. The same is true of Raghib Majed, who is challenging Brianna Hinojosa-Smith for her Place 2 seat on the Coppell City Council. Majed was also the only Coppell City Council candidate whose April 1 campaign finance report was turned in too late to be analyzed in last week’s Coppell Chronicle. (The report he turned in on April 12 says he has raised no campaign funds and has put his $711.61 worth of expenditures on a credit card.)

Although I am an editor at my day job, I made only a few cosmetic changes to the candidates’ answers, including eliminating the double spaces after periods and inserting empty lines between paragraphs. But I resisted my natural instinct to edit any run-on sentences, random capitalizations, or questionable punctuation.

Click the links below to compare the candidates’ responses:

Coppell Mayor: Rob Anderson and Wes Mays

Coppell City Council Place 2: Brianna Hinojosa-Smith

Coppell City Council Place 3: Davin Bernstein, Don Carroll, and Meghan Shoemaker

Coppell City Council Place 4: Amit Dharia and Kevin Nevels

Coppell City Council Place 6: Biju Mathew and Mark Smits

Coppell ISD Board of Trustees Place 7: Tracy Fisher, Sonal Tandale, and Sam Wellington

Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees: Sally Derrick, Cydnei Drake, and Cassandra Hatfield

If you want to prove me wrong regarding attention spans, here are links to other questionnaires:

● Coppell Gazette: Coppell City Council and Coppell ISD Board of Trustees

Coppell Gifted Association

Dallas Morning News

League of Women Voters

If you’d rather see and hear the candidates, watch these videos:

Coppell Chamber of Commerce

● League of Women Voters: Coppell ISD followed by C-FB ISD and Irving City Council

Neighbors for an Informed Coppell Electorate (NICE)

There’s at least one more candidate forum in the works. Coppell ISD’s PTO presidents will host one that KCBY will stream at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. (The forum will be recorded so you can add it to your to-watch list.)

Early voting starts tomorrow and continues daily through April 27. Election Day is May 1. Dallas County residents can get more info at DallasCountyVotes.org, while Denton County residents can visit VoteDenton.gov.

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Term Limits Idea Gains No Traction

I’m going to be honest with you. When I watch videos of Coppell City Council meetings, I’m not always watching. I’ve often got Tetris or a crossword puzzle open in a separate tab while I just listen to the meetings, waiting to hear something you might like to read about.

But if I’ve learned nothing else in my short time as your Town Center correspondent, I’ve learned this: Whenever the mayor says “Cliff,” it’s time to pause my game, strap in, and hold on tight, because this ride may get a little bumpy. As his name implies, council member Cliff Long can get close to the edge.

The latest example of this happened Tuesday night, during the second of two back-to-back discussions that were placed on the agenda at the request of John Jun, who has proven to be an eager beaver during his short time on the council. The first discussion was about potentially increasing the homestead exemption. The second was billed as being about term limits, but Jun also wanted to talk about lengthening council members’ terms from three years to four as a cost-saving measure.

Some of the more veteran members of the council – including Mayor Karen Hunt, Brianna Hinojosa-Smith, and Long – seemed to take umbrage at the implication that Jun, who was just elected in December, was breaking new ground with these topics. They assured him that both had been discussed ad nauseam, especially homestead exemptions, before he joined the council.

After acknowledging that the city could save money by conducting elections less frequently, Long asked Jun this question:

“Is there some other thing that’s broken, in your mind, that needs to be corrected?”

The placement of those two commas around the qualifying phrase “in your mind” is key. Long’s question was immediately followed by a few seconds of silence in the council chamber. Meanwhile, at my house, I laughed so loud that my wife was afraid I would wake up our sons.

Once the awkwardness subsided, Jun said he believes term limits would give more people an opportunity to run. That may be a solution in search of a problem. As I told you back in the debut issue of the Coppell Chronicle, a full slate of contested races is a rarity around here; this is the city’s first 21st century election with no unopposed candidates. However, three of the five races on the May 1 ballot don’t include incumbents because they’re either stepping down – despite Coppell’s lack of term limits – or seeking a different office.

Hunt and council member Gary Roden are both leaving without limits. The mayor told Jun, “I hate to fix something that’s not broken,” and it was clear she wasn’t talking about anyone’s mind.

Meanwhile, I decided to check the charters of our four neighboring cities to see what they say about term limits. Let’s start with our neighbors to the north and go clockwise:

  • Lewisville has no term limits.

  • Carrollton’s council members are limited to two consecutive three-year terms. They must sit out for at least three years before running again. The three-year timeout is waived for term-limited council members seeking the mayor’s seat or term-limited mayors seeking a council seat.

  • Irving has a mix of at-large and geographic seats. Its council members are limited to three consecutive three-year terms. They must then sit out for at least one year before seeking a different seat, unless they’re running for mayor. Term-limited mayors have to sit out one year no matter which seat they seek next.

  • Grapevine has no term limits.

Regarding that last point: Duh. William D. Tate is running for a 17th term as Grapevine’s mayor. He won his first mayoral term in 1973, about 19 months before a very important event in my life: my birth. His current mayoral campaign is actually his 18th. He lost to Tom Powers in 1985 (51% to 47%), but Tate won the seat back in 1988 with 56% to Powers’ 44%, and he’s been dominating his occasional competition ever since. Tate has been unopposed in six of his last eight election cycles. (Shout-out to the Grapevine librarian who confirmed all those stats for me.)

I wonder – in my mind – how often discussions of term limits appear on a Grapevine City Council agenda.


Hoops Coach Whistled for Traveling

If a teacher quits in the middle of a school year, the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees gets together for a special meeting. At such meetings, the trustees consider whether to tell the State Board for Educator Certification that “good cause did not exist” for the teacher to “abandon his employment contract.”

Even though the board always goes into closed session to debate these teachers’ careers, the teachers’ names are always printed on the agendas. I’ve never been tempted to Google any of these names before, but maybe that’s because I was never writing a Coppell-centric newsletter before.

On April 6, the board got together to discuss Landon Goesling. One of the first things Google told me about him was that he graduated from Coppell High School, where he played on the basketball team. I then learned that he played college hoops for a few schools: Appalachian State, St. Edward’s, and Houston. He spent the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach for Houston, but he left UH last summer so he could come home and help coach the Cowboys.

That seems like a pretty good story, right? So why would Goesling ruin it by bailing out on his alma mater?

Well, Google also told me Goesling has been cast on the upcoming season of The Bachelorette. He and the rest of the suited suitors are reportedly quarantined at a resort in New Mexico. I’ve never watched any of the 57 seasons of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, but thanks to this Coppell connection, maybe I’ll watch the upcoming season.

[Narrator’s voice: “In reality, Dan has no plans to watch any reality shows.”]

The Board of Trustees decided that The Bachelorette was not a good reason for Goesling to skip town. The last thing you can hear on the recording of their April 6 meeting (after they vote to report him to the State Board for Educator Certification) is trustee Manish Sethi joyfully saying, “Shortest meeting ever!” Given the subject of their vote, I like to imagine that Sethi then crumpled up the agenda and swished it into a wastebasket.


City Manager Gets Raise, Extension

At the end of their meeting on Tuesday, after emerging from a 75-minute executive session, the Coppell City Council unanimously voted to extend City Manager Mike Land’s contract through September 2023, raise his salary by 3 percent on Oct. 1 of this year, and give him a $10,000 bonus. There was nothing said in open session that indicated what his current salary is or when his contract had been due to expire. I’ve submitted an open-records request for that information.

In other news …

▪ The City Council on Tuesday received a preview of a proposal that would raise the maximum train speeds within the city. Coppell’s current ordinance limits trains to no faster than 20 mph. City staffers have been talking with their Dallas Area Rapid Transit counterparts about how fast the Silver Line will need to go to still be considered “rapid.” These are the proposed maximum speeds at crossings that go from west to east as you read from top to bottom:

Under this proposal, only DART’s Silver Line trains would be allowed to crank up the speed. Freight trains would still have to chug along at 20 mph.

▪ On Thursday, the Irving City Council voted 8-1 to approve a zoning change that will allow the owners of the Fun Movie Grill in Valley Ranch to remove nine of the multiplex’s 16 screens and replace them with a go-kart track, a bowling alley, axe throwing, and laser tag, among other “indoor amusements.” The dissenting vote came from Phil Riddle, who represents the south end of Irving and didn’t ask any questions during the public hearing. Allan Meagher, one of the council’s two at-large members, asked how such loud amusements could co-exist with movie theaters, but none of the owners, developers, and architects could unmute themselves on Zoom in time to answer that question.

▪ On March 25, the Irving City Council unanimously voted to approve a zoning change that will allow a 125-room Atwell Suites hotel to be built on undeveloped land at 7501 Esters Blvd. Whoever maintains the list of hotels within Coppell ISD’s boundaries will need to update the list in the near future.


Community Calendar

Aggie Muster: Former students of Texas A&M University will meet in Coppell on Wednesday evening for the annual Aggie Muster ceremony to honor Aggies who passed away within the last year. Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp is scheduled to speak. The ceremony will happen at The Falls at Wagon Wheel Park, which is the official name for the courtyard next to the barn by the Wagon Wheel soccer fields.

Run to Fund: The Coppell ISD Education Foundation has turned its fundraising 5K race into a virtual event over the course of May 1-8. There will be daily themes, including Star Wars on “May the Fourth Be With You” and Tex-Mex on Cinco de Mayo.

Humvee Challenge: Claymore Operations, a Coppell-based nonprofit that helps veterans adjust to civilian life, will raise funds via a unique competition on May 8 at First United Methodist Church. If you think you and seven friends have the combined strength necessary to pull a Humvee across the church’s parking lot, sign up ASAP. The registration fee is $10 per person.