Superiority Complex

Mary Coffman may go down in history as the first mayor in Glenn Heights' history to be elected out of office.

With the exception of the city limits sign, which sells Glenn Heights as the "Gateway to Southern Country," there is little to alert drivers bouncing down Hampton Road leaving DeSoto that they've entered a city of more than 6,000 residents confined to nine square miles of generally neglected territory. With the exception of the Jack in the Box and a Texaco station, there are few businesses to speak of. There had been a Dairy Queen, known locally for the gigantic Alaskan brown bear mounted in the lobby, but the restaurant has closed.

About a mile down the road are City Hall and the fire department, which share office space inside a brown metal building that abuts a horse-spotted field. If it weren't for the presence of a blazing red fire engine and a matching ambulance, the city headquarters could easily be mistaken for an oversize storage shed. Across the way, white-haired road warriors hibernate inside the Dallas Hi-Ho Campground, while their neighbors enjoy a slightly more permanent existence at the Oso Grande and Town & Country mobile home parks. There, rusty pickups dance a two-step with potholes that mar the streets like monstrous canker sores.

These mobile home parks have been here since Glenn Heights' beginning. In fact, they are the reason why the town was created in 1969. That's according to N.L. "Moe" Craddock, and he should know, since it was his idea to create the town.

"I had an agenda then," Craddock, the former Dairy Queen owner, explains. "I had a mobile home park out here on Hampton Road. DeSoto was trying to annex us in and get rid of the mobile home park. We sued 'em and won."

Nowadays, Craddock is beginning to wonder if he should have bothered. And he's not the only one. A growing clan of testy townsfolk has recently concluded that Glenn Heights' elected officials are, in a word, incompetent. In the coming weeks, these citizens will partake in their first-ever recall election, in which the mayor and most of the city council members could be tossed out of office like beer cans from a pickup truck.

"We've got to stop 'em," Craddock, also a former mayor, says of his modern-day successors. "It's like a sore that's bleeding. You've got to stop the blood going out."

The incompetence, the recallers say, manifests itself all over the place. For one thing, there's the fire department. Or rather, there was the fire department; in December it was abruptly merged with the police department into the new Department of Public Safety. Some folks say the move was a cruel, if not illegal, maneuver designed to oust Mike Burgett, the city's popular fire chief. Burgett's departure prompted the entire fire department, staffed mostly by volunteers, to walk off the job, briefly leaving the city without fire protection.

But the bigger issue in town, the one that has split residents into two warring factions, involves housing. Specifically, the long-awaited plans of two developers to build subdivisions that would bring a new stock of single-family housing--and potential tax revenue--to a city that can barely afford to make its financial ends meet. Although the proposed houses would be equal if not superior to the city's existing housing stock, the anti-development faction--represented by the mayor and a slim majority of the city council--say that's not good enough for them.

Unless they take a stand and force developers to build more elite housing, Glenn Heights will become an enclave of "starter" homes. As part of their stand, city officials have enacted a series of zoning laws that have effectively blocked the proposed projects and, in the process, generated a string of costly civil lawsuits.

An early round of unfavorable court rulings, including one case that may end up at the Texas Supreme Court, prompted the election. The members of the recall faction say they similarly want quality housing in Glenn Heights, but they consider the proposed houses, which in one development would sell at an average of $110,000 apiece, to be a step up from the city's trailer-park past. They are also quick to point out that those who are most adamantly against the development happen to live in starter homes themselves.

What's more, this faction contends, the lawsuits, if lost, will generate legal bills that will drain the city coffers and may force the city into bankruptcy or, ironically, a merger with some neighboring city--like DeSoto. And that can mean only one thing, says recall organizer Jerry Lemons:

"There'll be no Glenn Heights."

The town's future may very well be at stake, especially if its residents continue to wage what has become a nasty battle of petty politics and personality conflicts. Indeed, the source of trouble brewing in Glenn Heights is a textbook case of small-town politics at its mudslinging best.  

Stephen Pape didn't sign his name to the recall petition, but it doesn't take long to figure out what side of this debate he's on.

"To me, a $90,000 house next to a trailer park is an improvement," Pape says, referring to the proposed developments. "A lot of people see it as a starter home. At [one recent] council meeting, one lady even called it a ghetto."

Until May, when he lost a re-election bid to Mary Coffman by 80-some-odd votes, Pape was the mayor of Glenn Heights. If there is anyone who knows how personal the disputes have become, it's Pape. During the election, his opponents fired off accusations that he supported the housing developments because Pape, who runs a 30-year-old family business that installs heating and air-conditioning units, stood to gain from them.

In response, Pape publicly issued a "steak challenge." If anyone could prove that he had ever done any business with any of the developers in Glenn Heights, Pape promised to wash that person's car and cook him, or her, a steak dinner.

"No one, by the way, has collected on it," Pape says.

To give an idea of what's at the heart of the animosity in Glenn Heights, Pape fires up the engine of his Ford truck and heads into town. The main thing to notice, Pape says, is how few businesses there are--something that has always been Glenn Heights' problem and that he tried to change when he became mayor in 1996.

"I looked around and said, 'Every town in Texas has a stoplight and a DQ.' Now the DQ is gone and the stoplight is flashing," Pape says. "It's the old scenario where Wal-Mart came to town and the little businesses struggle to survive. The only difference here is, the Wal-Mart is in the next town."

The lack of businesses goes a long way toward explaining why Glenn Heights residents are at an economic disadvantage. Since about only 2 percent of the city's $4.8 million budget comes from sales taxes, the primary source of income is residents. That's why the water and sewer bills in Glenn Heights are double the state average, and it's why Glenn Heights residents pay more in property taxes than anyone else in Dallas County.

In the past, residents discussed several ways to bring money into the city. There was talk about liquor stores and even a casino. The most controversial plan involved building a state prison. A conservative man, Pape said he was relieved when, shortly after he took office, developer Gary Sheffield came to town with an idea to pick up where the town's last developers left off.

In the 1980s, the city's first modern subdivision was built on a creek-lined parcel of land that straddles the Dallas and Ellis county lines. Called "Stone Creek," the neighborhood was supposed to consist of small-lot, single-family homes priced under $100,000. When the '80s real estate boom went bust, however, only a portion of the houses were constructed. Although the infrastructure--streets, curbs, and pipes--was built, most of the lots were vacant when Sheffield showed up.

"We were glad to see him," Pape says, "at the time."

A small developer, Sheffield says he simply wanted to finish out what the original developer had started in accordance with the zoning laws the city adopted when the project was originally approved.

Before Sheffield bought the property, he met with Pape and other city officials to query them about the project. Specifically, he wanted to ensure that there were no plans to change the existing zoning. The officials welcomed Sheffield, assuring him that the project would get their blessing. Little did he know what they were saying behind his back.

"We had not yet had our first lot developed, and we were already hearing complaints that we're growing too fast," Pape recalls. "People have a fear that the horses they see across the street...are going to be replaced by houses. It's called, 'I'm here, close the gate.'"

Just three days after Sheffield bought the land, the council members met in an executive session, where they privately discussed imposing a moratorium so they could create a new zoning ordinance that would require Sheffield to build on larger lots. The change would require the construction of larger, more expensive homes, for which Sheffield says no market in Glenn Heights exists. The change, Sheffield says, would effectively kill the project. Without telling Sheffield, the city council voted to impose the moratorium weeks later.

"I guess you could say we were blindsided," Sheffield says. "In my 30-plus years in this business, I've never been treated that way in any city. We have disagreements with people, but it's usually honest disagreements."  

Oddly enough, Pape voted for the moratorium. Pape says he voted that way because he, like his colleagues, wanted to encourage Sheffield to build fewer homes of better quality, and he thought the moratorium would put the city in a stronger position to negotiate. At the time, Pape was personally torn by the council's decision not to be up-front with Sheffield about their backroom dealings. "I kind of felt it was a moral dilemma," Pape said during a 1998 deposition.

Now, Pape shrugs off the decision. Back then, he says, he didn't think things would go the way they did. Instead of lasting 30 days, after which Pape expected a compromise to be reached and construction to begin, the moratorium was extended for more than a year while the anti-starter-home faction on the council kept trying to ram through their new ordinance. At the same time, the council also rejected several compromise proposals that Sheffield brought to the table in the spirit of satisfying the concerns about density and quality. In March 1998, the council finally approved the new zoning ordinance, leaving Sheffield with just one option: He sued.

"What do you do with people like that?" Sheffield says. "The unfortunate thing for the citizens of that community, who probably have no idea what's going on, is it's already cost them a great deal of money in lost revenues, and it's not over yet."

After a bench trial in Ellis County District Court, a judge determined in August 1999 that the city of Glenn Heights had "unreasonably interfered" with Sheffield's rights to use the land and that their actions constituted a "taking" of his property. As part of the ruling, the judge decided that the new zoning ordinance would remain in effect, but he ordered the city to pay Sheffield damages, which the jury estimated at almost half a million dollars, plus interest.

For his part, Sheffield is at a loss to explain the logic behind the city's resistance to his project. When other cities oppose new housing developments, it's often because the projects are of a lower quality than the existing housing stock. In this case, Sheffield's project would have had the opposite effect. That, Pape says, is the ironic part.

"I'll show you something funny," Pape says.

With that, Pape navigates his pickup into the Bear Creek Meadows subdivision and turns onto London Lane. The homes, built in the mid-1980s, are one-story structures that offer about 1,200 square feet of living area. Pape points out a house planted in the middle of the block that, according to the Dallas County Appraisal District, has a current market value of $59,810.

"The mayor that's against tract housing?" he says, jabbing a finger in the direction of Mary Coffman's house. "That's her white car in front of that Fox & Jacobs home."

Dressed in a pink sweater, with another pink sweater pulled over it, Glenn Heights Mayor Mary Coffman is so upset that the heart-shaped earrings dangling from her lobes will not cease shaking as she sits inside the city council chambers. Coffman is nervous, but her current state shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of stones. An investigator at the Dallas County Medical Examiner's office, Coffman spends many of her days with the recently deceased. If what her opponents say is true, the next dead body Coffman could be standing over is the city's. For her part, Coffman insists the city's finances are in order and its future rosy.

"We're moving forward. Things are going great," she says.

Recent events suggest otherwise.

In December, Coffman and four of the city's six council members were put in the awkward position of having to certify a recall petition calling for their ouster. In the petition, the residents accuse the officials of "misfeasance and/or malfeasance" because of their decision to appeal the Sheffield lawsuit. (Two council members who were not in office at the time of that vote are not subject to the recall.)

At this point, the only way the election can be avoided is if the officials up for recall resign. They don't intend to. To them, this is just another battle in an ongoing political war.

"If they can win in February and May, they've got the city back and there won't be anything we can do about it," says senior council member Jesus Humphrey, who saunters into City Hall on this Thursday afternoon. "The only thing standing between them and the citizens is us. And that's it."

At the time the Dallas Observer went to press, the city council was scheduled to hold a hearing to set a date for the recall election. If the recall is successful, the city will have to hold another election to elect replacement council members and a mayor.  

To Coffman, the entire exercise is moot, because by the time everything is said and done it will be time for the spring elections, when three council members are up for re-election. If the petitioners really wanted to win back a majority on the council, Coffman says, they should have just focused on the May election.

"It's a waste of taxpayer money. The time for the citizens to choose is in May," Coffman says. "I'm real saddened because the effort is in the guise of helping the people, and it's not. A recall is never a good thing. Nobody wins."

And although Coffman says that what the town needs is "unity," she has no problem attacking those who attack her. "They're doing [the recall] in the guise of helping the people, but they've got their personal interests involved, and that's not right," says Coffman. She quickly adds, "Our side is completely citizen-related."

Which doesn't explain why city officials are so opposed to new housing, middle-class though it may be. Contrary to the rumors, Coffman says, she's not "developer unfriendly" at all.

"It's not that we're against that type of housing," she says. "I just hate that quick-fix mentality of 'we need rooftops.'"

Coffman says there is a place for starter homes--she herself lives in one. But as things stand now, there are too many small homes in town. What the city needs is a more diverse housing stock, filled with bigger homes, so the city's young families will have something to move into when they grow out of their current homes. Otherwise, Coffman says, they'll have no choice but to leave Glenn Heights. Perhaps more important, she says, is that the developers are threatening the city's best asset.

"We are out in the country," Coffman says. "That's what people are moving out here for."

Council member Humphrey, who moved to Glenn Heights in the 1980s, agrees, saying he was attracted to the town by one thing. "We could get more for our money," Humphrey says. "Really, the lot size."

So Humphrey, a package courier, moved into a house with 1,864 feet of living area and an appraised market value of $98,280. The home is located inside the Stone Creek development--the very same development that is now the subject of Sheffield's lawsuit.

And even though Coffman is the mayor, it is Humphrey whom many people blame for the city's problems. It is he, they say, who blocked the proposed developments, and it is also he, they say, who is behind the problems brewing at the fire department.

They may be right. Concerning plans to control future development in the city, Humphrey himself boasted about his involvement in a deposition he gave as part of the Sheffield lawsuit. "I'm the one that initiated the whole thing," Humphrey said. He went on to explain that he doesn't have anything against starter homes, per se, since he lives in a neighborhood filled with them.

"I oppose a very, very large amount of starter homes clumped together because of the way that people get in them and...the way they can flip hands, and what can become of a neighborhood that goes through that process," Humphrey said. That, according to Humphrey, means one thing. "Rentals," he said. "People don't take care of the rentals, and the neighborhood goes down."

Nowadays, Humphrey says, the main reason he's opposed to the development is that the city can't afford to pay for the infrastructure that the new residents would require. Although the residents would widen the flow of tax revenues into the city, Humphrey says that's no way to grow a city.

"You can have billionaires sitting in your goddamn city, but if you don't have businesses to capture that money, the money doesn't do you any good," Humphrey says. "If I cut your arms off and throw a bag of money in the air, how much are you going to catch?"

What the town needs, Humphrey contends, are businesses. Few people in town would argue with Humphrey on that point--the sales taxes generated by them would certainly help fatten the city's coffers. But attracting businesses has been Glenn Heights' problem all along. Nonetheless, Humphrey says residents need not worry. There is one commercial developer interested in a tract of land along I-35--a prospect Coffman and City Manager Dennis McDuffie confirm--but they aren't saying who that developer is.

That secretive, I-know-best attitude, particularly on Humphrey's part, is what galls some people in town.

"This situation right here, in my opinion only, you've got people on the city council that don't have any knowledge of how to run a business," Moe Craddock says. "It's a game to 'em."  

As a former mayor and one of the city's most prominent businessmen, Craddock knows all about the city's financial woes. When he was mayor in the early 1990s, the town was on the verge of bankruptcy. Craddock suggested that the town could save money if it eliminated its police department and contracted the work out to Dallas County, just as other small cities do. The idea didn't go over well. In fact, it created an uproar that forced Craddock from office.

Ironically, the same guy who defeated Craddock in that election is now one of his biggest allies in the recall movement. That guy is Mike Burgett, a certified firefighter and paramedic who, until he was let go last month, was the city's fire chief. Burgett, who lost the mayoral seat to Pape in 1996, isn't bashful about stating how he might personally gain if the recall succeeds.

"I might possibly run for mayor again and straighten the town out like it should be. Then the tables would be turned on the staff," Burgett says. "But I'm not a vindictive person. My wife may be, but I'm not."

That last part was a joke. Still, Burgett is a man with an ax to grind. Humphrey and his allies are incompetent, Burgett contends, and for evidence he says one need only look at what they did to him.

As fire chief, Burgett was paid a part-time salary to supervise several part-time firefighters who worked the day shift during the week. Burgett--along with 17 volunteers, including his wife, Kim--manned the department at nights and on the weekends.

"It was a big responsibility, but I didn't do it for the money," says Burgett, who also has a full-time job installing underground storage tanks. "I did it for the people of the town, and they knew that."

All last year, Burgett crunched numbers with City Manager Dennis McDuffie in order to give the department full-time status, complete with a new crew of full-time firefighters. Naturally, Burgett figured he'd stay on as the city's fire chief in the newly revamped department.

In November, shortly after the city adopted its current budget, the Burgetts left for Florida, where their son, Cole, was to undergo a treatment to repair a rare birth defect that left his brain underdeveloped. Town residents chipped in thousands of dollars to help the Burgetts pay for the treatments, which lasted a month and cost $10,000.

When the Burgetts returned to town in December, they got some rather shocking news. On December 11, McDuffie called Mike Burgett into his office and handed him a termination letter, which was effective immediately. Burgett learned that the police and fire departments had suddenly been merged into the new Department of Public Safety, which would be headed by the police chief. His position had been eliminated.

With that, McDuffie showed Burgett to the door and, after he was gone, ordered all of the locks on the doors at City Hall changed. News of Burgett's termination prompted the entire department, including its paid part-time employees, to quit in protest. The departure left the city dependent on other cities for fire protection, a situation that made headlines across the state. McDuffie says he reacted quickly to the walkout, hiring six new firefighters and paramedics. He says the department is in better shape now than it has ever been.

Although one might think a major reorganization like that is something the city council would have discussed prior to its adoption, the council members--with one notable exception--didn't know about it until Burgett was let go. Not surprisingly, the one exception was Jesus Humphrey.

Burgett says he's convinced that Humphrey pressured McDuffie into firing him simply because Humphrey is his political opponent and, more important, because he didn't want the city to have to pay for the family's medical bills. Burgett says Humphrey told his wife as much last summer.

Humphrey denies the charges, though he does admit that he knew about the reorganization before his colleagues. He also admits that he brought up the family's medical issues, but he says he spoke with Mike, not Kim, and adds that his only intention was to warn him that the city's insurance plan might not cover his needs.

"They're saying, 'Everybody look at our son,'" Humphrey says. "They're just using everything they can to get the sympathy of the citizens."

Seated inside an office just off the city council chambers, McDuffie says the decision to let Burgett go was all his. When he speaks, his words are heavily guarded. Although he had worked with Burgett to revamp the department, McDuffie says he ultimately concluded that he and Burgett had too many differences over how the new department should look. In the end, he thought Burgett should go.  

"I exercised my authority under the city charter to reorganize the department and create the director of public safety position," McDuffie says. "Essentially, the [fire chief] position was eliminated."

McDuffie says he thought about the decision for weeks before he announced it, but evidently he didn't think about it long enough.

When McDuffie notified the council of the change, he made it clear that the police chief alone would run the new department. Although he insists the fire chief position was eliminated and, as a result, Burgett was not fired--a scenario that Burgett says could give him grounds for a lawsuit--McDuffie now concedes that he may have to re-create the fire chief position after all.

That's partly because the news reached K.R. Ethridge, the state's compliance program manager at the Texas Commission on Fire Protection--the agency that regulates municipal fire departments for compliance with state law.

Under state law, Ethridge says, the heads of fire departments must have five to 10 years of firefighting-related experience. While those people don't have to be certified at the time they're appointed, they have to have enough experience to obtain certification within a year after their appointment. Since the police chief has no experience in that area, Ethridge says, he's probably the wrong man for the job.

"They can't pick an employee and say, 'You are the fire chief' if they don't have the qualifications," says Ethridge, who adds that Burgett was certified to run the department. "There's no way the city can just be allowed to violate the commission rules. They need to proceed appropriately, and that is not to have a paid person in charge until he has the qualifications." Ethridge says he'd rather let the city fix the problem on its own, rather than force them to through the imposition of fines, which could reach a maximum of $10,000 a day.

"I can assure you that we fully intend to keep watch on the situation," Ethridge says. "I do hope the citizens of the community have some protection for this interim."

In the current fiscal year, the Glenn Heights city council allocated $0 for roads. Legal fees are a more complicated issue. McDuffie bends over a calculator and begins tapping.

So far this year, he figures, the city has spent $68,407 on legal fees. That's out of the $90,000 total the council budgeted. By comparison, the city spent $134,652 on legal fees last year and $138,834 the year before that. Most all of the money, McDuffie says, was spent fighting the Sheffield suit.

With just $21,593 left, the city's legal budget is quickly running out. The situation is made worse by the fact that the city has been ordered to but hasn't yet paid the Sheffield damages, which to date have drifted upward to about $600,000. What is Dennis McDuffie going to do?

"If I exceed the $90,000, somewhere money would have to be moved around to cover that," McDuffie says, stating the obvious. But from where? "That's a bridge I'll have to cross when I get there."

Most likely, McDuffie says, the money will come out of the city's $2.3 million general fund, which covers his salary, as well as those of the city's police officers and firefighters, among others. If that fails, McDuffie says, he'll simply have to dip into the city's $1.5 million reserve.

But even that may not be enough, given that another developer, Michigan-based Pulte Homes, the nation's largest builder, has also sued Glenn Heights. In October last year, Pulte was stunned when the city council, led by newly elected Mayor Mary Coffman, adopted a new ordinance that effectively stymied two Glenn Heights projects that the city council had already approved. "The ordinance caught us by surprise--that they would try to apply it to a development for which approvals had already been granted," says Don Dykstra, who runs Pulte's Dallas office. "That's never happened to us before."

Both cases are in their infancy, but McDuffie says he isn't worried. Based on what City Attorney Robert Brown tells him, the city will win not only the Pulte suits, but also the appeals in the Sheffield case. But Art Anderson, the attorney representing both Sheffield and Pulte, says that remains to be seen.

About the only thing Anderson and Brown agree on is that there is a lot at stake in court. Particularly down in Waco, where any day now the 10th District Court of Appeals is expected to issue a ruling on the Sheffield appeal.

When the Ellis County judge in the Sheffield case determined that the city's new zoning ordinance constituted a "taking" of Sheffield's property and ordered the city to pay him damages, the ruling was a first. The city's appeal of it could set a new precedent. In the past, Brown says, cities have been allowed to change old zoning laws that no longer are consistent with the modern-day development visions of cities.  

"Unless that zoning makes that property totally worthless, the cases have always said you [the city] don't have to pay for it," Brown explains. "This lawsuit, if upheld, will change all that."

That's because the judge in the case agreed that Glenn Heights could go ahead and enforce its new zoning ordinance on Sheffield's property--a scenario that meant Sheffield could build fewer houses and, thus, make less money. But, for the first time in state history, the judge said the city must compensate Sheffield for his losses or, in legal terms, his "investment-backed expectations." To Brown, this precedent would have terrible consequences for taxpayers.

"The citizens will have to write a check every time [city officials pass] a zoning ordinance that disappoints a landowner," Brown says. "Government could not exist or go along if it had to pay for every change they made."

Officials at the Texas Municipal League, a nonprofit organization that provides legal support to 1,045 Texas cities, have taken notice of the case, filing a friend of the court brief in support of Glenn Heights. (They may also weigh in on the Pulte suits, which deal with several related issues.)

Like Brown, the league's lawyers argue that the city's zoning laws didn't constitute a "taking" because the zoning change did not "deprive the landowner of all reasonable use of the land." In other words, Brown says, Sheffield is in a "no-lose" situation.

"Even if he loses all of the lawsuits, he's got all the land. He's not going to lose money, because he bought it for such a cheap price," Brown says. "My personal opinion is, he's rolling the dice a little bit and hoping to score big."

The one thing that's certain is that by the time the suits are fought and won, cities and developers alike will have a much better idea about when a city can change its zoning laws on a developer and at what cost to the taxpayer. The fact that the city of Glenn Heights, with its meager resources, has become a test case is no coincidence, says Brown, who points out that the Texas Homebuilders Association, of which Sheffield is a past president, has joined the battle

"Unfortunately, Glenn Heights seems to be a target of the development community," Brown says. "I think [Sheffield] realizes the money he's claiming he's entitled to, there's no way the city of Glenn Heights could pay him."

If city officials feel like they are a target, attorney Anderson counters, they only have themselves to blame. These lawsuits, Anderson says, would never have been filed if the city officials had been upfront with his clients in the first place.

Contrary to Brown's suggestions, Anderson says his clients are not filing lawsuits to score some victory for developers everywhere. Their only intention is to finish the projects that city officials originally told them they could build. Why else, Anderson asks, would Sheffield and Pulte continue to present compromise projects to the city council only to get rejected time and again?

"We tried. We tried," Anderson says. "If people oppose what I want to do and they tell me that, I'm OK. That's the way life is. But it's very hard to negotiate if people are inconsistent with their words and actions."

Given the way things are in Glenn Heights, maybe it would be a good thing if a new group of people were elected to lead the city for a change. What would happen then?

Jesus Humphrey considers the scenario.

"Sometimes," he says, "I think this whole thing would go away if I leave."

On second thought, he says, that wouldn't be a good idea.

"We go home, then what do we do? Craddock and them aren't gonna go home," Humphrey says. "They lost this last election fair and square. Did they go home? No. They found another way to disrupt things."

Besides, Humphrey says, there's freshman council member Raul Acosta. He was a fresh face when he joined the council in May, and look what happened to him. "He's polluted," Humphrey says.

That's exactly what Acosta wants everyone to know.

Like many of his colleagues, Acosta says he was attracted to Glenn Heights because of the availability of cheap land. He makes horseshoes by profession and, in Glenn Heights, he could afford enough acreage to build his own home and, ultimately, his "dream barn." Although he finished the house, an 11-month project he took on by himself, Acosta says he's given up on the barn.  

When he moved here, Acosta says, he didn't know how high the taxes were or how little he would get in return for them. Though he hasn't yet finished his first year on the city council, Acosta says he's already seen enough to sour him on the city for good.

"I don't see myself being here no more than three, four years," Acosta says. "Why should I invest more money in this dump? Why should I be paying these high taxes and high water bills just to pay these legal bills? I get nothing out of it."

Despite what Humphrey may think, Acosta says he's more than capable of making up his own mind on things.

"'We don't need good people in Glenn Heights.' That's the statement they're making," Acosta says of his colleagues. "We're not going to get anywhere with those types of people. We'll wind up being snobs, and we'll get a reputation for it."

Acosta sighs. He'll have no dream barn here. And his house, it was a bad idea--except for one thing. Given the current state of the fire department, Acosta says he's glad he chose to frame his house in steel rather than wood. That way, if there is ever a fire in town, at least his house won't burn down.

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