Judge Mark Russo to speak at family violence prevention meeting this Thursday

mark russo tie

ROCKWALL – Rockwall County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mark Russo will be the featured speaker at the family violence prevention meeting open to the public this Thursday, April 2, at 7 pm, in the meeting room at Soulman’s Restaurant, 691 I-30 (just west of Lake Pointe Church).

Russo will be speaking about some of the domestic violence and child abuse cases he has presided over and offer suggestions how Rockwall County can prevent and reduce abuse. He’ll also provide info about obtaining protection orders and emergency protection orders.

Preceding him will be former domestic violence victim Tricia Harris, who will tell her personal story about living with and eventually leaving her abusive ex-husband.

The meeting is sponsored by Rockwall-based Americans Ending Abuse and its charitable arm, the Lillian Smith Family Violence Foundation. Over 35 people from local victim assistance agencies and the general public have attended the past two meetings to network and learn more about what others are doing to prevent and reduce family violence.

Organization founder and president J.J. Smith, publisher of The Rockwall News, said they will soon be announcing a “March Against Child Abuse” to raise funds for a campaign to prevent child abuse across Rockwall County. More volunteers are currently needed to help organize the event, plus provide aid to local family violence victims.  Smith is a child abuse survivor, who witnessed his abusive father kill his mother when he was 10 years old.

The Lillian Smith Foundation will start raising funds soon to help build a Rockwall County women’s shelter and children’s advocacy center (CAC) – where police, CPS, social workers and criminal justice professionals work together under one roof to help abused and neglected children.

Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney Kenda Culpepper said at the group’s January meeting that the County needs to start planning and raising funds now for our own CAC and women’s shelter since the County is growing so fast, and serious family violence crimes are increasing quickly, as well.

For more info or to volunteer, contact Smith at 214-317-1718 or email: jj@americansendingabuse.org.

By J.J. Smith


Bikers Against Child Abuse attend Rockwall family violence prevention meeting

Bikers Against Child Abuse

ROCKWALL – Nine members of the local Caddo Creek chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) attended the March family violence prevention meeting hosted by Rockwall-based Americans Ending Abuse and its charitable arm, the Lillian Smith Family Violence Foundation.

According to chapter president “Gonzo,” BACA is comprised of men and women from a variety of professions whose goal is to create a safer environment for abused children.

“We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live,” he said. “We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children.”

He added BACA volunteers often escort abused children to court proceedings. They receive referrals from families, CPS, police, social workers and more.

By J.J. Smith



Former NYC Mayor Rudy Guliani, 8 others to speak at May 8 Leadership broadcast


ROCKWALL – Such well-known leaders as former New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani, Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver and best-selling author Seth Godin are among the nine speakers lined up for the Leadercast 2015 live nationwide broadcast from Atlanta, May 8, 7:30 am-3:30 pm.

Hosted by the Rockwall Area Chamber of Commerce, it can be seen at the Performing Arts Center at Utley Middle School. Click here to see details, including additional speakers.

This year’s theme—The Brave Ones — challenges business and community leaders to lead with a sense of bravery, possessing a posture of unrelenting boldness, according to the website.

Click here to purchase advance tickets for $69.

By J.J. Smith

Early voting for City, School Board elections begins April 27

voting booth

ROCKWALL – Early voting for the May 9 city and school board elections will be held Monday, April 27, thru Tuesday, May 5 (excluding Sunday) at various times and locations across the County.

Find early voting locations and hours on the Rockwall County Elections Department website, as well as election day locations and hours. Voter registration details are also included. Remember that you must present a photo ID to vote.

Click here to view the official ballot.

In Rockwall, there are two positions on the ballot, as well as eight propositions to revise the City charter.

Current Mayor and attorney Jim Pruitt is being challenged by Mayor Pro Tem and construction company executive Dennis Lewis. If Lewis loses, he will continue to serve as the Place 4 Council member until next May.

Bus company owner Freddie Jackson, who serves on two city planning committees, and bank president Kevin Fowler, who is a Rockwall Economic Development Corporation Board member, are competing for City Council Place 3 to replace retiring Bennie Daniels. Incumbent candidates for Places 1, 2, and 5 did not draw any opponents.

In McClendon-Chisholm, Gary Lovell and Beverly Stibbens are competing for Place 1 on the City Council. Jerry Klutts is running against Lee Nichols for Place 5.

In Fate, voters must choose between David Billings and Cameron Cowan for City Council Place 5.

There are no elections in Heath, Royse City or for the Royse City ISD school board.

For Rockwall ISD Board of Trustees Place 2, longtime UPS employee Marcel Clark is challenging business owner and current Trustee Russ Childers.

There are 50,770 registered voters in Rockwall County as of March 16, according to the Rockwall County Elections Department.

By J.J. Smith


Lakeside Elgin B. Robertson Park purchased by Rowlett, will no longer remain a park

ROWLETT – In the not too distant future, the 257-acre lakeside green space known as Elgin B. Robertson Park at I-30 and Dalrock Rd. will no longer be just a park.

The Rowlett City Council approved the purchase of Elgin B. Robertson Park from the City of Dallas Tuesday night for $31.8 million, plus tax revenue sharing after 21 years, plus boundary changes and more.

In April, according to Rowlett City Manager Brian Funderburk, the City intends to zone the area so Donahue Development Corp., which is providing the $31.8 million, can develop it with single-family homes, multi-family, retail, office and hotels.

The plan includes single-family residential in the north, multi-family options in the middle and a commercial district on the south side of I-30.

“First off I want to be clear that Elgin B. Robertson will no longer remain a park,” Funderburk explained. “The land will be privately developed and include single-family homes, multi-family, retail, office, hotels, etc. It pretty much will have a little bit of everything. In addition, the site will be developed under our form-based code meaning high-quality development with requirements for open space and public domain.

“Second, we are still reviewing land use specifics with our development partner, Donahue Development Corporation. Although the agreement to purchase the land from Dallas and adjust the boundaries was approved by the Rowlett City Council Tuesday night, the zoning overlay will not occur until April. The zoning will go through the public hearing process with the Rowlett Planning & Zoning Commission on April 14th and the Rowlett City Council on April 21st. Once that is done, we expect the closing to occur by the end of April.”

He added there are many reasons for Rowlett citizens to be excited about this project.

“Finally, there is a lot of reasons to be excited about this project. It is a win-win for both cities. When the final details of the development is ironed out, we are certain that our citizens will be very proud of what is going to be built on this exceptional location.”

Kent Donahue attended this week’s Rowlett City Council meeting and said his company expects to be started by the beginning of next year and have a total build-out completed in seven years.

As part of the sale, Rowlett will take over emergency response duties for the bridges over Lake Ray Hubbard, as well as some shoreline cleanup responsibilities, but Dallas is still responsible for patrolling the lake.

Rowlett will also receive licenses for up to two more marinas for a total of 1,005 boat slips.

By J.J. Smith