The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Boom like that

Majestic Realty's Lewisville development

The mushroom cloud might not be visible to the naked eye, but it’s there, rising in the sky near the southwest corner of Kyle Crossing and Kohler Crossing. If all goes according to plan, that will become the site of a half-million square feet of primarily logistics-based office/industrial/warehouse space — arguably the most significant economic development project the city has witnessed in at least the last half decade.

The City Council will consider and, if its members are thinking clearly and with the best interests of the city firmly implanted in their minds, will approve a set of economic incentives to allow the project to move forward. The city is nowhere close to giving away the store on this deal. Quite the opposite, in fact; this is an excellent deal from the city’s point of view. As I interpret this, the city will be giving the developer a limited property tax abatement for five years, beginning from the time "the developer completes and receives a certificate of occupancy for the project," which, of course, will be after the two-building project is built on the campus. The abatement decreases by 20 percent in each of the five years and only applies to the unleased portion of the project. "By way of example," the agreement states, "if in year one the developer leases 50 percent of the rentable square footage of the buildings on the property, then the incentive payment will be reduced by 50 percent."

These kind tax abatements makes sense because the city doesn’t really loose any money on the deal. No matter what, the city is going to continue to receive the property tax on that land based on its current valuation whether or not it is developed. The rebates come from increased valuations caused by the development. And, in this case, within five years, or even less if the project is fully leased before that, the city will collecting property taxes on land with a significantly higher valuation without having to rebate a single cent.

This is also wonderful news for homeowners who will now have a major business development sharing the city’s overall property tax burden.

"I could not be happier to bring this latest project before the council for a vote," Mayor Travis Mitchell said today. "Jobs are coming to Kyle."

The other piece of good news in all of this is the identity of the developer, Majestic Realty Company, a privately-held outfit that’s been successfully doing business longer than the overwhelming majority of Kyle residents have even been alive. Majestic Realty was founded by Edward P. Roski in 1948 and to give you some idea of its stability, its current chairman is the founder’s son, Edward P. Roski Jr.

"Like my father, I have always believed in the importance of investing in, and being active members of, every community in which Majestic is located," according to a letter signed by the current president and chairman of the board on the company’s website. "This core philosophy remains an integral value, impacting how we do business. Our business model of maintaining ownership of all our properties creates a vested interest for us that each one is a long term success and it also requires that we help build sustainable communities. Likewise we build long term relationships with our tenants and financial partners, helping our tenants address their real estate needs as their businesses expand across the nation. Beyond building environmentally friendly projects which create jobs close to our population centers and generating revenue for their cities, our Majestic Realty Foundation works closely with local organizations to help improve the quality of life for the at risk and underserved." (I’ll get back to that Foundation below.)

Majestic is currently involved in development projects in 10 states, but considering only its Texas projects will give you some idea of the company’s breadth and scope. It’s largest Texas project is a 215-acre master planned business park that is designed, upon completion, to total more than 3.2 million square feet of Class A warehouse and distribution facilities in seven buildings along State Highway 121 in Lewisville, just five miles from the DFW International Airport. As will be the case in Kyle, the tenants in this project will be able to take advantage of triple freeport exemptions. It’s second largest deal is a 320-acre master planned business park on I-35W just south of Fort Worth that includes 1,344,000 square feet of industrial space. It is also developing a project called Port Grande, a 1,952-acre master planned logistics park situated along the U.S.-Mexico border adjacent to IH 35 in Laredo. From what I can tell, the Kyle project will be the fourth largest of the six developments Majestic has in Texas.

"Our agreement with Majestic Realty is another step in Kyle’s quest to be an employer-friendly city," Mayor Mitchell said. "We started a few years back by targeting the light industrial industry — in earnest. To accomplish this, the city worked with the school district to become a triple-freeport tax exempt community. Since the district’s vote last year, we have gone from zero to nearly one million square feet of speculative industrial space. It’s a phenomenal exclamation point recognizing the validity of our efforts to become a triple-freeport tax exempt community. I could not be happier to bring this latest project before the council for a vote. And I remain grateful to Hays CISD for their trust in our team. Jobs are coming to Kyle."

This development could have more benefits than the ones that immediately draw your attention, i.e., two logistic centers totaling 500,000 square feet. In 2002, the company launched that aforementioned Majestic Realty Foundation, which, the company brags, has "placed grants totaling more than $10 million in hundreds of programs, organizations and communities throughout the country." The company is also a member of the U.S., Green Building Council and recipient’s of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Achievement Award. "Majestic Realty Co. has built a strong foundation and evolving expertise in green building and environmentally responsible design and service delivery," according to a corporate statement. "We are committed to a fully-integrated approach with not only the capability to build green, but implementation of a corporate philosophy which encourages sustainable practices."

The council will also decide whether to formally post notices of public hearings on the proposed annexation of four areas of land totaling nearly 260 acres, but that land growth of the city, designed primarily to ensure that the redesigned Highway 150 continues to be within the city’s limits, pales in comparison to the economic growth inherent in the Majestic project.

Also on the agenda, is the formal presentation of something I discussed following the last council meeting — the joint fundraising effort with the Make-a-Wish Foundation to pay for the construction of a roller hockey rink in Gregg-Clarke Park, just the type of a project a corporate partner like the Majestic Realty Foundation would likely be a part of.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sales tax surplus takes a hit, but don’t worry

First the bad news: June’s sales tax collections were below forecasts. Not by much, mind you — under 2 percent — but still below. Now the good news: For the fiscal year so far, the city is in the black and, barring an economic collapse bordering on the catastrophic, appears to be heading for a year-ending surplus, unlike last year’s somewhat embarrassing showing.

The city collected $611,511.36 in sales taxes this month, a figure that is $10,665.64 or 1.71 percent below what the fiscal year budget anticipated, but $42,640.39 or 7.5 percent more than was collected during this same month last year. Those last two numbers are important because they provide a convincing argument that the city is not heading into any sort of cataclysmic economic event that would result in the city ending the year with a budget gap caused by problematic sales tax projections.

To date, the city has collected $162,739.35 more than projected in the current fiscal year budget. You can do the math yourself and if you do you can see for what the average monthly deficit would have to be in the final three months of this accounting period for the city to end with a deficit. And when you consider this was only the second month this fiscal year that collections fell below projections, you can easily see why I am optimistic the city will end this fiscal year in the black. Not only that, the only other time collections failed to meet forecasts — in February (a notoriously under-performing month in Kyle’s collections for reasons I guessed at back then) — the shortage was in the neighborhood of $36,000, a significant number, to be sure, but still $18,000 less than the city would have to average losing in July, August and September to erase the current surplus. That’s why I feel confident in predicting that’s not going to be the case, unlike 2017 when the city finished with a sales tax budget gap of $286,810.12. And even then, collections for the final three months were a minus $72,398.73, less than half of the current surplus.

In short, as far as sales tax collections go, the city is looking good.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A. Abuse of privilege; B. Council members can’t be trusted; C. Both

I’m not making this up. This actually happened. If you don’t believe me, go on line and check out the recording of last night’s City Council meeting.

It’s 11:27 p.m. The council files back to the dais following a two-hour, 11-minute secretive executive session outside the view of the public, and Mayor Travis Mitchell says: "There was no action taken during executive session. There will be action taken now. Council member Scheel." Then Council member Tracy Scheel says "Mayor, I would like to offer a motion to authorize the city manager to enter an agreement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for fund raising and a license agreement related to park land improvements."

OK, I’ve been putting up with this crap for four years now, but this time it just seemed to me the City Council had jumped the shark. First of all, there’s the mayor’s falsehood, his outright lie. Look, I have all the respect in the world for Mayor Mitchell. I spotted him as a positive political influence before he even formally announced his intention to seek a council seat. I thought way back then he was the most qualified person to succeed Todd Webster as mayor of this city and I remember meeting quietly with him at a local coffee shop where I told him I was convinced Webster would not seek re-election and urged Mitchell to forego a potential run for council seat and instead put all his energies and resources immediately into a mayoral run. I was afraid if he ran for council and then a year later tried for the city’s top elected post, his opponents in the race would try to brand him as an opportunist. As it turned out, I completely over-estimated the political sophistication of those seeking elected office in Kyle and my concerns were unwarranted. Not only that, Mitchell is only the latest mayor to tell these kind of lies. Mayor Webster did it before him and I imagine other mayors did the same thing before that.

Here’s the deal: Either Scheel completely blind sided every other member of the City Council by coming up on the spur of the moment this cockamamie notion for the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Make a Wish Foundation (Anyone out there crazy enough to wager that’s what really happened?); or, what is more likely, the council did, in fact, take action outside the public purview and decided the city manager should enter into such an agreement. In other words, the council took action in private, outside the view of the public, that should have been conducted in an open meeting. The council, once again, abused the concept of executive privilege that is a part of any executive session.

Like I said earlier, this is not the first time this has happened. In fact, it takes place with this council on a regular basis. I’ll get around to explaining my thoughts, my suspicions, on why this happens in a moment, but first I should explain why this episode became the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is, to me, one of the all-time great feel-good stories and, boy, in this time in our nation’s history, we really need all the feel-good stories we can get.

Christopher James Greicius, a 7-year-old living in Arizona in the spring of 1980, had always wanted to be a police officer. But, by the spring of 1980, he was also being treated for leukemia. A U.S. Customs officer, Tommy Austin, befriended Chris and collaborated with officers of the Arizona Department of Public Safety on a plan to provide a special day for the youngster. Chris actually spent one day as a police officer. He received a custom-tailored police uniform. He rode in a police helicopter. He was formally, officially sworn in as the very first honorary Public Safety patrolman in the history of the state of Arizona. His wish to become a police officer was realized. Chris died soon after, but this episode became the foundation for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which, to this day, still has its national headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that arranges experiences described as "wishes" to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

But back to what happened last night. There’s the other part of this equation as it pertains to us here in Kyle which is, of course, a public park and the word "public" in this sentence can’t be stressed enough. Why is the council’s discussion and ultimately its decision to ask the city manager to enter into an agreement on this subject outside the public’s view? I posed that very question to City Attorney Paige Saenz.

"There are legal issues related to the contract," she told me.

OK. I’ll accept that. I don’t think the "legal issues" or the terms of any proposed contract should be discussed in public, but the overall process the council took to arrive at the decision that was made behind closed doors (the actions they took even though the mayor flatly stated "There was no action taken during executive session’) should be a part of the public discourse. And I know this has happened many times before, but this time the subject is the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a public park in Kyle and I expect citizens would want to know and have the right to know about discussions on those subjects, especially concerning their relationship to each other.

"I can’t speak to all of that," Saenz said. "Let me allow the city manager to respond to that."

So. I posed the same questions to City Manager Scott Sellers, another person for whom I have the utmost respect. In fact, I’ll go on the record as saying in my more than 50 years writing about and being involved in municipal governments around Texas, Scott Sellers is one of the best, if not the best, city administrator I have ever encountered. The City of Kyle has laid a solid foundation for its future and Scott Sellers has provided the leadership, the direction, to make sure this is the case.

But here’s what happened. When I told Sellers that, in my opinion, two subjects the public might be interested in were the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a public park, and then asked why those two subjects had to be discussed outside the public’s view, he said "There’s a contractual agreement with Make-A-Wish that we needed legal advice on."

Look, I’m not asking the city to reveal the actual terms of a potential contractual agreement. They shouldn’t, especially before all sides have agreed to it. But that’s just part of an overall story, the broader picture of which should be a part of the public discussion.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about that should be familiar to anyone following the national political scene. Both U.S. House and Senate have committees that have been investigating improprieties that occurred during the 2016 General Election. Some of the inquiries into those improprieties, i.e., some testimony from witnesses, have taken place in closed sessions. But the public has always been informed what the subject matter of those inquiries were going to be along with a general idea of what information the representatives hoped to glean from these closed sessions. Then, after the closed sessions are completed, the representatives have been very open about whether they felt all their concerns were addressed, all the questions were answered to their satisfaction and they provided this information without revealing the details of any classified information they were told behind the closed doors. Not only that, any discussions on whether to recall that witness or to summon additional witnesses based on what was learned in the closed session were always held in open session.

Here, in Kyle, that procedure is abused on a regular basis. As noted above, the council obviously discussed the pros and cons (if there were any) of asking the city manager to enter into negotiations with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and then decided (Was there a formal or even an informal vote on the question? If so, what was the breakdown of that vote? Those details should not be kept secret) that, yes, they wanted Sellers to enter into such negotiations. Such a discussion could be had without revealing any of the actual terms of a proposed contract.

Or could they? That brings me back to the subject I raised earlier, namely my suspicions on why this abuse of executive privilege happens so regularly. The only reason I can think of is this: The city staff just doesn’t trust the council’s ability to have a public discussion on matters such as this without disclosing privileged information. Going back to my example of the congressional committees, it’s important to note that, according to the Social Science Research Council, while 0.6 percent of the U.S. adult population are lawyers, 41 percent of the members of Congress are. But, as far as I can tell, the percentage of those on the Kyle City Council with a law degree hovers right at the zero mark. Kyle City Council members, staff believes, simply don’t possess the expertise to distinguish what can and what can’t be said in a public forum and, instead of providing some kind of training or guidance on these matters, figures it’s easier, it’s safer, to just lock them up outside the public’s view for these types of discussions — the public’s right-to-know be damned.

These thoughts, these suspicions, blossomed because Sellers had no qualms about discussing may of the details of ths subject with me.

"The city is going to partner with Make-A-Wish to fulfill a wish for a young boy here in Kyle," the city manager told me. "His wish is to build an outdoor hockey roller rink. His passion in life is hockey and he lives here in Kyle and there is not outdoor roller rink in the near vicinity. The closest ones are in San Antonio and north Austin. The city had already planned on building a covered pavilion in the budget. We talked about that very publicly. With some modifications we can turn that into a hockey rink but still have it be a public pavilion. But there’s a cost to that. There’s the walls that go around it. So because this is a wish that’s much larger than Make-A-Wish will typically fund, in order for them to feel comfortable moving forward with the wish, they needed a partner. So the agreement that the council just approved stipulates that the city will partner with them on the wish and will assist in the fund raising effort. If we’re not able to generate the necessary funding level that’s above our budgeted level for the project, then we’ll find the funds to stopgap that amount. It is our hope that the citizenry of Kyle and those that are associated with Kyle will recognize this as not only a public amenity but a wish for a young boy and they will feel a need to contribute to the facility."

Look-ee there. Sellers spelled out the entire project to me and nowhere did he reveal any privileged information. Nowhere did he disclose what advice he received from his legal counsel. Nowhere did he reveal the terms of any contract. All he revealed was information about a boy’s wish, the use of budgeted tax dollars (and, yes, the possibility of additional tax dollars) as well as plans for a public fund-raising campaign – all information that not only could have been revealed during public council discussion on this matter but I will argue should have been talked about in public if, for no other reason, than to increase the chances of a successful fund-raising effort. So why was it all done behind closed doors?

"Because we had very legal questions to ask the attorney about the contract because it involves the city budgeting, it involves a commitment to fund for a project that isn’t currently budgeted," the city manager replied.

However, I didn’t ask Sellers to reveal any legal questions that might have been posed and he didn’t volunteer any. And I’m not sure whether a discussion to fund "a project that isn’t currently budgeted" is one for an executive session and not a public discussion. It’s worth noting that after government officials raided the office of President Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen and seized volumes of written and electronic records, Cohen’s attorneys insisted that was all privileged attorney-client information. So the judge in the matter ordered the prosecution to turn over all the information it had seized to a special independent master the judge appointed who would determine what, if any, of the information was privileged. As it turned out, the special master has ruled more than 98 percent of the written material and over 99 percent of the electronic information is not, in fact, privileged information and can be returned to prosecutors. In other words, the legal scope of what can be kept from public consumption seems to be shrinking. So, in lieu of all that, why was this city council discussion held in private again?

"Because we’re not ready to make the public campaign yet," Sellers confessed.

My heavens. That raises an even more horrific option. That means the answers to all these questions may not be A, B or C. There’s a fourth answer, a D option in this multiple choice quiz and that D option is "We simply don’t want the public to know about this yet."

And that, to me, is the most disturbing option of them all.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

All bark, no bite

Ginger and I attended this morning’s dedication of the city’s much-ballyhooed new dog park at Steeplechase Park. It was a nice, well-attended affair hosted by Parks Director Kerry Urbanowicz, representing the city staff, and Mayor Pro Tem Shane Arabie, representing the city’s elected officials. Other city staff members I spotted included City Manager Scott Sellers, Chief of Staff Jerry Hendrix and, of course, Communications Specialist Kim Hilensenbeck. Other elected officials included council members Daphne Tenorio and Tracy Scheel, both of whom, like me, brought their beloved pets with them. (Tenorio, it should be noted, only brought her one non-rescue four-legged roommate along, leaving at least three other doggies back at the Tenorio homestead). In the official opening remarks, Arabie talked about how the dog park is another move by the city to improve the quality of life for its residents and provide the opportunity for neighbors to interact with each other.

The first official dogfight in the park began at 10:34 a.m.

The two dogs in question were separated almost immediately with seemingly no harm done. A lot of growling and barking, but no real attacking or biting. Kind of a microcosm of a typical Kyle City Council meeting, another one of which is scheduled for this Tuesday following a two-week break. That last council meeting on May 15 was incredibly brief, actually lasting less than an hour. We should be so lucky this time around. This week’s executive session looks like it could last longer than the entire last City Council meeting.

The agenda includes four items — count ‘em, four — involving the erection of no-parking signs along streets where students at the city’s two high schools park on residential streets. An overly long presentation on the Emerald Crown Trail Folly is also on the agenda. (I still escapes me why the city is so accommodating about a proposed path between Buda and San Marcos that will largely bypass Kyle while completely ignoring the concept of its own municipal trail network, but there you have it.) There’s also a suggestion to have the city’s code of ordinances include rules about exactly where in their backyards residents can place accessory structures and if the council wastes as much time haggling over this as the Planning & Zoning Commission did, discussion on this one item could also last longer than the entire May 15 meeting.

But the items that really piqued my interest ahead of Tuesday’s confab were two of the four being advanced by Mayor Travis Mitchell: one to bring back yet one more time the well-worn idea that Kyle should be a member of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition and the second one being a change to the council rules to avoid the mess like the one the council created for itself a couple of months ago involving a controversial zoning decision.

In the almost four years now that this journal has been in existence the council has twice rejected the notion that the city should join the Clean Air Coalition. I am not firmly entrenched on either side of this issue but I lean toward not joining for a few reasons. The first, of course, is Groucho Marx’s philosophy of life as outlined in his resignation letter to the Friar’s Club (and repeated by Woody Allen in the great Annie Hall) that "I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." The second is that the organization does not emphasize the one goal that will achieve its clean air objectives and that, of course, is reducing the number of fossil-fuel burning vehicles on the roads of Central Texas. The third is that there’s money involved in joining the coalition, that money comes from taxes we pay and I’ve never been convinced Kyle would receive an ample return on that investment. And since the last time a Kyle council rejected this idea, another reason has been added: the Trump administration, under the leadership of EPA Director Scott Pruitt, is doing everything it can to disembowel organizations like the Texas Clean Air Coalition in its unrelenting efforts to eliminate all regulations designed to keep our air and water hazard free.

However, according to Mitchell, that third reason I had — the one about a return on the taxpayers’ investment — may have a hole in it.

"The Clean Air Coalition is being brought back for two reasons," the mayor told me. "First, we have two new members on the council and those members have not weighed in on the matter. (They both replaced council members who cast dissenting votes.) Second, CAPCOG (Capital Area Council of Governments, of which the coalition is a part) recently demonstrated how participating in the Clean Air Coalition could be valuable to our residents by drafting a technical memo to help us better understand how near-road air pollution might affect a particular residence in Kyle. It was a concrete example of how participating in the group can be of service to our community, and as such I have decided to vote in support of joining."

So what exactly did this "technical memo" say that was so valuable?

"We had a resident express concern that road improvements near his business would create enough road-based air pollution to negatively affect his business," Mitchell said. "Rather than speculate, we asked for CAPCOG to analyze the air-quality impact of the proposed project. Utilizing science and manpower in part made available through the Clean Air Coalition, CAPCOG provided us this technical memo at no charge. The data was extremely helpful in our communication with the resident, and it also provided a clear understanding of how our projects may or may not impact the air quality of the community."

So did that mean CAPCOG’s study show the road improvements under consideration would not "create enough road-based air pollution to negatively affect his business"?

"Correct," the mayor replied.

The other item involving changing the rules of council includes one having to do with the deadline for submitting proposed agenda items and the second, and more interesting one, dealing with the procedure for bringing a defeated item back for reconsideration. If the rule changes are approved, the new deadline for council members to submit agenda items would be 3 p.m. on the Thursday immediately preceding the could meeting in question. (The previous deadline was 5 p.m. five business days before the meeting.) The second change provides an exception to what I call "the Diane Hervol rule" that stated if an item placed on the agenda by a council member failed to pass "that same item or one of substantially similar subject matter may not be placed back on the agenda for at least six months from the day of the vote." (I call it "the Diane Hervol rule" because the former council member whose name I invoked would routinely bring back meeting after meeting an item the council had already rejected until she wore enough of her colleagues down that they would decide to vote for it just to keep from having to deal with it at every meeting.) The interesting addition to this rule is one that concerns "matters that have not received four votes … either for or against…"

If you’ll recall the council back in February tried to vote on a zoning request for a proposed residential subdivision on Sledge Street that was opposed by those living in an already established subdivision on the other side of the street. Arabie was not present at this meeting and votes on two different zoning proposals ended in 3-3 deadlocks, thus effectively killing the subdivision. However, the item mysteriously re-appeared two weeks later and on March 5 one of those zoning requests ultimately passed by a 4-2 vote (on this occasion, council member Damon Fogley was absent). There was some question, especially from Tenorio, whether it was even permissible, according to the council’s established rules at that time, for such a reconsideration.

If the council approves the rule changes Tuesday, it will state that in those situations in which a proposal fails to receive four votes either way "Any member of council can request that the matter be placed on the agenda for reconsideration. The request may be made at the meeting at which the motion failed to pass, or the request may be made in writing and submitted to the city manager and the city secretary by 3 p.m. on the Thursday before the next regular City Council meeting following the meeting at which the matter failed to receive four votes."

Mitchell is insisting that the Sledge Street reconsideration kerfuffle has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this proposed rule change (Sure, Fine. Whatever.), but I’ll leave that debate to others.

"The proposed changes to the Rules of Council are to clarify a policy that we loosely followed but was never spelled out by ordinance." according to Mitchell. "The ‘motion to renew,’ … exercised in the zoning matter you referenced, was allowed under our current policy. The proposal before council on Tuesday will actually create a new rule slightly different than Roberts Rules. It allows for any member of the council to bring back an item at the following meeting if the item failed on less than four votes. To me, this is a more democratic approach.

"I can give you an example," the mayor continued. "The way our rules currently read, let's say council has a meeting in which for whatever reason only four council members can attend. In that scenario, a single dissenting vote would effectively kill the item unless the person who dissented agreed to bring it back. I don't think that is the best approach. If an item fails but on a vote like 3-1 or 3-3, any member of council should have the right to reconsider the vote at the following meeting."

There might be some interesting debate on these issues but, like that incident at 10:34 this morning at the just-opened dog park, I’m betting the barking will be there but the biting won’t.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sales tax collections barely exceed forecasts, but …

Before the month completely passes us by, I should take the time to say a few words about May’s sales tax collections. OK, so it wasn’t as much of a surplus as it has been for most of the year, but a surplus is still a surplus and recent history argues any surplus is something worth celebrating.

The city collected $7,651.87 more in sales taxes this month than it had forecast, which means, so far this fiscal year, sales tax revenues have exceeded projections seven out of the eight months. Last year at this time the city had four months of under projections and May of 2017 was the worst month of that fiscal year, up to that time, with a whopping deficit of $77,828.24. That’s a turnaround of $85,480.11 between the two Mays and you know what? Eight-five large this month, another 85-grand next month and, before you know it, you’re talking nice money here. According to the city’s latest Meet-and-Confer agreement, $85,223 is the base pay for a Kyle Police lieutenant with more than four years of service. You see where I’m going here.

And that turnaround came about with a modest 1 percent increase over projections. The only month to record a smaller increase this year was November when it was .68 percent ($4,796.88). Heck, for the year to date, the city is 3.51 percent ($173,404.99), or good enough for a pair of four-year lieutenants or eight police cadets. And we’ve still got four months to go.

May’s $774,627.87 in collections topped last year’s by a comfortable 11.42 percent ($79,388.11).

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Parking could be limited in Plum Creek by Father’s Day

Last night the City Council passed on first reading two ordinances to prohibit parking on one side of the street in two different areas of Plum Creek. The first was on the north side of Wetzel between FM 150 and Mather and the second was on the residential side of the 1700 through 1900 blocks of Kirby and the 5100 and 5200 blocks of Hellman. Although the ordinances passed unanimously, council member Damon Fogley missed last night’s meeting, so the proposals will have to return for a second and final reading at the council’s next meeting in three weeks time, June 5.

So the obvious question is when will this new parking prohibition go into effect? Public Works Director Harper Wilder answered that question today.

"Whenever it is finalized by council, my Street Division Manager Scott Egbert will order the necessary signage," Wilder said. "Upon ordering, typically it takes up to a week to get the signs in. Once we receive the signs here at Public Works, we tend to put them up within a day or so."

So, according to my calculations, that puts the effective date right around Father’s Day.

The time for condescending is over

Pat them on the heads, tell them they’ve been good little boys and girls, but now it’s time for them to go to their rooms because the adults need to conduct real business.

In a story leading up to last night’s City Council meeting, I wrote with some measure of bitterness and disdain how the city pays lip service to the needs and wants of those who to prefer to use non-motorized means to get around town, but really finds it a waste of time to make it easier and/or safer for this mobility option. And I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to discover during last night’s City Council meeting that council member Daphne Tenorio actually agreed with me on this — she, too, spotted the hypocrisy in language accompanying proposed ordinances to outlaw parking on one side of a couple of streets in Plum Creek, language that laughingly said these changes were needed because the current situation "is detrimental to the safety of pedestrians … traveling through this street." Tenorio asked Capt, Mark Schultz, who represented the Kyle Fire Department on these items before the council last night, "The ordinance states it’s about the safety of pedestrians. Shouldn’t it say it’s really for fire truck safety?" "Yes," Schultz replied. "I will remember that for next time." In fact, earlier in the discussion, when Mayor Travis Mitchell asked whether it would help to limit parking on the designated streets to residents only (it appears a number of Hays High School students park their cars in this area), Schultz replied "Residents only wouldn’t satisfy the need we have to provide the traffic flow that’s necessary for that area." And even before that, when Mayor Mitchell asked Schultz to explain exactly "why this item, is being brought forward," the assistant fire chief replied: "The road at this section is roughly 26 feet wide and when we have parking on both sides it makes it very difficult to get just one vehicle through much less two." See, it really is all about those in their cars and not those on their feet.

So, yes, Kyle’s hypocrisy in paying only lip service to pedestrian safety was exposed somewhat, even though council member Alex Villalobos, who is quickly becoming the Council’s Crown Prince of the Non Sequitur, babbled on about how this would protect kids racing out into the street between parked cars when, if he knew anything about the laws of geometry as well as pedestrian mobility, he would know that the move to switch the no-parking area in Agenda Item 10 from the park side of the road to the resident side, a change that was made to the ordinance last night, actually increased the danger for pedestrians there.

But the Plum Creek Parking Hypocrisy is over-and-done-with for the time being (and if Chief Schultz keeps his promise to Tenorio to "remember that for next time," it should not be repeated). My concern now is that notion of smiling, nodding of heads, mentions of "job well done," is going to amount to no more than lip service to the valuable, expert work being made public by no less than the Kyle Area Youth Advisory Commission (KAYAC). Last year, KAYAC presented to council a superbly researched study on sidewalks in the city, and, perhaps, this has more to do with what I have already illustrated — city government really doesn’t want to pay that much attention to the needs of pedestrians — than it does with KAYAC, but for whatever reason, I have yet to see any of KAYAC’s sidewalk findings being incorporated as policy by the council.

KAYAC, according to its website, is a "a 16-member committee that consists of youth ages 14-18, enrolled in ninth through 12th grade levels, and either reside in the city limits of Kyle or currently attend a high school in the Hays CISD school district or live in the city limits and are home schooled. KAYAC shall be advisory in nature and has been created for the purpose of providing a youthful point of view for the Kyle City Council on community affairs and issues. This commission shall provide the opportunity for youth in the City of Kyle to learn about municipal government and to advise Kyle City Council from the perspective of area teens."

Hopefully we have learned, not only from KAYAC’s presentation on sidewalks last year but through the evidence we’ve seen on a national level in the aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that we need to pay more attention to the voices of our high school students. We can learn a lot from what they say.

Last night, KAYAC chair Benjamin White and Vice Chair Destinee Cabrera presented a fascinating and informative study on all-inclusive parks — areas and playgrounds that can be used by everyone, and, in this case, "everyone" refers to those with special needs. I had never really thought about this obvious fact until last night when White and Cabrera forced me to come face-to-face with the realization that I have never, in all my life, ever seen a person in a wheel chair enjoying the amenities at a city park — anywhere, at any time. White and Cabrera begged the question: "Why should these individuals with special needs be excluded?" Not only that, they illustrated quite convincingly how the city could make this inclusivity happen.

Sitting there last night listening to White and Cabrera, I couldn’t help be reminded of one of the best speeches I ever heard. It was delivered by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards and the thesis of her address that evening was simple: "When we help others, especially the disadvantaged, we often help ourselves in the process." She cited a number of examples to support her thesis, but the example I especially remembered and the one that sticks with me today concerned the Americans With Disabilities Act that was passed in 1990. And I recalled how much easier it would have been if the world in which I lived had ADA-compliant sidewalks back when my son was an infant and I was constantly pushing him in a stroller — how much easier it would have been not having to lift the stroller with the child over the curb. Those sidewalks were designed for those in wheelchairs, but, as Gov, Richards so wisely said, "When we help others, especially the disadvantaged, we often help ourselves in the process."

Now I hope Kyle city leaders think of those words. Now I hope Kyle city leaders don’t simply pay lip service to this incisive, well-researched KAYAC report on all-inclusive play areas. Now I hope Kyle city leaders don’t simply "Pat them on the heads, tell them they’ve been good little boys and girls, but now it’s time for them to go to their rooms because the adults need to conduct real business."

For the sake of the future of this city, for the notion that Kyle should be at the vanguard of acknowledging the humanity of all its citizens, here’s what I hope Kyle city leaders will do. I hope City Manager Scott Sellers will instruct Parks Director Kerry Urbanowicz or his designee (perhaps Facilities Manager Tim Cropley) to begin a series of meetings with White, Cabrera and their associates to begin the process of converting KAYAC’s presentation last night into long-range city policy.

"When we help others, especially the disadvantaged, we often help ourselves in the process." Last night KAYAC showed us the path to initiate that process. The city shouldn’t let it end there. They shouldn’t once again simply pay lip service to something that deserves attention and action.