The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sellers recommends wastewater projects be a high-priority budget item

City Manager Scott Sellers offered the City Council a sneak peak at his proposed budget for fiscal year 2015-16 today, which revealed his highest priority, particularly when it comes to money spent from the Utility Fund, will be on wastewater projects.

Sellers also wants to add two police patrol officers, two additional staff members to handle 9-1-1 calls, two additional technical positions for on-going road maintenance and, if all goes according to plan, he would like to see the city have its own cable television station by the end of the year.

None of this is set in stone. In fact, today’s workshop was designed to show the council what his priorities are and to ask council members to provide him with their criteria on what the city should be spending its tax dollars on during that period from Oct. 1 through the following Sept. 30. Based on that council feedback and additional meetings with department heads, Sellers plans on submitting his proposed line item budget to the council for its review July 27. Following that, he would like to hold a second council budget retreat on Aug. 1 followed by a session Aug. 19 during which Kyle citizens could offer their input.

The largest wastewater project expenditure would be roughly $2.53 million for two phases of the Bunton Creek Interceptor (an interceptor is basically a large sewer that receives flow from a number of trunk sewers and transports that flow to a wastewater treatment plant). The first phase, projected at $525,000, would take the interceptor from the wastewater treatment plant to the Bunton Creek Subdivision Lift Station (a lift station is a wastewater pumping station that is used to lift wastewater from a low point to a higher pipe so that it can be transported by gravity). The second and larger phase of the project, projected to cost $2,032,250, would connect the Bunton Creek Subdivision Lift Station to the Southlake Lift Station.

Together, roughly 70.7 percent of Sellers’ projected utility fund expenditures would go to wastewater improvement projects.

Sellers proposed a budget item of $120,000 to purchase the equipment needed to get city television channel operational. This money would not come from taxes, however; it would be paid for by the franchise fee the local cable franchisee pays to the city. The channel would, among other things, provide live television coverage of City Council meetings as well as other city-sponsored events.

The staff and the council also talked about what to do with the iconic downtown water tower that has become to Kyle what the space needle is to Seattle or the gateway arch is to St. Louis although no firm decision was reached on whether to simply spruce it up, completely refurbish it so that it can once again provide water to Old Town or replace it with an identical looking tower.

Mayor Todd Webster said he was tired of seeing what he called "a concrete hole" in City Square Park and recommended a fountain dedicated to Kyle’s war dead be constructed at that spot. He indicated might by the only city in the world without a war memorial of some kind. The cost of building such a fountain there ranges, according to city officials, anywhere from $185,000 to $235,000. Sellers did not recommend any funds be expended for the project in the upcoming budget, but he did list it as a possible expenditure for FY 2018/19.

One other thing of note, In what Sellers said was an effort to "increase the transparency of city government," something called "Smart Sheets" have been added to the city’s web site, where you can see, in real time, information on road projects, park improvement projects, recently issued certificates of occupancy and much more. Check it out here.

The city manager also told me after the meeting was over that he is exploring the idea of a 3-1-1 non-emergency call center for Kyle. Such an operation could be used for citizens to call to report such things as traffic light malfunctions, street light outages, broken water mains, etc.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sit on Santa's knee and tell him what kind of economic development you want

It’s that time again. Eight years ago, an outfit called TIP Strategies out of Austin delivered to the city "An economic development strategic plan for Kyle" it called "Bridging the Gaps, Building the Future." If you’re not familiar with it, you can read it here.

This morning, the city sponsored the first of what is scheduled to be three "summit" meetings that will, it is hoped, lead to the development of another economic development strategic plan, this one prepared by The Natelson Dale Group, Inc., and you can read all about that organization here. The stated purpose of this first of three meetings was "to identify the key issues, challenges and opportunities to be addressed by the research process and the remaining Summit (sic) sessions."

All well and good, as far as it goes.

Someone at the meeting suggested Kyle could become to Austin what Plano is to Dallas. I hate to bust anybody’s balloon, but that is simply not going to happen, nor should it, in my opinion.

One reason is geography and this is an important distinction. Plano is north of Dallas. Kyle obviously is south of Austin. If there is a comparison to be made along these lines it would be Round Rock or Georgetown is to Austin what Plano is to Dallas. Why is that geographical distinction important? For exactly the same reason that in just about any metropolitan center you can cite, the northern part of that center is more prosperous than the southern part. And that’s because water flows to the south and as the water flows through the metropolitan areas it inherits the waste deposited by those areas so the water quality in southern areas is thought to be not as pristine as those in the northern areas. It doesn’t matter whether that statement is true or false, that is the perception and that is the reason why northern fringes of metropolitan areas are almost always more prosperous than the southern sides. A better Dallas correlation would be Kyle is to Austin what Cedar Hill is to Dallas and, frankly, there is nothing wrong with that. Take a look at Cedar Hill’s web site.

The other problem I have with Plano is that its corporate base is rooted in relocations and too often relocations, while they look nice and give a community something to brag about, more often than not cost more than they can deliver. There are two reasons for this. First, city governments tend to give away the store in tax breaks to attract the company to relocate so there is very little in tax return netted by the municipality, possibly for as long as 10-20 years after the company’s relocation. Second, they don’t create that many jobs because the relocating companies relocates the bulk of its existing employees as well. Relocation may do wonders for the local housing inventory, but not so much for the employment inventory.

The best way to develop the business growth of a community is to nurture its entrepreneurial spirit. One of the exercises in this morning’s "summit" meeting was to identify those industries attendees would like to see in Kyle. I’m speaking just for myself now, but I have a problem with an exercise like that because I don’t think we know what industries are best for Kyle because those industries probably don’t even exist today. Ten years ago, if I told you could measure in real time the congestion levels on all the major roadways in Central Texas simply by tapping on your telephone, you would have called me, at best, a hopeless dreamer, but more likely a raving lunatic.

Do you know there is technology being developed that would not only eliminate the need for sanitary landfills but would recycle all waste into enough electricity to power, at least, all the homes in Plum Creek? And do you know these centers don’t look, from the outside, like an ugly factory, they look like this. Do you know there’s a company in West Monroe, La., that is recycling plastic waste and having it converted into railroad ties?

Recycling on a number of different levels is going to be a thriving industry in the not-too-distant future.

What I’m getting at here is that, in my opinion, it makes more sense for Kyle’s strategic economic development, to form partnerships/alliances with both private and educational research centers (and there are plenty of both in the Austin/San Marcos corridor) staffed with individuals who can identify a budding new potential industry and then convince those creative geniuses to locate their incubators in Kyle. Because those type of industries grow and as they grow they need to hire additional qualified personnel and then they need to build larger headquarters, all of which have major economic benefits for the community. And you don’t have to give away tax benefits to reap those benefits. The economy, the development is growing from within. A perfect example of what I’m talking about is Dell, Inc., which began business a little over 30 years ago in Michael Dell’s dorm room at the University of Texas at Austin.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of items, both pro-Kyle and not-so-pro, needed to be said and aired in this type of open forum and they were aired. And that’s something that did not go unnoticed by Mayor Pro Tem Diane Hervol.

"I think this was very impressive and I’m really appreciative of all the input we’re getting from all over the city, from the developers, from the current stakeholders," Ms. Hervol told me immediately after today’s meeting concluded. "It’s good for us (as elected officials) to get this kind of input from the outside. It’s very beneficial."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No lions or tigers or bears Oh My

The Planning and Zoning Commission took the first step Tuesday evening to bring a circus under the old-fashioned "big top" to town in mid-May.

Commissioners voted 6-0 (commissioner Lori Huey missed the meeting) to approve a Conditional Use Permit for Circus Aguilar to stage a one-ring circus May 14-18 on grounds located immediately south of the Central Texas Speedway track. The general manager of the speedway said, in spite of what the circus’s posters illustrate, there will be no lions and tigers at the circus, but (and don’t breathe a word of this to those PETA zealots who recently boasted they got the critters banned from Ringling Bros. shows) there will be elephants. In fact, the posters advertise that people can take a ride on the elephant prior to show times. Along with the pachyderms, the circus will feature "for the first time in the US Wolf Man live," along with such other typical attractions as trapeze artists, jugglers and, of course, clowns.

The performance schedule is:
  • Thursday, May 14: 8 p.m.
  • Friday, May 15, and Monday, May 18: 5 and 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17: 1:30, 5 and 8 p.m.
The price of admission was not listed in the advance information, but the circus posters do advertise that children 14 and under don’t have to pay to see the show.

Commissioner Mike Wilson wondered whether the circus had an adequate plan to deal with and dispose of the elephant poop and really didn’t get his inquiry answered except that the general manager assured Wilson the circus plans to work closely with Kyle animal control during the event.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel"

Let me say right at the outset I have no bones to pick with either Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers or his assistant city manager James Earp. Quite the contrary, I respect both individuals. I like both of them a great deal. They would be two individuals I would want to have over for an outdoor beer and barbecue bash. At the same time I’ve got to say that I began receiving a regular salary as a reporter before each of them was born, Does that make me infallible? Of course not. But I have been around long enough to know the rules of the game.

My previous post immediately before this one concerned my reactions to the very first meeting of the Charter Review Commission. My only intention was to give my thoughts about what happened at that meeting. It has subsequently come to my attention that Mr. Sellers sent the following e-mail message to all the members of the Kyle City Council:

"This week the charter review commission met and had a wonderful meeting. The commission was encouraged to meet as frequently as necessary and at times which are convenient to them and the public. Citizen comment was also encouraged.

"I mention this because a recent article stated just the opposite, and attempted to disparage the city, the charter review process, and Mr Earp. I am writing to dispel the inaccuracies of said article, and I am grateful for your efforts to ascertain the truth and defend the city. Thank you for all you do in defense of the truth and your employees."

Although he doesn’t mention me by name, since I was the only reporter covering the commission’s meeting I imagine he is talking about me. I emphatically stand by everything I wrote in that article. Not only that, I recorded the meeting and I invite anyone — anyone at all — who wants to legitimately accuse me of writing things that aren’t true to listen to the recording and judge for themselves. I went back and listened to the recording again before I wrote the article to make absolutely sure what I was writing was 100 percent accurate.

Furthermore, I made absolutely no attempt to disparage the city, the process or Mr. Earp. I just reported what went on. And instead of them admitting "You know what, we could have probably said some things in that meeting differently," owned up to their own statements and then talked about ways of not repeating and/or amending them, they decided to try to blame someone else. The headline of this post comes from Mark Twain and it is just as true today as it was when he originally wrote it.

Here’s something else I find interesting. I have always found that when individuals honestly believe they have been wronged in some way by the media, they will go directly to that media outlet and demand a retraction or a correction. Funny thing is, I haven’t heard a word from Mr. Sellers or Mr. Earp. If they honestly believed I wronged them or the city in some way, why didn’t they share those feelings with me? The answer is because they know what they are saying to the council is not true and they are covering their you-know-whats. I also find it fascinating that in his note to the city council, Mr. Sellers did not cite one specific thing I wrote that was untrue. And you know why? Because he couldn't. So he just tries to cast a shadow over the entire article. Unfortunately, that's an all-too-typical bureaucratic reaction.

But like I said earlier, anyone who really wants to know what was said in that meeting only has to listen to my recording of it and then judge for yourselves. I invite anyone who believes what I said might be factually incorrect to listen to the recording. Unlike others, I have absolutely nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Uneasy feelings about charter review process

I know it’s early in the process. Tonight’s first meeting of the 2015 Charter Review Commission was really nothing more than a "hi, how are you, glad to get to know you" affair. But it still left me with an uneasy feeling of exactly how inclusive this process is going to be.

For example, Assistant City Manager James Earp, who essentially ran the meeting (he said will serve only as the staff liaison once the commission elects its own chair and vice-chair next month), said the commission was not required to solicit public comments during its meetings. Are you kidding me??? I was involved with three charter reviews for the City of Dallas and if there is one process that cries out, that begs for, the input from the public, it’s a charter review. Earp told the commissioners that the city charter was to the government of Kyle as the Constitution is to the government of the United States. And, in a sense, he was correct. But regardless of what certain Tea Party members might try to argue, the Constitution doesn’t belong to the legislative branch of the U.S. government, it belongs to the people of the United States. Likewise, the Kyle City Charter is not the property of the Kyle city government, it belongs to all the citizens of Kyle and, by gum, those citizens should have a large voice about what goes into that charter.

Now, I know the counter argument is that whatever changes the commission recommends and the City Council approves must be approved by city voters. But the citizens deserve more input than a strict "yes" or "no." This charter dictates who is eligible to run for the city council, when they will run, how long they should serve. Don’t you think those people who go to the polls to vote on these individuals should be allowed to voice their opinion on the process? It’s simple democracy.

One commissioner asked Earp whether the staff would forward in writing all the changes to the charter the staff recommends. Earp replied, of course, "well sure" or words to that effect. But the commission desperately needs to get more opinions than those of their fellow commissioners or from city employees. Another example: At one point during tonight’s "orientation" session, Earp opined that the charter requirement that calls for a charter commission to be formed every five years is a good idea. Frankly, I think it’s a stupid idea. I think the charter should say "at the discretion of the City Council," a charter review commission should be appointed every five years. A subtle difference, but an important one because it only requires the formation of a charter review if a majority of the council believes such a review is necessary at that time. And you know what? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if a segment of the public agrees with my sentiment, but the commission will never know that if they don’t hold public meetings each of which invites the public to offer their opinions on how the charter should be changed.

The commission has also decided to conduct their meetings on the same day and at the same time as City Council meetings. This further guarantees that no one outside the doors of the commission meeting will ever know what’s going on inside those doors without reading the minutes of the meetings. Earp also suggested this because it would be "convenient" for the city staff. This is the first time I have ever — ever — heard that charter review commissions should be held at a time that’s handy for those already working at City Hall. They should be held in places and one varying days and times that are convenient to the public. That means I don’t think the majority of meetings should even be held at City Hall. Look, to prepare for the drafting of its Transportation Plan 2040, the city held a public meeting at Wallace Intermediate School during which it solicited opinions from the public at large. A City Charter is a far more important document than a transportation plan and it deserves to have public meetings staged at different times and different days in every corner of the city. Take the process to the people, don’t find ways to prevent them from knowing what’s going on.

Earp even suggested that having the meetings run simultaneously with City Council sessions will benefit the media because they are already at City Hall to cover the council meetings anyway. Give me a break. Moses Leos of the Hayes County Free Press is an extremely talented writer/reporter but I doubt if he has any plans to be constantly running upstairs and downstairs at City Hall every other Tuesday night in a desperate attempt to report on the goings on at two different meetings. I imagine he’ll be joining me at the City Council meetings and might take a peak inside the charter review sessions when and if the council goes into executive session. I also doubt the Free Press has the resources to devote one reporter to the City Council and a second to charter review.

What all this means to me is that the commission is taking steps to eliminate the public from the preparation process and that is against everything democracy is supposed to stand for. Like I said, it’s early. But right now I can tell you I definitely don’t like the direction this charter review process is heading.

City council accelerates bond package, triggering a property tax hike

The city council last night accelerated work on the 2013 road bond package, most likely necessitating a property tax hike of between $200 and $280 a year on the average Kyle home, learned about a temporary and amazingly inexpensive quick fix to some of the worst problems on Bunton Road and told an individual wishing to start to "non-emergency ambulance service" in Kyle that (1) his service was not about ambulances and (2) at least one council member desired more information on who will be driving his vehicles.

As indicated by Mayor Todd Webster last week, the council voted not to issue the bonds approved in 2013 for each of the five road projects sequentially, but all $30.48 million of them at one time, thus permitting work on all five to proceed more quickly.

The City’s Finance Director Perez A. Moheet made the following presentation to the council:

"Staff is seeking your authorization again to begin the process to work with the city’s financial advisor and bond counsel to work on the bond issue for the remaining bond authority on the road bonds. In May of 2013 the voters of Kyle authorized $36 million for the road projects. That included the cost of bond issuance. This is the remaining bond authorization from the original $36 million bond authority given to the city for the five road projects. So far the city has issued $5.52 million in general obligation bonds for the road projects which was primarily for engineering design and right-of-way-acquisition services. The proceeds from the new bond issue will be use primarily to pay for construction and related services for the five roads A small amount will be used to pay for the cost of the bond issuance. We will do our best, both at the staff level and your financial advisor level, that given the city’s strong financial position and our excellent credit rating we anticipate and hope that we sell these bonds at a premium whereby the cost of the issuance of the transaction will be offset by the premium we are able to sell the bonds for.

"Timing of the bond sale is critical as well for three reasons. First, we want to make sure the bond proceeds are available by the time the city council awards construction contracts for the five roads. Second, we want to firm up the debt service requirement on the new bonds before the budget process begins so we can set the I&S (the debt rate) of the property tax rate which the council will adopt the first week of September as part of the budget process. Third, the Federal Reserve Board …has been hinting around since last fall (editors note: and issued an even strong "hint" today) of increasing interest rates as early as this June. So given all those reasons the timing is now if we’re going to do it."

Moheet said he asked the city’s financial advisor to run three scenarios to forecast what the impact of the sale would be on the property tax rate. Combining all three analyses — one forecasting moderate growth, one using a more aggressive forecast and a third using "full throttle, all aggressive assumptions" — the advisors said, according to Moheet, "the tax impact is between 10 and 14 cents per $100, which is close to what we have been talking about since the beginning. If you recall, the very first projections we shared with citizens was between 9.6 cents and 21 cents given the growth assumptions we were using in those scenarios."

That means the tax impact would have the following effect, according to my rough calculations (which were subsequently confirmed by Mr. Moheet):
  • A home valued at $150,000 would see an annual tax hike of between $150 and $210
  • A home valued at $175,000 would see an annual tax hike of between $175 and $245
  • A home valued at $225,000 would see an annual tax hike of between $225 and $315
  • A home valued at $250,000 would see an annual tax hike of between $250 and $350

There was no discussion on the proposal and it passed the council on a 6-0 vote. (Council member Samantha Bellows-LeMense did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.)

On a related subject, Public Works Director Harper Wilder told the council that he and City Manager Scott Sellers drove the length of Bunton Road and identified five locations where the road was buckled to an extent that it "presented a life, health and safety issue," but which could be fixed temporarily before the entire road is reconstructed as part of the bond proposal mentioned above. He said the materials needed to fix those five spots are 207 tons of base and 77 tons of asphalt, costing only $7,195.50. He rounded it off to $7,500, he said, just to be on the safe side.

"These would be basically from the fire station to Dacy Lane and there are five areas in there that we have identified," Wilder said.

Mayor Webster appeared quite surprised over the low cost of the fix.

"You’re saying to make temporary repairs to Bunton Lane, it would cost $7,500," the mayor said. "I don’t know what to say. I have absolutely no problem with that. Earlier estimates I was given were 10 times this amount. This level of expense to me seems well worth it."

Council member Tammy Swaton asked Wilder how long it would take to make the repairs.

"It depends," he said. "We haven’t set up an actual scheduling. Are we going to shut down the road from Breadbasket? But I would assume going from Breadbasket to Dacy in one and maybe from Breadbasket up to the fire station in another, it’s possible in three weeks time. Don’t hold me to that because I have to check on the availability of supplies but I think we could get it done at a fairly quick rate."

Council member David Wilson asked if it might be a good idea to prohibit certain commercial vehicles from using Bunton until the reconstruction is completed. Wilder told him he didn’t think that was necessary because this temporary fix will "hold up better" than such fixes have done in the past.

Mayor Webster did voice some concern that residents may view these temporary repairs as the bond work. Wilder thought travelers would know the difference.

"There will still be issues on Bunton Lane," he said. "Even with these fixes, don’t expect a smooth ride from Point A to Point B. But the major issues will be taken care of.

"Because of the low expense of this project will we just go ahead and do that out of our maintenance budget," Wilder added, "so we’re not asking council for approval."

At the suggestion of council member Wilson, I am inserting the following:

ATTENTION: The construction work that’s about to commence on Bunton Road is not — repeat NOT — part of the 2013 bond package but only a temporary repair to five areas of the road identified as potentially harmful to life, health and safety.

Call me a shill for the city if you wish, but I prefer to identify the previous paragraph as a public service announcement.

Item 10 on the agenda sought approval for an ordinance that would grant Frederick Smith’s S&S Transport a franchise to provide non-emergency ambulance services within the city limits.

"The initial request led us to believe that this was actually an ambulance service," the city’s Chief of Staff Jerry Hendrix told the council, "but it’s really more of a shuttle."

Smith said the type of transportation he provides is for individuals with wheelchairs, an ambulatory patient that must have a medical device with him or her, but nothing of an emergency nature. Council member Wilson wanted to know where the customers would be transported from and to.

"It’s from a hospital to a nursing home, a hospital to a rehab, a patient needing transportation to a church — any service they need to be transported," Smith said.

Mayor Pro Tem Diane Hervol had some issues with this application, first wondering what kind of licenses the company possessed. After the meeting was over she told me she was concerned about what kind of background checks, if any, were performed on the company’s drivers. She told me she hopes her concerns will be addressed to her satisfaction between last night and the second reading of the ordinance in two weeks. However, she did make the motion to approve the item, substituting the word "shuttle" for "ambulance." The motion carried 6-0.

(Updated to indicate my projections on the tax increase for the bond package were confirmed by the city's finance director.)

City Council gives tentative nod to eliminating 12 civic committees

The city council seemed to agree, at least until individual members get push-back from certain civic volunteers, a recommendation presented tonight from City Manager Scott Sellers to streamline the city’s board/commission/committee structure by eliminating 12 committees, converting two others to standing sub-committees and maintaining in one form or another 10 others.

Expect to see on an upcoming council agenda an item that repeals all individual committee resolutions and then another item that re-creates others as boards or commissions along with establishing the conditions under which their members will be appointed, the number of persons on each one, their terms, etc.

For all practical purposes, the city will no longer have any standing committees, per se. Those that will be kept, such as the Economic Development & Tourism Committee and the Library Committee will be referred to as "boards" under the new guidelines.

The committees recommended to be eliminated are Community Relations, Strategic Planning & Finance, Long-Range Planning, Public Works & Service, Mobility, Safety & Emergency Services, Advisory Redistricting, Council and Mayor Compensation, Council Advisory, Impact Fee Advisory, Development Services and Streets & Alley. Some of these may resurface later as temporary ad-hoc committees.

The city manager recommended making the Pie Festival and the Historic Design Review committees into sub-committees of the Parks & Rec Board.

During an extremely brief discussion following the presentation of Sellers’s recommendations, nary a single member of the council said anything against the proposal. Of course, that silence has no legal standing and individual council members may find some reason to object later, especially after they get an earful from one or more of their constituents serving on a committee slated to get the axe. However, council member David Wilson did argue that many of these committees unnecessarily cost taxpayers money and Mayor Todd Webster also opined the current committee structure is an unnecessary drain on staff members’ time.

(Update: This post has been updated to correct the name of the mayor.)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Here's what the mayor would like you to know about the 2013 road bond projects

A lot of the discussion at Monday night’s transportation meeting held at the Kyle public library revolved around the condition of the roads currently being repaired/reconstructed as part of the 2013 bond package. One attendeee said one of these roads was in such bad shape she is forced to drive on it upside-down (slight exaggeration) and, by gum, she wants that fixed right now.

So after the meeting was over, I asked Mayor Todd Webster what is it the public should know about the progress to date on these roads.

"We know the community expects those roads to be built as quickly as possible and we’re doing everything we can do to get those roads built as quickly as possible," the mayor said. "I fully expect construction to start on Goforth when school’s out, but we have to deal with right-of-way issues.

"The second message is that there are things involved in building a road that are not necessarily beyond our control, but they impact it. Property owners alongside those roads have a right to just compensation for giving up their property to build them. So when you widen roads and you move utilities, that takes time. I wish we were further along. I’ve been here (in office) eight months and the truth is we shaved a year off the process and got them back within the plan budget.

"Another thing: the bonds were sold as a sequential series — we’ll build this one first, then this one second, this one third. They prioritized the ones that needed repairs the worst. But we’re working on all of them simultaneously. That’s different than what a lot of people expected of us. That’s going to have a tax impact, but that’s what I believe and that’s what the council believes the community wants. Expediting the building of those roads is a priority. But there is going to be a tax impact because we’re going to have to sell the bonds all at once rather than over a period of time. The good news is by doing that the inflationary costs of building the roads is less. We get more roads for our money by doing them faster. If we had done it the other way we wouldn’t have received as much road for the money we are spending.

"The most frustrating thing is just watching it and it can’t move fast enough for me either. I live there. I’m surrounded by all three of those roads (Goforth, Bunton Creek, Lehman). My car takes the same beating as their’s does every single day. Every single day I drive Bunton. Every single day I drive Goforth. I’m not on Lehman all the time but I travel Lehman quite a bit.

"We’ve looked at everything to fix Bunton. But the problem is what happens if you spend $50-60,000 on a temporary fix and then you’re having to tear all that up as part of the bond repairs. It’s a catch-22. I even talked about what if we closed it. I definitely don’t think the road is safe and I would like to do something. Whether we do something temporary to Bunton hinges on whether things fall into place to get that road done. If it looks like it’s going to take longer to get Bunton done because of things like right-of-way acquisition and utilities — if it looks like there’s going to be some unanticipated delay in getting that road built — I’ll bring forth some proposals to make some temporary fixes to it. But they will be temporary. They could be there for six months and then get torn up."

So there you have it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some additional observations on this transportation business

Last night I wrote about a transportation confab that had everything to do with roads and nothing whatsoever to do with transportation. And that thought may have come across to some as a criticism so I want to assure you it wasn’t meant to be. If it wasn’t for the fact that Kyle would not be eligible for any outside government moneys without an integrated long-range transportation "master plan," I would argue that the city, in its current state of development and even in its projected development decades hence, doesn’t even need a "transportation plan." In fact, all it really does need is a road plan that extends 5-10 years forward.

But, in order to develop those corridors, the city’s coffers need to be augmented by state and perhaps even federal dollars and a city is not eligible for those dollars without an integrated long-range transportation plan on the shelf. But let’s net fool ourselves: that is the only reason the city needs to invest the money required to get this plan drafted.

Complete streets? Get real. Does anyone actually know what complete streets mean. I gather from listening at last night’s meeting the local definition of a complete street is one with a bike lane and at least one sidewalk. Here is the definition of a complete street as defined by the National Complete Streets Coalition: "They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations."

Think about it. How many Kyle residents you know desperately want to bicycle to work? Many here bicycle for recreation, but you don’t need complete streets for that. You needed dedicated hike and bike trails and I don’t know if the city has that kind of money to spend on those of even if they have the desire to spend that money on them. How many of them even want to walk to work, walk to where they will go shopping or walk between their places of residence to a train station? I can’t even envision anyone in Kyle even desiring to drive to an area train station, let alone walk to one. But that whole Lone Star Rail District boondoggle is a completely different issue. Anybody see the need for buses to be able to run on time in Kyle?

Hey, here’s my input for the transportation plan: Replace the four-way stop sign at Kohlers Crossing and Kyle Parkway with a roundabout and make it impressive as all get-out by sticking something like this right in the middle of it. Here’s my input for a long-range transportation plan: Make Kyle the "Roundabout Capital of the United States," replacing every single traffic light not on an I-35 frontage road with a roundabout and inserting one at every single intersection where a stop sign is now in place and make them all as aesthetically impressive as this.

Now let’s be realistic about the subject of congestion. Adding new roads to a community’s inventory does not relieve congestion. It simply adds additional roads that are very likely to become congested themselves. And there is not a single shred of evidence to be found anywhere that the addition of rail transit in any shape or form relieves highway congestion. It never has and it never will.

I moved to this area five months ago from Dallas, a city with a comparatively extensive rail component that was conceived and implemented while I was a resident. And the highways are more jammed today than they have ever been and next year at this time they will be congested even worse. In fact, at the same time the regional transportation authority began construction on its very first rail line — a north-south line that on the northern side of downtown ran parallel to the horribly congested North Central Expressway — TxDot began work on widening North Central Expressway. What was the result? Instead of a two-lane in each direction freeway that was stop-and-go (mostly stop) throughout both the morning and evening rush hours, the city now had a four-lane in each direction freeway that was stop-and-go (mostly stop) throughout both rush hours. Did people ride the train? Yes they did and at times during the rush-hour period it was standing-room-only on those trains. But it had absolutely no discernable effect on the horrid freeway traffic.

New York City, where I was born and raised, has arguably the most extensive, sophisticated rail system in the United States, but, still try to navigate the jammed FDR, West Side Highway, the Major Deegan or the Long Island Expressway, especially during rush hours, and all those expressways were constructed decades after the New York City subways went into operation.

There is only one way to solve the problem of expressway/freeway congestion problem and that is to eliminate the offending expressways/freeways. If you build them, they will come.

Look at Portland, Ore. If there’s anything clogging the streets of urban Portland, it’s bicycles. Portland is also the home of possibly the most impressive computer rail operation in the United States. It’s secret? There are no freeways in Portland. The same is true in the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Calgary for exactly the same reason. I used to spend a lot of time in Paris, France, and the traffic throughout the interior of Paris moves effortlessly for exactly the same reasons: a super-efficient Metro rail system that will get you within a few blocks of anywhere you want to go in Paris and absolutely no freeways inside the city.

For most American cities, rail transportation is simply a transportation option. And give human beings an option, they are invariably going to choose the most convenient one. They are, after all, human beings. And there’s no more convenient transportation option that getting into your personal vehicle when you want to (not when some schedule over which you have no control dictates you must) and heading right for the destination you want to get to (not a few blocks or a few miles away from that destination).

Why does anyone think so many people attending the Kyle transportation meeting last night voiced a desire for more ways to access I-35? Because they want to get to a rail station there? Give me a break.

The problem of I-35 congestion through Austin is never going to be solved as long as there is an I-35 through Austin. Where that impacts Kyle is the very real possibility that with the growth this area is experiencing, I-35 through Kyle could someday resemble a parking lot at certain hours as well. And that is never going to be solved either, as long as there is an I-35 slicing through Kyle. So, please, don’t expect the answer to come by any attempt at a rail alternative and pretty please don’t expect salvation from any form of a Transportation Plan.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Transportation workshop had little to do with transportation

A mere five days ago, I began an article about transportation in general and tonight’s "Council Workshop & Kick-Off Meeting" for the proposed city Master Transportation Plan 2040 specifically with these words: "When people in Texas talk about transportation, what they really mean is how easy or difficult it’s going to be to hop in the family sedan, minivan, what-have-you and drive to wherever it is you’re wanting to go."

I had no idea how prophetic those words were. Tonight’s transportation workshop had nothing to do with transportation, let alone what the city’s transportation landscape might look like a quarter of a century hence and everything to do with road construction and how the people of Kyle would like those roads to look like in 10 years, if not sooner.

Now the meeting’s facilitators did briefly touch on such subjects as "complete streets" and integrating bike lanes into neighborhood thoroughfares, but nary a word was spoken by others in attendance of those subjects let alone others such as ride sharing, walkable communities, pedestrian clusters, or dedicated jogging/biking paths, such as one that would connect Gregg-Clarke Park, Steeplechase Park and Lake Kyle. There were two overriding themes to the meeting "Fix the road I travel all the time" and "Make it easier for me to get to I-35." (This second demand also made me realize that all this talk about a regional rail project linking south San Antonio to Round Rock should cease immediately — such a project is doomed from the start.)

One other subject came up repeatedly and that was the idea of connecting Highway 150 to Kohler’s Crossing which makes sense for the development of Kyle along that corridor but is simply never going to happen because it doesn’t fit with the overall area transportation plan which envisions 150 being not just the connector from U.S. 290 to I-35 but the facilitator to I-10 and on to Houston. Which is exactly why talks are in the works to construct a Godzilla-like truck stop at I-35 and Yarrington.

But the bulk of the conversation seemed to center on ways to better connect Old Stagecoach Road to the southbound service road of I-35 on the south side of town and more east-west transit ways paralleling Kohlers on the north side. On the east side of 35, the talk was about getting the existing roads in better shape, particularly the three roads on that side that are part of the city’s bond project.

If these highway construction ideas actually became the blueprint for Kyle’s transportation plan, the result would be a greater number of congested streets than we have now, a transportation inhibitor.

The way the meeting was structured was that after an introduction from those who will actually be preparing the draft of the transportation plan they intend to present to the council in December and a Q&A session that forecast things to come (all the questions were about roads), the group divided into five work groups who made marks on maps of the city and its surrounding areas to signify what was important to them. When that exercise was complete, the facilitators briefly described to everyone present what was drawn on the five maps. Surprise! Most of the maps contained the same notations.

The results of the meeting were not lost on Mayor Todd Webster,

"There was a lot of difference of opinion on what we should be doing with our roads," the mayor told me as the meeting broke up. "It did tend to focus more on roads than alternate modes of transportation, but that’s what happens when you look at maps."

But the mayor was somewhat forgiving of the process and saw a lot more conflicting ideas than I noticed.

"It’s just the beginning," he said. "There’s a lot of work to be done between now and the finished product to really get a sense of what the community wants. There really was a lot of different opinions there. It’s going to take a lot of effort to reconcile those differences of opinion.

"And I think rightly there’s a lot of people who are frustrated with the progress of the bond roads. And it’s natural they would be frustrated. It’s clear people still don’t know what’s going on with all that. There was a whole conversation in there about one of those roads and it’s literally in the process of getting built. It’s understandable that people are frustrated.

"I also heard concerns about congestion as well as concerns about maintaining the character of this particular area. Sometimes all those things don’t actually meet up and so you had competing interests represented in that room."

So, yes, in Kyle, as in most places in Texas, when you’re talking transportation, you don’t really mean transportation, you mean roads. And right now that road looks very long indeed.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The city wants you to believe the Bunton Road bond project is 50 percent complete

Sometimes reality directly contradicts reality.

For example, what if I told you that the Bunton road bond project was 50 percent complete? If you drove along Bunton Road on a daily basis you’d be thinking "OK, perhaps some Bunton Road on some far off planet like Southern California is halfway done, but dearly, beloved Bunton Road in Kyle is not only not 50 percent complete, work on it hasn’t even started yet."

I’ll give you that, but then hit you with this retort: Did you know, did you have any idea, are you aware that work on Goforth road bond project is nearly that far along as well – it’s 48 percent complete? Now, you’re really desperately searching for someone to sign the commitment papers because Goforth Road looks just like it did yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last .... No, wait a minute, it is worse than that. It has actually deteriorated even further during the last year.

But, you see, it’s all about how the numbers are adjusted and those in government are adept at juggling numbers in a way that would put Enrico Rastelli to shame and if you don’t know who Enrico Rastelli is, prepare to be amazed.

But I digress. Jo Ann Garcia, the city’s project manager for the five road bond projects, briefed the Mobility Committee this evening on the status of those projects and without cracking even the smallest smile, she told them work on Bunton is halfway to the finish line and the Project Goforth is 48 percent of the way there. Not only that, nary a one of the four committee members raised an eyebrow. Nor did they question why the three projects on the east side of I-35 are fairly well along (Ms. Garcia told them Lehman is 37 percent done), while the two projects on the west side are languishing: Burleson at 17 percent and Marketplace at 1 percent. That’s right, 99 percent of the work still needs to be done on the Marketplace project.

Look, I don’t know about you, but if I’m driving from Kyle to Dallas, I don’t pat myself on the back when I get to Buda and shout "Hooray, I’m halfway there." But then I’m not a government official. For them the clock starts ticking the moment I begin thinking about driving to Dallas, so, by that standard, by the time I get to Buda, if a bond project manager was calculating, I could actually be 95 percent there.

Take the Bunton Road project for example. Ms. Garcia told the mobility committee the preliminary engineering is done, the environmental documentation and approval are done, and, by gum, they’re just about done with the design of the new road, so, voila, we’re halfway finished with the Bunton Road project. However, she also told the committee such trivial (my word, she didn’t even hint at the fact that these might be unimportant) matters as, say, acquiring the necessary right of way to widen the dang road was at 0 percent. There are 12 parcels the city needs to acquire before construction can even begin and so far the city is batting 0 for 12. Her report did predict that those 12 parcels will be in the city’s back pocket by the end of next month and I have no reason to question her on this. But it seems like acquiring the land needed for the project and the actual construction of it should outweigh some of the other factors in establishing how far along this project is to completion.

Because, I’m betting the hundreds of drivers who use Bunton Road every single day are simply not going to believe work on the project is halfway done when, to them, it hasn’t even started yet.

By the way, the Mobility Committee is looking for some new blood so if you would like to make some direct contributions to the future of the city’s mobility plans, or if you use Bunton Road a lot, here’s a chance to make your voice heard. Here’s where to go if this idea interests you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Transportation study must be permanently linked to Kyle's plan to become a destination city

When people in Texas talk about transportation, what they really mean is how easy or difficult it’s going to be to hop in the family sedan, minivan, what-have-you and drive to wherever it is you’re wanting to go. This is especially true of elected officials. Say the word "transportation" to a state legislator, for example, and the knee jerk reaction is to look for money to build new highways or improve existing ones. The so-called Texas Department of Transportation has absolutely nothing to do with transportation, per se, only with road construction.

So it’s always with a little bit of skepticism when I hear some entity or another is working on a "Master Transportation Plan," especially one bearing the slogan "Help Drive the Future." This skepticism increases when one takes a gander at the city’s last Master Transportation Plan (2005), a 46-page document that’s all about road building and contains only this one paragraph concerning other forms of transportation, in this case, rail:

"Austin-San Antonio Commuter Rail Study, completed by Capitol Metro, identifies the proposed commuter rail corridor linking Austin to San Antonio as the existing UPRR line that runs north-south through Kyle. The TPAC considered the location of possible rail stop alternatives in downtown Kyle and at the intersection of future FM 1626 at UPRR overpass. After consideration by the public and the TPAC, the general consensus is that the FM 1626 overpass is the preferred location for a rail stop."

Of course, as we all know now, that isn’t going to happen. According to the latest plans from the Lone Star Regional Rail Project, Kyle and Buda would share a single rail station that would be located somewhere between the two cities.

With all that being said, I’m still planning on attending what Kyle Connected is calling its Council Workshop & Kick-off Meeting for Master Transportation Plan 2040 at 7 p.m. Monday at the Kyle Public Library, 550 Scott St. The meeting’s promoters are promising attendees will "learn about transportation planning, help set goals and priorities, and mark up maps." Kind of what happened in the preparation of the 2005 plan.

This time, I am hoping, planners intend on wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch. There are two important reasons for this.

First, I am convinced the term "transportation" limits the scope of work that needs to be done on a study such as this. Transportation infers that individuals are going to use some sort of vehicle, be it bicycle, automobile, bus, rail car, airplane or something similar to get from Point A to Point B. But there’s a whole generation of 20 somethings coming to the fore that don’t necessarily accept that. Why, they quite reasonably ask, can’t we master plan communities where we can simply walk most places we’d like to go? Not only that, as I mentioned above, in Texas "transportation" has become synonymous with highways. That’s why I prefer a more inclusive term like "mobility" to describe the studies.

Next month, Austin is hosting a seminar on how to build a tiny house. I personally know individuals who are traveling more than 200 miles to attend this seminar and dozens more who have told me they are seriously looking into downsizing to a tiny house. Tiny houses are on wheels. They can be towed without a permit with a pickup or an SUV. How many communities are including provisions for tiny houses in their mobility plans? I know of none but I am convinced that those that do are going to find themselves ahead of the curve.

There is also a study well under way concerning Highway 150 and the plans to convert that road into a four-lane roadway connecting Dripping Springs to Interstate 35. Currently, Highway 150 forms the main street through downtown Kyle, which, of course, will not be the case when the new highway is finished. Any Kyle-related mobility plan must be inclusive of the separate Highway 150 options. Currently there are three options for the I-35 terminus of 150 and all three appear to be economically detrimental to the city of Kyle. I would hope that any Kyle mobility plans accomplishes two things: (1) Strongly advocates a fourth option that connects 150 to Kohlers Crossing which could lead to magnificent development, possibly with the help of TIFs, of the property along that roadway between 2770 and I-35. (2) Converts that portion of the current 150 that runs from Rebel to I-35 into a magnificent pedestrian concourse, complete with sidewalk cafes, flower shops, and other mom-and-pop commercial ventures. And that’s why I prefer the term mobility, because that term includes pedestrian walkways whereas transportation infers vehicular traffic only.

Reason No. 2 and here’s the real kicker: Any Kyle mobility study must be linked directly and permanently to the city’s goals of becoming a destination city.

I started thinking about this is an entirely different light when I learned someone wants to build a mid-rise hotel, presumably along the northbound frontage road of I-35 north of Kyle Parkway. And while I was thinking about this, I was thinking of what Scott Sellers told me just days after he assumed the position of Kyle’s city manager at the beginning of the year and something he has since made well known throughout the community and that is he wants to find something that will attract visitors to Kyle, that magic attraction that will convert Kyle into a Destination City, much the same way he believes the River Walk made San Antonio a tourist magnet.

And the more I thought about this and the more I thought about that possible mid-rise hotel, the more I realized that "Hey, Kyle is already a destination city."

Think about it. Kyle has been for a number of years now one of the top three most rapidly growing communities in the state. Why? Why are people moving here, not by the hundreds, but by the thousands? What is it about Kyle that made these people decide Kyle was their "destination"? I could be wrong, but I’m betting the answer lies in that tried-and-true adage of every real estate broker: Location! Location! Location!

Then I remembered something else Mr. Sellers told me. He said on his very first visit to Kyle he was struck by a sign he saw that referred to the city as "the gateway to the Texas Hill Country." He didn’t like it. "I don’t want Kyle to be the gateway to somewhere else," he said, "because that means the people are just passing through on their way to that somewhere else."

Not necessarily. If thousands of people are determining Kyle is their destination for living, why not use that same rationale to make Kyle the destination for visiting, by marketing the city as "The Gateway to the Treasures of Central Texas."

But for this to succeed, it has to be more — much more — than a mere marketing plan. First the good folks in economic development must use that strategy in order to convince other high-end hoteliers to locate properties here. And that shouldn’t be all that difficult because of that same rationale that is convincing the multitudes to live here: Location! Location! Location! I am convinced that because of the easy access to the 130 toll road, it is far more convenient to get to the Circuit of the Americas from an upscale hotel along what I am now going to dub as the "Kyle Korridor" (forgive me), than from an upscale hotel located in downtown Austin. And now Austin is seriously considering building  not one, but two, PGA golf courses directly across 130 from that location of the Summer X Games and the only Grand Prix race in North America. I would also argue that given current traffic conditions, not to mention what those conditions will be like five, 10, 15 years from now, it is far easier to get to Austin Bergstrom International Airport from a Renaissance Hotel in Kyle than a Renaissance Hotel in downtown Austin.

Now, here’s where the link to the mobility plan is so important. Try to visualize all the appealing vacation packages upscale Kyle hotels could offer their guests:

The historical San Antonio excursion that includes a visit to the Alamo and other missions, historical sites in the area and concludes with a Tex-Mex dinner at a Riverwalk Restaurant.

The family San Antonio package that includes a day at Six Flags or Sea World, followed by dinner at the Riverwalk Restaurant and, for an extra charge if the team is at home that particular evening, tickets to a Spurs game.

The Water Recreation Day that includes tubing in the morning on the San Marcos River, a picnic lunch at Canyon Lake and ends with an afternoon at Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels.

An Austin tour that takes vacationers from their hotels in Kyle to a tour of the capitol, the LBJ Library, the UT campus and other Austin sites.

A Hill Country venture that includes tours of area wineries and time to visit the stores of Wimberly.

Here’s one of my big favorites: An Austin pub crawl, a nighttime tour that includes the cover charge at some of Austin’s most famous nightspots and one "adult beverage" at each. Think about it. Participants wouldn’t need to worry about a designated driver. The tour bus would take them to each facility and then return them to their Kyle hotels. They could even leave their wallets or purses in their hotel rooms or with hotel security because each individual who purchases a pub crawl ticket gets an armband that shows that person is of age and entitled to all benefits of the tour.

I’m sure keener minds than mine can come up with hundreds of other possibilities.

All of these other cities have gone that extra mile to attract visitors to their communities. Why, instead of trying to compete with them, we simply exploit them? It requires less of an economic investment and I am convinced the awards would be greater. We make Kyle that destination that provides easy, fun, hassle-free access to everything Central Texas has to offer, even if it includes something as simple as shuttle services from the Kyle hotels to UT and Texas State home football games, or similar shuttles to Zilker Park during Austin City Limits Festival weekends.

But obviously this plan does not succeed without the transportation element — the means of making it easy and fun for visitors to Kyle to have the most varied vacation experience they could possibly have this side of Orlando, Fla. Whether it involves Kyle developing a central transportation center from which all these excursions depart and, of course, ultimately terminate or just regulating the conditions under which private transportation providers can operate must be a part of any successful Master Transportation Plan.

Transportation and Destination. The two terms were linked long before I started thinking about applying that linkage to Kyle.

Johnson out as city attorney

City Attorney Ken Johnson got the boot tonight.

Now that’s not going to be the official word from City Hall and the minutes of this evening’s City Council meeting will state that after an excruciatingly lengthy executive session (close to three hours), Mayor Todd Webster announced that Johnson had submitted his resignation during the session. And if you believe Johnson did that voluntarily to pursue greater opportunities in the private sector, I have some unregulated water wells near Wimberly I’d like to sell you.

After the meeting was over I asked Mayor Webster, who knew what I was going to ask before the words even started coming out of my mouth, whether Johnson’s resignation was 100 percent voluntary. "I can’t talk about that," he said, which is exactly the right answer an official must give if they have just fired someone during an executive session. And one of the reasons the statutes allow for executive sessions (during which a quorum of a legislative body can meet in private without obstructing open meetings laws) is so that city officials can be fired without the stain of public embarrassment. Let’s face it, if your boss was about to recite a laundry list describing your wretched job performance, would you want it televised live, even on C-SPAN?

On the other hand, if Johnson’s resignation was entirely voluntarily, don’t you think the mayor or one of the other council members I asked the same question of (and who politely gave me exactly the same, word-for-word, answer) wouldn’t take the opportunity to praise the attorney for his service to the city and wish him all the best in the pursuit of his new endeavors?

And does anyone really think that Johnson would voluntarily resign from a position he has held for just a couple of days more than one year? Not likely.

One more clue pointing to the fact that this was not Johnson's idea: After the council emerged from executive session, the attorney was nowhere to be seen. Vanished. Keyser Sozed. I'm betting if he resigned of his own volition, he would want to stick around and, discuss his greener pastures. Doncha think?

Besides, this is not a bolt out of the blue. Although no one has told me outright they wanted to see Johnson go, in conversations I’ve had with elected officials I could sense quite readily they were not all that happy with some of the advice he has been giving them. This was especially true after the Feb. 17 session when Johnson led them off-course during a discussion of what should have been a routine item requesting state legislators support increased funding for Texas park land. (Incidentally, after being tabled last week because of the city attorney’s interference, that item reappeared on tonight’s agenda and passed unanimously with virtually no discussion.)

Johnson’s "resignation" overshadowed other items on the agenda, including one that raised the allowable height for buildings in Kyle and another what was almost wrecked by protesting wreckers.

The council unanimously approved the construction of buildings of, for all practical purposes, 14 stories on a case-by-case basis in those areas along I-35 that are zoned RS (retail services). The reason this came up in the first place is because a hotel is planned, according to assistant City Manager James Earp, in the vicinity of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store on the northeast side of I-35 and Kyle Parkway. The city’s current height restrictions of four stories were too restrictive for the hotel’s developer (whose identity I could not learn). The city had awarded a variance to Seton Hospital of 100 feet or nine stories for its facility on Kyle Parkway and Plum Creek also won a similar variance to construct the ACC campus, so the thinking was to just make that 100 feet the new citywide limit. And that’s exactly what Planning and Zoning had recommended last week.

But Mayor Webster felt 100 feet was too restrictive and recommended the limit be set at 150 feet, which, to be precise, is the equivalent of 13.85 stories. However, I’m betting no one’s going to quibble if someone wants to go to 14 stories. I’ll even go so far out on the limb to predict there won’t be any screaming, wailing, rendering of garments or gnashing of teeth if a developer presents a plan for a 15-story mixed-used development on or near the proposed Kyle/Buda train station of the Lone Star Rail District or, for that matter, in any other RS section of town.

After Mayor Pro Tem Diane Hervol was assured that the fire department did not consider such a prospect as a potential towering inferno, the 150-foot limit passed unanimously.

The angry wreckers showed up to protest the passing, on second reading, of an ordinance amending Article IX that regulated "commercial towing and wrecker services." Several individuals associated with these services spoke against the ordinance change during the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting, which was the reason Mayor Webster said he pulled the item from the consent agenda. (It passed on first reading at the last council meeting.)

Apparently the city’s Public Safety Committee recommended changes to the ordinance late last year, changes the protesting wreckers had no problem with. Now, of course, the Public Safety Committee, just like all the other city committees, has absolutely no legislative authority whatsoever so all it can do is recommend ordinances be changed, but cannot authorize those changes. That’s solely the purview of elected officials and the elected officials assigned to that task by Kyle’s charter is the City Council.

So the council took the recommendations and, according to council member Samantha Bellows, realized there were things in there that she, as well as the city’s staff, figured just wouldn’t work. For one thing, Ms. Bellows said, the proposal as recommended by the Public Safety Committee would allow for wreckers’ storage facilities to be located as far away as inside the city limits of San Marcos and Ms. Bellows thought Kyle might face some problems trying to exert regulatory control over facilities in San Marcos. The ordinance up for adoption tonight required the storage facilities to be located inside the Kyle city limits. Her other problem with the ordinance recommended by the committee was that it would require dedicating one police officer to doing nothing else but enforcing the ordinance and she believed police officers were needed for more important duties.

Many of the wreckers in attendance weren’t satisfied and when the proposed ordinance passed on second reading, several of them stood and shouted at the council that, among other things, they were passing an ordinance that violated state laws. A couple of police officers came forward to forcibly remove the protesting wreckers, but they marched out of the chamber voluntarily, if a bit defiantly, with one of them screaming for the city to anticipate a lawsuit over the matter to be delivered to council members soon.