The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

P&Z plays it smart by playing dumb

Planning and Zoning commissioners met for about an hour and a half tonight to hash out how they were going to tackle the somewhat nebulous assignment of performing a five-year update of the city’s comprehensive plan. And, pushed by commissioners Michelle Christie and Mike Wilson and encouraged by outgoing commissioner Dan Ryan, the commissioners came to grips with their own limitations and decided their task was going to be limited to making recommendations on what specific areas of the plan need to be changed/updated. The commissioners decided they will not, however, make any specific recommendations for changes in the plan.

Most comprehensive plans are prepared by urban planners, defined as "a professional who works in the field of urban planning for the purpose of optimizing the effectiveness of a community's land ." The key word, at least to me, in that definition is "professional" and the professionals who helped formulate Kyle’s current Comprehensive Plan are these guys, these guys and these guys. All seven members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, more or less, individually came to the conclusion that "Hey, I don’t have the background or the expertise of any of those guys. What I am is a citizen who volunteered to serve on this commission."

To my way of thinking, it takes a wise person with a lot of security in one’s own self to realize his or her own limitations, and, thus, P&Z came across tonight as a commission composed of seven wise individuals.

The commission is still seeking public input on their task and is going to welcome that input during the public comment section at each of their workshops which are tentatively scheduled for the fourth Tuesday in each of the next three months. Next month’s workshop will concentrate on future land use and open space, November’s subjects will be public facilities and transportation and in December the commissioners plan to tackle urban design and downtown revitalization. But try to keep in mind, the input they are looking for is the public’s ideas on what parts of the current Comprehensive Plan need to be tweaked, drastically altered or nuked completely, but not any actual recommended changes

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fogley fumbles recusal attempt

It is a given that the Kyle City Council does not follow Robert’s Rules of Order or any other accepted parliamentary procedures, but there are certain ethical guidelines that are so tantamount to good government, they must be obeyed. Every single person who serves on a city council or a city board/commission/committee in Kyle should know how to recuse themselves so as to avoid any hint of conflict of interest.

Now different municipalities have different procedures for initiating the recusal process. For the sake of example, let’s use a member of a city council as our subject here because the situation I’m talking about involved a neophyte city council member, Damon Fogley, at last Tuesday’s city council meeting. Normally what happens in situations like this is council members will prepare somewhat before they come to council meetings. They will have at least carefully read the council’s agenda and, thus, will be aware of any item which may pose a conflict of interest before the meeting even starts. I don’t know the exact procedure here in Kyle, but in the civilized world of municipal government, a council person wishing to be recused because a particular agenda item may pose a potential conflict will file a signed affidavit noting that possible conflict with the city secretary, who will then notify the council’s presiding officer just prior to the commencement of that meeting.

The key here is "preparation," a council member actually studying the agenda somewhat a day or two, or even an hour or two, prior to the start of the council meeting. I am not sure that every member of the Kyle City Council takes any time preparing for these meetings.

However it’s handled, there are certain rules that apply in all situations of recusal. The presiding officer must know of a council person’s recusal intent before the agenda item comes up for discussion. And the council member who has been recused must physically leave the chamber where the item is being discussed and voted upon. Fogley did neither Tuesday.

The item in question was a rezoning issue to allow a convenience store/gas station type use on a 1.75 acres that was zoned single family residential. at 2050 E. RR 150. Instead of saying anything ahead of time, Fogley sat through the entire discussion of the item and, just as the vote was about to be taken, asked to be recused. But then, instead of getting up and leaving the chamber as is required in any recusal motion, even one as illegal as Fogley’s was, he just sat there like the Say-No-Evil monkey and simply didn’t cast a vote. Not voting or abstaining from voting on an item is not the same thing as a recusal. The item passed 5-0.

Now I’m not going to put the entire blame for this foolishness on Fogley. Just as much responsibility for this inexcusable behavior needs to be shared with city staff. And there is a very simple way to guard against having our city leaders acting like idiots in the future. Between the time a person is elected for the first time to the city council and that person is sworn in, the staff, led the city attorney, must conduct some form of orientation program for these individuals so that they are aware of the basic rules of Robert’s as well as the reasons to recuse oneself and the proper procedure for a recusal. Staff should conduct the same program for all new members to city boards and commissions as well. If handled correctly, such an orientation class could be held in under an hour.

In other action Tuesday night, the council:

  • Seemed receptive the idea presented by an organization called Appa Aguilas to form a soccer program in Kyle, especially if that meant Appa Aguilas was going to relieve the city of the responsibility of maintaining Waterleaf Park.
  • Reappointed Mike Wilson, Irene Melendez and Timothy Kay to the Planning & Zoning Commission and appointed former city council candidate Dex Ellison to the commission to replace retiring commissioner Dan Ryan.
  • Denied a request to permit overhead electrical service along Bebee Road.
  • Approved 5-1 (CM Diane Hervol cast the lone dissenting vote and CM Daphne Tenorio had an excused absence due to illness) a zoning request that will allow the construction of a pair of warehouses on Lehman Road near RR 150.
  • Unanimously approved a zoning request to permit the construction 82 rental duplexes directly behind these warehouses.
  • In one of the quickest annexation moves on record, the council voted 5-0 (CM Becky Selbera left the meeting without announcing why just prior to discussing this item) to annex the 135.78 acres where David Weekley Homes and Scott Felder Homes are planning a subdivision immediately west of Hometown Kyle. The entire discussion on this issue and the vote consumed less than two minutes of the council’s time. Moments later, the council allowed 2.681 acres of this property to be rezoned so it could be used for retail services right at the intersection of North Old Stagecoach and Cypress roads.
  • Discussed the possibility of installing up to three stop signs in the Waterleaf subdivision in an attempt to slow drivers who are apparently racing through the streets of this area at speeds close to 40 miles an hour.
  • Heard that, although construction has begun on the Marketplace-to-Burleson road project, the official groundbreaking ceremonies will take place Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 9:30 a.m.
  • Was reminded that the council’s first meeting in October will be on the first Wednesday of the month, not the usual first Tuesday, because that Tuesday is National Night Out in Texas and Florida.
  • Was informed by City Manager Scott Sellers that Stage 2 water restrictions were returning because (1) water consumption in Kyle was 33 percent greater this year than last and (2) the Barton Springs Pool of the Edwards Aquifer is "steadily dropping" and the San Antonio Pool of the Edwards is in Stage 2.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

City Council tries to blame others for its own shortcomings and then fails to demand accountability

Somewhere between the strange worlds of George Orwell and Joseph Heller, you’ll find the planet inhabited by Kyle City Council. Take Tuesday night, for instance. The council tried to penalize two organizations seeking special event application approvals for following the rules the council has in place for such applications instead of trying to find a way to adhere to unexplained policies that are not in place.

The applications in question were for a two-day music festival for veterans Nov. 7 and 8 and a Hays CISD-sponsored Mariachi festival Nov. 7.

Mayor Todd Webster seemed to think these applications should go to the Parks and Recreation Board either before or instead of the council. And perhaps they should, but that’s not the policy in effect now. Or, as CM Diane Hervol so appropriately stated "To tell these people now, at the 12th hour, that they have to come back through the system, is just not fair."

"It’s not the 12th hour," Webster retorted.

"But they’re here tonight," Hervol countered. "We put these items on the agenda for whatever reason. Granted these two events don’t appear on the calendar until November ... but now these two events are coming before us and we’re saying ‘Hey, let’s go ahead and put another step in the process and go this way.’ If it was me, I wouldn’t like my time being wasted. I don’t disagree with the idea of changing the process. I’m just saying these two items are before us now."

But then it got even more bizarre when CM Damon Fogley chimed in.

"I think we need to have a very specific, whether it’s through Parks or the city council, we need to have a program in place where we make sure we have guidelines or whatever that may be for each organization that approaches us and asks us for funds," Fogley said.

So then — I kid you not — Fogley voted against the applications because the city did not have in place, "whether it’s through Parks or the city council," unspecified "guidelines or whatever," as if this failure of the city's was the applicants' fault.

But wait, it gets worse. The council actually agreed for the City of Kyle to be a sponsor and attach the city’s logo to what is being billed as the Hays Veterans Music Fest. Now, according to the application she filed with the city, promoter Sylvia Gallo listed this as a for profit event. In speaking before the council, however, she said it was designed to raise funds for several Central Texas veterans organizations. Personally, I could care less whether it’s a for-profit venture or a fund raiser, but if it is the latter I’m convinced the city council should be have installed some accountability into the proceedings. How is the city to know after the event it is sponsoring is over how the festival promoters distribute the moneys it collects? How much, if any, is actually going to veterans organizations? Should the council have insisted that a certain percentage of the proceeds actually go to veterans organizations? As far as I can tell, none of these issues were addressed; I know for a fact they weren’t addressed at Tuesday night’s council meeting. The only subject the council was concerned about was why these applicants didn’t follow rules that weren’t in effect and, in so doing, left themselves open to the possibility that Kyle might, in some circles, become known as "the town that ripped off American veterans."

The corridor to nowhere

The City Council approved Tuesday night a resolution recommending the development of a corridor — not a road, mind you, but a very wide swath of land somewhere in which a road might be constructed — between Arroyo Ranch Road, located off Ranch Road 150 2½ miles northwest of where 150 meets 2770. and the intersection Yarrington and I-35.

The plan is that sometime in the next five, ten, 25, 50, 100 years or thereabouts, Ranch Road 150 would be diverted at Arroyo and placed somewhere within that corridor? Why? Because the transportation "experts" around these parts believe transportation only has to do with infrastructure and has nothing to do with mobility and as a result they want to convert 150 into, at least, a four-lane expressway to accommodate all those thousands and thousands of folks who want a faster way to get from Dripping Springs to San Marcos and points south. Right now, 150 runs right through the center of downtown Kyle and a four-lane highway could not be accommodated there without knocking down some historic buildings (and probably city hall itself) and building a bridge over the railroad tracks, which is also impractical for too many reasons to list here.

But, the council was told Tuesday night, a form of 150 will still run down Center Street. Only that stretch will be called Business 150 after the new highway is complete.

Council members asked a lot of questions about the proposed corridor including relevant ones such as how it will impact Jim Miller’s certified organic farm located in that area (council members were assured that road will be constructed nowhere near Miller’s farm) and a lot of irrelevant ones. They also seemed concerned about the long lines of traffic that develop at certain times on Center Street in downtown Kyle — especially when a train blocks the crossing at the eastern edge of downtown — and how this new alignment might alleviate that traffic. (The answer is probably that it won’t alleviate that because much of that traffic is generated by the schools in the downtown area or the parents of children in places like Hometown Kyle taking their children to Lehman High School.)

I had some questions I thought were obvious ones to ask, but never were. The main question was what percentage of the traffic traveling east through downtown on RR 150 wants to go north on I-35? I have a sneaking suspicion that percentage is fairly significant and those motorists are not going to want to be diverted way to the south in order to go north, so they will continue to follow the Business 150 or whatever it will be called through downtown.

Second, the corridor, as outlined Tuesday night to the council, stops at Yarrington and I-35. But RR 150 doesn’t stop at I-35. It connects with State Highway 21 and offers many Kyle residents, especially those living near 150, arguably the best route between Kyle and Bastrop and then on to Houston and points east. Is Business RR 150 going to reconnect with regular RR 150 somewhere that doesn’t take the motorists using this route to get to Bastrop too far out of their way?. Or is 150 really going to stop at I-35? If so, what happens to what is now RR 150 between I-35 and State Highway 21? (I have heard nasty, unsubstantiated rumors, that highway officials eventually want to extend super-highway 150 to Interstate 10 west of Flatonia and have that serve as the principle truck route between Austin and Houston, which, then, becomes the rationale for locating that Godzilla truck stop at I-35 and Yarrington.)

I also can’t conceive of RR150 ever being seriously considered by any conscientious motorist to be a logical alternative connector between Dripping Springs and Houston. That’s ridiculous. That’s why I am calling ths the corridor to nowhere. (OK, I’ll grant you, it may provide a faster access between Dripping Springs and San Marcos and then points south, but is that really a major need that has to be addressed at this time?)

In all the talk about this road, I would have liked to have had someone on the council address these issues. But, as I’ve said so many times before, the fix was in.

Does anyone here listen?

After the city council wrestled Tuesday night with the question of how to cram nine nominees into a seven-person Economic Development and Tourism Board (the first seven on the list of nominees were named to the board and the last two, Jim Hough and Jo Fenety, were named "ex officio" members), Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson posed the following hypothetical to board chair Brian Ziegler, the only person returning from the last ED&T gang:

"An industry approaches us and your committee is the first one activated, that’s the first contact. The industry doesn’t want to be identified by name. They don’t want to be identified that they’re interested. They don’t want to identify also that they have competitors. How do you see this board operating? Would it be the first contact? Would it be a discussional item? Would it be, along with the city manager and a development director in attendance, a kind of a group that would lay it out and get support for it within the group before it’s presented to council or presented to anyone? In your view, how would that play out?"

Forget for the moment a person should never try to answer a hypothetical question. That’s why such questions are not permitted in courtroom examinations. Let me try to place Wilson’s hypothetical in context. Less than 30 minutes before Wilson posed the question, the council heard a recommendation from the firm it hired to develop its economic development strategic plan that the city rename and rebrand its Economic Development and Tourism Board and give that newly rebranded board the assignment of recruiting targeted businesses to Kyle. Which to me, sounds like a great idea. It sort of reminds me of that popular cartoon depicting the buzzard sitting on the telephone pole telling his fellow vulture "Patience, hell. I want to kill something." Yes, instead of waiting around hoping some business someday might express interest in doing something here, or even more improbably, the Greater San Marcos Partnership might dump a high-tech manufacturing firm in our laps, let’s go out and round up the usual suspects. As far as those businesses that might express interest in Kyle on their own, without any sort of recruitment effort, let those prospects deal directly and immediately with the Economic Development personnel on the city’s staff. In other words, assign each function specific individual tasks instead of everyone involved in economic development tripping over each other all trying to do the same thing in their own way.

So, in my mind, the way I would have liked to have seen Wilson’s hypothetical addressed would have been something like this:

"That’s an issue we would need to address when the specific situation actually arises, But as you just heard in the economic development presentation moments ago, I believe our committee should concentrate on four specific tasks. First, identifying a broad range of companies that fit within the general parameters of those categories that were recommended to us. Second, identifying within those groups those companies that are the most likely to want to establish a business in Kyle and those that would fit our future growth and comprehensive plans. Third, develop individualized strategies designed to convince each of those companies to establish a presence in Kyle. And fourth, visiting those companies to deliver our sales pitch."

That’s the answer I would have loved to hear. That was the answer that would make me believe the city might be actually thinking about getting serious about business development and creating more and better jobs right here in Kyle. Is that anywhere close to the answer Ziegler gave? Judge for yourself.

"About two or three years ago we had an economic development opportunity come to the committee desk," Ziegler said. "They were presenting a 380 agreement (Agreements that enable cities to provide incentives to encourage developers to build in their jurisdiction. They are called 380 agreements because they can be found in Chapter 380 of the Texas Government Code.) At that time there was not a single person — I think there was six or seven members of the committee at that time — had no idea what a 380 agreement was. So not only did we have to negate the presentation, then we had to learn what a 380 agreement was over the next month. There are so many things the common citizen isn’t going to understand when it comes to economic development. I think one of the priorities when we tried to realign this board was to get people who would have an understanding of economic development moving forward. We need to remain competitive geographically and without having the expertise in place I think we’re going to get left behind. So, to answer you question, if this was brought to us, I think we would kind of feel the candidate up front, kind of have a discussion with him around whatever project they want to put in place. And at that point we can make some serious recommendations to council."

It made me want to stand up and scream "Is anyone around here actually listening and understanding what your economic development experts just recommended to you minutes before or have you just decided to ignore their recommendations entirely and wait for more fast food restaurants to set up shop in Kyle?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

“One of those chicken and egg situations”

Office buildings. They are conspicuously absent in Kyle. Those three, four, five story buildings that house a variety of small business tenants — lawyers, architects, accountants, public relations practitioners. I’m sure we have Kyle residents in all those professions and most of them are probably commuting somewhere else each day to work.

But how do you approach this? Do you wait for a number of professionals to want to set up shop in Kyle and then construct a building to house them? Or do you employ the Field of Dreams approach: If we build it, they will come. That dilemma was at least acknowledged at last night’s city council meeting when Roger Dale, of the Natelson Dale Group, presented the group’s recommendations for an Economic Development Strategic Plan.

"That is one of the fundamental challenges Kyle has," Dale told the council in response to question on this very topic from Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson. "You’re talking about attracting industry but you don’t necessarily have a place to put them. It’s one of those chicken and egg situations. A developer doesn’t want to build something unless they know there’s someone that’s going to come there but no one wants to come there unless there’s somewhere to come. You kinda have to get off the fence on these situations. It’s not easy. There’s not a simple solution but the steps we believe you can take are Number 1, coordination with developers. And there are developers who would like to develop that space if they knew there were demand for it. That’s their long-term plan.

"What they say they need is better documentation that there is a flow of prospective tenants that would occupy their space," Dale continued. "We have some recommendations as part of our marketing program on how you create that information flow to the developers to give them some justification for building spec buildings and getting them financed and so forth. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s a challenge that’s always going to be there.

"The other thing that can help that is to have, if not buildings, at least shovel-ready sites. The infrastructure’s in place. The approvals are in place. So that if you can’t initially get a spec building, at least you can get a build-to-suit in a fairly quick period of time. That’s not as ideal as having a building ready. But get that there. Get the ball rolling. It’s one of those things that success begets success. You get the first deal in and you’ll have more success who ultimately want to do spec buildings.

"It’s a step-by-step process. I can’t say we have a magic solution for it, but I think the city is already taking some very good steps in terms of its coordination with the development community and its long-term vision in terms of infrastructure planning to make that eventually a very viable thing here in Kyle."

As I wrote earlier this week, Dale told the council it would be most "feasible" to concentrate the city’s economic development activities on attracting high-tech manufacturing firms to Kyle. But he also said other priority targets are "destination related recreational facilities (i.e., water parks, amusement parks) and professional and business services," such as those that would occupy the office buildings addressed above.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

To recall or not to recall: That is the question

During the public comments portion of last week’s special city council meeting, one person stood up and announced he would be generating a petition to recall Mayor Todd Webster. Personally, I do not and will not support any effort to recall da mayor. If asked, I will not sign a petition designed to force a recall election. As any steady reader of this journal can testify, I disagree with da mayor on any number of issues. But those disagreements are strictly political. Those disagreements can be best summed up like this: I am pro the individual resident of and visitor to Kyle; da mayor is pro developer. To say I want him recalled because he doesn’t agree with my political views is tantamount to my saying "Unless you play the game my way, I’m going to throw a temper tantrum, pick up my marbles and go home." Besides, he’s lived here far longer than I, so I am going to grant him some squatter’s rights. What I will say is this: If da mayor seeks re-election, there’s a real good chance I won’t vote for him. That’s how the political process works.

I could support a recall of an elected official if I was shown irrefutable evidence that official committed a criminal act or committed a serious violation of the Code of Ethics. I have seen absolutely nothing to indicate that either one of these transgressions applies to Webster.

Not only that, my problems with da mayor extend to others on the council as well. Da mayor did not act alone in muzzling democratic discourse at the last city council meeting. That is definitely an action that could precipitate a recall election, in my opinion. But what’s a citizen to do? Recall the whole lot of ‘em? There is a time for a recall and that time is called Election Day

Most of those problems I have with the city’s elected leadership stem from the fact that their service on the city council is a part time job. They soak up the information they are force-fed but they are either too lazy or simply don’t have the time to conduct independent research to determine for themselves the accuracy of this information they are fed. At no time was this more apparent than when the liars who sold them a bill of goods about PIDs (and subsequently were rewarded for their lying ways by being put in charge of all PIDs in the city) stood before the council and said PIDs could only be used for new developments and that it was impossible to use them for existing projects. Not one member of the council stood up and said this wasn't true, but I'm blaming this on council stupidity/laziness, not duplicity. Just a little bit of independent research by any member of the council would have exposed these lies. But such an exposure would have put these council members on the side of the individual residents of Kyle and, for the most part, our council is just as pro-developer/anti-resident as da mayor.

And their misinterpretations of the city charter are becoming legendary. My favorite came when one council member argued against adding more council meetings to the schedule because the charter specifically says when the council is supposed to meet.

However, I can’t mount a successful argument that stupidity is grounds for recall.

What’s more, the citizens of this city permit 5 percent of the registered voters to decide who will set policy for everyone who lives here. If you don’t like the way the cake tastes, then make sure the next time you choose the ingredients.

I must also admit that city council stupidity is not confined to our fair city. Dallas, where I moved from, has full-time city council members but that does not make them immune to having elected officials acting like idiots. I’ll never forget during one Dallas City Council meeting when an airport agenda item came up, one council member went on about a 20-minute tirade about operations at the airport. When he was finished, the other 14 members of the council just sat there with stunned looks until one of them broke the silence to tell the angry council member the agenda item in question concerned a completely different airport. (The city of Dallas has jurisdiction over three airfields that are located within its city limits, although only two of them, Love Field and Executive Airport, actually have planes landing and taking off from them.)

Finally, I believe it would be duplicitous on my part to criticize da mayor and others for tacking on expenditures to the current budget that could have waited a year, thus driving up the tax rate more than it needed to be, and then advocating actions like a recall for which the city would have to shell out the money to pay for an extra unnecessary election.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

City to be asked to OK two festivals within a half-mile of each other on the same day

How many festivals are too many for one day in Kyle? We may find out if the answer is two Tuesday when the City Council will be asked to grant two permits for two different festivals to be held close together the first Saturday in November.

Sylvia Gallo, who is so confidant her application will be approved she has already printed fliers, is planning on having a music festival to honor veterans from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 7 and 8 at Greg Clark Park. About a half mile away, at City Square Park, the Hays CISD Mariachi plans to host its fifth annual Dia De Los Muertos Mariachi Extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 7.

In her application to the city, Allison Garcia, president of the Hays CISD Mariachi Booster Club Board, wrote: "Our cultural event attracts guests from all over Central Texas. This event features the over 300 students of the Hays CISD mariachi comprised of musicians from Chapa Middle School, Simon Middle School, Wallace Middle School and Lehman High School. We look to have over 4,500 guest (sic) this year. Last year we had over 5,000."

Garcia said her organization is asking the city for $1,023 in Hotel Occupancy Tax moneys to help defray the costs of insurance and park user fees. It should be noted that CM Daphne Tenorio is 2nd vice president of the booster club board.

Gallo, whose says she expects 500 to attend her veterans festival, is asking the city to waive the park user fees and be a co-sponsor of her event. Unlike the Mariachi festival, Gallo plans to have alcohol served at the Greg Clark Park festival. She has yet to reveal exactly what is going to take place during the planned two days, but I assume she’s planning on lining up some area bands to play.

Incidentally, Veterans Day this year is Wednesday, Nov. 11.

It should also be noted that both the Texas Longhorns and the Texas State Bobcats will be playing home football games Nov. 7, Texas will be hosting Kansas and Texas State will be entertaining New Mexico State. So there’s that, as well.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Economic Development goals for Kyle: Manufacturing, yes; retail, not so much

I’ll be looking forward to the presentation planned for Tuesday’ City Council meeting on the subject of economic development strategies for Kyle that will be presented by the Natelson Dale Group. I’m not that familiar with this organization, but, according to its website, it "is an economic and financial consulting firm established in 1974 which provides services to both public and private clients" in the areas of "real estate market forecasts and development feasibility studies, financial feasibility and income projection analyses, economic development strategic plans" and a host of other areas, The company is headquartered in Yorba Linda, Calif., and it also has offices in Phoenix and Washington, D.C. I mention all this because the Natelson Dale Group appears to be much more than a bunch of local yokels fresh off the turnip truck and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt..

My guess is that the group is going to recommend to the council that it focus its economic development efforts on attracting "high tech manufacturing" companies to either start up or relocate to Kyle. "TNDG recommends that initial cluster targeting be focused on those ‘game-changing’ clusters requiring a relatively high level of effort, but also contributing significantly to Kyle’s image as a destination," the report says. "Fostering a sense of destination supports branding efforts in Kyle and expands opportunities for the resident workforce to be employed in Kyle and thereby identify more strongly with the community than if they were out-commuters. By focusing on a handful of high-profile industries that Kyle could ‘become known’ for, the City would be building a brand along with attracting jobs and investment."

Specifically, the report says Kyle should focus its efforts on these specific types of high-tech manufacturing companies: semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing; electrical equipment manufacturing; electronic and precision equipment repair and maintenance; electronic shopping and mail-order houses; and medical equipment and supplies manufacturing.

It also suggests the premier area of the city that should be targeted for these companies is a site dubbed "Plum Creek 6," located on the east side of Kyle Parkway north of Kohlers Crossing.

In ranking its target industries, TNDG grouped them into three categories: 1. Highest priority (which includes manufacturing, information, health care and manufacturing support); 2. Mid-level priority (professional services, logistics and arts/entertainment/recreation); and 3. Lowest priority (wholesale trade and retail). Which to me translates into the city should immediately quit wasting money sending representatives to retail trade shows/conventions.

Interestingly (and, perhaps, coincidentally) TNDG recommended one of the first steps the city should take in its economic development efforts would be to "Re-orient existing Economic Development and Tourism Board to serve as initial/interim ‘target industry taskforce’; (and) recruit additional industry representatives (potentially from outside Kyle) to ensure interface with targeted industries/clusters." What makes this interesting is that on this same City Council agenda is an item to approve nine individuals to the Economic Development and Tourism Board, none of which, I believe, were recruited. Of those, only two are "industry representatives" and both list their primary addresses as Kyle: Neal Kelly, vice president and chief operating officer of Seton Medical Center Hays, and Harish Kalkani, founder and owner of RSI, an electro-mechanical distribution company whose corporate headquarters are located at 1670 Kohlers Crossing. Five of the remaining seven also list Kyle as their primary address including one, Jim Hough, who lists as one of his major accomplishments that he provided the Pope with a trailer to ride on during his visit to Phoenix. So there’s that. But, then, this is what happens when you make economic development such a low priority that you decide not to go out and recruit experts to serve on an Economic Development Board, as the TNDG recommends, but just hope you’ll get some folks to volunteer.

To counter this oversight, TNDG recommends something I’ve long advocated and that is the city "Initiate a plan for the eventual creation of an independent Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in Kyle, to provide the flexibility in economic development responsiveness needed in order to consolidate Kyle’s economic competitiveness with respect to neighboring and other competing entities." This could render the Economic and Tourism Board superfluous. The issue here, of course, is funding. Normally, as the report points out, these EDCs are funded with a half-cent of the city’s sales tax allotment. However, Kyle has already dedicated that half-cent to the county. I don’t know why — I have asked the city for an explanation and will update this when that explanation is provided. So then the issue becomes (1) whether the city believes it’s in its best interests to devote than half-cent to the county or to the funding of an EDC and (2) if they choose the latter option, can they convince the county to give up that money? However, as the TNDG report points out. "Generally speaking, economic development prospects are more accustomed to and comfortable with economic development organizations structured as EDCs, which offer maximum flexibility to structure assistance across jurisdictional/organizational lines, maintain confidentiality, and maintain independence from bureaucratic and political encumbrances."

TNDG wisely recommends that, in order to make Kyle more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses, it should "improve walkability in/around existing and planned employment centers, and concentrate other amenities in these areas," which, of course, contradicts the area’s long-range transportation plan and why I have argued that transportation plans generally work in opposition to economic development plans.

TNDG’s report includes some demographic information I found fascinating. For example, the largest segment of the city’s population — 11.1 percent — falls within the age of 30 to 34, but an astounding (at least, to me) 21.1 percent of Kyle’s total population — that’s a little more than one out of every five persons living in Kyle — is younger than 9 years old.

It also notes that 55.7 percent of the city’s workforce commutes between 15 and 45 minutes each way and that 14.4 percent of Kyle’s workforce population commutes an hour or more each way. That’s twice the percentage of the state as a whole.

"The data show that only a very small percentage (2.3%) of resident workers are employed in Kyle in 2012," the report points out, "and the in-commuters holding 86 percent of the jobs in Kyle tend to be younger, have lower earnings, and be employed in the trade, transportation, and utilities industry class, compared to Kyle’s out-commuting workforce."

In summation, we need a whole lot more better paying jobs here in Kyle. But I’m betting most of you already knew that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Council stifles democratic process while passing unnecessary tax hike; P&Z OKs rental duplexes/warehouse project

The Kyle City Council, a body not willing to even hear a dissenting voice, made sure the democratic process was denied last night and then went on to pass a 20 percent unnecessary tax hike.

Let me give you a glimpse of how petty and how corrupt this council has become. A week ago, a pair of council members, Diane Hervol and Daphne Tenorio, attempted to reduce the tax burden on Kyle homeowners by eliminating from the budget a $1.5 million fund the city manager wanted to use as seed money for unnamed future purchases. The effect of this action would have been a 7½ cent reduction in the proposed tax rate. But Hervol and Tenorio are not members of the corrupt council cartel comprised of Mayor Todd Webster and his puppet cronies, David Wilson, Shane Arabie, Becky Selbera and Damon Fogley. So the five of them voted against the motion. Then the mayor proposed to do exactly the same thing—strips this $1.5 million item from the budget—and this time the Corrupt Cowardly Five (I explain the "Cowardly" tag below) voted lock-step in favor of exactly the same thing that only seconds before they voted against.

Now, if they had left it at that, the tax rate would have remained just about where it is now, at .$538 cents per $100 valuation. But, of course, Da Mayor, with his cronies nodding their acceptance every step of the way, tacked on a million or more in additional expenditures to the budget to bring the tax rate back up to the $.5848 rate the council approved last night 5-1 with Tenorio casting the one nay vote.

Now the Corrupt Cowardly Five will still try to blame the increase on the road bonds. Don’t believe it. If Da Mayor had not tacked on his million or so more in additional expenditures the tax rate would have remained where it is today and it would have covered those loan payments.

I’m not going to argue that everything Da Mayor asked for isn’t needed. I will argue, however, that it isn’t needed now. All of those expenditures could have been delayed for another year when they could have been paid for with increased property valuations and additional sale tax revenues without raising the tax rate then either. If they were so important that they should be have been included in this year’s budget, I am confident that City Manager Scott Sellers, whose job it is to monitor these things, would have proposed them and pushed for their passage. But he did neither and that should tell you something. Running this city is not a part-time job for Sellers as it for the Corrupt Cowardly Five.

Then in an absolutely embarrassing and shameful manner, the Corrupt Cowardly Five completely squashed the democratic process. Council member Tenorio made a motion for a budget amendment and the rest of the council (an emergency prevented Hervol from attending last night) earned its "Cowardly" label when not one single member of the Corrupt Cowardly Five seconded the motion. What are these people afraid of? I’ll answer that for you. They are afraid someone will offer a dissenting opinion that actually makes sense and may resonate among the populace. They are afraid of new ideas. They are afraid of opening their minds. They are afraid of ah honest, open debate on any subject Da Mayor doesn’t want them to hear. Out of common courtesy, a motion should be seconded. Seconding a motion doesn’t imply agreement. It implies only that you are willing to open the subject for public discussion and debate. But the Corrupt Cowardly Five are deathly afraid of public discussion and debate on any topic they are already instructed to oppose, so democracy is left outside the front door at Kyle City Hall.

Prior to this shameful display, the Planning & Zoning Commission (minus commissioners Timothy Kay and Lori Huey) occupied the council chambers for about an hour during which commissioners:

  • Approved unanimously a request ro rezone an area recently annexed by the city located where Center Street branches off to North Old Stagecoach and Cypress roads to single family residential. Scott Felder homes plans to build on the property. Scott Felder homes generally range anywhere between the mid-$300,000 to the mid-$600,000 range, although I did run across this five-bedroom, four-bath home the developer built in Lakeway that is listed for $786,990. I doubt, however, if anything that grandiose is planned for our neck of the woods;
  • Approved a pair of requests by Charles D. Nash Sr. to rezone property located behind Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant and a pawn shop at the corner of Lehman Road and RR 150 to allow for a pair of warehouses and 41 rental duplexes to be constructed there. The warehouses would front Lehman and the duplexes would be located between the warehouses and the Four Seasons subdivision to the southeast. Robert W. McDonald, the actual developer of the project, said the warehouses, one about 10,000 square feet and the other around 9,000, would be subdivided inside to allow spaces for small manufacturing-type businesses to locate and incubate. In a packet of materials provided prior to the meeting, the city staff wrote ""it would be a significant act of faith on the part of the planning commission to expect that the project would be developed into a neighborhood amenity that increases the region’s quality of life and benefits the city as a whole." However, by the time the hearing was held last night, the city staff had done a complete 180 on the idea. "We’ve had conversations with Mr. McDonald," city Planning Director Howard J. Koontz told the commissioners. "He brought the project to us and told us what he wanted to do. It is a great opportunity, actually, for the city of Kyle. This is why staff is considering this seriously in the first place. This area of the city is in its infancy for high-intensity commercial type development. Honestly, it could go either way. The closer you get to the Interstate I expect you’ll get more and more commercial retail — less service, more retail uses to capture the motoring public and the folks who come through Kyle. Warehouse will benefit from the proximity of the labor pool. I’m sure a number of people in Kyle will be very happy to have jobs here and not have to get on 35 and fight their way to more populous areas. They’d love to work here." Then, after a pause, he added "The inverse is not necessarily true, though. The residential may or may not benefit from the institution of a warehouse use here. My expectation is it will be beneficial. It will be a good use and that’s why I’m cautiously optimistic that I actually recommended approval for this." McDonald told the commissioners the original plan was to build 232 apartment units on the site "and just decided because of the lake that is on the property that it was better suited for a lower density," hence the decision to build "some higher-end paired homes" (the new politically correct term for rental duplexes). He also said the term "warehouse" does "not represent what we’re trying to build. What we’re looking to build there is two buildings — one of them is 10,200 (square) feet and one of them is 9,600 (square) feet. We’re actually getting ready to build the same buildings just south of Chuck Nash Chevrolet in San Marcos. It’s a small-business incubator-type project for electricians, cabinet makers, air conditioning people, plumbers. They are not big spaces so they are not going to be high volume or high traffic businesses." McDonald said the average size of the individual spaces within the warehouses will be 1,200 to 1,400 square feet. "They are not like big industrial or production type operations," he promised. Both requests were approved with commissioner Michelle Christie casting the lone vote against the warehouse request.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Driver distraction? Don’t make me laugh

As is usually the case around here, last week’s action by the City Council to ban the use of some hand-held electronic devices while driving has absolutely nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with money.

You think our elected officials care one bit about driver distraction? All you have to do is look at their recent action history and you will quickly discover that’s not the case. In fact, that’s probably the last thing that enters their collective conscientiousness. If you need a memory refresher, remember it was just a little more than a month ago, back on Aug. 5, that the council heard two out of three reports it had commissioned state that electronic billboards cause driver distraction. Did the city try to ban them? Just the opposite. It passed an ordinance encouraging them, but, then these billboards bring money. And the folks who install these billboards give to political campaigns. Can’t let driver distraction stand in the way of that.

Think about this as well. We have a long, long history of having electronic gadgets to play with in our cars. For the first 10 years of my life, my family lived in Manhattan and we didn’t need a car. In fact, in Manhattan then, as it probably still is today, a car was more a curse than a blessing. In area, New York is comparatively small, so if we couldn’t walk to where we needed to go, cab rides were quick and relatively inexpensive. If, for some reason, we needed to leave the island — to say hop across the Harlem River to go to a Yankee game, or across the East River to see the Dodgers or hit the beaches at Jamaica or Coney Island — we always had the convenience of the subways. Then there were the commuter trains to take us up to Westchester County for Thanksgiving dinner with the grandparents.

It wasn’t until my dad’s job transferred him to the wild and unknown regions of northern Indiana that we purchased our first family automobile — a brand new blue and white 1952 Dodge that looked very much like this (except ours was a lighter shade of blue). That car came equipped, of course, with the standard AM radio and on the road between New York and Indiana, my dad, the family driver, kept searching on that radio dial to find the clearest station carrying the Mutual Radio Network’s baseball Game of the Day. Distracted? You bet your New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpike tolls he was distracted.

Many years later, drivers could multiply their distraction levels with the addition of FM to the radio dials and that was followed by 8-track tape players (I never indulged), cassette players (which I loved), then CD players and then the mother of all distractive devices, the in-car DVD player. Was there ever — ever — A discussion about banning any of these devices. Do you get to do much snow skiing in Kyle? People spent money on these devices, not only added to the sticker price when they bought the cars, but more often than not as expensive add-ons, all purchases that aided local economies. If driver distraction wasn’t such a lucrative business, there might not have ever been a store known as Best Buy.

Which brings me to the recent bans enacted here in Kyle and in other cities on hand-held electronic devices. These bans are actually encouraged by the manufacturers of these items, because now people have to trudge back to the stores and purchase additional gadgets to allow them to operate these same devices "hands-free." More money into the local economies. This article makes for interesting reading, but the argument presented here that’s also presented in numerous studies conducted by government safety experts in addition to the ones actually cited in the article is that there is no discernible difference in driver distraction between drivers using hand-held electronic devices and drivers using hands-free ones. This is especially true when it comes to talking on the phone. It’s not using the hands that’s distracting, it’s the conversation. Drivers are devoting more attention to what they are saying and hearing on the phone than they are to their driving.

It is also interesting to note that GPS devices were not included in the ban. Wonder why? Because some driver tooling down I-35 between Dallas and the border might suddenly get hungry and have a craving for Italian food, or barbecue or Chinese right around the time he hits the Kyle area. He can play with his GPS and ask it where’s the closest eatery that fits his needs. Armed with the feedback from his device, he can pull off the highway and spend some dough to eat some dough in a Kyle eatery. Further proof this ordinance has nothing to do with driver distraction and everything to do with money.

In fact, I can hear the cry now seconds before the next accident caused by driver distraction: "Look, ma, no hands."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

It could get crowded in there

I ran into Planning and Zoning Commissioner Timothy Kay at the H-E-B last week and we had a nice little chat. I asked him what he thought of the city council pre-empting P&Z’s normal second Tuesday meeting slot this week. He smiled and told me he was going to enjoy the week off.

Turns out he’s not getting a week off which presents an interesting logistics quandary. P&Z, with four scheduled public hearings on its agenda, has been scheduled to meet in the council chambers at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. And a the city council is scheduled for a quickie at 7 p.m. for the mandatory second reading on the the upcoming fiscal year budget and tax rate.

Now there’s a chance — albeit a very small one — P&Z can get through their business in 30 minutes. One of the zoning issues is a request by Scott Felder Homes to rezone those 130 acres the city recently annexed at the northwest corner of North Old Stagecoach Road, Center Street and Cypress road from agricultural to single family residential (the developer also wants to rezone about 2½ acres of the property facing North Old Stagecoach to retail services) so 339 single family homes can be built there. (Scott Felder Homes are featured on the front page of the Austin American-Statesman's Home section, which admittedly is an advertising puff piece.) At least one person has been outspoken in his opposition to the development of that property so that pubic hearing has the potential of taking up almost all of the 30 minutes.

A second request pending Tuesday before P&Z would rezone almost two acres of land along RR150 between Newbridge Drive and Waterleaf Boulevard from single family to retail service. There may be some pushback on this request to limit the change to the slightly more restrictive Community Commercial. Discussion of the distinctions between those two zoning classifications could also take P&Z’s meeting past 7 p.m.

A third request, which could also cause some controversy, involves a little more than 16½ acres located on Lehman Road near the intersection of RR 150, behind Garcia’s Mexican restaurant. The site was originally scheduled to be the location of an apartment complex but now an applicant wants to have a little more than three acres of that tract rezoned from multi-family residential to warehouse. It appears city officials are not going to recommend that zoning change because the land in question "is located in a border area between the ‘Regional Node’ and ‘Mid-Town Community’ character areas" and "In the Regional Node, it is not recommended that ‘Warehouse’ be approved as a zoning district." The staff concluded "it would be a significant act of faith on the part of the planning commission to expect that the project would be developed into a neighborhood amenity that increases the region’s quality of life and benefits the city as a whole" if the commission granted the warehouse zoning.

The fourth request would allow the remainder of that 16½ acres to be rezoned from multi-family to duplex zoning. There doesn’t appear to be too much opposition to this idea. In fact, the city staff’s recommendation for approval says the new zoning "serves as a land use buffer between the existing low-density residential to the east and the proposed activity center to the west."

Still, that’s a lot to cram into 30 minutes, even if no one shows up to talk during the open comments session at the beginning of the meeting or if nothing is pulled from the two-item consent agenda. Of course, the council could ask the P&Z commissioners at 7 "Mind if we interrupt your meeting for a few seconds to enact a budget and a tax rate?" Hey, it could happen.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When and where did the Austin “big lie” start?

I’ve been amazed by the fact that during the course of my one year living in Kyle I have seen speaker after speaker appear before the city council to say something along the lines of "We don’t want to turn Kyle into another Austin. Why do you think all those people are leaving Austin and moving to Kyle?" (Another one of these made an appearance last night during the council’s meeting.)

I’m not saying some folks who used to live in Austin are now living in Kyle and the reason most of them give for the move is affordability. I’ll grant you that. Although Austin’s property taxes are much lower than they are in Kyle (and got even lower after the Kyle City Council voted to raise property taxes here last night), property in Austin is far more valuable than it is in Kyle. Why? Because far more people desire property in Austin than they do in Kyle and that desirability factor drives up the price of Austin real estate. So the idea that droves and droves are forsaking Austin as though it were a sinking ship is simply not true.

The truth is, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Austin was, by far, the fastest growing big city in the United States between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014. That finding came out just three months ago. If you look at the numbers, no other big city came even close to Austin’s rate of expansion.

So the next time you hear someone talking about the multitudes leaving Austin, ask that person two questions: (1) What are they smoking; and (2) Are they willing to share?

Two council members – Hervol, Tenorio – try in vain to keep city from raising property taxes

Here’s the scorecard: Council members Diane Hervol and Daphne Tenorio fought hard at last night’s City Council meeting to prevent a property tax increase. Mayor Todd Webster, Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson, and council members Becky Selbera, Shane Arabie and Damon Fogley fought just as hard to raise the tax rate and ultimately prevailed.

Perhaps those advocating for no rate increase can take solace in the fact that it could have been worse. The city manager’s proposed budget would have raised the tax rate from $.4870 per $100 valuation effective rate to $.6145. By the time the council completed its spending spree last night, the tax rate stood at $.5848. That means the owner of a median priced home in Kyle will see the city’s share of his property tax increase from $1,076.27 annually to $1,292.41 instead of $1,358.05.

One of the more interesting votes of the evening came when Mayor Todd Webster recommended adding four more police officers and two more police vehicles than the city manager had proposed to the budget. The vote on that idea was 6-1 with Arabie casting the one "nay" vote.

The council also wisely, I think, increased funding to the Kyle Chamber of Commerce by $32,000 but still clings to the belief that the Greater San Marcos Partnership will do the city some huge economic development favor and voted to keep funneling money to that organization. I’m apologize for not sharing their optimism on this subject. I would rather the council use that money to join with the local Chamber and others to fund its own Greater Kyle Economic Development Corporation, but then I’m a "root, root, root for the home team" kind of guy, which, perhaps, is the reason I purchased season tickets to Lehman’s and Hays’s football games. I do not know Kyle Chamber CEO Julie Snyder well, but I have been positively impressed by what I have seen from a distance of her in action. The council did, however, add $25,000 for generic "economic development."

Of course, a lot of pork barrel was added at the last minute last night including a whopping $700,000 to fund a drastically overpriced (according to city staff) one-half mile sidewalk project along Rebel Road between Center Street and Silverado Drive (courtesy of Wilson) and another council member’s contribution to a friend’s slush friend by handing over $30, the library, while, at the same time, gutting programs that provide funds to such much-needed programs as Meals on Wheels and area food banks.

Only Selbera and Wilson sided with the mayor when he tried to strip away the additional protective equipment for fire fighters which had been approved at the council’s budget workshop last month.

The council also voted to set aside $10,000 to pay for a salary increase for City Manager Scott Sellers following his performance review which will take place at the end of the year.

Your tax dollars at work.

In other action last night the council voted unanimously to approve a pair of unenforceable ordinances, one prohibiting a number of vehicles from parking in Kyle neighborhoods and another banning the use of hand-held electronic devices even though many studies, including this one from the National Safety Council, argue that hands-free electronic devices are just as dangerous. But although such ordinances are not effective, they are fashionable and heaven knows Kyle wants to be fashionable. I will still argue that if the council had the courage of its convictions it would have amended the hand-held ordinance to increase the fines of those found disobeying the ordinance in school zones during school hours.

As expected, TxDOT kills roundabout

 (Updated Thursday, Aug. 3 at 1 p.m.)
 In the second paragraph of this original article I wrote "I have reached out to the city for additional information and city spokesman Kim Hilsenbeck has promised to get back with me before this day is done. I will update this article when I receive that information." Ms. Hilsenbeck did timely share with me the short, terse letter the city received from Victor Vargas, an area engineer with TxDOT's South Travis Area Office in Austin. The two sentence letter did not completely close the roundabout door (presumably it could be reopened if the speed limit on Kyle Parkway was reduced dramatically). However, the letter opened with the simple, declarative sentence: "As discussed earlier TxDOT will proceed with issuance of work order to install a signal at subject intersection." So assume that by this time next year, a traffic light, not a roundabout, will be in place at Kyle Parkway and Kohlers Crossing.

One other thing worth noting: In a social media posting, one rather ill-informed city council member claimed "TxDOT withdrew funding" for the roundabout, which of course, is obviously untrue since TxDOT never offered any funds for a roundabout that could have subsequently been withdrawn. The council member seems to be suggest TxDOT reneged on a promise or a deal and that certainly is not the case.

(Original Post)
TxDOT has put the kibosh on the idea of a roundabout at Kohlers Crossing and Kyle Parkway, which is about as newsworthy as reporting no one drowned again last night in the pond at the northwest corner of that intersection.

Mayor Todd Webster announced the death during last nights’ council meeting in response to a citizen who expressed fear that money for constructing the roundabout could be mysteriously hidden in a secret city fund. I have reached out to the city for additional information and city spokesman Kim Hilsenbeck has promised to get back with me before this day is done. I will update this article when I receive that information.

What would have been a shocker and news that would have deserved huge headlines would be if TxDOT had approved the idea. My only question is why it took this long for the agency the nail the coffin shut on this plan. My guess is that the folks in the TxDOT offices have been laughing so hard that idiots in Kyle were actually seriously advocating this idea that they wanted to make sure they were in complete control of their faculties before fashioning a serious response.

I’ll be the first to admit it when I’m wrong
My mention of the roundabout’s death on Facebook last night prompted this snarly reply today from Council Member Damon Fogley: "Let me guess you are a traffic engineer too pete" (sic)

The truth is I was an early advocate of the roundabout. As someone who has driven extensively throughout the United Kingdom as well as all over the European continent, I am very familiar with the concept of roundabouts and am actually a big fan of them. In England I encountered a number of roundabouts that involved as many as eight roads coming together. It took a day or two to learn how to navigate these properly, but once I did I found they actually promoted traffic flow.

Based on this experience, I approached assistant city manager James Earp during a sparsely attended traffic seminar late last year and asked him if anyone had ever considered a roundabout at Kohlers and the parkway. I did not know at the time he was the area’s foremost advocate of roundabouts. He greeted my suggestion with devotion bordering on adoration and within a few days had provided me all kinds of information on roundabouts, which I eventually plowed through.

About six months ago, I was enjoying a late afternoon respite in the backyard of a prominent Kyle citizen who also happened to be a traffic manager and someone who has supervised his fair share of roundabout installations. I mentioned the idea of a roundabout at Kohlers and the parkway and he told me a roundabout there was impossible simply because of the 60 mile an hour speed limit on the parkway. That was the first time I had heard that, so I began bugging traffic and civil engineers throughout the state of Texas — more than 50 of them, as it turned out — and all but one of them told me the same thing: You can’t install a roundabout in a road where the speed limit is greater than 55 miles an hour and the overwhelming majority told me the maximum speed limit for a road with a roundabout is 45 miles an hour. The one who said something different said, yes, a roundabout could be placed at that intersection but it would have to be at least a mile in diameter. I knew that was never going to happen.

Which led me to the conclusion that I was wrong about my original advocacy of that roundabout and I am here admitting I was wrong.

Hey, I’m still a big fan of roundabouts. But I also have been around long enough that a solution to one traffic situation might not work in all traffic situations, just like a band-aid is not going to stop the bleeding of all wounds. And when those who make their living solving these types of problems all tell me the same thing, I’m going to have to admit I was wrong in my original beliefs.

So, the direct answer to the honorable council member is "No, I’m not a traffic engineer, but, unlike too many of our elected officials in Kyle, I do have an open mind which makes me willing and capable of changing my opinion when all the experts tell me my original opinion was wrong."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

City wants to regulate where you park your pickup

Is this a public safety problem?

The City Council is scheduled to introduce tonight and perhaps even debate a proposed ordinance to prohibit the parking of certain vehicles on residential city streets, including a pickup truck with a compartment in the bed holding tools . The city claims the ordinance is "necessary to maintain the safety, governance and good order of the city." because, as well all know, Bloods, Crips and members of Mexican cartels may very well be hiding out along with those tools in the pickup truck.

Yes, this is much more of decorative issue than it is a public safety issue — there are those who think it just doesn’t look good to have a camper parked on subdivision streets. However, they will find a way to make it a public safety issue by saying those vehicles restrict the view of motorists from seeing what might be parked directly behind that camper and we all know how important than can be.

Could this be barred from parking?
The ordinance could be interpreted to prohibit the parking of Jeep Wranglers, a popular vehicle for using off highway, from city streets as well as pickups. Even though I seriously doubt the local gendarmes are going to tow away a Jeep Wrangler parked along a residential curb, someone might be able to argue if Jeep Wranglers are excused, then the entire ordinance is faulty. But that’s something for a shrewd attorney and the courts to haggle over if and when the proposed ordinance is actually passed.

The proposed ordinance, sought by council member Damon Fogley, states "no person shall park or leave standing any trailers, utility trailers, recreational vehicles, campers, boats, watercraft, snowmobiles, off highway vehicles (OHVs), recreational vehicles, structures, equipment, or apparatuses on a city street, road or public right-of-way within a residential district in the city." It’s that "apparatuses" bit that causes me some concern. The ordinance defines "Apparatus" as "a group or combination of instruments, machinery, tools, materials, etc." What in heaven’s name does that mean? That’s why I’m saying a pickup truck used by most contractors could be among the vehicles prohibited.

The ordinance also states "This does not apply to trash, recycling, compost receptacles used or regulated by the City or other contracted disposal service when placed overnight," as if the city had been plagued by hundreds of garbage trucks parked on residential streets of late.

There is a public hearing attached to this agenda item so if you feel strongly about it one way or another, tonight at City Hall would be the best time to state your case.