The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Friday, October 30, 2015

City Charter changes to be discussed Wednesday

If you can only attend one City Council meeting next week, it should be the City Council meeting directly following the City Council meeting which will take place on a day that’s different from the day on which the City Council meeting usually takes place. If you want to take a few seconds to read that preceding sentence once again, go right ahead. It may make more sense the second time around.

Here’s the deal. The City Council will be meeting on Wednesday next week, not on its usual Tuesday timeslot. The reason for this is because the election is Tuesday. The meeting appears on the surface to be a rather routine affair — a quick perusal of the agenda reveals nothing that leaps out as something that could ruffle any feathers. Not only that, the agenda does not include an executive session which guarantees this meeting will be, at the very least, two hours shorter than a normal City Council confab.

But, immediately after this City Council meeting adjourns, the boys and girls on the council will all get back together in a session to go over the recommendations made by the Charter Review Commission. And this is the important meeting of the night. I wish I could give you a definite time when this meeting will commence so you can plan your schedule. But, regardless, this is as important a meeting as the council will have all year because it has to do with the constitution that provides the guiding principles under which this city government operates. And right before they get into this discussion, there will be a citizen comment period during which any concerned citizen can step to the podium and tell their representatives what they think about the changes proposed to the City Charter. And, if you want to know what those changes are, you can get a good idea right here. Just scroll down past the meeting agenda pages as well as a couple of meaningless pages that follow the agenda until you see the words "Part 1–Charter." You’ll see some typographical corrections in red ink, but the changes you need to be aware of will all be in blue ink. So continue to scroll through the document until you see blue ink and then read, review and form your opinions on those recommendations. Then show up to City Hall Wednesday night and let the powers-that-be know how you feel about them.

I’ll tell you in advance what I think about them:

I have absolutely no problem in further delineating reasons a council member can removed from office. Basically what this change means that a council member could be removed from office if he or she is involved in a misdemeanor sex crime such as incest, unlawful sexual contact, internet sexual exploitation, etc.

The next one, however, I have a problem with because it appears, at least on the surface, to be a change that allows council members to give themselves a raise in salary any time they feel like it. I would have liked it more if the change had added some prohibitions that would have denied those salary increases to any person who was a member of the council that voted for the increase — that all raises would apply to future council members. And one could argue that fix could be made in the respective ordinances, but then they can just as easily be left out of the ordinances. I am convinced the charter should set the salary of the members of the council. Now, should that salary be greater than the current $1,200 a year? Possibly. But I know if this change goes through I will be voting against it when it comes on the ballot in May.

I do like the changes that give all council members, not just the mayor, the authority to appoint members to boards and commissions.

I also favor the deletion in Section 4.03 (a) that comes across as an article inserted to protect one former city finance director and is no longer applicable. The City Manager hires the staff and he should have the absolute authority to dismiss them as well.

Which brings us to Section 4.05, which, had it been in effect earlier, would have prohibited Mayor Todd Webster’s complete misinterpretation of the charter earlier this year when he decided he wanted to block certain council members’ access to the city manager. It will be interesting to see which side of this change he comes down on this time around.

The change to Section 4.06 c basically requires all proposed ordinances to have two readings before going into effect. The current charter has the silly rule that says if an ordinance passes 7-0 it doesn’t need a second reading.

Section 5.11 required city council runoff elections to be held on third Saturday following the General Election. This proposed new language eliminates that provision and has the effect of lengthening the time between the General Election and any runoff election. I don’t like it the change that much, but unlike the council pay item I mentioned above and a city attorney change I’ll discuss next, this is not a deal breaker for me.

The Charter Review Commission has proposed changing Section 7.10 to make the city attorney report to the city manager. This is just so wrong for so many reasons. For one, the city attorney is just that – the city’s attorney and not the city manager’s attorney and that’s not an insignificant difference. Second, the city council, not the city manager, appoints the city attorney. I’m not arguing the city attorney should follow the dictates of the council either. He or she must only adhere to the canons of law. His or her responsibility is to follow the law and advise the city how to act in a lawful manner and not be subject to the whims of a city manager who could direct the city attorney to act in a way that could be viewed as in the best interests of the city manager, but not in the best interests of the citizens, the taxpayers of Kyle. In fact, I’m not convinced this change is even legal.

I really like the changes recommended to Section 8.11, which gives voters more of a voice in deciding how and when the city will increase its debt and places certain limitations on that debt. Here’s an example of how this would work. According to the 2015-16 Kyle budget, the city expects to take in a combined $17,777,951 in property and sales tax revenue during the fiscal year. No bonds or certificates of obligation could be issued that totaled more than 10 percent of that figure, approximately $1.7 million, without voter approval. It also says the city cannot offer 20 year bonds to pay for something like a police vehicle that will not be running anywhere close to 20 years from the date it is purchased.

The last major change requires that all council meetings, whether they be regular agenda meetings, workshops, whatever, as well as all meetings of city boards and commissions not only comply with the state’s Open Meetings Act but they also offer an opportunity for public comment. This is an attempt to make city government more transparent and more responsive to the people and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

OK, that’s my opinion. But you have just as much right to express yours and the time and place to do that will be at the start of the City Council meeting directly following the City Council meeting which will take place on a day that’s different from the day on which the City Council meeting usually takes place.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fixing this Comprehensive Plan mess

You’re sitting at home one day and your friend comes up pushing this beat-up jalopy and tells you "I need you to fix my car." You look at him somewhat bewildered and reply "Hey, I’m not a mechanic. I don’t know the first thing about car repairs." And your friend replies: "Hey, you drive a car, don’t you." And as he walks away he looks over his shoulder and tells you "By the way, I have absolutely no money to pay for parts."

For the last three months, on the fourth Tuesday of these months, I have followed the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission as they leave the City Council chambers following their regularly scheduled meeting and trudge to a conference room on the second floor of City Hall to try and figure out what to do about fixing their friend’s car the city’s Comprehensive Plan — the city’s blueprint for what it wants to be when it grows up. Much like the friend with the jalopy, the city just dumped the Comprehensive Plan on the commissioners and said "fix it" and then added "We don’t have any money to pay for the expert consultants and demographers we know you need to do this the right way." And so, on the fourth Tuesday of these last three months the commissioners have sat around this conference table getting absolutely nothing accomplished. And that’s not their fault. P&Z chair Michael Rubsam and his second-in-command Mike Wilson have done an admirable job as far as it goes, but they are the leaders of the troops in the trenches. There has been a total lack of leadership, a total lack of direction from the war room. These commissioners have been told to not only win the war but come up with their own strategies for accomplishing the victory without the aid of any intel. What a mess!

What P&Z has ultimately decided is that, given the conditions, there is no way , with the resources (or lack of resources) they have, they can make any qualitative changes to the Comprehensive Plan. What they plan to do, as far as I can tell, is to, in effect, take a yellow highlighter and mark those sections of the plan that the commissioners believe need to be changed in some way, shape or form.

But there’s a problem with this. None of the commissioners know where to get their hands on an up-to-date Comprehensive Plan to highlight. You go searching for a Comprehensive Plan on the city’s website and, if you’re lucky, you’re likely to stumble across this and this is an absolute disaster. It’s laughable. To take just one example go to page 132 on which the characteristics of a Riparian District are described: "The Riparian Districts are characterized by the primary waterways of Kyle and surrounding flood plains, seeking to protect them from encroaching development." Then you go to the next page that contains a table illustrating the "existing zoning categories and their applicability to the Riparian District." And, according to this table, an Urban Estate District is recommended zoning there. Now, I’m not sure what an Urban Estate District is (I picture this), but it doesn’t sound like something you want in an area you are seeking to protect from encroaching development.

But there’s more. On Page 136 you’ll see a description of the Old Town District complete with a picture of that block of Center Street that includes the Texas Pie Company. And on the following page, you’ll find a table that tells you Retail/Service zoning is not recommended with the Old Town District. WHAT????

Same thing on Page 160, the one that talks about something called a Super Regional Node. This page features a pretty picture of an urbanized shopping area that includes a Dick’s Sportings Goods store as well as a Barnes & Noble bookstore. And again, the accompanying table says Retail/Service zoning is not recommended in the Super Regional Node. ARE YOU FREAKING’ KIDDING ME????

I mentioned these discrepancies to someone who worked on a long range planning committee assigned to make fixes to the Comprehensive Plan and she told me not to worry, all those glaring errors have been fixed. But where are the fixes? The P&Z commissioners admitted at their most recent meeting Tuesday night they had no idea where they were. Their staff liaison, Community Development Director Howard Koontz basically said "Don’t ask me. I just got here." Even the person who worked on the long range planning committee hasn’t a clue.

Here’s the ultimate kick in the head, however. At this most recent get-together, the P&Z commissioners decided they would host at least three public sessions to seek community input into what sections of the Comprehensive Plan the citizens feel should be changed. But how in heaven’s name are citizens going to have any frame of reference if they don’t have at their disposal the actual document that needs to be changed? Plus, in line with P&Z’s modus operandi, the citizens are only going to be asked what sections need to be changed, not what the specific changes should be and that’s not going to be a concept that can be easily grasped in a public meeting.

There’s a lot of blame for this complete lack of leadership to pass around. Some does belong to the City Council which decided to spend enough money this fiscal year to guarantee Kyle homeowners had the highest property tax in all of Hays County, but never thought of setting aside a single penny for long-range city planning. But the lion’s share of the blame lies with the city staff.

Here’s what should have happened. City Manager Scott Sellers should have instructed Koontz and perhaps the city’s economic development director to spend the next year meeting with small groups of community influentials to seek their input on how they want the city to look, say, a quarter of a century from now. These meetings should be held on both a macro and a micro level. For instance, get together with Kyle Chamber CEO Julie Snyder and the chamber’s officers and board of directors to talk about the city as a whole. Then meet separately with smaller groups to talk about their neighborhoods of influence – downtown merchants and business owners, the managers of all the stores in the H-E-B center and another meeting with the managers of the stores in the center cross Kyle Parkway. Meet with all the indvidual homeowner associations one at a time. Meet with the staff, faculty and students at the Kyle ACC campus. Go to PTA meetings. There are dozens and dozens of small groups like this to meet with and to solicit information about what they would like to see in their specific areas. Prepare large maps of each group’s "neighborhood" and bring Monopoly toys — blocks representing big box or small box retail, office buildings (high and midrise), mixed-use projects, single and multi-family residents, manufacturing facilities, schools, parks, restaurants, etc. — and let each group place the boxes exactly where they would want them to be in their neighborhoods. And most important of all, go out to meet with them at a location convenient to them; don’t ask them to come to you.

Based on all this input, the city staff could draft a detailed plan that could be presented to Planning & Zoning Commissioners for their input, revisions, what-have-you. They would also host public meetings to solicit additional community input on that specific plan.

It’s probably too late in the process to do anything like that now, even if the city wanted to, which, truth be told, I doubt they do.

I do wish, however, someone could step forward and do something to give these struggling commissioners some sense of direction.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where Kyle stands with bus service options

Last week I wrote about the dissatisfaction certain Kyle City Council members had with CARTS service. It seems — horror of horrors — that some Kyle residents were using CARTS to shop in San Marcos and not in Kyle. Funny thing about that. The mission statement of CARTS is to provide transportation from one rural community to another rural community or to San Marcos. It is not designed to provide in-town service. Second funny thing about that. Kyle is no longer considered a rural community anyway so the city no longer has any direct service with CARTS. Instead, like Georgetown, Kyle has had a contract with Austin’s transit provider, Capital Metro, which dispatches a CARTS vehicle for Kyle residents on an as-requested basis. Following this so far?

So I went to Capital Metro and asked officials there if any other cities were upset with this service or was Kyle the only one. According to Michelle Meaux, Capital Metro’s Regional Coordination Planner, Georgetown is the only other city with this type of service and not only is Georgetown not considering ending the service, it is so happy with it it is extending its contract with Capital Metro. So there’s that. But then Georgetown is a lot more developed with a far more diverse economy than Kyle and its government thinks more like a metropolitan community than a small town. So there’s that as well. Here is the complete statement I received from Ms. Meaux:

"The 2010 Census designated the city of Kyle as part of the Austin Urbanized Area. Since Kyle is in the urbanized area, the city cannot get service directly from CARTS, as CARTS is a provider of transit in the rural area. However, since January 2015, the city of Kyle has received transit service from CARTS through an agreement between the city, Capital Metro, and CARTS.

"CARTS provides a type of transit service called demand response service in Kyle. Customers call ahead to the CARTS customers service center and reserve trips. CARTS also provides this service (also through formal agreements with the city and Capital Metro) in Georgetown. The city of Georgetown recently extended their agreement for service for another year. Capital Metro and the city of Georgetown also just completed a Transit Development Plan that recommends transitioning from demand response service to fixed-route service and we are working with Georgetown's city council on approval of that plan. Capital Metro is also currently working with the cities of Buda and Hutto on Transit Development Plans. Both cities currently do not have Capital Metro service, but the plans will provide a pathway for obtaining service.

"Based on average ridership and hours of service from January 2015 through July 2015, I calculate that the city paid approximately $16.61 per trip. In some cases, you may find that some citizens use the Kyle transit service to access shopping, medical and nutrition centers in San Marcos. Under the Fiscal Year 2015 agreement, there were no restrictions on where customers could go. Now that Kyle has a Walmart and more shopping choices, we were working with city staff to include language to better define their service area in the Fiscal Year 2016 agreement. Over the summer, Capital Metro worked with city staff on an agreement for service and to begin a Transit Development Plan. This plan would have analyzed the current service and made adjustments to the service if needed, along with making recommendations for future service. However, the city of Kyle notified Capital Metro that city council voted on September 1 to end transit service and asked for the current contract to be extended to December 31, 2015. The extension was approved by the Capital Metro Board on September 28, 2015.

"The option to work with Capital Metro on a Transit Plan is still available to the city and we hope to work with the city of Kyle again on future projects."

So that’s it. The city has decided to restrict transit options for its residents.

P&Z okays restaurant design (barely)

Planning and Zoning Commissioners give the nod to a restaurant that looks like this
at Kyle Parkway and I-35
Some commissioners wanted it to look more like this

Apparently Kyle likes its shopping centers looking like well ordered college campuses — a place where every building has basically the same design element even if it doesn’t look specifically like a clone of the building adjacent to it. If something like a Joe’s Crab Shack wanted to locate a facility here, the Kyle movers and shakers would probably insist it be stuck somewhere all by its lonesome, preferably hidden in a grove of trees. Individuality is frowned upon.

Which is why the Caribbean- themed chicken joint Pollo Tropical got some pushback this evening from the Planning & Zoning Commission. Its corporate owners want to erect two fast food restaurants — a Pollo Tropical right at the northeast corner of Kyle Parkway and I-35 and a Taco Cabana to its north. Kyle’s standards apparently require some form of masonry, preferably brick, to extend at least as high as the doorways on buildings at that location. And that’s not Pollo Tropical’s style — or "brand," as the restaurant’s officials called it. They were willing to accommodate Kyle’s wishes up to a point, but a comparatively low point, say a foot or so above the ground. Commissioner Mike Wilson wanted more of an accommodation and when chair Michael Rubsam moved to approve the amendment as stated, Wilson attempted to amend it to increase the amount of masonry on the building. Rubsam was not willing to accept the amendment, so the original question was put to a vote and it passed 3-2 with commissioners Dex Ellison and Lori Huey siding with Rubsam and Timothy Kay joining Wilson in voting against. (Irene Melendez and Michelle Christie did not attend tonight’s meeting).

I’ve collaborated with enough advertising firms and public relations agencies to know they take this "brand" stuff seriously — like the difference between life and death. If Wilson had succeeded with his amendment, I’m betting the Fiesta Restaurant Group, the outfit that owns both Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana, would have just walked away from Kyle and found some other city to locate their restaurants. These companies take a lot of time, conduct a lot of research, host a lot of focus groups and, most important of all, spend a whole lot of money to come up with their distinctive look or "brand" for these restaurants and they are not about to let a bunch of local yokels make any significant alterations to that brand.

So now the issue moves to the City Council where the question will not be what do council members want the restaurants to look like — do they want them to conform to other buildings in that quadrant. The question will be a simpler than that. It will be whether they want a Pollo Tropical and a Taco Cabana on that corner or not.

P&Z commissioners also approved lifting the maximum parking requirement for both restaurants. Commissioner Kay was the sole vote against Pollo Tropical’s parking request. He argued the city must have had some reason for setting these requirements.

Actually, the opposite is true. These days, most forward looking city planners are arguing to do away with minimum parking requirements. In fact, there’s a grass roots movement called #blackfridayparking. Folks from all over North America are planning on taking pictures of parking lots in their communities and uploading them to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. Part of this group’s plan is to highlight those cities that have eliminated or at least lowered minimum parking requirements.

One of these cities is Fayetteville, Ark., and you can read all about its reasons for doing that here.

Kay joined the other four in not objecting to Taco Cabana’s similar parking request. He told me after the meeting he voted for the second parking request after voting against the first one simply because he was tired of beating his head against a brick stucco wall.

(Note: This article took considerably longer to write and edit than it should, but that’s because it was all done during commercial breaks in the World Series.)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Two more fast food restaurants on the Kyle horizon

It appears Kyle will be adding a pair of fast food restaurants — a Taco Cabana and a Pollo Tropical — on the northeast corner of I-35 and Kyle Parkway. The Planning and Zoning Commission will be considering parking variances for both restaurants at its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall.

I have never eaten at a Taco Cabana — it’s a personal thing, I’m not that big a fan of fast food — but I am certainly familiar with the outfit. It has always come across to me as a step up from Taco Bell, a fast food joint serving mediocre Americanized Mexican food where patrons might be more inclined to eat inside the restaurant than to simply pickup something from the drive-through window, as is the case with Taco Bell.

I was not that familiar, however, with Pollo Tropical. Begun in Miami as a joint serving chicken with a citrus marinade, it has expanded somewhat to include pork and beef entries as well. In Texas, Pollo Tropicals are primarily located in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Of course, they are located all over Florida and as well as in Georgia and Tennessee, but more interestingly they have a host of outlets in Puerto Rico, Central America and Venezuela.

This is directly from a Pollo Tropical news release announcing the opening of restaurants in Dallas and San Antonio:

"Pollo Tropical’s menu centers on its signature flame-grilled chicken and also includes Mojo Roast Pork, Grilled Tropical Wings and made-from-scratch sides like rice, beans, Caribbean corn souffle and balsamic tomatoes. The Tropical Lite menu offers tasty, lighter options that range from 340 to 510 calories and are built around the core Caribbean flavors of the Pollo Tropical menu. At Pollo Tropical, savory island spices, herbs and citrus juices are blended into rubs and marinades that enhance the flavors of its fresh dishes. The famous Saucing Island® brings on the flavor — and a little heat — with 10 signature sauces including Curry Mustard, Guava BBQ, Pineapple Rum, Cilantro Garlic and Spicy Poyo-Poyo. To complement its menu, Pollo Tropical also offers a variety of island-inspired beverages, ranging from Caribbean beers to coconut water."

The restaurant has hired calypso bands to play at its grand openings, which also feature charity raffles and other goodies. No word yet on when either restaurant plans to open in Kyle.

Both the Pollo Tropical and the Taco Cabana are seeking more parking spaces than the city requires and the city’s staff is recommending that both variances be approved.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Here’s where we are on the road bond projects

City Engineer Leon Barba, at the request of council member Daphne Tenorio, provided a status report on the various road bond projects at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Here is Barba’s report:

"Let me start off with the Marketplace project. That’s from City Lights to Burleson Road, about three-quarters of a mile. Construction is underway. Capital Excavation is our contractor on that project. They are working on earthwork utilities and they’ve even started on the bridge piers for the two bridges we have on that project. As of Oct. 8 when they submitted their first request for payment, 13 percent of the project has been complete. They’ve only used 6.5 percent of their construction time, so we’re ahead of schedule. There’s a couple of items that we’re still working with, issues we have on the project. We’re working on some slope easements. We’re negotiating with the developer, but we still need quite a bit more right-of-way. And there’s some utilities we’re still trying to get moved, so we’re trying to get those moved as quickly as we can.

"Goforth from I-35 frontage to Bunton Creek Road: That’s 1.2 miles. Plans are approximately 99 percent complete. When you get a set of plans from the engineers, what you do is get not only the plans that you build the structure off of, the roads off of, but you also get a project manual that goes along with that. That project manual has your contract documents and your specifications to build the project. As of right now we have the plans but we don’t have the project manual so right now we are considering that project about 99 percent complete as far as the design goes. There’s two parcels pending. We need one for drainage and we’re expecting to close that one Nov. 6. We have another property we’re looking at putting a water line on and we’re still trying to determine how much we’re going to need on that property. So those are the only two properties we need work on.

"Let me give you an update on the utility providers that are working on the relocations. PEC has done their plans. Time Warner has completed their relocation plans. Verizon has their relocation plans complete, they’ve got their material ordered and they’re already drawing up their contract. Texas Gas has completed their relocation plans and they plan to be complete by December of this year. Center Point plans to be complete by mid-November. We hope to begin construction in March, 2016. Right now we’re working with consultants to pin an exact date down. Expected construction time is 10 months.

"I broke out the Goforth Road extension project. That’s the one that goes from Bunton Creek to Kyle Parkway — that’s about .2 of a mile. Plans are again about 99 percent complete, and we’re waiting on the project manual for that project. There’s two landowners involved, but we have not made an offer yet or asked them to donate or let us know what they want for the property. We’re still holding off on that. We’re estimating construction time on this project at five months, but if we include it with the Goforth project it might add a month to that.

"On the Bunton Creek Road project — from I-35 to Lehman Road — the plans again are 99 percent complete. We expect to get the project manual and all plan sheets submitted on Oct. 30 of this year. There are two parcels pending on Bunton Creek Road. One is in the process of being replatted and the second one is in the closing process, so we’re real close, literally. Utility providers are working on that plan also. The earliest estimated date for road construction is August of 2016. We want to give the Goforth project time to get some drainage in so it can tie into it. And that time line is 12 months.

"Burleson Street, from Miller Street back to the I-35 frontage road, is about 1.3 miles. The plans are about 90 percent complete. They were submitted today (Tuesday). We had a little bit of a delay in getting those plans because we’re still negotiating with St. Anthony on trying to get some approvals from them to do some work on a retention pond. So we’ve already met with them and talked to them about it. We’ve already begun the right-of-way process. Unfortunately we thought we were going to have to get six parcels; it’s now up to 12. So that’s another change of our plans. We estimate we are going to start that project in November of 2016 and we’re expecting that project to take about 18 months but that’s going to be because of the railroad work that needs to be done there.

"On the Lehman Road project — this is 150 to Bunton Creek Road, 1.6 miles — the plans are 90 percent complete. They’re supposed to be submitted in mid-November. There are a couple of properties we’re having some issues with. One we’re trying to identify who the property owner is and another one we’re having some problems because it is so low that when we build the road up we’re going to have a problem with access to that property. We’re still trying to figure that out — how we’re going to provide access to that property. As far as the right-of-way acquisition process, we’re about 20 percent complete and we’re going to have to buy 13 parcels. We estimate that construction to start in March of 2017 and the construction time frame is 15 months."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mayor pro tem wants to eliminate shoppers’ freedom of choice

Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson threw a hissy-fit last night over the fact that someone in Kyle has the temerity to shop at the H-E-B and the Wal-Mart in San Marcos instead of the ones here. Now there’s good reasons to encourage people to spend sales tax money here and not in another city. I remember when I was shopping for new furniture while I lived in Dallas and I absolutely rejected my then-girlfriend’s pleas to check out furniture stores in the suburbs. I wasn’t about to send sales tax revenue to another city, especially when I was an employee of the City of Dallas. But that was my choice.

Wilson, on the other hand, wants to actually deny freedom of choice to this particular unnamed Kyle resident by stripping this person of the transportation he or she uses to shop in San Marcos. Wilson is siding with council member Damon Fogley (who had the audacity, during the discussion of this subject, to call himself a "fiscal conservative" even though he voted to subject Kyle property owners to the highest taxes in Hays County. "Just pay to attention to what I say," he seemed to say, "and ignore everything I do.") on the notion to end the city’s subsidy to the Demand Response transportation service provided by Capital Area Rural Transportation Service (CARTS).

At Fogley’s behest, Kyle Chief of Staff Jerry Hendrix gave a presentation to the City Council last night that suggests the city isn’t getting the return on its investment when it comes to CARTS. I would guess every city in the nine-county area served by CARTS would say the same thing, but Kyle is the only one of them preparing to take the service away. The problem with Hendrix’s presentation was that it was strictly about numbers and had nothing to do with humanity. I guess to Kyle city officials, the people who live here are simply another commodity to be considered collectively: "Here in Kyle we have stores and houses and sewers and people and roads and manholes and apartments and a whole lot of other things," without ever stopping to contemplate the individuality of those "people."

To put it bluntly, this action last night displayed a total lack of empathy on the part of Kyle government officials towards the citizens it is supposed to be serving as well as an ignorance of the responsibilities of government. Let me explain: As far as I know, no one sought this shopper’s input into why he or she prefers to shop at the stores in San Marcos. If they did, they certainly didn’t share it last night. But personal reasons don’t matter to Wilson or Fogley: "You either voluntarily do all your shopping in Kyle or we will take steps to force you to shop within the city limits. We are the dictatorial leaders of Kyle and we can do that." Unfortunately this type of George Orwellian thinking is running rampant these days, which is why we are seeing governments denying voting rights to those who don’t agree with them or eliminating health care options for poor women and minorities.

One of my two closest living friends, someone who was a principle at my wedding and who was my son’s godfather, died last week and Friday I, together with my son and granddaughter, drove to Dallas to participate in his funeral services. The day before I decided to purchase a new solid black tie to wear so I hopped in the car and drove over to Kohl’s on Kyle Parkway. I can’t recall when I ever been subjected to as terrible customer service as I received at that store. I finally left without ever purchasing the tie, promising myself I would never shop in that store again. I walked down the way to the Ross store where I received satisfactory customer service and actually purchased the tie at one-third the price than I would have paid at Kohl’s.

There may be times in the future when I might want to shop at Kohl’s, but I promise you when that time comes I will be going to a Kohl’s in Austin or San Marcos and not the one here in Kyle and I don’t think big, bad government has any right to tell me otherwise. Unfortunately, Wilson and Fogley don’t agree with this idea of freedom of choice and I’m afraid a majority of the council may agree with them as well.

I've heard rumors that H-E-B intends to build a Central Market at or near the intersection of highways 1626 and 967 in Buda. I love me some Central Market. If these rumors are true, there's an excellent chance the bakery there will provide Challah, something the Kyle H-E-B has no intention of selling. And anyone who knows anything about proper food preparation knows that Challah is a necessary ingredient in the preparation of quality French Toast. Regardless, if a Central Market does wind up there, I'll be spending more of my grocery dollars in Buda and less in Kyle. It's my choice and regardless of how Wilson and Fogley want to deny me my freedoms, I'm going to exercise my freedom of choice.

I only hope that other nameless shopper is afforded the same rights.

Charity pancake breakfast set for Saturday

The National Weather Service is predicting heavy rains will be hitting our area later this week, possibly in amounts that could produce flooding in some areas. Here’s hoping the heaviest moisture falls east of I-35 or that it all ends (or at least takes a break) by Saturday morning because that’s when the Kyle Police Employee Association is holding its third annual charitable Pancake Breakfast between 7 and 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church, 400 W. Center St. The all-you-can-eat breakfast is $6 for adults and $3 for children and that includes sausage and drinks along with the flapjacks.

"The money raised for this is going to the Blue Santa Program," Kyle Police Officer James Plant of the association told the City Council last night. "I don’t know how many years we’ve been doing the Blue Santa project but we’re up to about 300 kids — providing toys and bicycles for 300 kids in Kyle. And to do that we need some type of funding so we hold different types of fundraisers throughout the year for the program.

"We’d love to have you guys attend and take your friends and family and neighbors and come out for some good pancakes," Plant continued. "We make those little cartoon pancakes. We can do Mickey Mouse. We can do anything you really want. We have some good artists."

Invitation to join clear air coalition falls on deaf ears because city leaders want to destroy air quality here

I had a fascinating conversation last night in the City Hall lobby with Fred Blood, air quality specialist for the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG). Moments before our conversation, Flood had told the Kyle City Council that the 10-county area served by CAPCOG had barely escaped being labeled by the EPA a non-attainment area. According to Flood, the EPA tightened the National Ambient Air Quality Standards from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. Kyle came in at 68 ppb., which Flood said, was "the good news."

"The bad news is that this is based on a three-year average and if it wasn’t for a cool, wet summer we had in 2014 we would be in non-attainment," Flood told the council. "As a matter of fact, one of the monitors we’re running actually shows us to be in non-attainment. This means we’re very close to the edge, we’re going to need to do everything we can to stay below that average."

Flood said a non-attainment designation would cost the area $1 billion a year "as an economic drain." He told the council a group of cities within CAPCOG — in fact, all home-rule cities, except three, within the 10 counties — have formed a Clean Air Coalition to develop strategies to reduce ozone pollution. Kyle is the largest of the three cities (the others are Manor and Lago Vista) that are not members of the coalition and Flood, as he did on a previous visit to the Council, asked city leaders to become part of the group.

That’s the reason I had the conversation with him just outside the council chambers. I asked him if he had received any feedback from Kyle officials as to why they were hesitant about joining the Clean Air Coalition. He told me he had not. I then asked him if he had heard about plans to build a Godzilla truck stop in Kyle at I-35 and Yarrington, a project Flood acknowledged would catapult Kyle and the rest of Hays County into non-attainment status and effectively put the brakes on just about all business growth in the area. He said he had not heard about it, but plans such as those would be a reason for Kyle’s reluctance to join the Clean Air Coalition. It would be viewed as hypocritical, he told me, for the city to pay lip service to protecting air quality when they were determined to destroy it.

But he went on to say that because the area is on the non-attainment borderline, "the feds would probably step in and forbid the construction of a project such as this." He also told me San Antonio is facing the very real possibility of being declared not in attainment and because of the cement operations here the EPA may declare Kyle a contributor to San Antonio’s air problems and declare Kyle as non-attainment along with the Alamo City. If that happened, he told me, it would automatically prohibit the construction of anything resembling a major truck stop in this area because idling diesel engines are perhaps the largest producers of ozone.

In addition to ignoring Flood’s pleas to join CAPCOG’s Clean Air Coalition, the council last night:
  • Heard about a charity pancake breakfast scheduled for Saturday (I will write more about this later).
  • Appointed three persons — Andrea Cunningham, Elizabeth Guidry and Margaret A. Somma — to fill vacancies on the Ethics Commission.
  • Unanimously, followed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s recommendations on three zoning issues, including rezoning 16.24 acres on I-35 that doesn’t even have wastewater service and won’t have it for another two years, from Agriculture to Retail Services.
  • Completely disregarded its own Comprehensive Plan by deciding it wanted to stick a couple of warehouses on property that’s otherwise going to be used for residences near the corner of Lehman and Ranch Road 150.
  • Tentatively awarded a franchise to Buda Taxi Service to "provide transportation services" in Kyle. Final approval will depend on additions to the franchise agreement suggested by Council Member Daphne Tenorio designed to provide protections for patrons using the taxi service. She said all the protections she is asking for are included in franchise agreements negotiated by the city of San Marcos.
  • Adopted the Economic Development Strategic Plan recently completed by The Natelson Dale Group, a plan, if precedent is any indication, the city will also completely ignore.
  • Was told a joint meeting with the Charter Review Commission concerning its recommendations will take place immediately after the council’s regularly scheduled session Wednesday, Nov. 4 (a session moved back a day because that Tuesday is election day).
  • Decided freedom of choice is no longer a viable option for some Kyle residents by planning to strip transportation options from many of them. (I will also write more about this later.)
  • Received an update on the status of the road bond projects. (Again, expect to read the details of that report on this journal sometime today or tomorrow.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kyle becomes stronger if we address traffic the way we address flooding

I understand there’s another one of those CAMPO meetings coming up to look at "long-range" solutions to the area’s transportation issues, which, of course, means building more roads, a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. I wish I could take credit for this line, but I can’t (still, that’s not going to keep me from appropriating it): "Solving traffic problems by adding more roads is like solving obesity by buying a larger pair of pants."

There’s going to be a conference this week in Austin on streets and one of the speakers at that conference is Charles Marohn, a professional engineer and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is the author of an insightful book Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Vol. 1), which should be must-reading for any municipal development/planning official. By the time I learned of his appearance in Austin, tickets to his presentation were sold out. Kyle’s Community Development Director Howard J. Koontz is attending the conference and I’m hoping he secured a ticket to see and hear Marohn.

I ran across this article today authored by Marohn that echoes my feelings about transportation plans in general and road construction in particular. It suggests a blueprint I wish our city leaders would follow:

"Between our places — on our roads — congestion signals many things but, for me anyway, it primarily indicates America's cultural — and the engineering profession's technical — misunderstanding of the systems we have built.

Consider the hierarchical road network. It's so commonplace today that we rarely stop to question it. Small, local streets empty into collector streets. Those collectors empty into arterials. The arterials empty into major arterials which eventually end up pouring into our highway systems. Small to big; it's the way things are done

Stop a moment to examine a watershed. There you have ditches that flow into small creeks. Those creeks flow into larger brooks and streams. In turn these flow into larger rivers and, ultimately, these systems come together to form some of the world's major waterways.

We all intuitively understand that, when we experience rain or snow melt on the edges of a watershed, there is a compounding effect that occurs. We've become fairly competent at realizing that, by the time all this rain comes together, it very often produces a flood.

We've so grasped this concept that we've taken steps to address the problem at the source. We don't allow people to fill their wetlands. We require developers to retain their runoff on site. We build retention systems to hold back runoff and feed stormwater into the natural systems more slowly so flooding does not occur. We take these steps and others at the source to mitigate the cumulative, negative impacts of stormwater runoff. Namely: flooding.

Instead of a river network, examine a similar system of roadways during a typical commute. Here we have rain of a different sort: the automobiles that emanate forth from the development we induce, subsidize and cheer for out on the periphery of our cities.

Why are we so shocked when this produces a flood?


If we were going to design a system to generate the maximum amount of congestion each day, this is exactly how it would be done. This is why all American cities — big, small and in between — experience some level of congestion during commutes. We take whatever cars we have and funnel them into the same place at the same time. We manufacture a flood.

I've written a short eBook describing the ways I would go about using price signals to make some rational choices about our transportation investments, but I'm going to simplify by sticking with the river analogy. When we want to decrease flooding in a watershed, we go to the source. We try to retain that water, to absorb it as near to where it originates as possible. We understand this is way cheaper and vastly more effective than building massive infrastructure systems to handle the runoff once it is sent downstream.

For automobile flooding (congestion), the only way to deal with it and still have a successful economy is to address it at the source. We need to absorb those trips locally before they become a flood. Instead of building lanes, we need to be building corner stores. We need local economic ecosystems that create jobs, opportunity and destinations for people as an alternative to those they can only get to by driving.

For nearly seven decades, our national transportation obsession has been about maximizing the amount that you can drive. We now need to focus on minimizing the amount you are forced to drive. If we develop a system that responds to congestion by creating local options, we will not only waste less money on transportation projects that accomplish little, but we will be strengthening the finances of our cities. We can spend way less and get back way more."

It makes sense. Now all we need here in Kyle are officials with that same kind of forward thinking.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The sad, tragic tale of a spineless lackey

So much for independence.

Two weeks ago, District 5 City Councilman Damon Fogley actually stood up to Mayor Todd Webster and voted against rezoning a small parcel of land located near the corner of Ranch Road 150 and Lehman Road from multi-family to warehouse. The main argument against this rezoning is that it ran contrary to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. (There was also the fear the warehouse zoning allows for a sexually oriented business to be located on the site.)

But, all along, there was something strange and confusing about Fogley’s vote. The land in question was divided into two sections. A developer, Robert W. McDonald, sought to rezone the land, which was zoned for apartments. He had two items on the Oct. 7 Council agenda. The first would rezone 13.5 acres of that land to allow him to build duplexes on the property. The second would rezone the remaining 3.1 acres to allow for the warehouses.

Here’s where things got confusing, at least in Fogley’s mind. He asked to recuse himself from the first vote (although he didn’t recuse himself — I get the impression he either doesn’t know how to recuse himself or he has been given bad advice on the proper way to recuse oneself. Instead, he simply didn’t vote on the issue), because, according to the meeting’s minutes "this property is adjacent to his own." Which, incidentally does not seem to be true. But then he voted on the warehouse issue which, as I said earlier, is part of the exact same property Fogley claimed earlier "is adjacent to his own."

So there’s that.

But that’s not where this story ends. Much to Webster’s astonishment, Fogley sided with the pro-neighborhood duo on the council, District 1 Councilmember Diane Hervol and District 6's Daphne Tenorio and against the pro-developer duo of Mayor Webster and Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson in voting against the rezoning. (The two other pro-developer councilmembers District 2's Becky Selbera and District 3's Shane Arabie missed this most recent meeting.)

Item 14 of Tuesday’s agenda, requested by Fogley, calls for the reconsideration of the warehouse rezoning vote. That’s sad.

Yesterday I asked Fogley why he is backtracking on his earlier stance, but, obviously, I never received a reply. I mean, how does someone gracefully say "I am doing this because I am a coward."

So if he won’t tell me the reasons, I can only put two and two together and come up with my own logical explanation. And that is Da Mayor took Fogley to the woodshed, scolded him like some truant school child and told him in no uncertain terms "I got you elected to this council, so now you will only vote the way I want you to vote." And being the spineless lackey that he is, Fogley meekly replied "Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir. How can I atone for my miserable transgression, sir?"

Only someone from the majority side of a vote can request a reconsideration of that vote. So Webster, with Wilson probably guarding the door of the toolshed, told Fogley in no uncertain terms what was needed to right this terrible wrong.

So now we have Item 14 on Tuesday’s agenda, an item to give the developer what he wants at the expense of the neighborhood in which he wants to stick his warehouses.

Which brings up an interesting point: Why go to all the trouble and all the expense to formulate a Comprehensive Plan if the Planning & Zoning Commission and a majority of the City Council are either going to outright ignore or blatantly defile it?

This whole mess also reminds me of another phenomena and that is the total lack of interest in the public of the political processes in Kyle. This was reinforced recently by the San Marcos-Kyle-Buda edition of the Community Impact newspaper which revealed the voting percentages for municipal elections in San Marcos and Buda are a whopping 10 times higher than they are in Kyle. How do you explain this discrepancy? One obvious reason is that San Marcos and Buda are smart enough to hold their municipal elections in November, not in May, as Kyle does. But there’s something else, something far more troubling. I have spoken to Kyle residents at H-E-B, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Walgreens, Starbucks, Applebees and what they have told me is that their interests are completely ignored by those in power at Kyle City Hall, so what’s the use of voting — it’s not going to change anything.

And the sad, tragic tale of one spineless lackey on the City Council just reinforces how these people feel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Suppose the leader of the firing squad said “Aw, forget about it, we’ll shoot you later”

A couple dozen folks, most of them residents of the Blanco Vista subdivision and all of whom are going to be flattened sooner or later by fleets of 18-wheelers, came to last night’s Kyle Planning & Zoning Commission to protest plans to locate a Godzilla truck stop across the street from their homes only to hear the developer tell the Commission, without explanation, he was withdrawing his request, at least temporarily, to have the proposed site rezoned.

Bless their hearts, these folks foolishly believe that the pro-development government in Kyle is going to pay any attention to their heartfelt pleas to protect the integrity of their neighborhood. They are still under the false impression that democracy rules, when they should know, in the words of one of my favorite songwriters, Randy Newman, "It’s money that matters." As I’ve said before in situations like this: the fix is in. When the item to rezone the 47.74 acres on the northwest corner of I-35 and Yarrington from Agriculture to Retail Service comes back before the Commission, the members will probably pass it unanimously and then send it to the City Council where it will pass by a vote of 5-2. It’s preordained.

There are two, possibly three, things the residents of Blanco Vista can do that might — just might — prevent this from happening, but both of them are going to cost big bucks and I doubt these folks have pockets deep enough to do what is necessary. But the steps they can take are (1) Hire an expert zoning attorney to fight the truck stop, but not necessarily the rezoning, from the inside out and (2) Form a political action committee that will recruit and fund City Council candidates willing to take on the pro-developer council incumbents. The ironic twist to all this is that Blanco Vista is located in San Marcos so the residents aren’t even eligible to make their voices heard at the Kyle polling places. (A third thing they might try is to see if pressure can be applied to the Greater San Marcos Partnership to use its influence to kill the project. The City of San Marcos has already gone on record as saying it opposes the proposed development.)

To give you just an inkling how anxious P&Z commissioners are to get this deal done, moments before the truck stop item came up for discussion, the commissioners voted 6-1 (with Timothy Kay dissenting) to recommend the City Council approve a request to rezone 16.24 acres along I-35, just north of the Yarrington Road site, from Agriculture to Retail Service even though there are no wastewater lines servicing the area. Thus, anyone who wants to develop that site for retail within the next year or two or three is going to have to bury a septic tank on the property which means that the development in question is going to be some ramshackle deal along the city’s premier artery that can subsist with a septic tank.

Now the commissioners are throwing the dice and praying the developer will wait for at least two years, by which time a wastewater line will reach the property, before starting to develop it. But not a single one of them went so far as to solicit any kind of guarantee from the owner, Doug Duwe, who appeared before P&Z last night, that he will wait. Duwe claimed he wants to locate three hotels and at least a pair of restaurants on the site. Sure. Fine. Whatever. But, again, not one commissioner dared to ask the fellow if he had any commitments from a hotelier or a restauranteur to locate a facility there. But if the council follows P&Z’s recommendation, Duwe can throw up a slapdash shack right there on I-35 just south of Center Street selling hog jowls and pickled pig knuckles and there’s nothing anyone can do to prevent it.

(In a moment of supreme irony, one citizen spoke at the public hearing on this issue against the rezoning saying it would drastically increase the incidences of crime on the property that’s located right across the highway from the prison.)

In other action last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission:
  • Presented a certificate of recognition to outgoing commissioner Dan Ryan, who may be leaving P&Z but, from all appearances, is going to be a fixture and a spokesperson advocating for developers at future meetings.
  • Recommended unanimously the City Council approve a request to rezone 1.54 acres of land on Old Highway 51 south of downtown from Heavy Industrial to Construction Manufacturing. This is actually a compromise reached between the owner of the land and the city, which tried unsuccessfully to rezone his property at least once before because under the current zoning ordinances there is no such thing as Heavy Industrial. However, that ordinance did not strip that zoning ordinance from properties with that designation and the Board of Adjustments earlier this year sided with the applicant on the issue. The owner of the land hopes to lease the property to those who would want to revive the concrete manufacturing processes that once took place there, but which might have been labeled "non-conforming" with the changed zoning. So the deal allows the city to change the zoning but to refrain from interfering in what takes place on the property for at least 20 years.
  • Recommended 6-1 (newly installed commissioner Dex Ellison voted no) that another patch of land, .697 acres, located on North Old Highway 81 right where it splits from the I-35 frontage road, be rezoned from Single Family Residential to Retail Services. A Laundromat is already located on the property and now the owners, Lupe and Paula Torres, would like to put a food truck on the site to service those folks hanging around while their clothes are washing/drying.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Council surprisingly rejects warehouse zoning

In what could only be described as a shockingly awkward moment, the pro-neighborhood forces on the City Council scored a rare victory last night when, by a 3-2 vote, the council rejected on second reading a proposed ordinance to rezone three acres of land on Lehman Road near Ranch Road 150 into a warehouse district.

The result was abetted in large part because two usually pro-developer council members, Shane Arabie and Becky Selbera, did not attend last night’s council session. Council member Damon Fogley split with his usual allies on the council and instead joined pro-neighborhood advocates Diane Hervol and Daphne Tenorio in rejecting the proposed ordinance.

The vote against was spurred in part by concerns from at least two of the three that the city should come up with a different way to zone sexually oriented businesses (SOBs), which are permitted in areas with the Warehouse District zoning.

"I voted ‘no’ because under the warehouse zoning Sexually Oriented Businesses are allowed," Hervol said. "I do not believe that type of business is going to be located there. However, once it is zoned, we have no control as to what goes there. I would like to see SOBs have their own zoning category."

Tenorio listed three reasons, including the SOB possibility, for actually leading the effort to reject the proposed ordinance.

"One of the factors was straight from the City of Kyle’s Comprehensive Plan," Tenorio said. "It actually states that warehouses should not be located in the Regional Node and adjacent to the midtown district. Both areas do not recommend warehouse. This recommended zoning area was in the non-recommended area. Furthermore, this recommendation did not pass unanimously at the Planning and Zoning meeting."

In fact, in written material presented to both the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the City Council, Planning Director Howard J. Koontz wrote that warehouse zoning was not "suitable" for this area for exactly the reasons Tenorio stated, although in his appearances before both the commission and the council he did not raise any objections to the idea. P&Z Commissioner Michelle Christie was the only person on the commission to vote against the zoning recommendation.

"Secondly my concern is the possibility of SOB, and other non-family businesses, being brought so close to neighborhoods and schools," Tenorio said. "Tobias Elementary School is right up the street. Fuentes Elementary School is down the street, and of course Lehman High School is a straight shot from the street. This doesn’t even include the handful of family oriented neighborhoods. The warehouse designation opens up the possibility to that type of SOB businesses to our children, families and neighborhoods.

"Finally," Tenorio said, "I am concerned with the flooding that continually happens in this area. I have been told the drainage issues will be taken care of when Lehman Road is updated. However, until then it doesn’t seem wise to pour so much money into a project that is likely to flood. That’s just my personal opinion."

(I have reached out to CM Fogley asking why he voted against the ordinance, but as of this writing have not received a reply.)

The vote obviously caught Mayor Todd Webster off-guard. He tried and actually succeeded in altering Tenorio’s original motion on the agenda item in an attempt to get the measure passed. Tenorio voiced another concern about the item and a companion piece that would allow for the construction of duplexes and not apartments on the remaining 13.5 acres of land in the parcel. The item listed "Charles D. Nash, Sr.," as the owner of the land, which is apparently not exactly correct because Nash died not that long ago. The ordinance, Tenorio claimed, should be changed to list the "Estate of Charles D. Nash Sr." as the owner with Nash’s son named as the estate’s executor. She wanted to make sure those changes were made to both agenda items, but then she wanted to oppose the warehouse proposal. The first agenda item sailed through on a 5-0 vote with the necessary amendment to change the owner listing. But when it came to the second one, Tenorio wanted to make a motion to deny as well as change the listing. The proper way to accomplish this would be to first make a motion to deny the request. If that succeeded, no additional action would be necessary. If it failed, then she could move amend the ordinance to change the ownership.

But the mayor, who obviously wanted the item passed, told Tenorio what she should do is to move for passage of the amended ordinance and then vote against it. That’s what happen and a roll call vote was ordered. The first name called was Hervol’s who said "nay." Then Fogley’s name was called and when he also said "nay," Webster gasped "What?" and briefly stopped the vote. Webster stared at Fogley but Fogley simply sat there stoically and didn’t say another word. Webster then ordered the roll call continued with the mayor and Mayor Pro Tem David Wilson casting the only "aye" votes.

In my relatively short (about one year) tenure covering the Kyle City Council, the vote marked the very first time that pro neighborhood voices prevailed over the pro-development majority on the council.

In another rather bizarre moment, immediately after the vote was taken, assistant City Manager James Earp rushed to the podium and told the council that the developer had said that if the warehouse ordinance wasn’t passed, he would construct an apartment complex instead of the less intrusive duplexes on the property. That presents another problem, however, because that property has now been rezoned from multi-family to residential two family. If the developer now plans to build an apartment complex there, (an idea that comes across as developmental "blackmail’) he may have to go through the entire rezoning application process all over again.

In other action last night, the council:

  • Approved the appointments of Leata Bartlett, Elizabeth Corey, Esperanza Orosco and Dr. Anita Perez to the Library Board.
  • Added a couple of more items to the surplus (i.e., junk) the city hopes to sell in an internet-based auction.
  • Approved a request to hold a Kyle Fair & Music Festival this weekend at the Central Texas Speedway at which the featured attraction is scheduled to be a Journey tribute band.
  • Approved the first reading of an ordinance to install three stop signs in the Waterleaf subdivision in an effort to curb speeding through the neighborhood.
  • Was told by City Manager Scott Sellers to have their nominees for the Ethics Commission ready for the next council meeting on Oct. 20.
  • Learned that the city is working with a company called Blood &Tissue Center of Central Texas for a blood drive. "We are going to bring a blood donation bus here to Kyle on the fifth of November," Sellers said. "It will park out in front of Old City Hall from 10 until 1. So any member of the community that would like to come and donate blood as part of that blood drive would be great. The city staff is going to show our support by signing up and donating."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recall effort initiated against Selbera

A group of citizens, led by an individual who once contributed to Becky Selbera’s election campaign, has filed a recall petition against the District 2 council member for "misconduct and abuse of her power." Specifically, the petition claims Selbera improperly solicited a job offer, used "city personnel for her own personal gain" and recently voted to raise taxes for Kyle property owners "but she has not paid her own property taxes for many years."

"She is an embarrassment to the City of Kyle," the recall effort’s leader, Lila Knight, told me. "The people of Kyle deserve better."

Early yesterday, I e-mailed Selbera seeking her response to each of the allegations, but she has yet to respond. She, along with Mayor Todd Webster, offered a statement to the authors of an Austin-American Statesman story concerning the recall effort, but both sidestepped the issues raised by the petition.

Yesterday, city spokesperson Kim Hilsenbeck told me "The recall petition against Council Member Becky Selbera was filed by Lila Knight. It has been certified by our City Secretary Amelia Sanchez as having all the information required by the city charter. Ms. Knight can begin attempting to collect the required signatures. She has 90 days to return the forms to be verified. "

In those 90 days, Knight and her group must collect somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,450 signatures, which raises an interesting ethical question I don’t have an answer for: Should registered voters in Districts 1 and 3 be able to unseat a council person elected only by the voters of District 2? Incidentally, the number of signatures required is about 13 times the number of votes Selbera received in her last election in 2014.

Selbera told the Austin newspaper that Knight "has run people against me and she has failed." Knight told me that not only is Selbera’s statement untrue, but that she actually wrote Selbera a check for $160 for her 2011 election campaign. Her support for Selbera waned, Knight told me, once the council member started being forced to appear before the Ethics Commission to answer various complaints lodged against her.

She also said this effort is not hers alone. "We have an informal group of people who are involved in this," Knight told me. "We've been talking amongst ourselves for a long time about this. I was the one who pulled the trigger on actually submitting the petition because I know the Election Code pretty well. There is no way in hell I could do this alone.

"How successful the recall effort will be depends on the voters of Kyle," Knight said. "Do they really want a council member who refuses to pay their taxes, year after year, setting their tax rate and voting on spending? Do the voters of Kyle want a council member who is repeatedly charged with ethics violations? This is not about the ‘survival’ of Miss Selbera. It’s about the survival of the citizens of Kyle.

"I do not have a personal vendetta against Miss Selbera. I am, however, personally offended that an elected official would vote to raise taxes while being delinquent in paying their own — year after year. The taxpayers of Kyle deserve better."

According to the article that appeared in Saturday’s American-Statesman, Mayor Webster claimed the recall effort was launched by "no growth" advocates who are trying to gain influence on the city council.

"No one in their right mind would think they could be ‘no growth’ and simultaneously gain any influence on the city council,’ Knight countered "The vast majority of the people of Kyle are pro-growth, including myself. But the council should be listening to the people — they do not want, for example, a roundabout, soccer fields in Waterleaf Park, or higher taxes. Our council is not listening. I am for ‘smart growth.’ Frivolous spending resulting in the raising our tax rate to the highest of any municipality in Hays County - and higher than any town on the I-35 corridor does nothing to encourage our growth as a city. Quite the contrary. It kills it.

"By the way, none of this has anything to do with the recall of Miss Selbera," Knight added. "And the Mayor knows it. If the mayor wants to comment on the recall petition, he should address the facts stated in the petition. His inability to refute the facts speaks loudly. The mayor and Miss Selbera are left only with attacking my character and my motives. But that is a common political ploy, regardless of how distasteful it might be."

Friday, October 2, 2015

Conversation with Mountain City mayor about that semi-forgotten ILA

That interlocal agreement among the cites of Kyle and Mountain City along with Hays County was the subject of some intense debates and lively meetings back in June, but it seems to have faded from the public interest of late.

So I asked someone for whom I have a lot of respect, Mountain City Mayor Tiffany Curnutt, what's the latest on the deal. Here is the gist of that conversation.

Kyle Report: Is it dead?

Mayor Carnutt: No, it’s still in negotiations. We’re still working on it.

Kyle Report: Do you think an agreement might be reached?

Mayor Carnutt: To be determined. I think we are coming to a version that can be proposed to our council but I can't guarantee that it will pass.

Kyle Report: What is the status of Anthem now that the ILA appears to be, at least, stalled?

Mayor Carnutt: It's been a work in progress and hasn't actually stalled. However, we haven't put a new version out there for our council and residents to review yet since it almost had to be completely rewritten after the first draft was provided by the county and I think we all knew it would take some time. Especially since Mountain City doesn't have full time legal resources. Also, we are taking our time with it to be sure that we take everything into consideration for the future of Mountain City. So this also takes time and we wanted to be sure that the version proposed is something presentable to our council and residents, though it may require additional tweaking or modifications once proposed

Kyle Report: What action, if any, is Mountain City prepared to take on this matter?

Mayor Carnutt: We haven't put the item on the agenda to take action at this point. We will wait for the next version to complete before we put it back on the agenda. And we also want to be sure that our residents and council all have ample time to review. We have some great resources in the city and they may catch something that we didn't."

The mayor added that Mountain City’s next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 12, "We haven’t created a final agenda for this meeting," the mayor said, "but the action item may be incorporated if it’s presentable prior to then."

It is worth noting that the ILA is scheduled to be a part of the proposed executive session at Wednesday's Kyle City Council meeting.

Proposed stop signs in Waterleaf highlight upcoming council agenda

At the request of CM Damon Fogley, the Kyle City Council will consider Wednesday installing three stop signs in the Waterleaf subdivision which Fogley calls home. The locations for the stop signs are at the intersections of New Bridge and Gina drives, Waterleaf Boulevard and Connor Elkins Drive and New Country Road and Gina Drive.

Fogley says the stop signs are needed to reduce speeding in the neighborhood.

No public hearing is planned for this item, so citizens who want to express an opinion on the proposal will need to do so during the Citizen Comments section of the meeting, which takes place at the beginning of the 7 p.m. session at City Hall. This week's meeting is being held on Wednesday because Tuesday, the council's normal meeting day, is when Texas celebrates National Night Out.

Nipped that threat in the bud just in the nick of time

According to statistics provided by Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett and city spokesperson Kim Hilsenbeck, our of the 317 traffic accidents Kyle police investigated in 2014 and the 325 so far this year, two of them each year were the result of driver distraction caused by the driver using some sort of hand held mobile electronic device. That’s a minuscule 0.6 percent of all traffic accidents.

Of course, a few drivers may have fibbed (Can you believe it?) to investigating officers when asked what happened. But still.

On the other hand, 5.9 percent of all criminal incidents (2,135 out of 36,200) investigated by Kyle police involved use of handguns last year and that number rose to 6.2 percent this year.

Welcome to Kyle, the city that believes "Guns don’t kill people, cell phones do."