The item in question on Tuesday’s City Council agenda is one that would have the city shell out $17,000 to Mitchell Motorsports, a company owned by Travis Mitchell, a candidate for the City Council. Now the agenda item states the purpose of this expenditure is so the Parks Department can have a new lawn mower. And perhaps that might be true. Regardless, at best this comes across as Mitchell receiving preferential treatment because he is a City Council candidate and at worst as a $17,000 campaign donation to Mitchell and a direct slap in the face to a current council member, Diane Hervol, who occupies that council seat, is seeking re-election and is perceived by some to be an "anti-establishment" candidate, someone outside the accepted political sphere of influence. ("Hey, the way we can bump her off is disguise this $17,000 campaign contribution as the purchase of a lawn mower.")
I returned to Kyle from a weekend in Dallas a little after 1 p.m. today. I learned about this item Friday evening just before I attended a Special Olympics basketball game in Allen, Texas, and at that game I happened to run into a good friend, Wick Allison, the publisher of the much-honored D magazine. We got to chatting and I mentioned this agenda item and he doubled over laughing. He couldn’t believe it. Even in Dallas politics, which is not the most ethical scene in the political world, he couldn’t imagine anyone having the unmitigated gall to attempt something this blatantly politically incorrect. And, while he was grasping his knees because he had doubled over laughing so hard, I hit him with the coup de grace.
"Not only are these guys trying to pull this one off, they slipped the item in the Consent Agenda, hoping and praying no one would notice it," I told him, which only caused his laughter to increase in intensity.
Mark Dietz, co-owner of Dietz Tractor in Seguin, Texas, the company that apparently had the second-best bid, wasn’t laughing, however, when I told him he lost out to a company owned by a candidate for the Kyle City Council. But he was resigned to the outcome, saying this type of insider-trading is common when dealing with municipal governments.
"I don’t even get mad at these types of shenanigans any more," Dietz told me. "It’s B.S., but I don’t lose any sleep over it because in most of the cities I deal with there’s some kind of monkey business like this going on. It’s sad this type of thing is going on, but I don’t even get sad about it any more. I don’t like losing a bid under those conditions, but if you think this is bad, go to a bigger city like San Antonio. The corruption there is absurd. Oh, well."
See what I mean? Even if this whole transaction is on the up and up, the natural reaction to anyone outside of Kyle city government who sees it or hears about this deal is that something is rotten in Kyle. It simply doesn’t look good. It doesn’t pass the smell test. This agenda item stinks.
The only other item that compares to this on the Kyle stink-o-meter is one in which council member Damon Fogley is begging his colleagues to pat him on the back. Fogley is an EMS first responder and he is sponsoring a resolution putting the City of Kyle on record as "indicating support and appreciation for first responders in our community." There’s nothing wrong with the subject of the resolution, but it comes across as incredibly self-serving when Fogley has to introduce it himself. You would think he would possess the political acumen to have someone else on the council introduce the resolution so he could then bask in a spotlight being held by someone else. The way Fogley is handling it has all the subtlety of someone throwing himself a "surprise" birthday party and then charging admission for guests to attend.
You can judge for yourselves how some of these other items on Tuesday’s agenda might fit on the stink-o-meter. The council is expected to:
- Hear Police Chief Jeff Barnett inform them there’s no racial profiling going on within the department and he’ll present statistics to support that claim.
- Conduct the first of two required public hearings in connection with the possible annexation of about 1,500 acres of Kyle’s ETJ into the city limits. Most of the property is located southwest of town, east of Old Stagecoach Road and north of Yarrington Road. There is one other parcel, west of Goforth and north of Bunton Creek roads, on the east side of I-35, that’s also under consideration for annexing.
- Hold another public hearing, also the first of two required, on the subject of annexing 9,800 acres located west of town, land stretching from Old Stagecoach and Cypress roads to the Blanco River, commonly known as the Nance Ranch.
- Consider (and undoubtedly approve) a request to spend $58,878.22 to install the equipment necessary and to apply all the necessary paint, graphics and equipment to transform three SUVs the city recently purchased into police cars. The city is only paying $84 to have 2-cup holders installed in the three vehicles. What a deal!
- Consider a proposal to change the way perimeter road fees are calculated that will codify Kyle’s desire to develop neighborhoods that are non-sustainable. They will also approve recent fixes to a pair of non-sustainable residential subdivisions (which, in itself, is a redundancy). The burden on future taxpayers will be crippling, but, of course, no one is thinking about that now.
- Will probably approve a public transportation pilot program which will operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. Under the terms of the program, Kyle/Buda Taxi will provide Kyle residents (1) trips within the city limits of Kyle for $3 a trip between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.; (2) an 8 a.m. trip from Kyle to the CapMetro station at Southpark Meadows in Austin for $6 that returns from Southpark Meadows at 4:30 p.m., also for $6; and (3) an 8 a.m. trip from Kyle to an unspecified bus stop in San Marcos for $5 that departs for Kyle, presumably from that same stop, at 4:30 p.m., also for $5.
- Review and accept the annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, usually referred to as the "Caffer," as well as the city annual independent audit. The Caffer is one of the most important documents produced annually by a municipal government in that it outlines the city’s financial condition. It’s a must read for policy wonks and those who insist on "government transparency" and can be found here along with other supplemental items contained on Tuesday’s agenda. The Caffer is to city government what the Annual Report is to a publicly held company. The bottom line of the Caffer is that Kyle has a financially solid bottom line. My only problem is that the agenda was posted Friday afternoon and there’s not enough time between then and Tuesday’s meeting for citizens to digest adequately all the information contained in the Caffer. I hope City Council members had more time to study this than the public did, because I can’t conceive how they can offer an informative discussion on the Caffer if they only saw it for the first time on Friday.
- Will consider a resolution to join the Clean Air Coalition, an outfit that talks a big game but does little to solve air pollution caused by motor vehicles, namely ways to reduce dramatically the number of vehicles on the roads.
- Will consider a companion ordinance prohibiting drivers from idling their cars and trucks for more than five consecutive minutes, making exceptions for almost all the reasons why that idling occurs, except for waiting in line at the prescription drive-through window at Walgreen’s. Interestingly, the ordinance doesn’t offer any penalties for disobeying it, so there’s that. Both this and the previous item seemed to be aimed more at creating obstacles for the construction of a truck stop at Yarrington Road than achieving the specific aims outlined but at least they do pass the smell test.
- Will discuss and possibly act on the long-overdue concept of initiating a stormwater fee and a stormwater utility.