The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kyle Housing Authority board schedules three more meetings this year

The newly constituted board for the Kyle Housing Authority met for the first time last night and took immediate action to hold three more meetings before the end of the year. Other than that ...?

The upcoming meetings have been scheduled for 5:45 p.m. on Dec 8, Dec. 15, and Dec. 22 in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

The four board members who met (criminal defense attorney Veronica Sanders did not attend this initial meeting) also voted to name Daniel Harper, deputy vice chancellor for finance at Texas State, as its char, and former Kyle City Council member Michelle Lopez as its vice chair.

Mayor Todd Webster appointed the members to the board (the two others are Lisa Adams, community relations coordinator for the Central Texas Medical Center, and longtime Kyle resident Clara Rodriguez) after receiving a copy of a letter from a HUD regional director in San Antonio addressed to the executive director of the Kyle Housing Authority describing the findings of an inspection that revealed, among other things, some residents were living in apartments in one of the two housing units managed by the authority that didn’t contain operable stoves or refrigerators.

"For me, one of the things you can’t lose sight of is that it’s not the executive director, it’s not the board, it’s there are people that live in these two units that have needs that have to be addressed," Harper said after last night’s meeting adjourned. "That’s where I really think we need to go — worry about the present day, then the future and then we can talk about the past."

I asked whether the daily living conditions of residents should be the concern of the board or the authority’s executive director and how much emphasis the board was going to place on the hiring of a new director in lieu of the resignation, effective at the end of the year, submitted by the authority’s current director and accepted at last night’s meeting.

"The authority will rest with the Housing Authority board," Lopez said. "I think we have to determine quickly what the authority of the new director will be so we won’t have a break in that service."

When I asked specifically if they felt a sense of urgency about hiring a new executive director, Lopez said "I think we’re all concerned that we don’t have a break in what’s available so we’re working to figure out what to do so we can put some plans in place before the holidays coming up."

Both Lopez and Harper said they have had no communications with the authority’s current executive director, Vickie Simpson. But Lopez also said they weren’t officially sworn in as board members until last night’s meeting so that they had no authority to meet with Simpson.

"We are really starting today from ground zero at this moment in our roles," Lopez said.

City, Chief Barnett victorious in appellate court decision

In a major victory for the City of Kyle and its Police Chief Jeff Barnett, the three-year legal battle waged by Louisiana anesthesiologist Dr. Glen Hurlston against the city and Barnett has appeared to come to an end with yesterday’s ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissing Hurlston’s appeal.

The decision from justices Fortunato Benavides, Gregg Costa and Edward Prado concluded there was no evidence to support Hurlston’s claims that Barnett violated Hurlston’s civil rights and, thus, "a municipality (i.e., Kyle) cannot be held liable under section 1983 if no constitutional violation has been committed by a municipal actor (i.e., Chief Barnett)."

Hurlston claims Barnett used his capacity as Kyle’s police chief and as the former police chief in Princeton, Texas, to have Princeton Police Lt. Robert Mitchnik, another defendant in Hurlston’s suit, arrest Hurlston on New Year’s Day 2012 on charges that Hurlston physically assaulted his wife, Suzanne, who had previously had an affair with Barnett and gave birth to his son, a child Hurlston said he originally thought was his. Suzanne has repeatedly claimed Princeton police simply responded to her 9-1-1 calls for help.

The appellate court saw it Suzanne’s way.

"Hurlston contends that Barnett conspired with Mitchnik and others to have him arrested for the assault/choking incident on January 1, 2012, in Princeton," the three judges said in their decision. "However, neither Barnett nor Mitchnik were present at that arrest. Indeed, Barnett was the Chief of the Kyle Police Department when the Princeton Police Officers arrested Hurlston after Ms. Hurlston called 9-1-1, stating that Hurlston had choked her."

"Oh it's not over till it's over that's what great about the legal system," Hurlston told me via e-mail in reaction to the appellate court’s decision. "There can be justice just like in the OJ Simpson case."

The 5th Circuit’s opinion, however, would seem to block Hurlston’s current contentions that the city and Barnett conspired with authorities in Princeton to deny Hurlston his civil rights.

"Hurlston’s claim of conspiracy fails because there is no evidence that Barnett conspired with Mitchnik," the court said."Mitchnik cannot conspire with himself." Additionally, the judges said. "no fact-finder could reasonably infer from this record that Barnett and Mitchnik conspired to violate Hurlston’s constitutional rights."

"The ruling by the appellate court confirms the City’s position that the case was malicious, frivolous and unsupported," Kyle Mayor Todd Webster said in a prepared statement. "It is our hope that with this ruling, we can move past this issue and continue with all the good work we’re doing in the City of Kyle."

Hurlston’s attorney James B. Doyle said he was not surprised by the court’s decision.

"The hurdles were pretty high for a citizen claiming misconduct on the part of a police official," Doyle said by phone from his offices in Lake Charles, La,. "As the court said directly in its opinion, you want to give them an operating space in which to work and you would have to present what we consider a jury trial-able issue to get to that point. The court certainly was in its bounds in writing that opinion and it was not completely unexpected."

Doyle said his only legal avenue left to pursue would be to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that he has already advised Hurlston such an appeal would be fruitless. He said the next steps were really up to Kyle to determine how the city wants to react to what Doyle referred to as Barnett’s character issues.

"The decision was really limited to the question of not whether we had proved the various things that Chief Barnett had engaged in — the factual stuff — but whether that factual stuff would rise to a level that would overcome his status as a police officer."

Doyle singled out that section of the court’s decision that said ‘Although Barnett advised Ms. Hurlston about covering up evidence of their affair, this was a private act, and the evidence does not show that it was connected to his authority as the Kyle Police Chief."

"The City of Kyle now employs as its police chief a man who was proven to have conspired with a person we contend was fraudulently trying to steal our client’s money and he told that person not to turn herself in," Doyle said. "He told her how to destroy evidence in a case from a law enforcement perspective. I wonder how the City of Kyle feels about that. I wonder if they think that requires any further action."

I have also sought reaction from Chief Barnett and his attorneys will include those reactions if and when the parties reply to my requests.

The big question now — and a question left unanswered by the Mayor Webster’s prepared statement issued through the city’s official spokesperson — is when hearings will resume in the appeal of the disciplinary actions taken against former Kyle Police Sgt. Jesse Espinoza, who was suspended indefinitely for violating a police department directive that prohibited Kyle police officers from having any contact with Hurlston and later dismissed from the force for insubordination, based on allegations he was untruthful when questioned by superiors concerning his involvement in events surrounding Hurlston’s lawsuit. Those hearings were continued until after the 5th Circuit rendered its decision.

In his suit, Hurlston further claimed Barnett conspired to have Hurlston arrested for violating an emergency protective order a few weeks after Hurlston's New Year's arrest.

In summary, the appellate court ruled "by the time of Hurlston’s arrests, Barnett had moved from Princeton to Kyle, and was not present at either arrest. Although it is undisputed that Barnett had an affair with Hurlston’s wife and such evidence provides a motive to harm Hurlston, Hurlston relies on speculation and innuendo but no competent summary judgment evidence that creates a material fact issue suggesting that Barnett used his job to harass Hurlston."

"Hurlston contends that Barnett used the position as Police Chief to harass him and have him arrested," the 5th Circuit Court’s decision states. "However, the evidence does not raise a genuine issue of material fact with respect to Barnett’s using his state authority to have Hurlston harassed and arrested."

The decision also says: "Hurlston’s affidavit states that during the ‘last week of May 2012, I called Barnett at work and told his secretary that I am coming to the next Kyle city council meeting on June 5, 2012 to expose him (Barnett) to the council.’ Hurlston contends that after he called Barnett, ‘Barnett scrambled to have a warrant issued’ for his arrest before the council meeting to be held on June 5. To support this contention, Hurlston states that ‘no action was taken on Ms. Hurlston’s complaint until’ he made the phone call to Barnett. Hurlston is mistaken. After Ms. Hurlston made her complaint that Hurlston had violated the court protective order, and prior to Hurlston’s call to Barnett, law enforcement officials did take action."

The court also rejected Hurlston’s claim that Barnett caused the DPS to produce a "Threat to a Peace Officer Investigation" report on the doctor.

"My client got his day in court with respect to some of this and there are still questions to be answered," Hurlston’s attorney told me today. "Not in any legal sense, necessarily, although we’re going to make that decision down the road. People have to stand up and say what they believe and what they’re for and what they’re against."

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hurlston wrongfully accuses Espinoza's lawyer of lying to hearing examiner

Dr. Glen Hurlston, the Louisiana anesthesiologist implicated in the legal case of former Kyle Police officer Jesse Espinoza, is claiming Espinoza’s attorney lied when he told a federal examiner hearing Espinoza’s appeal that a gag order prevented Espinoza from getting a fair hearing.

Attorney Grant Goodwin sought and won a continuance in Espinoza’s hearing earlier this month by convincing hearing examiner Dr. Paula Ann Hughes that a gag order issued in connection with a lawsuit Hurlston has filed against the City of Kyle, Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett and others prevented Goodwin from eliciting the testimony he needed from Barnett.

"Let me enlighten you their (sic) is no gag order because it was issued by a lower court which dismissed the case so it no longer is in effect," Hurlston, using his favorite alias "Law Abiding Citizen," said Saturday in an e-mail. "The case is in a higher court so Barnett Attorney (sic) are hiding behind a gag order they know isn't inforceable (sic) or even applicable anymore."

However, an independent verification I conducted today with legal officials involved in the suit argues that Hurlston’s claims are simply not true. It is true the gag order was issued in a lower court case which was decided then appealed to a higher court. However, the legal sources in Fort Worth and Dallas I talked to today said the gag order accompanied that appeal and, thus, is still in effect.

It’s also strange that Hurlston would, in effect, call the attorney of someone representing the person alleged to be his co-conspirator in a plot to discredit Barnett a liar. However, in all fairness, I must add that Hurlston added language in his e-mail to suggest he was actually calling me a liar for writing a story suggesting Hurlston was defying the gag order by threatening to sue the City of Kyle until "I will bankrupt them into submission." The last sentence of Hurlston’s e-mail to me, in response to that story, said "So everything you said is just simply a lie an (sic) I am a Law Abiding Citizen and a (sic) stand by everything I said with proof unlike the author of this post who made many misleading statements."

Regardless of his motivations, his apparent misstatement that "their (sic) is no gag order" directly contradicts what Goodwin told Dr. Hughes and others at the opening day of the re-hearing on the appeal of Espinoza’s indefinite suspension and later dismissal from the Kyle Police force on grounds of insubordination. And one of the attorneys I spoke with today told me I was absolutely correct to interpret Hurlston's comments as ones calling Goodwin a liar. One of the allegations against Espinoza is that he accepted cash and family vacations among other things from Hurlston in return for providing the doctor inside information that could be damaging to Barnett in the lawsuit Hurlston filed against Barnett, Kyle and others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Kyle Planning & Zoning Commission: A free-speech denying disaster

If last night’s meeting is any indication, the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission is rapidly disintegrating into a Constitutional bashing, free-speech denying advisory body without so much as a clue of what constitutes proper legislative procedure and processes and one that could lead the city into a cesspool of legal quicksand.

To put it simply and bluntly, last night’s meeting was a travesty.

Where to begin? Probably it’s best to start close to the beginning of the meeting when acting chair Timothy Kay prohibited speakers from addressing the commission during the citizens comment section. Under Kay’s dictum, any speaker who wanted to address an agenda item to which a public hearing was attached, was ordered to wait until that particular agenda item was on the table for discussion. Now it might be more effective for a citizen to speak on a subject when that subject is actually being addressed, but to actually prohibit, to order someone not to speak during the citizen comments period, denies those persons wishing to speak their First Amendment free speech protections. You simply can’t do that. A federal nuisance lawsuit has already been filed against the city by someone claiming the city denied him his freedom of speech. The last thing the city needs to worry about is a legitimate lawsuit on these same grounds that actually could be won by the plaintiffs on its merits.

But wait! It gets worse! The commission members knew, coming into the meeting, that the two items the citizens wished to speak on were going to be postponed for a later meeting, meaning those public hearings would be postponed as well. When those items came up for discussion, Planning Director Howard Koontz repeated the reasons for postponing the items, but when he broke the news to the uninformed Kay that the public hearings would have to be postponed as well, Kay whined "But I promised these people they would get a chance to talk now." Koontz, in a marvelous display of diplomacy, did not remind Kay he had been the person who already deprived them of their "chance to talk," and instead, albeit somewhat timidly, decided to, unlike Kay, come down on the side of free speech and allow those public hearings to commence.

But wait! It still gets even worse. Not a single one of the individuals who came to speak actually addressed the subject of the agenda item. Not a single one. (Frankly, I'm convinced they were manipulated into speaking on the subjects they chose, but I address that concern later in this article.) And Kay let it go on, I think, one, because he was absolutely clueless to the fact that no one was speaking on the subject of the agenda item and, two he actually believed the lies they were telling. He repeated the same mistake he and fellow commissioner Dex Ellison made that almost forced the city into having to accept an unwanted giant truck stop south of town, by illegally discussing land use during a zoning item.

But wait! It still gets even worse than that. Kay permitted two individuals, one of whom just stood up from his chair, to speak and it took staff liaison Debbie Guerrera to remind Kay, after thje fact, that these individuals are required to state their names for the record.

But wait! It even careens further downhill after that. Kay begins to announce he is closing the public hearing, obviously oblivious to the fact that once a public hearing is closed, it can’t be reopened. Fortunately, Ellison interrupted him in mid-sentence and saved the commission’s bacon.

But wait! Did Kay learn from that near disaster? Obviously not. On the very next item that was also going to be postponed, he almost closed the public hearing again until he was stopped just shot of driving the Commission over the cliff.

But wait! There’s even more. After all this, Kay tries to move on to the next agenda item and Koontz has to stop him and ever-so-gently remind him that these items don’t get postponed by themselves; that someone actually needs to make a motion, that motion has to be seconded, and then a vote on that motion is required.

But wait! I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but there’s more. The commission voted to postpone consideration of a proposed zoning ordinance change after Kay had already closed the public hearing on the item, meaning it would be illegal to attach another public hearing to this item the next time it appears on the agenda. Of course, that legality doesn’t seem to bother any legislative body in Kyle — I’ve witnessed at least a half-dozen illegal public hearings in my little over two years covering Kyle City Hall. What’s so distressing about it is that is a problem that is so easily and painlessly fixable: Simply address the dispensation of a public hearing in the same motion that is made on the agenda item to which that hearing is attached. Problem solved.

But the Planning and Zoning Commission is suffering from a leadership vacuum that’s going to make such decisions impossible to even consider. Since Mike Rubsam was term-limited off the Commission, it has been without a chair. Both Kay and Ellison are vying for the position, along with Brad Growt. What makes me fear for the future of the Commission is that both Kay and Ellison display absolutely no knowledge of proper parliamentary procedure (Ellison, to cite just one example. Is clueless as to the distinction between discussion and debate and the proper place for each in the parliamentary process) and, while I am impressed with Growt’s intelligence and grasp of the issues, I have yet to be convinced he has a personality strong enough to exert the needed influence over his colleagues.

Another problem with Kay’s performance last night was his obvious bias in favor of developers over citizens. Although he never actually came close to enforcing the three-minute time limit on speakers, he did try to cut off one citizen when he spoke a little longer than four minutes and then actually did stop him after the speaker talked for four minutes and 47 seconds. However, later in the meeting, he told a homebuilder who asked about time limits "There’s supposed to be a three-minute limit, but I’m not going to hold you to it" and then proceeded to let him speak for more than six and a half minutes without interruption. Not only that, Kay refuses to answer questions after a meeting, possibly afraid his answers would make him appear even more clueless than his meeting performance suggests. Instead, he answers all queries with the words "No comment," which, as anyone remotely involved in media relations knows, is tantamount in the public’s eye to hanging a "Guilty as charged" sign around your neck.

The commission was supposed to elect a new chair at last night’s meeting, but postponed the decision because commissioner Irene Melendez was not present. Kay was the only commissioner to vote against Ellison’s motion to delay the election until the Commission’s Dec. 13 meeting, possibly because Kay was afraid his fellow commissioners would judge him on how he handled this one, which, in fact, is exactly what they should do. What they should really do is to postpone the election of a new chair until early next year and allow Ellison an opportunity to chair a meeting and then extend the same courtesy to Growt so the members could see for themselves who might make the best chair and thus make a more informed decision. But I fear the fix is in.

It got so bad last night that, after another public hearing, a dazed Kay admitted "I’m not sure how to proceed." Koontz suggested "You should close the public hearing."

A couple of months ago, after one Planning & Zoning Commission meeting which Council Member David Wilson attended, I spoke with him outside City Hall about my serious concerns that no one on the commission had the necessary gravitas to assume a leadership position on the second-most important legislative body in the city in the wake of Rubsam’s departure. He obviously shared my fears. Yet here we are.

On the plus side, although this was only his first meeting, I must admit I had a favorable first impression of newly appointed commissioner Mike Torres, who definitely illustrated "the necessary gravitas," but lacks only the experience. I was so impressed I even forgave him for constantly repeating himself during the one time he spoke at length during the meeting, chalking that up to first-time jitters.

Interestingly, there was one person who attended last night’s meeting, albeit only for a few minutes, who actually had something positive to say about the commission. Lila Knight, in her own particular fashion, actually congratulated the commissioners for not following the City Council’s instructions on updating the Comprehensive Plan. What Knight failed to admit (quite obviously) was her motivation — that she is, in fact, largely responsible for the no-growth sections of the Comprehensive Plan the city’s staff and elected leaders sought to change through this update. Knight is one of many former king makers and ruling families of Kyle that once held significant political influence in the city. But as the city’s population exploded, the total membership of their sphere of influence remained constant and therefore it now comprises a much smaller percentage of the total population. Hence her influence has waned and she is fighting tooth and nail to protect what remaining influence she has. The last political year, however, has proved especially unkind to Knight. Both the candidates she endorsed for City Council (one of whom she actually recruited and convinced to run) lost their election bids. All except one of the amendments to the City Charter she railed against were approved by the voters. The no-growth Comprehensive Plan is the last branch she has left to hang onto.

I also found the language she used to endorse the commission’s non-action was typical of most demagogues: When you can’t find a way to attack the message on its merits, attack the messenger instead. In her case, she railed against me specifically for having the temerity to hold the Commission accountable for refusing to carry out the instructions given to it by the City Council. It was also funny in a way because this criticism came from someone who lacked the basic intelligence required to pronounce my last name properly. Later last evening, I had to suppress a few chuckles wondering if Knight also knows how to properly pronounce that same "op" sound in such words as cop, drop, mop, stop, flop, bop, hop and, well, you get the picture. I wondered if she even ever heard of that deservedly lauded television newscaster Ted Koppel and, if perhaps she had ran across it somewhere, she knew how to pronounce it correctly. But there you have it.

At the same time, Knight is someone who, when I mentioned the concept of "smart growth" to her before one City Council meeting, replied "That’s so last century," completely oblivious to the fact that the bible of this movement, The Smart Growth Manual, wasn’t even published until 2010. But then she is always going to be completely dismissive of anything that hints at the concept of "growth."

Knight also tried to convince the commissioners the Comprehensive Plan is not the guidance manual it actually is but, instead, is contained on two tablets Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. And to make matters worse, Kay buys into this misinterpretation hook, line and sinker. On many occasions he has stated during Commission hearings words to the effect of "If the Comprehensive Plan recommends against it, then I must vote against it," obviously not having a clue to the meaning of the word "recommends." And this, dear friends, is someone who wants to lead the Planning & Zoning Commission.

I also have a sneaking suspicion Knight attended last night’s meeting for more reasons than just to attack me and to commend the Commission for continuing to waste not only the time and energies of the commission members themselves, but also the time and energies of the City Council. I would not be surprised if she was the person who instigated that revolt that prompted all those residents from Old Town to come out and speak off subject on those agenda items that were ultimately postponed, misinforming these residents that the proposed development planned for the land in question would promote flooding when the truth is it would have exactly the opposite result. Which brings me back to Kay who seemed to believe all these untruths spouted by this misinformed and manipulated citizenry without doing any independent research on what is actually going to happen in this area.

Like I said, this is a real mess and I’m depressed by the realization it appears it’s going to get a lot worse before it even begins to get any better.

I addressed most of the issues involved in the proposed zoning ordinance, consideration of which was postponed for two weeks to give commissioner more time to study it, in the story I wrote leading up to this meeting, including the fact that it creates a new R-1-3 residential district and makes single family detached residential units in R–1-A a conditional use. The one thing I forgot to mention is that is also modifies the design guideline that requires garages located in the front of a home to be set back at least five feet from the front wall of the rest of home. The change would only require garages to be set back five feet from part of the front of the home. In other words, a house would pass muster if, say, only one room had its outer wall five feet beyond the garage while the rest of the front wall was flush or even if the front entrance was set back from the garage. It also reduces the current minimum requirement that a garage be 480 square feet by allowing the square footage of an external storage shed to compensate for a smaller garage, the argument promoted by Koontz being that many homeowners use their garages for storage anyway and not as a place to keep their motor vehicles.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Doctor, defying gag order, threatens to “bankrupt” Kyle “into submission”

Louisiana anesthesiologist Dr. Glen Hurlston, writing under the nom de plume "Law Abiding Citizen" to draw further attention to the fact he isn’t one, has sent this blog a note that not only defies a court-sanctioned gag order, but basically admits that all the legal action he and his cohort in intimidation, former Kyle police officer Jesse Espinoza, have filed are without merit and designed solely to outlast the City and coerce it into giving them a huge financial settlement.

This latest letter, which I interpreted as a direct threat, is one of many Hurlston has sent me using both his real name and his favorite masquerade all of which seem to be in direct violation of a gag order imposed on all parties involved a lawsuit Hurlston filed in December 2013 against the City of Kyle, the City of Princeton, Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett, Princeton Police Lieutenant Robert Mtchnik and others alleging a string of "unlawful police actions" resulting in "significant and severe emotional distress; physical pain and suffering; emotion pain and distress; loss of income; and other damages."

Espinoza was suspended from the Kyle police force on charges he supplied Hurlston with inside information on Barnett and in return for family vacations with Hurlston in San Antonio and Florida as well as a $5,000 contribution to Espinoza’s on-line fund-raising campaign to help pay for his son’s cancer treatments. Espinoza’s appeal of that suspension was delayed indefinitely last week, ironically because the hearing administrator believed a full and "clean" hearing on the matter would be impossible because the gag order that Hurlston continues to violate would limit full and complete testimony from Chief Barnett. What’s even more ironic is that the motion for the continuation, until after Hurlston’s suit is settled, was made by Espinoza’s attorney, lending further credence to the idea that Hurlston’s and Espinoza’s legal strategy is simply stretch out the legal actions so long the city will give up and cry "mercy" because of the expenses involved.

Hurlston’s latest letter to me was in response to an item I wrote for this blog about Kyle’s November sales tax revenues. The letter stated:

"Ask them how much they spent in lawyers defenses with Barnett and three more lawsuits yet to be filed all supported by myself. I will bankrupt them into submission. You see it cost me about ten dollars for every thousand they spend in legal cost. The reason is they use a corrupt law firm no one else will be their lawyer and play their corrupt game. I will force the city into the tens of millions."

Hurlston revealed himself to be "Law Abiding Citizen" in an earlier e-mail he sent me Nov. 14 using the phony moniker: "…my name is Glen Hurlston and I have no fear of the bogus gag order they are hiding behind because Barnett unlike myself is afraid to testify because he is guilty and would be caught in his lies and trying to explain his actiomd (sic) while he had nr (sic) falsely arrested. Glen Hurlston M. D."

To avoid appearances of conflict of interest, Kyle officials convinced former Waxahachie Police Chief Charles Edge to oversee KPD’s investigation of Espinoza. On Nov. 6, Hurlston wrote this e-mail to me concerning Edge, whom Hurlston called (the misspelling is Hurlston’s) "a well knoe idiot.":

"Has (sic) I recalled you wrote an article on what Chief Edge said that Jessie ESPINOZA lied about. Edge asked him if he spoke to me the night of city council meeting and he rrsponded (sic) he probably did. That's because it was a year earlier and Jessie being the officer he is he would have to check his phone records to make sure but said he probably did contact me. At that point Yge (sic) acting Chief Edge which by the way was brought in by the same law firm to prosecute Jessie and was a hired gun claimed he lied because he should have said yes. Absolutely absurd reasoning but chief Edge is a well knoe (sic) idiot in his town. He also said he can tell Jessie was lying because he would look to his left. Well he didn't realize Jessie is left handed and if you believe in that nonsense in the first place than being left handed makes a different (sic). Chief Edge what can you say about this guy the evidence and his testimony speak for itself."

In an e-mail dated March 17, meant, he wrote, for "City of Kyle Council members and others," Hurlston wrote this about Edge: "Chief Edge was by no means an impartial neutral party but yet a hired gun to eliminate Jessie Espinoza from the police force."

In another letter, dated Oct. 31, which I personally found particularly disgusting and offensive on Hurlston’s part because of disparaging comments he made about my son, an outstanding man of the highest character Hurlston has never even met, the doctor wrote the following in response to my story on Espinoza’s latest lawsuit: "I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt because you are probably drinking the city koolaid. But if you had a copy of the arbitration hearing that the city has refused to release even though ordered to do so by the Texas attorney General you would no (sic) that Mr. ESPINOZA Never lied and neither did I when I testified in federal depositions or in the arbitration that I had gifted him 5000 dollars for his child ridden with cancer. Your son who is a chiropractor doesn't understand true illness and the cost of real medical therapy and apparently you don't either. But what I find more disgusting is the use of this child cancer and the donation I made to rid of it is being used by the likes of people like you and Barnett to hide the real truth. This city lies and the police lie to cover their criminal activity and now you have lied."

Hurlston’s words speak for themselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Once again, P&Z plans to completely contradict wishes of City Council

The Planning and Zoning Commission, which earlier this year ignored the instructions from the City Council on how to deal with the midterm update of the Comprehensive Plan, has on its Tuesday meeting agenda a proposed food truck ordinance that is, in effect, another direct slap in the face of council members.

It not only totally ignores the expressed wishes of the Council, when it originally voted to send P&Z’s original proposed ordnance on this subject back to the commission, it compounds the problem by adding material that will, most likely, further inflame those on the Council who voted against this deal the first time around.

It only exacerbates my concern that there is a complete and total lack of communication between the City Council and the Planning & Zoning Commission.

A municipal Comprehensive Plan requires, by statute, a complete overhaul once every 10 years. An "update" is mandated midway through each 10-year overhaul interval. For this update, city leaders made the policy decision not to spend taxpayers money to hire consultants to handle what they essentially felt was a minor editing job. For example, Council members wanted to designate the city’s employment area in a part of town where potential employers would actually want to locate. P&Z commissioners balked at these instructions, however, claiming the update could not be done without the city spending taxpayer money to hire consultants, when, in reality, all the commissioners really needed to get the job done was a ball point pen, some clear heads and a few hours of their time.

This time around the commissioners have on this Tuesday’s agenda a more complex food truck ordinance proposal than the one already rejected by the Council because it was too complex.

When this ordinance first came to Council, members very specifically said they were sending it back to Planning & Zoning with the specific instructions that it be divided into at least two separate ordinances: one regulating what is referred to as a "Mobile Food Vendor," but can more easily be described as "food truck," and a second ordinance designed to regulate what is being referred to as a "Temporary Food Vendor," but can more accurately be described as a "food trailer." Some Council members even suggested it might be worth it to separate these two subjects out of the overall peddlers’ ordinance completely and making it a stand-alone item.

But what is on the agenda is still one complex ordinance containing everything the Council wanted separated the first time around.

Not only that, P&Z is compounding the problem by adding yet another subject that wasn’t even addressed the first time and that’s provisions for a "Food Court," a single nesting place for all kinds of mobile and temporary food vendors. Hey, I see nothing wrong with food truck parks; in many communities they are quite popular. But, although I must admit my crystal ball is in the shop for repairs right at the moment, I’m pretty sure these same Council members who wanted the mobile and temporary sections of the current ordinance separated would want a separate set of regulations for food courts as well.

Personally, I don’t want to engage in a debate over whether this ordinance should be one item or a zillion. But I do know this: The members of the Kyle City Council were elected by registered voters of this city and the members of the Planning & Zoning Commission were appointed and approved by those elected Council members. That translates into the fact that the P&Z is, at least, one notch below the City Council on the legislative chain of command. So when the City Council specifically instructs the P&Z to do something a certain way, the commissioners should really make some kind of effort to do it that way.

The other major item on Tuesday’s P&Z agenda is a proposal to change some of Kyle’s residential zoning ordinances that, if I understand it correctly (and I will readily admit, there’s a very good chance I’m not understanding it correctly) appears to be creating one new zoning category and redefining other one to allow for the construction of much smaller homes than are currently located in Kyle. It appears to me, at least, the new zoning category will be called R-1-3 and will allow homes to be constructed with a 20-foot front setback (the current minimum is 25 feet), a five-foot side setback (the current minimum is 7.5 feet), and a 10-foot rear setback (the current minimum is 15 feet).This newly designated zoning category also "allows detached single family residences with a minimum of 1,000 square feet living area (down from 1,600 in R-1-1) and accessory structures on a minimum lot size of 5,540 square feet (down from 8,190). There shall be no more than 5.5 houses per buildable acre" (denser than the 3.9 per acre in R-1-1-)."

The new ordinance also drastically reduces the minimum square footage of a residence in townhouse zoning from 2,844 to 880 and removes the word "detached" from the R-1-A zoning for garden homes. Detached garden homes in this zoning will now only be permitted as a conditional use.

Interestingly, two other items on Tuesday’s agenda involved requests to rezone near-downtown property to R-1-A, but both applications have been withdrawn pending P&Z’s actions on these new zoning requirements.

Friday, November 18, 2016

That dreaded budget gap is back and earlier than last year; more disclosure needed

Let’s say your neighborhood or homeowners association has in its plans for the upcoming year a series of repairs, renovations and additions but, as it prepares its budget for all these projects, discovers that what it needs to accomplish will cost, say, $1,375 more than can be covered via the regular monthly association assessments or dues.

Then someone on the board says "I’ve got an idea. Remember when we sponsored that fund-raising community-wide garage sale last year? We netted over $800 on that project. Let’s have another one of those but this time we’ll expand it to include a bake sale, but not one where residents just sell their homemade pies, cakes and cookies. Let them sell casserole dishes; canned peaches; homemade jellies, jams and preserves. Include arts and crafts so that our residents can try to sell homemade candles or their own artwork."

The rest of the board agrees, the event is held, and it nets $1,135. You can look at this result in two ways. The first way is to congratulate yourself for having a much more profitable event than the one the year before. But the second is that you fell short of your goal and now decisions must be made on how to scale back your repair-renovation-addition plan.

That’s sort of the position the City of Kyle finds itself in today. It can congratulate itself in the realization sales tax collections this month were up $54,853.88 (9.1 percent) over what they were for the same month last year. However, the city must also deal with the realization that this number is $36,668.59 (5.2 percent) below what the city’s current budget projected it to receive.

Having said that, there’s no reason to panic.


But it does raise a concern because last year the city finished its fiscal year with more than a quarter million dollars — $281,897.11, to be exact — less in sales tax revenues than that budget forecast and yet, at this same juncture last year, the city was $122,371.19 above projections versus the $29,640.40 hole it finds itself in this year. That means the city, during the course of the preceding fiscal year, nosedived $404,268.30 in sales tax revenues during the final 10 months of the fiscal year.

The city is looking to hire, among other positions, some street technicians and I would guestimate that someone working in that position for the city of Kyle is going to make close to $26,000 a year and, when all the benefits, such as health insurance, pension contributions and the like, are factored into the equation, this deficit means the city, for example, might have to add one less street technician to its payroll than it originally planned. That, of course, also means one less person to work on the much-needed and wanted construction and maintenance services on our streets, alleys and sidewalks.

I’m not saying that’s going to happen, so don’t start lamenting our city is going to fall into mass disrepair. I’m just using that as an example of how this deficit for November might be addressed.

But what is going to happen if these gaps continue? Not hiring that street technician only makes up for most of this month’s deficit. But what is the city going to do if this trend not only continues, but if, in a repeat of what happened last year, the monthly gaps become considerably larger?

Which brings me to my real point here which is the public doesn’t know exactly what is going to happen. We don’t know precisely how the city plans to deal with having less money to meet its needs than it originally planned for. A budget is, because the moneys that pay for the expenditures outlined in it come from the public, is essentially a contract between its citizens and the city. The city has agreed to perform all these services for us in return for all this money we are giving them. Therefore, the city owes us a revelation of what areas will not be addressed due to budget shortfalls.

It doesn’t have to come now. But, to give you just one example, City Engineer Leon Barba stands before the city council at least once a month to present an update on the progress of the road bond projects. Once a month he does this. All I’m recommending is that once a quarter City Manager Scott Sellers or Finance Director Perwez Moheet stand before the council and publicly announce what adjustments they are planning to make in the city’s spending to compensate for the budget gap.

Because we, the public, entered into this contract with the city in good faith, we should, as a matter of course, be given periodic updates on its side of this contract. The city certainly expects us to pay our property taxes, our sales taxes and all the other fees that comprise the city’s income. In fact, there are legal penalties involved if we don’t. By the same token, we should be kept informed on how the city is fulfilling its side of the bargain.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

HUD accuses Kyle Housing Authority of tenant deprivation, financial irresponsibility

In a letter made public during last night’s city council meeting, the regional office of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development accused the quasi-governmental Kyle Housing Authority of depriving tenants of such items as a workable refrigerator, spending funds without required approvals and not keeping records of how those monies were spent.

HUD said the authority’s executive director basically tripled her own salary, without any outside approvals, while at the same time leaving housing units without operable refrigerators and stoves for years.

Although the letter did not blame anyone by name for these wrongdoings, HUD said the authority operated without a required governing board and that the only two persons HUD could find with any responsibility for actions within the authority were its executive director, Vickie Simpson, and an unnamed maintenance person.

David Pohler, the director of HUD’s regional office in San Antonio, signed the letter which was addressed to Simpson with copies to Kyle Mayor Todd Webster and the city’s chief of staff, Jerry Hendrix. It was Mayor Webster who revealed the contents of the letter during last night’s council meeting. The charges leveled were based on an personal inspections in 2013 and 2105 as well as local interviews conducted by HUD employee Dan Garcia in March.

After receiving his copy of the Pohler letter and making initial inquiries as to its contents, Mayor Webster also said he received a letter of resignation Friday from Simpson. Technically, an executive director’s letter of resignation should be submitted to the association’s board of directors, but in Kyle’s case, such a board doesn’t exist any longer. The mayor said last night he is in the process of trying to convince five individuals, whom he described as eminently capable, to serve on a newly reconstituted board of directors.

Although a local housing authority is its own governing body and has no direct relationship to municipal government, HUD has, in the past, levied huge fines against cities because of actions undertaken by local housing authorities, although most of those penalties appear to stem from policy actions undertaken by city councils and/or city administrators that HUD believes result in housing discrimination subsequently practiced by authorities.

According to this website, the Kyle Housing Authority owns and operates one project containing 21 affordable rental units and administers 10 Section 8 housing vouchers. However, during last night’s city council meeting references were made to a pair of KHA rental locations. I personally am aware of only the one located on Burleson near St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. City spokesperson Kim Hilsenbeck later informed me the other KHA housing project is located at 417 W. 2nd Street, which is also the address for the authority itself.

In other news stemming from last night’s council meeting, city Finance Director Perwez Moheet told me residents should be prepared to see the new $5 stormwater fee included in their monthly utility bills beginning with the one that will be due for payment in January. The fee is one of the results, although not the most important one by any means, of the council’s approval by a 6-1 vote on second reading last night of the ordinance creating the utility needed to manage the city’s stormwater system. Council member Daphne Tenorio cast the lone vote against the proposal, arguing the city didn’t need a separate stormwater utility. "When we first started talking about it, it sounded like a good idea," she told me after the meeting. "But then I kept thinking about it. This is stuff we should already be having done for us anyway. The city should already be responsible for it, so why are you charging us for it.." When I reminded her that state law mandates a utility be funded with a separate fee, she said "We shouldn’t be charging people for this. It should be something that was already taken care of." When I argued that "taking care if it," no matter when its done or starts, still costs money, she replied "It should have been taken care of from the beginning. It’s something that should already have been taken care of." Although she wasn’t specific about "the beginning" of what, exactly, there is a grain of truth in her argument, but the other truth inherent in that argument is that "already taken care of" means the utility, and the fees to fund it, should have been established many years ago, which, arguably, could have prevented much of the flooding that struck the city twice last year.

Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Webster and Stomwater Director Kathy Roecker agreed a fee was required to be implemented "per state statute." "The statute instructs us in the way to establish the utility," the mayor said. ‘If we created instead a division within the Public Works Department and funded it with a property tax increase it would be subject to the prioritization of future councils and we wouldn’t have any consistency or permanency with it. Our goal is to establish something permanent and establish a utility that follows the state statute."

I also found it fascinating that while I have seen a lot of public criticism of the new fee on social media, only two individuals came to the council last night to speak on the subject and even they came only to seek answers to questions they had about the proposal. Both acknowledged that Roecker’s presentation to the council answered those questions to their satisfaction. So much for public outrage.

I found it even more fascinating, while also somewhat bewildering, that, possibly because of that aforementioned flooding, all the talk about the new utility’s operations has revolved around the amount of water flowing through the city’s stormwater drainage systems. Of equal importance, although it’s been a topic that has been largely ignored, is the quality of that stormwater. Unlike wastewater, stormwater is not sent to a treatment facility where all the contaminants are removed. Stormwater flows right into downstream creeks and rivers, whose pollution levels are precisely monitored. Kyle has not reached the population level, nor is it likely to do anytime in the foreseeable future, that would force the EPA to measure the city’s stormwater quality on a daily basis. If at some future time, however, a community downstream from Kyle notices increases in water pollution levels and can successfully trace the source of that pollution to Kyle stormwater, the EPA could intervene and take punitive action against the city. I do have two pieces of good news to impart on this subject, however. The first is, I have been informed by many individuals one of the main reasons Roecker was hired to manage the Kyle utility was her unquestioned knowledge in the area of stormwater quality. The second piece of good news is, that while many here in Kyle, including yours truly, lament about the lack of industry or similar business development in the city, that type of business activity brings with it reduced stormwater quality runoff.

But back to the housing authority fiasco. The HUD letter addressed the following "concerns" the department has about the Kyle Housing Authority:
  • Unauthorized cost: Work is charged to the Public Housing program without personnel activity reports or equivalent documentation to identify time worked in each program. Specifically, the agency noted $65,660 in maintenance and operation costs the authority claimed to have spent during the last five years even though, according to the letter, Simpson "could not provide any justification or produce any supporting documentation or copies or board minutes discussing the authorizing of these expenses." In addition, Pohler wrote, Simpson contracted "a few years ago" with a private vendor to build storage sheds and to install cabinets inside each of the units, but "she was unable to produce any procurement documentation for these two projects."
  • For the last five years the authority has had no existing board chairperson or board co-chairperson.
  • An unsupported salary for the executive director with "incremental increases that have tripled in value."
  • Unsupported pay increases for the authority’s unnamed maintenance worker.
  • Unsupported travel expenses.
  • Unsupported employee benefits contributions.
  • Unsupported compensated absences during the last six years.
  • No procurement policy that is reviewed and authorized by a board of commissioners.
  • Unsupported contractual expenses that were not approved beforehand by a board of commissioners.
  • Maintenance charges not pre-authorized by a board of commissioners.
  • Inadequate unit maintenance through the year. Specifically, HUD reported that six of the apartment units contained refrigerators that were either damaged, completely inoperable or missing entirely. Not only that, these same findings were discovered during inspections held in 2013 and then again last year. Apparently nothing was done to correct many of the deficiencies HUD discovered from its 2013 inspection. It also reported among the deficiencies that three units had ranges/stoves that were missing, damaged or inoperable and that the same units also had leaking faucets and pipes. Other deficiencies noted included damaged hardware/locks, and deteriorated or missing seals.

"Something drastic needs to happen within this organization to get it functioning again and to get it functioning properly," Mayor Webster told the council last night. He added he wanted this subject to be a part of last night’s agenda because he found "this staggeringly weird lack of any public record of anything related to this organization." He added that the five persons he wants to name to the newly reconstituted board of directors "need some support so that they can get the organization up and running."

Webster said when he began looking into the authority, after receiver his copy of the letter from Pohler, he discovered the authority had taken out "a rather large" 50-year loan at 9 percent interest with a balloon payment at the end of its term. He said the support the board needs is because "There’s the potential opportunity for refinancing some of those things that I don’t believe anyone we would put in this position right off the bat would have the necessary expertise." To cite one example, because of the authority’s current financial malfunctions, as referenced in the Pohler letter, Webster hoped "the city could provide, at (City Manager Scott) Sellers’s discretion, some time for Mr. Moheet to examine some of these financial issues so that advice could be provided to this new board."

In other action last night, the council:
  • Received another in its on-going series of progress reports on the five road bond projects. Although the city maintains you can learn the status of the various projects by looking in the city's web site, my journey to that page indicated the information on it had not been updated in the last three months, specifically since Aug. 5..
  • Learned the Goodwill outlet under construction immediately east of Wal-Mart is scheduled to open Thursday, Dec. 1.
  • Voted unanimously to reappoint Elizabeth Correy and appoint Daniel Owings to the Library Board.
  • Except for one pulled item, unanimously approved a consent agenda that contained the public condemnation of property along Burleson and yield signs at the Cleveland and McGarity roundabout in Plum Creek, one of which would replace a stop sign currently located there. Tenorio pulled one item from the consent agenda so she could be the only council member to vote against a budget amendment necessary to provide a $480,000 interest free loan to defense contractor RSI, Inc., that, among other things, will help the company repay back property taxes. Tenorio earlier said the company should have been paying those taxes all along, even though evidence revealed RSI did, indeed, attempt on multiple occasions to pay the taxes, but was rebuked by Hays County which told the company the taxes were not the company’s responsibility.
  • Postponed consideration of the Parks Master Plan.
  • Unanimously approved on first readings ordinances to annex 5.5 acres between FM 2770 and FM 1626 just northeast of Mountain City and rezone the property so that both duplexes and single family residences can be constructed on it.
  • Postponed until January, or until after the Planning and Zoning Commission acts on the item, an ordinance applying a different kind of residential zoning to 53 acres on the north side of Bebee Road, a quarter mile west of Dacy.
  • With a complete change of heart and conviction from its last meeting, voted 6-1 to approve a $270,000 expenditure for preliminary engineering services needed to relocate the railroad siding that results in the train stoppages that block traffic on Center Street. Tenorio cast the lone no vote, arguing the money should not come from city funds but from the Hays County bond proceeds approved by voters last week even though the county has made no mention when it might attempt to sell those bonds or even if it would permit the city to use the bond proceeds for any other purpose other than what was specifically outlined in the ballot proposal.
  • Decided it would not hold its regularly scheduled second meeting next month because the date of that meeting, Dec. 20, might interfere with holiday plans.
  • Learned its retreat has been scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, in the council chambers.
  • Spent two and a half hours in closed executive session, finally adjourning at 11:43 p.m., four hours and 42 minutes after it was gaveled into session.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Continuance granted in Espinoza hearing

Saying her "interest is in a clean hearing," examiner Dr. Paula Ann Hughes granted former Kyle Police Sgt. Jesse Espinoza’s request for a continuance today in the arbitration hearing stemming from his suspension from the force because, she said, a gag order issued in a related lawsuit could prohibit Espinoza’s attorneys from obtaining complete  testimony from Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett. Dr. Hughes did, however, stop the clock on back pay that might be awarded to Espinoza should he win his appeal.

The decision leaves the case somewhat in limbo, although Bettye Lynn, the attorney representing the city in the arbitration hearing, indicated the city might want to press forward with a hearing on a related issue. Lynne told me after the hearing it is her policy not to talk on the record with the media and attempts to reach officials at City Hall have so far proved unsuccessful, but I’m guessing even if they could be reached their answers would be something along the lines of "We really can’t comment on any of this until we consult with our attorneys." I’ve been involved in enough matters of this sort to know how the game is played.

Dr. Hughes’s decision was predicated around a gag order imposed in connection with a federal lawsuit filed in December 2013 by Louisiana anesthesiologist Dr. Glen Hurlston against Chief Barnett, the cities of Kyle and Princeton, Texas, and other police officers in Princeton, a town of about 6,800 located just east of McKinney in North Central Texas. Barnett was the chief of police in Princeton before assuming his current position here.

Without getting into details about the suit and all the allegations surrounding it, Espinoza’s attorney Grant Goodwin argued today Espinoza would be denied a fair hearing because the gag order instituted against all the parties in that suit would prohibit him from eliciting the testimony he needed from Barnett. Goodwin’s original motion asked for a continuance until all legal matters had been decided — including a federal lawsuit Espinoza recently field against the City of Kyle — but Dr. Hughes stressed "the issue is the gag order" and that she was granting the continuance only until such time as the Hurlston lawsuit is decided.

"My objective is to provide a just hearing," she said in her ruling, "If I can’t get the whole story, I can’t make a fair decision."

Espinoza is seeking to receive all back pay lost because of his suspension. Dr. Hughes ruled back pay would not be counted between today and when the court makes its decision in the Hurlston suit.

This hearing was necessitated because the hearing examiner who heard Espinoza’s original appeal died before he could render a decision. Goodwin maintained he was denied the opportunity to properly cross-examine Barnett during that first hearing because the chief was accompanied by attorneys who objected to testimony that could conflict with the gag order.

Lynn tried to argue the gag order in the Hurlston suit was not applicable to the proceedings in Kyle because that lawsuit involved Barnett’s actions before he came to Kyle. Dr. Hughes said, however, she wasn’t sure the two could be separated that easily.

"I operate on the fact that I would like as clean a hearing as possible and that’s what I want to happen," Dr. Hughes said. "We don’t even know what Chief Barnett would testify to today if a gag order wasn’t in place and those attorneys weren’t there. We just don’t know. If we knew, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And that’s where I see the limitations. He was limited before and he may say exactly the same thing or he may not. I don’t know that. That is the dilemma here."

"I must have the opportunity to make sure my client receives a fair hearing at a later date," Goodwin told the examiner. "We know from the last time we could not get a fair hearing. We know the limitations from what happened at the earlier hearing. We know we’re not going to be presented with our fair day in court if we proceed."

"You make some very good points," Dr. Hughes told Lynn, "but my interest is in a clean and fair hearing, and I don’t feel we can ignore the fact that Mr. Goodwin feels that he didn’t have as fair and clean access to Chief Barnett as he should have for the benefit of his client."

Although Lynn would not make a public statement after the ruling, Goodwin told me "I know eventually we will breach the issues, but today this was the correct decision based upon the playing field and wanting to make it fair for my client."

Today’s hearing was an appeal of Barnett’s decision in February 2015 to place Espinoza’ on administrative leave. He was later dismissed from the force by a police chief temporarily assigned to head the Kyle Police Department who said Espinoza was guilty of insubordination. Lynne hinted during the hearing the city might decide to press forward with the appeal of that dismissal decision because, she indicated, that would make any testimony concerning the Hurlston lawsuit and its gag order irrelevant.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Parks Master Plan strongly endorses construction of indoor rec center

The Kyle City council will be given the opportunity Tuesday to approve and adopt "an updated Parks and Recreation Master Plan" that repeatedly calls for the construction of an indoor recreational center, flying directly in the face of many city leaders who argue such a facility is out of the question because of both the cost of building it as well as its maintenance and operation costs should one ever be constructed.

And don’t say nobody warned you: Tuesday’s council meeting will also be the last shot citizens have to voice their opinion on the city’s plan to establish a Stormwater Management Department as well as to create a fee structure to pay for the department’s operations. A public hearing is scheduled to accompany the second and most likely the final reading of the ordinance creating, what I know to be a much-needed, stormwater utility.

Mentions of the needs for an indoor rec center can be found scattered throughout the Parks Master Plan, but it is particularly noticeable in Chapter 6, titled "Plan Recommendations" where it says simply and directly "Construct an indoor recreation center."

"Kyle’s population is rapidly reaching the threshold at which the availability of indoor recreation opportunities will influence long-term community perceptions and competitiveness," the plan’s authors wrote. "Such a facility remains a high citizen priority and can serve many of the recreational needs identified during this planning process. Previously prepared plans for an indoor recreation center at Kyle Vista Park should be reviewed and updated. Building plans should allow for a future expansion to incorporate an indoor aquatics center. Continue to engage partnering organizations for assistance in facility development, operations, and or maintenance."

The resistance to construct such a facility stems from, of course, the cost. A city owned and operated indoor recreation center, especially one with "an indoor aquatics center" — even one in which the city partnered with another organization such as the YMCA " for assistance in facility development, operations, and or maintenance" — is going to be steep. I’m guessing financing construction would involve another bond proposal, perhaps one coupled with the construction of a "state-of-the-art" police headquarters, whatever that means. In addition, the ongoing M&O costs would put a never-ending additional strain on the city’s annual budgets.

But there are other strategies that can be employed. In 2011, the Parks and Recreation Department of Rock Hill, S.C., embarked on the development of an $11 million outdoor center, including a 250-acre park with a cycling velodrome, BMX/supercross, cyclocross and mountain biking trails. The city financed the endeavor by leveraging multiple financing mechanisms, including hospitality taxes, sponsorships and federally backed private loans as well as using New Markets Tax Credits, a federal program designed to stimulate investment and economic growth in rural communities "that lack access to the patient capital needed to support and grow businesses, create jobs, and sustain healthy local economies." Over the last 10 years, this program has proven to be an effective, targeted and cost-efficient financing tool valued by businesses, communities and investors across the country. Although it is scheduled to expire in 2019, a proposed New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act would extend it indefinitely. Kyle, for example, could find a possible location for a rec center in what could be labeled "a blighted area," then create a Municipal Improvement District in that area to encourage the use of the federal New Markets Tax Credits.

Plus there are financial partnerships that could be forged beyond "the usual suspects." Solicit offers from private interest special interests groups that have project ideas that meet the city’s defined needs and can provide the fiscal resources to at least kick-start such a project.

This idea could attract stringent opposition, but I would argue the trade-off might be worth it. Shutter the swimming pool at Gregg-Clarke Park and dedicate those M&O funds to the establishment of a rec center. Although the Parks Master Plan mentions the increasing popularity of splash parks, further research would reveal that in most American communities swimming pools are falling out of public favor and support with splash parks taking their place in popularity and attractiveness. Not only that, splash parks are far less expensive to construct, operate and maintain than the typical municipal swimming pool.

Be that as it may, the Parks Master Plan argues that it is placing an emphasis on a rec center for Kyle because the public is demanding it.

Other item’s of possible public interest on Tuesday’s council agenda include:
  • Another in the series of reports on the status of the road bond projects.
  • A presentation on Goodwill Industries that was postponed from the council’s Nov. 1 meeting. No advance copy of the presentation was made available for public consumption.
  • The reappointment of Elizabeth Corey and the new appointment of Daniel Owings, who has spent most of his professional career in retail management at such outlets as Dillard’s, Dollar General, Hobby Lobby, Party Central and Tuesday Morning, to the Kyle Library Board.
  • A proposal to pay Catalyst Commercial Inc., of Dallas $24,000 to work with the city in attracting retail businesses to Kyle. Specifically Catalyst, according to the proposed agreement, must, within 10 days of the agreement’s finalization "coordinate a kick-off phone call with the city to discuss the city’s preferred/priority retailers and consultant’s strategy for attracting these priority/preferred retailers to Kyle." Then, sometime before the end of January, Catalyst and the city will be required to "work together to identify the top 10 retail locations for potential target locations for national and chain retail stores and shall maintain an inventory including available leasable area, minimum frontage, parking requirements, traffic and access, demographic characteristics, and existing co-tenants." By the end of March the contract stipulates Catalyst "shall assess major retail properties and retail space ‘readiness’ to attract retailers; and participate with city on a call with top 10 major retail developments where consultant will make recommendations to the city which can be available to property owners on changes necessary in retail spaces to maximize retail opportunities." After that Catalyst is supposed to "assist the city staff with retail contacts and negotiations and assist with facilitating a minimum of 1-2 conference calls per quarter with approved retailers and property owners/retail prospects." The city has had retail development agreements with Catalyst for quite a while now and I would love to be able to hear about the consultant’s "record of achievement" to date, but since this item is on the consent agenda, I don’t expect that to happen.
  • The first reading of an ordinance to remove a stop sign at the roundabout where Cleveland dead ends into McGarity in Plum Creek and replace it with a yield sign and also to install yield signs on McGarity’s approaches to the roundabout. This item is also on the consent agenda so if anyone from Plum Creek or anywhere else wants to talk about this, they will have to do so during the public comments period at the beginning of the 7 p.m. meeting.
  • The first reading of an ordinance voluntarily annexing close to 52 acres located between Jack C. Hays Trail and FM 1626 just a little northeast of Mountain City as well as the first reading of a separate ordinance to rezone this annexed land from agricultural uses to Plum Creek R-2 single family, which, in additional to normal single family residences, allows for the construction of duplexes and "medium density single-family detached residential," which allows for lower minimum lot sizes than standard single family residential. There is a public hearing attached to the rezoning ordinance, but not to the annexation one.
  • Yet another public hearing, this one concentrating on the first reading of an ordinance to rezone close to 53 acres on the north side of Beebee Road, about a quarter mile west of Dacy Lane, in the Meadows of Kyle II subdivision from Single Family Residential 2 to Single Family Detached Residential R-1-A. I would love to be able to tell you what that means but every time I try to connect to the pages on the city’s crack new Web site that would give me that information I get a message that the page can’t be found, But you can try for yourself here.
  • Another run at spending $270,000 for that engineering study needed to proceed with the relocating of the Union Pacific rail siding than causes train stoppages blocking Center Street. The plan was widely criticized by a majority of the council (the only voices I heard favoring it were those of Mayor Todd Webster and council member Damon Fogley) during its Nov. 1 meeting, but I’m assuming these dissenting voices have experienced some form of reawakening and are now willing to bite the bullet on ths one.
  • From what inside sources have told me, a possibly explosive report and discussion on the Kyle Housing Authority.
  • An executive session that could be quite lengthy since it is scheduled to include (1) attorney briefings on the federal lawsuit filed by former Kyle Police Sgt. Jesse Espinoza, whose appeal hearings on his dismissal begin next week; (2) a performance evaluation of City Manager Scott Sellers, at the conclusion of which I’m hoping the city extends to him (and he accepts) a long-term contract so that, among a myriad of other reasons, he can begin extending his vision beyond just the immediate future (I have no word on whether this "conclusion" will come Tuesday.); and (3) a report on three potential economic development projects, colorfully identified respectively as projects Sunset Orange, Cherry Red and Just Peachy.

You can access the entire agenda here.