The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Saturday, December 30, 2017

City seeks to add a Catalyst to its economic development efforts

The City Council is getting ready to bet that Catalyst Development will live up to its name.

Webster’s defines "catalyst" as something that "increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed in the process." What the council will be wagering at its Tuesday meeting is that Catalyst Development can and will help significantly increase the rate of commercial development in Kyle, thereby providing much-needed property tax relief to residential property owners in the city.

Interestingly, at least to me, the item involving Catalyst the council will be voting on appears on the consent agenda, a section that is usually reserved for two or more non-controversial items that should not garner much discussion and even less debate. Not that this item — which is nothing more than a 12-month agreement to pay Catalyst the comparatively miserly amount of $24,500 to help promote economic development in Kyle — is all that controversial. I just found it the most fascinating, the most interesting item on the agenda and the one that could have the most significant impact on the future of the city.

Of course, there’s always the surprises. Who knew, going into the last council meeting of 2017, the most controversial item was going to be the normally routine process of approving board and commission appointments. And, "whaddya know," there’s a couple of those on this agenda as well — two appointments to the Parks and Recreation Board and three to the Library Board. The council also needs to come up with a replacement for former council member David Wilson to represent position 3 on the Alliance Regional Water Authority board.

And, by the time this, the first council meeting of 2018, adjourns, the city should have its first-ever designated attorney for the Ethics Commission and possibly even a new city attorney. Those items will be discussed in executive session, however, and decisions may or may not be made public after the council returns to a public session.

And there’s that dang zoning issue involving 5½ acres on Windy Hill Road on which the owner wants to build an apartment complex and a small shopping area. That request drew some NIMBY opposition the first couple times it came before the council and it appeared to be opposed by a significant number of council members until the city attorney in that last council meeting of 2017 took the entire council into executive session after which the council meekly and without debate approved the item on first reading 6-1. It apparently has to do with a contract the city and the owner signed as a condition of the property being annexed that forces the council to approve the zoning request. So there’s that and the only thing that might happen is the NIMBYs might want to continue beating their heads against the wall by speaking out against the request during citizen comments period. But that fight appears all but over.

Someone on the council might even raise the question about a motorist apparently driving 116 miles an hour on Kohlers Crossing in late November between the railroad track and I-35. But I’ll get back to that a little later in this story.

Frankly, I’m more concerned about that item number 5 on the consent agenda to "authorize (the) execution of a 12-month professional services agreement with Catalyst Commercial, Inc., Dallas, Texas, for total consulting fees in the amount of $24,500 plus reimbursable expenses at 115 percent of actual costs to provide services related to developing retail business growth and recruitment strategies in the City of Kyle" for the upcoming calendar year.

According to the terms of the agreement, Catalyst is to:
  • "Prepare (a) brief creative marketing summary of Top 10 development sites for national and chain retail stores and shall maintain an inventory including available leasable area, dimensions on vacant lease space, parking ratios, available traffic data and accessibility, demographic summary, and schedule of major existing co-tenants, or other pertinent information relative to each property;"
  • Coordinate with the Economic Development Commission to conduct an assessment of the top five undeveloped properties that are planned or proposed for future retail; and
  • Refine the current recruitment prospect list to the top 20 prospects and develop a merchandising strategy that identifies and prioritizes the likely sites for each prospect."

The one missing ingredient to the above, at least to my way of thinking, was any sort of a deadline. The agreement never says when Catalyst must complete the above mentioned tasks.

"There is no hard deadline for (these ) items, but we have discussed making these available as quickly as possible," City Manager Scott Sellers said Friday. "I would expect these reports to be finalized no later than the end of the first quarter."

That’s fine, but will they be made public? Will the rest of us know who’s on the Catalyst Hit List? And, what’s more, the agreement also states Catalyst has got to coordinate monthly conference calls to update the city of results and statistics of Catalyst’s efforts in Kyle and to provide brief monthly written reports to the city detailing the status of Catalyst’s delivery of what it is being hired to deliver to the city. Will the content of those calls/written reports ever become public?

"The contents of the reports will be largely protected due to the confidential nature of recruiting/negotiating with the prospects," Sellers said. "However, we are happy to make public any portions of these reports that are not confidential."

I was also somewhat disturbed by the language in the agreement that called for "reimbursable expenses at 115 percent of actual costs." When I had my own crisis communications consulting company, I never inflated out-of-pocket costs. I would, in fact, include out-of-pocket receipts with all invoices. I didn’t consider it kosher to make a profit on out-of-pocket expenses. But the city manager satisfied my fears on that item as well.

"The 115 percent reimbursable is only for activities beyond the scope of the contract," Sellers said. "We don't currently anticipate additional activities, but there may be a prospect visit or report for which we will need assistance."

Another item of possible interest on Tuesday’s agenda is one that would increase the speed limit by five miles an hour on that part of Kohlers Crossing between the railroad tracks and I-35 that’s currently designated as a 40-mile-an-hour zone. The change will mean that entire stretch of Kohlers, from 2770 to I-35, will be designated as a 45-mile-an-hour road.

Which brings me back to that maniacal motorist — the one apparently clocked at 116 miles an hour on that stretch. Or perhaps not. Who knows? According to the results of a Traffic Speed Survey on this section of Kohlers conducted between 8 a.m. Nov. 27 and 2 p.m. Nov. 30, the average speed of the motor vehicles during that period was close to 48.9 miles an hour, close to 10 mph above the posted limit. In fact, out of the 9,616 vehicles surveyed during this period, 8,429 of them — a whopping 87.6 percent — exceeded the speed limit. I confess. I regularly take that road to get to and from I-35 and I just as regularly exceed the limit. But what really jumped out at me — screamed in my face, to tell you the truth — was this notation in the survey: "Maximum Speed (mph) 116." Does this mean the survey reported someone was actually driving 116 miles an hour sometime between 8 a.m. Nov. 27 and 2 p.m. Nov. 30 on Kohlers Crossing?. And, if so, what became of the speedster? Did he or she even bother to stop, as required, at the intersection of Kohlers Crossing and Kyle Crossing?

"The device used to capture the speeds and direction of travel does not record video of the violator or of the violation," City Engineer Leon Barba said Friday. "The device simply acts as a statistical recording device; therefore, no identification of the violator would be possible. As such, no driver could be identified and no legal action will take place.

"Being that the speeds indicated at 116 MPH are both shown at the onset of the data tracking activity and that the speeds are significant outliers, these two numbers reflect anomalies that will not be used in the computation of the overall data for the purposes of determining a safe speed for the roadway," Barba added.

You can access the entire agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

December a robust month for city sales tax collections

Sales tax collected


FY percent Surplus

Dec. 2016
Variance from
last year

You can read the entire report here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tenorio argues qualifications should not be part of committee selection process

Much to the astonishment of most of her colleagues, City Council member Daphne Tenorio said last night an applicant’s qualifications should not be considered when making committee appointments and instead candidates should simply draw straws to see who gets selected.

Tenorio’s comments came during an unusually tumultuous discussion during which the council rejected a nominee for the Ethics Commission and saw what should have been the routine approval for another person to be named to the Planning & Zoning Commission turn into a maelstrom with Tenorio’s comments.

Even though these dramatic events took place barely 30 minutes after the council’s last meeting of the year began, it was the major topic of conversation among four council members who had yet to leave the council chambers 4½ hours later. All four of them — Dex Ellison, Tracy Scheel, Mayor pro tem Shane Arabie and Mayor Travis Mitchell — said they were still shocked, surprised and perplexed by Tenorio’s suggestion that a person’s qualifications for serving on a city board or committee should be ignored and instead they should engage in some form of a lottery to determine how vacancies are filled.

During the discussion over the nomination of engineer Paul Scheibmeir to the Planning & Zoning Commission, Tenorio expressed concern that, if approved, his appointment would result in five planning commissioners living west of I-35 and only two living east. She failed, however, to explain how drawing lots for these positions would rectify that geographical imbalance or, even more importantly, to give any proof that this geographical distribution has had any effect on decisions made by planning commissioners.

In fact, Tenorio’s motives appeared to have more to do with revenge than the council’s committee selection process, a process that was actually reviewed, changed and adopted by the council earlier this year for the purpose of getting more qualified individuals on these committees. Prior to the vote on Scheibmeir, who, by the way, won council approval by a 6-1 vote (Need I say who voted against?), the council rejected Alex Villalobos’s nomination of Marco Pizana to the Ethics Commission with Tenorio being the only council member joining Villalobos in voting for Pizana. Last month, Pizana lost a city council election race and has publicly declared he plans to run again in 2019. The five council members voting against the nomination said the Ethics Commission is the one body filled with city council appointees that should be free from any political influence even if that means excluding those who might otherwise be qualified if they have announced plans to run for elective office.

Still, Tenorio’s comments left many observers scratching their heads over how someone could support the concept that a person’s qualifications should not be a criterion for serving on a city committee.

But that was not the only dramatic moment of last night’s city council meeting. The second one came during consideration of a zoning change request for property located on Windy Hill Road that the owner wanted to convert into an apartment complex with a small area set aside for a gas station/convenience store. The item was held over from the council’s last meeting on Nov. 21 to give City Attorney Frank Garza ample opportunity to research whether an agreement the owner signed with Hays County before his property was annexed by the city that gave him permission to build the complex superseded any action the council might take.

Even though Garza said his research suggested the city’s hands were tied because of that agreement, the council seemed on the verge of rejecting the zoning request. Tenorio had made a motion to deny the zoning change and it was seconded by Damon Fogley who stated he opposed the zoning change because there was already too much traffic congestion on Windy Hill Road. And judging from the comments made when this item came up for discussion at the council’s Nov. 21 meeting, only Arabie seemed to be a sure vote in favor of the zoning change.

But when Ellison asked Garza what exactly would be the legal ramifications on all parties of any council decision, Garza said that answer could only come during a discussion that took place in an executive session setting. Following a 30-minute executive session, council members filed back into their respective places on the dais and without any discussion demurely voted 6-1 to approve the zoning change recommended earlier last month by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

The council also approved delaying the start of the Lehman Road reconstruction for at least four months in the hope that the project might qualify to receive state and federal funding that would pay 80 percent of the cost of that project, along with four other planned capital improvement projects, the most expensive of which is the relocation of the railroad siding that results in stopped trains blocking traffic on Center Street in the heart of the city’s downtown area. The council was told that if the Lehman project scores high enough to receive these federal and state dollars, the revenues generated when voters approved the sale of bonds to finance the Lehman project could be used to add other-desired amenities to it, specifically a bridge that would completely remove Lehman from a flood plain. That was enough to convince all seven council members to vote in favor of a request to apply for the money.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Council to debate time vs. money

Which is the more valuable commodity: time or money? Is it a higher moral imperative for a municipal government to keep a promise it made to its citizen even if it means keeping that promise may not be the most judicious use of taxpayers’ dollars?

These are some of the questions the City Council must grapple with Tuesday night when it considers whether to apply for federal funds to help with various capital improvement projects because, like most, if not all, such requests, strings are definitely attached.

The item in question is one to consider and possibly take action "to approve a request for the CAMPO 2019-2022 Project Call." Specifically, the council will debate whether it wants to seek federal funding for the following projects:
  • Center Street rail siding relocation ($14.9 million)
  • Burleson ($8.79 million)
  • Lehman ($8.01 million)
  • Kyle Crossing ($1.28 million)
  • Post Road ($2.5 million)

If the CAMPO requests are granted, the feds would pay 80 percent of the aforementioned price tag for each project and the city would be required to pay the other 20 percent.

Three of the above-mentioned items appear to be simple and easy decisions. If the city can receive $11.92 million toward the relocation of the railroad siding that removes the stalled trains that block traffic on center street, when combined with other pledges from the county and elsewhere, the city’s cost for that project would only be $710,000. That sounds like a bargain. As far as the money for Kyle Crossing and Post Road, I’ve been told that federal funds to defray the costs on those projects are probably a long shot.

That leaves Burleson and Lehman and that’s where the moral debate comes in because, Mayor Travis Mitchell said today, if those moneys are approved by CAMPO, it would mean delaying work on those projects for at least a year beyond what voters were promised when they approved the sale of bonds to finance those road projects, and others, more than four years ago. On the other hand, the federal moneys mean the city could apply the bond revenue to other projects directly related to those roads, such as additional sidewalks for Lehman, additional lighting for Burleson, xeriscaping medians and Mitchell said he is a major advocate of xeriscaping. The leftover funds could even be used to help pay down the debt incurred by sale of the bonds, thus increasing the capacity for future capital improvement projects that could be funded by General Obligation bonds without triggering a property tax increase.

Mitchell even said one more option is available: the city could take a proposal back to the voters seeking permission to use those suddenly available funds on other projects unrelated to the ones approved for in the original bond sale — perhaps the Post Road or the Kyle Crossing projects, which are already part of the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan. The political gamble of that however is whether voters would be agreeable to renegotiating the use of that bond money after the city decided not to keep its promise on when to complete the Lehman and Burleson projects. It all comes down to trust.

The reasons why the Burleson and Lehman projects would need to be delayed if the city seeks CAMPO money to complete the projects is twofold: First and foremost, the money won’t be available until sometime in 2019 — most likely around the middle of that year — and, second, because federal dollars are involved, more extensive environmental impact studies will have to be conducted on both projects. Mitchell estimated the delay on starting the Lehman Road project could be between five and six months and the additional EPA studies could delay it for another18 months. Construction on Burleson probably would not begin until May 2019, he said.

CAMPO will announce next May which projects are being funded, according to Mitchell.

Citizens may weigh in on the matter — whether the city should get the feds to defray the costs of these two road projects or simply forget outside funds and get these two road projects completed when originally promised — during the Citizen Comments period at the beginning of Tuesday’s council session.

Incidentally, the item that follows the CAMPO request is directly related. That item would be considering whether to update the city’s Transportation Master Plan to include relocating the Center Street Railroad siding. Mitchell said this is strictly a formality because all projects approved for CAMPO funding must be a part of a Transportation Master Plan. The mayor also said that even though the map that accompanies this item suggests the relocated siding could cause stopped trains to block Kohlers Crossing, the siding is sufficient to accommodate the longest possible freight train to ever use that line without blocking traffic on Kohlers. In fact, he suggested, that map may not be 100 percent accurate.

Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include:
  • The appointments from the new council members for the city’s Ethics Commission.
  • The appointment of engineer Paul Scheibmeir to fill the Planning & Zoning Commission vacancy created when P&Z Chair Dex Ellison was elected to the City Council.
  • A resolution to suspend for 90 days a proposed 11.9% rate increase sought by Centerpoint Gas, which, according to city officials, provides natural gas to approximately 8,000 residential customers in Kyle, 318 "small volume" commercial customers, and one "large commercial customer."
  • A proposal to spend $216,188.68 to buy one of these for the Stormwater Utility.
  • A recommendation on zoning for a multi-family/retail services development on Windy Hill Road that was delayed during the last council meeting in order to obtain a legal opinion on whether the project was already allowed because of a previous agreement the property’s owner signed with Hays County prior to its annexation into the city. Several council members expressed concern at that last meeting about the impact the development would have on Windy Hill Road traffic.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

November sales tax table

Sales tax collected


FY percent Surplus

Nov. 2016
Variance from
last year

You can read the entire report here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tenorio violates charter during special council meeting

District 6 City Council member Daphne Tenorio openly and defiantly violated a section of the Kyle City Charter during last night’s Special City Council Meeting by refusing to vote on the items on that meeting’s agenda while still discussing them, opening questions about her fitness to serve on the council.

After complaining about the contents of the minutes for the Nov. 4 special council meeting, she failed to participate in the voting on the approval of those minutes. She also failed to participate in the voting to approve the regular meeting minutes for the sessions held on Oct. 4 and Oct. 17.

The first sentence of Section 3.08 of the City Charter states: "All members of the council present shall vote upon every issue, subject or matter properly before the council and requiring a council vote; provided that, if any member of the council has a conflict of interest that fact shall be stated in the minutes and such member shall abstain from discussion and voting on the issue."

Tenorio not only failed to voice/record any "conflict of interest" on these three items, she also did not "abstain from discussion" of the items. In fact, she actually initiated the discussion on those minutes, clear violations of this section of the charter.

It will be interesting to see whether anyone will file any kind of formal complaint against Tenorio, who has a history of complaining about the actions of others on the council. In fact, her complaint about the minutes of the Nov. 4 meeting was based on her criticism of former Mayor Todd Webster’s decision to continue that meeting after Tenorio, without any explanation, left the council dias, leaving the council without a quorum. This prohibited the council from taking any action on a PID request until a quorum was re-established some 20 minutes later with the arrival of former District 2 council member Becky Selbera. However, the mere act of her complaining about what happened at that Nov. 4 meeting coupled with her non-participation in the vote connected with the issue are both charter violations.

It should be noted, however, that, under the terms of the revised Ethics Ordinance, the terms of four Ethics Commissioners — Ryan Browning, Margaret A. Le-Compte-Somma, Andrea Cunningham and Gary Rush — have expired. Plus Seat 3 is vacant, leaving only two active Ethics Commissioners, Elizabeth B. Guidry and Nancy Fahy, whose appointment, somewhat ironically, was just approved last night by a 6-1 vote (council member Shane Arabie voting "no.")

Updated Thursday, 11-23, at 10:21 p.m.) Tenorio replied to my request for a response by writing simply "I hope you and your family have a very happy Thanksgiving." (Editor's Note: She sent that e-mail to me Wednesday at 6:03 p.m., but I failed to see and read it until moments ago, shortly  after I returned from enjoying a very happy Thanksgiving with my family.)

Other than that, last night’s city council meetings were fairly routine, with the major events being the swearing in of Mayor Travis Mitchell and new council members Dex Ellison, Tracy Scheel and Alex Villalobos along with the council’s election of Arabie as mayor pro tem.

Back in 2015, I wrote a number of articles regarding how the council made a mockery of Roberts Rules of Order concerning the difference between "discussion" and "debate" on an issue. That was (hopefully) finally resolved with the adoption of new council rules last night that specifically delineates the differences between the two as well as defining a proper sense of decorum during City Council meetings. A couple of City Council members, who obviously don’t have the experience necessary to make such judgments, tried to maintain these rules stifled freedoms of speech. The truth is, in every City Council meeting I have ever attended in Tarrant, Dallas and Collin counties, those same words are read aloud, exactly as they appeared in the rule changes adopted last night, prior to every citizens comments period.

After one person abused the three-minute Citizen Comment Period by hogging the podium for more than six and a half minutes, council member Damon Fogley wisely said he would like to see the installation of a timing device to limit such abuses during both the Citizen Comment Period and various public hearings. It would seem a simple, inexpensive software adjustment could be installed so that a such a timer would be visible on the screens above the council dais.

For some reason not clearly delineated, Tenorio and Villalobos objected to Texas Pie Company owner Julie Albertson being appointed to a non-voting seat on the Economic Development & Tourism Board, with the key term there being "non-voting seat." If Kyle is to be known as "the pie capital of Texas," in part to attract tourism, it would seem, at least to me, a no-brainer that the owner of the establishment that earned the city that designation should serve on the Economic Development & Tourism Board.

In other action last night, the council:
  • Delayed a zoning decision on property located on Windy Hill Road until Dec. 5 so that City Attorney Frank Garza could research whether the applicant had the right to build apartments on the property regardless of the zoning decision of the council because an agreement the applicant signed with Hays County prior to his property being annexed gave him permission to build them. The issue has the potential for setting an interesting precedent: Whether infrastructure improvements should be made because of development or in anticipation of it.
  • Approved the appointments of Fogley to the Executive Board of the Combined Emergency Communications Center; Planning & Zoning Commissioner Rick Koch to cast the city’s votes on the Hays Central Appraisal District; Al Mata, general manager of the Hampton Inn, as a voting member of the Economic Development & Tourism Board; and the reappointments of Scott Stoker and Travis Upchurch to the Parks and Recreation Board.
  • Approved without any debate and little discussion (Planning Director Hoard J. Koontz said he has had some interest from developers) the creation of mixed-use zoning districts that would be located alongside major arterials in Kyle.
  • Heard a discussion on Community Development Block Grants, a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, meant primarily to fund development programs that benefit low and moderate-income recipients. CDBG funds may be used for community development activities (such as real estate acquisition, relocation, demolition, rehabilitation of housing and commercial buildings), construction of public facilities and improvements (such as water, sewer, and other utilities, street paving, and sidewalks), construction and maintenance of neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings, public services, and economic development and job creation/retention activities. CDBG funds can also be used for preservation and restoration of historic properties in low-income neighborhoods. It is questionable whether (1) Kyle can find census tracts that are eligible for CDBG funds or (2) whether such funds will even be available much longer because President Trump’s war on low and moderate-income individuals has prompted his attempt to eliminate the CDBG program.
  • Heard what could be described as a "plea" from City Manager Scott Sellers to cancel the planned Dec. 19 council meeting due to its proximity to Christmas.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mitchell gets council agendas posted 24 hours earlier

Mayor-elect Travis Mitchell, confirmed today he has reached an agreement with the city’s staff requiring council agendas be posted by the close of business on the Thursday prior to the meeting in question, a day earlier than the current requirement.

The change will be reflected during a vote on revising the council's rules of procedure during tomorrow night's agenda meeting, the first to include three new council members.

Mitchell, along with council members Dex Ellison, Tracy Scheel and Alex Villalobos, will be sworn in during a special ceremony scheduled for an hour before the planned 7 p.m. start of the regular city council meeting. All but Ellison will be sworn in for three-year terms. Ellison was elected to serve out the remaining two years of Mitchell’s District 1 seat, a position he resigned to run for mayor. Immediately prior to the swearing-in ceremonies, a special recognition is planned for outgoing Mayor Todd Webster and city council members Becky Selbera and David Wilson. Together, those three account for more than 30 years of city council experience.

Under the existing council rules, agenda items were required to be "made available" four days prior to a council meeting, meaning the Friday before. Mitchell is changing that requirement to three business days prior, with "business" being the significant word. That means agendas will now be "made available" by the end of the business day on Thursdays.

"I actually requested something very different, but this was our compromise," Mitchell said today. "One of my first goals as mayor was to create more time between when our agendas are posted and the actual meeting. This is good for the public, but it is also good for the council to have more time to interact with the material and ask questions from staff."

Mitchell said he was unsure of how one of the many Monday legal holidays that might come the day immediately before a council meeting would affect this schedule.

"I suspect it will push it back another 24 hours, but I'll need to get clarification from staff," the mayor-elect said.

He admitted he was seeking additional changes in meeting procedures, similar to those recently enacted by the San Marcos City Council which on Friday announced it would (1) hold open-to-the-public work sessions in council chambers at 3 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month so council members could go over the agenda of that evening’s meeting without taking any action; and (2) place a 60-minute limit on the length of executive sessions (most Kyle City Council executive sessions extend longer than an hour).

Speaking of which, Tuesday’s council meeting has the distinct possibility of being a long one, providing a total immersion rather than a sprinkling baptismal for the new council members. It includes an executive session that will discuss two legal matters and an economic development possibility as well as a number of items regulating the flow of motor vehicles around Kyle.

For example, on the consent agenda there’s an item calling for the installation of stop signs at seven Kyle intersections — Autumn Sage and Camelia parkways, Downing Way and Waterloo Drive, Brandi Circle and Hallie Drive, Brent Boulevard and Philomena Drive, Dacy Lane and Bunton Creek Road, and Lehman Road and Bunton Creek. Of these, only the Downing/Waterloo and the Brent/Philomena intersections will be four-way stop signs, according to City Engineer Leon Barba.

Another consent agenda item would lead to the installation of traffic signals at Philomena and Bunton Creek and Philomena at Kyle Parkway. A third consent agenda item would lead to the erection of signs prohibiting trucks from driving on Kyle Crossing between Kohlers Crossing and Vista Ridge Drive.

And, on the agenda for individual consideration, is an item to "Consider and possible action to approve a request for the CAMPO 2019-2022 Project Call." I sought explanation of this item last week from staff, but have yet to receive a response for clarification, which leads me to guess that the city is going to be asking CAMPO for money to help complete two road bond projects ($9 million for Burleson Road and $8 million for Lehman) as well as a combined $3.8 million to pay for repairs on Kyle Crossing and Post Road, and a whopping $14.9 million to be used for relocating the Center Street rail siding. According to CAMPO’s web site, it held a workshop Oct. 25 in San Marcos to "cover the entire selection process" for the 2019-2022 project call. I have no idea whether representatives from Kyle’s city staff attended this workshop, but I suspect one or more did which led to the preparation of the request that will be on tomorrow’s agenda. The upside of this, should the request be granted by CAMPO, would be a possible $35.7 million savings for the city on much needed projects, The downside would be the fact that work on these projects might not even begin until sometime around 2022 and voters were promised the two road bond projects, at least, would be completed long before that. Council members will thus be asked to determine which is more important: saving taxpayers money or getting projects completed expeditiously.

(Updated at 10 p.m.) At least, that's what it originally appeared council members were going to be asked to choose between. However, earlier this evening the city announced City Manager Scott Sellers will ask the council "to pull the item while more information gathering takes place." Yep, that's vague but it could also explain why no one from the city responded to my request for clarification on this item. It appears the staff is not all that clear on it. The city's last-minute announcement goes on to say council members "will have to vote on whether to pull it or continue," but I'm betting they'll acquiesce to the city manager's request.

Other items of interest on tomorrow night’s agenda include:

  • The election of a mayor pro tem,
  • Re-appointments to the Parks and Recreation Board, appointments to the Economic Development & Tourism Board, and council member Daphne Tenorio’s request to appoint Nancy Fahey to the Ethics Commission.
  • Accepting a grant of $16,122 from the Ladd and Katherine Hancher Library Foundation as well as an order in the same amount to purchase seven children’s learning centers for the Kyle Public Library which, according to library officials, will create "an informal technology-based learning environment for children so they can explore and discover further educational opportunities in a fun, safe and comfortable place."
  • An ordinance that will result in the creation of a mixed-use zoning category.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Move to November increases voter turnout, Plum Creek vital to election success

Election numbers released earlier this week reveal two interesting facts. First, election turnout was higher this year, when the election was held in November, than last, when it was in May. Second, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to win an election in which Plum Creek voters are eligible to cast ballots without winning in that subdivision.

It’s open to debate whether moving the Kyle City Council elections from May to November for the first time this year is the actual reason for increased voter participation in 2017, but the cold hard facts reveal that the number of registered voters in the five precincts located entirely within Kyle increased by only 280 from May 2016 to this election, but the number of actual voters increased by 522.

Still, that’s not really all that much to brag about. That translated into 8.9 percent of the registered voters casting ballots in the most recent election, but that is a significant increase over the 6 percent who voted in the May 2016 election.

The precinct-by-precinct turnout numbers released by Hays County earlier this week also revealed the importance of winning the support of Plum Creek residents: Precinct 221, which is basically Plum Creek, accounted for 29.6 percent of all the votes cast in this most recent election. In the mayor’s race, winner Travis Mitchell collected a whopping 72.3 percent of the Plum Creek votes. In the Silverado/downtown area, by contrast, he won only 39.7 percent, but that area accounted for only 14.7 of the total votes cast, less than half that of Plum Creek. Mitchell won the race by collecting 58.6 percent of the vote citywide.

Plum Creek also was significant in the District 1 special election won by Dex Ellison over Marco Pizana. While Ellison won citywide with 53.7 percent of the vote, he won the Plum Creek precinct with 67.4 percent. By contrast, Pizana won Silverado/downtown with 68.9 percent, but, again that’s not where the voters are.

The precinct with the highest percent turnout, although the lowest number of voters, is Hometown Kyle where 13.83 percent of the voters turned out. Interestingly, Hometown Kyle resident Alex Villalobos, who was on the ballot for District 4, won that precinct by only one vote. On the other hand, Villalobos won the important Plum Creek precinct, which is the home of the candidate, Tim McHutchion, he defeated in the election, with 52 percent of the vote and the Silverado/downtown area with a comfortable 74.7 percent of the vote, However, to emphasize the importance of winning in Plum Creek, Villalobos collected 82 more votes in Plum Creek than he did in Silverado/downtown and those 82 votes accounted for 85.5 percent of his total margin of victory.

The precincts with the most voters, Precinct 129 (Amberwood/Steeplechase) and Precinct 127 (Waterleaf/Southeast Kyle) had voter turnouts of only 6.94 percent 6.25 percent respectively.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ellison attributes victory to block walking

Dex Ellison, the chairman of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission who last night was elected to complete a two-year term as the District 1 representative on the Kyle City Council, said today he won because of hard work and "just getting out there and talking to people."

"I know a lot of people were concerned because I didn’t have the social media presence, I didn’t have very many signs out there and I know those are the visible things everyone can see," Ellison said in a telephone interview. "Not only am I happy that I won, of course, and that was just getting out in the neighborhoods, talking to people. I think that really resonated with folks to meet them on the front steps. I had many people surprised I was the actual candidate — they thought I was just somebody out there supporting the candidate. And I think that made a huge difference."

Ellison defeated Marco Pizana for the seat that became available when incumbent Travis Mitchell resigned to successfully run for mayor.

"I didn’t spend a boatload of money for this seat," Ellison continued. "It was just getting out there and talking to people and I think people want to vote for people they relate to and people they feel like they can have a conversation with. I had hundreds of conversations and I think that’s what ultimately led me to that victory."

Ellison, who won 56.3 percent of the 1,520 votes cast in the District 1 race, said many of the concerns he heard during his block walking will shape his policy-making decisions on the council.

"I really want to get the word out about what’s happening at City Hall," he said. "I can’t tell you how many times in those hundreds of conversations I had where I heard people say they just don’t feel informed. They don’t know what’s going on, whether it’s good or bad. We’ve made a lot of progress in the past couple of years, but I think there’s more we can do. We need to bring City Hall out into the communities and I want to start looking at those options."

He also said he wants to bring the knowledge he has gained while serving as a Planning & Zoning commissioner to the council dais.

Many of the other candidates running in last night’s elections posted their reactions on various social media sites.

"First and foremost I want to say thank you to my wife, my family and my friends for being there each step of the way," Pizana posted on Facebook. "Next, I want to congratulate our new elected City Council members. It was a great race. My journey is not over yet. I will continue being that voice that my community needs."

"I cannot thank you all enough," said victorious District 4 candidate Alex Villalobos, one of only two candidates in a contested race to receive more votes on election day than in early voting. "My family for your unconditional support. My friends for the positive encouragement. My campaign team for your tireless energy, believing in me, preparing me, walking with me and for keeping the campaign focused. To the City of Kyle who have spoken with your vote!

"I am honored to be your council member," Villalobos continued in a Facebook entry. "This is only the beginning of our relationship and I am very excited to enrich and create strong partnerships and a legacy of community we can all be proud of! Together we will form a more responsive, accessible and engaged city government."

Villalobos won 56.37 percent of the 761 votes cast in the single-member District 4 race to succeed outgoing council member David Wilson. The 215 votes cast for Villalobos on election day was one more than he received during early voting. Mayoral candidate Nicole Romero-Piche was the only other candidate to receive more votes (103) on election day than she did during early voting (76). Still, she finished fourth in that four-person race won by Mitchell.

"Congratulations Alex on a good campaign," Tim McHutchion, Villalobos’ opponent, said today in a Facebook posting. "I hope you do well as a new council member. I want to thank all my supporters during this campaign. It was quite a ride. Thank you everyone again from the bottom of my heart, I will continue to be strong in our community and I will continue to advocate for small business and continue to strive for the betterment of our city."

Tracy Scheel, who was unopposed in an election to succeed Becky Selbera as the District 2 council representative, posted this on Facebook: "Congratulations to Travis Mitchell, Dex Ellison and Alex Villalobos. I look forward to working with all of you on the Kyle City Council."

This election marked the first one in Kyle in this century that resulted in four persons assuming new positions on the council. In 2010, however, there was an identical council shakeup, but it didn’t happen in one election. Lucy Johnson was elected mayor in a special February election that year to succeed Mike Gonzalez, who resigned to run for county commissioner. In that same special February election, Jaime Sanchez, who placed third in this year’s mayoral election, was elected to replace Johnson as the District 5 council member. In the regular May elections of 2010, Diane Hervol won her first council contest to represent District 1, a seat she held until she was defeated last year by Mitchell; and Brad Pickett ran unopposed to succeed David Salazar in District 3.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Mitchell wins mayor’s race without runoff; Ellison, Villalobos take council seats

Updated at 9 p.m.

First-term city council member Travis Mitchell cruised to a commanding victory in a four-person race for Kyle mayor tonight in an election that also saw Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Dex Ellison and police officer Alex Villalobos win seats on the council.

With 11 of 14 precincts or 78.57 percent of the vote counted, Mitchell captured 60.36 percent of the vote, forcing The Kyle Report to call the election for Mitchell. Perennial candidate Bill Sinor was second with 18.7 percent, Jaime Sanchez third with 11.64 percent and Nicole Romero-Piche fourth with 9.31 percent.

"I am very grateful to receive this degree of support," Mitchell said, "and now I’m going to try to repay that support by working as hard as I can everyday as mayor to make us stronger as a city. I want to congratulate my opponents on their campaigns. They, and all the candidates in this election, were striving to make Kyle a better place for all of us."

Villalobos, who was only ahead of his District 4 opponent Tim McHutchion by 11 votes after the early voting, won handily, capturing 62.5 percent of the votes cast today to win by a margin of almost 13 percent. With complete returns in that race counted, Villalobos took 56.37 percent of the votes cast in the race to succeed David Wilson.

The results are also incomplete in the District 1 special election race called to complete the two years remaining on Mitchell’s term but with almost 79 percent of the vote counted, The Kyle Report is declaring Ellison the winner with 54.35 percent of the vote. compared to Marco Pizana's 45.65 percent.

I’ve left messages with Villalobos and Ellison seeking their reactions to the outcome.

Posted at 8 p.m. First-term city council member Travis Mitchell took a commanding lead in early voting results tonight and appeared to be cruising towards an outright victory in the four-person race for Kyle mayor.

Mitchell captured an overwhelming 61.47 percent of the 859 total absentee and early votes counted, compared to 17.81 percent for Bill Sinor, 11.87 percent for Jaime Sanchez and 8.85 percent for Nicole Romero-Piche

Of the three city council seats up for grabs, the closest race was in District 4 where Alex Villalobos had an 11-vote lead over Tim McHutchion in early voting. In the District 1 special election, Dex Ellison had 54.67 percent of the vote over Marco Pizana. Tracy Sheel was unopposed in the race to succeed Becky Selbera in District 2.

Mitchell was the overwhelming favorite in the mayor’s race. The only question was whether he could avoid a runoff with four candidates in the race.

"The numbers are better than I anticipated," an obviously delighted Mitchell said at his watch party right after the early results were posted. "I’m just really happy to see the results come in as favorably as they did."

Mitchell poised to win without runoff

Posted at 8 p.m. First-term city council member Travis Mitchell took a commanding lead in early voting results tonight and appeared to be cruising towards an outright victory in the four-person race for Kyle mayor.

Mitchell captured an overwhelming 61.47 percent of the 859 total absentee and early votes counted, compared to 17.81 percent for Bill Sinor, 11.87 percent for Jaime Sanchez and 8.85 percent for Nicole Romero-Piche

Of the three city council seats up for grabs, the closest race was in District 4 where Alex Villalobos had an 11-vote lead over Tim McHutchion in early voting. In the District 1 special election, Dex Ellison had 54.67 percent of the vote over Marco Pizana. Tracy Sheel was unopposed in the race to succeed Becky Selbera in District 2.

Mitchell was the overwhelming favorite in the mayor’s race. The only question was whether he could avoid a runoff with four candidates in the race.

"The numbers are better than I anticipated," an obviously delighted Mitchell said at his watch party right after the early results were posted. "I’m just really happy to see the results come in as favorably as they did."

October sales tax collections

Sales tax collected


Percent over/under budget

FY percent over/under

October 2016

 FY variance from
last year



9.81% over

9.81% over


13.22% over

You can read the entire report here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Updated city council financial campaign reports

Last 30 days
Total Contributions
Expenses Last 30 Days
Total Expenses
Travis Mitchell, Mayor
Nicole Romeo-Piche, Mayor
Did not file report
Did not file report
Jaime Sanchez, Mayor
Did not file report
Did not file report
Did not file report
Did not file report
Bill Sinor, Mayor
Dex Ellison, *** Place 1
Marco Pizana, Place 1
Tim McHutchion, Place 4
Alex Villalobos, Place 4

* Contributions include $500 from The Jumpy Place in Buda; $250 from William A. Musser of Kyle; and $200 from Fred and Sharon Rothert of Kyle.

** Contributions include $1,000 from Liberty Civil Construction of Cedar Park, a year-old construction firm, which, according to its Facebook entry is "focusing primarily on general contracting single family subdivision work."

*** Completely self-funded

**** Contributions include $250 each from Terry Mitchell, president, and Robert Gass, partner, Momark Development, the developers of Plum Creek, among other Austin related residential/commercial projects.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tenorio walkout paves way for PID approval

Council member Daphne Tenorio abruptly and without explanation left the council dias today making it possible for the council to authorize by a 4-0 vote a Public Improvement District designed to finance mainly sewer, street and drainage improvements in areas bordering a planned residential development just west of I35 between Opal and Rowland lanes.

Tenorio was actually the first council member to assume her seat on the dias for this special city council meeting, followed by council member Travis Mitchell and Mayor Todd Webster. I have reached out to Tenorio asking her why she left, but have yet to receive a response, so speculation must prevail. For some reason Tenorio opposes all PIDs, even extremely valuable and worthwhile PIDs like this one that are designed to work as PIDs are supposed to. Of course, the reality is, Tenorio doesn’t oppose PIDs, but what PIDs represent and that’s development. She has become a tool of the anti-growth movement in Kyle. So, it’s more than reasonable to assume Tenorio left the council chambers thinking she would deny the council the quorum required to hold the vote on the PID request, which, strategically speaking, was precisely the wrong move to make because all she did was assure its passage by her departure.

The truth is there is nothing she could have done to derail the PID. At most, she could have delayed it until the council’s next meeting on Nov. 21. But the only way she could have done that is to remain on the dias. Had she done that, she would have learned during the roll call that council member Becky Selbera was en route to City Hall, so a quorum would eventually be there regardless (council members Shane Arabie and David Wilson were out of the city early today). But, had Tenorio remained, she could have maneuvered to force the council to vote on the PID request before Selbera arrived and a 3-1 vote to approve (with Tenorio being the lone opposition) would not be sufficient to approve it because at least four votes are required for the council to approve anything. The reason that tactic would not have killed the PID, however — only delayed it — is because Mitchell or Webster, perhaps both, would have undoubtedly voted with Tenorio to deny approval and then one or both of them would have requested reconsideration of the item on the Nov. 21 agenda (only a council member on the prevailing side of a vote can request reconsideration).

Only two persons, Lila Knight and Tim Miller, appeared to speak during the public hearing on the PID and, to their credit, both actually addressed the issue of the PID itself, and not whether the property should be developed as planned, which was the off-the-topic subject of many of the preceding public hearings associated with this development. As Mayor Webster said twice during today’s meeting, the development will take place, regardless of whether the PID is approved.

Ninety percent of the roughly $6.4 million in revenue expected to be generated by the sale of the PID’s bonds will be used to finance improvements outside the development itself and even the 10 percent that will be applied to the development is to be used to transform what some who live in the area refer to as a swamp into usable park land, which certainly can be categorized as a neighborhood improvement worthy of a PID. The PID representative who attended today’s meeting told council members present that the annual PID assessment is expected to be between $860 and $875, which will part of the same escrow account lenders establish to pay all local property taxes. That means the overall price tag on a home in this development will be up to $17,500 higher than the actual market value of the home and could also place these homeowners in a position of having to pay interest on their assessments, which increases the total assessment even more. Of course, a prospective homeowner could pay the entire assessment at closing to avoid the interest, but, economically speaking, that would not be a sound move unless the buyer was fully committed to owning that property for 20 or more years.

Assistant City Manager James Earp told the council "the most important" improvement to be financed by the revenue generated by the sale of the PID bonds is a sewer connection. "There’s no sewer in that part of town," he told the council. "The city is building the southside sewer project which will allow the sewer to be collected at Yarrington and then pumped back to our plant up the interstate frontage road. But the collection system on the west side of the interstate needs to be built and that’s what one of the fundamental items in the PID is for the subdivision to be able to build that sewer infrastructure.

"Probably the next two things that are important are the transportation networks," Earp continued. "The roads, Opal and Rowland, are both under-built and any amount of traffic that would be generated by a new development would put an undue burden on the roadway." Earp said the normal policy is to require developers to pay half the costs of needed roadway improvements. "In this case, the developers are rebuilding the entire section of the road from beyond their entrances points back toward the interstate."

Webster asked Earp whether the developers were simply rebuilding the road or improving it.

"It’s going to be wider," Earp answered. "I think it’s a three-lane segment."

A third component, Earp said, were the installation of silent crossings where Roland and Opal lanes cross the railroad tracks. In an obviously unplanned, but highly ironic moment, Earp had to speak over the sound of a train whistle to tell the council the railroad tracks run along the eastern boundary of the development. "The city is trying to move toward having all of our crossings in the city be silent crossings. And these were two silent crossings the city had on its list to do in the future. But because of the development, the development has agreed to take those silent crossings on as a part of their development and pay for it through the PID financing."

"It’s very rare for a development to do that type of improvements we’re taking on," said Brett Corwin, project manager for Intermandeco, the developer of the project. "Usually you stay within and along the boundary of your property and you’re only responsible for just half of that. So we’re going above and beyond to make sure that the connectivity from (Interstate) 35 is sufficient for the neighborhood. And when we add the quiet crossings on our project and bundle them with the ones the city is already working on then you’ll have a lot quieter city council meetings."

Corwin said the drainage pipes servicing Opal and Rowland lanes are "completely insufficient …so what we’re putting in will help a ton. It’s a huge upgrade as far as drainage goes on the roads."

Webster said as long as prospective buyers are fully informed about the PID and the costs associated with it before they purchase a home, he’s on board with the funding mechanism. "It accomplishes what I’ve heard over and over and over and over again for 20 years: ‘All this development’s coming in and it’s raising our taxes.’ This is a mechanism to make sure that tax burden for those infrastructure improvements is not borne by everyone in the community."