The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

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

Amount
over/under
budget

Percent over/under budget

FY percent over/under
budget



October 2016
Collections

 FY variance from
last year

$556,683.52

$49.729.52
over

9.81% over

9.81% over

$491,669.19

13.22% over


You can read the entire report here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Updated city council financial campaign reports

Candidate
Contributions
Last 30 days
Total Contributions
Expenses Last 30 Days
Total Expenses
Travis Mitchell, Mayor
$950*
$3,738.66
$225.62
$3,124.06
Nicole Romeo-Piche, Mayor
Did not file report
$0
Did not file report
$25.64
Jaime Sanchez, Mayor
Did not file report
Did not file report
Did not file report
Did not file report
Bill Sinor, Mayor
$1,365**
$1,485
$1,682.32
$1,892.32
Dex Ellison, *** Place 1
$0
$0
$357.63
$1,421.77
Marco Pizana, Place 1
$0
$737.00
$0
$1,538.16
Tim McHutchion, Place 4
$550****
$1,000
$0
$415.02
Alex Villalobos, Place 4
$350
$703
$350
$3,400.67


 
* 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."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A conversation with mayoral candidate Bill Sinor

Editor’s note: I would love to be able to tell readers that what follows is a transcript of a conversation I had with mayoral candidate Bill Sinor. Unfortunately, the truth is, of the eight candidates in competitive races for seats on the Kyle City Council, Sinor was the only one who refused my invitation to discuss some of the issues, suggesting, of course, Sinor is the only one of the eight running for public office in Kyle who has much to hide from voters. His hide-his-views-from-the-public stance also gives me pause on just how transparent and open a government we would have if he is elected mayor.

A conversation with mayoral candidate Jaime Sanchez

Editor’s note: The following is a conversation I had Oct. 7 with mayoral candidate Jaime Sanchez.

Kyle Report (KR): Why are you running?

Sanchez: I want to improve my city.

KR: In what ways?

Sanchez: My agenda is as follows — three things. If I can try to save taxpayers taxes, I would love to bring the tax rate down, in whatever form or fashion I can do it — with water, wastewater — whatever way we can do it. People come to the city because they think it’s small town and they think it’s cheap. But we’re more expensive. We’re competing with Austin. In some instances, we have higher rates than Austin so somehow we need to bring all these rates down. Not that we can do it, but we can try and we can look at the different avenues to do that. Second thing and this is my pet peeve, my biggest one, and that’s infrastructure. What that means is two-dimensional. What that means is not only roads but it means water and wastewater. The only way you build a city is if you have the roads. That’s why Austin didn’t grow as much until now because now they’re expanding all the road systems. Look at Houston. Houston is huge because they have a nice infrastructure system. So roads, water and wastewater. That is my pet peeve.

KR: How do you feel about the way the city has prepared for its future water supply and its wastewater needs?

Sanchez: I think they’re doing good. On water, we came to this agreement with all these different cities. I think it’s a great policy, but now we’ve got to pay for it. Which means we got to raise sales tax for everybody else because now we have to pay for it.

KR: You don’t think it should be paid for through water rates?

Sanchez: You can’t cover $32 million — and that was the beginning price. $32 million was the beginning, original price, but it’s gone way up. You’re not going to cover it with utilities. No way. And so the price is going to keep going up and now we have to start paying for it because they’re doing land acquisition. I think they’re trying to finalize all the land agreements for the wells. And now the group that oversees this wants to get paid. So that increases the cost. So it’s gone from $32 million to something substantially higher.

KR: Is there an alternative to paying it?

Sanchez: You pay it, but you have to manage it, though. The agreement was $32 million. Same thing with the roads and the road bonds. $36 million for roads and it wasn’t managed correctly because now it’s gone way beyond $36 million on the projects. I need to look into it — I don’t know the specifics — I’m not involved, but that’s kind of my cup of tea — those are the kind of things that I do so I think I would be a positive influence on that.

KR: Continuing on the subject of roads, in your opinion, does Kyle have a transportation/mobility problem and, if so, what steps would you take to correct it?

Sanchez: Yes, we do. The first thing, Kyle needs to have an adequate staff to manage any of the roads. The original contract for all the roads was $36 million. That has gone up exponentially. If you don’t know how to manage it, if you don’t know how to argue it and if you don’t know your engineering, then basically all you do is sign off on change orders that increase the price of the project. I used to work for the City of San Marcos. That’s what they were doing. First year I was in the City of San Marcos, I saved them $1 million, easy. Then they put me in charge of all the change orders. So that’s something I could help with. When I get in front of my desk, after I get elected, I would look at it. It’s not my job to be a city employee but I would help in that arena.

KR: According to the published results of the last citizen’s survey conducted by the city, the number one concern among citizens was the streets. Do you think the city should reflect this concern by creating a separate Streets Department, independent of Public Works, with a director who reports directly to the city manager?

Sanchez: I totally agree. I think that should be two different beasts. Public Works is one thing — they should be water and wastewater. Unless we have a director that can manage both. If you don’t — and I don’t think we do — than you get somebody else who can and you separate them out. Separate the equipment. Separate the operational processes. That’s what you gotta do.

KR: Did the council pass anything in the last year you strongly objected to?

Sanchez: I can’t answer that one because I haven’t been to the council meetings. Sorry, I’ve been busy.

KR: It appears the overwhelming percentage of jobs that have been added to Kyle’s economy of late are retail, possibly minimum wage retail. What do you propose to do to try to get higher paying jobs, bigger economic developments into Kyle?

Sanchez: I totally agree. That’s why everybody goes to Austin. That’s why everybody goes to different cities. I’m in Port Lavaca. I’m in Corpus. That’s where all my guys are. I’m in Houston with my guys because that’s where the money’s at. I think one way to do it is where the hospital is that whole open area just to the north. What I would do is rezone that whole property and make it all medical. So when you bring medical, that’s high-paying jobs.

KR: Do you think the addition of an Office/Institutional zoning category here in Kyle will attract higher-paying employment opportunities?

Sanchez: I think the ultimate goal is to keep people here for two reasons. One, they don’t travel to Austin so traffic is reduced. More importantly, you keep them here and the tax base stays here. That’s the most important thing.

KR: Are you familiar with the Design Guide the council recently implemented?

Sanchez: No. I’m not familiar with it because I haven’t been to council meetings.

KR: What rules or procedures, if any, does the council have in place that you would like to change?

Sanchez: That’s a loaded question. They should enforce Roberts Rules. I find it very difficult — and this is another reason I’m running — because when I was on council we made very good policies. And now they’ve changed them around. For example: They have drained the Emergency Fund. They took away the finance commitments — the financial limits, they took that away. They’re re-doing everything. I think that is totally wrong and they should enforce Roberts Rules. What that means is, you should act professionally on the dais and let everybody speak their mind.

KR: Do you believe the city council needs to adapt a well-defined strategy for its downtown area and, if so, what should that strategy be?

Sanchez: Yes. That’s like my fourth goal. We should develop downtown — the whole area — to make something similar to Kerrville, Fredericksburg, where people are attracted to come to the city and drive through that downtown. I would make (Center Street) into a four-lane highway — eliminate that parking and move it somewhere else. Find a way. There’s a way. From an engineering point, it’s easy. Now you increase the value. Now you got more sales tax in and you can develop all this entire area.

KR: What do you think of the idea of creating a Downtown TIF District?

Sanchez: I’m not familiar with that word "TIF."

KR: What are your feelings about removing the height restrictions on multi-family to allow for high rise apartment/condominium developments in Kyle or, at least, multi-family units taller than three stories?

Sanchez: I don’t have a concern. To me, if it’s two stories or three stories or four stories — as long as it is along the 35 corridor. As long as it brings in sales taxes. I don’t see how height influences anything.

KR: Would you support a plan for the city to contract for municipal auditing services similar to the way the city contracts for its City Attorney?

Sanchez: No. We are spending too much money on outside services. It would be financially better for the city to hire someone on staff. The city of San Marcos has two attorneys on staff who don’t get paid nearly as what we’re paying for legal services. The city needs to hire a full time auditor as well. What that does is if you pay that person $60,000 to $100,000 whatever then you save the city because if you find out that one of the departments are inefficient or you have too many people, whatever. When you go through the budget, everybody always asks for more people and that’s where it costs you. So if the auditor says, "Well, you know what, we can save three guys" that more than pays for his salary. I think that’s actually a very good idea.

KR: Speaking of the budget, what, if anything, did the city manager include in his current budget that you objected to?

Sanchez: Nothing.

KR: How do you feel about budgeting for outcomes?

Sanchez: I’m not familiar with that.

KR: Give me your evaluation of City Manager Scott Sellers’s performance.

Sanchez: That’s a hard one for me because I haven’t been to council, but what I hear from people and individuals is complaints and I’ll leave it at that.

KR: Along those same lines how would you evaluate the performance of the person you hope to replace?

Sanchez: Two ways. One, I heard complaints there too — I hear pretty much everything. I would change the policy on the dais to begin with to make sure every council has a word and a say because the people elected those citizens. That’s one of the complaints I get often. I think Todd (Mayor Todd Webster) has done a great job. I have no complaints. My approach is different. I would like to rezone 35. Have a section for hotels, have a section for this, which they have not done. I totally disagree with them changing all our policies we worked really hard to do. I think they were really good policies.

KR: Are you referring to the changes made in the Comprehensive Plan?

Sanchez: Yes. I would change it where you have individual things along 35. That way you dictate what happens on 35. If you want stores, that’s fine, but the council dictates that. It’s not me. I would just kind of zone it differently and say "We want so many hotels," I would do a medical zoning — huge — so we could bring in a lot of hospitals. When you bting in hospitals, you bring in patients and when you bring in patients you have to stay somewhere, you have to buy food somewhere.

KR: Are you saying the city should impose those specifics or simply allow for them?

Sanchez: That would be up to the zoning. But you’ve got to define your corridor based on what you want to see for your city. So if you want a medical site on this side and gas stations on the other side — however you want to do it — then you define the whole corridor, like this is how I want my city to look like instead of just saying it’s RS and they can put whatever they want.

KR: Does Kyle have an issue with parking that needs to be addressed and, if so, how would you address it?

Sanchez: H-E-B, Walmart, that area doesn’t have a parking problem. The only problems are downtown. So what I would do — and (former city manager) Tom Mattis, as much as I disagreed with him, actually had a very good solution. He wanted to build a two-story or a three-story parking garage real close to downtown because that’s where the problem is. Me, along First Street, I would develop all that area for parking. There’s plenty of places to do parking. From an engineering point, I don’t think there’s a problem with that.

KR: I’ve often heard the expression among city planners that "If pizza were free, there would never be enough pizza." If you endorse that theory, wouldn’t that call for installing parking meters?

Sanchez: The closer you get to downtown — eventually you could apply it everywhere — you do put in parking meters. And the further you get away … But you could go to South First and develop all that area along the railroad and then anything around the court house, you could put meters. That’s revenue.

KR: If it came to a vote on the city council, would you vote to reinstate Jessie Espinoza to the Kyle Police Department?

Sanchez: I would take the same opinion as the chief of police and do whatever he says.

KR: What changes would you propose to the city’s sign ordinance.

Sanchez: None. I think along the corridor we need to go bigger and higher. I would go for that as long as it brings in revenue.

KR: Does Kyle need to address the issue of residential density?

Sanchez: Yes.

KR: In what ways

Sanchez: There’s a ratio of housing to business. There’s a ratio. And there are limits and what that means is, depending on your limits, you want so much business and you want so much housing. Right now it seems we’re trying to attract every housing that we can. That changes your ratio. If have a city with 100 percent housing and no business, guess what happens?

KR: You become financially unsustainable, but that wasn’t what I was referring to when I was speaking of density. I was talking about residences per acre.

Sanchez: But at some point you have to say we don’t need as much housing. There have been moratoriums in every city. Let’s say you’ve got 100 percent business. So there’s a balance and I would restrict it when necessary. I hope to be looking at this as one of the studies I’m going to be doing to do this thing so we can balance and maximize our profits for the city.

KR: Can’t the same thing be accomplished by attracting more business into Kyle?

Sanchez: It’s the same principle. It’s a ratio between housing and business.

KR: So which is the best approach: Working hard to attract business or restricting residential development?

Sanchez: It’s a combination of both. It’s a ratio between both. You have to look at both of them. Like I said, if you had 100 percent housing, you loose. If you have 100 percent business, you lose. It’s a combination of both. And if we need to restrict, then we need to restrict. If moratoriums on development are required … Now I don’t think moratoriums on business are required, but for residential, I think they are at some point. When you just grow too much where you can’t sustain it, because what’s going to happen? They’re gonna go to Austin, they’re gonna go to San Marcos, they’re gonna go to Buda and they’re gonna take our sales tax collections. You have to balance that equation to where everybody here has enough services and business, restaurants, whatever, so forth and so on, so they can stay here instead of going somewhere else.

KR: Does the city need to improve its park network and, if so, how?

Sanchez: I’ll give you one example. I like the lake. I really like what they’re doing over there with the YMCA. I think that was a great idea. Here (at Gregg-Clarke Park) what I would do is, I would increase the parking in that area and there are multiple ways to do it. You can increase it by 200 parking easy because I’ve already looked at it from an engineering point of view. And then, at that point, you could have your ranch over here again. You can have more events for the city the way we used to. Now we do the fireworks in Plum Creek. Bring ‘em here. That one needs more parking. They’re clean, accessible. The lake is good and the new YMCA is a very good idea.

KR: As mayor, what would you propose to increase citizen participation in municipal government?

Sanchez: One, I would hold special events in downtown and provide some beverages — drinks — and invite people to engage with the council and the mayor. Then we could bring people in and hear whatever their concerns are. And I know people have concerns because I hear it all the time. Second thing, I would have events at the park, if we could increase the parking. Where you could invite people over. Let’s have a barbecue and let’s invite people over. And let’s talk to the council, if they want to participate. I think that’s something people would be attracted to. There would also be the city manager and city employees.

KR: Do you like the idea of the city council having elections every year?

Sanchez: No. I like the three-year term.

KR: But they are staggered in a way that elections are held every year. Do you think that increases voter fatigue and decreases voter participation.

Sanchez: Yes, but this is a Catch-22. If you have them all in one year then you have everybody running against each other which is ok, it’s not a problem. But like when I run I get the mayor against me, I get every council member against me. So when you have it all together, that means when they dislike a council member then they get clobbered. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen when you do it separately. I would say having it every year does create fatigue for citizens because I talk to them all the time. And when you have to knock on that door every year for votes, yes. So we need to look at some way to change that I would say.

KR: The city is steadily increasing its bond capacity. Do you see the need for a general obligation bond proposal during in the next three years and, if so, what should those bonds be used for?

Sanchez: All roads. If I’m mayor, I hope to build a bridge over 35 into the original town of Kyle because there’s a way to do it. I have been thinking about it for a long, long time. Going down the Center Street, which is the main street, when you get that train right there, that’s one of my big goals. We would have to drop some money. And if we develop downtown, it would be even better. That would pay for it.

KR: What kind of tax incentives do you support in order to attract new businesses to Kyle?

Sanchez: None.

KR: Anything else you want to add?

Sanchez: I am for growth. I’m good for growth. A lot of people criticize me saying I’m not for growth, but I am for growth. But it’s a matter of controlled growth between business and housing. I’m not for tax incentives because this city is growing so quick they’re going to comer to us anyway. I am not for PIDs, PUDs, MUDs — I’m not for any of that, because I don’t think we need them. I think people and developers will come here. If you restrict the housing and put a moratorium, they’re going to be knocking on your doors to get in here for free. That’s one way to kill it so I’m not for that either. I’m also for developing our infrastructure, which is my cup of tea — roads, bridges, water and our wastewater system. And we have to try to reduce our taxes for our citizens.