The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Time on for some time off

I know this pronouncement will cause a number of people to breathe a huge sigh of relief, but I’m taking the bold step of embarking on a brief vacation. By this time tomorrow evening, I hope to be relaxing on the balcony of My Hero’s beach house in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. Thus, this blog will go into silent mode for a while, but I expect to be back in all my glory in plenty of time for the city council’s first public hearing on the proposed budget, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 15.

Mayor, Wilson, Mitchell, Fogley support, but Tenorio balks at 6 percent tax rate reduction

My very first assignment as a political reporter came almost exactly 57 years ago when I was part of a reporting team covering the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. In the intervening years I have seen and reported on, arguably, more than my share of municipal budget proposals and I have yet to see one in all that time that I could label as "a perfect budget."

That being said, after spending much of the last week reviewing Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers’s proposed budget for FY2017-18, I could easily label it "the ideal budget for Kyle at this time." And I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised at that. Sellers proposed a budget one year ago was exactly the ideal budget for Kyle at that time. Although I don’t agree with Sellers’s methodology — I have been a strong proponent for budgeting for outcomes for more than a decade now — this city manager seems to have the knack for nailing exactly the right budget for Kyle at any point in time.

Mayor Todd Webster was even more definitive about Sellers’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

"In all the budgets I have been associated with," Webster said at the conclusion of this morning’s special council meeting to discuss the manager’s budget proposal, "this is the very first one where I really felt that the budget was accomplishing everything I felt really needed to happen. On the whole, it’s light years above some of the budgets I’ve been looking at in terms of finally getting this community to a place where we’re getting ahead of this growth curve."

This year’s proposal provides funding not only for everything the city needs to manage its explosive growth, but also a lot of what the citizens have been wanting. And it rewards the efforts of groups such as KAYAC, who can look at this budget and realize their voice has been heard by those at the very top of the budget-formulating process as this proposal includes such KAYAC-promoted amenities as a skate park/water park. Not only that, Sellers managed to pull off this accomplishment while still recommending a half-cent reduction in the city’s property tax rate.

Then, at this morning’s special city council meeting during which Sellers officially unveiled his proposed budget, he told council members it’s possible that reduction can even be greater. In fact, he said, because of the 12.8 percent increase in property tax values, the number certified late Thursday evening by the Hays County Appraisal District, the property tax rate could conceivably be reduced by 3.3 cents per $100 valuation and still provide the same revenue. Specifically, Sellers told the council it could reduce the tax rate from its current $.5748 per $100 valuation to $.5418, a 6 percent tax rate cut.

"That would allow us to put forward the same budget that we have," Sellers told the council this morning.

Webster said he was surprised by the appraisal district’s number and called Sellers’s proposed cut "a lot better than I thought we would be able to do. As long as the budget is meeting what our priorities are, I can’t see a reason why we wouldn’t lower it to that number."

Council member David Wilson said the lower number "absolutely meets my expectations. That’s the number I had in my mind a month or so ago."

Council member and mayoral candidate (and so far, the only announced mayoral candidate) Travis Mitchell said "To be able to offer a lower tax rate while simultaneously increasing the services we’re providing is right in line with what I have as the highest ideal of what this council and this staff can deliver to our citizens. It’s a great thing, as I see it."

From Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley: "I am happy with the (new) rate also. I’ve always been a supporter of lowering rates since I got here," especially, he cautioned, because of new Emergency Service District’s taxes which, he said, "will kick in" sometime in November and will affect Kyle residents.

Interestingly, however, council member Daphne Tenorio cautioned against the reduction, saying she would "prefer to keep our tax rate steady."

"We have to be honest with what’s coming ahead and that’s what concerns me about lowering the tax rate three cents," she said. "We’re lowering the rate three cents right now but we’re going to add another $20 to your water bill. And that concerns me."

Finance Director Perwez Moheet acknowledged that while this proposed budget calls for no increases in rates or fees for city-provided goods and services, future hikes are inevitable. For example, he said, as he informed the council earlier this year, the Alliance Regional Water Authority will be issuing $60 million of debt between 2019 and 2022 to fund Kyle’s share of a project designed to provide water for Hays County communities.

"In 2019, we may have to adjust the water rate," Moheet said. "But we don’t know yet until I see the final structure of their financing. They had talked about getting state funding, Swift funding, which all have imbedded discounts."

But, down the line, he said, "we’re looking at between $31 and $36 per month (water rate) increase to a residential customer. That’s predicated on (the debt issuance) is going to happen on time, it will be the same amount and what interest rates will be at that time. That’s rough, preliminary numbers."

To help fund the expansion of the wastewater plant, Moheet said, in addition to the contributions from developers, "We’re looking at between a $5.50 and $7 per month increase. But that also depends on when we go into the bond market, what the actual size of the bond will be, what the interest rate will be and the term of the bonds that we decide to issue."

Webster said it is still to be determined whether water fees will "bear the entire burden" of paying off that debt. "You can cover some of that through the tax rate, the General Fund. So it’s not accurate to say a $36 water fee increase is actually going to happen."

Tenorio said, however, her concern was that "we did at one time lower the tax rate and then the very next year we had to up the tax rate. So I would prefer to keep our tax rate steady versus lowering it and then in 2019 having to up it again. We’ve lost our savings. We have no more cushion. I would love to see a three cent decrease in the tax rate but I’m worried that it’s a little premature."

Moheet said the city had not "lost our savings," and, in truth, was above the required fund balance.

Tenorio, however, appeared to do an about face at the end of the meeting, agreeing with the rest of the council to pass a resolution to place on a future council agenda an action item to adopt a tax rate not to exceed the rollback rate (currently estimated at that $.5418 number).

On another subject, Sellers informed the council about major savings the city found in the purchase of heavy equipment, which, he said, "the city is always in need of." Sellers said he set aside $100,000 for the purchase of one piece of heavy equipment that was needed, yet could only be used in limited situations.

"About this time we received an e-mail from military surplus saying ‘We have a discount on a lot of tow vehicles that we are basically giving away to governmental entities for $5,500 each’," Sellers said, "So we went down to the federal surplus yard in San Antonio and we looked through that yard and picked out a vehicle with an engine rebuilt in 2011. It runs extremely well. We drove up here with that and other pieces of equipment. We found a forklift we’ve needed for a long time for $4,500 which would have cost us over $40,000 through regular channels. We also purchased another vehicle we can use as a water vehicle that frees up a dump truck we were using as a water truck as well.

"So we initially had $100,000 budgeted for the truck and trailer," the manager said, "and now we’re going to have a truck, a trailer, a forklift and a water truck for $17,000."

Major concerns of the council members about the budget included:
  • Mitchell’s recommendations for two additional, but unfunded, police positions in recognition of a recommendation in the soon-to-be released results of a Police Department audit.
  • Council member Shane Arabie’s recommendation for the hiring of two new inspectors to be paid from the various utility funds.
  • Council member Becky Selbera’s wishes for the city to do more to help augment charity drives conducted by non-profits. Other than establishing a fund for which various non-profits could apply for funds from, other council members suggested recommending specific charity-driven projects the city could, at least, partially fund through an RFP process.
  • Selbera’s and Fogley’s desire to expedite by two years the required engineering services for the Post Road improvements and include that $250,000 into CIP budget for this fiscal year.

Click here to view the city manager’s slide presentation on his proposed budget for FY 2017-18. Click here to view his entire budget proposal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

City manager’s proposed $74. 8 million budget to seek half-cent decrease in property tax rate

City Manager Scott Sellers will inform the City Council Saturday morning he is proposing a $74.8 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 that includes a half-cent reduction in the property tax rate, a 4.02 percent increase in sanitation fees, but no increase in water rates, wastewater rates, stormwater fees (or any other fees) and the proposed addition of three new positions.

Sellers’s proposal will call for a tax rate of $.5698 per $100 property valuation. Of course, his proposed 0.8 percent reduction in the property tax rate will most certainly be more than offset by projected increases in property valuations. Those certified valuations were supposed to be issued by the appraisal district yesterday, but the district informed city officials today it will now release those numbers Friday. Sellers’s proposed budget does, in fact, forecast a 12.45 percent increase in property tax revenue during the next fiscal year even with the proposed rate decrease.

However, this new budget has a far more realistic forecast this year when it comes to sales tax increases — 2.86 percent — a far cry from the double-digit projections of the last few years, projections that haven’t come close to how much has been collected. Through this month, the city’s sales tax collections are $212,624.51 below what was projected in the current budget.

A new franchise agreement with Pedernales Electric will more than double the revenue the city receives over the former agreement — $1.125 million under the new deal compared to $532,000 from the previous one.

The three new positions Sellers will be seeking are for building inspections, engineering services and municipal court.

The City Council begins discussions on Sellers’s proposed budget when it is officially presented at a specially called council meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday (and, I am assuming, a meeting Spectrum cable customers can watch live in their homes on Channel 10). The council also plans to host public hearings on the budget and proposed tax rates at 7 p.m. on Aug. 15 and Aug 22. It will approve a budget on first reading on Aug. 29 and adopt it on second reading Sept. 5.

"The budget was created first with the needs and desires of the citizens of Kyle," Sellers said in a prepared message he plans on delivering to the council Saturday. "These priorities were ascertained via the annual household survey and at the direction of council. The long-term needs of the city also directed much of the budget creation. The priorities contained in the recently adopted water and wastewater models, as well as the transportation master plan, are made evident in the five-year capital improvements plan.

"Staff has analyzed the effect of current and future growth on the city's infrastructure, especially in light of the city's recent 10 square mile annexation," he continued. "Understanding the extent of this growth and build-out has allowed staff to right-size major arterials and trunk lines, appropriately place and size water and wastewater infrastructure, correctly phase wastewater treatment plant expansions, acquire necessary road right of way, develop plans to address flooding, create the adequate amount of recreational opportunities, and plan for future staffing needs.

"We are in an unprecedented place and time in Kyle's development," the city manager’s budget message concluded. "With over 47,000 anticipated units planned over the next 20 years, it is imperative that the city lay the appropriate foundation for this inevitable growth. This budget is a major step toward this objective."

Sellers listed the following as the highlights of his proposed budget:
  • Focus on funding much needed infrastructure improvements (CIP),
  • Maintain all current city programs and services
  • Property tax rate reduction of $0.0050 per $100/AV from $0.5748 to $0.5698
  • No change in utility rates; water, wastewater or storm drainage.
  • Funding provided for council initiatives including veterans' memorial ($10,000), community health, 1st year on us (tax rebate), sidewalk repairs ($50,000), dog park ($50,000), recreation pavilion ($250,000), community gardens ($11,730), skate/splash park ($130,000) and beautification projects.
  • Wastewater treatment plant expansion
  • General Fund contribution for wastewater treatment plant expansion to reduce debt issuance
  • Kyle Vista Park infrastructure improvements
  • Gateway and wayfinding signage ($250,000)
  • Police body/vehicle camera system
  • Equipment for public access TV channel
  • Elimination of transfer to General Fund from Wastewater Utility
  • Three new positions (building inspector, court clerk, & engineer-in-training)

Among the 2018 expenses in Sellers's five-year CIP plan are:
  • $500,000 specifically devoted to "street improvement and upgrades"
  • $100,000 for the quiet zone zones design/construction at Center and South streets;
  • $150,000 for repairs on Windy Hill Road between Indian Paintbrush and Purple Mountain;
  • $250,000 for relocating above ground utilities underground, mostly in the downtown area;
  • $1 million for Phase 1 of Kyle Vista Park to be located near Science Hall Elementary
  • $2,46 million to pay the city’s share of the ARWA (formerly HCPUA) water delivery project
  • $300,000 for miscellaneous water line upgrades and improvements
  • $500,000 for miscellaneous wastewater line upgrades and improvements
  • $1.4 million in engineering costs and $1 million in construction costs for the needed expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant
  • $12,96 million for additional wastewater projects such as interceptors, lift stations and general upgrades
  • $765,000 for repairs on .6 mile of Kyle Crossing, northward from Kohlers.

The opening of a couple of new hotels in Kyle is presumably the reason behind a forecast in the proposed budget of a hefty 45.53 percent increase in Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax revenues.

The proposed budget also includes an allowance for a 10 percent increase in medical insurance costs.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mitchell launches mayoral run

Councilmember Travis Mitchell (left) announced tonight he will campaign to succeed Todd Webster (right) as mayor of Kyle. Webster said Mitchell "has my complete support" and called him "the right person for the job"

The Kyle City Council member with the least seniority, District 1's Travis Mitchell, announced this evening he was running for mayor, saying he wants Kyle " to be known as a ‘strong’ city — strong financially, economically, aesthetically, and culturally."

Mitchell’s announcement means that in addition to those seats being vacated by Mayor Todd Webster and council members Becky Selbera and David Wilson, his District 1 seat will also be opened this year, but whether that seat will be filled in the regular November elections or in a special election shortly after apparently is still in question. Mitchell said he officially filed his candidacy with the city secretary earlier today..

Fittingly, Mitchell launched his campaign for mayor of the self-proclaimed Pie Capital of Texas at a gathering of close to 100 supporters (about 10 percent of whom, admittedly, were below the legal voting age) he hosted this evening at the Texas Pie Company.

"I believe Kyle's best days are ahead," he said, just before the kickoff event. "And I want to pursue every avenue available to make that vision a reality."

Prior his announcement, outgoing Mayor Todd Webster said Mitchell "has my full support. He’s the right person for the job."

It is likely that Mitchell will attract at least one opponent and many observers believe the person most likely to challenge Mitchell is District 6 council member Daphne Tenorio. If she did decide to vacate her seat and seek the office it could mean five of the council’s seven council seats would have new occupants next year. Fortunately, moving the elections from May, when they had been held up to now, to November will give these council members at least eight months, not just three, to examine the city’s budgeting process up close and personally before they are asked to make decisions regarding the next budget cycle. Of course, neither Mitchell nor Tenorio can be classified as budget "newbies," but, then, neither has chaired a budget discussion either, let alone one with so many other freshman office holders.

All of which, leaves Mitchell, at least publically, completely undeterred.

‘I am looking forward to campaigning for mayor of Kyle," he said. "I plan to work twice as hard as I did when I ran for council, and I will take as much help and support as I can get along the way. I believe in the future of Kyle and want to be there as we take the next step forward."

Regardless of the length of his tenure on the council, Mitchell has in that short time conceived of and shepherded through a small business development plan he called "The First Year’s On Us,’ that could have the greatest economic impact of any other idea introduced by a council member in the last three years, at least. Mitchell’s plan allows for a rebate of the first year’s property taxes for a business deciding to locate or relocate in Kyle.

It’s also worth noting that Mitchell has a 100 percent attendance record for all council meetings; at the other end of that scale, Tenorio’s 81 percent is the lowest of any of the current council members.

Mitchell’s decision to run while continuing to occupy his council seat would, as would be the case if Tenorio chose the same path, appear to be, at least to this observer, in direct defiance of Section 3.02 of the city’s charter that states "no candidate for or member of the council shall hold any other elective public office." But Mitchell countered that assertion, saying: "I have been advised by the city attorney, and have referenced multiple Texas Attorney General opinions on the matter. They all agree that I am a ‘de jure’ officer, meaning I automatically vacate my position as the District 1 Council member, but I hold over in my capacity until the November election. This action is consistent with every known precedent I could find, including the exact scenario from when Mayor Lucy Johnson vacated her seat on council to run for mayor of Kyle."

Mitchell said there are many reasons he decided to abandon the council seat he has held for only 14 months, as of this date, to seek the mayor’s position, "but the three that rise to the surface have to do with leadership, direction, and vision. Mayor Webster and council members Selbera and Wilson are all stepping down this year. Together they have 34 years of experience leading the City of Kyle. With that kind of knowledge leaving the dais, we need a leader who can hit the ground running and help new council members get their bearing.

"As we all know, Kyle is exploding with growth — both residential and commercial — and there are complicated and important negotiations taking place every day that will impact how our city develops in the coming years. We need a mayor who knows where we stand in these discussions, and how every item is connected to a bigger picture. We need a mayor with the business and political experience necessary to make sure our city negotiates from a place of strength and with the citizens’ best interest at heart.

"As to direction, I'm running for mayor to ensure that we don't take any steps backwards as a city. Kyle has been playing the long-game for several years now. Our city manager, Scott Sellers, is positioning us to finally shed the stigma that we are simply a bedroom community far enough south of Austin to have cheap housing developments within a commutable drive but not close enough to attract job producing commercial developments. Mr. Sellers says he wants Kyle to become a ‘destination city,’ and I agree. But I have started using a word I like more. If Kyle could only be known for one thing, I would want us to be known as a ‘strong’ city — strong financially, economically, aesthetically, and culturally.

"And vision, of course, piggybacks from direction," Mitchell concluded. "Most people see government as, at best, a necessary evil. But I believe I have been called to fight against that notion. I believe Kyle's best days are ahead. And I want to pursue every avenue available to make that vision a reality."

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog will publish a more in-depth Q&A with mayoral candidate Mitchell, hopefully along with similar opportunities for every candidate running for a municipal office this year, once those interviews have been completed. I wait until every candidate who chooses to participate in this exercise does so because I pose basically the same questions to all the candidates.)

City manager hints at lower tax rate, significant economic development projects, new parks

City Manager Scott Sellers said today the city should be able to meet all of its expenses during the next fiscal year and still lower the tax rate. In his annual State of the City address at a luncheon hosted by the Kyle Chamber of Commerce, Sellers also talked about plans for "Domain-esque" job-creating developments in Plum Creek and close to the EVO entertainment center.

City Manager Scott Sellers
"Kyle has never been in a better position than it is right now," Sellers said. "We are in a phenomenal community. The work environment is incredible. There was a time during this last year that Kyle dipped so low with its unemployment that we had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation."

He did acknowledge that 80 percent of those workers commute to jobs outside the city limits "and it’s our goal to get better jobs here so that we don’t have to do that."

Speaking about his budget recommendations he will officially present to the city council Saturday morning, Sellers said "We tried to focus this year on those quality of life issues while preserving the same level of service. The great thing is almost across all departments we are reducing our expenditures this year which leads to a lower tax rate being proposed. We are able to do more with the same or less (amount of money)."

He also said his budget will not advocate for any increase in city-mandated fees, outside of a 4 percent increase in sanitation collections fees, but that, he said, is the result of action taken by Texas Disposal Systems, the private contractor who holds the city’s residential sanitation services franchise.

He spent a significant amount of time talking about the city’s growth.

‘If any of you read the Community Impact about two weeks ago you saw a story that said Kyle will reach 100,000 population in 20 years," he told the luncheon audience. "That’s actually realistic. Today we’re probably 42 to 43, maybe 44,000. We anticipate another 1,500 to 2,000 (new residents) just his year alone. So the end is not in sight."

He offered a map depicting projects already in place for development that, by themselves, represented 47,000 units. He also said the city’s recent annexation makes Kyle, geographically, "about the same size as San Marcos. You don’t feel that because San Marcos seems so lengthy when you drive the interstate, but Kyle is more spread out east to west."

At the same time, however, Sellers said Kyle bests San Marcos in new home starts by a ratio of close to three to one. But he also acknowledged San Marcos has had more commercial, particularly retail, growth than Kyle.

He also said Kyle is being branded "as a very up-scale community. Our average income rate is, I think, three times that of San Marcos," although he acknowledged the numbers in San Marcos could be skewered by the significant student population there. But, he said, major retailers look at numbers such as those when they decide where they will locate outlets.

"One of our big focuses is to get retail, large retail, industrial development jobs to the Kyle area," he said.

He noted that earlier in the day the city issued a permit for 225-employee linen service company located in the HPI Industrial Park immediately north of the Home Depot. He also said a parcel of land between EVO and Home Depot was recently acquired by the Endeavor Real Estate Group, the developers of the Domain, a high-density office, retail and residential center in Austin. "They are very skilled at developing and we are working together," Seller said, adding he last met with them on Friday to go over their plans for the development, plans Sellers described as "really good." He said those plans include pad sites for a host of "sit-down" restaurants.

"So I am very excited to see what we have in store there within the next year," the city manager said.

He also said that while Plum Creek has the reputation for being "a very residential dominated neighborhood," there’s a section of the community known as Plum Creek Uptown, at the northwest corner of FM 1626 and Kohlers — "all that area behind the PAC," he said — that’s in store for some major commercial development.

"The Plum Creek Uptown actually went to the legislature this session and were approved for a Municipal Utility District," Sellers said. "That will allow them to borrow for their internal infrastructure. Their plan is to do a walkable mixed-use, multi-use type development. It will be almost Domain-esque but on a very smaller scale. It will be a new town center, if you will."

Back on the subject of the upcoming budget, Sellers said he will be proposing a $15 million Certificate of Obligation bond, a funding mechanism cities use to issue debt without the need for voter approval on a shorter time line than is the case with general obligation bonds like the kind the city used to fund its current road improvement program. The proceeds from these bonds would be used to pay for needed improvements in the city’s wastewater infrastructure.

"The growth in our utility service will actually pay the debt service on that bond," Sellers said. "So we can do the bond without increasing utility rates. That’s a really good deal."

He also said the budget will include items designed to create tourist destinations, including an upscale resort in the Blanco River Ranch development and a convention/tourist center.

He also said the budget will fund council member Travis Mitchell’s "First Year’s On Us," economic incentive program which would allow the first year’s property taxes of any new business to be completely rebated. "That is a big hurdle for a start-up business or a relocating business," the city manager said. "This is a very pro-business program we’re going to start."

He said the budget will contain the money for council member David Wilson’s proposed Veterans’ Memorial and "a million dollars out of the Park Development Fund for a large park on the northeast side" apparently close to the Science Hall Elementary School at Bebee Road and Dacy Lane.

"If you’ve been to Buda and seen their big basketball pavilion, we’ve got one of those in our budget," he said "We looking at locations on the east side of town for a dog park. We will be starting a community garden on land right next to the library (presumably the land the council authorized purchasing following the executive session of its last agenda meeting). There’s also money in there for a potential skate park and a splash park."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Passing a parking ordinance that applies to no one

Last night the city council took the first step — not the final step as last night’s agenda stipulated, but only the first step — toward regulating parking in residential areas of Kyle that will apply absolutely nowhere within the city. That is, unless a specific subdivision, neighborhood, block wanted it to apply. As I see it, the only decision left to be made is whether it will be international rules that don’t apply or local ones.

Confused yet?

Here’s the kicker: Moments before the council was called to order, assistant city manager James Earp distributed an amended version of the ordinance. Section 47.26 (b) of the original version read: "It is unlawful for a person to stop, park or leave standing any vehicle, whether attended or unattended, upon the main-traveled part of a street, in a manner or under any condition which leaves unavailable less than 20 feet of width of the street for the free movement of vehicles, except in emergency situations."

That section raised the ire of those living on comparatively narrow streets in Old Town Kyle as well as the administrators of the Katharine Anne Porter House and adjoining Literary Center that is a the host for presentations from guest authors on a regular basis. Many of those attending these events park in such a manner as to violate Section 47.26 (b).

The amended version added only five words and two figures to that section, but it completely altered its meaning. The addition, which comes at the beginning of the section, read: "For subdivisions platted after January 1, 2017." Take a wild guess as to how many Kyle residents live in a subdivision platted after the first of the year. Not actually developed or built, but merely platted.

Then the amended version added a paragraph [c] to apply to those residential areas that actually do exist, where people really do live. For those areas, that new paragraph contains exactly the same wording except the number 20 in the paragraph that applies to no one is replaced by the number 14 in the paragraph that applies to everyone.

But there’s still another kicker. The new version added a paragraph (d) that reads: "Subdivisions platted prior to January 1, 2017 (all the subdivisions that currently exist in Kyle) may opt in to having the requirements of paragraph (b) enforced by submitting to the City a petition of 51 percent of the affected property owners requesting enforcement." In other words if the majority of residents living in a subdivision, or even on one block of one street in one subdivision so desire, they can petition the city to designate one or both sides of the streets in that subdivision or any part thereof as no-parking zones. Once the petition goes to the city it would have to be approved by an ordinance passed by the city council during a regular agenda meeting in order to go into effect.

There is still one more kicker. Before the council took any action on the dang proposal the decision was made to delete completely paragraphs (b) [c] and (d) of the Section 47.26, thus rendering everything I described above moot, at least for the time being. So now that the entire section of the parking ordinance pertaining to restricted parking on streets by non-commercial vehicles reads: "It is unlawful for a person to leave, stand of park a large motor vehicle (defined as one longer than 22 feet and/or taller than seven feet), travel trailer, personal watercraft or boat, either attached or unattached to a motor vehicle, on a public street in any zoning district in excess of 24 hours."

That version of the ordinance passed 6-1 with council member Daphne Tenorio casting the lone dissenting vote.

That’s not to say some version of paragraphs (b) [c] and (d) won’t be re-inserted between now and when the ordinance returns for a second and final reading presumably in two weeks. The only question is what numbers will appear in those paragraphs. It could be the aforementioned 20 and 14 figures or it could be, as argued by some council members, the numbers specified in the International Fire Code, which the council recently formally adopted. The way I read Section D103 of this code, the minimum width of any street containing a hire hydrant must be 26 feet and one side of any street that is narrower than that must be reserved as a fire lane with parking not permitted on that side of the street.

So that’s generally where things stand at the present. And, yes, last night’s agenda labeled this item as the second reading of this ordinance, but, after consulting with the city attorney, it was agreed that when an ordinance passed on first reading is completely abandoned and replaced by an entirely new version, that new version can’t be passed as the second reading of the original.

If you’re not totally lost now, congratulations!

In other action last night:
  • The council voted 6-1 to rename parts of Goforth Road to Philomena Drive and Bunton Creek. Tenorio voted no on historical grounds, but that historical alignment of Goforth was logical only when it was the only road in the area. It makes no sense when it results in the names of so many of Kyle’s streets mysteriously changing for no obvious reason. Mayor Todd Webster and council member David Wilson took turns saluting the Kyle Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Community Development Department for their work in getting the businesses located along the affected roadways to be informed and supportive of the change. The road-name changes will take effect on or about Oct. 17.
  • In the evening’s one roll-call vote, the council voted 4-3 (Tenorio, Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley and Shane Arabie dissenting) to approve a request to drastically slash the number of parking spaces that would normally be required for a project developed on a parcel zoned for warehouse. The project in question is a storage facility along southbound I-35 and the three dissenters argued that granting the variance was a signal from the council that it approved of storage facilities on the interstate when members have previously voiced reservations about them. This item was also the only one of the items that were considered individually that was not decided by the embarrassingly routine 6-1 vote, with the exception of one to rezone the old speedway land from entertainment to warehouse which was approved 6-0 when Tenorio momentarily left the dais.
  • The council voted to postpone consideration of an item on the Consent Agenda to grant a franchise to Pedernales Electric Cooperative because the contract accompanying the agenda item was actually the expiring contract, not the new one, which calls for the city to charge PEC more than twice the franchise fee of the earlier one. That was the only agenda item that was not approved in one form or another.
  • Following an executive session, the council approved the city enter into negotiations to purchase 1.2 acres of land located on the north side of the library and land at O Burleson Road, which can't be found on Google Maps but which Mayor Pro Tem Fogley told me after the meeting is the designated address of St. Anthony's Catholic Church.

Selbera, Wilson will not seek re-election

The two most senior members of the Kyle City Council – District 2 mainstay Becky Selbera, the longest-serving council member in the 21st Century, and District 4 stalwart David Wilson – individually revealed Tuesday they would not seek re-election.

Selbera’s decision caps a council career of more than 15 years that began when she was first elected in May of 2002 to represent the area of Kyle where she was born and raised.. Wilson joined her on the council in 2007. Wilson made his revelation before Tuesday’s council meeting and Selbera made public her decision immediately after the meeting adjourned.

Becky Selbera
"After a great deal of thought and prayer, and with a great deal of regret, I have decided not to seek re-election this November," Selbera said in statement she apparently composed during the council’s session. "It was incredibly difficult choice, but one that I feel comfortable about. I love my city and I look forward to our great future."

In public, during council meetings, Selbera came across as the quietest, gentlest person on the dais. But many of her colleagues have told me that in closed, executive sessions, there was no one more lucid, more clear-headed or as influential as the District 2 councilperson. "People generally don’t get to test what their convictions are," Selbera said in her statement. "I did get to test mine and I am proud of how I handled it. And I think that we have changed our city in a positive way."

It could also be argued that no one suffered, yet withstood, the slings and arrows of criticism from a small cadre of vocal citizens more than Selbera, something she alluded to in her statement. "As a city council woman I have taken a few blows over the years, but I have bounced back. I have come to accept the triumphs and pains that come with the grind of politics."

She said she was proud of many of the accomplishments she "and my colleagues" achieved during her years on the council including Kyle’s very first swimming pool, the construction of City Hall, the south and east side fire stations, the H-E-B, the Seton complex and all the new infrastructure that has finally come to the historically neglected south side of town.

"I leave knowing that the city is headed in the right direction and is ready to embrace the exciting changes ahead," she said.

At the same time, however, she indicated she will not retreat completely from public life.

"I leave knowing that my relationship with the city staff and that my work on behalf of the city is far from over," she said. "I have no doubt that I will continue to serve my community as a private citizen, and influence the next generation of leaders. I have found service to my district and all the city’s residents to be the most satisfying and richest experience if my life and I will always be appreciative of my constituents and the City of Kyle for the opportunity to serve."

David Wilson
Wilson said that during his tenure on the council, Kyle has "evolved from a sleepy little railroad and ranching community into a community with robust medical services, educational opportunity and quality retail services."

He also predicted even more dynamic changes are close at hand. "The future is very bright for Kyle," he said., "We have laid the groundwork for Kyle to be a destination and grow the business community. Jobs and business opportunities for our citizens are coming in the near future."

Wilson also added that "there will always be challenges which need to continue to be addressed" and that he wanted "to encourage Kyle citizens to serve the City of Kyle on the City Council" to meet those challenges, adding "we need to continue the forward thinking and planning we now enjoy."

"I am invested in the community," Wilson concluded, "and will enjoy watching as a new City Council continues to move the city forward in a positive direction."

Wilson will be especially remembered for his tireless efforts to make sure Kyle has an ample water supply as well as his unending efforts to honor fellow veterans.

Three city council positions were up for grabs in the Nov. 7 elections and Wilson’s and Selbera’s announcements guarantee that all three will have new occupants. Mayor Todd Webster announced back on July 8 that he would not seek a second term.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“How did it get so late so soon?”

I recalled the above Dr. Seuss’ quote when I suddenly realized today marked the 23rd week since the City Council awarded a "14-week" contract to Matrix Consultants to perform an independent audit of the Kyle Police Department. Before Spectrum, my anything-but-efficient internet provider, threw a wrench into its e-mail system Sunday night making it impossible to sign in to read or send e-mail (as of an hour ago, the wrench has yet to be removed), I managed to dash off a "what gives?" plea to city leaders. Today I received the following response from City Manager Scott Sellers:

"… the time has drug out longer than initially estimated. We asked the consultant to do a little more work during subsequent visits that took them more time. This work did not increase the budget" (translation: work they should have done as a matter of course, but failed to do).

"This said," Sellers continued, "we received the draft last Thursday and are in the process of reviewing it now. It will definitely be made public as soon as we get the final draft, which, hopefully, will be in the next several weeks" (translation: this could take twice as long as was originally scheduled).

However, all will be forgiven if the audit answers one simple question: "Are taxpayers getting the best bang for their bucks?" The real purpose of an audit like this is to determine if the department being audited is spending tax funds judiciously, efficiently, economically, without any waste — spending the funds we pay in taxes in a manner to obtain the highest possible value for its constituents.

I have absolutely no reason to believe the audit will reveal anything nefarious or even slightly out of whack. But even if it just makes some suggestions for additional operational efficiencies, it will have been well worth the time, effort and expense.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Proposed parking ordinance actually does contain goofy panhandling provision

Two days ago, when I first wrote about the proposed parking ordinance the City Council is scheduled to consider at its Tuesday evening meeting, I said this revised edition replaced the anti-panhandling plank in the original with one that put it in its proper context. Upon further review, upon additional study, this decision is being reversed. There’s no question that this proposal, which is identified on the council’s agenda as one designed "to prescribe the lawful time, manner and place for parking, stopping and/or standing of automobiles and trailers upon both public rights of way and private property" does much more than that. It does try to sneak in an anti-panhandling provision in there and it also contains an entire section on the use of wireless hand-held communication devices that could be completely nullified by action in the upcoming special session of the Texas Legislature.

First things first, however. That panhandling prohibition. Don’t get me wrong. I whole-heartedly support a ban on panhandlers. They can be a nuisance at best, dangerous and life-threatening at worse. I must also admit, however, in my almost three years as a Kyle resident, I have not once been troubled by a panhandler. In any case, if the city seeks such a ban, it should be in a completely different ordinance than one that regulates "parking, stopping and/or standing of automobiles" if, as it is in this case, the guilty party is going to be the panhandler, not the motorist.

But there it is in all its glory. Section 47.33 (c) reads "It is unlawful for a person to loiter in medians or near corners, sidewalks, crosswalks or intersections of congested roads for the solicitation of money." As an anti-panhandling ordinance, that's as straightforward as one can be. Now, if the section said it was unlawful for a motorist to stop his or her vehicle on congested roads to provide money, food or other aide to someone loitering in medians or near corners, sidewalks, crosswalks or intersections of said roads, then it would belong in this proposed ordinance. Because then the guilty party is the operator of the motor vehicle. But in this case, if someone is cited for violating this section it is clearly going to be the panhandler which, ipso facto, makes it anti-panhandling ordinance, which simply doesn’t fit here.

However, I can assure you such legalities have never stopped our local council from passing such non-sequiturs in the past, it will not stop them from passing this one Tuesday and will do absolutely nothing to keep them from doing it again many times in the future. And one could argue that goofiness has its own sense of charm. I, for one, have that type of personality where I can wear the fact that I live in a city with goofy ordinances that make no sense as a badge of honor. Going strictly by the book all the time is boring. C’mon, no harm, no foul, as "they" say.

Speaking of goofy, I still haven’t even spotted, let alone gotten my hands on, one of those "newspapers with a reflective vest" that’s referred to in Section 47.33 (c) (2) of the proposed ordinance.

Now to that second point.

One of the cardinal sins in my profession is to make assumptions, but on the moral ledger that is the account of my life, making the assumption I’m about to make is going to rank so significantly low that the morality police will stop reviewing my misdeeds long before they get to this one.

This version of the parking ordinance, which is labeled a second reading, but is actually an entirely new version of the one bounced to the city’s legal department on first reading, contains a section that wasn’t even included in the original — a ban on the use of hand-held wireless communications devices while operating a motor vehicle or bicycle. It begins right there at Section 47-187 of the proposed ordinance.

Now as a small handful of Kyle residents are aware, the city council has already passed such an unenforceable ordinance. (I say "a small handful" and "unenforceable" because I personally witness, at the minimum, three motor vehicle operators a day talking on a wireless phone while driving in Kyle. I will admit I’ve never seen someone using one while riding a bicycle.)

Now here’s the assumption I’m leaping to here. In the vernacular that’s so popular these days in our nation’s capitol, this proposal is a "repeal and replace," not just an addition to. And my assumption is the repeal includes an unavoidable repealing of those sections of the city’s code that currently contain the ban on using hand-held devices. This, then, is the necessary replacement mechanism.

Of course, the entire effort could be rendered moot by our happy-go-lucky legislature, the members of which appear to be so ego-driven they consider themselves the only elected officials in the entire state who are competent enough to make laws. One of the measures the governor is seeking passage of during the special session, that also begins Tuesday, is one that would (1) ban texting while driving throughout Texas and (2) prohibit local municipalities from passing any regulations governing the use of such communication devices and nullify any and all local provisions that are currently on local books regulating such uses.

So there’s that.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Kyle is for drivers, not walkers

Kyle is distinctly automobile friendly, but not pedestrian friendly. It is not a city that will make those who like to walk feel all that comfortable or at home.

The evidence of this is everywhere. Kyle’s main shopping area — that section of FM 1626 that straddles I-35 — is not within comfortable walking distance of any single family residential neighborhood. The distance between the front door of my residence and the front entrance of the H-E-B is a scant one-quarter mile — an easily negotiable and desirable walking distance; however, because my residence is located on one of those dreaded cul-de-sacs that, among other awful attributes, severely limits connectivity, the only possible way to get from the front door of my residence to the front entrance of the H-E-B is to follow a route that’s a mile and a half in distance — not that negotiable for walking, especially for someone who has occupied this planet for three quarters of a century and even more especially not in the heat of a Kyle summer.

Look at all the plans for new subdivisions that come before the Planning & Zoning Commission each month. None of them contain any form of recreation areas, even designated small areas for pocket parks or even smaller tot playgrounds. If a parent living in a typical Kyle subdivision wants to take their kids for a short playtime at a playground, he or she can’t simply walk them there; they must strap them into a car seat and take the trouble and drive them the nearest recreational spot.

Want to know why our local roads are deteriorating so rapidly? It’s because that whenever a Kyle resident leaves his/her home, he/she must get in the car to get to where they want to go. It is impossible to walk there. Hike? Possibly. Walk or stroll? Absolutely not.

And if there’s a conflict between pedestrians and motorists, it seems Kyle comes down on the side of the motorist.

All these thoughts came to mind today when I reviewed the proposed parking ordinance the City Council will review and consider adopting at its regularly scheduled meeting which begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. It’s labeled a second reading of a previously passed ordinance, but the truth is it is a complete rewrite and, in this writer’s opinion, a vast improvement over the one considered a little more than two months ago. Interestingly, however, in that May 16 meeting, Mayor Todd Webster said the purpose of the proposed ordinance was to establish a fee structure for parking fines in order to quell the complaints from local residents about $200 parking tickets. The ordinance the council will consider Tuesday, however, contains only one brief paragraph about fines: "Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this chapter, or shall fail to comply therewith, or with any of the requirements thereof, within the city limits shall be deemed guilty of an offense and shall be liable for a fine not to exceed the sum of $200 but not less than $30, except for disabled parking violations which shall be a minimum of $250. Each day the violation exists shall constitute a separate offense."

But that’s OK, because the normal parking citation usually lists the specific fines for individual violations.

The new ordinance also makes it easier for police to impound a vehicle violating certain parking provisions: "Any vehicle which shall be or remain standing or parked upon any public street, avenue, way, alley or other public place that is deemed a hazard may be removed by or upon an order of a police officer. The owner of such vehicle shall be responsible for the payment of any fees incurred for the towing and/or storage of said vehicle." A previous section states a vehicle may also be impounded "if the offender has committed three or more parking or stopping offenses in the past calendar year." The previous ordinance virtually required a court order for a vehicle to be impounded.

And this ordinance removes what was an oddly inserted anti-panhandling ordinance contained in the original and places something similar in its proper context, under a heading called "Parking or loitering near hazardous or congested places." By doing this, it places the emphasis not on the panhandling, per se, but on those motorists who restrict traffic flow by stopping in the roadways to pander the panhandlers. Specifically, the ordinance rewrite says: "It is unlawful for a person to loiter in medians or near corners, sidewalks, crosswalks or intersections of congested roads (my emphasis) for the solicitation of money. The selling or promotion of goods and services is lawful, if: (1) carried on by emergency services departments within city limits; or, (2) involves the selling of newspapers with a reflective vest; or, (3) is conducted by a non-profit with a permit and reflective vest." (I realize the ordnance contains a dangling participle — I, too, have never seen a newspaper with a reflective vest. As for the non-profit — who's to say?)

The ordinance does, in my opinion, have one glaring omission and perhaps I noticed the omission more than others because I am someone who prefers walking over motoring whenever possible, In fact, I try to take, at a minimum, three extended walks per day. And I have found that (1) Kyle contains certain crossings, both on city streets and in public parking lots, that are designated as pedestrian crossings; (2) motorists believe there’s nothing wrong with parking in such a manner that it obstructs these crossings; and (3) there is nothing in this ordinance that prohibits such obstructions.

But, then, like I said at the beginning "Kyle is distinctly automobile friendly, but not pedestrian friendly."

In other matters on Tuesday’s council agenda:
  • The Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s 10-year franchise agreement to be the city’s provider of electrical services expired a little more than two months ago (on May 6), so the city is finally getting around to granting the company another 10-year agreement to provide the same service at the cost of 2 percent "of the gross revenues received by the cooperative from the cooperative's sale of energy and power sold to customers within the city limits of the city." Interestingly, I could not find the word "exclusive" anywhere in the agreement so I assume that means a competitor could conceivably come to the area. Consumers in Austin, to cite just one example, can choose from among any of these electrical plans.
  • The next item on the Consent Agenda immediately following the one granting Pedernales another 10-year electrical franchise, is one seeking an addition $41,964 for engineering services needed for the Burleson Road project in part because the electric provider (the above-referenced Pedernales) "was not able to move all original poles in conflict due to lack of ability to obtain new easements." However, the cost attached to address the additional consultations with PEC to review the pole relocations is only $2,866 or 6.8 percent of the total additional amount requested. Following this expenditure, $9.575 million remains of the original $11.5 million (83.2 percent) in bond revenue dedicated for the Burleson Road project.
  • The council will consider, which should be a no-brainer, approving a conditional use permit for a much-welcomed IDEA public charter school located at the intersection of what is now (but may not be by the end of Tuesday’s council meeting) Goforth Road and Bluestem Street. The only question to be decided is how much of the school will be approved for the permit. The agenda item seeks approval for 74,819 square feet, but IDEA’s amended application seeks approval for 96,700 square feet to cover a future pavilion. A memo attached to this agenda item states the city’s "staff supports the establishment of a public charter school, both in general, and at the specific location being proposed. Construction of public schools close to neighborhoods has primary benefits of providing opportunities for students to walk or bike to school, can add after-school programs in which students can be involved, and displaces less desirable land uses. The secondary benefits of more and better educational opportunities are also attractive to a community; families locate in places with great schools. Once families establish themselves in great numbers, employment and retail outlets follow closely on their heels." A public hearing accompanies this agenda item.
  • There’s also a public hearing attached to the item I referenced in the preceding paragraph, a resolution to rename Goforth Road. According to the proposal, the north-south section of Goforth from I-35 to Bunton Creek will be renamed Philomena Drive. The east-west portion of Goforth from Bunton Creek east to the next north-south portion of Goforth will be renamed Bunton Creek (so that Lehman High School, for example, will be on the corner of Lehman and Bunton Creek, not Lehman and Goforth). The designation of that second referenced north-south section of Goforth east of Southlake Ranch will remain unchanged. When all this goes into effect is a little unclear. The time line accompanying the resolution states the "Resolution will have an ‘effective date certain’ clause to allow sufficient time for all applicable parties to update business and residential changes as related." However, the actual resolution states only "new addresses associated with the name change are effective on the date described herein," yet nothing else involving dates is "described herein." Hopefully, clarifications will be provided during Tuesday’s hearing.
  • Capstone Dental, located immediately west of FM 150 and Rebel Drive is making a reasonable request for additional parking places on its property. Under current ordinances, a building the size of Capstone Dental (3,029 square feet) located in an area zoned for retail services is allowed, at the most, 19 parking spaces. Capstone currently has 17 and 15 of those are needed for staff parking, leaving only two spaces for customers. The facility has six chairs and is seeking eight additional parking it feels will be enough to satisfy both the customers being treated in those chairs and those awaiting treatment. City staff has recommended approving the request for additional parking places.
  • Conversely, a self-storage facility that will be inappropriately located along the southbound frontage road of I-35 south of Kohlers Crossing wants to reduce drastically the number parking spaces it’s required to provide (one space for every 1,000 square feet of gross floor area plus one space for every 1½ employees). Storage facilities don’t require than many employees; however, the planned total square footage of the operation is 107,515, thus necessitating 108 parking spaces just to satisfy the square-footage parking requirement. The company is seeking to reduce that 108 number to just seven. This request also seems reasonable.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mayor Webster announces he won’t seek re-election

Saying there’s an opportunity now for the city to receive an injection of "fresh energy and fresh perspective" as well as " an opportunity for another generation of community leaders to step forward," Mayor Todd Webster said today he would not seek re-election to a second term, thus bringing an end to a 15-plus-year career as a Kyle public servant.

"I am so appreciative of the people I’ve served with during this time — those that were there in the spirit of public service," Webster said. "I have a lot of gratitude and appreciation for that. That’s what made my tenure worthwhile — working with people who were really trying to get something accomplished.

"Of course, to the extent there was disharmony is well known and well publicized and was intentional on their part. But in a lot of ways I can even appreciate what they did because they provided such a good contrast and were a constant reminder for me to appreciate my colleagues on the council who were really working for the people of our community."

Webster said the time pressure he’s experiencing with his business and the desire to spend more time with his family were the prime motivating factors in his decision to be a one-term mayor. In fact, he spoke to me today as he was taking his son to an athletic competition in Georgetown.

"What I’m seeing in the community is there is an opportunity if I don’t run for some folks with a fresh energy and a fresh perspective to run for that seat," Webster said. "There’s an opportunity for another generation of community leaders to step forward and take the city to the next level. I‘ve served the community for more than a decade and it’s time for me to move on and let someone else take over."

Although no one has officially announced plans to run for mayor, council member Travis Mitchell, should he decide to take the plunge, would be the odds-on favorite to succeed Webster, simply because of his successful attempts at public outreach among voters. Webster said Mitchell fits his definition as someone who would bring a new, fresh perspective to the mayor’s position.

"I met Mayor Webster nearly two years ago and am honored to call him a friend," Mitchell said today. "He is a consensus builder, a visionary, and is ethically above reproach. He has served Kyle well. I will miss his leadership on council and wish him nothing but the best as he moves on."

"He has been a forward-looking and thinking mayor," council member David Wilson said when told of Webster’s decision. "Planning what’s best for the citizens, planning for our future. But the main thing is his thinking and I have not seen him to be wrong on an issue. There are issues that he and I disagree on, but he takes his positions through his own set of logic. He is thoughtful. He will tell you why he is taking the position he is taking. And there’s nobody on council that’s going to tell him what to do. He listens to the people, but at the end of the day, he makes what he believes is the right decision for the community. He will be missed by the community and he will be missed by this council member."

"I am sorry to see that Mayor Webster will not be seeking reelection," said Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley. "He has brought great value to our city and has always been respectful of other council members' points of view. He truly had a goal to improve the lifestyles of the citizens of our city and I think he successfully accomplished that. Mayor Webster did an outstanding job at striking a balance between the desirability of the city from both a residential and business perspective.

"An example of this would be when he spearheaded the efforts to appropriately zone the development at Yarrington/I-35 and was successful in changing the path of this area from what it was going to be ‘A truck stop/warehouse zoning’ into something that both the business owners and the residents were satisfied with as far as developmental use for commercial activities."

Council member Beck Selbera said "First I'd like to thank Mayor Webster for voting to bring development and for continuing to bringing Kyle into 21st Century. l have never felt so humbled in my 16 years on council and feel very fortunate to be a part of such an amazing "6 member council." Mayor Webster never skipped a beat when dozens of supporters turned out in person at council meetings to speak passionately about issues or concerns. Mayor Webster was always available in an extensive community outreach that went into designing a project, approving the budget or supporting development. I also appreciate his support for the needed improvements for the south side of Kyle.

"l thank you, Mayor Webster for your awesome leadership, steadfast support for Kyle's children and families who need and depend on the services for safety and for pushing to support the community library during the budget meetings," council member Selbera continued. "It was with great honor for me to be serving with Mayor Webster and for having the same vision and courage to place the needs of the community above politics. I thank Mayor Webster sincerely for all he has done to serve the people of Kyle."

My attempts to reach council members Shane Arabie and Daphne Tenorio have so far been unsuccessful.

Webster said the city has, in its recent history, been thrust in the middle of a battle between growth and no-growth advocates.

"My hope is that people that are on neither side of that come to the forefront and take the opportunity that’s there to move the city forward," the mayor said. "We got a lot accomplished. There’s been a tremendous amount of work that’s been done in terms of setting the stage for the next phase of the city’s future. We’ve made progress in solidifying the city’s infrastructure and putting the pieces in place for us to handle the next 50 or 60 years. So I feel really good about what we’ve been able to do. With the exception of the exception — and everybody knows who that is — we’ve been a really collaborative group that focused their energy and their attention and their work on making decisions based on what’s best for the community and not on politics.

"So I’ve been blessed with that and I feel the time is right because the city’s in a good position to let somebody else come in. And I really can’t continue the level of commitment it takes to do the job correctly. So it’s time."

Although he said he doesn’t consider any of the accomplishments the city has made during the last three years "as being mine individually," he did say he takes some pride "in a number of things" that have occurred during that time.

"My goal going in was to establish a culture that allowed individual council members to be successful," the mayor said. "Therefore the city and all of us could be successful. Despite obvious attempts to disrupt that, we established a culture where people could disagree and people good bring forward ideas and accomplish what they wanted to do without fear of creating bad feelings. I think we created a very collaborate culture that focused on trying to do what everybody felt in their own minds was in the best interest of the community."

Wilson, for one, was appreciative of that culture change.

"What I loved about his approach was that the mayor came to me and he said ‘What is it that you want? What are your main goals?’," the council member said. "So every time I had a goal I wanted to achieve he was there to assist — not to take your thunder, not make the motion instead of you, not put his name on something you thought of and you did. It’s a mature, intellectual, big person that can do that without patting himself on the back and taking credit. And that’s the mayor I know."

Webster admitted he was blessed by events beyond his control. He cited, for example, "the economy turned right as I was coming in so that gave me some tools to be able to work with" that his predecessor, Lucy Johnson, wasn’t as fortunate to have at her disposal.

"And I have to be honest about the fact that I don’t think we had a good city manager and a good organizational culture at the staff level" when he assumed the mayor’s gavel, Webster said. "Things were pretty dispirited. There needed to be a change and a re-set for the staff. Bringing in Scott Sellers (as city manager) was a huge win for the community. He’s done some amazing things in taking that next step in bringing in a more professional organizational culture. When I assumed office, we had a city staff that was afraid to take the initiative because, if they did, they would have been punished or terminated. Now you have a culture that’s trying to say ‘yes’ to things, that rewards initiative."

He said former Mayor Johnson "did a fantastic job, especially given what she had to work with. But I really found the administrative leadership to be a problem when I got there."

He said he is also proud that because of efforts made during his term the road bond projects "are two to three years ahead" of their original schedule, "the creation of the stormwater utility, the way the city reacted to the floods, the massive and significant progress we’ve made in terms of water planning — and David Wilson deserves a lot of the credit for that — all of the modeling and all of the systems that have been put in place, the streamlining of our procedures and processes by eliminating a lot of committees that freed up staff time to allow them to do their work."

He also cited the turnaround of the Housing Authority, although he said the kudos for that belong to the Housing Board members. But Webster said he has received a number of compliments from people who have contacts with the federal housing agencies who are saying how happy they are with the progress the city has made in the management of the two public housing projects in Kyle. "That was a politically embarrassing thing that turned out for the good because we didn’t focus on assigning blame but we focused on what we needed to do to fix it."

He also mentioned improved relations between city government and the Hays CISD board. "In my 20 years here, there have not been better relations between the City of Kyle and elected officials at the school district. I feel really good about the way things sit with the school district right now and the relationships that are developing between a significant core group on the school board. And that had not been there up until the last four or five months. It bodes really well for the community that there’s going to be good relationships there."

This year’s city budget will now, obviously, be the last one in which he has input. He said he was hoping to be able to push for at least a five-cent decrease in the tax rate but because of the uncertainty surrounding the state’s attempts to limit what municipalities can do as far as adjusting rates, he doesn’t believe such a reduction would be in the city’s best long-term interest.

"If there’s revenue available, it will be nice to look at some additional road improvements," he said. "Maybe some equipment acquisitions."

He added he completely supports council member Shane Arabie’s approach towards "building capacity within departments in terms of equipment and personnel so that we don’t have to contract with people to do things that we should be able to do ourselves like repair roads and infrastructure improvements. So I’ll look for opportunities to do that. While I won’t abdicate my responsibilities to make budget decisions, I won’t drive the agenda that much this time around. That’s up to the folks who will continue to be there. Helping the others accomplish some of their priorities is what I want to devote my attention to this budget cycle.

"I feel pretty good about the city’s fiscal situation. The truth is the financial condition of the city is very healthy. We’re in a good spot. I wish there wasn’t all this state level deliberation taking place because I feel we could be a little more assertive in terms of a rate reduction. That’s where I was but I can’t be there now because it wouldn’t be good public policy to do it because we just don’t know what’s going to happen" with the state legislature. He said another reason for keeping the rate steady would be to use whatever funds that produces towards funding the water acquisitions the city is making through the HCPUA.

Among his disappointments, he said, was the city’s inability "to land one of those big game-changing" business developments. "That’s something I really wish I could have delivered to the community. In spite of a lot of significant effort in that regard and a lot of progress in dealing with the deficiencies that stopped us from getting there, we really have come in second or third on same major capital projects, some major employers. We’re almost there. We’re almost over the hump. I do think the work of the group that’s been in place now and Sellers’s work and the staff’s work to this point is really going to pay dividends. So it’s hard to view it as a disappointment. But those things are in the city’s future. They are just not going to be in mine."

He said that because of the work of the council during the last three years the city "is well positioned to be a true shining star in Hays County and Central Texas. We’re positioned super well. There’s going to be some huge successes for Kyle in the next three years and it’s going to be because of what this group was able to accomplish together and what staff was able to accomplish."

He said he was not happy with the progress of the city’s parks. "I don’t feel our parks are representative of the level of excellence that we expect." He said Lake Kyle Park is at the level one should expect, "But I don’t see that at Steeplechase and I don’t see that at Gregg-Clarke."

He added that for a long time he was dissatisfied with progress of the police department, but recently "there has been a significant turnover in personnel that has resulted in a huge level of improvement."

Another development he said he was happy with was the clearing of a multitude of lawsuits the city was a party to.

"But my biggest disappointment is the behavior of people on social media, not just towards the city, but towards each other, towards everyone," the mayor said. "You’re very turned into that when you are an elected official. You see a lot of it. I’m a lot more aware now of people’s lack of knowledge of how government works. I’d be a rich man now if I had a dollar for every person who thought I was a congressman. That’s a disappointment for someone who has worked in the field of public education for more than two decades to see how little progress we’ve made in terms of people’s understanding of civics and how government works. There’s a good number of people in this community who think this is a salaried job and they are paying my salary. Maybe it’s too much for me to expect people to understand those things. But that lack of understanding provides an opportunity for people to deliberately misinform and create more discontent within the community.

"The advent of social media and how that has been used to drive public opinion in a way that misinforms people on purpose has infected government at the local level, the state level and the national level. I see it everywhere."

He said he also wished the unsolved murders more than two years ago of Tina Combs and Jimmy Wright in southwest Kyle could have been solved.

"Perhaps a better question than my disappointments is what were the hardest things for me to endure during my time as mayor and certainly at the top of that list was Samantha Dean’s murder, the floods, and the Wright-Combs double homicide," he said. "Those things impacted the community in such an awful way. Those were experiences that were very tragic, very difficult, very hard. And you feel so helpless.

"Hopefully the next group will have a very good run and land some of those big economic development projects. There’s another gear out there that I think that can be hit."

As far as who will comprise the next group, it is expected that Mitchell will between now and the end of the month announce he will run for mayor now that the position has opened. Former council member Diane Hervol has also been mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate, but she is handicapped by the fact she lost her re-election bid to Mitchell and there’s nothing to suggest she would be more successful a second time around, What’s more likely is that she will seek the seat she once held that will be vacated by Mitchell. Tenorio undoubtedly would love to be elected mayor but her supporters should be able to convince her not to surrender her council seat, which is not up for re-election this year, in a kamikaze mission against Mitchell that's doomed to failure. Should Tenorio ignore that advice, however, one person who could run for her position on the council is Tammy Swaton, who held that seat but lost a re-election bid to Tenorio two years ago.

"I believe it's unfortunate Mayor Webster has decided not to run for a second term," Swaton told me today in an e-mail correspondence. "While serving with Mayor Webster, I felt like he had the best interest of the Kyle community when representing the city. He often thought out of the box; searching for ways to take the burden off the taxpayers by thinking of ways to bring in more business and paying jobs. I appreciate and respect the work he has done for our community. As for running for office, I'm still considering the possibility. I believe serving the public is a privilege and an honor and not meant for a personal agenda. If I decide to run, it would be my privilege and an honor to do so."

Other names being mentioned for possible political runs in November are those of another former council member, Jaime Sanchez, and Bill Sinor, who has tried and failed before to win election to the council. Both Sanchez and Sinor would most likely choose to run against Selbera should she decide to seek re-election or for her vacated position should she choose not to. Wilson’s term also expires this year and it is assumed he will seek re-election although that is not carved in stone. What all this conjecture means is that as many as five of the seven council seats could be contested in this November’s election.

As for Webster, even with his vast background in the field of education and with state government (he was, among other things, the chief of staff for the state’s education commissioner and the acting education commissioner between November 2009 and September 2012), the mayor said he has no plans to run for elective office again, either as a school board member or even a run as a state legislator.

"I have no plans to run for anything at all," he said today. "It’s just not something I have an interest in. I don’t see that in my future."

Webster began his civic service with the City of Kyle in January 2002 when he was selected to the Kyle Board of Adjusters and the Planning & Zoning Commission. He left P&Z in May 2003 to seek and ultimately win election to the City Council, representing District 6 until his resignation in October 2006, He assumed the office of Kyle mayor in June 2014.