Baroody stripped of “Mayor Pro Tem” status

In a special meeting on Thursday morning, November 8, Kerrville’s City Council voted to remove George Baroody from his role as Mayor Pro Tem in response to his actions relating to a lawsuit filed against the city in recent months. Council Person Place 4 Delayne Sigerman was appointed to replace Baroody as Mayor Pro Tem effective immediately.

George Baroody, Council Person Place 2. (Image from City of Kerrville Website)

Council Person Place 3 Judy Eychner initiated the meeting and read the motion to remove Baroody’s “pro tem” title and replace him with Sigerman, a motion which included charges of multiple ethics policy violations. Eychner’s statement claimed that Mr. Baroody attempted to contact the plaintiff’s attorney regarding a lawsuit that the attorney’s clients had filed against the city, and that this action was inconsistent with the ethical responsibilities of the council members, and that council members were specifically advised against this type of contact.

In addition to removing Baroody as pro tem, the motion also mandated that Baroody no longer be allowed to participate in meetings related to the lawsuit.

The vote was 3-2 with Mayor Blackburn, Eychner, and Sigerman in favor, and Voelkel and Baroody opposed. The issue was originally slated for executive session, which would have moved the deliberations out of public view. However, Mr. Baroody, as the subject of the deliberations, requested that the matter be discussed publicly.

This move does not affect Mr. Baroody’s position as a council member — only his status as Mayor Pro Tem. Elected in 2017 in an uncontested race, Mr. Baroody’s term expires in May 2019 and he has not publicly stated whether or not he will seek re-election. This action does not affect the other council members’ roles or duties in any way, except Sigerman will now act as Mayor Pro Tem.

The “Mayor Pro Tem” is a member of council who takes over the mayor’s duties when the mayor is absent. The term is an abbreviation for the Latin term, “pro tempore,” which means, “for the time being.” The mayor pro tem does not actually become mayor, but only assumes the mayoral duties when the mayor is unavailable or unable to attend to his/her duties.

Several members of the public spoke in support of Baroody, and Mr. Baroody defended himself, but affirmed that he did, in fact, approach the plaintiff’s attorney, Mr. Patrick O’Fiel. O’Fiel then penned a letter to City Manager Mark McDaniel and City Attorney Mike Hayes to disclose this attempted communication.

Kerrville United has received a copy of the email that O’Fiel delivered to city staff. The letter states:

Please be advised that a councilmember, George Baroody, paid a visit to my office today to discuss the case. I informed him that I was not able to discuss the matter. I believe it is proper for me to notify you of this event.

–Patrick O’Fiel, Plaintiff’s Attorney

During the course of this morning’s 45-minute meeting, council members disclosed that this lawsuit exists — filed by a sober living group against the city to challenge the “boarding home” ordinance that was revised in the summer of 2018.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas; San Antonio Division. The plaintiffs are Lotus Peer Recover, LLC; Kacey Paige Williams; Christian Jane River; and Madelyn Rebecca Clark. The full lawsuit can be read below.

Complaint 090718 by on Scribd

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

Agenda for Thursday’s meeting

The full video of today’s meeting is available below.

Kerr County Election Results

Kerr County voters turned out in huge numbers for the November 6 midterm election. With a turnout of 33,504, the turnout more than doubled from the 2014 midterm, yielding a total turnout of about 56% — an 8% increase over 2014.

More than 15,000 people voted early, and around 4,600 cast a ballot on Election Day.

The KISD Bond Election passed overwhelmingly, with a 2-1 margin favoring the proposition. A total of 7,437 voted in favor, with 3,654 opposed (67%-33%).

Check the link below for the full results of Kerr County’s 2018 election. The link opens a PDF from Kerr County that shows the results of each individual race.

https://www.co.kerr.tx.us/elections/results/2018-11-06/cumulative.pdf


Why the second ballot for the bond issue?

As early voting began this week, we received several questions about why the KISD Bond Issue election was on a separate ballot. Our readers described their experiences at the polls this way…

They waited in line at the Cailloux Theater as they diligently do for every election. Once they arrived at the front of the line at the appropriate precinct table, their ID was checked and they were given a ballot for the midterm general election. Then, they were asked if they would also like to vote in the KISD Bond Election. (Some voters are not asked this question, perhaps if they are outside of the KISD district lines or for some other reason.) Most of our readers requested the second ballot for the KISD election, but they wondered… Why isn’t this just on the regular ballot?

There seem to be a couple of reasons for this:

  1. This is the way it’s done in Kerr County for school elections. After speaking with several background sources, we’ve been told that Kerr County could opt to keep everything on one ballot, but this is the way the elections have been administered in Kerr County for quite some time, so this keeps with the practices that have been established over the past couple of decades — for better or for worse. Keep in mind that in addition to the KISD bond election, Harper ISD and Medina ISD also have elections during this same time period, which leads to the second reason for the split ballot…
  2. Potential ballot confusion. School district lines and precinct lines do not coincide, so within one precinct, you’d have some folks within KISD, some folks within Ingram ISD, or another school district. So within one precinct, the county might have to have three or four different ballots depending on which school district the voter resides in. This could lead to some serious confusion during an unusually busy early voting season.

District Lines versus Precinct Lines

If you live in the City of Kerrville, it’s likely that you reside with the Kerrville Independent School District (KISD). But Kerr County is home to a total of eight school districts: Kerrville, Center Point, Comfort, Medina, Hunt, Ingram, Harper, and Divide. And these school district lines are not drawn on top of voting precinct lines. Here’s an image of all eight districts in Kerr.

District lines for all eight districts within Kerr County, Texas.

And here’s an image of the voting precinct lines on top of those district lines. Precinct lines are shown here in thick black.

School districts and voting precinct lines overlaid.

As you can see, almost every voting precinct outside of the city limits of Kerrville has parts of multiple school districts within it. So, imagine how many different ballots would have to be ordered to correspond to each voting situation within each precinct! This could be a nightmare to administer with paper ballots on early voting days.

Early Voting at KISD Campuses

In addition to the early voting center at the Cailloux Theater in downtown Kerrville (which is available to all residents within Kerr County), KISD has established early voting centers at various campuses around Kerrville. But be aware… The ONLY ballot that is available at these locations is the KISD Bond Election. You CANNOT cast a ballot for other midterm election races such as Senate, House of Representatives, and statewide races.

BUT… The newspaper made a mistake. You CAN find this KISD bond ballot at the Cailloux Theater. You DO NOT have to travel to one of the campuses to cast this ballot. You can do it all in one place at the Cailloux Theater throughout the early voting times below:

October 22, 2018 to October 26, 2018 – Polls open 8:00am to 5:00pm.
October 27, 2018 – Polls open 7:00am to 7:00pm.
October 28, 2018 – Polls open 11:00am to 4:00pm.
October 29, 2018 to November 2, 2018 – Polls open 7:00am to 7:00pm.

The elections are  being administered with separate voter databases. So if you vote at a campus location, you can still cast your other ballot at the Cailloux Theater during early voting, or at your polling place on election day.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this… If you live within KISD or one of the other school districts holding elections, be sure and ask specifically for that second ballot so that you can fully participate in the 2018 elections!

And if you have any questions, be sure to ask!

Fact-Checking Commissioner Harley Belew

County Commissioner Harley Belew took a swipe at Kerrville United on his radio program this morning, saying, “I don’t know what the hell they do. They don’t know what they’re doing. I’ll tell you what they do: they do anything that comes down the pike from somebody like, uh, Beto O’Rourke or Michael Moore, or whatever. They’re all about that.”

County Commissioner for Place 1, Harley Belew

Let’s fact check… Kerrville United does not take positions or create content about any partisan races or issues. This is a deliberate decision and something we take very seriously. All of our previous articles and videos are posted within this site, and you will not find anything about senate races, national politicians, or partisan politics.

Our supporters are made up of folks from across the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. City of Kerrville politics are non-partisan by nature. Because of the city’s charter, council members do not display party affiliation during campaigns or during their service. We believe that no single party has a monopoly on good ideas and no single party can face Kerrville’s challenges alone. We must all work together — across party lines — to make Kerrville a better place.

We are disappointed that Commissioner Belew would use his radio program to attack our group with these unfounded claims. Further, we are disappointed that one of our county representatives would use his radio program to advance only one side of an important issue like the TIRZ and not allow a dissenting view, nor invite any experts that actually have answers to his questions about this project.

We urge our readers to seek factual information and dismiss fear-mongering and charged rhetoric when deciding an issue.

Proposed TIRZ Plan for Downtown Revitalization

Kerrville’s recently approved Comprehensive Plan (Kerrville 2050) calls for numerous steps to be taken to revitalize and enhance our downtown. Several studies were pointed to in the plan that conclude that a vibrant downtown contributes to a thriving community.

In order to achieve the goal of a vibrant downtown, funding sources must be created or identified to make those objectives a reality. One such plan to set aside revenue for revitalization is the proposed TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone). According to the State Comptroller’s office, approximately 313 TIRZs have been created around the state, but the number may be much higher, since not all communities report their TIRZ zones to the comptroller. The goal is to set aside “incremental revenues” for specific types of projects that would benefit the downtown area.

Please see our video that explains what a TIRZ is and how it will benefit Kerrville. All of our source material and citations are linked in the bullet points below.


Useful Links:


Additional information is available in the extended article below:

The City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 11, focused on several important topics including a proposed “Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone” incorporating all of downtown Kerrville. The proposed ordinance passed with a 3-1 vote of the council, with Blackburn, Eychner, and Sigerman voting in the affirmative, and George Baroody voting “no.” Vincent Voelkel recused himself citing a possible conflict of interest — his father owns property within this designated zone.

Council chambers hosted a lively discussion between Baroody and the city’s consultant, but a lot of misinformation and confusion was also spread. Let’s dig down into this TIRZ business and see what it’s really about.

This TIRZ proposal comes in response to and in coordination with the city’s Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan. This plan, which was created with input from hundreds of citizens over the course of dozens of meetings over nine months, prioritizes the improvement of and reinvestment in our downtown. Establishing a TIRZ is a concrete step toward that goal. The TIRZ will provide a funding mechanism to carry out the mandate created in the comprehensive plan.

So, what is a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ? Let’s start with a quick review of how the city collects money to do its jobs. As you’ll remember from our previous videos, the city gets its revenue from three primary sources: property tax (also known as ad valorem taxes), sales tax, and service revenue. Property tax is assessed on all taxable properties within the city limits. In the 2018 budget, the city plans to receive about $10.9 million in property taxes, or about 19% of its total revenue.

When a TIRZ is implemented, this is what happens… The city draws an imaginary line around a certain area of town, and they take note of the total tax revenues that are currently coming in from the property owners within that zone. That’s called the “snapshot” of today’s revenues for that zone. After the TIRZ is approved, any “extra” money above the snapshot amount is applied to a special fund. The tax rate doesn’t change at all, so there are no new taxes being applied to these property owners. But through natural appreciation of values, plus the appreciation that happens when new buildings are built or remodeled, the revenues from that zone start to naturally increase. So everything before the snapshot still goes to the city’s general fund, but all of the extra (or “incremental”) revenues from that zone go into a special fund called the TIF, or Tax Increment Financing fund.

Here are a few other facts to remember… A TIRZ does NOT affect the tax rate within the zone — it has no impact on the taxes you pay if you own property within this zone. The TIRZ does NOT change the zoning requirements within the zone. All it really does is say, ok, for all the dollars we collect over and above the snapshot amount, we’re going to apply those to a new economic development plan WITHIN that zone. The goal of these projects is to revitalize the area in the zone, which is Kerrville’s downtown, thus supporting the mission set forth in the Comprehensive Plan.

How common is this type of funding mechanism? According to the State Comptroller’s office, approximately 313 TIRZs have been created around the state, but the number may be much higher, since not all communities report their TIRZ zones to the comptroller.

Another reality to keep in mind about this funding mechanism is that it grows very slowly. The real benefits of this program may not be realized for another decade or more because of the incremental nature of the growth of the fund. The duration of this TIRZ is proposed to be thirty years, and projections show that the fund won’t even surpass a million dollars in annual revenue until at least 2027. By nature, this is a method of accumulating funding over a long period of time without incurring any debt, and without increasing the tax rate.

In addition to serving as a piggy bank to fund long-term economic development in the downtown area, the very establishment of a TIRZ is attractive to potential developers that want to invest in the downtown area. This type of funding mechanism tells potential developers that Kerrville is committed to the ongoing revitalization and improvement of our downtown, making Kerrville an even more attractive place to invest.

The TIRZ serves not only as an inducement for new businesses, it also benefits existing downtown businesses in many ways. By committing to the improvement and enhancement of our downtown infrastructure and spaces, existing businesses stand to benefit thanks to an ongoing commitment to the infrastructure that helps business get done — communications, transportation, water, sewer, and more. Existing local businesses depend on sustainable infrastructure just as new businesses do.

So what does the TIF money get used for specifically? The Texas State Legislature sets out the rules for this in Chapter 311 of the Tax Code. Projects can include roads, sidewalks, public infrastructure, demolition, building facade preservation, affordable housing, school buildings, and a few other public good projects. In Kerrville’s case, the plan includes a mixture of the following:

  • Water facilities and improvements
  • Sanitary sewer facilities and improvements
  • Transit and parking improvements
  • Street and intersection improvements
  • Open space, parks, and recreation facilities and improvements
  • Economic development grants
  • Administrative costs

The estimates shown here are just that — estimates. The city has said that these amounts and percentages may be revised in the future.

One question that has been raised is this: Why aren’t there more specific plans so that we can understand what types of projects will actually be implemented with this TIF money? The city’s consultant, Mr. David Pettit, answered that question in the council meeting on September 11.

Another term that’s been thrown around during this discussion is “eminent domain.” What role does eminent domain play in a TIRZ and TIF? The correct answer is that there is no additional threat of eminent domain under a TIRZ. You see, the city council ALWAYS has the ability to invoke eminent domain if they so choose. Adding a TIRZ does not increase that constitutional authority in any way. The bottom line here is that a TIRZ has nothing to do with eminent domain — it neither increases or decreases the ability of a city to use eminent domain.

And finally, many opponents of the TIRZ ask, “What’s the rush? Why now? Why can’t we study this further and wait to pass it after it’s been more thoroughly vetted?” The reason we should act quickly is because if we pass this TIRZ this calendar year, the “snapshot” is set at the beginning of 2018. Why does that matter? Well, the snapshot is the basis for how much money can be collected for the TIF. If we wait another year or another two years, all of that natural appreciation money is not being collected and saved for downtown revitalization. If a large building is constructed or if land values appreciate considerably, we would miss those gains and not have access to those funds for downtown enhancement or economic development. Also, as City Manager Mark McDaniel stated at the last regular city council meeting, there is no risk in implementing this now.

In summary, we believe that the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone is a positive step in the right direction for Kerrville. During the Comprehensive Plan process, the citizens stated that downtown revitalization is a priority, and this TIRZ is a step in that direction. Without a funding mechanism, there is little that can be done to help achieve the goal of a vibrant downtown. But with the TIRZ in place, existing taxes will be used more effectively toward this goal. We encourage council members and voters to support the TIRZ.

New Mayor and New Council Take Helm

On Tuesday morning, May 15, the new members took their oaths of office, and Kerrville officially has a new mayor and two new councilpersons.

Mayor Bill Blackburn and Place 4 Delayne Sigerman took their oaths today, while Place 3 Judy Eychner will be sworn in this Friday (she was out of town during the official ceremony). Council members in Place 1 and 2, Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody, were present at the meeting, but outgoing Mayor Bonnie White was absent.

The YouTube video of today’s meeting is available below. Be sure to watch the outgoing statements from Place 3 Mary Ellen Summerlin and Place 4 Warren Ferguson. We thank them for their service!

Congrats to the new members, and now it’s time to get to work!

Aftermath

The May 5 election results have been tallied, and the winners were Bill Blackburn (Mayor), Judy Eychner (Place 3), and Delayne Sigerman (Place 4, unopposed). Following the election, tradition calls for the defeated candidate to phone the winning candidate to offer congratulations, and to concede the election. Although the phone call really has no legal basis nor is it required, calling one’s opponent is considered customary and traditional, and serves to help unify the voters that were divided during the election. An exception to the concession call is typically made when the vote is too close to call, or there are any other abnormalities that call the election into question.

In this case, the winning candidates each garnered about 1,000 votes more than their opponents, so there really was no question about the margins. But the overwhelming victories weren’t enough to prompt either losing candidate to make that traditional phone call after this year’s election. Instead, the candidates have offered several quotes to two different newspapers so far. Here are their quotes:

  • White: “I’ve done what the people asked me to do.”
  • White: “I wish the campaign would have been based more on the issues… And, I was disappointed about the false narratives leveled against me.”
  • Cooper: “The contentious nature of this election, to where people relied on half-truths and incited other people based on those half-truths to come vote. I had no clue a local election would be like that.”
  • Cooper (when asked why he won’t call to concede): “I don’t know what they’re going to do [referring to the Attorney General]. It may be rude, or not protocol [not to concede], but I’ll sleep tonight. I’m proud of my campaign.”
  • White: “There were no issues involved, for the most part, in his campaign. It was all personal attacks and character assassinations against me. For someone who claims to be a uniter, this is a bad first start. These wounds will take a long time to heal, if at all.”
  • White: “I just think there were a lot of new voters who jumped in on the rhetoric, and it was kind of a ‘days of rage mentality’ to go down and join a movement, if you will … I think they were believing these false stories on Facebook.”
  • White: “They had street walkers, and I couldn’t compete with them and those numbers because I was busy doing the job of mayor.”
  • White: “We have traditionally been known as a very conservative stronghold in Kerr County. Maybe we’re not.”
  • Cooper: “They talked about the City Council being divided, but in the next breath they’re saying the city is running the best it has in 30 years. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”
  • Cooper: “The personal attacks on the mayor just ramped up and up and up.”
  • Cooper: “Kerrville citizens will be shocked when they come to realize the person who they voted in as mayor is a liberal Democrat who no longer calls himself an evangelical Christian on Facebook.”

Hill Country Community Journal, May 9, 2018:

  • Incumbent Mayor Bonnie White first said that she had no comment, then added, “Except I’m said it happened on a false narrative; and disappointed in the community for buying the lies about me. That’s all.”

The newly elected council members and mayor will be sworn in on May 15, meaning White remains Kerrville’s mayor until that date.

A meeting of the Comprehensive Plan committee was scheduled for Monday, May 7. Mayor Bonnie White was not in attendance, nor was Mr. Cooper, but all four councilpersons did attend (Voelkel, Baroody, Summerlin, and Ferguson). Although not at the city’s meeting, White was in attendance at the Kerr County Commissioners Court meeting that morning, even though no city-county business was on the agenda.

Tuesday night was the final City Council meeting on the calendar in which Bonnie White would be the presiding Mayor, since Blackburn doesn’t take the helm until May 15. White did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting. George Baroody, Mayor Pro Tem, presided.

EDIT on May 11: According to reports, Bonnie White did not attend the scheduled Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board meeting on Thursday. The meeting was held without her.

Early voting has concluded… Here are the stats

Kerrville set a new record for city council elections this year in early voting. According to City Clerk Brenda Craig, 3.087 ballots were cast in this year’s early voting period. That’s up 16.5% over 2016 totals for early voting.

There were 2,585 ballots cast by personal appearance at the Cailloux Theater, and 502 ballots by mail, for a total of 3,087.

The previous record for a council race was the 2016 election, with 2,650 votes cast early. But this didn’t beat the biggest early voting total of all time, which was set in 2006, which was the “tax freeze” election, with 4,083 ballots cast early.

Here’s how the demographics break down for this year’s early voting totals:

  • 2,585 ballots cast by personal appearance
  • 502 ballots by mail
  • 3,087 total ballots cast so far
  • Average voter age: 66
  • 56% female, 44% male (of those that chose to reveal their gender on voter rolls)
  • Under 50 years of age: 15.7%
  • 50 years of age and over: 84.3%
  • 16.5% increase in early voter turnout since 2016

Mayor White accuses Evans family of lying

NOTE: This story is a follow-up to the posting we made yesterday on this website and on our Facebook page titled, “Report of harassment at voting location.”

In her first ever comment on a Kerrville United page, Mayor Bonnie White lobbed accusations and offered flat denials regarding the “Voter intimidation” story on our Facebook page. (Even though we’ve invited her to comment and appear on the page for nearly two years, this was the first time she ever made an appearance.)

Offering no sympathy and no apology, Mayor White immediately accused someone (?) of libel and slander, but the post was vague and veiled in threatening language. She also asserted that the entire affair is a political tactic. We asked for clarification but received no reply. Bonnie went on to say that Evans “grossly misinterpreted [the incident] to say the least.” But, then she seemed to accuse her running mate Gary Cooper of being involved in a similar situation involving a young voter and her children who voted for Blackburn.

However, Mr. Cooper, pictured (below right) bears little resemblance to the description that Evans offered in her original post: “wearing a cowboy hat, having a scruffy beard…” Yesterday, Mrs. Evans was presented with a photo of Robert White (below left) and she believes White is the person who harassed her.

Robert White, husband of Mayor Bonnie White (left), and Gary Cooper, candidate for City Council Place 3 (right)

Bonnie White stated that this entire matter was a political stunt to try and sway the outcome of the election. Immediately, numerous friends and supporters of Evans came to their defense, stating that Mrs. Evans is an honest and apolitical person who would never invent or embellish a story. Mr. Evans commented elsewhere stating, “We don’t have a side,” when he was accused of using this moment for political points.

See the full exchange below. This screenshot was taken at 7:00 AM on Wednesday, May 2.