Multiple arrests made following undercover operation

Early Tuesday morning, residents in the Ingram area were awakened by the sounds of helicopters swirling overhead. Ingram Police Department issued a statement that the helicopters were part of a law enforcement operation. And at 11:15 AM, the Kerr County Sheriff issues a press release announcing the results of the morning’s activities.

Eleven arrests were made at the conclusion of an undercover narcotics operation that uncovered a methamphetamine distribution ring in Ingram and Kerr County. Several law enforcement agencies participated in the sting, including Ingram PD, Kerrville PD, DPS, US Marshalls, local constables, Attorney General’s Office, Homeland Security, and New Braunfel’s PD. The eleven arrests were for delivery of controlled substances and delivery of marijuana.

The press release is pictured below.

Today: Public hearing for Charter Review

The City of Kerrville’s Charter Review Commission will hold a public hearing today (Tuesday) at 4:00 PM at City Hall. The public is invited to attend and to view a presentation on the proposed charter amendments. After the presentation, the public may comment and provide feedback on the proposals. Individual committee members and the commission as a whole invites the public to attend, listen, and take part in the discussion.

Agenda for today’s Charter Review Commission meeting.

What is the Charter?

Under Texas state law, any city with a population of 5,000 or more may elect to operate under a “charter,” which is a document that defines the methods and means of governance in a city. You can think of it as the city’s constitution, of sorts.

Beginning in 1913, Texas requires charter cities to maintain their governing document and amendments with the Secretary of State. You can see Kerrville’s and other city’s charters at the Texas State Library of Archives, or for Kerrville, on the city’s municode website.

Our charter includes lots of important provisions, such as the municipal city limits boundaries, the process for annexation, rules for electing and serving on city council, procedural rules, recall provisions, administrative rules, and much more. The charter is one of the most important documents that sets forth how our city works.

According to City Attorney Mike Hayes:

A guiding principle in the creation and continuing foundation of this great country is democracy, and local self-government is a key component of democracy

–Mike Hayes, January 2019, Kerrville Daily Times

Amending the Charter

Our charter has a provision to amend the charter every so often. Section 14.07 sets forth the requirement that our charter be reviewed every five years, or more. The council shall appoint a Charter Review Commission that includes seven residents of the city, and the group will propose recommendations and amendments, and then present those to the City Council.

Once the proposed amendments are approved by council, they go to the citizens for a vote. The last time we had a charter amendment vote was in 2014, when voters considered eight amendments. Those amendments passed with overwhelming margins. But council actually rejected three proposed amendments from the commission which would have lessened the requirements for a recall election initiative. Those three did not appear on the ballot.

Should the council approve any recommendations this year, the amendments would likely be on the ballot for the November 2019 election.

The Commission

This Charter Review Commission was established in November 2018, and includes the following members:

  • Brenda Craig
  • Stephen Fine
  • John Harrison, Chairman
  • Peggy McKay
  • Greg Richards
  • Michael Sigerman
  • Michelle Yanez

More information about the commission, including its agendas and minutes, can be found here: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/1672/Charter-Review-Commission

The Meeting

Let us hear your voice through one or more of the opportunities mentioned above. The future of our city depends on it.

–City Manager Mark McDaniel, April 12, 2019, Kerrville Daily Times

Today’s meeting at 4 PM is open to the public and will be held in Council Chambers at City Hall. Kerrville United urges all interested citizens to take part. As the Kerrville 2050 Plan states, this is “Your Voice, Your City.”

Council appoints new members to EIC

At the end of the regular meeting of the Kerrville City Council on Tuesday, May 28, the council adjourned into executive session, which is a closed portion of the meeting that is allowed for certain types of deliberations. Upon returning to regular session, the council appointed members to the Economic Improvement Corporation, or EIC, the city board responsible for overseeing the 4B sales tax revenues that are collected on all taxable purchases made within the city limits.

Kent McKinney was appointed to serve a second two-year term on EIC, and new members Danny Almond, Greg Richards, and Aaron Yates were appointed to their first two-year term on the board. Notably, the council chose not to appoint a council member to the EIC, although there has been a council member as part of this board for the past several years.

These new members will take their place on the EIC at the next regular meeting on Monday, June 17. The EIC meets every third Monday at 4:00 PM in City Council chambers.

The EIC has supported several notable projects in recent years, including the River Trail, the Sports Complex, the HEB Tennis Center, and numerous others. The board considers projects that support economic development for the City of Kerrville.

Author’s Note

Your author, Aaron Yates, is one of the members appointed to the EIC on Tuesday evening. I am truly humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve our city by sitting on this very important board. I look forward to working with board president Kenneth Early, the other board members, and city staff to consider projects that will improve the lives of our neighbors and friends in Kerrville.

When I was interviewed for this position, I told council members that one thing that I pledge to do as an EIC board member is work to improve “public relations” between the board and the residents of Kerrville. Using Kerrville United as my platform, I plan to post regular updates about the projects that the EIC considers, and take your questions as those projects make their way through the process that includes city staff, EIC members, and city council.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in future postings.

Authored by Aaron Yates, founder of Kerrville United

Council Agenda for May 28, 2019

The Kerrville City Council will convene after Memorial Day on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at 6 PM in council chambers at City Hall. A busy agenda will be waiting for council as the newest members participate in their second full meeting following the May 4 election. Here’s a look at some of the items on the agenda for Tuesday night.

HEB Conditional Use Permits

The new grocery store that is planned next to the existing HEB grocery on Highway 27 will need a couple of Conditional Use Permits (or CUPs) to facilitate their overall plan. The first is a CUP near the west end of the property so that a gas station, car wash, and convenience store can be constructed. The second is a CUP for a parking lot on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Hayes Streets.

CUPs to be considered at Tuesday’s meeting.
Site plan for proposed HEB grocery store and gas station.

Public hearings for each of these CUPs will be held on Tuesday night.

Amending Alcoholic Beverage Code

Council will vote on the first reading of an ordinance to amend and clarify the rules regarding the regulation of sales of alcoholic beverages. Under this proposed ordinance, sales of alcohol would be prohibited in all residential zones, prohibit sales within 300 feet of a church, school, or hospital, and would provide for a variance request process. This ordinance also establishes the city’s fees for opening an alcohol sales location at 1/2 of the TABC license fee.

Depth of Field Photo of Two Pilsner Glasses

These rules are already in place, for the most part, but this ordinance will clarify and extend the rules to cover these additional stipulations regarding churches, schools, hospitals, and residential neighborhoods. The City of Kerrville has regulated alcohol sales since 1933.

Annexation for KISD’s new Peterson Middle School campus

The second and final reading of an ordinance to annex approximately 35 acres along Loop 534 will be held. Assuming it passes successfully, this will officially annex the property that is planned to be used for the new Peterson Middle School campus across from Tivy High School, and along the proposed extension of Olympic Drive.

35 acres to be considered for annexation for KISD’s Peterson Middle School.

At the first reading of this annexation ordinance on May 14, Mayor Bill Blackburn cast the lone “no” vote, but the first reading passed 4-1. Mayor Blackburn noted that he was voting against the annexation because the city had not received a traffic study or impact study to show how the traffic will be affected. Drew Paxton noted that the traffic study was still being completed, and Deputy City Manager EA Hoppe said the study would be complete in June.

As part of the packet of information for this second reading of the ordinance, a letter from KISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust is attached, and he shares excerpts of a traffic report that the district commissioned. The excerpt notes that approximately 50% of the students at the new Peterson Middle School will be bused, and 50% will be dropped off by a parent or relative. Approximately 1/3 (~300 students) would use the new Olympic Drive extension.

Appointments to EIC

Council will appoint or re-appoint members to the Economic Improvement Corporation (or EIC). The EIC is responsible for the 4B Sales Tax revenue that is collected for economic development. A total of approximately $3 million per year is collected and distributed for various projects supporting economic development, including quality of life projects such as the River Trail and Sports Complex, among others.

Four members’ terms expire on June 1, including Gary Cooper, Kent McKinney, Robert Naman, and Delayne Sigerman (City Councilperson Place 4). All are eligible for reappointment, as the board members serve two-year terms with a maximum of two consecutive terms.

This item is eligible for executive session, meaning council could adjourn to private quarters to discuss the applications and appointments.

Where to Watch

The city council meeting can be watched live at the City of Kerrville’s live streaming page below.

http://player.frontlayer.com/live/fl518492

References

Full Agenda Packet

Code Review Committee “Open House” scheduled for Thursday

The Kerrville 2050 comprehensive plan was adopted in June 2018, and one of the recommendations from that process was to create a Code Review Committee to update the zoning ordinance, zoning map, subdivision ordinance, and development standards (which includes the landscape ordinance, sign ordinance, and night skies ordinance). The group, made up of citizens and community leaders, has been meeting since October, and this Thursday will hold an open house to present their progress to the community and to gather feedback with regards to their work so far.

The open house is schedule for 5 PM to 7 PM at the Dietert Center on Guadalupe Street in Kerrville. This come-and-go event will be open to the public with a short presentation at 5:20 PM.

Why it’s important

Because the city’s codes have an impact on almost everything that happens in our city, the importance of this committee’s work cannot be overstated. So many of the complaints about any city revolve around building codes, zoning, and development regulations. Many of these laws have not seen a major update since 2011. This committee’s goals include making those laws clear and concise, as well as implementing and enforcing them uniformly and fairly. According to the committee’s official charge, the goals include:

…Improve overall functionality and practicality of the City’s ordinances, and to reflect the vision established in the Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan. The primary objective of developing these updated ordinances is to establish a set of standards/guidelines and procedures for development that builds upon the existing character of the community while supporting economic development and overall livability.

Scope of Services, Code Review Committee

Now is the time to review this committee’s work and offer feedback, criticism, encouragement, and recommendations.

Who is on the committee?

The volunteer committee members include citizens and leaders with a wide variety of occupations, experience, and perspectives. The list includes:

  • Danny Almond
  • David Martin
  • Wendy Anderson
  • Alex Monroe
  • Kim Clarkson
  • Bill Morgan
  • Peter Lewis
  • Mary Ellen Summerlin
  • Ruben Exum
  • Sue Tiemann
  • John Fleckenstein
  • Doyle Weaver
  • Sandra Garcia
  • Mike Wellborn
  • Larry Howard

What happens next?

Following this open house, the committee will continue its work in creating draft documents, maps, and recommendations. According to the project schedule (pictured below), the committee will present their work for adoption by the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council in August 2019.

Project schedule for Code Review Committee.

Takeaways

  • This open house is one of the few times when the general public is welcomed to review the work of this “blue ribbon” committee while the work is still in progress.
  • Too often, citizens only begin to offer feedback when a matter is before the City Council. However, this type of work and modifications takes place over many months, and it is appropriate and encouraged to begin to offer feedback at this time.
  • In addition to offering feedback, community members should thank and congratulate the volunteer committee members for taking on this important work.

References

Information, agendas, and documents used by the committee

Article in Hill Country Community Journal

Taking the oath: New council members sworn in

Mayor Bill Blackburn (left) congratulates Gary Cochrane (right) as Kim Clarkson (center) looks on. Photo from City of Kerrville.

History was made on Tuesday evening as the oaths of office were administered to new council members Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson. After Clarkson was sworn in, Kerrville became, for the first time, led by a majority-female City Council. Mayor Blackburn congratulated the new civil servants and thanked the outgoing council members Voelkel and Baroody. Soon after the pomp and circumstance, the new council sat for their first meeting.

Each outgoing and incoming council member delivered a short speech. Voelkel reminisced about the positive and funny moments from his two years of service. Baroody gave advice to incoming council members and promised that he is not going anywhere, and will continue to be active in the community.

Incoming Place 1 council member Gary Cochrane promised that he would be an independent-thinking and thorough council person. Newly installed Place 2 council member Kim Clarkson gave an impassioned speech regarding the importance of service. See each of the speeches in the full council video below.

A small celebration was held in the lobby following the short ceremony. The council reconvened at 6:00 PM for their first regular meeting. The full city council meeting can be viewed below.

How to get involved with your city this week

During the citywide elections that just ended last Saturday, we often heard from folks that had a lot to say, and offered many opinions, but when asked to participate somehow — either by voting, attending a meeting, joining a board, volunteering, taking a survey — many decline. In addition, many people don’t pay close attention to the local government processes, and so they miss their chance to offer criticisms or opinions until it’s too late.

Kerrville United urges citizens to take part in their democracy. There are so many ways you can get involved RIGHT NOW, as in this week! Take a look at this list that’s available to you at this moment:

  • Take the 2019 Citizen Survey online. This survey asks some fundamental questions about your Kerrville experience so that our city leaders might continue to improve what Kerrville has to offer. This only takes minutes, and can be done from the comfort of your own couch.
  • The Code Review Committee will host an Open House on Thursday, May 16, from 5-7 PM at the Dietert Center. This committee has been examining the existing city codes (laws) and will soon make recommendations for changes to these rules, including the sign ordinance. This open house is your chance to view the progress and add your thoughts to the process.
  • Attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday night. This week is special, because two new city council members will be sworn in at 5 PM, and then a regular meeting will follow at 6 PM.
  • Apply to serve on a board or commission. The city asks for citizens to serve on these boards to oversee the various governmental departments that regulate our town. You can apply online today for any of these board openings: Building Board of Adjustment and Appeals, Economic Improvement Corporation, Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, Recovery Community Coalition, Zoning Board of Adjustment.

New council members will be sworn in on Tuesday

Two new city councilmembers will find their seats on the dais Tuesday afternoon following the May 4 election. Place 1 Gary Cochrane and Place 2 Kim Clarkson will be sworn in at 5:00 PM Tuesday at City Hall, and at 6:00 PM, they will sit for their first meeting as council members. In addition to the full slate of agenda items during the regular meeting, the new council will also appoint a Mayor Pro Tem, which is basically the “vice mayor” that serves in the mayor’s absence.

In addition to the ceremonial and new council topics, the newly-installed council will also consider several items related to the new junior high school on Loop 534, some zoning matters, and they will receive an annual report from the Youth Advisory Committee.

The full agenda for Tuesday night can be found here:
http://kerrvilletx.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=kerrvilletx_a5633b65b8dd10d03a553483df7e2242.pdf&view=1

2019 Voter Analysis

Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the results of the 2019 election, we can start identifying trends and drawing conclusions about how well our community came out to vote for this year’s city council races. All of the data used herein is drawn from publicly available sources.

Here are some of the things we wanted to know…

  • What was the turnout figure?
  • What age groups are voting?
  • How many first-time voters did we have this year?

Let’s examine each of these topics one at a time.

Turnout

As we mentioned in our previous article about this election, the overall voter turnout in this election was approximately 19.6% of registered voters. The quantity of ballots cast in this election is the third-largest in Kerrville history, and this turnout number is triple the low point of 2013. We have seen a steady increase in turnout since 2013.

Total ballots cast in city council races since 2008.

Age

One of the misunderstandings about Kerrville’s population is that it’s not overwhelmingly skewed towards the older folks among us. In fact, only about 30% of the population is over the age of 62. And for our purposes in this article, about 38.6% of the population is over the age of 55. Those from 18 to 54 years of age make up about 38.8%. So as we compare voter numbers, keep in mind that the 18-55 population is nearly numerically identical to the over 55 population. (US Census Factfinder)

But as we look at registered voters, we can see that the majority of voters are, in fact, over 55. There were 15,455 registered voters in April 2019, and of those, 56% were over the age of 55. Only 44% were under 55. So we can already see a disparity between the age distribution of Kerrville’s overall population versus the age distribution of registered voters.

Histogram of registered voters going into the 2019 election.

But wait, there’s more. When we look at the number of folks who actually voted in 2019, we find that 79% of voters were over the age of 55. Only 21% of voters were under the age of 55. So we see a large disparity between not only the general population versus the registered ages, but we also see that the vote is heavily shifted to the older end of the spectrum.

Histogram of voters’ ages in the 2019 City Council election.

In the graph shown above, we see that the vast majority of voters are between the ages of 65 and 85. In fact, about 57% of voters are within that age bracket.

In the last age graph below, we compare the percentage of these age groups in the general population versus the ages in the voting population. Orange is the general population, and blue is the voting population.

Comparing age groups in population of Kerrville versus age groups that voted in 2019.

This last chart gives us our main “age” takeaway… Older voters (over 55) are much more likely to vote than younger voters. The group with the highest probability of voting is the 70-79 year olds. The age group least likely to vote is the 18-29 year old group.

  • Voter turnout for under 55 voters: 9.4%
  • Voter turnout for over 55 voters: 27.6%

First-Time Voters

First, let’s make a distinction. For our purposes, we’re defining “first-time voter” as someone who did not cast a ballot in the 2017 nor the 2018 citywide election, but they did cast a vote in the 2019 election. For this May’s election, there were 578 voters that met that criteria. 578 voters did not vote in 2017 or 2018, but cast a ballot in 2019.

These “new” voters made up 19% of the total number of ballots cast in 2019.

This group of voters is somewhat younger than the average voter, but their geography is widely distributed. In other words, they are younger overall, but they do not reside in one specific area of town.

Takeaways

  • Local elections are dominated by the older age groups.
  • Younger voters register in high numbers, but don’t actually vote very often.
  • The older the voter, the more likely she is to cast a ballot, until reaching age 80, when the likelihood begins to decrease.
  • This election energized 578 voters that had not cast a ballot in a few years. This group made up nearly 1/5 of the ballots cast.
  • If all voices are to be heard in local elections, voter turnout efforts must continue.

Sources

Written by Aaron Yates, founder of Kerrville United

Fredericksburg voters deny bond issue for sports complex

The City of Fredericksburg held their citywide election on Saturday. Voters elected two council members who ran unopposed — Bobby Watson and Gary R. Neffendorf. Voters also turned down a proposed $6.1 million bond issue for a sports complex. The issue was defeated by merely 35 votes. This was the second time voters denied the project.

Unofficial results as posted on the City of Fredericksburg website on May 4, 2019.

Approximately 1,100 voters cast a ballot in this election, which represents a small percentage of the 10,530 residents in that city.

This election is notable to Kerrville voters if only to compare various funding methods that the two cities have or haven’t employed to provide economic development funds for things such as a sports complex. Whereas Kerrville employs 4B Sales Tax funding to support economic development and oversees approximately $3-4 million per year for such efforts, the City of Fredericksburg does NOT employ 4B Sales Tax funding, and therefore had to consider a bond issue for their proposed sports development. In Kerrville, a bond election was not required because 4B sales tax funds were used to finance the project — not general revenue or tax revenue.

Kerrville’s Economic Improvement Corporation, or EIC, contributed $9 million in funding for our local sports complex, and the City of Kerrville delivered an additional $2 million for the construction of the indoor baseball facility and office.

Fredericksburg’s sports complex was initially put to voters in November 2017 and failed. Proponents came back with a new plan for 2019 that cut costs from $12 million to $6 million. County Commissioners in Gillespie County committed the county to supporting the project with $2.3 million. Taxes would have increased for city residents as seen below.

On Saturday, voters rejected this new plan by a margin of just 52% to 48%.

Last year, Kerrville United discussed several sports complex proposals around the area. All have been defeated.

Takeaways

  • Without a 4B sales tax option, Fredericksburg does not have a revenue source committed to economic development projects.
  • Voters turned down the $6 million sports complex proposal with a margin of only 35 votes
  • This is the second time voters denied the project.