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.

Election winners: Cochrane and Clarkson

As the warm and sunny election day turned into election evening, a large group of supporters huddled around the nearest laptop waiting for the early results to post to the Kerr County Elections website. Seven o’clock came and went, but results were not immediately forthcoming. (Traditionally the county releases the results of early voting immediately after the polls close on election day.) Then, as an uncharacteristically emotional outburst from Cochrane echoed through the room, the outcome was evident without even seeing the numbers. Candidates Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson each received a pair of telephone calls from the City Secretary’s office — the first offering relief (with early voting numbers) and the second offering confirmation (final tallies). Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson had won the election.

Unofficial results for 2019 City Council Elections.

671 votes were cast on election day, bringing the total turnout in this election to 3,021 — the first time an “odd-year” election has broken 3,000. With approximately 15,400 registered voters in the City of Kerrville, this means that about 20% of the registered voters cast a ballot this time around. This is a significant increase over the same election two years ago. In 2017, only 2,153 votes were cast, yielding a turnout of just 14.4%.

This year’s total of 3,021 earns the distinction of being the third largest turnout in Kerrville election history, behind 2018 and 2016, respectively. This year earns the honor of the highest-ever odd-year election total.

This year’s 671 ballots on election day represented only about 22% of the overall vote. The election day impact has shrunk significantly since 2017, with a higher percentage of the voters casting an early ballot.

Daily vote totals for 2019 election compared to 2018 and 2017.

Cochrane and Clarkson held a comfortable lead in the early results that included seven days of in-person early voting plus mail-in ballots. When the early numbers arrived, Clarkson held a 63-37% advantage while Cochrane led with a 64-36% margin. But Baroody and Garcia did narrow the margin some on election day. Saturday voters went 52% for Cochrane and Clarkson, with 48% going to Baroody and Garcia, narrowing that early lead by a few points.

Notably in this election, the two pairs of candidates ran their campaigns in alignment, and the results suggest that voters understood these relationships and voted accordingly. Just a 1% difference separated the winning margins in the two races — Cochrane with 61% and Clarkson with 60% after all votes were counted.

Reactions

After the final results were posted, Mario Garcia made his way to Kim Clarkson’s election night headquarters and offered his congratulations. However, as of Sunday morning, Gary Cochrane has not received any communications from George Baroody.

Baroody did offer something of a compliment to Cochrane as he told the Hill Country Community Journal,

“Gary Cochrane came to me after the polls closed and shook hands with me. And I agree it was a good race. It was nice to have it be a clean thing. The issues were the issues and I still believe a big portion of the community was not heard,” Baroody said. “I would like to keep the issues at the forefront, and continue to advocate for the people. I was proud to serve for two years, and will continue to serve my community, however that may be.”

Clarkson, Cochrane winners in city election. Hill Country Community Journal. May 4, 2019.

Garcia’s first foray into the political arena did not succeed as he’d hoped, but he remained positive, telling the Hill Country Community Journal,

“I felt we ran a good clean campaign. I was there until the polls closed. Right now I just feel really numb. But I went to congratulate Kim Clarkson at her party tonight and told her to work hard,” Garcia said. “She said to stay close and to bring any issues to her. I enjoyed the campaign and my goal was to bring a higher voter turnout and run my campaign with humility and civility – the good old decent way, sort of the Andy Griffith way.”

Clarkson, Cochrane winners in city election. Hill Country Community Journal. May 4, 2019.

What’s Next

Kim Clarkson and Gary Cochrane celebrate their victories on election night 2019.

The results will be canvassed and the newest council members will be sworn in at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, May 14, just ahead of a 6:00 PM regular city council meeting where they will immediately begin their duties on the dais.

In the mean time, current council members Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody will continue to serve in Place 1 and Place 2, respectively.

Takeaways

  • Kim Clarkson and Gary Cochrane win seats on council with about 60% of the vote
  • Turnout is up 40% from the same election 2017
  • Turnout lags behind 2018 by approximately 1,000 votes
  • Election day’s impact is shrinking as more voters turn out for early voting
  • Overall voter turnout was 20% of registered voters

References

Complete Election Results from Kerr County

Hill Country Community Journal article

Early voting dominated by older voters

Part of Kerrville United’s mission is to engage with younger voters and encourage them to cast a ballot in local elections. But historically, Kerrville’s elections are dominated by older voters, and the turnout among younger voters is quite low. So far, this year’s election holds true to that trend, with older voters showing up in far greater percentages than younger voters.

For our purposes today, we’ll divide voters into two groups — under 55, and 55 and older. The city’s electorate (registered voters) is made up of 44% younger voters (under 55) and 56% older voters (55 years and older). The average voter age is 55, and the median age is 58.

However, the voters this year consist of 82% older voters and just 18% younger voters. The average voter age in this year’s election, so far, is 67 years of age, and the median age is 71. Younger voters are vastly outnumbered. More votes have been cast by folks 80 and over than have been cast by folks under 55, even though there are 6,863 registered voters under 55 compared to just 1,901 over 80.

Here is a visual display of that trend. The chart below is a histogram showing the number of registered voters within the City of Kerrville. To the left are the 18-year-olds, and to the right are the oldest voters.

Histogram representing the age of all registered voters in the City of Kerrville as of March 2019.

And the following histogram shows the age distribution of the voters who have cast a ballot so far in 2019. Again, younger voters to the left, and older voters to the right.

Histogram representing the age of all voters who have cast a ballot in early voting or by mail in 2019.

As you can see, the histogram is “skewed right” meaning more older voters are voting than younger voters.

What can we do?

If younger voters wish to have their wants and needs represented on City Council or any other local office, we must energize younger voters to get out and cast a ballot in these local elections. Kerrville United seeks to educate and inform younger voters by presenting news and information on channels where younger voters congregate — social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to education, the younger voters that do participate must help spread the word and encourage their friends, family, neighbors, and younger community members to get involved.

Takeaways

  • Although overall turnout is on the rise in recent years, turnout among younger voters remains low.
  • So far during this election, 82% of voters are over the age of 55.
  • More votes have been cast by folks 80 and over than have been cast by folks under 55.
  • Younger voters must engage if they wish for their voices to be collectively heard.

References

We relied upon daily turnout numbers and voter demographics supplied to us by the Kerr County Elections department. These source materials will be made available to the public after the election.

Early voting draws to a close

Tuesday was the last day to vote early by appearance. Polls closed at 5:00 PM Tuesday on the seventh day of voting at the Cailloux Theater. The last chance to cast a ballot will be this Saturday, May 4, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM at the same Cailloux Theater in Kerrville.

Why don’t we report early voting numbers?

Kerrville’s voter turnout in citywide elections is notoriously and embarrassingly low — historically speaking. Although turnout has been on the rise for the past couple of years, we believe that reporting voter turnout numbers may dissuade certain voters. During the election, we only wish to encourage voters and increase turnout. Reporting the numbers can wait until after election day! We will post the turnout numbers and do an analysis of voter demographics.

Election Day Activities

Voting begins at 7 AM on Saturday, May 4. Polls close at 7:00 PM. What happens then?

Approx. 7:00-8:00 PM – Election officials will release a tally of early voters and mail-in ballots. These early voting percentages tend to be similar to election day ratios. These early voting totals are released online at Kerr County Elections page.

Approx. 8:00-9:00 PM – Election officials will release the final totals and a winner will be announced. Mail-in ballots are accepted up until (and including) election day, so the final total may vary slightly, but typically, a winner can be announced with a great deal of certainty once these final tallies are released.

Later… Candidates traditionally release a statement to reporters and supporters at the various election day gatherings. Results will be posted here on Kerrville United!

Post-Election

After election day, final votes are tallied, including mail-in ballots. Typically a special city council meeting is called to canvas the results and swear in the new council members. This meeting date has not been officially posted as of this writing.

The new city council will hold its first regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 14.