An article appearing in this week’s Hill Country Community Journal attributes two statements to Baroody’s attorney following the latest city council meeting. During that meeting, Baroody’s attorney, Roger Gordon, spoke on behalf of Mr. Baroody and requested that council restore Baroody to the discussions regarding the Peer Recovery federal lawsuit that’s been filed against the city. Council denied that request.
But following the meeting, according to the Journal, “Gordon explained that while Baroody has not requested a lawsuit be filed, he does have the right to do so.”
Later, in an emailed response to the Journal, Gordon stated, “The City Charter does provide for ‘judicial review’ (filing of law suit) of the Council’s sanctions; at this time Mr. Baroody has not yet requested that review. It is absolutely within his rights to do so.”
So although no lawsuit has been filed and Baroody has stated that he does not intend to sue the city, his attorney can make no assurances that a lawsuit will not happen. With early voting only a few days away, we will continue to follow this story.
In addition to the recap of the latest meeting, the Journal has compiled a timeline of all events leading up to the latest council meeting. Please read their article via the link below.
Early voting for the 2019 City Council Election begins on Monday, April 22 and runs through April 30. Election Day is Saturday, May 4. Kerrville United has always tried to encourage a higher turnout for local elections. Last year we made some progress, but overall voter turnout for citywide elections is still embarrassingly low!
Studies have shown that when you actually make a specific plan to vote, you are more likely to follow through and cast a ballot. Also, if you make plans with friends, you’re even more likely to follow through because those friends hold you accountable. So today we invite you to make a specific plan with your friends on when you’ll vote, who you’ll vote with, and where you’ll take a selfie after you finish!
How to Plan
First, take a look at the calendar below and determine when you might be able to vote. This year all early voting takes place only on weekdays, so if you work an 8-5 job, you might want to look at the first two days, when polls are open early and late. The majority of early voting, polls are only open 8-5.
Talk to a friend or a co-worker and encourage them to go and vote with you. If any of your family members or friends need transportation, volunteer to drive them. The more people you personally contact and make plans to vote with, the higher the turnout will be. Kerrville really needs higher turnout — especially among younger voters!
Set that voting date as you would with any important appointment, and honor it! Plan on voting early so that if something unexpected happens, like a flat tire, or a sick child, you’ll still have time to reschedule.
Vote during the early voting dates or election day and take a selfie with the hashtag #VoteForKerrville and we’ll feature you on our social media pages and in a live video webcast on Election Day! Upload the photos to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter on or before election day!
All voting takes place at the Cailloux Theater on Main Street in downtown Kerrville.
Yesterday the Kerrville Board of Realtors announced their endorsements of two candidates for city council: Gary Cochrane and Kim Clarkson. This is only the second time in recent memory that this board has endorsed specific candidates. The first was in the 2018 race when the board endorsed Judy Eychner and Bill Blackburn.
The Kerrville Board of Realtors is a group that represents over 250 real estate professionals in the Kerrville area, promoting private property rights and home ownership. The board and its membership has a vested interest in seeing Kerrville continue to grow responsibly and continue to be an attractive place to live and work.
Early voting begins on Monday, April 22, and Election Day is May 4. Kerrville will elect two places to City Council — Place 1 and 2.
We will be live-blogging the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at Schreiner University beginning at 6:00 PM.
5:45 PM – Candidates and community members are gathering and visiting ahead of the forum, which is scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM. Chairs are set for approximately 200 spectators on the second floor of the student activity center. Behind the candidates’ stage, the easterly view looks over the front entrance toward Highway 27.
5:55 PM – The five-minute warning has been announced and all four candidates are in their seats on the stage. From left to right, there’s the moderator’s podium, then Gary Cochrane, George Baroody, Mario Garcia, and Kim Clarkson. Tonight’s moderator is Walt Koenig, executive director of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce. The crowd is taking their seats and it’s a near-capacity crowd.
6:00 PM – Tim Rye, head of the chamber’s governmental affairs committee, welcomes the audience and the candidates. Walt Koenig takes to the podium and encourages the candidates, thanks the crowd for participating in democracy. “We can’t have a democracy if we don’t have a choice.”
Rules/Format: Each candidate will give a three minute opening statement. There is a timekeeper in the front row. Series of questions to follow — some from Walt and some from the audience. The audience is invited to write questions on note cards and hand them in during the event. Each question must be answered in one minute. At the end, each candidate will give a two-minute closing statement. The order of the seating has been assigned randomly, and the order of the statements is also random.
Kim Clarkson goes first. She goes to the podium for her opening statement… She was born and raised in Kerrville, came back to Kerrville after college, and taught at Starkey Elementary. Seven years later she joined her family’s business, and decided to go to work for various nonprofit organizations in Kerrville including CWJC, Habitat, Blue Santa, etc. She was asked to be on various boards such as KPSF, Chamber, Executive Women’s Club, United Way, and more. She has honed her leadership skills at these organizations and her family business. She was involved in local government via the Kerrville 2050 Plan, governmental affairs committee chair at Chamber. She has developed the necessary skills to do this job, and her heart is with this community. She has proved this with her actions, not just her words.
Gary Cochrane goes second… After thanking the chamber and the audience, he starts by saying he’s not a public speaker or a politician. He loves the community and has come to realize that we have some issues on city council that need resolution. It’s his turn to step up and make a change. We all want good roads, water, safety, etc., and have different means of getting there. This election isn’t as much about issues as it is about the people getting elected. Certain traits are important: integrity, moral standards, vision, communication, listening, trust. Trust has been violated on current council. Issues are important, but this election is about the people.
George Baroody is third. He stands at podium… He’s 51 and has lived in Kerrville 17 years. He’s an umpire. He defines the job of council as an advocate for the people. Convey the wishes of the people to the staff and the public. The vision that each has involves where they’re coming from and where they’re going. He isn’t trying to take the city somewhere. He’s continuing the traditions of Kerrville. He isn’t satisfied with the current trends going on in city government: spending is going up, debt is up, household values are up 25%, all while population is going up, and personal income is going up only 6%. The gap between income and expense is a problem. Must come to table with ideas to resolve the problem. Need accountability with our economic development. Shouldn’t be subsidizing businesses. Should invest in workers, not just businesses.
Mario Garcia goes fourth from the podium… Everything everyone just said is true. He grew up in Kerrville and he’s running to make his mom and kids proud. He’s also doing it for all of the seniors and elders in the community that raised him. He has old and traditional values. Who are these individuals running for council? He’s a Navy vet, carried top secret clearance working on nuclear weapons. Was a stay-at-home dad for a time. Started a business in Austin and brought it back to Kerrville. Wanted a sense of community for his family and children. He has been running Kerr PC for 14 years in Kerrville. He’s been hustling, working, volunteering as a coach, CMJC, and elsewhere. He comes from traditional values, has a different belief about spending (not a club to damage ourselves). He’s proud of where he comes from.
Question 1: What is your vision for the future of Kerrville?
Cochrane: His vision is not as important as the citizens’ vision. Citizens created 2050 plan, and council should honor that. Wants Kerrville to continue to grow responsibly. Can’t stand in the way of progress. He’s a big advocate for quality of life programs. His vision is to continue both of those trends.
Baroody: Keep looking forward with an eye on the past. He’d like to see Kerrville keep its identity. Growth is coming, and it must be sustainable. Need opportunities for all; not just a few. That’s his biggest factor. The people need a voice. No Kerrvillian left behind. Everyone counts equally, and policies should be equitable.
Garcia: His vision wants to be “shared.” We don’t have enough community input; need more. He has a lot of respect for past. One foot in the past, one in the future. Growth is coming. Everyone is talking about sustainable growth, but we shouldn’t inject it. It should be natural growth. Let’s have more community input and put citizens first.
Clarkson: Reads from mission statement of Kerrville 2050. “Kerrville will be a vibrant and inclusive community…” This is our statement, the vision from Kerrville 2050. Every decision should be based on a look to the vision and a look to the future.
Question 2: If elected, what would your top three priorities be?
Baroody: Economic well-being of the individuals of Kerrville; Housing; Growth status of city regarding infrastructure and potential businesses. As to economic status, it needs to be said that economic status of individuals has been neglected, and should be the focus. We’ve invested in the new instead of the existing. Once we do that, everything else becomes easier if you’ve invested in the people. “No Kerrvillian left behind.”
Garcia: Radical openness… we need to share ideas. Radical transparency means that everything needs to be open. Last is citizens. Need more citizen participation. He’s going to have monthly meetings for citizens.
Clarkson: First is civility. We are not able to effectively communicate if we can’t listen. Without listening, we can’t grow. Second, basic infrastructure and housing needs. Third, grow and diversity the economy. Bring in jobs with good wages so that all can enjoy quality of life. Lastly, quality of life. What made you want to move here? We enjoy the river trail and other thing and our future depends on quality of life so that it’s a place people want to come.
Cochrane: Our council is broken and it needs to be fixed. Second, economic growth. We have to come at it from all angles for sustainable and safe growth. If not growing, we’re dying. Lastly, housing. He doesn’t have the solution today, but we have to lay the groundwork for a solution. Baroody hasn’t put forth any ideas in his two years, but Cochrane has ideas, and he’s ready to get to work.
Question 3: What is the city’s role in terms of helping the current housing deficit?
Garcia: “Strong towns” idea. We’ve been increasing our liabilities. We need to focus on our existing beautiful neighborhoods. Build on vacant lots. Build up parks. Some things we can do downtown, too. Needs to be sustainable. We have lots of real estate inside city to continue growing. “We cannot keep going into liabilities.”
Clarkson: The city is not a builder or a developer. What can the city do? Provide a space that is attractive to builders and developers, such as city property on Loop 534. City can build infrastructure and send requests to developers to bring ideas and solutions. 2050 plan has told us that we need to diversify housing. Must play our part to encourage the kind of housing that community needs.
Cochrane: There is no easy solution. Must look at increasing density through some potential zoning changes. The city should extend services such as water and sewer to encourage development. Must begin planning for water/sewer. City isn’t in development business and city shouldn’t incentive developers. “If you build it, they will come.” Builders want to make money, so if it’s attractive to do so, they’ll come and build.
Baroody: The city isn’t a builder or developer, but we can incentivize. First, need incomes to the point where they can afford housing, and needs jobs that pay well. If Cochrane was paying attention, he’d note that projects have been proposed, but they’ve stalled, and Baroody doesn’t know why. We’ve been trying, but it hasn’t been followed through on.
Question 4: If elected, how do you see the dynamics of council working? And community engagement?
Clarkson: Citizen engagement is critical to success of city. We do not need to dictate the decisions for the future of our city. Those decisions come from citizens. We can continue to push out the information, ask questions. If we can’t communicate effectively, we can’t govern. Need a diversity of opinion, and need to be able to move forward after a decision has been made.
Cochrane: The council is a team, but doesn’t mean they always agree. Needs respect. You discuss, communicate, decide, and move forward. If I don’t agree and I lose a vote, that’s ok, we’ll move forward. Not going to keep going back to subjects from two years ago. For community engagement, he wants to reach out and hear what people have to say. The door is open to the citizens.
Baroody: The ability to have dissenting discourse and keep that civil. Right now, dissenting views are shut down. That’s wrong. You have to have the discussion. If we can’t find a way to disagree, then that’s the fault of the entire council. Just watch the last city council meeting and see how I just accepted a lot of heated comments.
Garcia: When citizens are more involved, you get the personalities out. I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I enjoy dissenting opinions, because it’s necessary. Put it on the ballot. Put big things on ballot such as big projects, long-term debts. This is your city.
Question 5: What is the city’s role in economic development?
Cochrane: The city’s job is to provide framework and environment that is attractive to businesses. Infrastructure, quality of life, attractive place to live. When he was on EIC, companies asked what their employees would do after work. You don’t want to incentivize anyone without “clawbacks.”
Baroody: City should be in the business of setting up framework to be equal and fair. Every business has advance knowledge of risks, etc., not just “knowing somebody.” Need standards and benchmarks from our economic development strategies. We need to know what to expect from council and city. Shouldn’t use public funds in a speculative way.
Garcia: The city has to be involved, but he’s not big on incentives. He won’t say “never,” but wants checks and balances. Need to analyze and show a return on investment. Everywhere else, we need to show a return, but not in government. Must be very careful when we invest in economic development.
Clarkson: The 2050 plan says that economic development is important. We have a starting place with the comprehensive plan. Must provide infrastructure that encourages development. Need quality of life projects to attract businesses. The EIC funds are designated for these things, and we must use that money for infrastructure in support of economic development, and for quality of life projects. We must continue to use that funding source.
Question 6: How do you see your role in fulfilling the objectives of the 2050 plan?
Baroody: I want to change the title of the plan to “Our voice, our city.” Council must cheerlead for the plan but constantly review it. What needs to be tweaked? It is an evolving document. Just because it’s in the plan, doesn’t mean we have to do it. Always paying attention to what’s in the plan, but looking to better it.
Garcia: It’s a living document, not permanent. Need to have at least five years to review it before implementing it. Is it applicable to the direction we’re going? Is it future proof? We need to make sure that the citizens are involved. Need to review the document as we go. It is necessary for us to have it, to have a vision, but it needs to be reviewed.
Clarkson: We have a council-manager form of government. We hear the goals from the community, set the priority, and implement that vision. We can revise it if we hear something different, but we look at the plan and see what was identified as priorities, and we set the strategies to make them happen.
Cochrane: The citizens put this plan together. It belongs to the citizens, not to the council. It’s a roadmap, a goal, and that’s what the comprehensive plan is. We can reach the goals in many different ways, evaluate the plan on a regular basis, and receive citizen input along the way.
Question 7: Actions to develop tourist industry?
Garcia: Tourism has always been here, ie summer camps. We have never had a problem with tourism. It’s already here. We have a sufficient amount of tourists. We don’t want to be like anybody else. We can’t forget who we are. We have everything we need, we should enjoy the tourists, and we need to spend our money to take care of the residents, not the tourists.
Clarkson: We should look at building a convention center. We can attract more professional groups that come here, spend money, leave behind their tax dollars, and use those monies locally to reinvest into local community. Bring people in, then send them home, and it’s a win-win.
Cochrane: Kerrville is very attractive to tourists. We have a sense of community and environment. We need to continue to develop the river trail system as a tourist attraction and also the urban trail. We need to look at supporting downtown revitalization. Vibrant downtown is a tourist draw.
Baroody: Tourism is a secondary topic. We just keep making Kerrville the greatest city we can, and tourists will come. The river is always going to be there and we should enhance the use of it. I support downtown development, but not every mechanism used to support that. The role of the city is not about incentivizing tourism, but to welcome it.
Question 8: Give your evaluation of the overall financial status of our city.
Clarkson: Looking at the budget was the first thing I did as a candidate. I asked lots of questions. What I conclude is that we have had leaders with vision to create self-imposed debt limits to keep us from getting into a bad situation. We have a AA bond rating, clean audit, debt limits… We can sustain ourselves because we have ways prove to ourselves that we’re on track.
Cochrane: I have a degree in finance and have been in business, but I’m not a financial expert. I surround myself with experts, and I trust and verify with them. We have independent analysts that tell us that we’re in good shape. We have a professional city staff. Yes, we’re in good financial shape. I find it interesting that some of the other candidates don’t want to compare our city to certain other cities, but they will when it comes to debt.
Baroody: The financial situation is strong. We have a AA rating. We’re not going to default on debt. The taxpayier position is more important. Our median household income went down while our debt went up. We need to focus on that. We need to address any future debt this way.
Garcia: We’ve been increasing debt. Must look at the graph from a distance. Kim brought up the convention center. The comptroller has a report that convention centers are saturated and small towns shouldn’t do convention centers because it’s a waste. This is the difference of ideas. That’s one idea, and we’ll go into debt, and it will be a vacant building with no one using it.
Question 9: What priorities would you put on spending discretionary money to advance objectives of the city?
Cochrane: The city has to spend money. We have to provide the services to the community. I’m fiscally conservative. Can we use debt for capital projects? Yes. We can’t improve our infrastructure without using debt.
Baroody: Prioritizing spending is very important and we don’t spend enough time on it. Since 2011 our priorities are off-track. We focused on “wants” instead of infrastructure. We haven’t addressed infrastructure. We’ve borrowed money to spend on attractions, and we can’t borrow for other things. We should sit down and prioritize our entire budget.
Garcia: Spending happens all the time, but I’m not a proponent of going into debt. We have spent on nice things but don’t have the money to spend on other things. All debt spending is affecting future spending. We have to be very careful how we use debt. Let’s focus on primary services. Take care of infrastructure first.
Clarkson: I never said that we need to spend money on a convention center. I said that we can grow the tourism industry that way. I am conservative. I have one mortgage which will be paid off in five years, but I couldn’t have bought a home without debt. We cannot do big projects without taking on debt. We have to see the big picture.
Question 10: How do we make Kerrville attractive to all age groups?
Baroody: Until we have good jobs, we can’t retain our young folks. If we can’t get jobs with those salaries that can support a family, they won’t stay. The solution is complicated, but jobs will retain the young people, and we should focus on that.
Garcia: The Kerrville Youth Advisory Council could benefit from mentors. We should embrace them. Very few people are in their meetings. We need to educate them. When they get older, we need a workforce that’s inviting to them. I left and many others have left, too. I’d love for them to stay here.
Clarkson: We start by listening. We have the Kerrville Youth Advisory Committee. We need listening opportunities. In the future, what makes them come back? They need a job, an affordable home, and a reason to want to come back here.
Cochrane: When I was on EIC, we brought Fox Tank to Kerrville, and they provided education for welders, and that’s been successful. We can do more things like that. They must be able to make a living wage. My son graduated from Tivy and was fortunate to find a job, but most struggle to come back here. So it comes to jobs. People want to be here, but they have to make a living.
The candidates receive another round of applause. The closing statements are in reverse order from the opening statements. Two minutes each.
Garcia: Tonight was a comparison/contrast. I won on Wheel of Fortune. Before I received the money, I decided to use it wisely. The difference between us is that I’m someone who wants to spend your money to get a return. It’s easy to spend money and have no expectations. I got $40,000 from Wheel of Fortune, and I’ve turned it into more than that. I’m not a big spender. This is your money, and I need all of your input. Debt was a tool for me.
Baroody: This open discourse is rare but valuable. We’re all qualified in different ways. My qualifications are a willingness and desire to not just serve a portion, but to serve all of the community and provide the information that isn’t being provided anywhere else. All can enjoy and use that information. The issue that’s important to me is household incomes. The median household income and the number of students on subsidized meals shows that our economy isn’t as strong as we’d like to believe. We have income inequality. We have to address that. The workers that are needed here can’t afford to live here.
Cochrane: I’m up here applying for a job. The job is Place 1 City Council. You have two resumes. Hopefully mine looks pretty good. When you hire somebody, you look at experience, similar service, leadership, work with others, vision, communication, and more. It is about the messenger and the message. We need to treat others with respect. My record speaks to financial responsibility. I have the qualifications and I hope you’ll consider voting for me.
Clarkson: I want to be part of the journey. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to see the future and see a solution and get there step by step. That’s the challenge that city council has to look at — long-range perspective. I have shown you my heart through my service. I’ve shown you my leadership through my service in organizations. I want my kids and grandkids to come back to a vibrant community. I want to work with you to accomplish goals to lead us into the future.
7:28 PM – Koenig encourages everyone to turn out to vote and increase the rate of turnout in this election. Call neighbors and friends to turn out the voters. Thanks to Schreiner University for providing this venue free of charge. Thanks to Chamber Board. Goodbyes.
The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce will host the final public forum of this year’s election calendar on Monday, April 15, at 6:00 PM at Schreiner University Student Activities Center. All four candidates will participate, including Place 1 candidates Gary Cochrane and George Baroody, and Place 2 candidates Kim Clarkson and Mario Garcia. The forum is open to the public.
The Chamber has indicated that the forum will be filmed by Schreiner University and the recording will be made available for public viewing. We’ll bring you the link just as soon as it’s available.
Early voting begins one week after the forum, on April 22, and runs through April 30. Election Day is Saturday, May 4.
A large audience attended Tuesday night’s meeting, which was one of the most informative meetings in recent memory (in this author’s opinion). The information presented was interesting and valuable, but the audience also received a bit of a civics education along the way. Because of the major issues handled during this meeting that relate to at least one candidate up for election, we believe this meeting should be required viewing prior to the citywide election.
Enjoy the entire meeting at this link, or see the embedded video below.
Two items were of particular interest in last night’s meeting: Baroody sanction relief request, and Baroody’s debt presentation. Let’s discuss each of those in more depth.
As readers will remember, in November 2018, Baroody was removed as Mayor Pro Tem and was barred from discussions about a federal lawsuit that the city is defending. Baroody went against legal advice and made contact with the opposing legal counsel.
On Tuesday night, Baroody and his attorney presented a request to reinstate him to those lawsuit discussions. Several times, Baroody insisted that he has no plans to file a lawsuit against the city, and that his attorney is only helping him understand what’s happened and what his options are going forward. According to Baroody, he “never meant to do harm,” to the city, and looking back he, “would have done things differently.” However, Baroody offered no apology for his actions.
Six members of the audience spoke against the request to reinstate Baroody, and none spoke in favor of, or in defense of, Baroody. All of the council members gave their views, as well.
Place 1 Vincent Voelkel stated, “I don’t mind restoring George’s position on council. I believe I did before, and I still feel the same.”
Mayor Blackburn stated, “Our attorney in this federal lawsuit asked not to be in touch with the plaintiffs or the plaintiffs’ attorney. The next morning, Mr. Baroody went to contact the plaintiff’s attorney… The attorney representing us in this federal lawsuit said it was wrong, our city attorney said it was wrong… We took the action we did because we thought it was prudent for the city… I don’t see it as punishment. I see it as the council being prudent.”
Place 3 Judy Eychner addded, “His actions were inappropriate and irresponsible… it could have put the city in a great deal of jeopardy.”
Place 4 Delayne Sigerman said, “The sincerity of his regret, I would question. Back in November, December, January, February, March, you could have had that regret that we heard tonight, but you never did. So, running for reelection might cause you to have regrets that you didn’t have before. And that’s why I question if you are sincere… I think [the case] was in jeopardy… I stand by our decision.”
Following the discussion, Mayor Blackburn asked for a motion, but no motion was made. Council went on to the next agenda item.
Baroody Debt Presentation
The next agenda item was also requested by Councilmember Baroody. He presented graphs and information that was nearly identical to the political advertisement that appeared in last weekend’s Kerrville Daily Times, that we dealt with previously in this article.
The graphics compared 16 Texas cities that are similar in population and have a “AA” bond rating from Standard & Poor’s. Baroody took exception to the graph that was presented to council in March which showed the amount of tax-supported per capita debt for these 16 cities. Baroody displayed his own graphics next that showed the total debt, total per capita debt, and total debt to personal income ratio. Unfortunately we do not have these graphs to show here in a better format because Mr. Baroody only made them available to the city staff and to the other council members on Tuesday afternoon. However, the charts are very similar to the political ad we linked above.
Mr. Baroody stated several times that he is not passing judgment on the debt, and he does not think the city is in dire financial straits. In fact, he stated that the city is in a strong financial position. He claimed he only brought this up so that the community is better informed about the entire debt picture.
Following Mr. Baroody’s presentation, the community became much more well-informed about all aspects of the debt thanks to a presentation by Director of Finance Amy Dozier. Mrs. Dozier presented and discussed numerous slides to paint a fuller picture of the city’s debt as compared to these other Texas cities.
Mrs. Dozier’s presentation is difficult to sum up in a short article, so we strongly urge our readers to watch both Mr. Baroody’s and Mrs. Doziers presentations via the embeeded video below. The takeaway from Mrs. Dozier is this: The city does indeed have debt — around $60 million worth. But the City of Kerrville is somewhat unique in that very little of this debt is property tax-supported. The vast majority of our debt is supported by other revenue sources such as 4B sales tax revenue, utility revenues, etc. She cautioned everyone to be clear on the difference between “tax-supported debt” and “tax-secured debt.” See the video below for more information.
Public speakers that followed Mrs. Dozier, including former Mayor Jack Pratt, accused Baroody of political grandstanding ahead of the election. Former city councilperson Mary Ellen Summerlin questioned why Baroody was bringing this up now, just weeks before the election, instead of during the nearly two years that he’s served on council.
Mayor Blackburn went further, stating, “I don’t think the citizens realize the hours and resources the staff spends on almost weekly basis answering your objections and charges and accusations. And you are virtually never satisfied with what the city staff says. And as somebody’s indicated, it really reflects an abuse of the staff and a disrespect of the staff.”
At the end of the lengthy discussions, no action was taken, and council moved on to the next agenda items.
Commentary & Takeaways
No action was taken as a result of either agenda item that Mr. Baroody requested. These two items dominated the majority of the meeting duration and numerous community members rose to speak out against Mr. Baroody’s actions and claims (and none rose to support him). Staff spent time preparing a response to Mr. Baroody’s claims and did a fantastic job of presenting a complicated subject in an easy-to-understand manner.
Tuesday’s meeting was the last one before early voting begins. The next meeting is scheduled for April 23, and early voting begins on April 22. Election Day is Saturday, May 4. All citizens residing in the city and eligible to vote are able to cast a ballot in this year’s citywide election.
The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce has confirmed to Kerrville United that the candidate forum they’re hosting on April 15 will be filmed and made available for public viewing. We are so pleased that the Chamber has taken this extra step to help inform the community about their choices for the upcoming citywide election.
When last week’s campaign finance reports were published in the newspaper along with a list of all the donors to each campaign, T. Beck Gipson did a double take. He thought he was the only “Thomas Gipson” in Kerr County, but the article listed a Thomas Gipson as a donor to George Baroody’s campaign in the amount of $100. The entry shown on Baroody’s report indeed listed “Thomas Gipson” of 118 Bent Oak Lane as a $100 donor. See an excerpt of the report below, and find the full report here.
But T. Beck Gipson insists that he has never donated to Mr. Baroody’s campaign, and that he no longer resides at 118 Bent Oak Lane, having sold that property and moved to a new home in November. According to Gipson, no one resides at that address at this time because it is undergoing renovation. Further, in a letter to the Kerrville Daily Times, Mr. Gipson states that he is a long-time personal friend of Baroody’s opponent, Gary Cochrane.
In his letter, Mr. Gipson asks that the newspaper retract and correct the story, and also notes that he has forwarded the matter to the District Attorney for investigation “in the event that other such errors might confirm my suspicions about the unusual clerical error.” The letter is shown below. Fraudulent or false reporting could be a violation of the State Election Code.
What happened? We don’t know all of the facts yet, but in addition to the reporting above, here are some things we do know:
George Baroody, a candidate for Place 1, acts as his own treasurer. He’s the only candidate to act as his or her own treasurer in this campaign.
The report he filed on April 4 includes his signature affirming that, under penalty of perjury, all of the information is true and correct.
Baroody claimed to have 18 financial contributors to his campaign — the fewest of all four candidates that filed for this period.
Of the four candidates in the race, Baroody collected the least in donations for this reporting period.
By March 7, the date listed for Gipson’s contribution, Gipson had not resided at the address listed since November 2018.
The Kerrville Daily Times made multiple attempts to contact Baroody by phone and text on Monday but did not receive comment.
Could this have simply been a clerical error? Certainly, and we should withhold final judgment until we know all of the facts. It’s certainly curious how something like this could happen on a candidate’s sworn report when that candidate has been scrupulously examining all of the City of Kerrville’s financial records and reports, and plans on making a presentation to the rest of council about the financial condition and debt positions of the city on Tuesday night. Again, at this time there is no evidence that suggests that this report was intentionally falsified or filed fraudulently, and we look forward to Mr. Baroody’s explanation.
Last week we ran an article stating that Garcia was comparing “apples to oranges” in his alarmist advertisement in last weekend’s Kerrville Daily Times. This weekend, Baroody and Garcia have teamed up to take a swipe at Kerrville United by placing apples in their weekly advertisement and have doubled-down on the misleading information they are offering voters.
As you’ll recall, the vast majority of Kerrville’s debt is “secured” via ad valorem tax revenues so that we can pay as low of an interest rate as possible. But ad valorem (property) taxes do NOT pay for the vast majority of our debt service. Most of our debt service is paid for by utility revenues and 4B sales tax dollars. However, Baroody and Garcia continue to preach the gospel of fear by comparing Kerrville’s debt levels to cities that have very little in common with Kerrville. The ad also fails to tell voters that the debt, although secured by taxes to minimize our interest payments, is not all paid with tax revenue.
Stay tuned for a comprehensive article on this subject later this week. Our article will include ALL of the information along with easy-to-follow citations so that readers can understand the entire picture of the city’s finances rather than the bumper-sticker versions presented each week by Baroody and Garcia.
Candidates running for city council must report their contributions and expenses just like most other election campaigns in the United States. For city races, the first report was due on Thursday, April 4, and all four candidates filed on time with the city secretary. These reports covered the period from January through the end of March. We have obtained copies of each report and have compiled some of the data into readable charts, shown below.
One of the key takeaways is this… Campaigns are expensive, and they’re getting more expensive every year. Through the last week in March, the candidates have spent a combined $18,000, and there is still a month to go.
One other note before the data… The Kerrville Daily Times reported on the filings, but made an error on at least one critical number: the amount raised by candidate Kim Clarkson. The KDT reported that Kim raised $12,219.01, but in fact, that’s the amount raised by Gary Cochrane. Clarkson actually raised $15,741.51.
The candidates raised a combined $36,545 through the last week in March, according to the reports. Around 161 donations were accepted, for an average contribution of $227.
Clarkson raised the most money during this period, ringing up $15,741.51 in total political contributions (including in-kind donations).
A list of individual donors was published in the Kerrville Daily Times article, and those individual donors can also be viewed in the full reports, linked at the bottom of this page.
Candidates spent a combined $18k on expenses so far. The bulk of the spending has been on signage and promotional merchandise (about 62%). The remainder is split between printing, newspaper ads, mailings, and other miscellaneous expenses (related to event spending and campaign supplies).
Compared to 2017
Some of these figures are unremarkable when looked at in a vacuum, but when compared to the spending levels the last time these two places were up for grabs, the numbers are more surprising. In 2017 there was only one contested race, between incumbent Stephen Fine and challenger Vincent Voelkel (Voelkel won).
By this filing period in 2017, Voelkel had raised $2,975 while Fine raised $7,623, for a total of $10,598. Compare that with $36,545 raised during the same period this year! Even when compared on an average basis between the number of competitive candidates in the race, the numbers are staggering. See the chart below for the comparison. This chart shows the averages per candidate in 2017 and 2019. As you can see, the average amount raised has increased by 72% and the average expenses have increased 80% from the same race in 2017.
Please note that the averages are compared instead of the totals because there was only one competitive race in 2017, while there are two in 2019.
Takeaways & Commentary
Campaigns are more expensive now than ever before.
Candidates are raising large sums of money to support their campaigns.
Clarkson and Cochrane are leaders in the fundraising contest, and also have the greatest number of individual contributors.
Candidates spend most of their money in the first few months on signage and printing costs.
We expect the costs to shift more toward newspaper advertising for the next finance period leading up to election day.