“Real Talk” council meeting brings clarity to several key issues

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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.

Unedited, full meeting footage from April 9, 2019.

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.

Baroody Sanctions

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.

Baroody’s attorney, Roger Gordon, makes an argument to “reinstate” Baroody

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.

Screenshot of one of Baroody’s graphs that he presented on Tuesday night.

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.

Most of the data that Dozier presented can be found on this city web page:
https://kerrvilletx.gov/1606/Debt-Obligations

Mrs. Dozier’s complete slideshow can be viewed and downloaded here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hlvavzxm0iaqbnh/dozier-debt.pdf?dl=0

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.

References

Authored by Aaron Yates, founder of Kerrville United