Category Archives: City of Kerrville

New Mayor and New Council Take Helm

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

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

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

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

Aftermath

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

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

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

Hill Country Community Journal, May 9, 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

Early voting has concluded… Here are the stats

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor White accuses Evans family of lying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report of harassment at voting location

This morning on Facebook, one voter gave her testimonial about an encounter with a Bonnie White supporter outside of the polling place yesterday afternoon. In the post, Sara Evans, a Kerrville resident, explains that she took her two children with her to the Cailloux Theater, and the three of them went inside to vote. (Children are encouraged to fill out a sample ballot to learn about the democratic process.) Outside, she was approached by a White supporter that made her and her children feel threatened, and caused her children to cry, they were so upset. Read her story here:

Mayor White’s husband, Robert White, is known to sit in the parking lot of the polling place most days. He drives a white pickup truck, wears a hat, and has a salt and pepper beard. Mrs. Evans was shown a picture of Robert White, and she believes this was the person that harassed her.

Robert White, husband of Mayor Bonnie White

This report comes on the heels of another alleged encounter between Robert White and another female voter leaving the polls last week. Courtney Barton had this to say about her experience with Mr. White in the parking lot:

We await comment and/or a statement from the Whites about these reports. We are happy to update this post as we gather new information.


EDITED AT 5:00 PM CDT 05/01/2018:

Approximately one year ago, an article appeared in the Hill Country Community Journal outlining some other instances of troubling behavior on the part of Mr. White. Please see this article for a detailed explanation of other behavior perceived as threatening, intimidating, or bullying.

http://www.hccommunityjournal.com/article_87cdd52c-2f4a-11e7-b6ff-6fe1e1940beb.html


UPDATE AT 6:45 PM CDT 05/01/2018:

Mayor Bonnie White posted a comment on the Kerrville United Facebook page’s post about this incident. We await clarification on this accusation.

Infamous “swamp thing” photo degrades city election

Several weeks back, the Bill Blackburn campaign ran an ad in the newspaper that announced an endorsement by six former mayors of Kerrville. That ad is pictured below. This image also made the rounds on social media, and had a noticeable impact on conversations around the election.

Then, last week on social media, a different Facebook post went viral. The post was from a person who had just finished casting a ballot at the early voting center. Afterward, she was introduced to the Mayor’s husband, Robert White. Robert asked her if she’d like to see something funny, and showed her an image on the back of his campaign yard sign.

The image was a Photoshopped version of the Blackburn ad — the ad depicting six former mayors endorsing Bill. Instead of the six mayors, the photo featured “swamp creatures” shopped onto the heads of these six previous mayors of Kerrville.

This alleged behavior infuriated many voters and other members of the community. Many described this type of behavior as “juvenile” and wrong. Folks on both sides of the mayor competition expressed dismay that our politics have been taken into the gutter thanks to this type of behavior.

Here’s the Facebook post:

This post went viral, with scores of shares and reactions in 24 hours. Some of the folks who shared this post had their post deleted by Facebook, apparently because it was anonymously reported as offensive. This made them re-post it even more frequently.

Some commenters thought this might not be true. They asserted that there was no proof of this alleged photograph. As of this morning, we have proof. An anonymous source had this photo below sent to them by a White supporter.

Aside from the potential copyright infringement issues, the image is troubling for a number of reasons. For one, it suggests that Kerrville voters don’t have a say in the election, which couldn’t be further from the truth, as the polls are still open and turnout seems to be on the rise from last year.

Two, the ad suggests that every former mayor is somehow a member of the metaphorical “swamp.” If this is the case, does the swamp not also include Mayor White, since she has served on council for three years now? The truth is that there is no swamp in Kerrville. Your city council representatives are your neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. They have day jobs and are not career politicians. They serve for effectively zero compensation, giving countless hours of their time to try to improve their community.

Co-opting the “swamp” metaphor from the national political scene does not serve our community or do anything to improve it. To the contrary, it leads to even more polarization, degrades the election process, and attempts to bring our local political system down into the mud.

You still have a chance to cast your vote in this citywide election! Early voting is open on Monday and Tuesday from 8 AM to 5 PM, and the polls are open on Saturday, May 5, from 7 AM to 7 PM. Make your voice heard!

What we know about the “rebate for votes” issue

On Thursday, April 19, the Kerrville Daily Times published a letter to the editor from Mayor Bonnie White with the heading, “Paying for votes?”

The mayor expressed her “astonishment” about a flyer that appeared in a housing community’s newsletter that offered a $20 rent rebate to “anyone bringing in a physical presentation of an ‘I Voted’ sticker.”

The mayor asked, “Is someone paying people to vote? Is this legal?”

The newspaper added an editorial note at the bottom of the letter: ” A spokesman with the Texas Secretary of State’s office said the office ‘strongly discourages offering any kind of financial benefit for voting, as it may constitute a violation of the Texas Penal Code on Bribery.’ On Wednesday evening, the rent rebate offer was rescinded.”

So what’s the deal? Was someone paying for votes? In a manner of speaking, yes. But here’s why the letter is misleading…

The statements above were part of a newsletter (and maybe flyer) announcing a “meet and greet” with candidates Bill Blackburn, Judy Eychner, and Delayne Sigerman. The mayor seemed to imply in her letter that these candidates had something to do with the rebate offer, and this is untrue. The candidates have no control over what promotions and offers a private landowner and landlord offers to his tenants. Further, the candidates are not attorneys for, or consultants to, any landlords, and do not have the expertise or inclination to offer legal advice to anyone — landlord or otherwise.

Meet and greets are a regular function of campaigns and take place on almost a weekly basis during campaign season. They are hosted by a variety of groups and individuals, many of which own businesses or residential rental facilities like apartments or assisted care facilities. The candidates do not have the time, energy, or inclination to investigate all of the goings-on at a location before they appear there to meet with potential voters.

Therefore, after we asked numerous questions of the candidates and others familiar with the matter, it is our conclusion that the candidates did not run afoul of any rules or laws.

Further, this rebate was not offered for a specific vote, but rather for ANY vote. In other words, the intention seems to be to increase voter turnout generally, and they did not ask for specific votes or proof of any vote for a specific candidate. There would be no way to verify who the person voted for, even if that WAS the intention. All that was asked is that a person show up wearing an “I Voted” sticker for their rebate.

The voter turnout for our citywide elections is embarrassingly low, coming in around 14% in last year’s election, and only 5% for younger voters. We must come up with creative ways to increase the voter turnout so that a wider variety of voices are represented in our city government. Was this the right idea? We’ll leave the conclusion up to you, but from all accounts, the intentions were honest.

Local developer blasts Mayor White and EIC

On the first day of early voting, Monday, April 23, a guest column was published in the Opinion section of the Kerrville Daily Times authored by Justin MacDonald, President of The MacDonald Companies, a residential housing developer.

The article makes several claims:

  • The EIC, constituted by a majority of White-majority appointees, has dragged its feet on the consideration of MacDonald’s workforce housing project on Thompson Drive
  • The EIC considered and approved an out-of-state applicant’s request for funding to demolish and improve the Econo Lodge site on Highway 16 North
  • The Econo Lodge project received 100% of their request for funds to demolish and rebuilt the highway entry, even though the grant they applied for is restricted to only 40% of demolition costs.
  • The EIC’s debate took place in executive session, so no public record has been made of the deliberations that took place leading up to this approval
  • The Mayor and her husband own tracts of land on each side of the Econo Lodge project, and their two tracts of land are included in this transaction, yet the mayor has not made any public statements at this point

Kerrville United is currently researching this topic and will share all information that we uncover.

Read the full article below:

KEDC Impact Study Released

Almost a year ago, the Kerrville City Council was shaken up by the 2017 election. Two new councilmembers were sworn in: Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody. Together with Mayor Bonnie White, this three-person majority began making sweeping changes to the way the council and its boards work, and made changes to the makeup of those boards. For example, in one of the very first meetings of the new council, the White majority removed a member of the Economic Improvement Corporation that was eligible to serve an additional two-year term, and also replaced the city council liaison to the EIC with newly elected councilman George Baroody.

Mr. Baroody, from his chair on the EIC board, was dismissive of the efforts of the Kerr Economic Development Corporation, or KEDC, an private nonprofit corporation made up of representatives from the City of Kerrville, Kerr County, and other stakeholders. The KEDC is a “one stop shop” for economic development, interfacing with businesses and investors to assist them with incentives from the various government agencies. Also, importantly, the KEDC is not a government entity, per se, and therefore they are not subject to open records requests, which allows them to maintain the privacy and confidentiality that these businesses need when negotiating new business deals. The KEDC is funded primarily from EIC funds.

In one meeting last year, Mr. Baroody even went so far as to suggest that the KEDC should be closed down entirely and its functions brought in-house to the City of Kerrville. This comment immediately spurred a backlash from community leaders and KEDC supporters, and the idea was spiked. But that comment caused widespread confusion and concern, and led to the immediate resignation of one of KEDC’s employees. Then, months later, led to the resignation of the Executive Director of the KEDC, Brian O’Conner.

The current council majority continued to be critical of the KEDC, attempting to reduce its budget, and challenging the corporation over the role it has played in economic development over the past few years. Baroody and White have been especially skeptical of the role of the KEDC, and have questioned whether or not the entity is even necessary, and whether or not the city is getting a good return on its investment.

So, recently, the KEDC hired an independent firm to evaluate its impact on the local economy. Impact DataSource, an Austin-based consultant group, evaluated the role of the KEDC over the past four years on four specific projects: Mooney International, Fox Tank, James Avery, and Nature Blinds. Their findings are surprising and impressive.

These four projects pumped over $1.4 billion into the local economy, and added a total of 672 jobs, directly and indirectly. The total workers’ earnings created by these projects over the past four years is a whopping $89.3 million.

And most importantly, to counter the argument that the KEDC is not providing a worth return on investment, the study concludes that the City of Kerrville is receiving a 255% ROI based on its investment in these projects, and the EIC is also receiving a 23% ROI based on its large investment in the KEDC over the past four years.

Although the report does not state the KEDC alone was the sole driving force behind these projects, the consultants do state emphatically that the KEDC is critical to a good economic development program:

“…Impact DataSource believes that such one‐stop center for economic development services is critical to a community’s economic growth and many of these investments may not have occurred without the efforts of KEDC.”

Read the full report via the City of Kerrville’s web page at this link: https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/172135/KEDC_performance_report.pdf