Tag Archives: city council

Place 4 Gene Allen Resigns from Council

Mr. Gene Allen

In a surprise move yesterday, former councilperson for Place 4, Mr. Gene Allen, submitted his letter of resignation effective at midnight last night. He cited personal and family matters, as well as the changing political environment in Kerrville as reasons for his departure.

Quotes from Gene Allen’s resignation letter.

Quotes from Gene Allen’s resignation letter.

Mr. Allen has served Kerrville for about seven years as city council person, having been elected in 2010, and subsequently re-elected in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Learn more about the current council and what’s to come in the video below.

 

Launching Kerrville United Video Productions!

We’re very pleased to announce a new service that is brought to you by your friends at Kerrville United: video production!

We will begin airing videos on various topics this month, with shows such as “Inside Kerrville Politics” with Russell Nemky and Aaron Yates. Other programs will air as we produce them and will cover topics such as Kerrville City Council, Kerr County Commissioners Court, other local government entities, and local news matters that concern the citizens of our community.

We look forward to your feedback and comments. Also, feel free to suggest topics that we should discuss. And if your business is interested in sponsoring this service, we’d love to hear from you.

Here is the first episode of “Inside Kerrville Politics” with Russell Nemky and Aaron Yates that aired on Saturday, December 17, 2016.

City of Kerrville City Council Forums

The Hill Country Area League of Women Voters hosted candidate forums at Schreiner University this week. Place 3 and Place 4 candidates answer questions in the two videos below, but no mayoral forum was held because Bonnie White declined the invitation to participate.

Open Letter Regarding “Drones” in Kerrville Parks

Editor’s Note: This is an open letter addressed to the Kerrville City Council from Aaron Yates. The attached image was taken over Louise Hayes Park in 2015.

A

A “drone” photo taken over Louise Hayes Park in 2015.

Honorable Councilmembers,

My name is Aaron Yates, and I am a Kerrville native living at 709 Moore Street in our fair city. I write to you today to ask that you reconsider the proposed ordinance regarding the use of “drones” in city parks.

For the past nine years, I have experimented with and used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as “drones.” (I will refer to the proper term “UAVs” in my discussion today.) Back in 2007, I started building custom UAVs and testing them out in Louise Hayes Park. I would build, experiment, revise, and the cycle would repeat as I learned more and more about building and operating the aircraft. Having a public open space available to test was very valuable, and at no time did I ever fly near any people or animals, nor did I ever fly in an unsafe manner. I did not encounter anyone who was upset with or bothered by my flights at the park. On the contrary, I have been approached by numerous curious individuals wanting to know what the device was and how it worked. Dozens of curious children have approached me over the years and hopefully my flights in the park sparked some curiosity on their part, and maybe even piqued their interest to pursue science, technology, or engineering.

These days UAVs are much more widely available to the general public. Rather than having to build your vehicle from scratch, you can just browse and shop on Amazon, or go down to the local hobby store and pick up an inexpensive model. This wider access to UAVs has been a mixed bag of good and bad consequences. More folks interested in the hobby is a good thing; but more irresponsible use has cast UAVs in a negative light, such as crashes on the White House lawn or at Wimbledon. However, UAVs continue to provide a valuable service to the community. Uses such as wildfire survey and assistance, aerial photography and videography, and even accident investigation and rescue assistance are some of the valuable ways that UAVs contribute to society. UAVs have sensors such as thermal imaging that help police and first responders locate victims of accidents. They have sophisticated camera systems that allow engineers and surveyors to use photogrammetry to generate topographic maps and orthorectified aerial images. Marketers use aerial photo and video to help sell products or promote events. While the entire spectrum of available technology is not currently utilized in Kerrville, I predict that many industries will see the value in legal UAV use and the applications will continue to expand over the years.

I only mention all of these applications to underscore the point that UAVs serve a much higher purpose than just pure recreation, but recreation is the reason these aircraft keep improving. Increased interest by hobbyists funds the research and development of these new and exciting applications of the technology. To put a halt on recreational usage of UAVs would slow the research and development. Now, of course, a ban on UAVs in little old Kerrville will not put a dent in the international UAV research market, but if small communities around the nation continue down this path of increasing restriction, it would eventually have a detrimental effect on the industry as a whole.

I am opposed to the ordinance as proposed. Not only will increased and unnecessary regulation damage the industry as a whole, but it will also stifle local interest in the hobby. Young people are very excited about and interested in this technology, as evidenced by the children that constantly approach me, but also evidenced by the recent grant and investment in UAVs by the Tivy High School ROTC, who will begin aerial mission planning in the near future. Restricting usage in the park will restrict youth access to the technology, and could prevent some young people from pursuing their interest in technology or engineering.

In addition, the ordinance is unnecessary. In all of my years of using our city parks, I have never encountered anyone flying a UAV in a dangerous manner. I have heard no public outcry to ban these aircraft. In fact, quite the opposite. A poll conducted on the Kerrville Daily Times website finds that (at the time of this writing) 80% of respondents do not think UAVs should be banned. Many comments on the Times’ Facebook page echo sentiments similar to this statement: “Maybe not banned, but definitely regulated.”

But UAVs are already heavily regulated by state and federal laws. Our state law is the most prohibitive, restricting the use over any private property without permission, and banning the use over any facilities of critical infrastructure like water plants or power plants. It also bans “surveillance” of any individual no matter where they are physically located — public or private land. However, it specifically allows use of UAVs over public property. Other state laws protect us from dangerous usage, but they are not specific to drones. Just as you can’t discharge a bullet recklessly or throw bottles into crowds, our health and safety laws already prevent reckless endangerment by any means, including by UAVs.

The Federal Aviation Administration has further regulations regarding the operation of UAVs. All vehicles must be registered with the FAA and all users must affix a registration number to the aircraft so that, if found, it can be traced to the owner. The FAA requires that pilots maintain line-of-sight with the UAV, and users may not use goggles called “first person view” (FPV) to pilot the device, increasing the safety. They must be flown below 400 feet, far away from airports, and cannot be flown over crowds of people. The FAA also requires safe operation as defined in their administrative code.

All of these laws are sufficient to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our local park users without adding extraneous and onerous laws to the books.

One city experimented with the outright ban of all UAVs — Austin, Texas. However, they soon changed their minds, and in April 2015 issued a memorandum that allowed UAV users to continue to legally operate drones in Austin (including parks) as long as they operated them safely. Austin specifically bans their use over big events like Austin City Limits, and the FAA already bans UAV flight near the airport at any time, or over the college stadiums during games. Airspace around the capitol building is also restricted. However, Austin thought better of the outright ban and currently allows citizens to use UAVs recreationally throughout the city, as long as they are used within the current state and federal laws.

Another problem I have with the banning of UAVs in public parks is that it will force some users to operate their vehicles elsewhere, and perhaps in places that are less safe than the public parks. If forced out of city parks, users may decide to fly them in their backyards with obstructions everywhere like trees, power lines, and other people that could cause trouble or injury.

I think our city should take a lesson from Austin and reconsider the prohibition or restriction on recreational usage of UAVs in our parks. If anything, I think the ordinance should mirror state and federal law, and allow UAV operators to use their devices in a safe and legal manner, whether it be recreational usage, commercial/marketing usage, or scientific/engineering usage. The city should prevent UAVs from flying over or around people, and could specifically restrict the flight over crowds such as Kerrville’s Fourth on the River. But these regulations should not be a blanket restriction on all public recreational usage. A directive to Kerrville Police Department stating that they should issue citations for unsafe usage would be helpful for enforcement of the existing laws.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter, and your public service to the City Council as a whole. I am grateful that we have thoughtful, intelligent, driven individuals serving our city.

Kind regards,
Aaron Yates

BREAKING: Mayor Jack Pratt withdraws from race

Kerrville’s current mayor, Jack Pratt, announced today on REV-FM that he will withdraw from the 2016 mayoral campaign.

This leaves just two candidates for mayor: current city councilwoman in Place 2, Bonnie White, and challenger Glenn Andrew.

More information coming soon as it becomes available.

Three’s company when it comes to council races

The race for city council keeps getting more and more crowded. As of today, we have three people running for mayor, three running for Place 3, and three running for Place 4.

If you’re keeping track at home, here are the players that have announced as of today:

Mayor Race: Jack Pratt (i), Glenn Andrew, Bonnie White

Place 3: Gary Stork (i), George Baroody, Vincent Voelkel

Place 4: Gene Allen (i), James Hart, Gene Smith

See our article: City Council Elections

Economic Improvement: What has EIC funded in the past five years?

Recently the Economic Improvement Corporation (EIC) had an opportunity to review all of the projects it helped fund in the previous five years. The EIC approves and recommends projects to the city council, who then approve them again and provide funding. The money comes from 4B sales tax revenue — in Kerrville it’s a 1/2 cent tax approved in 1995 that generates around $3 million per year.

In the last five years, here’s the breakdown on the types of projects:

  • Economic Development – $2,312,924 – 26%
  • Quality of Life – $3,740,170 – 42%
  • Infrastructure – $2,869,683 – 32%

TOTAL: $8,922,777

Here’s full list of projects from 2010 to 2015.
Continue reading

Council Watch: Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, 2/9

Council Chambers

City Council Chambers at City Hall, Kerrville, Texas

Interesting agenda items for the City Council Meeting on Tuesday, February 9 @ 6 PM:

  • Presentation from the ad hoc committee on water reuse and pond construction project. The committee will approve the effluent project that the city has already solicited bonds to build. The committee chairman is John Lovett.
  • The city will ask the council to approve a contract with Peter Lewis + Associates, PLLC, for architectural design of the indoor athletic facility and admin offices at the new sports complex on Holdsworth. The contract will be worth $161,000.
  • A small tract of land originally intended for the river trail is to be deeded back to the adjoining property owner, Kevin Sutherlin. This very small tract was given to the city to use as part of the river trail, but the trail route was actually constructed on the other side of the river, so Sutherlin is asking that it be deeded back to him in accordance with the original intent of the gift.
  • Link to agenda
  • Link to packet with additional information