GOOD MORNING! We survived a three-hour Kerrville City Council meeting on Tuesday that reminded us of our profound and undying love for public meetings.
We've got a terrific show on tap for you this morning with Rachel Fitch and Natalee Peppitt, who will discuss how the coronavirus pandemic changed their estate sale and pawnshop business. That's at 9 a.m. this morning.
UNITED STATES V. TEXAS, ROUND I
The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal court Tuesday night in Austin to grant a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction against Texas from implementing the state's new abortion bill.
This is the first of many legal battles between the Biden Administration and Texas over myriad issues from abortion, voting rights to vaccine mandates. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has promised he intends to sue Biden.
In the abortion suit, the Justice Department said:
"A suit by the United States in equity is appropriate based on the extraordinary facts of this case because Texas has sought to inhibit other pathways for federal judicial review of an enactment that clearly violates the constitutional rights of its citizens, thereby depriving individuals of an adequate and effective remedy at law. To begin, S.B. 8 is an extraordinary and unprecedented attempt to evade a state's obligation to respect the Fourteenth Amendment through the mechanisms established by Congress. Texas has enacted a law that indisputably violates individuals' constitutional rights, and has simultaneously structured that law to prevent the very individuals it injures from vindicating their rights through the established process of federal judicial review."
The likelihood of this ending up in the Supreme Court, based on our best guess? We suspect — 100%.
READINGS ON PROCEDURE
It was a night of procedural movements on the Kerrville City Council, with an underlying dash of frustration.
Depending on how you look at it, the frustration was palpable on several issues, especially when it comes to the embattled public safety building.
However, it was clear that first-term Councilman Roman Garcia's procedural attempts to boot Mayor Bill Blackburn on a vote over a short-term rental brought to light some simmering tensions on the Council.
It was Blackburn's candor that opened him up to Garcia's ploy to have him surrender his mayoral duties on a vote over an Aransas Street tiny house short-term rental owned by Greg and Sarah Lewis. Blackburn said that he needed to recuse himself from voting because he performed the couple's marriage ceremony and had known them personally for years.
That led Garcia to suggest that Blackburn couldn't be the presiding official over that element of the meeting if that were the case. In Robert's Rules of Orders, along with the City Charter, it is recommended that a council member recuse themselves if they have a financial interest different from other council members.
City Attorney Mike Hayes said it would be appropriate for the mayor to recuse himself but didn't have to remove himself from his leadership position. If there were a financial component, Blackburn temporarily exiting the meeting would have been appropriate.
Garcia then cited the City Charter and the ethics policies to cement his argument further. However, in the end, Blackburn didn't vote, and it still passed 4-0.
The tensions crept up later in the meeting when the Council was considering adopting subdivision ordinances — the set of rules governing home development — when Garcia argued the language presented was vague when determining the voting structure of specific regulations.
In a lengthy meeting, the argument over the procedural elements extended it by more than 30 minutes.
In the end, the Council approved all three short-term rentals; provided a first-reading approval of the subdivision ordinances; approved a second reading of the city's budget; dealt with a contentious issue involving the re-zoning of The Landing development.
TINY HOUSE WIN
In the end, Greg Lewis was glad to get approval for his tiny house short-term rental along Aransas Street in Kerrville. Lewis and his wife, Sarah, were caught off guard when neighboring property owners objected to the project in the planning and zoning commission. The issue of short-term rentals is becoming an increasingly important one for Kerrville since the coronavirus pandemic has altered the hospitality landscape.
There were currently about 60 of these vacation homes across the city, and more on the way.
SPEAKING OF CONTENTION
The meeting was full of it from the get-go.
The Let Us Vote speakers repeated their claims of civic malfeasance by the City Council in funding lifestyle projects versus replacing the police station. A new speaker, Raymond Tear, unleashed a menacing speech directed at the city staff and City Council. Tear told the staff to leave and the Council not to run again.
"Do not try to blow smoke at us," Tear said.
There were accusations across multiple parts of the meeting. One of the most heated were those by property owners near The Landing, a mixed-use development on the south side of Nimitz Lake. Property owners said the MacDonald Companies project was destroying the river and hillsides, suggested the closure of the riverside Knapp Road was imminent and that the easements allowing access to their property were endangered.
If you were playing Kerrville City Council Bingo at home on Tuesday night, and you had the soccer complex on your card twice — you were having a good night. If you had, it's all the fault of the soccer or sports complex fault; you were having a VERY good night.
Speakers Bethany Puccio, who is leading the Let Us Vote effort, once again blamed the city's decision to fund the sports complex, including the soccer fields, as why it didn't have the money for the public safety complex. Funding for the sports complex came from Economic Improvement Corp. funds — an arm of the city that uses a portion of sales tax revenue for projects that might draw development.
Later during a budget discussion, former Mayor Bonnie White said the soccer fields needed to be more financially self-sufficient and questioned the idea that the sports complex drove enough economic activity to cover expenses. By White's estimation, the sports complex would have to generate $120 million in economic activity just to pay it back.