Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn said Saturday's fatal drag racing crash that left two boys dead is hard to comprehend, but that the community's kindness and compassion are evident to those injured.
While not addressing the specifics of Saturday's crash at the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport that killed a six-year-old and eight-year-old boy, Blackburn said he was confident in the Kerrville Police Department's investigation. Blackburn said police would utilize the Texas Department of Public Safety — only if needed.
The mayor said Kerrville and Kerr County have repeatedly shown compassion and care during times of tragedy.
"I see people responding," Blackburn said.
Drawing on his years as a Baptist minister, Blackburn said that even though the victims, including the four injured, are from outside the county, the community still shows that it cares about what happened.
"In terms of compassion, it's really a matter of feeling with or having sympathy to suffer together," Blackburn said during Tuesday's episode of The Lead Live. "I tell you in scripture; compassion is a very important word. It's very important in the life and ministry of Jesus. You see that repeatedly."
But the most challenging aspect of this is that it involved children.
"I think one of the hardest griefs anybody ever faces is to lose a child," Blackburn said. "So, I think there is tremendous sorrow."
Blackburn didn't attend the race due to another commitment. An enthusiastic motorsports fan, Blackburn had attended the March version of Race Wars at the airport. Public officials at Saturday's race included City Councilwomen Judy Eychner and Brenda Hughes and Kerr County Pct. 1 Commissioner Harley David Belew.
STATE OF KERRVILLE
During the 30-minute interview, Blackburn addressed some of the challenges facing Kerrville in the years to come, including affordable housing and protecting the natural beauty of the Hill Country. Blackburn's term as mayor ends in May.
STREETS AND DRAINAGE
Blackburn has argued that the city has to improve road conditions by fixing drainage. The city has issued certificates of obligation to pay for road and drainage improvements in the last two years. it's the same financial instrument that petitioners denied the city to pay for the public safety building, but Blackburn said the roadway fixes are vital.
"Sometimes it's reconstruction," Blackburn said of the street conditions of the city. "Streets and drainage are probably No. 1. We've used the streets as drains for years. The problem with that is flooding, and it does damage to the streets. We are ramping that (construction) up. We've got a big project along Take-it-Easy Trailer Park and other projects as well."
HOUSING AND LABOR
Blackburn acknowledged the challenges Kerrville's growth is starting to present, especially for those living adjacent to new projects. It's a balance between the city's desirability that has led to a housing shortage and maintaining the city's neighborhoods.
"We are seeing some citizens say 'wait a minute, we don't want this many houses in this area," Blackburn said. "But here's the deal, this is a property rights state. If you buy a piece of property and it is zoned R-1 (residential), then after you buy it, you say you're going to build this many homes there. The city can't come back back and say "oh no, no, no." We can't do that."
Blackburn said even his neighborhood would be impacted by a new housing development that will increase traffic, but Texas property rights laws don't allow him to object.
"If it's zoned a certain way, we've got to honor that," said Blackburn, adding the Lennar project is close to breaking ground. That project will bring more than 100 affordable homes to Kerrville on Loop 534.
When it comes to labor, Blackburn argues that the cost of Kerrville housing exacerbates the community's labor shortage.
"We are trying to do all that we can to increase housing."