COMMENTARY: Right here in our own river city, we've got QAnon troubles

If you believe the baseless narrative posited by some, Mayor Bill Blackburn is behind a spending conspiracy.

It was just the mention that a chip in my face mask demonstrated where our political discourse had taken us — crazy town.

And this isn't ordinary crazy; this is QAnon-driven conspiracy and narrative right here in Kerrville. Let's be clear there's no Robert Preston song and dance number to extricate us from this mess in our river city because the truth is painful.

We saw it play out on Aug. 24 at the Kerrville City Council meeting. Fueled by misleading information, a small group of citizens was able to galvanize a little more than 5% of Kerrville's electorate to torpedo a piece of far-reaching public policy to reshape public safety.


The reason we suspect QAnon is at play here is simple — face mask chips. As I was walking out of Kerrville City Hall on Aug. 24, some of the supporters of Let Us Vote said I shouldn't wear a facemask. Why? It's the chip.

At that point, I just kept on walking. I'd dismiss it as satire, as Reuters and The Associated Press confirmed in 2020, but in a conspiracy-fueled world, I'm not going to take anything for granted. But the comment demonstrated that we were not dealing with reasonable people.

The Let Us Vote crowd, which organized the petition drive against the Kerrville City Council, used a procedural rule in Texas law to stop issuing certificates of obligation. Their logic? Well, the city is $65 million in debt, hasn't passed a general obligation bond since the 1980s, and, well, there's a wicked Democrat on the City Council.

While the Kerrville City Council is non-partisan, Mayor Bill Blackburn's back-to-back victories over Republican-backed candidates is probably a mystery to many in the local GOP. However, Blackburn is a Democrat, but he's a pragmatist with deep-seated moderation and long ties within the community.

But to hear the Let Us Vote crowd spin it, you'd think Blackburn personally borrowed the money to build the sports complex, the Guadalupe River Trail and outfit Arcadia Live and then stuck the taxpayers with the bill. Then the cherry on top of this delicious feast of lies is Blackburn put all of this ahead of building a new police station.

When you tell those stories to people who can't discern the facts, like how the city's debt is paid partially through water rates, then you have problems.

See, the world of QAnon is full that emerged in the wake of the 2016 election. In 2008, the Tea Party, which seems quaint and reasonable compared to the Q-crowd, revolted against health care reform. The Q movement isn't even coherent. It has morphed from false assertions about a Washington, D.C. pizza place concealing child trafficking into conspiracies about the 2020 election to the belief deep state ruined Donald Trump's presidency. There's the endlessly and an exhausting assertion that Trump will be reinstated as president once Scooby-Doo reveals that the masked perpetrator of the crimes was none other than Hilary Clinton (OK, we made that last part up, or did we?).

However, what we saw on Aug. 24 wasn't made up. We saw an effort determined to undermine Blackburn through false assertions, conspiratorial fantasy and a fundamental misunderstanding of local government.

Trying to explain civic funding to a group defined by the belief there's wrongdoing everywhere is impossible.

To their credit, the group does make some points about having a plan, but the city did have one. The problem was it had been a year —thanks for COVID-19 — since the city had formal discussions about the public safety complex.

The city should have formed a committee to understand better the needs of the police, fire and court administrations to be housed in the proposed facility. Emboldened by their success, Let Us Vote is not going to go quietly. They will keep distorting the facts, and the No. 1 goal is procedural disruption.

At the end of the day, the best we can hope for is reason to return but until others stand up in City Council meetings and apply a truth-gong to these folks, we're in for an extended period of squishy facts and woe.

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