We are halfway to another glorious weekend in the Texas Hill Country. Another marvelous day headed our way! We're feeling energized for today's edition of The Lead Live, starting at 9 a.m. from Pint and Plow, with Kerrville Convention and Visitor's Bureau President and CEO Julie Davis visiting us. A new mural painted by Kerrville artist Aurora Joleen is adorning the CVB's building, and Joleen will talk about it on the show before it's officially unveiled at 4 p.m. today.
WHAT'S DRIVING THE NEWS
Attorney General tells Kerrville to release a study about public safety building
While the city of Kerrville would have preferred to have kept a needs analysis from 2019 about a new public safety building, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the city needed to release the study to the public.
- What's in it? The report identified three locations for the city to build a new public safety building. It also contains the opinions from police and fire officials about their space needs and requirements for a building.
- What's the takeaway? Terrible, bad and so-so are the best ways to describe the site locations the study proposed. Two of the three didn't even include the fire administration or an emergency operations center. There were also cost estimates ranging from $18 million to $23 million, but there was also a ton missing when it came to cost.
- What was the biggest problem? Other than squirrelly locations, the biggest obstacle was parking — or lack thereof. The plans required about 300 parking spots. Not easy to find in downtown Kerrville.
- What's next: The reality is that this latest committee appointed by the City Council may have to start from scratch.
- Take the deep dive: (Subscription required) https://kerrcountylead.com/472973850792346/?fbclid=IwAR1LLXdrBCGfSOM6SIXyK5SQ2ElEk0ScXLoK22jzYm1t_0VDxNqUmlIp2kQ
City Council rejects suggestions about election dates; pushes back procedures plan
Just when you thought the Kerrville City Council meeting couldn't get any more contentious — Tuesday night happened.
The short of it is that two agenda items, championed by Place 1 City Councilman Roman Garcia, were either shot down or tabled to a workshop at another meeting. In both instances, Mayor Bill Blackburn led an effort to quash or delay those two agenda items.
Former City Councilman George Baroody brought the first item, with Garcia's sponsorship, that raised questions about the city's planned elections in May — when Kerrville typically holds its municipal elections.
However, 2020 proved to be anything but typical — thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The vast uncertainty tied to the pandemic led Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to issue an executive order to postpone elections, punting municipal elections to the Nov. 3 general election.
In turn, that shortened the term of Place 4 Councilwoman Brenda Hughes — also technically Place 3 Councilwoman Judy Eychner and Blackburn, serving beyond their mandated two-year term thanks to Abbott's executive order. Essentially, Baroody argued Kerrville's May 2020 election would be illegal under state law and the city's charter.
Blackburn wasn't having any of the discussion, nor were Eychner, Hughes and Place 2 City Councilwoman Kim Clarkson.
Kerrville City Councilwoman Brenda Hughes addressing George Baroody.
"I know where you're coming from Mr. Baroody, and I understand what you're saying," Hughes said. "The fact is this pandemic is kind of uncharted territory for all of us. So, if we need to in the future change our charter and put a date in that spot then let's do that."
That's when Blackburn jumped in: "That May date looks good to us."
What transpired was a wonky discussion about the intentions and interpretations of the city's charter and state law — something that Abbott's executive orders and emergency powers superseded during the pandemic.
With a 4-1 vote, Garcia casting the lone dissent, the Council moved away from further discussion.
And when it came to a discussion about rules and procedures, expected to be the final item of the night, Blackburn moved quickly to push what he said would be a lengthy discussion to a workshop at a future date. At that point, Garcia threw his hands up at the suggestion of a workshop.
"These procedural rules are very tedious and detailed," Blackburn said. "For us to work through all of this in a Council meeting is going to take a long time, and I don't think it's going to be that productive. I make a motion that we move this item to a workshop soon."
Garcia pushed back against Blackburn's move.
"I don't see why we can't go through it right now," Garcia said. "It may seem like a lot of pages, and it may seem like a lot of amendments. I can tell you right now that some of the amendments I'm proposing are really just format changes. I think there may be four substantial changes I'm making."
Hughes then went after Garcia's format changes, citing a long working weekend of going over her colleague's lengthy revisions.
"I shouldn't have had to spend that much time on something that was formatting changes," Hughes said. "That's why you got no changes from me, because I don't think we need fix what ain't broken."
With that, Blackburn's motion carried 3-2.
The Sheriff has a very good night
Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha makes it clear that his law enforcement goal is to be aggressive.
"I'm real aggressive," Leitha said Tuesday night. "I'm more proactive than reactive. My model is the bad guys are going to go to jail. We don't wait for them to come to us, we go to them."
That approach has led Leitha to believe that he needs a special response team — something he describes as a step down from a special weapons and tactics team, or SWAT. In recent weeks, the Kerr County Sheriff's Office has been at the forefront of several high-profile cases involving human trafficking, including one last week that netted at least 20 men suspected of soliciting prostitution and sexually abusing children.
On Tuesday night, more than 200 people (The Lead's estimate) gathered at Arcadia Live to hear a pitch from the newly formed Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation — a fundraising group focused on providing Leitha the tools he wants.
"The turnout has been amazing," said Hunter Schmidt, the president of the new foundation. "I'm really impressed that this many people showed up this early."
The fundraiser featured auction items and other ways to donate, but it also provided people with a chance to engage with Leitha.
"This is amazing," Leitha said of the turnout. "What is it 6:05? We're almost full! That's awesome. I just think this shows that they believe in what we're doing."
You may be seeing a shift in car sales
On Tuesday's edition of The Lead's newsletter, we wondered aloud about the lack of cars and trucks at Kerrville's Ken Stoepel Ford and its potential impact on local sales tax collections.
However, Benjamin Gardner, the internet sales manager at Stoepel Ford, wrote to us and said we are seeing is a change in the way vehicles are selling — and we're not surprised by his response. To be clear, Stoepel Ford is selling many pickup trucks and other vehicles, but its lot is probably the emptiest it's ever been. The reason is simple — most special orders.
There are certainly contributing elements to this apparent lack of inventory — most notably a shortage of microchips that run the brains of nearly all vehicles these days. The shortage has created a backlog for the manufacturers. Compounding this problem are supply chain and labor issues.
Gardner said it's unnerving to see the lots so empty, especially for veteran salespeople, but he believes it's directly related to people becoming more comfortable purchasing their cars online. The dealership, in turn, facilitates the purchase and delivery of the vehicles.
Ford, in particular, has been red-hot with several new lines of cars, trucks and SUVs. The full-size Ford Bronco is practically gone before it hits the lot. There's already a Kerrville pre-order list for the all-electric Ford F-150. The Ford Mustang Mach-E, also all-electric, is also snapped up — quickly.
So, what does this mean for dealerships? Well, they're not going away, Gardner argues, but they may look different. They already do.
A saunter to remember
Pastor and master auctioneer Jeff Talarico found himself double-booked on Tuesday night. Kerrville City Councilwoman Brenda Hughes invited Talarico — a mainstay auctioneer of many community events — to provide the opening invocation during the City Council meeting. Talarico was also scheduled to provide the invocation at a fundraiser for the Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation, where he would also serve as auctioneer.
The good news was that the events were across the street from each other and Talarico was able to walk between City Hall and Arcadia Live, where the fundraiser was being held. Here's a look at Talarico's twin Tuesday appearances.
Providing the invocation at City Hall.
Leaving City Hall.
Entering Arcadia Live to perform invocation No. 2
Invocation No. 2