We've got a terrific interview today with Gil Salinas ahead of Wednesday's first-ever Business and Innovation Forum that will bring together Kerr County business and political leaders and others from around Texas to discuss a wide range of topics. Salinas will be a guest on The Lead Live at 9 a.m.
Please visit our monthly magazine of The Lead, which is a convenient e-Edition format. We compiled a lot of our best stories, wrote some new ones, and shared many photos from the myriad of events in October. It was also exciting to get contributions from Schreiner University student Zach Lyman, who covered the Kerrville Chalk Festival, and Texas State journalism student Keller Bradberry, who wrote a long-form feature on the Kerrville Folk Festival. We are also very pleased with the cover photo of delightful Cali Lehmann, who is the subject of our cover story. You can read the 64-page magazine here: https://indd.adobe.com/view/1d5ac758-1182-4d3d-89d9-a5a2656929ba
IT'S ELECTION DAY
Today is election day across Texas, and there's a lot on the ballot, including establishing an emergency services district in the county's Precinct 2 and 4. In those elections, voters will decide to tax themselves to bolster emergency response in those areas, especially in more isolated western Kerr County.
The numbers of early voter participation are predictably pathetic — off-year election. In the two weeks of early voting, 1,584 people voted — just 3% of the county's eligible voters. Expect less than that today.
The crux of the election is eight amendments to the Texas Constitution. Two of these are knee-jerk reactions to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, including banning the banning of worship in a case of an emergency or deadly virus.
However, the most interesting amendment could be Prop. 2, which allows counties to issue bonds for transportation and infrastructure projects in blighted areas. One of the areas we've reported on is the need for infrastructure improvement across the state, especially during this time of unprecedented growth. Currently, cities can only issue bonds of this sort, but this could be a game-changer for fast-growing counties.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE PROPOSITIONS
We don't recommend using Kerr County's website because we found this raggedy PDF. It's unbelievable that Kerr County can't make decent PDFs.
By the way, here's a site where you can actually read the words: https://ballotpedia.org/Texas_2021_ballot_measures
The downward trends when it comes to COVID-19 in Kerr County continue to look good. Peterson Regional Medical Center said 12 people tested positive last weekend. There were six people hospitalized, including two in intensive care. The Texas Department of Public Safety said there were still about 70 active cases, but that seems high. We've consistently seen a delay in reporting from the state.
ABOUT THAT FORUM
Salinas and Kerrville City Manager E.A. Hoppe kick off the first day of conversations about the local and regional economy. The presentation is the first of many panel discussions on items ranging from "Imposter Syndrome" to a look at the future of the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport. The airport discussion is at 1 p.m. and features Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing's Kristen Hedger, who will probably break some news about the progress the company is making in its efforts to start a plant here.
The first day has 12 sessions and followed by 11 on Wednesday. The event caps on Friday with KEDC's Top Forty Awards — 40 outstanding professionals from around the Hill Country.
BEST PANELS TO SEE?
There are still some panels with open registration, and there are a few that piqued our interest. They are:
We'll flesh these out with Salinas during today's conversation.
The Lead's Louis Amestoy will moderate a panel on Thursday about inclusion and diversity. The Lead's Alyson Amestoy is on the panel about filmmaking.
A FOUNDATION TO SUPPORT THE SHERIFF
The Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation, a new nonprofit, is ready to help Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha, and its first effort will be to raise money for a special response team.
"Our goal is to help any way we can," said Tome Ohearn, the foundation's treasurer.
The first fundraising effort is from 6-8 p.m., Nov. 9 at Arcadia Live, 717 Water St. According to the foundation, the priority will provide Leitha with the tools needed for the special response team — a force within the Sheriff's Office to handle critical situations.
To learn more about the organization, visit their website at: kerrcountysf.com
THE SUPREME COURT SEEMS SKEPTICAL
The U.S. Supreme Court heard emergency arguments on the Texas abortion law, and the initial feedback is skepticism. That doesn't mean that the conservative-leaning court will keep Roe v. Wade in place, but it does mean that abortion-rights groups can sue Texas over implementing the law.
What seems to bother the court is the novel approach to the law — citizen enforcement through lawsuits. The best comparison we read was one that would hit home in Texas — gun control. Say California based a similar law, yet the rule focused on allowing people to sue gun owners under the same circumstances — you own a gun, and that harms me. Now, that's one way of considering the law, but here's what others said after the arguments made by Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone.
Here's how the Pulitzer Prize-winning SCOTUS Blog analyzed the case: Justice Brett Kavanaugh also asked Stone about S.B. 8's retroactivity provision. If the law were to be blocked and a clinic legally performed abortions, Kavanaugh queried, would S.B. 8 allow lawsuits based on those abortions if the law later goes back into effect? When Stone responded that it would, Kavanaugh suggested that the retroactivity provision would also have a chilling effect because of the "prospect of future changes" and "millions and millions of dollars" in potential liability. And Justice Amy Coney Barrett emphasized that even pre-enforcement litigation in the state courts would simply not be as useful to the providers as litigation in federal courts. You can't get, she observed, the same kind of global relief in state courts that a pre-enforcement challenge in federal courts would give you "from the prospect that the statute would be enforced against you."
Even conservative commentators were lamenting the apparent move by the court to send the law back for litigation. Judicial Watch's Tom Fitton offered this comment on Twitter:
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck provided this analysis of the day's proceedings via Twitter:
BETO AND ABBOTT ARE TIED?
A poll commissioned by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University's Baker Institute found that Gov. Greg Abbott is in a virtual tie with potential challenger Beto O'Rourke, who has not announced his intention to run for governor. The poll found that Abbott led O'Rourke 44% to 43% in a theoretical matchup. Abbott is running for a third term.
SPEAKING OF ABBOTT
The governor sent a letter to the Texas Association of School Boards demanding the group look into claims that there are pornographic books in school libraries. Without citing an example, Abbott said parents are rightfully mad about the books.
"A growing number of parents of Texas students are becoming increasingly alarmed about some of the books and other content found in public school libraries that are extremely inappropriate in the public education system," reads the letter. "The most flagrant examples include clearly pornographic images and substance that have no place in the Texas public education system. You have an obligation to Texas parents and students to ensure that no child in Texas is exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content while inside a Texas public school."
Abbott appears to be backing state Rep. Matt Krause's preliminary investigation into 850 books about racism, sexuality, gender and sexual health that may or may not be in Texas schools.