Good morning, Kerr County!
It could be stormy today — and we kind of need it. How much rain will we get? Probably not much, but parts of Kerr County were surprised Sunday by a bit of soaking. However, today marks the start of an unsettled period of weather that should last through the weekend.
On today's The Lead Live!
We welcome back Rachel Fitch of Fitch Estate Sales for her Wednesday updates on gold, goods and fun. We always have a good time chatting with Rachel. Texas Hill Country Advisors Andrew Gay updates us on the economy. In case you missed Tuesday's show, we celebrated one year of webcasting The Lead Live by interviewing retired NASA engineer Jeff Stone — in one of our favorite interviews of the year. Check it out.
Stories we're following
Abbott, O'Rourke will debate — maybe
The Texas Tribune said Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke would debate Sept. 30 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Still, O'Rourke wants more opportunities to debate the governor. Here's the story: https://www.texastribune.org/2022/08/09/greg-abbott-beto-orourke-debate/
Texas could be the big winner in CHIPS act
While much of the media attention this week has focused on the FBI's raid on former President Donald Trump's residence, Texas was receiving a substantial economic boost regarding microchips. President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law, which sets aside $52 billion to bolster microchip manufacturing. The big winner? Most likely will be Texas. "The federal incentives in the CHIPS Act of 2022 will help Texas leverage our investments in the semiconductor industry, and the tax provisions will benefit the semiconductor-related companies already operating in the state, while attracting others that are looking to expand and grow," Gov. Greg Abbott said. Here's how Texas could benefit: https://www.texastribune.org/2022/07/26/texas-chips-act-semiconductors/
- Dave Kemp — Cafe at the Ridge, 6 p.m. Information: https://www.shopsattheridge.com
Markets and sales
- Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.
- Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1–3 p.m. Information: https://kerrvillet.gov/349/FOTL-Book-Sale The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.
You're invited to The Lead's first-anniversary party is Aug. 19, RSVP today!
It's hard to believe it's here, but The Kerr County Lead celebrates its first anniversary on Aug. 19. Some of you know that The Lead's origins date to January 2021. Still, we consider Aug. 19 the official launch date because it's when we officially launched on bulletin.com.
To celebrate this, we're inviting our paid subscribers to attend an anniversary reception from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 at Pint and Plow Brewing Co. in Kerrville. We will have food and the latest brew from Pint and Plow to sample.
Please RSVP here: https://forms.gle/L6R1xN44WPNrUK4i8
We are accepting RSVPs through Aug. 15.
We're trying to grow The Lead, and here's how you can help
We are on a mission to grow The Lead, and we need your assistance to make this happen.
Late last month, Meta Facebook announced that it was scaling back its news partnerships, including its support of The Lead. While we have a two-year contract with Facebook's Bulletin to provide coverage in Kerr County, it leaves us in a position to begin transitioning to a new platform to best support our subscribers and viewers.
In a year, we've made a lot of progress covering Kerr County. We don't tout awards; we believe it's in our metrics where our work is best defined.
- We've written more than 830 articles distributed through our email newsletter, social media and kerrcountylead.com.
- Our signature content piece, The Lead Live, will complete over 250 shows. In 2022, we visited with more than 400 guests and produced over 175 hours of original content. The live show attracted more than 400,000 viewers over the last year.
- We now have more than 3,200 newsletter subscribers and 7,000 followers on our social media channels.
- We have provided high-quality breaking news and analysis that is unmatched in the market.
- The Lead was awarded grant funding through the Google News Initiative and the Local Independent Online News organization.
- Harvard's Nieman Lab and other publications have written about The Lead's launch.
One direction we are taking is crowdsourcing our efforts to match a $6,000 one-time grant from Google to ensure we have a sustainability plan for our future growth. That plan includes hiring a business development manager, transitioning to a new content management system and improving our live video production efforts. We believe we're on the right track and have a model that will deliver in the future, especially in the shifting winds of the media landscape.
JOIN OUR MISSION: If you're interested in helping us match those dollars, please donate at https://checkout.square.site/merchant/MLEWCF2K4ASZZ/checkout/YE5IHXVYW4GJ5HUOOKXJDI4E
Harvard University's Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton wrote about the Facebook plans more than a month ago, including this chilling line: "And on the other, Facebook wants to demote what little news still remains in its primary feed, having found that it doesn't keep users engaged as much as an algorithm-generated stream of random videos."
Social media is a powerful tool for news consumption, but it's also been a place of misinformation and siloes. The Lead's focus is on building a local news system separate from these limitations, and we're on the right track.
We aim to build a matching fund to augment our paying subscribers and sponsors. The funds from this effort will go toward:
- Building capacity for further business development.
- Expanding our offerings in the digital video studio.
- Acquiring a new content management system to replace our current Facebook-backed system.
All that we ask is you consider making a donation to reach our goal of matching our $6,000 grant. We appreciate your backing of The Kerr County Lead.
If you're interested in helping us match those dollars, please donate here: https://checkout.square.site/merchant/MLEWCF2K4ASZZ/checkout/YE5IHXVYW4GJ5HUOOKXJDI4E
To read more about Facebook's plans for news on its website check out these resources:
The Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-rethinks-news-deals-and-publishers-stand-to-lose-millions-in-payments-11654812251
Nieman Lab: https://www.niemanlab.org/2022/06/facebook-looks-ready-to-divorce-the-news-industry-and-i-doubt-couples-counseling-will-help/
How expensive is Kerr County housing?
The Texas A&M Real Estate Center rates Kerr County as one of the state's three least affordable housing markets — just behind Travis and Collin counties. The greater Austin-Round Rock area was fourth.
The Texas A&M Center said the state's housing overall is still affordable Higher mortgage interest rates are contributing to declining housing affordability statewide.
"A popular metric developed by TRERC and deployed by industry groups depicts a decline in housing affordability across the state in the second quarter," said Dr. Clare Losey, TRERC assistant research economist.
"The Texas Housing Affordability Index (THAI), which measures the relationship between the median family income and the required income to purchase the median-priced home in a particular locale, faced widespread declines last quarter, largely precipitated by the significant uptick in mortgage interest rates."
City Council delves back into short-term rentals, approved five more
If one thing is clear for the Kerrville City Council, they seem to be collectively looking forward to changes to the city's ordinances on short-term rentals.
Faced with another raft of short-term rental approvals, the suggestion of speaker Nikki Caines probably tipped the hand of the Council's thinking — a moratorium if they could get away with it. But it was City Councilmember Brenda Hughs who made it clear that the rules compelled her to vote for something that she may have opposed usually.
"I don't want short-term rentals in my neighborhood," Hughes said in comments about a request to approve a conditional-use permit at 410 Circle Drive.
However, Hughes joined the rest of the Council in unanimously approving the Circle Drive permit — one that neighbors strongly opposed, if not vehemently.
"Everyone likes a short-term rental until it's in their neighborhood," observed City Councilmember Joe Herring Jr, who later elaborated that there is consensus about what to do regarding short-term rentals, but one not codified by a revised ordinance.
"Under the current rules, these investors have spent hard-earned money and sweat equity and invested in neighborhoods that probably need investing," Herring said.
In total, the City Council approved five conditional-use permits on Tuesday night — a sixth was pulled from the agenda by the applicant. However, what Caines suggested was tabling all conditional-use permits. It sparked a 10-minute debate about whether the Council could even do what Caines asked.
City Councilmember Roman Garcia attempted to work through the morass of the short-term rentals by determining if the Council was in a legal position even to make such a decision. He also argued that tabling approvals didn't change the fact that the current ordinance still applies to the applicants.
The planning and zoning commission reviewed the city's short-term rental ordinance, making several recommendations to eliminate short-term rentals from single-family residential zones defined as R1. Four of the six short-term rentals would face automatic denial if the new rules were in effect.
The property on Circle Drive faced a neighborhood petition against approval and failed to gain support in the planning and zoning commission last month due to a 3-3 tie.
The City Council could consider some of these changes to the short-term rental ordinance later this month.
In other Council business
The City Council spent nearly two hours going over its 2022-2023 budget that featured property tax increases thanks to voter approval of a general obligation bond to pay for the $45 million public safety bond and water and wastewater rate increases. City Finance Director Julie Behrens made that presentation at a 4 p.m. workshop. The Council later approved a resolution to set a public hearing to adopt the city's tax rate at $0.5752 (this corrects and earlier version) of every $100 assessed value.
City Manager E.A. Hoppe pointed out that the budget is balanced, but that doesn't mean it's not without pain. Those pain points are inflationary pressures and increased salaries for city employees.
All rolled up, the city's 2022-2023 budget is $70 million, but the city's water fund is a large share of that.
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