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The Lead Aug. 30, 2022: There are some provisos in our discussion about Kerr Co. INVASION 2022

The county is slammed for its posture on declaring a disaster, but Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly wants to take his time with the process.

Good morning, Kerr County!

It's going to be a stormy and weird week, and we're not even talking about the Kerr County Commissioner's Court. There's an allegedly 70% chance of rain today for Kerr County. The National Weather Service reports a chance of up to a half-inch of rain today. Whether that happens in most of the county or just on Clay Street is to be determined. The week looks like it will be unsettled, with chances of thunderstorms every day this week.

On today's The Lead Live!

We've got another big show with Ingram Independent School District Superintendent Bobby Templeton and Assistant Superintendent Mindy Curran discussing how the district has earned top marks from the Texas Education Agency. We'll also hear from Texas Hill Country Advisor Andrew Gay about the latest in the financial markets.

A Night Of Remembrance on Wednesday at Arcadia Live!

All around us, the presence of substance abuse is looming, especially as one drug-related plague after another grips the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 125,000 Americans died from Fentanyl overdoses in the last two years. And that's coming on the heels of the opioid crisis.

In Kerr County, the impact of drug overdoses is a little bit harder to track due to the county's size. Since 2018, according to the CDC, 23 people died from accidental overdoses — the federal government limits specifics due to privacy concerns. However, Kerr County remains a beacon for many because of the region's long history as a center of recovery.

On Wednesday, the recovery community will host its Night of Remembrance for those who have lost the fight against addiction. The 5:30 p.m. event is at Arcadia Live and features an array of guest speakers, music and reflection. This is a free event.

Kendall Young, formerly a counselor at Tivy High School, is one of those who helped organize the event, and she spoke with us Monday morning on The Lead Live about her family's own battle with substance abuse.

"We Started this event two years ago prior to COVID and I got involved out of a necessity to to help other people instead of trying to fix my own son," said Young, adding her son battled drug addiction for years before finally gaining sobriety two years ago.

"Quickly, you know, god humbles us, and we went on this journey, I guess, when he was about a junior in high school," Young said of her son. "And it lasted about 12 years. He went. through 14 treatment centers. There were lots of people giving our family a lot of, a lot of help and guidance from the recovery community. And finally, just like everybody knows and tells you they're ready to get sober, they'll do that."

Young said the event features guest speakers Lauren Waters, Will Ford, and Becky Babb, who have all worked in the Kerr County recovery community. The main speaker is Doug Bopst, who is an author and podcast host.

Today's newsletter is sponsored by the Texas Hill Country Podcast with Tom Fox

Check out the Texas Hill Country Podcast with our good friend Tom Fox. This week, Tom chats with Andrew Gay and Gilbert Paiz, our other good friends from Texas Hill Country Advisors! Listen here:

Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly explains his actions

Saying he wanted an honest disaster declaration, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly cast aside intense pressure from speakers excoriating him to act, declining to say that illegal immigrants were invading the county.

"I need stats," Kelly said. "I need data from the sheriff's office, and ya'll have been working on that."

In terms of a disaster declaration, Kelly is the sole decider.

And facing Kelly were those who see what happens at the border as an invasion of illegal immigrants, primarily from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The scrutiny facing Kelly is significant and organized — as demonstrated by the attendance at Monday morning's commissioner's court meeting.

However, Kelly was undeterred that he would not sign a disaster declaration. The court did vote 4-0, with Kelly abstaining, to authorize a resolution that clears the way for Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha to apply for grant funding through Gov. Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star initiative.

The grant would help pay for equipment, enforcement and other expenses related to the state's border operations. The money can also be spent on indigent defense and expediting cases through the court system.

The challenge is that the grant requires a resolution from the commissioner's court and a disaster declaration from the judge. Kelly made it clear he was not signing any disaster declarations until he had further discussions with the sheriff.

Leitha said the primary focus would be on obtaining equipment needed to help with enforcement — specifically on Texas Highway 41 and Interstate 10. The sheriff's office is active in patrolling those areas and has made more than 50 human smuggling arrests during the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Capt. Jason Waldrep, who leads the sheriff's special operations team, said enhanced enforcement in the coming fiscal year should lead to more arrests of smugglers and the return of illegal immigrants to the border. Waldrep said deputies captured more than 200 immigrants in the last fiscal year.

The challenge for Kelly is defining the ongoing enforcement as a disaster, which he argued is inaccurate. Kelly said a disaster means that law enforcement is overwhelmed by illegal immigrants, which the data does not reflect.

"I want analysis on what's going on in these transportation corridors," Kelly said. "Highway 41 and Interstate 10 are dangerous. That's where the crime is. That's where the trafficking is. It spills off into the county when they bail out of the vehicles. That I want to address, and the sheriff has done a marvelous job. I've complimented him publicly numerous times, and I will continue to.

"But one of the things that is required of this is that it says there is an imminent danger. I've visited with the sheriff and his staff about how imminent is this. Right now, we've been able to contain it."

I think it's unfortunate that Operation Lone Star grant is tied to a declaration of an emergency. We're trying to figure out how to manuever.

The meeting also featured several interesting comments and moments:

That crime is out of control in Kerr County

To hear the "We The People, Liberty In Action" folks, you can't walk down the streets of Kerrville without being robbed or assaulted (isn't that why we carry?).

"We are seeing headlines just about every day in the paper about human smuggling," said Terri Hall, the leader of this band. "Increase in violent crime in our little hill country enclave. It's coming and it's coming quickly."

When it comes to law enforcement, as we've previously mentioned, your greatest risk is facing a drunk driver. There's also a strong chance of being vomited by someone publicly intoxicated.

Since Aug. 25, Kerr County law enforcement arrested 28 people — 18 for allegedly driving drunk, public intoxication or drug possession. One man, wearing a red Comanche Trace polo shirt, faces drug charges and an immigration detainer.

There's no question that human smuggling is a real issue — you see it in the police reports. However, does it outweigh alcohol and drug abuse in our community? Probably not.

America doesn't fight wars to bully or conquer

Uttered from the voices of "patriots" was this delusional statement by Bethany Puccio: "We have not ever conquered another country." Sorry, but this is when the Gong Show needs to come back because this is a whopper. Mexico would be the first to say that is baloney.

For those who have only read the American exceptionalism version of history, you might have missed the chapter on the 1846 invasion of Mexico, which included occupying large parts of the country, including Mexico City. Remember that line: "From the Halls of Montezuma." The taking of Mexico City by the U.S. Army and Marines in 1847 essentially forced an end to the war. With that victory, the U.S. forced Mexico to give up California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and parts of New Mexico and Colorado. The war wasn't exactly popular.

"I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation," wrote former President U.S. Grant, who served as a lieutenant under Gen. Winfield Scott during the war.

A little more than 50 years later, the U.S. invaded Cuba to oust Spain, and along the way, the U.S. Navy routed the Spanish fleet in the Philippines to gain control of the archipelago. The U.S. occupied Cuba on and off until 1922. Spain, however, ceded the Philippines to the U.S., leading to an insurgent war that claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 civilians (or more). The Philippines earned complete independence in 1946.

And then, there were occupations and military interventions of Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Honduras and in the 1980s, Grenada. There are arguments for the U.S. conquest of Iraq and Afghanistan. Native Americans and Hawaiians may argue about conquest, as well.

Texas needs to deport people

This notion, posited by the incoming Precinct 2 Commissioner-elect Rich Paces, argues that Texas needs to lead the way in deporting. One problem — it's against the law. However, here's what Paces said:

"I'm asking you to declare an invasion on our southern border to put as much pressure possible on our governor to start deporting those who violate our state sovereignty," Paces declared.

Remember the Disney animated movie "Aladdin" and the scene when the Genie, played by the late Robin Williams, turns into conservative writer William F. Buckley to explain some provisos, quid pro quos and addendums? Here's a reminder:

The Constitution, along with numerous cases, leaves the power to deport squarely in the hands of the federal government. The state of Texas may assist, as Gov. Abbott is attempting to do, but anything further isn't permissible under federal law.

They have diseases because they're unvaccinated

And to add to the fear and (loathing), there's a fear of disease among those who spoke Monday. "They're bringing the diseases here," said one speaker about illegal immigrants.

How are they bringing diseases? Well, they're not vaccinated, according to the man. Look, if you're an illegal immigrant, who hasn't had COVID-19, you run a pretty good chance of getting that here.

Jonathan Letz dropped some knowledge

There's something to be said for institutional knowledge, and Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz demonstrated that on Monday after some pushback on raises for elected officials. The county approved a 5% across-the-board pay increase for all county employees, including elected officials. Letz, however, explained that the Texas Attorney General's office ordered counties to provide the same pay benefits to elected officials — meaning they can't opt out of the plan as county employees.

"It's not an option," Letz said.

And then the real stunner

Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley David Belew, hardly a spendthrift, challenged the audience about the pay increases on behalf of county employees.

"How important is morale for you?" Belew questioned. "Everyone has got to run together. We start dividing this up, and it starts harming the overall morale and productivity of the county."

With that and another spirited defense of county employees from Belew, the court unanimously passed its wage increase.


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